Penn State professor receives high praise for exhibit on African blacksmithing

September 25, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State's William J. Dewey, associate professor of art history in the College of Arts and Architecture and director of the African Studies Program om the College of the Liberal Arts, was part of the curatorial team for “Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths” at UCLA’s Fowler Museum, recently described in The New York Times as one of “three knockout art shows to see in Los Angeles right now.”

The exhibition, which opened in June, will be on display through Dec. 30. In The New York Times piece, noted art critic Holland Cotter said the exhibition is “the most beautiful sculpture show in recent memory.”

The exhibition, 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, is the most thorough display of African blacksmithing ever assembled. Along with Dewey, the curatorial team included 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. In 2017, they received a $250,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant for the project, which they began working on nine years ago.

For more information on the exhibition, visit The exhibition will travel to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in February 2019. For more information on Dewey’s work, visit

  • Iron Cow, Karagwe Kingdom, Tanzania, Iron, H: 19 cm. (7 1/2") Collection of the University of Iowa Museum of Art, said to have been personally made by the nineteenth century Karagwe king, Ndagara

    Iron Cow, said to have been personally made by the 19th-century Karagwe king Ndagara, Karagwe Kingdom, Tanzania; iron, H: 19 cm. (7 1/2"); collection of the University of Iowa Museum of Art. 

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    IMAGE: University of Iowa Museum of Art
  • Dewey talks about African art at the Palmer Museum of Art.

    William Dewey talks about African art at the Palmer Museum of Art. 

    IMAGE: Stephanie Swindle
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Last Updated September 25, 2018