Mexican Muralists’ Impact on American Art on Display at Butler

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – In a studio in New York City, an artist – one of the most influential on American art in the 20th century – is experimenting with new methods of painting. With a canvas tacked to the floor, he flings paint across it. He punches holes in a can and walks across the canvas as paint drips out. The end result is a 15-foot image, splashed with color in abstract representations of the world around its creator.

It’s 1936 and Jackson Pollock is watching him do it. Four years earlier, David Alfaro Sequeiros first traveled to the United States and almost immediately began changing what it meant to be an artist in the midst of the Great Depression, attracting artists like Pollock to his inner circle.

“One of the tenants of this workshop was that to be revolutionary, art had to be technically revolutionary and the innovations of modern industry had to be transferred to the art-making practice,” said Barbara Haskell, curator of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

In a lecture at The Butler Institute of American Art Wednesday night, Haskell explained the connection and influence Sequeiros and two of his Mexican contemporaries – Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco – had on American art in the first half of the 20th century.

“One of the notions that Mexican artists represented was the idea that art is a weapon for social change and social betterment,” Haskell said. “Siqueiros talked about art as an ideological work of the people. It was a time when the stock market crashed and people were really questioning laissez-faire capitalism.”

The prevailing wisdom in the American art field has long been that French painters like Picasso and Matisse were the ones who spurred a new generation of American artists and styles. But as a cultural exchange between the United States and Mexico sprung up around 1925, it was that influence that had a greater impact on the content of the works as the Mexican muralists spread ideas on technique, style and content that would set the stage for a century of American art.

“There was the idea that art should speak to the public about things that are relevant to every-day lives, that art has a social role that had been lost in ‘art for art’s sake’ ethos of French modernism,” Haskell said. “It returned art to the community as a communicative educational vehicle.”

What brought the trio to the United States, said the Butler’s executive director, Lou Zona, was the Works Progress Administration, created not long after Rivera completed his “Detroit Industry” murals at the Detroit Institute of Art, funded largely by Edsel Ford.

“Among the things they asked them to do was to paint murals. American artists soon learned that the greatest mural artists were Mexicans,” Zona said. “Before you know it, there were artists like Diego Rivera and Siqueiros coming to America to show artists what it’s really all about and the tricks of the trade.”

Common throughout the works of Siqueiros, Rivera and Orozco were representations of commoners and social injustices, whether it be racism, imperialism or labor conflicts. All three artists lived in Mexico during the revolution that installed a communist government, though their involvement in the party varied greatly, from the Joseph Stalin-aligned Sequeiros to the virtually-apolitical Orozco.

“They had depicted the revolution, depicted the people and their lives. Americans turned to them as models” in a time of social upheaval, she said. “What they did that hadn’t been done in America up to that time was they combined figurative imagery with very expressive paint technique. They projected content that was relevant but in a style that was both modern and native.”

Those works, along with the artists they influenced, will be the subject of an exhibit at the Whitney in New York City next spring. Side-by-side in slides during Haskell’s presentation, the comparisons between Siqueiros and Pollock or Orozco and Thomas Hart Benton are clearly apt. In both the works of Mexican artists and the Americans they inspired, bodies share the same squat stature with round faces reminiscent of ancient Olmec statues. Works depicting the Mexican Revolution depict striking similarities with picketing workers in the United States.

Two of the works in the Butler’s permanent collection – Joe Jones’ “We Demand” and William Gropper’s “Youngstown Strike” – will be part of the exhibit.

“Both of them were very involved with Mexican muralists. They showed at the same radical clubs in New York. They participated in the same exhibitions,” Haskell said. “Their idea was that art was needed to point out the abuses of industry, that policeman were killing Americans who were striking for union representation. Those two artists in particular were very involved in the struggle to bring awareness to what was happening with employment exploitation.”

“Youngstown Strike” depicts a strike at Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. in 1916, though it’s likely that he was inspired by a similar event at a Republic Steel site in Chicago in 1937, the year he created the work.

“Fifty people died, 100 people were shot. It was a common story in the 1930s, these steel companies trying to block the unionization of workers,” Haskell explained. “There was police brutality against innocent people, women, children. … There’s so much talk of it in the news now, but in the ‘30s it was in the papers all the time. These artists were motivated to make work that didn’t sell in order to provoke action and bring about a better future.”

Haskell’s lecture is the first of the “On America” series, held at the museum throughout the summer in celebration of its centennial. Other scheduled speakers include William Underwood, director of the Georgia Museum of Art; Sarah Kelly-Oehler, curator at the Art Institute of Chicago; and Eric Widing, deputy chairman of Christie’s American Art. Each topic will touch on a facet of American art, from the works of African-American artists to a behind-the-scenes look at art auctions.

“It adds prestige to the Butler when you can bring in this level of expertise to talk about our collection and other works of art,” Zona said.

Pictured: Barbara Haskell, curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, was the featured speaker at The Butler Institute of American Art’s “On America” lecture. Joe Jones’ “We Demand” – part of the Butler’s permanent collection – will be loaned to the Whitney for an exhibit on the impact of Mexican muralists on American art.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.

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Legacy Day to Celebrate African-American Churches in Kent County


Sunday school students from the Still Pond/Colemans charge, including Mt. Zion, Fountain, Union, and St. George United Methodist churches

At the center of this year’s Legacy Day celebration, scheduled for August 17, is a recognition of the role of African-American churches in the history and culture of Kent County. A joint project of the Kent County Historical Society and Sumner Hall, Legacy Day is in its sixth year of celebrating the role of African-Americans in the community. Drawing attendees from a wide area, Legacy Day has become an important part of Chestertown’s cultural landscape.

