Benny Andrews was an American painter, educator, and activist. He was born in Plainview, GA, in 1930. Andrews earned a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1958 and, soon after, moved to New York City.
Andrews cofounded the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition, which agitated for greater representation of African American artists and curators in New York’s major art museums in the late 1960s and 1970s. He also led the group in founding a groundbreaking arts education program in prisons and detention centers. Andrews taught art at Queens College, Flushing, NY, for three decades, beginning in the late 1960s. From 1982 through 1984 he served as the Director of the Visual Arts program for the National Endowment for the Arts.
As a student, Andrews developed a practice of incorporating collaged fabric and other material into his figurative oil paintings, a technique he continued to explore throughout his career. In addition to working in oil and mixed-media collage, he made sculptures, prints, and drawings. He also illustrated several books written by his brother, the author Raymond Andrews, as well as many children’s books, including a collection of poetry by Langston Hughes, for which he received the Coretta Scott King Illustration Award. He continued his prolific output of artwork, which ranged from explorations of history and social justice to intimate depictions of friends and family, until his death in 2006.
Andrews had numerous solo exhibitions, including at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT; and Queens Museum, New York City. He received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Rockefeller Foundation, John Hay Whitney Foundation, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, among others.
Andrews' paintings are in the collections of museums throughout the U.S., including the High Museum of Art; Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City; and Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.
—From Brandywine Workshop and Archives records