June Jordan, The Poetry of Design

Thursday, April 20–Sunday, June 11, 2023

AAR Gallery
McKim, Mead & White Building
Via Angelo Masina, 5
Rome, Italy
Two adjacent images: on the left is a photograph of the head and torso of a dark skinned woman in profile, with a red filter covering the image; on the left is a black and white photograph of the same woman shown seated on stairs on a concrete embankment on the Tiber River

The back cover of June Jordan’s 1969 book Who Look at Me (left); and a ca. 1970–71 photograph of Jordan in a catalogue for the Annual Exhibition of Work by the Fellows and Residents, from AAR’s Institutional Archive

Opening reception: Thursday, April 20, 6:00 to 9:00pm.

In 1964, poet June Jordan collaborated with architect R. Buckminster Fuller on an urban plan for Harlem, which led her to win a Rome Prize in environmental design in 1970. This exhibition takes their partnership as a springboard to explore Jordan’s contributions to environmental design during a period of great architectural foment. It highlights for the first time how Jordan integrated architecture, urbanism, literature, and visual art in a new form of environmental design to combat poverty and racism in American society. Rarely seen work on Harlem and central Italy by Fuller, Jordan’s mentor, shows how their collaboration strove to improve the living experience of the poor and powerless. Paintings by acclaimed American artists Charles Alston, Colleen Browning, and Alice Neel, which guided Jordan’s 1969 poem on Black America, Who Look at Me, illustrate the richness of the community—and the privation of its environment—that fueled Jordan’s activism through design. The exhibition also marks the premier presentation of photographs and audio recordings from the June Jordan Papers at Harvard University, which attest to her commitment to environmental design as a catalyst for justice.

June Jordan, The Poetry of Design is curated by Lindsay Harris, the Academy’s interim Andrew Heiskell Arts Director, with Lexi Eberspacher, Programs Associate for the Arts.

A fully illustrated catalog will accompany the exhibition.

A Conversations/Conversazioni between Sean Anderson (2005 Fellow), associate professor of architecture at Cornell University and former Museum of Modern Art curator, and the architect J. Yolande Daniels (2004 Fellow, 2023 Resident), associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will be held in conjunction with the opening. The discussion, taking place from 6:00 to 7:00pm, will be introduced by AAR President Mark Robbins (1997 Fellow), with remarks from Whitfield Lovell (2019 Resident), whose portrait of Jordan, a gift to the Academy, inspired the exhibition and is a centerpiece of its installation.

June Jordan, The Poetry of Design is supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, and the June M. Jordan Literary Trust. The Academy gratefully acknowledges the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies.


The exhibition is on view from April 20 to June 11, 2023. Gallery hours are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 4:00 to 7:00pm.


For access to the Academy, guests will be asked to show a valid photo ID. Backpacks and luggage with dimensions larger than 40 x 35 x 15 cm (16 x 14 x 6 in.) are not permitted on the property. There are no locker facilities available.

Physical Accessibility

The Academy is accessible to wheelchair users and others who need to avoid stairs. Please send an email to events [at] aarome.org if you or someone in your party uses a wheelchair or other mobility devices so that we can ensure the best possible visitor experience. If you are someone with a disability or medical condition that may require special accommodation, please also email us.