Asbury United Methodist Church, Georgetown

While the most visible part of the festivities, for many attendees, is the parade and block party Saturday evening, Legacy Day incorporates a lot more, including a great deal of research into the history of Kent County. This year’s research was even more extensive than usual, documenting the history of all the African American churches that were founded more than 125 years ago, a total of 24, of which 16 are still actively holding services.

As lead researcher Bill Leary notes in an article summarizing the research, the historic African American churches were all of the Methodist denomination. This is because, as Leary says, “No other religious group treated African Americans better. Early Methodists worked hard to make black converts and spoke out clearly against slavery.” Also, with the church’s emphasis on conversion rather than the formal study of church doctrine, Methodism made itself accessible to the poor and uneducated of all races.

Eleven of the historic churches were founded in the years before the end of slavery, and another eight in the years immediately following the Civil War, when hopes for reconstruction and racial equality were high.

Leary notes that despite welcoming black worshipers, the early Methodist churches were not free of discrimination. African Americans were required to sit in the back of the church, or in the gallery, and at camp meetings, they were not allowed to sit in front of the speakers’ platforms. Because of this, a movement arose to establish independent churches for black Methodists. In 1813, Peter Spencer, born a slave in Kent County, founded the Union Church of Africans in Wilmington, Delaware. Three years later, the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church was founded by Absalom Jones and Richard Allen. Other black Methodists, including many of those in Kent County, remained within the main body of the church. However, by 1864, they were seeking more control over the governance of their own churches, leading to the foundation of the Delaware Annual Conference. This group, including churches in New York City, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and the Delmarva peninsula, remained independent of the United Methodist Church as a whole until 1965.

Janes United Methodist Church, Chestertown

Probably the earliest African-American church in Kent County was Zion Methodist Episcopal Church, founded in Chestertown before 1828 when a property transfer document refers to it as already standing on a plot on Princess (now Queen) Street. Moved and rebuilt several times, the church was renamed in 1867 to honor Bishop Edmund Janes, whose name it bears today. The present structure at the corner of Cross and Cannon Streets was built in 1914 after a fire destroyed much of downtown Chestertown. In its long history, it has been the spiritual home of many prominent citizens, including 19th-century businessmen William Perkins and James Jones, both trustees of the church.

Chestertown’s other historic black church is Bethel A.M.E. Church, founded sometime before 1872. The church trustees bought land at the corner of Kent and Calvert Streets in 1878, where the congregation met until 1910 when a new church was built on College Avenue. The church has been a center for the fight for equal rights, with its pastor Rev. Frederick Jones Sr. among the founders of the local NAACP chapter. Rev. Jones also welcomed the Freedom Riders to Kent County in 1962. More recently, Bethel has hosted the monthly meetings of the Diversity Dialogue Group.

Other Kent County churches still holding services are Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Pomona, founded in 1849; Asbury-John Wesley United Methodist Church in Millington, from before 1855; Graves Chapel Union American Methodist Episcopal Church, Millington, reportedly founded by and named for a veteran of the U.S. Colored Infantry in the Civil War; and Wesley Chapel of Love United Methodist Church in Sassafras, incorporated in 1893 and merged with two other congregations in 2004.

Also active in the modern era are Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church of Melitota, founded before 1860, when it appears on a map of the county; the New Christian Chapel of Love in Big Woods, founded sometime before 1888 as Fountain United Methodist Church; Mt. Olive A.M.E. Church of Butlertown, built in 1898 but likely founded much earlier; and St. George United Methodist Church of Worton Point, which is adjacent to the historic African American schoolhouse, built in 1890 and purchased by the church in 1958.

Union United Methodist Church, Coleman’s Corner

Union United Methodist Church in Coleman’s Corner was probably built in 1865 or 1866, shortly after Emancipation. Asbury United Methodist Church of Georgetown traces its origins to 1863 when local black residents began holding services in the local school. It is named for its first pastor, Rev. Asbury Grinnage. Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church, located on the north side of Fairlee, purchased land for a church in 1885. Its present building dates to 1908.

Emmanuel United Methodist Church, Pomona

Aaron Chapel United Methodist Church of Rock Hall originated when the local white church donated its chapel, which it no longer needed, to the free black community in 1854. Holy Trinity A.M.E. Church of Edesville erected its first church building in 1885, but there is evidence that the local African-American community was holding church services at least 20 years earlier when it built a school for black children shortly after Emancipation.

Another nine churches built more than 125 years ago are no longer holding services, and in many cases, the buildings are in ruins. Leary’s history, which will be available at the Historical Society during the month of August, gives details on all 24 of the churches, including the names of their pastors, prominent members of their congregations, and other historical information. There will also be an exhibit including artifacts from several of the churches, first at the Historical Society and later at Sumner Hall.

Members of the existing churches have been invited to take part in the Legacy Day celebrations, including a concert of old-time gospel music Aug. 10 at Bethel Church, and the parade Aug. 17.

The full Legacy Day schedule:

Saturday, August 10:

2:00 pm, at Bethel AME Church – Old Time Gospel Music presented by local churches and Reception for Honorees

Saturday, August 17:

10:00 am, at Chestertown Public Library – Genealogy Workshop

11:00 am – 4:00 pm, at Sumner Hall – Stories and Snacks for the Young and Young at Heart

12:00 pm – 6:00 pm, at Chestertown RiverArts – Special Legacy Day Exhibit

2:00 pm, at Bethel AME Church – Gospel Concert by Rev. Dr. Anthony Brown

5:00 pm – Parade Down High Street, with MC Yvette Hynson (Lady Praise)

6:00 pm – 10:00 pm – Block Party on High Street featuring Music by Jasper Hackett with Quiet Fire — the band that played the first Legacy Day in 2014

The evening festivities include food and drinks booths and a dance contest.

