Brittney Spencer, Amythyst Kiah, Willie Jones Featured In Piece On 12 Black Artists Shaping Country Music’s Future!

New York, NY (Top40 Charts) The Tennessean / USA Today recently shared a list of “12 Black Artists Shaping Country Music’s Future,” and Shore Fire’s Brittney Spencer, Amythyst Kiah, and Willie Jones are all included alongside Mickey Guyton, Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen and others.

Brittney Spencer:
On live television last November, country star Maren Morris dedicated her CMA Award for Female Vocalist of the Year to a handful of Black women in country music.
One of the names shouted out? Brittney Spencer. “I was sitting on my couch in my pajamas. It sounds hilarious, but that’s actually what I was doing,” Spencer told Apple Music Country earlier this summer, adding: “Honestly it happened months ago, and I’m still not ready for it.”
A Baltimore native who moved to Nashville in 2013, Spencer’s ascent extends far behind a one-time recognition. Earlier this summer, she released a new single, “Sober & Skinny” – a showcase of tender-hearted storytelling that’s sharp-penned and relatable.
She sings, “But in a perfect world/ You get sober, I get skinny/ We live all for more than pennies/ Write the checks that we can cash.”
She’s now logged writing room hours with Amanda Shires and Morris and spent time on the road with Jason Isbell. Spencer tours with Brett Eldredge later this year.
Last month, Spencer made her Ryman Auditorium debut at the ACM Honors. She performed the Martina McBride classic “Independence Day” for songwriter Gretchen Peters, one of the night’s honorees.
In a show filled with established stars, it was one of the most buzz-worthy moments.
“I’m just excited,” she told reporters backstage. “Being able to embrace this new chapter in my life, it’s scary. But I’m gonna do it, anyway. Why not?”

Amythyst Kiah:
“I pick the banjo up and they sneer at me, ’cause I’m black myself,” Amythyst Kiah sings on her staggering blues-rocker, “Black Myself.”
Before recording it for her 2021 album, “Wary + Strange,” the East Tennessee singer-songwriter would sing “Black Myself” with her bandmates in Our Native Daughters. A roots music supergroup, OND is comprised of four Black women — all of whom play banjo, among many other instruments – offering a powerful reminder of the instrument’s African roots.
“Between the four of us, Black women in particular have messaged us saying, ‘I started to learn the banjo because of Our Native Daughters,'” she said.
“(We’ve heard from) people of color that didn’t realize that they can listen to country music or folk music, because of how segregation informed the recording industry and separated people by race. Just to see the difference that all this is making is above and beyond my wildest dreams.”
2021 has been a breakout year for Kiah as a solo artist. “Wary + Strange” arrived in June to rave reviews, and Kiah became one of the top nominees at the Americana Music Honors & Awards show, tying mainstay Jason Isbell. She also made her debut at the Grand Ole Opry.
“I’m starting to really understand (that) I’m the person that I needed to see when I was younger,” Kiah said. “And I’m that person now for other people. It’s a big responsibility that I’m happy to take on.”

Willie Jones:
In one of the year’s most powerful country songs, singer Willie Jones delivered an “American Dream” through his eyes.
The Louisiana-raised artist belted lines about Colin Kaepernick, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., singing that he’s “proud to be a Black man/ Livin’ in the land of the brave and the free/ Yeah I’m all-American/ And that American dream ain’t cheap.”
He began writing the song last year, days after George Floyd’s killing and protesters marching against racial injustice. He said the song derived in-part from a moment in 2020 when he balked at wearing red, white and blue on Independence Day.
On the song, he’s “still reppin’ the country, but through my eyes the time that I wrote it,” Jones said.
“We all in America and we hope for better,” he told The USA TODAY Network. “This is where it came from.”
And his growing catalog of country-hip-hop doesn’t stop with a civil rights anthem. Jones released his debut album, “Right Now,” earlier this year. It’s a musical blender of polished pop-ready production with country imagery and rap influence. The album finds Jones bringing the party – especially for nights in downtown Nashville with “Bachelorettes on Broadway” — and toasting to low-key moments at home, on the timely “Back Porch.”
No song may introduce Jones’ line-blurring delivery better than “Country Soul,” an album opener that name checks Tim McGraw, T.I., Marvin Gaye and Aerosmith.
“A lot of times people try to box me in as far as my sound, but I’m bigger than what people think of me,” Jones said. “This is one of them statement ones. … This is my love for music.”

