“PEERS AND PATHWAYS” – A MUST SEE EXHIBIT
COLORED GIRLS: STANDOUT PERFORMANCES OF HOPE
ROCKETTE TALKS ABOUT DANCING
GOSSETT TALKS ABOUT HOLLYWOOD LIFE AND ERASICM
MFA NEW WING OPENS NOV. 20 – FREE
SOJOURNER’S TRUTH – THIS WEEKEND ONLY
UP-COMING EVENTS & COMMUNITY INFO
When playwright Lorraine Hansberry penned the line “to be young, gifted, and black” (which diva Nina Simone powerfully riffed on as a lyric), artists of color grabbed onto the notion of identifying with their culture and heritage.
It was in this era, in the 70s, that seven young African American artists associated in one way or another with Mass College of Art banded together. They participated in a group show in Boston at the time. They hung out and they talked. They supported and advised one another. Their friendship and sense of connectedness has lasted through the years to the present day.
A vibrant exhibit “Peers and Pathways,” splendidly curated by Ekua Holmes (’77), one of the participating artists, with assistance from AAMARP’S Gloretta Baynes (’76), is eloquent testimony to collaboration and to the importance of nurturing gifted individuals.
Whether or not you know the back story, however, the exhibit is a stand alone treat as well.
A visit to the President’s Gallery on the eleventh floor of the Tower Building at Massachusetts College of Art and Design will reward you with a sampling of the current work of Omobowale Ayorinde, Ekua Holmes, Reginald Jackson, Lou Jones, Eric Meza, and Hakim Raquib.
The late Rudy Robinson is also represented with black and white prints from the collection of the Museum of the National Center of Afro American Artists which are feeling their age or, should I say, you feel as if you’re looking at pictures taken awhile back.
The other works in Peers and Pathways have a more pristine air. This crispness probably emanates from their coming from these living artists’s own collections suggesting they’re newly printed for the show. (Coincidently, the multi-talented Robinson who was also a furniture maker has a bench in the collection of the newly expanded Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).
The President’s Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm. For more info you can contact MassArt’s gallery at 617-879-7333.
The eloquent photographs of Reggie Jackson are not only aesthetically lovely but profoundly referential. A driving interest in these photographs taken while on one of his numerous and lengthy stays in resistance communities in northern Ghana is the traditional ways these Africans had for spiritual nurturing and for survival under sometimes extreme conditions, including successfully withstanding slave catchers. Jackson, more formally Dr. Reginald Jackson, Phd,, a professor emeritus from Simmons College whose most advanced degree is in visual anthropology, was well prepared to take on this life’s work of preserving a people’s fortitude for others to appreciate.
Young American black musicians, particularly those with street cred, have, some of them, made fortunes in purveying their hip hop messages on video. To do so, they’ve relied on such talents as film director Eric Meza to make an earful into an eyeful. Running on a loop are such products as Ice Cubes “Dead Homiez,” Public Enemy “Can’t Truss It,” and Boston’s own Bobby Brown “I Gotta Get Away,” along with a host of other shoots in that vein. In an entirely different style, also professionally strong, is Meza’s music video for “I’m Calling You,” the theme from the movie “Bagdad Café.”
Boston 19th century poet Amy Lowell in her “Patterns” ponders as she wanders her rigidly laid out garden paths how society mores have constricted and suffocated her; by contrast Omobowale Ayorinde’s explorations in his handsome and large manipulated photographs of the patterns in modern buildings feel liberating. The 1975 Mass College of Art graduate and currently an instructor at the Rochester Institute of Technology finds dancing rhythms in repeating shapes and lines.
Hakim Raquib relates how he was stopped dead in his tracks on his way out of Roxbury to a Cape Cod summer vacation spot by a huge revival tent that had been set up in the Dudley Station area. He only caught a glimpse of the giant white canvas out of the corner of his eye but he knew, perhaps as only an artist would, that the “canvas cathedral” and the worshipers gathering to praise God within its canvas walls cried out to be memorialized which Raquib has done to stunning effect.
