The Studio Acting Conservatory discovered a massive Black Last Supper sculpture behind drywall in its Columbia Heights building back in 2019. The theater school originally hoped to find a new home for the work by DC artist Akili Ron Anderson, but has since changed course after it proved to be nearly impossible to move the sculpture, which is anchored into a cinderblock wall.
The artist, Akilli Ron Anderson, had always intended the sculpture to be permeant.
Artist Akili Ron Anderson
In the early 1980s Akiili Ron Anderson was chairperson of the visual arts department at Duke Ellington School of the Arts when a coworker approached him about making an altarpiece for his church, New Home Baptist.
Anderson sought inspiration in part by the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, which sought to celebrate black art as a corrective—and also defiance—in response to centuries of oppression. The movement was spearheaded by artists who sought to reclaim their heritage by exploring African-American culture through music, poetry and art and included the likes of Maya Angelou, Amiri Barak, James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, and Nikki Giovanni.
This inspiration led to a mission of putting Black people at the center of an ongoing cultural conversation.
The result was a piece that depicts Jesus and his disciples as Black men, a nod to the fact that people have historically been represented as white in religious art and iconography.
Hidden for Years
For years the sculpture had been forgotten by the public until 2019, when it was uncovered by Studio Acting Conservatory. Prior owners of the building had hidden the artwork for years. Since its discovery a team of curators from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture stepped in and restored the Black Arts Movement-inspired frieze.
Studio Acting Conservatory in Washington, D.C. recently announced a week of daily viewings for the public to experience the Last Supper sculpture. The Last Supper sculpture will be open to the public from 1-4pm daily, during the week of Passover and Easter. A guide will be on hand to provide context and answer questions.
The sculpture is located at Studio Acting Conservatory | 3423 Holmead Place, NW, Washington, DC 20010.
This sculpture is a powerful example of how art can be used as a vehicle for social change. It’s also a reminder that there are hidden treasures all around us–if we just take the time to look.