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North Carolina Freedom Park Awarded $1.9 Million Grant From The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

North Carolina Freedom Park Awarded $1.9 Million Grant From The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

North Carolina Freedom Park – the first park being created in the state to specifically honor the Black experience- has been awarded a $1.9 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grant was awarded to specifically support the construction of the park and the Beacon of Freedom – a pivotal piece of the park’s design created by renowned, late architect Phil Freelon.

“We are elated to receive the $1.9 million grant to support our ongoing efforts to fund the construction of North Carolina Freedom Park and the Beacon of Freedom,” said Senator Natalie Murdock, North Carolina Freedom Park Campaign Coordinator. “We are particularly happy to celebrate this important contribution as we move forward into the construction phase of the park.”

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the largest supporter of the arts and humanities in the country, with its core programs supporting exemplary and inspiring institutions of higher education and culture. The Foundation makes grants in four core program areas including higher learning, arts and culture, public knowledge, and humanities in place.

“The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity,” said Elizabeth Alexander, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation President. “Through our grants, we seek to build just communities. By choosing to award North Carolina Freedom Park, we are not only carrying out our mission of supporting humanity but also focusing on the profound, historic contributions made by the Black community.”

Freelon completed the design for the park as one of his last projects before passing away in 2019. He notably served as chief architect of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture in Charlotte. Freelon insisted that the park design reflect the deep roots of African American engagement in the long history of the state and reveal their words about freedom being expressed all along the way.

“Freedom Park has come a long way, and we are honored to receive this grant from the Mellon Foundation,” adds Dr. Goldie Wells, North Carolina Freedom Park Co-Chairperson. “Through this contribution, we can work to create the monument on the grounds that will honor the past and celebrate African-American heritage by building positive reminders of freedom in public spaces.”

With last October’s groundbreaking at the corner of Lane and Wilmington streets in the state’s capital, the project is still expected to be completed by 2022. The park will be situated between the North Carolina General Assembly and the Executive Mansion.

To date, the organization has received a number of community donations in addition to contributions and funding from the Raleigh City Council, North Carolina General Assembly, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Duke Energy Foundation and the State Employees Credit Union Foundation.

Donations can be made at https://ncfmp.nationbuilder.com/donate.

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Leon Bridges on Billie Eilish and playing Governors Ball 2021

It’s a good time to be Leon Bridges.

In the last two weeks, the Grammy-winning R&B artist has attended the Met Gala, appeared on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and performed his song “River” with Jon Batiste during the In Memoriam tribute at the Emmys.

And on Friday, Bridges, 32, will take the main stage during this weekend’s 10th-anniversary edition of the Governors Ball music festival at Citi Field. He’ll be showcasing material from his new album “Gold-Diggers Sound” — recorded at Gold-Diggers complex in East Hollywood — which finds the singer branching out from his retro-soul roots with a more modern style.

Here, the Fort Worth, Texas, troubadour reveals his must-see Gov Ball act, why he brought cowboy couture to the Met Gala and the actors who were coolest to meet — and hardest to say goodbye to — at the Emmys. 

Leon Bridges performing
Leon Bridges will perform on the main stage at the Governors Ball music festival on Friday.
Getty Images

Who are you most looking forward to see at Gov Ball?

I really want to see Billie Eilish. She’s playing on the same stage that I’m playing — obviously [she’s] headlining. So I would love to check her out. I recently had the opportunity to attend the Met Gala, and she was sitting at my table with her brother Finneas, but I didn’t get to have any conversation with her. I was too nervous to even start the convo.

You rocked a whole cowboy look at the Met Gala. How’d that come together?

I was just responding to the whole theme of American fashion, which is a wide spectrum of things. But my interpretation of it is just that whole Western look. I think the biggest misconception is that that look is unique to white people, and there’s black folks that rock it as well.

Leon Bridges
Leon Bridges paid homage to his Texas roots with his cowboy couture at the 2021 Met Gala.
Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

What’s your most memorable festival experience?

The dopest festival I’ve ever experienced was Afropunk. The one I played was 2019 in Brooklyn. As a black artist, it’s just hella-refreshing to play to a crowd full of black folks, because most of these festivals are predominantly white. I love that Afropunk is a place where black people can be themselves.

How did the Gold-Diggers complex inspire your new album?

We wanted to find a space where it was aesthetically inspiring to spend a lot of time in, and Gold-Diggers was that for us. It’s a multifaceted complex — there’s the hotel aspect of it, there’s the studio aspect of it, and then there’s the bar. It’s almost like this refuge in the midst of this gritty city. I was living there, which was really nice, because normally you’re having to commute to whatever studio and you kind of lose momentum that way. I loved the vibe of literally waking up, walking downstairs, clocking in and getting to it. The experience was so significant, I wanted to name the album in honor of it.