Photos courtesy of Kent County Historical Society.



The California State Fair is Back

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Thrill rides, live entertainment and all the deep fried food you can eat. It’s officially summer, as the California State Fair & Food Festival comes to Cal Expo July 12-28.

Fairgoers will once again brave high temperatures to enjoy all the event has to offer. We’ve compiled a few highlights from the fair’s two-week run.
The popular Multicultural Gospel Celebration takes place on Saturday, July 13 . The daylong concert runs 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on the PG&E Center Stage and features gospel talent from throughout Northern California. At 1:00 p.m. Tina B & The Sacramento Soul Line Dancers tak the Promenade Stage.

The award-winning R&B girl group TLC performs live on Sunday, July 14. The “Scrubs” singers hit the Golden 1 Stage from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. as part of the fair’s Toyota Concert Series shows. Concert is free with the cost of fair admission, but reserved seats are available for purchase.

On Monday, July 15, the U.C. Dancers bring their positive vibes to the Promenade Stage from 12:30 to 1:00 p.m. They’re based locally at the Mack Road Community Center and have performed at Sacramento Kings games. On Wednesday, July 17, rising singer Larriah Jackson, performs on the Promenade Stage from 4:30 to 5:00 p.m. While based in Sacramento, the 14-year-old has performed throughout the state. Local fans may remember her starring as Little Inez in an American River College production of “Hairspray.”

Saxophonist Shawn Raiford will be showcased several times throughout the run of the state fair. The Shawn Raiford Experience takes place in the Farm to Glass area from 12 noon to 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 18; Friday, July 19 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Sunday, July 21 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. For more dates see the fair’s daily schedule of events.

The globe-trotting Grant Drum Line will be highlighted on Thursday, July 18 and July 25 at 1:00 p.m. on the PG&E Center Stage. The band, who represents Grant High School, has travelled recently to Japan and South Africa and has been featured on the “Jimmy Kimmel Show.”

HASO Live presents Roots Reggae on the Promenade Stage on Friday, July 19. Island vibes take over from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. with performances by such artists as Abja, Grammy-nominated producer King Hopeton, DJ Souljah, and Arkaingelle. Local group Jodama African Drum & Dance brings their high-energy tribute to African tradition to the Promenade Stage on Friday, July 19, They’ll perform from 4:00 to 4:45 p.m.

The Toyota Concert Series continues on Friday, July 19 with Sean Kingston. The Jamaican-American singer is known for such hits as “Beautiful Girls” and “Fire Burning” and also wrote the hit song “Whatcha Say” for Jason Derulo. Kingston’s concert begins at 8:00 p.m. Concert is free with the cost of fair admission, but reserved seats are available for purchase.

On Tuesday, July 23, the Sacramento-based band Next Phase takes the Promenade Stage at 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. The five-member band pays tribute to the Isley Brothers and others with similar sound.

The Toyota Concert Series continues on Friday, July 19 with Sean Kingston. The Jamaican-American singer is known for such hits as “Beautiful Girls” and “Fire Burning” and also wrote the hit song “Whatcha Say” for Jason Derulo. Kingston’s concert begins at 8:00 p.m. Concert is free with the cost of fair admission, but reserved seats are available for purchase.

R&B group Tony! Toni! Tone! takes the Golden 1 Stage on Friday, July 26 at 8:00 p.m. The Oakland-based group has earned fans for more than 20 years with such hits as “Feels Good,” “It Never Rains” and “Anniversary.” The Toyota series concert is free with the cost of fair admission, but reserved seats are available for purchase.

Every state fair has crafts exhibits and the California State Fair is no exception. Several African American artists will have their works on display. Award-winning fiber artist Connie Horne, a member of Sacramento’s Sisters Quilting Collective will have her Prince Purple Rain Ensemble featured in the Wearable Art display. “Wakanda Forever,” Adwoa Cooper’s nod to the film “Black Panther” will be featured in the Dolls & Toys display. Sylvia Conable will be highlighted with several pieces including “Black Widow,” “Sofia” and “Antoinette” in the display for Basketry.

Other fair highlights include Senior Savings Fridays, where local elders aged 62 and older get discounted $10 admission and free rides on the Giant Wheel and Grand Carousel; and new for 2019, is a $28 Food Festival Pass, which fairgoers can use to get tasty treats at participating vendors.

There are also special days dedicated to those who serve others. On Thursday, July 18, Vitalant presents Military & Veteran Appreciation Day. Active duty, reserve and veterans from all branches of the military can enjoy free fair admission. Military and civilian guests will enjoy a MRE cookoff, a showcase of real military vehicles, representatives from military organizations and other special entertainment. For free admission, veterans or military personnel must present valid military ID or proof of service at the California State Fair’s Box Office. Free admission is expanded to include Active Duty Spouses and Dependents until 3:00 p.m. (must show valid military ID).

On Thursday, July 25 Vitalant presents another special day of thanks, this one will be for the hard work and bravery of members of law enforcement, firefighters and first responders. They’ll enjoy free admission to the fair. All other fairgoers can enjoy a day of fun celebrating first responders complete with special exhibits, interactive activities, one-day-only entertainment and much more.

