Open Call for 2020 Black Doll Show: All Dolled Up: A 40 Year Celebration of the WGSAC Annual Black Doll Show

Call for Dolls
 The William Grant Still Arts Center (WGSAC) is pleased to announce our 2020 Black Doll Show: All Dolled Up: A 40 Year Celebration of the WGSAC Annual Black Doll Show

WGSAC is in the process of selection for our 40th Annual Black Doll Show. This year we will present a retrospective that will reflect 40 years of Black Dolls presented at the WGSAC. We continue to honor the diversity and uniqueness of the Black community, through an exhibition of historic, artistic, and commercial black dolls. 

This year’s exhibition will be virtual and displayed online. The show will be accessible through WGSAC’s social media platforms. We are now accepting submissions via email for the exhibition, which will open online in December. 


Dolls do not need to adhere to a specific theme to be accepted. We welcome dolls that have been displayed in past shows, as well as dolls new to the exhibition that have not yet been featured. We accept handmade, artistic, and commercial dolls from doll makers, artists and collectors. Dolls can be submitted individually or as part of a series or installation and can include accessories and other props. There are no size restrictions, since the exhibition will be virtual.  We accept collectible dolls and dolls in their original packaging as well as dolls that have been used in play.
Examples of past categories and themes include; 

  • Dolls made of various materials – carved, cloth, wood, metal, fabric, paper, corn husk, ceramic, etc…
  • Dolls made from found materials and assemblage dolls 
  • Traditional dolls, rag dolls, baby dolls, porcelain dolls, manufactured dolls
  • Representations of black childhood
  • Fantasy and mythology
  • Afrofuturism and Black liberation
  • LGBTQ+ dolls 
  • Dolls that embody joy
  • Dolls used for play and leisure
  • Dolls used in ritual practice 
  • Dolls as tools for healing
  • Dolls that reinterpret gender and sexuality 
  • Dolls that depict everyday life
  • Dolls protesting and engaged in activism
  • Dolls of historic figures
  • Dolls that represent aspirational and inspirational figures

Please share dolls whose photographs we can get permission to display.

How To Submit 

  1. Please take individual photos of every doll or doll related artwork you are submitting. 
  2. Images should be well-lit. Dolls should be clearly visible, with nothing in the background. The entire doll must be visible.
  3. Images should be at least 300 dpi. Most Android and iPhones will be able to take images of this quality.
  4. If images are on a website, please provide a direct link to the doll.
  5. Please send your images in JPEG format with a short description of the work and a brief bio.
  6. Submissions should be emailed to the selection team at wgsarts@lacity.org by November 2, 2020. 
  7. Accepted submissions will be notified and receive next steps.

Please contact us with any questions at (213) 855-9390 or ami.motevalli@lacity.org.

About the William Grant Still Arts Center’s Black Doll Show 

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 and curator Cecil Fergerson started the Black Doll Show in the 1980s. Fergerson brought together handmade dolls by artists and collectors from across the nation, with the goal of reframing negative representations of black people. Through its many transformations, the Black Doll Show has been a celebration and documentation of the Black experience.