If they have permanent homes at all, African-American art museums typically don’t occupy prominent spots in city skylines. But that’s slowly changing, courtesy of The Freelon Group. Based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, this minority-owned firm designed the recently opened Museum of the African Diaspora, in San Francisco, and the Reginald F. Lewis African American History and Culture, in Baltimore.
Among Freelon’s latest efforts is the Afro-American Cultural Center, planned for downtown Charlotte. The four-story, $18.5-million building will feature 45,000 square feet of gallery, classroom, and administrative space. Its facade is composed of jagged aluminum panels arranged in a way that recalls patchwork quilts. Rick Kuhn, one of Freelon’s design principals, explains that these quilts’ symbols and patterns often contained codes to help slaves escape from their masters.