As the refrain from the popular song goes, who can I turn to when nobody needs me, the nationally celebrated photographer Lou Jones was just the right mentor at the right time for neophytes Ekua Holmes, Omobowale Ayorinde, and others of this now distinguished group who sometimes felt misunderstood or inappropriately guided at Mass College of Art. Among the photographs from Jones in “Peers And Pathways” is a shot he says took him years to get, a look at the New Orleans’s Preservation Hall Jazz Band with their feet up, so to speak. Jones, who has photographed nearly everywhere in the world, it seems, and at every kind of occasion from the Olympics to scenes of laborers in Haiti, always tells a story you want to hear in his pictures.
By contrast, Ekua Holmes, as her name suggests, has not strayed far from home in her life and in her charmingly executed collages. At least for the past decade, she has been exploring Roxbury as she remembers the community in her growing up, a place that felt secure to a child. That’s not to say there isn’t an edge to her work as she delves deeper and deeper into memoir, which like African retentions, of late expresses the feeling of subconscious memory. The series here, which you could spend a long time taking in, is, as the collages’s prime source, made from a shoebox of old photographs given her by a distant relative of people she didn’t know but is related to, at least distantly, from sisters holding hands to Uncle Jack in drag.
The free catalogue that goes with the show is a keeper. It is handsomely designed and with informative essays, particularly the lengthy, well researched and well written overview of these artists and their times from Klare Shaw, senior program officer at the Barr Foundation.
By Kay Bourne
Massachusetts College of Art and Design Calendar
Ntozake Shange’s 1970s stage play about the struggles of several black women is to say the least, a piece of work that makes you reassess where and who you are in your life at whatever particular moment you hear her words.
Tyler Perry’s movie version captures those famous chreo poems and intertwines them with a cinematic narrative that fills the back story of the six main characters of the play, to make it more “moviesque.”
Some of the lyricism is lost in the expansion of the narrative, but much of Shange’s message still comes through loud and clear: Black women endure much, but their strength, compassion and perseverance gives them the ability to overcome incredible difficulties, although, unfortunately, with a price.
You will be moved by the powerful performances from Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose and Loretta Devine. They have given this work their all and have clearly digested and lived with the material to bring it to the screen in an array of explosive, heartwarming and intensely moving work.
I know people have taken issue with Tyler Perry and his ability to bring to the screen such a revered piece of work, so in response to that I give you a quote from Ntozake Shange that appeared in the LA Times; “Shange, who consulted on ‘For Colored Girls,’ praised the film. “Mr. Perry has done the best he could. The actresses are powerful and sensitive,” she said.
She added however, that the movie reflects his vision, not hers: “That’s why I’m a poet and he’s a cinema artist.” A book, a play, a movie, all different mediums with different elements, each drawing from a significant piece of work.”
So that said, go see the film and then decide, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
By Lisa Simmons
Official website of For Colored Girls the Movie
(pictured: Nirine S. Brown)
Radio City Rockette Nirine S. Brown has her suitcase at the ready. A six year veteran of the most renowned chorus line in the world, the New York native, Queens born, precision dancer has never performed at the famous Art Deco style music hall in Rockefeller Center.
“I love to travel,” the 5’6″ performer exclaimed in a recent phone call with the Kay Bourne Arts Report. “I have a check list of places I want to go.”
With 31 tours of the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular!” about to go on the road, Brown chose Boston. “I hear the city has amazing food,” she says as one reason she opted for the hub. Her most important consideration, however, was to ensure her grandmother could see the show and “New York is really close so she can make the trip.”
The extravagant production with a cast and crew of nearly 100 people (not to forget the camel and other animals for the manger scene) opens at the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang theatre Friday, DECEMBER 3 for 53 performances, concluding Wednesday, December 29. For more info you can call 866-348-9738.
They’ll unpack more than 300 costumes and 200 hats, all of the designs exclusive to the show. From a design unaltered since it was used in the original production in 1933, for example, comes the outfits for the Wooden Soldier. These hallmark costumes were the invention of Hollywood film director Vincente Minnelli (father of Liza) whose movies include the classics “Meet Me In St. Louis,” “An American In Paris,” and “Gigi.” To top off the white pants and red shirts is a 24-inch hat, including the plume on top which elevates the height of the tallest Rockette at 5’10″ to 7’10′ from top to toe. Headdresses that are even higher are the 17 inch antlers (that light up) for the line’s reindeer number.
