Downtown Miami

Purvis Young art coming home to Overtown

Miami artist Purvis Young is shown in his art studio in this December 2006 file photo.
Miami artist Purvis Young is shown in his art studio in this December 2006 file photo. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Throughout a troubled but prolific life, Miami’s Purvis Young captured the heart of his Overtown neighborhood through his artwork.

Now, his works are coming home for good.

The Bass of Museum of Art will announce Friday that it is donating almost 400 pieces of Young’s art to the Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida. That means Young’s work will be permanently housed at the foundation’s home — the beautifully renovated Lyric Theater in the heart of Overtown.

“We are honored to receive the Bass Museum’s gift of the Purvis Young collection, which returns the works of such a prolific visual artist back to his home in Historic Overtown,” said Timothy A. Barber, the Archive’s executive director.

The Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Center, 819 NW Second Ave., is already exhibiting a number of loaned works by Young. The official announcement about the gift will be made Friday evening at a “Lyric Live” talent show at the theater.

“It’s right in the heart of the community that Purvis worked in and was inspired by,” said Silvia Karman Cubiñá, the curator of the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach. “What better place than that?”

One of South Florida’s most storied artists, Young died in 2010 after years of financial and health woes. He was 67.

The self-taught artist turned his life around in the mid-1960s after spending time in jail. He grew to international fame for painting vibrant murals and conceptualizing mixed-media expressionist works, often using objects — abandoned doors, cardboard, scraps of wood — left on Overtown’s streets.

Through his stylized figures, the Liberty City-born artist depicted urban Miami’s changing faces and the social impact of poverty, crime and displacement of his surroundings.

Young’s work has been featured in all of Miami’s major private collections and museums across the country. His work is included in collections at the Smithsonian Institute, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the High Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The donated works originated from the Rubell Family Collection, which in 2000 purchased the contents of Young's studio, donated pieces to to museums across the country, including the Bass.

“With this gift, the Bass Museum of Art has ensured the legacy of one of the great African American artists of our time,” said Michael Spring, the director of Miami-Dade County’s Department of Cultural Affairs.

“A Man Among the People: A Purvis Homecoming” is on view through June 30, at The Black Archives History and Research Foundation Historic Lyric Theater, 819 NW 2nd Ave., Miami, FL, 33136.

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