UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — William J. Dewey, associate professor of art history in Penn State’s College of Arts and Architecture and director of the African Studies Program in the College of the Liberal Arts, is part of a curatorial team that received a $250,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant for a UCLA Fowler Museum exhibition on African blacksmithing.

Dewey is co-curator of the exhibition, titled “Striking Iron: The Art of the African Blacksmith,” which includes more than 225 sub-Saharan works of art assembled from public and private collections and dating from early archaeological times to the contemporary period. The exhibition opens in June 2018.

“The project is a lot bigger than the other exhibitions I’ve curated, and it requires more funding, which is why having the support of the NEH is so important,” said Dewey, whose specific contributions to the project have been coordinating the archaeological information for the exhibit and contributing to several chapters on ancient iron and iron in central Africa for an accompanying book. “This exhibition encompasses a broad swath of the continent, taking a comprehensive look at one material and its incredible impact.”

The exhibition will be the most thorough display of African blacksmithing ever assembled. Along with Dewey, the curatorial team includes master blacksmith and MacArthur Fellow Tom Joyce; Allen F. Roberts, professor of world arts and cultures at UCLA; Henry John Drewal, Evjue-Bascom Professor of Art History and Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Marla C. Berns, Shirley and Ralph Shapiro Director of the Fowler Museum at UCLA.

“We’ve been working on this project for about eight years — six since the Fowler Museum committed to the show — and have made hundreds of emails and calls to each other,” Dewey explained. “The team meets in person as often as we can. Three weeks ago, several of us were at the same conference in Ghana.” Read more