Brown won a coveted place in the Rockettes when she was studying dance in the school at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre at 9th Avenue and 55th Street in Manhattan.
“I wish I could tell you a story about how my aunt or a cousin danced with the Rockettes so I had an ‘in’ but really all I did was try out cold,” says Brown. She spotted an audition notice at the Ailey school, “part of the Rockettes diversity outreach,” she said. Black dancers have been hired for the Rockettes only since 1988. “Times have changed,” she said.
Brown was hired from her first audition, which is something of a rarity, as dancers return time and time again to try for the famed line where tapping, ballet, and ensemble work are the requirements.
“There’s a lot of competition,” notes Brown who believes it was “that spark, that twinkle,” that won her a place with the Rockettes. “You have to love what you do. You can’t fake that.”
She also urges hopefuls not to give up if they don’t get in on the first try. “Timing plays a big part of it too. Don’t give up. A dancer may leave the show who is exactly your height.” Brown’s background before getting the job was in high school at New York’s Talented Unlimited High School and full scholarships with Alvin Ailey and Ballet Hispanico.
The Christmas show is a two month gig and Brown has put her off time to good use. Last year she toured with international singing star Shakira and performed at the FIFA World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa. Here she was doing African dance which is “two very different styles compared with the Rockettes. (You can view Shakira’s “Waka Waka/This Time For Africa” number including Brown dancing, which is the on various You tube shorts on-line).
“Dancing with a star, you are an accessory; with the Rockettes everyone matters, from Mrs. Claus to the sheep to the dancers,” she said. “We’re an intergral part of the whole.”
By Kay Bourne
Official Website of Radio City Rocketts
(pictured: Louis Gossett, Jr.)
Renowned actor Louis Gossett, Jr.’s long and sometimes turbulent life has been significantly defined by belief. Really getting into a role relies on “a system of belief” he noted in a recent phone conversation.
An Actor And A Gentleman (John Wiley & Sons, 2010), the title of Gossett’s recently published memoir, immediately brings to mind his Academy Award performance as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer and A Gentleman.
The respected African American stage and screen actor made wise by the turmoil as well as the pinnacles of his career visits the Boston area for three difference speaking engagements:
Monday, November 8, he was the guest speaker at the venerable Ford Hall Forum taking place in the Rabb Auditorium, Boston Public Library in Copley Square. The talk by Mr. Gossett, followed by a public discussion moderated by Boston-based popular scribe Phyllis Karas, who co-authored Gossett’s book. The sixth and final event in the forum’s fall season was as always open to the public, as has been the tradition of these forums that date back to 1908 and which have hosted such a variety of figures as W. E. B. DuBois in the early years to Al Gore, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Garrison Keillor in recent times.
For people aware of Gossett’s current undertaking in life, the title also underscores his civility as he goes about convincing listeners of the importance of erasing the petty meanesses that keep us at each other’s throats. One glance at the cover of his book with Mr. Gossett gazing directly at you, his arm across his chest as if reciting the pledge of allegiance, evidences a man on a mission.
The next day, Mr. Gossett addressed some 2200 middle school students at Lynn City Hall where he will also talk anecdotally about his long career, his struggles for pay equity as a black man in Hollywood and with drugs and alcoholism that took him years to overcome, and his current work to eradicate racism and violence, which includes bullying and gay bashing.
Then on Wednesday, Gossett, whose Emmy-award winning role as Fiddler in the 1970s TV mini series Roots has also elevated his image to indelibility for Americans, spoke at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis.
That appearance elicited fond memories from Gossett’s of his growing up in the then largely Jewish neighborhood in southern Brooklyn’s Coney Island. The area was home to an amusement park that was a source of employment for him as a youth and where his neighbors and his family showed a strong belief that he had the potential to go a great distance which he acted upon.
