A 21st- Century connection between Art and the National Summit on Education

I found the connection between the National Summit on Education and the art at Utah’s museum of Art seasonable.

While at Utah’s Museum of Art, I came across a huge electrical wall panel created by Elias Sime from Ethiopia.

The plaque next to the ‘ Tightrope: Noiseless 1’ (it’s title) reads: Sime buys his materials at the Merkato In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the largest open- air market in Africa. It can take years for him to accumulate the necessary discarded computer parts to construct an individual work. In this series, Sime recognizes the uneasy balance between the advances made possible by technology and the impact those advances have had on humanity and the environment. Sime says, ” My work reclaims these machines in a tender way, as I am not in opposition to technology. It’s about how to balance it with “real” life. We’ve become off-balance. My title for my series of collages, “Tightrope,” has a double reaming, It’s about this equilibrium, but I also wanted it to evoke a string: if you pull it too tight, it will break.” 

The installation connected strongly with the keynote speakers at the conference. While looking at it, I had no questions, nor did it bring me peace. It was just about being in the moment while also thinking about the future.

Earlier that day, I sat in the Grand America Hotel and listened to Code.org founder Hadi Partovi, finance expert Tim Ranzetta and Professor of Applied Mathematics Dr. Steven Strogatz, map out critical skills for every 21st-Century student’s success.

Dr. Strogatz encouraged us to introduce our learners to Data Science which he said was the “modern version of statics, a fusion of many disciplines that give us opportunities touch every field.” Mr. Partovi pushed for us to teach finical literacy, especially to students in high school. As a true educator, he provided curriculum and even offered ways to teach others how to teach the topic. Tim Ranzetta also pushed technology – telling us that the vision of Code.org is that every student learn computer science.

The full video is posted on Youtube:

Almost all artist unknown in Arts of Africa Room

At Utah’s Museum of Fine Arts on the second floor towards the back is a room labeled Arts of Africa. It looks like a period room. Quite honestly, period rooms can be boredom rooms. But this one was intriguing because almost all of the art in there had no name on it. The artist was unknown for each artifact. Why?

Working Together

Last year May, the Whitney had a photography exhibit on the fifth floor of the museum. The rich black and white photos identified Black people and their living conditions during some of the country’s pivotal moments – the Civil Rights Movement, the Black arts movement and the Pan- Africanism movement.

The photos were taken by the Kamoinge Workshop.

You may remember I spoke about the Kamoinge Workshop in another blog post…

Ishita and I met at the Whitney and after having a hard time finding each other in the museum (my phone died as soon as I walked in) we went up to the top floor and ran into friends from the Harlem Studio museum.

We ran into photographer, Ralston Smith and Harlem Studio companion, Tasha Douge and before long everyone was sending fiery artist vibes. It became a fun photoshoot.

History all jugged up

I am standing in front of Simone Leigh’s Large Jug in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It is included in an exhibition entitled, “Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina”.

This exhibition opens up a different jug of worms. While most slave narratives of 19th Century speak about the Atlantic Slave trade and the presence of Africans in the cotton fields, viewing Hear Me Now makes the viewer think, well, what else did Africans / African Americans contribute too? What other narratives are they apart of that we know very little to nothing about? It remind us that the slave was not confined or small at all, instead, he had a large presence and was in every walk of life.

While the entire story is told from many view points, the one artist that walks away with you is Dave. Mr. Dave Drake. He found a way to live on forever through his pottery by using the very thing that could have gotten him killed, visual literacy.

Above to the left is the jug that I couldn’t stop circling around. It reads:

nineteen days before Christmas- Eve- Lots of people after its over, how they will greave,

I wonder…. how in the world did he get away with a quote like that? He seemed to share the same status as Fredrick Douglass; yet, he was enslaved!

Douglass escape slavery in 1881. Drake’s pottery was issued in 1858. This means that way before Frederick Douglass wrote his speech, ‘What, to the slave, is the fourth of July‘? Drake was already addressing the same topic throughout his pottery.

Lesson plan idea: Visit exhibit with students and allow them to write ‘what if’ stories for Dave. Allow them to create stories to fill in some of the missing pieces of Dave’s story that we do not know…

Two Celebrations

Laurel and I at Slag Gallery (in front of her piece)

First and foremost, CONGRATULATIONS to my close friend, Laurel, who had her first art show at Slag Gallery.

She spent most of her COVID-19 down time prepping for a show she wasn’t sure was ever going to take place. By the time invitations came out for the opening ceremony, things were picking back up and it was impossible for me to make it to the show.

I ended up going to Slag a day before my birthday- which made it a double celebration.

The show has been taken down by now, ( I’ve been too busy to blog lately…sorry) however, I wanted to write a little about Laurel’s piece.

Laurel’s work was a part of a group exhibition curated by Sophie Olympia Riese titled This is Not Enough. All of the artist, women:  LaTonia Allen, Ranee Henderson, Laurel Richardson, and Paige Twyman.

As the synopsis stated, These four painters explore[d] themes of self-determination, history, ancestry, social construction, and aspiration in their works, examining perception and expectation while developing a visual narrative that pave[d] a path towards the futures they see for themselves.

If I could pick a theme, Laurel’s Heart of Light in particular focused mainly on social construction. She used dye, acrylic, canvas and pins to address the role of the Queen Mother in an African village which in turn addressed the role of the mother in the African American community.

The Queen Mother is like the queen bee, it’s simply in charge. Its respected and reverenced. Her job is to keep the children safe from those who seek to destroy them.

As I continued to examine the canvas, I found faces of children hidden and woven in the cloth. From afar I couldn’t see the faces, but as I got closer, I saw the faces, boys in particular starring back at me.

For us, this piece, opened up conversation about black boys in our communities, single mothers, and police brutality.

The materials Laurel used opened up a discussion about Chicago where Laurel is from originally and her family. To construct her art work she looked at patterns and used cloth from her grandmother who is a seamstress.

After viewing the art in Slag and examining the nearby galleries we walked to the High Line Plinth at 30th St. and 10th Ave. where we took photos in front of Simone Leigh’s (another Chicago native) Brick House.

We spent the entire day in the village appreciating art and we ended our day at Worthwild, a bar-restaurant at 156 9th ave. We froze our butts off dinning on the outside, which was crazy and fun at the same time.

Laurel and I at Worthwild

Towards the end of the night, Laurel surprised me with a pumpkin cupcake. She and the kind waiter sang happy birthday and the wind blew the candle out for me.

Chloe Bass inHarlem

Late 2019, Harlem’s Studio Museum practicum fellows gathered in St. Nicholas park to hear conceptual artist Chloe Bass speak about her outdoor exhibition, Wayfinding.

She placed mirrored images throughout the park that held sayings such as There are times when I have agreed with you, only in order to go to sleep