Letters and Photos Belonging to Legendary East St. Louis Dancer to Be Auctioned | State and Region
EAST STREET. LOUIS — Thousands of items that once belonged to the late dancer and activist Katherine Dunham will go up for auction next week.
St. Louis-based Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers will be offering an auction titled “Divine Technique: Katherine Dunham Archive” to celebrate Black History Month.
“I just felt that it should be something that should be highlighted, in the sense of providing information to a community,” Bryan Laughlin, executive director of the art auction company, said on Friday. art and antiques. “And so, while I appreciate it much, much more than our low estimate on it, I just, basically, wanted this property to have a way in the art community, because I felt like a lot many people misunderstood or somehow overlooked the importance of some of the scriptures supporting such a legendary individual who comes from our own region.”
Born in 1909 in Chicago, Katherine Dunham has spent a significant portion of her career living in East St. Louis while contributing extensively to its artistic community. The world-renowned dancer, activist and anthropologist was known for incorporating black diaspora movements into her choreography.
In the 1960s, Dunham came to East St. Louis where she founded the Performing Arts Training Center (now known as SIUE’s East St. Louis Center for the Performing Arts), the Katherine Dunham Museum, and the Workshop for children. Dunham died in 2006
Estimated between $5,000 and $10,000, the auction in Dunham’s honor includes items like his personal address book, financial records and handwritten letters. It also includes a paperback edition of The Minefield, Dunham’s unpublished memoir. Selkirk has divided archival material into 16 categories.
“There are lots of photos of the property in East St. Louis that no longer exists that Katherine was once associated with, there are pictures, her property [Habitation] Leclerc in Haiti, and there are many letters between her and her assistant, Mrs. [Jeanelle] Stovall,” Laughlin said. “There are a lot of financial records, not just personal, but also of her husband, John Pratt, who was also a leading figure in the acting world.”
Laughlin said the wealth of information he learned about Dunham from the items she left behind was magnificent.
“I was just shocked when I did a lot more research on Katherine, what she was actually able to get across and all the things she was able to accomplish,” Laughlin said. “She didn’t have, you know, a ton of wealth to begin with. She wasn’t of the internet age, where you can have all this ease of information and communication to travel to another entity. And she was traveling the world. She was doing her own thing. And she was expressing a new way of life through her own artistic expression. If that can’t be celebrated then what do we do?”
Laughlin said his company received the material from a co-signer, which Laughlin said wanted to remain private, last fall. Since then, the company has contacted several entities, including the Katherine Dunham Museum in East St. Louis, to raise awareness of the objects.
Lindsey Pearlman, actor from Chicago, found dead after going missing in Los Angeles
Lorenzo Savage, chairman of the museum’s board, said he was trying to convince one of his supporters to bid.
Last year, Savage led an initiative to clean up old homes in Dunham so they could be used for historic preservation. The Katherine Dunham Museum is open by appointment only and the council recently launched a virtual tour of the museum.
“I really want to get it, and it should definitely be in our archives first,” Savage said. “A lot of these things were probably in these houses that we were cleaning. I think these items should be in the Katherine Dunham Museum. If anyone wants to bid on them and donate them to us, that would be great.”
“Divine Technique: Katherine Dunham Archive” will be on February 22 at 2:00 p.m. CST. Those interested in online auctions can get involved by calling or emailing Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers and registering online through their website or through platforms such as Invaluable or LiveAuctioneers.