“People stuck together,” says Gossett, who recalls his father going out fishing which netted a large catch of cod they distributed to neighbors for blocks around. “Whether they salted it or fried it up, depending on their culture, the cod was food for a week,” he said.
“We need to put that sense of being in this life together and that belief in our children today,” said Gossett. “My family and neighbors were not trying to make me a model black person but saw me as one of the exceptional ones of the kids in the neighborhood.” Other children treated likewise also have had outstanding careers from Neil Diamond to Harvey Keitel. These days the old gang gathers for reunions annually.
Belief has been a two way street all along for him.
“In the arts,” he says, “it’s how strongly you believe in what you’re doing that makes you stand out.”
The experience can be just as transforming for the audience as a stunning incident in Baton Rouge evidenced.
Gossett had been invited to the city to receive an honorary degree from the community college there. Earlier in the day he’d happened to meet with local police officers as part of his being shown around town by the mayor, a friend. Not many hours later, his security guard told Gossett that one of these officers, who is white, had been shot in the chest and was lying in the hospital in a coma.
“Several of the policemen asked me to go visit him and talk with him,” Gossett writes in his memoir. “I had been there only a few minutes, just holding his hand and talking with him softly, when he opened his eyes.
“The first words that he spoke were, ‘I can’t get down and give you forty right now, Sergeant. Maybe later,’” which are lines from An Officer and A Gentleman.
“What he gave me that day was a gift I will never forget,” writes Gossett.
Mr. Gossett says he wasn’t’ going to prepare a speech for any of the three occasions. “I don’t do speeches.
“I speak from the heart and I trust and have faith that the next words are going to come out. I will be telling anecdotes from my life just as I have in the book,” he said.
By Kay Bourne
(pictured: Al Loving’s “Cube 27″)
The Harriet Powers “pictorial Quilt”, made by an ex-slave from Athens, Georgia between 1895 and 1898, hangs in the new Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s Art of the Americas wing. This treasure by an African American has been occasionally displayed in the past but mostly kept in storage for the last 60 years.
A more recent acquisition, contemporary African American artist Al Loving’s “Cube 27″ (1970) also resides in a gallery in the glorious, 5-story glass building designed by Foster + Partners. Last year, the MFA had the winning bid of $84,000 for the coveted Loving painting at the Swann Galleries in New York.
From a watercolor by Paul Revere depicting the Boston Massacre with Crispus Attucks and his fellow unarmed Bostonians falling from a rain of bullets fired by the British Red Coats’s muskets is hung in the room where the Revolutionary silver smith’s plates and teapots are displayed. In another gallery there’s a newly acquired Alan Rohan Crite oil showing children playing beneath the artist’s living room window in Lower Roxbury.
The MFA is clearly on the road to inclusion of people of color, late as are most museums, but not too late.
As well, the new galleries display the work of artists from the two American continents North and South, and Central America in-between with Mexican artists prominent.
This is not your parent’s MFA where the shuttered doors on Huntington Ave. fostered the notion that residents of surrounding neighborhoods were unwelcome.
Those doors and the ones facing the Fens are open now, ready for the throng of visitors the museum will surely host. The new MFA has come into being under the leadership and vision of Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the Museum. Elliot Bostwick Davis, who has the John Moors Cabot chair, leads the curatorial staff for the new wing.
The new wing officially opens 10:30 am, NOVEMBER 20 with a Community Day of free entrance and events to celebrate. The community day is sponsored by the Bank of America.
Boston Mayor Tom Menino has proclaimed this Saturday, “MFA Day” to mark the momentous day in the museum’s history. The museum expects large crowds and recommends using the T, either the Green line E train to the MFA stop, the Orange line to the Ruggles stop or Bus #39 to the MFA stop or #8, 47 or CT2 buses to the Ruggles Street stop.Official Website of the MFA<
“I will shake every place I go to,” black abolitionist Sojourner Truth famously pledged. An itinerant minister, she had been born into slavery in the North, upper New York state on a farm, and had endured a horrific childhood and heart breaking young adult years.
Her best known speech “Ain’t I A Woman” definitely shook up the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851, as did her preaching to the powerful about prison reform and against the death penalty. She railed against slavery prior to the Civil War.
