Alias Spinky Alston
Works in the Collection
Charles Henry “Spinky” Alston was born in 1907 in Charlotte, North Carolina. His father died when he was three, and Alston’s mother married Henry Pierce Bearden (Romare Bearden’s uncle) in 1913. The family relocated to Harlem, but Alston continued to spend the summers in North Carolina until he was fifteen. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Columbia University. In 1934, Alston co-founded the Harlem Art Workshop, a hub for African American artists and intellectuals in Harlem. In 1935, he was named the first black supervisor in the Federal Art Project and was assigned the task of designing and executing the WPA’s Harlem Hospital Mural, entitled “Magic and Medicine”. In 1949, he worked with artist Hale Woodruff to complete another mural project at the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance building in Los Angeles, CA.
Alston was also a co-founder of the Spiral Group, a group of African-American artist interested in participating in the Civil Rights Movement and increasing the gallery/museum representation of black artists. He taught at the Art Student’s League, the Modern Museum of Art, and City College of New York. He was appointed to the National Council on Culture and the Arts by Lyndon B. Johnson and was also a member of the New York City Arts Commission. His work can be found in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum, Detroit Institute of Art, Atlanta University, and Howard University.