For more information on the California State Fair, including cost of admission and a complete list of events, exhibits and attractions, visit

By Genoa Barrrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer

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SUMMER IN THE CITY 2019: galleries

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‘Queer Japan’ screens July 27 at Landmark E Street Cinema. (Photo courtesy Reel Affirmations)

Washington boasts nearly 80 museums and galleries and most are inexpensive with admission prices ranging from free to $30. So, if Stonewall celebrations whetted your appetite to be out in the community, D.C. offers much more arts and culture to feast upon.  

Gallery B(7700 Wisconsin Ave., Suite E, Bethesda, Md.) will present an exhibition of work by Maryland Federation of Art members July 3-27. The exhibition is juried by Robert Yi, a recipient of the A.H.O. Roll Prize in Fine Arts and the Mae W. Jurow Scholarship who is also exhibiting at the Hylton Performing Arts Center (10960 George Mason Cir., Manassas, Va.) July 14-Sept. 8 with an opening reception July 25. Yi’s portrait paintings have ranged from Mohammed Ali and the Dali Lama to muscular men in tiny briefs. Gallery hours for the MFA show will be Wednesday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. with a public reception on Friday, July 12 from 6-8 p.m.

The D.C. Center (2000 14th St., N.W.) presents “Queer Japan,” a colorful documentary celebrating the triumphs and struggles of being a sexual and gender minority in modern Japan, July 27 at 7 p.m. This film is part of the Reel Affirmations XTRA monthly LGBTQ film series showing at Landmark’s E Street Cinema (555 11th St., N.W.). Tickets are $14. August 2-4 is the Outwrite Literary Festival and features award-winning novelists Kristen Arnett and Jericho Brown as well as queer poet and drag performer Wo Chan. Arty Queers continues as the Center’s monthly indoor LGBTQ art market featuring work crafted by local artists, and Center Arts Gallery will hold a closing reception for professional photographer and graphic designer Todd Franson Saturday, Sept. 7, from 7-9 p.m. at the D.C. Center. For more information on these and other events, visit

The Wentworth Gallery (7101 Democracy Blvd., Bethesda, Md. and 1807 Galleria at Tysons II, McLean, Va.) is exhibiting works by artists Charles Fazzino and Elena Bond this July and August. Fazzino, a 3-D pop artist, uses bright colors and detail to construct lithographs and serigraphs that are finished with either acrylic or glitter paint. His Batman-themed piece has a retro-look. Bond’s work is soft and impressionistic with soothing imagery such as crowds meandering down rainy streets. For more details, visit

The National Gallery of Art (6th and Constitution Ave., N.W.) presents “By the Light of the Silvery Moon: A Century of Lunar Photographs” July 14-Jan. 5. The exhibit marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969. An exhibition of some 50 works will include a selection of photographs from the unmanned missions leading up to Apollo 11 as well as images taken by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. An exhibition of Renaissance artist Verrocchio begins Sunday, Sept. 15. Verrocchio, who never married, was master to other greats such as Leonardo da Vinci. For more information, visit

The Greater Reston Arts Center (12001 Market Street, Suite 103, Reston, Va.) presents “Overlooked,” a group exhibition featuring artists who seek to bring awareness to issues often not a part of “polite conversation,” July 13-Aug. 31. July 13 there will be an artist talk at 4 p.m. followed by an opening reception from 5-7 p.m. Artists include Leila Abdelrazaq, whose short animated film “Still Birth” was commissioned for the 2018 Palestinian Young Artist of the Year Awards exhibition; Lorenzo Cardim, who explores how queer people and other social minorities question the status quo; former Hamiltonian Fellow Larry W. Cook; Leigh Davis, whose work navigates the line between voyeurism and empathy; Helina Metaferia, whose art asserts the black body into sites of systemic oppression; Matt Storm, whose trans-centric photography explores identity through self-portraiture; and Julie Wolfe, whose work has been reviewed in ARTnews and BBC American. Visit for more information.

National Geographic Museum (1145 17th St., N.W.) presents “Queens of Egypt,” which is on display through Sept. 15. This exhibition explores the role powerful women such as Hatshepsut, Nefertiti and Cleopatra played not only in Egypt but on the world stage. The exhibit is open daily from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. with the last ticket sold at 5 p.m. General admission tickets are $15; for seniors, students and military members, $12; and for children ages 5-12, $10. Annual pass members and children under 5 are free. For more information, visit

The National Museum of African-American History and Culture (1400 Constitution Ave., N.W.) presents “Taking the Stage,” an exploration of the history of African Americans in theater, film and television. Located in the fourth floor culture galleries, “Taking the Stage” provides visitors with the opportunity to reconnect with some of their favorite popular culture memories through artifacts such as Eddie Murphy’s Detroit Lions jacket from “Beverly Hills Cop” and the outfits worn by Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford in the groundbreaking series “The Jeffersons.” The exhibition showcases stories of how African-American artists have enriched American culture through entertainment while also crafting possibilities for social change, such as with “Star Trek’s” first televised interracial kiss. The museum offers free timed passes for entry, which can be reserved at For more information, visit

The Freer|Sackler Gallery (1050 Independence Ave., S.W.) presents “Body Image,” one of many multicultural exhibitions displaying at the gallery this summer. “Body Image: Arts of the Indian Subcontinent” explores through art how the human body is central to artistic expression on the Indian subcontinent in terms of sharing fundamental beliefs. The first room considers the perfect bodies of the Hindu gods before turning to the Indian courtly body as site of both pleasure and power. The rear gallery introduces the enlightened bodies of Buddhist and Jain traditions, as well as divine conceptions that transcend physical form. Admission is free. For more information, visit

