Visit to the Bronx Museum

A week before the children went to the Bronx Museum. I spoke to them about a possible visit.

We started off by first talking about pastels. I didn’t teach them the entire summer and by the time I joined the program, they were already used to drawing classes via youtube videos. The day I came, they were about to watch a you-tuber explain how to draw with pastels.

I used that as my opportunity to teach them about art history. I taught them how to appreciate spaces that showed art and artist who used either pastels or paint.

Three days before the trip to the museum, I introduced Jamal Shabazz and told them it was his work they were going to see. They watched Legendary Photographer: Honor and Dignity, a clip on youtube of Sahabazz talking about his work and his career. I also made sure they knew that he was inspired by someone they knew, Gordon Parks (a founder of the school they attended). This bit of information made them excited.

On the day of the trip, there was a great stir about whether I should take three little boys who were full of energy. They had a rough time following directions all morning. I made the decision to allow them to attend the trip after remembering how excited they were when they learned about Shabazz and how vital it was for them to see images of people who looked like them in a museum. It was their first time ever visiting a museum!

All 17 children and 5 adults arrived at the museum. We met our educator outside.

We were early and the educator seemed disorganized.

We stood at the museum main reading panel. I always instruct the children to read each panel in museums instead of just walking and looking. However, the educator, dissuade them. She begin to ramble about how long it was and how we didn’t really have to read it… At one point it was like she was begging us not to read it.

During the reading, even the three busy ones listened. The educator cut everyone off after the first paragraph and then escorted the children upstairs to an art room.

She gave everyone a drawing board and spoke in depth about pencils. She had everyone try different types and then lined everyone up and told them to take one pencils and their pad. Next, we returned to the Jamal Shabazz show and she had the group sit down and draw a photograph.

She waited and they drew. Finally, everyone did a show and share. Well, really, no one showed. And no one shared. She asked who drew each picture and then spoke about the pictures. Not really allowing the children to speak about the work.

Around this time, the children began to lose patience.

Next, she told the children to go look at the rest of the exhibit… to Find a photograph and draw it. We were the only ones in the museum and I didn’t stress noise level. I also didn’t give the children any rules of how to behave (outside the talk they were given before we left the school). As I usual, they waited for the educator to give more clear directions.

She didn’t give them three minutes to follow that instruction. She changed her mind.

Actually, let’s look at some of his work together. The younger ones no longer paid attention and continued to view what they had started looking at. Here is a mini video:

She ushered the group into another gallery and we went back upstairs.

Upstairs she told them they were going to use water color. She took out huge water color sheets and asked me if I thought they could share. I told her I wouldn’t mind cutting the sheets in halves so each student could have their own.

The students painted and we returned to the school.

Ms. Edwinda….again

Ms. Edwina, what can I say?!

She is a force to reckon with.

I was walking in the Met when I noticed Ms. Edwina sitting on the bench in the Greek and Roman Art wing. She wasn’t doing much. Just watching people walk back and forth. It was a Friday and the place was packed with children.

I had just bumped into one of my former students, Syriana, who was roaming around with a summer camp decked out in purple tee’s.

Syriana! Is that you?

Hi Ms. Hurley!!!

I was surprised to see Syriana because I never saw someone who I knew in the Met. When I looked ahead and walked closer I couldn’t believe my eyes. Ms….Edwina?!

When I saw her, I waved excitedly. I couldn’t believe I ran into someone from my own community! Not only that, but an elder! Ms. Edwina (who I blogged about before) has the persona of Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. I met her while attending Fordham University. We crossed paths so much she started to talk to me. She would compliment me on my outfits and how I carried myself – every time she saw me. Which meant a lot. She didn’t know her words meant so much. She was always cheerful. She spoke with hugs and each hug went a long way.

Once we crossed paths and she complimented me on my black and white outfit – that I felt totally good in. She got to me before my secret crush got to me, who didn’t think I looked great at all. Funny, I can still remember his words.

Really, Lilly? I can’t believe you are even wearing that.

What do you mean, Really, Lilly? What’s wrong with my outfit?!

He stopped talking to me when I demanded what was the matter. Not that what he thought mattered anyway.

I sat next to Ms. Edwina.

Omg, what are you doing here?

I come every year, Child, to check out the Met Gala.

The Met Gala?

Yeah, The Met Gala. She looked me in the eye. Surly you know what the Met Gala is?

Yeah, I do. (I wasn’t about to say no- after she said, Surely you know…)I had clips of news paper images in my head. That was what knew of the Gala.

….Well, every year after the event is over, they showcase the outfits for the public to see. Did you see the exhibition?

No, I noticed the ad in the phamphet but never thought about seeing it myself.

You should go! It is so good!!

Okay, are you going back-

Nope. I am resting these here legs chile.

I sat beside her and asked if she saw any other exhibition. I had just gotten emotional in the Afro-futuristic Period Room and wanted someone to share my sentiment with. But she hadn’t.

She continued, I walked into a wrong room by mistake!!

Oh, which room was that?

Her response was so funny, I asked her if I could record it it share with you!

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 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 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?

Utah Museum of Fine Air…Arts

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts is concerned about air, as we all should be.

Visitors walk into a spacious foyer and after check-in, education about Salt Lake City’s poor air quality begins.

The exhibition, curated by Whitney Tassie, is a community cry. The art lifts up the voices of people from all over Salt Lake and beyond.

The first room is filled with air and three murals. Each mural by the local artist evokes memories from the beginning of the Pandemic. El Sol Sale para todos, which translates to The sun shines for everyone is by Zully Davila and Evelyn Haupt, celebrates the transformation of Latina women during the pandemic. Blackness Brings Forth Life is by Vaimoana Niumeitolu, a social activist from Tonga, who also resides in Utah. Niumeitolu seeks to tell the narrative of Utahns during the pandemic and food access. The last mural, Mokopuna, (which translates to grandchild or descendent) is by Bill Louis. It speaks about human protection during the pandemic.   