Leon Bridges and Jon Batiste
Leon Bridges (left) performed his song “River” with Jon Batiste at the 2021 Emmys.
Getty Images

Who was it hardest to say goodbye to during the In Memoriam tribute at the Emmys?

Michael K. Williams. That one definitely hit the most. I was able to cross paths with him at this bar that I frequent in LA called Doheny Room. I was hanging with my homeboys, and Michael K. Williams comes up and was just showing love. It’s amazing when people that you look up to know you exist and are fans of the art. It’s definitely heartbreaking that he’s not with us anymore.

Who was the coolest celeb you met at the Emmys?

As I was leaving, Angela Bassett complimented me on the performance, and she mentioned that she wanted to come to a show. And I was like, “Of course! Would love to have you.” That’s tops for me.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

How Lil Nas X made the most radical run of queer music videos in pop history

Lil Nas X’s new video for his single “Thats What I Want” is as much an old-fashioned love story as anything starring a teenage Taylor Swift.

In the clip — directed by Bad Bunny’s 21-year-old Colombian creative director, Stillz — he meets his male crush at a school football game, they hook up in shower-steamy fervor and take a bucolic firelight camping trip together. Things don’t work out — the guy chooses a hetero family, alas — so Nas walks himself down the aisle in a wedding dress, dripping mascara with a hair-metal electric guitar slung on his shoulder.

It’s a sweet, sincere ending to perhaps the most radical run of queer pop music videos in history.

“These videos are hugely important. They’re such an antidote to the toxic masculinity rampant in the Trump years,” said Virginia Kuhn, a cinema professor at USC who teaches feminist film theory. “In a culture dominated by visual media, to disrupt that core imagery is so powerful. He’s taking on football and Christianity, prison, childbirth and marriage. This has it all. It feels like the ’80s with Madonna’s videos.”

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The 22-year-old pop star released his Columbia debut LP, “Montero,” last week to wide acclaim. But as much as he is a rapper, singer and songwriter, his startling visual concepts and increasingly deft, sly performances in music videos and social media campaigns put him at the vanguard of queer iconography in the TikTok era. For a young fan base who made “Old Town Road” a viral sensation, Nas’ sensibility opens up gender-flexible possibilities much like icons Freddie Mercury, Elton John and Prince did for previous generations.

While foregrounding the Black male body — nude and dancing, cheekily pregnant or resplendent in a wedding dress — he makes his subversiveness look delightful, and his aesthetic bounty feel radical.

“So often, we see subversive work like this not be pleasurable,” Kuhn said. “That’s why he’s so important right now, it’s so joyful and visually lush. He has such a sense of humor, but he makes you examine your assumptions. Artists can get caught up in the industry where videos are just a way to sell music. He’s making music videos essential again.”

From Little Richard’s barely veiled appetites on “Tutti Frutti” to Sylvester’s celestial disco and the first waves of house music, to ballroom and vogueing culture percolating up through Madonna’s hits, Lil Nas X comes from a long tradition of Black queer music creating and remaking popular culture around it. In contemporary TV shows like “Pose,” fashion lines like Hood by Air and Telfar, Frank Ocean and Tyler, the Creator’s candor about same-sex desire, and the queer rap underground of Le1f, Mykki Blanco and Cakes Da Killa, the strains of art that Lil Nas X absorbed have circulated above and below ground for generations.

But few have made it as artistically, commercially and culturally meaningful to throw ass on Instagram.

Lil Nas X came out as gay in June 2019. When he began this album’s long rollout back in March, the Luciferian lapdance of “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” did exactly what he hoped for. The clip, where Nas frolics in a Y2K-era digital Eden before dropping down a stripper pole to Hell, scandalized the Christian right and needled Nike’s lawyers with a blood-injected shoe spinoff.

If Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion sent right-wingers sputtering with “WAP,” “Montero” finished the job for Republican politicians like South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who said, “This is outrageous, disgusting and perverted and on #PalmSunday no less. Somehow @lilnasx thinks that Satanic worship should be mainstream and normal.”

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It was virtuoso trolling, and everyone from Nas to Noem seemed to get what they wanted out of it (publicity, laughs and fundraising — Nas directed fans to charities like the Bail Project for every track on “Montero”).

