Gilda Snowden

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Gilda Snowden
BornJuly 29, 1954
Detroit, United States
DiedSeptember 9, 2014
Alma materWayne State University (BFA), (MFA)
Known forpainting
Spouse(s)William Boswell II
AwardsKresge Arts Fellowship

Gilda Snowden (1954 - 2014)[1] was an African-American artist, educator and mentor from Detroit, Michigan.

Early life and education[edit]

Snowden was born in Detroit in 1954.[2] Snowden's parents and grandparents migrated from Alabama and Texas to Detroit early in the 20th century, part of the mass movement of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North. [3] She attended Cass Technical High School with a focus on fashion design. Snowden earned her earned her BFA in Advertising Design and Painting in 1977 and her MFA in Painting in 1979 from Wayne State University.[4] At Wayne State University, she was heavily influenced by the Cass Corridor art movement.[5]


In 1985 Gilda Snowden became a professor in Department of Fine Arts at the College for Creative Studies, Detroit. She taught at CCS for 31 years, serving as Chair for both the Fine Arts department and the Painting department at various times during her years there.[6] At the college she also served as a curator and juror for art exhibitions.[5]

She was also gallery director of the Detroit Repertory Theatre prior to her death in 2014.[7]


Gilda Snowden's works are predominately abstracts that utilize vivid color. The city of Detroit sparked several bodies of work. Her Flora Urbana series features abstracted floral forms, in encaustic, inspired by the gardens now tended by Detroit citizens on plots where buildings once stood.[8] City Album: Department of Railways 1929 is an example from a series of charcoal rubbings she made of the Detroit manhole covers she discovered riding though the city on her bicycle.[2]

Snowden describes all of her works as autobiographical including an extensive series Self-Portrait of over one hundred self-portraits of the back of her head and shoulders. She has cited her experience of race, gender and fears she felt as a child as the inspiration for this series. She began again with the series after growing her hair out in the 2000s and using computer projections to help create her pieces. Monument [1988], found at the Detroit Institute of Arts, as "a chronicle of my family on their travels from Alabama to Detroit. We are all looking for something, all traveling from here to there." [7]

She was a member of the Michigan chapter of the National Conference of Artists.[5] This organization helped Snowden exhibit her work internationally throughout her career.[5]

Over the course of her career, Snowden served as an advisor on the DIA Friends of Modern Art Board, a member of the advisory board of the Scarab Club, a member of the Educational Advisory Board for the Art Education Department of the College for Creative Studies, and a gallery directory for the Detroit Repertory Theater.[5]


Snowden's work is held in permanent collections including:

Awards and fellowships[edit]

Among the honors which Gilda Snowden has earned are:

  • Kresge Arts Fellowship (2009)[13]
  • Michigan Council For the Arts Individual Artists Grant (Painting 1982, 1985, 1990), (Sculpture 1988)
  • Graduate Professional Scholarship, Wayne State University, (1977–79)
  • Tannahill Faculty Grant, Center for Creative Studies (1990)
  • Arts Midwest NEA Regional Fellowship (1990)[14]

Selected exhibitions[edit]

Gilda Snowden’s work has been featured in gallery and museum exhibitions including:[15]

  • Sherry Washington Gallery, Detroit, USA Flora Urbana: New Paintings by Gilda Snowden (2008)
  • Marianne Boesky Gallery, Chelsea, USA Another Look at Detroit (Part I and II) (2014)
  • J.L. Hudson Gallery, Detroit, USA (1982)
  • Park West Gallery, Southfield, MI, USA (1982)
  • Artcite Gallery, Windsor, Ontario, Canada (1984)
  • Cranbook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI USA (1984)
  • Race Street Gallery, Flint, MI USA (1984)
  • Wayne State Community Arts Gallery, Detroit, USA (1985)
  • Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, USA (1985)
  • Mt. Clemens Art Center, Mt. Clemens, MI USA (1985)
  • Artemisia Gallery, Chicago, IL USA (1986)
  • Cranbook Academy of Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI USA (1987)
  • Laundale Art Center, University of Houston, Houston, TX USA (1987)
  • Nawara Gallery, Walled Gate, MI USA (1987)
  • The Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL USA (1987)
  • University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, MI USA (1988)
  • Diverse Works Gallery, Houston, TX USA (1988)
  • Meadowbrook Art Gallery, Oakland University, Rochester, MI USA (1989)
  • Slusser Gallery, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI USA (1989)
  • Pontiac Art Center, Pontiac, MI USA (1989)
  • Mark Masuoka Gallery, Las Vegas, NV USA (1990)
  • Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit USA (1991)[16]


The Gilda Awards, funded by The Kresge Foundation since 2015, honor Gilda Snowden's lifetime of work mentoring Detroit area emerging artists.[13]


  1. ^ Furay, Steve (21 September 2014). "Detroit artist Gilda Snowden joins the ancestors" (volume 36 issue 46 page A6). Michigan Citizen.
  2. ^ a b Abbey-Lamberts, Kate. "Gilda Snowden, Beloved Detroit Artist And Educator, Dies At 60". HuffingtonPost., Inc. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  3. ^ Cole, Thomas B. (2012-07-18). "Self-portrait". JAMA. 308 (3): 218–218. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.3104. ISSN 0098-7484.
  4. ^ DeVito, Lee (9 September 2014). "Detroit artist Gilda Snowden dead at 60". Detroit Metro Times. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e Bilek, Suzanne. Great female artists of Detroit. ISBN 9781609496715. OCLC 806018780.
  6. ^ Rogers, Rick. "With Sadness We Announce the Passing of Professor Gilda Snowden". College for Creative Studies. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  7. ^ a b Cole, Thomas B. (2012-07-18). "Self-portrait". JAMA. 308 (3). doi:10.1001/jama.2012.3104. ISSN 0098-7484.
  8. ^ "Gilda Snowden: Flora Urbana". Art X Detroit. Midtown Detroit, Inc. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  9. ^ "DIA: Search the Collections: Gilda Snowden". Detroit Institute of Arts. Archived from the original on 21 October 2016. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  10. ^ "Twin Tornadoes". Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  11. ^ "Wayne State University Art Collection: Picture of the Week: Gilda Snowden". Wayne State University. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  12. ^ "David C. Driskell Center: Collection: Gilda Snowden". David C. Driskell Center. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  13. ^ a b "Inaugural 'Gilda Awards' honor the legacy of artist Gilda Snowden". The Kresge Foundation. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  14. ^ Henkes, Robert (1993). The Art of Black Women: Works of Twenty-Four Artists of the Twentieth Century. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 193. ISBN 0-89950-818-9.
  15. ^ "Gilda Snowden Biography". MutualArt Services, Inc. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  16. ^ Henkes, Robert (1993). The Art of Black Women: Works of Twenty-Four Artists of the Twentieth Century. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company Inc. p. 193. ISBN 0-89950-818-9.

External links[edit]