The National Museum of Women in the Arts (1250 New York Ave., N.W.) hosts “Power in My Hand: Women Poets, Women Artists and Social Change” through Oct. 31. This exhibit shows the enduring solidarity between women poets and artists using words and images illustrating the communication and inspiration across geographic boundaries and historical eras. Examples include Muriel Rukeyser’s honor poem for the German artist Kathe Kollwitz and Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Party” artistic homage to poet Emily Dickenson. Regular admission is $10; $8 for visitors 65 and older and students and free for museum members and children 18 years and younger. For more information, visit

The Foundry Gallery (2118 8th St. N.W.) offers an alternative gallery experience, through artist talks, workshops, opening receptions, demonstrations and consultations. This summer’s exhibition includes “The Habitual Line” by Joseph Shelter July 3-28 with an opening reception on Saturday, July 13 from 5-8 p.m. Sheltler’s work is post-minimalist reflecting the practice of simplicity in art and life and honoring his Mennonite heritage. The Foundry Gallery is a non-profit organization supported by member dues, sales commissions and community donations. For more information, visit

Hillwood Museum (4155 Linnean Ave. N.W.) presents “Mid-Century Master: The Photography of Alfred Eisenstaedt” and the art collection of Adelaide Close Riggs. The Eisenstaedt collection features nearly 50 photographs from his career in photojournalism, focusing on his images of mid-20th century life and the era’s most celebrated figures. Riggs, eldest daughter of patron Marjorie Merriweather Post, was a notable art collector whose collection includes portraits, clothing and more. The exhibits run through Jan. 12 and suggested donations range from $5-18. Visit for details. 

Artists and Makers Studios (12276 Wilkins Ave., Rockville, Md.), an art center complex hosting about 150 resident artists, will host Black Artists of D.C. and the National League of American Pen Women for the month of July. Saturday, July 20, 1-3 p.m. is the Black Artists of D.C. talk. Other events include Theremin Music with Arthur Harrison, Solo Acoustic Guitar with David Ziegele and a Montgomery County Camera Club exhibition titled “Photojournalism and Street Life.” Exhibits continue through July 24 and viewing hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday and Sundays/Mondays by appointment. For more information, visit

The Newseum (555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.) presents “Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement” on display through Dec. 31. This exhibit explores the modern gay rights movement in the U.S. and marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 raid of New York’s Stonewall Inn. The Newseum also screens “Into the Streets,” a film exploring how the LGBTQ rights movement harnessed the power of public protest to change policy and shift culture, in the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Big Screen Theater on Level 5. Admission is $24.95 for adults ages 19-64, $19.95 for seniors ages 65 and older, $14.95 for children ages 7-18, and free for children 6 and younger. For more information, visit

Hemphill Fine Arts Gallery (1515 14th St., N.W.) presents its summer show July 13-Aug. 23 with a reception on Saturday, July 20 from 4-6 p.m. The exhibition features modern and contemporary art in all media by artist ranging from emerging to mid-career to modern masters. Gallery hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and by appointment. Visit for more information. 

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Stepping Inside The Broad’s Black Power Art Exhibit Triggered Something Deep

Barbara Jones-Hogu, Unite (First State),1969. Screenprint. (Barbara Jones-Hogu, courtesy the Broad)

There’s a question I grew up hearing here on the West Coast. It feels like casual inquiry, but it’s code among Black folk — particularly those from or with roots in the American South:

Who’s your people?

It’s shorthand: a way to quickly acquire context across time and space. The question acknowledges the diaspora: The many lives and souls it took to get here — to get to us.

That question circled through me as I made my way through the deeply compelling exhibition “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983” at the Broad.

As I walked through the galleries, I couldn’t separate the art from the music that was made during this era — a soundtrack to the many questions that explore and help define the Black experience.

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Who are our people? What are we connected by — geography and history? Revolution and resiliency? “Soul of a Nation” explores the expansive and complex territory of self-making, and how artists strategize a plan more far-reaching than survival: one that articulates pride and knowledge of self.

The exhibition presents work over two explosive decades, 1963 to 1983, by more than 60 Black artists.

David Hammons, Black First, America Second, 1970. Body print and screenprint on paper. 104.8 x 79.4 inches. (David Hammons, courtesy the Broad)

The Broad museum showcases an authoritative L.A. presence, repped by key figures Betye Saar, Charles White, John Outterbridge, and David Hammons among others.

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Stepping inside the first gallery triggered something deep — that highly-charged sensation you might experience when you recognize something or someone familiar in an unexpected place — a profile, an intonation, a gesture. The imagery — the raised fists; the halo of afros; the red, black, and green of pride and liberation — yes, that, but also a piece of yourself in the story, where you entered and found your voice, your own footing.

“Soul of a Nation” is not organized chronologically. Rather, it’s set up aesthetically, the groupings or chapters dedicated to collaborations, or collectives, or medium or region. This lends an associative feel — ideas sparking another across time.

Inside the Broad’s “Soul of a Nation.” (Pablo Enriquez, courtesy the Broad)

The first pin in the map is 1963. Harlem and the formation of the Spiral Collective, a group of artists based in New York who were grappling with the notion of what it meant to make Black art during the heat of the Civil Rights Movement.

They asked a question that was only by degrees rhetorical: “Is there a Negro image?” The group, who first met in Romare Bearden’s Harlem studio, were named such by the artist Hale Woodruff because he saw the “spiral” as a metaphor: moving outward, embracing all directions, yet continuing forward.

Norman Lewis’s black-and-white expressionist canvasses are paired with Bearden’s loose and intimate collages that echo busy street scenes or rural homesteads. There is inherent power in the juxtapositions. Side by side, like collage, as Bearden asserted: “Assemblage [itself] forced a variety of contrary images into one unified expression.”

