Black Doll Show / Call For Dolls 2018 / Doll Show

CALL FOR DOLLS for 38th Annual Black Doll Exhibit “Double Dutch: A Celebration of Black Girlhood” 2018

38th Annual Black Doll Exhibit

Doll Show

Doll Show2
December 8, 2018 – February 16, 2019

Call for Dolls 
The William Grant Arts Center is in the process of selection for its 38th annual Black Doll Show. With this year’s theme, “Double Dutch: A Celebration of Black Girlhood” we honor, the diversity and uniqueness of Black Girls, through a multimedia exhibition of Dolls.


“Double Dutch: A Celebration of Black Girlhood” chosen by the curator, Myshell Tabu, seeks to showcase the many nuances of Black Girlhood, including play, activism, education, the Black experience, and hair. On a deeper level, the show intends to affirm Black women and girls through illustrating the depth, diversity, and dynamism of Black girlhood. Black girls are as innocent as they are strong and as creative as they are challenged.

As a creator and collector, Myshell Tabu has always been enthralled specifically with handmade dolls. As an educator, her pedagogy incorporates dolls for role-play with students to teach both language and self-expression. Her two daughters, Mma-Syrai and Ella, are also helping to curate the exhibit. The girls have upwards of twenty dolls and are currently learning to make dolls from socks.

We are specifically looking for Black dolls that represent and depict Black girls learning, playing, and interacting with each other. There are a few restrictions on size. Priority will be given to doll artist who create hand made dolls specifically for this exhibit. Though we would like as many original, handmade or artist dolls as possible, we will also take collectible commercial dolls.

Dolls submitted for consideration should clearly depict some aspect of Black Girlhood. Submission can include single dolls or dolls in group settings.

Specific Categories we are looking for are dolls that represent:

  • Play! We are innocent kids, too.

  • Hand Games (Two or more dolls playing hand games with each other)

  • Outdoor Play (Dolls hopping on one foot, jumping rope, playing ball, double dutch, etc.)

  • Friendship (dolls in groups interacting) We support each other.

  • Black Experience. We deal with unique circumstances.

  • Dolls combing each other’s hair

  • Dolls taking down braids

  • Dolls with ashy knees

  • Unique Names (Dolls with unique names — preferably sewn or written on their shirts) We are creative namers.

  • Body Image (Dolls with a variety of shapes — very skinny, large posterior, small posterior, dark skin, light skin, short, tall, etc.) We are not a monolith.

  • Dolls rolling eyes and neck

  • Activism We fight Oppression and raise money for our causes
    (Example: doll with fist in the air, lemonade stand, Nia Wilson t-shirt)

  • Around the Way Girl. We set trends.

  • Dolls with bamboo earrings

  • Baby hair

  • Airbrushed shirts

  • Cornrows

  • Science  We are curious.

  • Dolls playing with bugs or chemistry sets

  • Emotion! We are not just “strong.” We are human. 
    Dolls experiencing a range of emotions — crying, happy, defeated, etc.

  • Musical. We read music and play instruments.
    Dolls playing musical instruments

Submission Guidelines – How To Submit – 2018 Doll Show

  1. Please send a JPEG photo of your doll/dolls/related artwork by November 4, 2018, with a short description and introduction to your work.  Submission of photos does not constitute acceptance into the show.)

  2. Dolls that are accepted into the show will be notified and receive next steps for delivery to William Grant Still Arts Center between November 12 – 16, 2018.

  3. This year we are also interested in altered book art or artist books, Black and White vintage photography depicting Black life, and story cloths that depict Black life in unique and creative ways.

  4. If chosen, intake dates for dolls or artwork are by appointment during the Week of Nov. 19 – 24, 2018 with the exception of Thanksgiving Day.

About the Black Doll Show at the William Grant Still Arts Center
The Black doll show was inspired by a doll test conducted by Mamie and Kenneth Clark. The tests concluded that due to social stigmas, many black children preferred white dolls over black dolls. This test went on to become evidence in civil rights lawsuits.  The Clarks became expert witnesses in Brown vs. Board of education and helped the landmark decision to desegregate schools. This doll test was conducted again in 2006 by 17 year old filmmaker Kiri Davis, sadly with the same results.

Inspired by the doll test, artist/curator Cecil Fergerson started the Black Doll show in the ‘80s. Wanting to change the negative self-image, Fergerson brought together handmade dolls by artists around the country into one exhibit. Through its many transformations, the Black Doll Show has been a celebration of Black dolls from slavery, Jim Crow, freedom marches, music, dance, jazz, hip-hop and more.