Firebrand actress Ramona Lisa Alexander portrays this important visionary in “Sojourner’s Truth” for a weekend of performances beginning Friday NOVEMBER 19 at the Roxbury Center for the Arts at Hibernian Hall, 184 Dudley Street in Roxbury, a block from Dudley Station next to the firehouse.
The Boston area premiere features live music by teen musician Stephany Marryshow, who gives the drama a modern day angle. She provides musical narration singing gospel songs and playing the guitar (she taught herself the guitar by watching You Tube).
The production is staged by the Holyoke based Enchanted Circle Theater and directed by Melissa Penley, who is known for doing provocative theater with special concern for survivors of sexual violence.
Written by Priscilla Kane Hellweg and Rachel Kuhn, “Sojouner’s Truth” will be performed for two matinees on Friday, NOVEMBER 19, at 10am and 1pm, Saturday night at 8pm, and finally on Sunday, NOVEMBER 21, at 2pm. For more info, you can phone 617-849-6322.
Bunker Hill Community College presents a program of Eric Dolphy’s music by the Oliver Lake Quintet (Oliver Lake – alto saxophone, Freddie Hendrix – trumpet, John Kordalewski – piano, Wes Brown – bass, Yoron Israel – drums), Thursday, NOVEMBER 18, from 1 to 2:15 pm. This event is open to the general public, free of charge. It will be in the auditorium, room A-300.
November 18, 6:30 pm, Get to know artist Mark Bradford (pictured above) in a lively conversation with New Yorker writer Hilton Als and the ICA Chief Curator. Mark Bradford’s exhibition will be hosted at ICA starting Friday, November 19 until March 13, 201. Through his collaged paintings, sculptures, videos, and installations, Mark Bradford explores issues of class, race, and gender in American urban society. An archeologist of his own environment, Los Angeles, Bradford uses found materials-peeling movie posters, hand-lettered “FOR SALE” signs, endpapers used to perm black hair, salvaged plywood-which he layers, embellishes, erodes, and reconstitutes into abstract compositions. For more information, click HERE. The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston is located at 100 Northern Avenue on Boston’s waterfront.
Film Screening and Community Panel Discussion November 20, 10 am at Wheelock College: Please come to a Screening of “Beyond the Bricks” followed by a discussion about the film and the issues it raises. Produced by Washington Koen Media, “Beyond the Bricks” is a documentary film project and national community engagement campaign created with the goal of promoting solutions for one of America’s critical problems in education: the consistently low performance of Black males in school.
On December 2 Roxbury Center for the Arts at Hibernian Hall (184 Dudley Street, Roxbury) begins a weekly Thursday night supper club series. The Diane Richardson Group (Diane Richardson – voice, Bill Lowe – trombone, John Kordalewski – piano, Ron Mahdi – bass, Ralph Peterson – drums) will perform on opening night. Drinks are served at 6:00 pm, dinner at 7:00, and the music begins at 7:30. Visit http://www.madison-park.org/node/190. Or, for ticket information call 617-849-6321 or e-mail email@example.com.
Isabel Wilkerson, the first black woman to win a Pultizer Prize in Journalism, who now teaches at Boston University as a Professor of Journalism and Director of Narrative Nonfiction, has chronicled the decades long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities in search of a better life, “The Warmth of Other Suns:Voices of the Great Migration.”
She will discuss her epic and read from the book at a reception and book signing beginning at 4:30 pm, Thursday, December 2. The discussion takes place at Boston University’s Photonics Center, Room 206 (8 St. Mary’s Street, Boston). It is free and open to the public.
Call for submissions – SCRIBE Boston
Announcing SCRIBE Boston – a new annual publication for youth, being published in Spring 2011. We are looking for submissions of poetry, short stories or prose from students who live in the city of Boston and attend school, grades 6 – 12. We seek writing on a broad variety of topics and encourage students to be creative and to submit their best work. Students whose work is selected for publication will be expected to participate in a one day writing camp. A public reception will be held where students will present their work.
For more information and application guidelines, go to the website www.scribeboston.org. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.