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Activism energized the streets, redrew lines, and urgently threaded through the Black arts community.

The West Coast’s expression of upending the status quo found voice in 1965’s Watts Rebellion and in the work of Melvin Edwards, Daniel LaRue Johnson, John Outterbridge, Noah Purifoy, John T. Riddle, and Betye Saar. Some of them collected wreckage from the streets and turned broken glass, twisted metal, and other found objects into trenchant works of art. What was deemed as trash or ruin was transformed. The Black artist’s gaze determined what was valuable.

Betye Saar, Rainbow Mojo, 1972. Acrylic painting on cut leather, 19 3/4 x 49 3/4 in. Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, California. (Robert Wedemeyer, courtesy the Broad)

The powerful and varied prism of Black subjectivity — naming and defining oneself — is deeply freeing, and the most compelling gift of this exhibition. Betye Saar observed that artists had begun to look beyond crisis, to find cures through “rituals”: totems, altars, observances. As she reflected, “They’ve got over the violent part and have become more introspective.”

That’s the gesture, or soul, that forges connection. Beauford Delaney’s portrait of James Baldwin offers an alternate view of the writer, depicted not with the worry of the world etched on his face, but rather in a moment you might imagine him seated in the restorative glow of love from friends and found family.

Roy DeCarava, Mississippi freedom marcher, Washington, D.C., 1963. Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper. Courtesy Sherry DeCarava and the DeCarava Archives. (Roy DeCarava, courtesy the Broad)

It’s much in the same way that photographer Roy DeCarava’s gradient grays and murky half-light force viewers to adjust themselves to truly see — not just slow down, but stop. Lean in close and examine the image to see humanity.

Lorraine O’Grady’s series of images, “Art Is…” in a lighthearted way goes to the very heart of this matter. Do we simply survive or do we thrive? In 1983, under an alter ego, she entered a float in Harlem’s African American Day parade —its “feature” was a 9×12-foot gold frame. She hired 15 dancers to carry large gilded frames into the crowds. They’d raise the frame and “make” street portraits. In so doing, the work answers its own open-ended question: “We are.”

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The “spiral” that Hale Williams settled on as metaphor was a sturdy one. And it was predictive of the fact that the work is ongoing. “Soul of a Nation” is a bold and vibrant exultation of presence and passion, unifying many disparate approaches and perspectives into vivid visual language.

There’s something striking about this show, given the backdrop of the current looping news cycle — spiking gun violence and hate crimes, retrograde race relations. This doesn’t feel like a retrospective, but rather a collection of much-needed tools and templates for how we as a people, collectively, can shape destiny, find community and pride, and, most important, make beauty out of wreckage.

“Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” is at the Broad through Sept. 1. There are related live music events on July 17 and Aug. 14.

Inside the Broad’s “Soul of a Nation.” (Pablo Enriquez, courtesy the Broad)

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Here are the ways in which Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have ‘surprisingly different bases of support’: report

Of all the candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders is competing with in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is by far the one he has the most in common with in terms of policy. Both are unapologetically liberal/progressive and left-of-center in their views, stressing the need for economic policies that benefit the United States’ working class rather than catering to its 1%. But as much as the New England senators have in common philosophically, a July 12 article by Politico’s Holly Otterbein explains that they have “surprisingly different bases of support.”

Warren and Sanders have different rhetorical styles, certainly. Sanders describes himself as a “democratic socialist,” while Warren has stressed that she believes in “markets” and is a “capitalist to my bones.” Warren, not unlike President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s, positions herself as a savior of capitalism and free enterprise and views President Donald Trump not as a true champion of free markets, but as an ally of oligarchs. Regardless, Warren and Sanders agree much more than they disagree — and Sanders’ “socialism” draws its inspiration from FDR’s New Deal and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, not Marxist-Leninist or Maoist dogma. Sanders, truth be told, is really a capitalist, not unlike the Scandinavian politicians he typically praises.

But as Otterbein reports in Politico, the “fellow enemies of the 1%” are appealing to different demographics.

“In poll after poll,” the Philadelphia-based Otterbein observes, “Sanders appeals to lower-income and less-educated people; Warren beats Sanders among those with postgraduate degrees. Sanders performs better with men, Warren with women. Younger people who vote less frequently are more often in Sanders’ camp; seniors who follow politics closely generally prefer Warren.”

And Otterbein notes another important difference: Sanders, she writes, “has won over more African-Americans than Warren. He earns a greater share of support from black voters than any candidate in the race except for Joe Biden, according to the latest Morning Consult surveys.”


Other polls have shown Sen. Kamala Harris of California picking up a lot of support among African-American Democratic voters — especially after her stellar performance at the recent Democratic debates in Miami. And Warren, in recent weeks, has been trying to step up her African-American outreach — which is a wise move, as black turnout will be vitally important to the Democratic Party in 2020. Whether the nominee ultimately turns out to be Biden, Harris, Sanders, Warren or someone else, getting out the African-American vote isn’t an option for Democrats in 2020 — it’s a necessity.

Another difference between Sanders and Warren is that Sanders doesn’t identify as a Democrat. While Sanders is an independent who runs in Democratic primaries and caucuses with Democrats in the Senate, Warren is very much a part of the Democratic Party.

One of the people Otterbein interviewed for her piece is Mark Longabaugh, who served as a Sanders strategist in 2016. Longabaugh told Politico, “Two places where Bernie has always struggled with is older voters and women, to some degree. Warren is identifiably a Democrat and runs as a Democrat; so, I think many more establishment Democrats in the party are more drawn to her — whereas Bernie very intentionally ran for re-election as an independent and identifies as an independent, and appeals to those who look inside the Democratic Party and think it’s not their thing.”


