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and William H. Cosby, Jr. agrees. "African-American art had been forsaken, but now it is really experiencing a renaissance on the American art scene," says the Hyattville resident.

Driskell, recently retired after 22 years as a professor and art chair at the University of Maryland College Park, has been curator for the Bill Cosby collection, as well as that of Oprah Winfrey. "The larger American public has become more attuned to these works," he says, "and I think it is more than just a trend. The big auction houses are selling it, and more and more collectors of all races are buying this art."

The Brown collection is housed in three areas. There's work in the offices, the penthouse apartment upstairs (which is the Browns' city residence), and at the couple's sprawling home in Glen Arm.

In both their homes, the Browns move comfortably among the valuable artworks that are installed in just about every room. When Sylvia Brown prepares meals at the penthouse, for instance, she can see Jacob Lawrence's bold and colorful Genesis series hanging in the hall near the kitchen. "I often find myself glancing over at it and smiling," she says.

At the Glen Arm home, another Lawrence piece, The Builders, hangs in the den, where the family spends most of its down time; a Romare Bearden silkscreen print, Prevalence of Ritual Suite, hangs in the dining room; and Elizabeth Catlett's marble and concrete statue, Reclining Woman, sits before a large picture window in the living room. "That's probably my favorite piece," [[text cut off]]

landscape hangs over the fireplace.

"I love to see people who live with their art, and the Browns are so relaxed at home," says Driskell. "They have collected wonderful names, the creme de la creme, and to see them living among this work is wonderful."

Of the three, the office collection is the largest with about 66 works to date. It includes the socially ironic photography of Carrie Mae Weems, the canvass "drape" paintings of Sam Gilliam, and work by Harry Evans Jr., who painted scenes of Baltimore's ubiquitous rowhouses.

And there are all manner of interesting stories, some with great local significance, associated with the collection. One involves another Lawrence piece, this one a signed silkscreen print called Contemplation, which hangs opposite Brown's office desk. Based on the artist's very first series--41 tempera paintings depicting the life of Toussaint L'Ouverture--it shows the Haitian liberation hero reading by candlelight. When the BMA held a groundbreaking show of African-American artists in 1939, one entire room was reportedly devoted to Lawrence's masterpiece. The artist later wrote, "As far as I can recall, this marked the first time a major museum gave over its facilities to an all-black show. And this was in the 1930s when there was little or no talk about 'the black thing' and the pressing need for it to be seen and appreciated."

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