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Celebrating Black joy in the natural world

By Jenny Zeller

This past fall, we welcomed artist and printmaker Norman Spencer to Bernheim to create a series of linocuts celebrating Black joy in the Bernheim wilderness, to increase representation and inspire Black people to explore the natural world. The artist’s mission mirrors the ideals of our founder Isaac Wolfe Bernheim, who envisioned Bernheim as a place for everyone, regardless of race, creed, or social status. When asked about his personal history with Bernheim, Norman responded with, “I have had a love for Bernheim since I was first introduced to the arboretum, and I always felt welcomed here. I want to share that feeling with others who look like me.”

The focus of this series is to show the human interaction with nature to dispel negative generational narratives about Black people in the natural world. The inspiration for this project comes from Norman’s love for nature, which developed as an adult. These images contributed to a larger series showcasing Black joy at natural landmarks throughout the state. They were featured in the solo exhibition Black In Bluegrass at Garner Narrative in downtown Louisville (NULU) from November 19 – December 19, 2021.

“I want to show Black people represented in the natural world in a positive light, to show ALL people that nature is an inclusive place for everyone. I hope that a project like this can positively influence people in my community to enjoy nature and see that this is a place for them too.” ~ NORMAN SPENCER, ARTIST IN RESIDENCE

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