NFL Athlete, Former SMU Alumnus Unveils Collection, Conversation About Black Art

Story by Giovanna Scroggins; Video by Jillian Taylor

SMU hosted NFL player and former SMU athlete Kelvin Beachum as he unveiled a handful of his family’s art collection Thursday at the Jake L. and Nancy Hamon Arts Library. “Narrative as Reality: A World Reimagined ” calls attention towards identity, representation, empowerment, and the gaze.

“It’s not a white or black thing, it’s a human thing and being able to talk about art is about interpretation,” he said. “Once you interpret it, how does it make you feel? What did you pull from it?”

The reception held to recognize the art brought many people to the event including SMU president Gerald Turner. Ten of the Beachum’s personal art illustrations are set to occupy the Hamon Arts Library for a three-month period, Feb. 18 – May 22.

Kelvin Beachum stands in front of some pieces of his family's art collection, “Narrative as Reality: A World Reimagined,” which are featured in an exhibit at SMU’s Hamon Arts Library through May 22. Image Credit: Kim Leeson Photography for SMU
Kelvin Beachum stands in front of some pieces of his family's art collection, “Narrative as Reality: A World Reimagined,” which are featured in an exhibit at SMU’s Hamon Arts Library through May 22. Image Credit: Kim Leeson Photography for SMU

Beachum graduated from SMU in 2010 with a bachelor’s in economics and earned a master’s degree in liberal studies. He was a four-year-starter who continued his football passion in the NFL when he was drafted in 2010 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although his football career underwent changes, Beachum has stayed true to his philanthropic passions.

Twice nominated for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, Beachum promotes integrity in education and business, ending hunger, bestowing access to clean water and invigorating under-represented kids to pursue STEAM disciplines. His ongoing philanthropic endurance includes donating his personal paintings to this exhibit at SMU.

“You know, the thing is, I don’t think SMU has enough African-American art on campus,” he said. “There is a great population of diverse people that are on this campus and I think to be able to bring diversity to campus in a very organic way and a very subtle way I think is something that needed to happen.”

Beachum chose the Hamon Arts Library as it works in conjunction with SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts to house a collection that holds about 250,000 items that symbolize visual and performing arts. The Beachums’ exhibit features the work of artists Dominic Chambers, Ryan Cosbert, Robert Hodge, Nelson Makamo, Delita Martin, Sungi Mlengeya, Mario Moore, Robert Pruitt, Athi-Patra Ruga, and Ferrari Sheppard.

“It’s been on my heart as we have been collecting work over the years and we want it to also be a great steward of the work,” Beachum said. “ I think it’s great to talk about what we’ve done, but I think the most important part is about these artists. These are amazing artists from around the world that are doing amazing work and producing phenomenal art that needs to be put on display for the world to see.”

Kelvin Beachum and his wife, Jessica, are lending ten paintings from their personal art collection for an exhibit featuring Black artists, which runs through May 22 at the Jake L. and Nancy Hamon Arts Library at SMU. Image Credit: Kim Leeson Photography for SMU
Kelvin Beachum and his wife, Jessica, are lending ten paintings from their personal art collection for an exhibit featuring Black artists, which runs through May 22 at the Jake L. and Nancy Hamon Arts Library at SMU. Image Credit: Kim Leeson Photography for SMU

Bringing more distinctive art to the Dallas area was something Beachum fancied implementing, however he also is proud to bring art back to his alma mater. Others attending were also delighted with the art being on display at SMU including Brynn Price, an English major at SMU.

“I really like how he combined what he’s passionate about with social justice as well as art,” Price said. “I think it’s a really powerful combination so I’m looking forward to seeing more of it.”

Dallas-based women curator Valerie Gillespie, examined 60 to 70 paintings within Beachum’s personal collection before selecting the ten paintings portrayed in the exhibit. The ten chosen divulge an artistic world of hope, black joy, reality and aspiration, Gillespie said.

“The works in Narrative as Reality: A World Reimagined bring the unique opportunity of a call to action in it’s awareness to a broader audience,” she said. “Each artist communicates a contemporary relevance to a past, present or future time that generates conversations of an enduring narrative.”

The storytelling art and its artist are put at the forefront with an emphasis placed on dialogue.

“The motive is that we have conversation,” Beachum said. “We all have conversations centered around this work.”