Dean Frank Hodge and Associate Dean for Inclusion & Diversity Michelle Purnell-Hepburn welcomed artist Al Doggett and University of Washington School of Social Work Professor Khalfani Mwamba to Founder’s Hall to celebrate the Spratlen family loaning Doggett’s painting “Black Odyssey” to the Foster School for display in the Spratlen Lounge for Inclusion and Diversity.
Doggett shared memories of meeting with the late Thaddeus Spratlen and his wife Lois, both Professors Emeritus at University of Washington, to collaborate on the commissioned work depicting Black history and achievement.
“I worked with them and had them involved in the process,” Doggett said. “We talked about their vision (for the painting). They described this odyssey. Education was important. Family was important.”
Doggett created initial sketches of the individual elements that make up the multiple scenes comprising the painting. He and the Spratlens reviewed these drafts to ensure they were aligned on what would be depicted in the finished work. Doggett still has these early illustrations, and he brought them to the event, providing insight into his artistic process.
Doggett spoke of the challenges and opportunities of a painting as complex and textured as the one he and the Spratlen envisioned. “In putting it together, I slowly got a sense of how I am going to compose it,” Doggett said. “It was tricky because there are a lot of elements, and you don’t want it to be too busy. I had to find a way to have it flow.”
Mwamba, Spratlen’s son, said he sees the loaning of the painting as a family affair. He recalled a loan his father had made to him as young man. Now that Mwamba is the owner of the painting, he views loaning it to Foster in his father’s memory as an extension of paying that forward. Mwamba also said he is setting an example for his own children, who were in attendance.
“You’ve given me a golden opportunity to posthumously and vicariously loan an asset back to my folks,” Mwamba said. “And you’ve given me an opportunity to teach good stewardship to my children.”
Dean Hodge also addressed a gathering of the community attending the unveiling, including Foster luminaries such as Spratlen Legacy Award winner Clyde Walker and Consulting and Business Development Center founder Bill Bradford.
“This painting is about a journey,” he said. “There’s hardship in this picture, but there’s also success. It is very fitting that we welcome this picture into this space and celebrate the journey that Thad and Lois had on this campus, and the impact that Thad had on this school.”
The dedication was followed by a barbecue welcoming Black business students back to campus.