Certainly, Sanders addresses a lot of issues that are vitally important to  voters who are 50 and over, including Social Security, Medicare and the fact that the U.S. needs universal health care desperately. But as Otterbein points out, “Sanders’ support goes down as the age of voters goes up.”

Otterbein concludes her report by noting that with Sanders and Warren competing for votes, the result could be the left being divided within the Democratic primary — and ultimately, a primary victory for Biden.

How Amy Klobuchar would improve care for seniors

Amy Klobuchar

To pay for improved senior care, Sen. Amy Klobuchar would “close the trust fund loopholes that allow the wealthy to avoid paying taxes on inherited wealth.” | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Friday released a multifaceted plan to improve care for seniors — including lowering prescription drug costs, strengthening retirement funds and Social Security benefits, and investing in long-term treatments.

Building on her leadership in the Senate, according to a statement outlining the plan, Klobuchar would “continue to stand up for our seniors and the 10,000 Americans who turn 65 each day.”

What would the plan do?

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The first step helps those with chronic conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease. Klobuchar’s plan would expand resources for caregivers, letting patients stay in their homes longer. It would expand Medicare-covered services for Alzheimer’s, fund greater research and changes to public health infrastructure, and improve mental health care through depression treatment and suicide prevention efforts.

To secure retirement opportunities, Klobuchar would lift the Social Security payroll cap, create a portable personal savings account requiring a minimum employer contribution and push to let retirees keep their earned pensions.

The Senator pledged to lower drug prescription prices under Medicare Part D, allow personal importation from countries like Canada and crack down on “Pay-for-Delay” agreements. Under Medicare, she would increase coverage for dental, vision and hearing.

To further invest in long-term care, the plan includes tax credits to offset costs, guaranteed paid family leave for caregivers, incentives for employers to provide long-term care insurance on an opt-out basis, and loan forgiveness programs for care workers.

The final step is preventing fraud and reducing seniors’ costs of living. Klobuchar would create a new senior fraud prevention office during her first 100 days as president and improve responses to elder-abuse claims. She would reverse the Trump administration’s proposed changes to federal housing subsidies, while expanding support for programs around affordable housing, energy, nutrition assistance and transportation.

All policies would target underserved communities: African Americans and Latinx community members will represent almost 40 percent of the families affected by Alzheimer’s disease by 2030, the statement read. Improvements in research and public health infrastructure would focus on tribal, minority and rural populations. Separately, Klobuchar would expand telehealth and rural health services, maintaining rural hospitals and creating a new Rural Emergency Hospital classification under Medicare. She committed to reducing disparities in access to long-term-care service and retirement savings, as well.

How would it work?

To pay for implementation, Klobuchar would “close the trust fund loopholes that allow the wealthy to avoid paying taxes on inherited wealth.”

What have other Democrats proposed?

Klobuchar’s plan for seniors compiles various policies. But several other Democratic candidates, including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have spoken publicly about expanding Social Security and lowering prescription drug costs, calling for Medicare to directly negotiate prices.

Scott Joplin, Donizetti operas highlight Festival of the Voice

Scott Joplin

African-American talent will be showcased in two operas at the tenth annual Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice, August 2-4, in the Shandaken hamlet of Phoenicia. Damien Sneed, who led the previous Festival’s extraordinary gospel concert, conducts excerpts from Scott Joplin’s ragtime-influenced opera Treemonisha on Saturday afternoon, August 3. That night, Donizetti’s comedic Elixir of Love is set in an African village, featuring dancers and a drummer originally from West Africa.

Outside of black companies such as Opera Noir and Opera Ebony, opportunities for African-Americans to sing the traditional repertoire can be hard to come by. However, Festival executive director Maria Todaro said, “We take whoever is knocking our socks off at auditions. We don’t care about the color of their skin.” Baritone Lawrence Craig, who has been featured in past Festival productions, including Of Mice and Men, will sing Dulcamaro in Elixir. Bass Morris Robinson returns on Friday, August 2, for the opening concert, a selection of favorite arias from the past ten years of Festival presentations.

This year’s featured operas provide an abundance of roles specifically for black artists, including singers, dancers, instrumentalists, and the multi-talented Sneed, whose career, not unlike Joplin’s, spans composing, arranging, conducting, and piano-playing, as well as combining classical and popular music.


Scott Joplin was born just after the Civil War, the son of a freed slave. He became the leading composer of ragtime, which was named for its syncopated or “ragged” rhythm, blending European march and dance forms with African polyrhythms. Ragtime gained enormous popularity across the U.S. in the early 1900s, with Joplin’s most famous composition, “Maple Leaf Rag,” selling millions of copies of sheet music, each individual sale earning him one cent in royalties.

Around 1903, Joplin, who had classical training, turned to opera, creating The Guest of Honor, about black leader Booker T. Washington’s controversial dinner with President Theodore Roosevelt at the White House. A tour of the show failed when the box office receipts were stolen. Although the score of Joplin’s next effort, Treemonisha, was praised by a reviewer, he died before he could raise enough money for a full production.

Ragtime waned in popularity with the rise of jazz, which built on the rag’s syncopated rhythms. In the 1970s, when Joplin’s music was used for the score of the film The Sting, a ragtime revival brought the form to the attention of classical musicians. The music and libretto for Treemonisha were rediscovered, and several productions were mounted, including one at the Houston Grand Opera, where Sneed is currently Music Director and Composer in Residence. “He’s given Treemonisha a jazzy twist,” said Todaro.

