From early on Cecil showed his dedication to local African-American art by moonlighting, arranging black art shows on his own in playgrounds, churches and other art organizations. While at LACMA he co-organized the Black Arts Council, credited with bringing the first museum exhibition of African-American art to LACMA. During this period he also initiated an arts program for the Watts Summer Festival, and became Curator of Art Education Consulting Services in 1976 and of the William Grant Still Arts Center in 1978. At LACMA he was promoted through the ranks, until retiring in 1985 in a curatorial position in the museum’s Modern and Contemporary Art department. That would seem like a long, distinguished career, but it was just the beginning.
With more time on his hands, Cecil went on to become a mover and shaker in the local Black art world in earnest. He continued to organize exhibitions in such respected venues as the California Museum of African-American Art, give lectures, collect Black art and serve as its go-to champion. In 1989, he was appointed Director of the Watts Art Tower Center and of the art gallery at Southwest College. Always a vocal proponent, he spoke out about the sale of an important art collection by the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company at Adams and Western Boulevards, and about the portrayal of Black men in a Hammer Museum show.
In 1998, L.A. City acknowledged Cecil’s contribution by naming him a “Living Cultural Treasure.” His list of other awards is too long to publish here. Since Cecil’s early defense of Black art in L.A., this movement has become an area for serious academic study. Last year UCLA recorded an oral history with Cecil, acknowledging his wealth of knowledge.
Fergerson is survived by his wife Miriam, five children, nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.