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August Wilson Center - Front & Center » fine art - “Amplifying African American Voices”

Posts Tagged ‘fine art’

REVIEW: In My Father’s House

Posted in Exhibitions, General, Guest Posts, Review on September 12th, 2010 by Shaunda – Be the first to comment
This past weekend, we opened the first exhibit we ever commissioned,  In My Father’s House. It’s been years in the making–but well worth the wait. Underwritten by UPMC, with additional support from FedEx, it is a mixed-media exhibition designed as five rooms in a house. Each room highlights a distinct approach to preserving and displaying the visual art and material culture of people of African descent.  The rooms tell the story of a fictional Pittsburgh family, their hopes, dreams, struggles and triumphs. Guest blogger Ada Gay Griffin, director of annual giving at The Center, took what she thought would be a few moments to check out the new exhibit. Ada sings praises of the entire exhibit, but in this blog pays homage to the exhibit’s last room, titled “From Drums to Zeros and Ones.”

Inside "In My Father's House"

Inside "In My Father's House"

“From Drums to Zeros and Ones” is a multichannel video installation commissioned by the August Wilson Center for African American Culture for its newest exhibit, In My Father’s House, which opened September 11, 2010. The 8-minute anthem, created by award-winning documentary filmmaker Demetria Royals, is projected in a modern, dimly lit media room decorated with comfy seats and subtle electronic media references.The room and video have the same name.  Here, Royals (Mama’s Push Cart, Conjure Woman) invokes America’s complex heritage of repression, pitted against the intellectual muscle, political action, and sublime creativity wielded by intrepid African Americans resisting the horrors of Middle Passage and its lasting impact.

Culturally-literate, historically-informed and pop-afflicted, this is an emotionally riveting video poem, connecting multiple themes and powerful messages of culture consciousness and social change through media clips, a James Baldwin interview, and a stylized chronolography.

Depicting centuries of repression, struggle and achievement, the mini-documentary is a welcome tribute to both the embattled and the inspired. Images and commentary of 20th century innovators pop up unexpectedly. Text fades in and out, or tracks across the screen. I whisper the names of each fleeting image I recognize - Ethel Waters, Paul Robeson, Marcus Garvey, Phyllis Hyman, Shirley Chisholm…”unbought and unbossed.” The musical parody of the Wings’ hit classic Let ‘Em In at first seems more silly than profound as it sweeps over speeches, sound bites and brief shots of trailblazers that flicker by. All of a sudden, the enduring duality of African American experiences and expressions, represented throughout the entire exhibit, clicks in. And it feels just right.

Sorcerer’s Village, Romare Bearden, Serigraph, 1972

Sorcerer’s Village, Romare Bearden, Serigraph, 1972

The fifth and final installation in the 5-room exhibit, “From Drums to Zeros and Ones” is an appropriate finale for In My Father’s House. The total exhibit is brimming with masterpieces by Romare Bearden, spectacular photography, African American paintings, African masks and fabrics, an experimental video, as well as period furnishings, chosen by, and in some instances created by, the five curators responsible for assembling the meticulously researched art and artifacts placed in each of the rooms.  This is an exhibit for everyone and well worth the price of bus fare, parking, or a skipped lunch on a Saturday or weekday afternoon. One of the messages here is that regardless of your class, color, age, or education, any lived-in environment can be seen as a gallery of memories and of aspirations, depicted in objects of many forms, collected and displayed because they are important, because they are beautiful. Visit the August Wilson Center soon.

Ada Gay Griffin

Editor’s Note: In My Father’s House will be up through July 2011 at The Center, 980 Liberty Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh. Hours are 11 am to 6 pm Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is a suggested donation of $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students and free ages 5 and under and members. For information, call 412.258.2700 or visit

Review: August Wilson Center Hosts Romare Bearden Symposium

Posted in General, Review on April 8th, 2010 by Shaunda – Be the first to comment

In late March, the August Wilson Center had the honor and privilege of  hosting the 2010 National Romare Bearden Symposium, Romare Bearden in the Public Realm. Why Pittsburgh? Why the August Wilson Center?
Well for one Bearden spent some formative years in Pittsburgh, graduating from Peabody High School and living in East Liberty with his grandparents. Also, some of his works were inspirations for some of August Wilson’s plays. Bearden came back to Pittsburgh in the 1980s and designed a ceramic tile mural, Pittsburgh Recollections, for the

Homage to Mary Lou, 1984

Homage to Mary Lou, 1984

Gateway Center subway station, Downtown. The piece is now appraised at $15 million. Over 22 national scholars and artists convened to discuss Pittsburgh’s influence on Bearden and the works that fall outside the studio. This included his cartoons, murals and printmaking.
Key moments of the conference included a conversation with novelist John Edgar Wideman, a Pittsburgh native who received early acclaim for his “Homewood Trilogy” and is now on the faculty of Brown University, and a keynote address from Mary Schmidt-Campbell, who was recently named vice chairman of President Barack Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and is dean of the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Dr. Schmidt-Campbell has written a book on Bearden that will be published in 2011, the centennial year of his birth.

Joyce Baucum, a photographer and administrative assistant at the August Wilson Center, attended the symposium, calling it “enlightening…and intellectually captivating.” Below she recaps her experience at the two-day symposium:

There was such a wealth of information at the symposium, that I left wanting more and more information to continue learning about the fascinating life and art of Romare Bearden.  The keynote speaker, Mary Schmidt-Campbell pointed me in the direction of Ruth Fine, Bearden biographer and curator of Bearden exhibitions.  All of the panelists were experts in their fields of study and brought wonderful information to share about Bearden, the artist and about “Romie,” the friend.  Grace Stanislaus, the Center’s former vp of education and public programs and Bearden Foundation’s former president and CEO, played a key role in the planning and implementation of the symposium.  The panelists consisted of scholars, visual artists, art historians, art collectors, gallery owners, curators, a choreographer, August Wilson scholars, history professors, a Teenie Harris / Courier archives consultant, and a world-renowned author!  So much intelligence and information was present, that it filled the room and made us want to learn even more.

Here’s hoping we continue the stream of intellectual conversations and exhibitions encompassing the Visual Arts here at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.