The plot deals with conflicts in post-Civil War African-American culture, when the desire to move into mainstream American society conflicted with the pull of the old African ways and superstitions. The title character is a young woman who is sent off to receive an education but has difficulty reentering her community, leading to her kidnapping by “conjure men.” Joplin comes down in favor of education as vital for both men and women, while honoring the vitality of African tradition.

Todaro, who has turned in recent years from singing to directing, decided this year’s opera, Elixir of Love, should be “a comedy, instead of all those characters being stabbed, drowned, and hanged. The music is bubbly and light.” But when she sat down with the libretto, she realized the opera she had adored as a teenager now felt superficial and absurd. Seeking a way into the text, she decided to shift the qualities of the characters. Instead of presenting the lovelorn Nemorino as a fool, she has made him shy, unable to express his attraction to the most beautiful girl in the village. Adina, traditionally depicted as a slut, has become a girl who secretly loves Nemorino but flirts with men in order to provoke him into speaking his mind.

To add a further twist, Todaro relocated the action from Italy to Ghana, probably a first for Elixir. “We’ve been researching weddings in Ghana, local deities, the economy,” said Todaro. “We’ll have four chickens onstage, and a goat named Houdini. It’s all part of our mission of making opera accessible. People see opera as snobby, elitist, too expensive, and impossible to understand. We have supertitles, we keep our ticket prices low, and we make the performances fun,” while bringing world-class performers to sing under the night sky in Phoenicia’s Parish Field.

Other events scheduled for this year’s Festival include the a cappella group Lady Parts, returning to sing songs of the abolition movement; Stephen Templeton’s play Souvenir, about dissonant diva Florence Foster Jenkins, an amateur operatic soprano; pianist Justin Kolb playing music of the African diaspora, with writer and actor Carey Harrison reading relevant texts, some by himself and others by Langston Hughes; the local Rock Academy students performing the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar; a closing gala of talent-rich locals including Loren Daniels, Robert Burke Warren, Harvey Boyer, and student performers; and to top it all off, a Sunday night DJ dance party for everyone, held on the Festival stage.

The 10th annual Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice will run from Friday, August 2, to Sunday, August 4, at Phoenicia’s Parish Field and other locations around town. For tickets and schedule, see

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Pittsville Continues to Work on Its Water Plant

PITTSVILLE, Md.- After months of discolored water, Pittsville residents are breathing a sigh of relief.

The town is finally seeing mostly clear water as officials continue to work with organizations like the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Maryland Rural Water Association.

“For the past week or more has been clearer and every day improving thanks to the hard work of our dedicated water staff employees,” said Pittsville Town Manager Joe Mangini in a statement.

This week crews are flushing hydrants to continue the process of clearing the water, something neighbors like Dawn Toner are glad to see.

“I think we’re getting to the end of the road though and I say that today and I don’t know what tomorrow is gonna bring but I believe we’re doing the right things now,” says Toner.

The town is also preparing for a series of improvements in the next few years. Mangini says the dater water plant will need to be replaced in the next 5 years.

“The Town is working with our town engineers, MDE, and MRWA to review options and plans to undertake what I will call a “mini upgrade” to the Water treatment plant,” said Mangini. “Our short term fix or “mini upgrade” will be close to $400,000. The new water treatment plant will cost about $2,000,000.”

Mangini adds the town will look for federal and state funding to support the projects.

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Thousands celebrate ‘Do the Right Thing’ at Spike Lee’s Bedford-Stuyvesant block party

Photo by Caroline Ourso

Jam-packed jam: Thousands of Spike Lee fans celebrated the 30th anniversary of his film “Do the Right Thing” at a block party on Stuyvesant Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant on June 30.

By Kevin Duggan

Brooklyn Paper

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They did the right thing — and partied!

Spike Lee fans celebrated the 30th anniversary of the auteur’s seminal film “Do the Right Thing” at a block party in Bedford-Stuyvesant on June 30.

The Oscar-winning director hosted his annual blowout on the same Stuyvesant Avenue block where he filmed the Academy Award-nominated flick — between Quincy Street and Lexington Avenue.

And, like his film, the blockbuster party featured a star-studded lineup featuring actors from the film, including actor Rosie Perez, and hip hop greats such as rap group Public Enemy, who provided the soundtrack to the movie with their rousing anthem “Fight the Power,” according to one party-goer.

“My favorite part was when Public Enemy came on the stage, the actual music from the film, and mingling with people,” said Frank Loftoa, a Brownsville resident.

Lee has hosted his famous block parties for years, celebrating his movies, along with black artists such as Michael Jackson and Prince.

The 1989 film highlights racial tensions in the neighborhood during the hottest day of the year, which eventually culminates in a tragic death of a young black man.

Lee’s classic struck a chord with many Brooklyn film goers, who were drawn to the film’s exploration of racial themes, Loftoa said.

“What was going on with the racism and the cultural differences,” said Frank Loftoa. “It was phenomenal around that time.”

One Crown Heights granddad came to the party with his family, where he showed off his skills at a classic Kings County pastime — Double Dutch jumping ropes — noting the game isn’t just for the ladies.

“I hadn’t done that in years, it was wonderful to do it again,” said Curtis Harris, the manager of the Green Earth Poets Cafe in Crown Heights. “I didn’t see a lot of guys trying the jumping, so I stepped in to do it. I started something.”

Harris said the party was a great celebration of Lee’s work and, more generally, of the greatest borough on earth.

“I liked the sense of family, the people, the purpose of the event and most importantly, I’m a Brooklynite, so I was proud to celebrate with other Brooklynit­es,” he said.

Posted 12:00 am, July 12, 2019

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