2006 brings a range of worthwhile exhibitions to local and regional art centers and museums. The theme locally is on African-American artists and experience. At the ACKLAND MUSEUM at UNC-Chapel Hill through March 26 is Family Legacies: The Art of Betye, Lezley, and Alison Saar, with an artist’s reception on Sunday, Jan. 22. Something All Our Own, works from ex-Duke basketball star Grant Hill’s collection of African-American art, opens March 4 at the new NASHER MUSEUM OF ART at Duke University, as does Conjuring Bearden, which explores the work of Romare Bearden (born in Mecklenburg County), whose childhood home in Harlem was a meeting place for figures of the Harlem Renaissance. The Black Panther Party: Making Sense of History opens Feb. 16 at the CENTER FOR DOCUMENTARY STUDIES at Duke University. A panel discussion, Recovering the Panther Legacy of Community Organizing and Activism moderated by Timothy B. Tyson, author of Blood Done Sign My Name, will take place on Thursday, Jan. 26.

Wendy Ewald, a longtime contributor to the Center for Documentary Studies and architect of the Literacy Through Photography program, has a major exhibition of her photography work with children, Secret Games: Collaborative Works with Children, 1969-1999, at Charlotte’s MINT MUSEUM OF ART from Feb. 11-May 7. If you can get to Charlotte between Feb. 11-26, see The Land of Make Believe, a collection of illustrations from chidren’s books also at the Mint.

The photography of another Triangle notable–former editor of Duke University Press John Menapace–will be shown at North Carolina State University’s GALLERY OF ART AND DESIGN from March 23-May 14. Menapace has been something of a recluse, so this show will be a rare opportunity to see his work. While you are at State, be sure to check out the documentary photography galleries in the foyer of D.H. Hill Library.

For those interested in more traditional museum fare (and waiting on the fall 2006 Monet show at the North Carolina Museum of Art), good day trips include visits to Winston-Salem’s and Greensboro’s fine art museums. Currently at the REYNOLDA HOUSE, MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART in Winston-Salem is a great show on the paintings of J.M.W. Turner and Fredric Church (though Feb. 5). Reynolda House also has a wonderful garden and walking trails.

POPulence opens at Winston-Salem’s SOUTHEASTERN CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ART (SECCA) on Jan. 21. The term “populence” (coined by music video producer Sharon Orec) refers to the increasing confluence of accessibility and luxury. The show consists of 19 internationally recognized contemporary pop artists’ responses to our media-saturated world.

At UNC-Greensboro’s WEATHERSPOON ART MUSEUM from Jan. 8-March 26 is an exhibit of prints and scupltures by Henri Matisse drawn from the museum’s Cone Collection, and, if you get out to Greensboro for this in March, you can also take in a second show curated from the museum’s permanent collection entitled American Art: 1960-Present. Finally, if you can make it out to Charlotte before Jan. 15, you can catch the MINT MUSEUM’s show of 60 paintings from the European collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, including the first authetic Caravaggio to enter an American museum.

Two shows in Greensboro celebrate influential artist and teacher George Ivy. These are the WEATHERSPOON MUSEUM’s current show, George D. Ivy: Making North Carolina Modern (through Feb. 19) and, at the nearby GREEN HILL CENTER, A Modernist Influence: Eight Artists After Ivy (Jan. 7-March 27). The latter show chronicles the work of eight artists who studied at the “Women’s College” (now UNC-G) under George Ivy. Somewhat farther afield near Asheville, at the BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE MUSEUM AND ARTS CENTER through April 6, there is an exhibition of the work of teacher and painter Joseph Fiore (himself a student of Josef Albers and William de Kooning, among others). While you’re out there, be sure to check out the ASHEVILLE MUSEUM OF ART’s collection of 20th-century American art (and grab a bite to eat in Asheville, too–it’s one of my favorite places to eat).

If you’re into longer weekend trips, THE NATIONAL GALLERY in Washington, D.C., has two shows worth seeing: Cézanne in Provence (Jan. 29-May 7)–with over 100 oils and watercolors, this is the principal international exhibition marking the centenary of Cézanne’s death–and Dada (Feb. 19-May 14), with works by Tzara, Arp, Taeuber, Richter, Grosz, Ernst, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp. While in D.C., be sure to check out my favorite museum, THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION. The Phillips has one of the most renowned private collections of modern art in the world. There are also two fine shows at the BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF ART, one on the work of African-American artist Henry Ossawa (though May 28) and Picasso: The Final Years (Jan. 11-April 16). While in Baltimore, be sure to check out the AMERICAN VISIONARY ART MUSEUM’s show Race, Class, Gender ≠ Character.

If you have to choose only one far afield trip to make this season, I’d suggest you head down to Atlanta to visit the HIGH MUSEUM. It has just finished an expansion and is showing wonderful pieces by Anslem Kiefer and Georgia folk artist Howard Finster. And the Andrew Wyeth retrospective (through Feb. 26) is a jewel. It is one of the best curated shows, and one of the only I’ve ever seen that not only was itself stunning, but seemed to make the people in the gallery more beautiful as well.