There are four more rooms, each one adds a layer of community concern. Will Wilson, photographer and trans-customary artist who is a citizen of the Navajo Nation, shares a triptych that conveys a traumatic history of people and land. The wall panel teaches the history of the ‘racist energy production that continues to…harm the…Diné people’. The history dates back to the 1940’s with Uranium mining on the Navajo Nation land. The energy companies tested their bombs and after the cold war, left ‘toxic material to disperse in the air, soil and water.’ Till this day, the people are dealing with this issue.

There is an AIR lab (Autoimmune Response Laboratory) also created by Will Wilson that sits in the middle of the first main room. AIR Lab is a futurist idea mixed with sankofa implications. It’s a replica of a greenhouse, taken from the sacred Diné dwelling, which shows how to remove heavy metals and toxins from the soil (grow the Four Corners potato and certain plant species) .

Across the room, the voices of politicians are heard.

The exhibition builds and tells the viewer how this problem isn’t only Utah’s problem but also an international problem. 

There is  a Smog Map next to plates created by Kim Abeles of California. The map and the plates are hosted on a grayish wall (as opposed to the previous art which is on a white wall). Each plate has a world leader (covered in smog) and one quote about the environment. Pictured here are Indian Prime Minister, Modi, Brazilian President, Rousseff, President of South Africa, Zuma and President Trump.

Prime Minister Modi quote reads, “Ultimately, for success, moderating our lifestyle is necessary and possible, for a low carbon future…”

President Rousseff says, “Brazil is one of the few developing countries to commit to an absolute goal for emissions reduction. In spite of having one of the world’s largest populations…”

President Zuma’s quote reads ” Various regions of the world have different views on the issue, simply because they are affected differently by climate change. However, for most people in the developing world and Africa, climate change is a matter of life and death. We are always reminded by the leaders of small island states that climate change threatens their very existence.”

President Trump’s quote reads: ” The United States…will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth…We’re going to have the cleanest air [and the] cleanest water.” 

The next three rooms are interactive. In one you look up and see clouds created by UMFA Community Members and below positioned neatly against the wall are books with titles like Some Days I breathe on Purpose: Learning to be a Calm, Cool Kid by Kellie Doyle Bailey and William Bryant Logan’s, Air. There is a room for meditation and Yoga. There are more installations of art like lithographs by Diego Romero and Merritt Johnson’s sculpture of an oxygen tank.

In the middle of both rooms is a film by Julianknxx entitled, Black Corporeal (Between this Air). The room is extremely dark and something about the atmosphere is frightening but sweet. There is a choir that fades in on the huge screen singing one word, breath, mingled with moving images of lovers breathing with and into one another. Without knowing you are thinking about Mr. George Floyd, your mind wanders to memories of the summer of 2020 and the events around ‘I can’t breathe’ cries.   

The last room is also empty except for one tremendous plastic sculpture which highlights the housing situation in America. The Chicago based artist, Michael Rakowitz, turned his focus on the impacts of the health of ‘houseless community members.’ The plaque read ” A 2020 University of Utah study found that nearly 90% of individuals without housing in Salt Lake County had sought medical attention for a condition related to air pollution.” With instructions of how to make one at home…or in the classroom. It tells the viewer, you have read our story and you see how you are intertwined in it, now go back to your community and do something about it.

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…

A weekend in the Carolinas

My dear friend and sister-in-Chirst, Nineveh got married last year, May.

My sister and I traveled to attend the wedding.

We landed in Charlotte, NC with a list of places to visit. The city was still on shut down. Everywhere we went was pretty much empty- outside of the church.

We landed early, had breakfast then drove around the empty city looking at construction sites and talking about gentrification (we even saw one site having a union meeting. There was a lot of shouting that filled up the sound for several blocks).

Finally we had brunch at Sister Wanda’s favorite vegan spot: Fern, Flavors from the Garden.

We were really tired by the time we got to Ratcliffe’s Flowers, a beautiful garden with structures and gorgeous plants. We didn’t even stop to smell the flowers.

The Harvey B. Gantt Center was the next stop. We heard about Mr. Gantt while sitting in the airport and looking for places to visit.

A Black architect and Charlotte’s first African-American mayor

When we walked into the center, we read the first plaque on the wall dedicated to two professors Bertha Maxwell and Mary Harper who taught in the 1960’s and were very aware at that time of the importance of the need to preserve African American History.

Next we were directed to walk up the steps where we viewed two galleries.

There was an entire exhibit about the riots of 2020 which I thought maybe the curator could have saved the show for a later time. I felt it was too soon to walk around and look at images of riots that we just witnessed last year. To see images in a gallery that are also everywhere else in the media seemed redundant. I think sometimes when an artist wait to show their work, the impact is greater.Timing is everything.

Next we saw a photo exhibit that included work from artist I knew like Benny Andrews and Charles White. All the images were own by Chase Bank-another hot topic to discuss along with the riots- a White institution lending a Black institution their possession of African American art.

I took a photo of the quote below by Whitfield Lovell. I thought it gave a great perspective of African Americans as human; he reminds us that people aren’t the struggle that they face, they are loved and most of all, they are somebody.

Overall it was very informative and we were all glad we went.

Of course we stopped in the store and I looked for something for my students. The good thing is it was filled with children books so I added a couple to my library.

Next we made a trek back home where we rested and failed to keep our promise of not being late to another friend’s wedding.