Art Environments

Collection Series

Dr. Charles Smith


In his Aurora, Illinois, home, Charles Smith created a memorial and history museum dedicated to Africans and African Americans. His efforts began to call attention to the poor treatment of African American soldiers in and after the Vietnam War; however, it expanded to encompass events and people from the slave trade to the present. Smith used the detritus of his own neighborhood, melded with a concrete mixture, to make hundreds of figures chronicling the struggles and victories of African American history and culture. Time and the elements took their toll on Smith's works, and he sought help from Kohler Foundation in order to preserve them. The Arts Center now cares for over 200 sculptures from Smith’s original site; other museums and institutions also care for portions of Smith’s oeuvre. The artist is currently working on a new site in Louisiana.