ALEXANDRIA, VA – This spring and summer the Alexandria Black History Museum has hosted an important exhibit of the African American Living Legends of Alexandria. The compelling collection of black and white portrait photography by Living Legends founder Nina Tisara and her son Steven Halperson pays tribute to the notable men and women who have left their mark upon the ongoing progress of the City these past two centuries.
Living Legends of Alexandria is a non-profit organization founded in 2007 by Nina Tisara.
Its purpose is to spotlight and chronicle those people who have made a significant impact bettering the city through their advocacy, activism, philanthropy and service. The legends stem from all walks of life: volunteers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, clergy, politicians, artists, entrepreneurs, bankers, bakers, and business leaders.
All nominees and honorees demonstrate a dedication to serving and commitment toward making Alexandria, if not the world, a better place to live. Nina explains, “What I like about this project is that it reaches into business people, professionals, artists, activists. It’s everyone.” Living Legends promotes a perpetual legacy of service and giving back which inspires those going forward to carry on the tradition of community engagement that is the foundation of the African American community and Alexandria as a whole.
The exhibit is curated by Audrey Davis, the Director of the Alexandria Black History Museum. Many of the portraits on exhibit represent those Alexandrians who lead the charge against segregation and were on the forefront of the battleground opposing institutional racism and prejudicial policies. Ms. Davis is a graduate of the University of Virginia with a Bachelor’s and Master’s of Arts in Art History. She has been on the Living Legends of Alexandria Board since 2011.
Ms. Davis was named Director of the Black History Museum In 2015. She curated the extraordinary “Before the Spirits are Swept Away” – an exhibition of Sherry Sanabria’s African American historic site paintings. Sanabria, who passed away in 2014, had a studio in the Torpedo Factory. Her family donated 23 of her paintings from the “Sites of Conscience” series to the museum. The museum is housed in the building originally used as the segregated library space for Alexandria’s African American residents.
At a reception honoring the African American Living Legends at the museum on July 21, Nina Tisara reminded people that Living Legends is much more than a recognition award.
As a photojournalist she has been an archivist, recording and documenting future history as it happens. As Nina notes, “Telling the stories of the people who are making current history in Alexandria is important work!”
Nina pointed out that the Living Legends (and her collection of “Witness Worship: Connecting Through the Lens of Faith” series) are the only images and stories that are currently maintained and preserved by the Office of Historic Alexandria. The entire collection is cataloged by the Library of Congress as well.
Nina thanked Audrey Davis for conceiving of the the exhibit as well as the museum staff, the Office of Historic Alexandria, the Board of Living Legends of Alexandria and her son Steven for installing the exhibit, promoting the events, and, most of all, for his Herculean efforts picking up the reins of the Living Legends portrait documentary photography.
For both it’s a labor love.
Nina, Living Legends of Alexandria, and the Alexandria Black History Museum acknowledged and are extremely grateful for the support of the sponsors who helped put these powerful portraits on exhibit: Manumission Tours, Dishes of India, Glory Days Grill, the National Council of Negro Women, Joyous Events, The Enchanted Florist, and the Royal Restaurant.
Nina is as humble as she is generous, tireless and talented: “I am credited with being the mother of Living Legends. It was one of my better ideas but good ideas are not that hard. Bringing them to fruition is hard. Living Legends would not be what it is without Steven Halperson.”
[Editor’s Note: Go to the Alexandria History Museum for the African American Living Legends of Alexandria portraits by Nina Tisara and Steven Halperson on exhibit through the end of the month. Stay for the marvelous historical displays and diverting gift and book shop inside the intimate but impacts-a-punch museum space.]
902 Wythe Street, Alexandria 22314
Tuesday ~ Saturday 10:00 AM ~ 4:00 PM