First ever Tyler Perry exhibition set at Macon’s Tubman Museum



Executive director Harold Young convinced Perry to cooperate after years of effort.

MACON ― In 2017, Harold Young, events coordinator at the Tubman African American Museum in Macon, had a dream to create an exhibit celebrating the life of Tyler Perry.

He sent frequent emails, made calls, even drove 80 miles to Tyler Perry Studios on a whim to drop off a note to Perry, a note the security guard couldn’t even accept.

Finally, after his latest request, on Dec. 3, 2020, he received an e-mail. “We’re good to move forward with this,” wrote Perry’s publicist Chantal Artur. “Tyler has approved.”

“I’m sitting at my desk blown away,” said Young, who soon after became the first ever Black executive director of the Tubman Museum, which opened in 1981 to celebrate the rich art and history of African Americans.

The exhibit, which will be at the Tubman Museum for two years, covers 4,000 square feet and features a summary of Perry’s life including his difficult childhood in New Orleans, his early days struggling to break into entertainment, the success of his stage plays, his Madea films, his TV comedies and his road to becoming a respected filmmaker, studio owner, philanthropist and self-made billionaire. Many of his most notable quotes are plastered on the walls.

“I want people to feel inspired when they leave it,” Young said.

Credit: RODNEY HO/

Credit: RODNEY HO/

Mark Swinton, Perry’s senior vice president for scripted programming in an email interview, said he credited Young’s persistence to gaining Perry’s cooperation.

“Tyler is inundated with requests for tributes quite frequently, but this one felt like the right opportunity, especially as it was in Georgia,” Swinton said. Young “reached some of the high-level execs at the studios and we were happy to have a conversation. We immediately saw how dedicated Harold was to this project and when we met with him, he won us over.”

The exhibit is a collaboration between Young and Perry’s creative and executive team. “Tyler gave us the autonomy to curate the exhibit in a way that would best honor him as a person, creative and businessman,” Swinton said.

This past Tuesday, fours days before opening day, the exhibit was only about 70% complete. Jahon Pilichowski and Ashley Brown, the two Los Angeles-based designers hired to put it together, were still putting photos in frames, getting official clearance for videos and sifting through outfits from Perry’s shows and films to display.

“I admire his resilience,” Brown said. “I am big on faith and the importance of God’s grace and understanding the importance that your beginning will never dictate your destiny. He is a man who didn’t come up with easy opportunities to create. He made that space for himself. That’s huge.”

Perry, who was recently ranked No. 3 by Forbes among the top 10 highest paid entertainers of 2022, was unable to attend a red-carpet opening of the exhibit on Friday evening, the day before the exhibit’s official opening Saturday, Feb. 18. He is in Yorkshire, England, shooting his new Netflix World War II drama “Six Triple Eight” starring Kerry Washington.

But more than two dozen people affiliated with Tyler Perry Studios RSVP’d, said Young, who has yet to speak to or meet Perry.

“He’ll get here one day,” Young said. “I got what I wanted. I will have a chance to thank him personally.”

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@a

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@a

Young, 58, has been in entertainment himself for decades, growing up in south central Los Angeles and doing both concert promotion and gospel radio. He brought in Patti LaBelle for the museum’s annual All That Jazz fundraiser this past January and is currently prepping the annual Pan-African Festival in April, which draws thousands of people a year.

Reading Perry’s 2017 autobiography “Higher Is Waiting” gave Young the impetus to even consider putting an exhibit like this together. Perry in his early days would put together plays that ultimately failed financially and led him to briefly live in his blue Geo Metro.

“I put together concerts where there were more people on stage than in the audience,” Young said. “I felt his pain.”



On the wall of the exhibit, there is a photo of the trunk of a Geo Metro, a symbol of Perry’s rock bottom before he found a way through God and hard work and his own creative spark to make his first play “I Know I’ve Been Changed” a success.

He said he hopes many of the younger patrons of his museum will be able to better relate to Perry’s journey than many of the civil rights heroes of yore featured in the space. “Perry is living history,” he said. “And he has a parallel to Harriet Tubman. When she became free, she reached back and brought people up with her. Perry has done the same. Nobody wants to be alone on the mountaintop.”


The Tyler Perry Exhibition

Opening Feb. 18. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. $10 general admission; discounts for seniors, educators, children and military, free for members. The Tubman African American Museum, 310 Cherry St., Macon. 478-743-8544,