But the fact that a rap-aligned gay Black artist — let alone one who’s also such a country fan that he covered Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” — could pull this off atop the charts was startling. Hip-hop artists like Young Thug sometimes toyed with wearing dresses to illustrate their free spirits, but Lil Nas X made a not-obvious choice to put gay love and desire at the center of his craft. Male pop acts don’t often cover female acts’ love songs, and when Nas X sings “Jolene, I’m begging of you please don’t take my man,” the weight of a whole straight culture presses down on him as well.

The nude shower choreography of “Industry Baby” blew up the prison-set rap video cliché. Lil Nas X winked at both “Brokeback Mountain” and his own “Old Town Road” with a cowboy sex sequence in “Thats What I Want,” which ended in a teary drag sequence played straight-to-camera. He committed to the bit of treating his LP rollout with the serene, floral joy of a celebrity Instagram pregnancy announcement, rotund belly and all.

Christian Breslauer, director of the “Industry Baby” video, said Lil Nas X had a vision for everything from color palettes to storyboards to camera moves, and deserves to be counted as a force in contemporary film.

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“He had every visual planned,” Breslauer said. “Directing him was like dancing with a partner who had practiced all the moves.”

Breslauer has directed plenty of hetero-sexy videos, including Doja Cat’s “Streets” and rap hits like Roddy Ricch’s “The Box.” But he saw Lil Nas X’s foregrounding of Black male nude bodies in the dance scenes, and his playful flip of a grim, confined space like a prison cell, as meaningfully subversive.

“A lot of artists over time have had to stay in the closet because of their fan base,” Breslauer said. “But there’s a reason he collaborated with Elton John, who was louder than life and owned it. There will be kids in the Midwest who haven’t come out but who learn his dance moves and feel free in themselves.”

For queer film fans like Annie Rose Malamet, Lil Nas X’s ultra-contemporary music videos allude to generations of NC-17 experiments that revamped film’s capacity to shock, thrill and illuminate.

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“You can see all these queer cinema references like ‘Pink Narcissus’ and ‘Flaming Creatures.’ If a gay person is playing with Satanic themes, you can’t not think of Kenneth Anger and Satan as a liberator,” said Malamet, a writer and podcaster on the history of queer genre and horror films. “But a whole new generation might not know those references. I find it extremely refreshing. That he’s not afraid to imply being a bottom in a sexual situation, I don’t know if people understand how radical that is.”

Malamet also thrilled to the notion that, while lesbian sex has long been fetishized in music videos, Lil Nas X turned the tables on rap and pop fans. “We don’t ever see explicit man-on-man sex,” she said. “Normani dancing on Teyana Taylor is more ‘acceptable.’ I hope the impact is that young queer people see it and then go look for what isn’t mainstream.”

Kuhn, for her part, plans to screen Lil Nas X videos in her classes alongside more experimental fare like Su Friedrich. His clips stand on their own as boundary-smashing art, she said, and she suspects future queer film scholars will see them in the same tradition.

“Other mainstream queer films aren’t breaking taboos like this right now, not institutionally. These videos will have staying power long-term,” Kuhn said. “He trusted his instincts, and that’s so rare for a young pop star. Using this pulpit to announce his sexuality was very gratifying to see.”

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Then she laughed, recalling the hot-and-bothered devil of the “Montero” video.

“Well, maybe ‘pulpit’s’ not exactly the right word for that.”

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In Rashid Johnson’s Mosaics, Broken Lives Pieced Together

“The healing process starts with the negotiation of blunt force trauma,” the multidisciplinary artist Rashid Johnson said. “It’s the story of recovery.”

After the bruising of Covid, the end of the Trump administration and recent reckonings with race, gender, sexuality and identity, Johnson was ruminating about his own emotional state and our collective one, as he sees it.

Johnson, who turns 44 on Saturday, is mining a psychologically complicated moment in ways both highly personal and open-ended in new exhibitions at the David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles, on view now, and the Metropolitan Opera in New York, opening Monday.

Johnson’s art practice has been kaleidoscopic, encompassing painting, sculpture, large-scale installation, film and, most recently, mosaic. His works are visual cosmologies, referencing aspects of Johnson’s home life growing up in Chicago and African diasporic culture.

“My work has always had concerns around race, struggle, grief and grievance, but also joy and excitement around the tradition and opportunities of Blackness,” said Johnson, whose mother has been a university provost and whose father is an artist and ran a small electronics company.

For the luxe interior of the Met Opera, Johnson created two 9-by-25 foot mosaic panels at his studio in Brooklyn, each titled “The Broken Nine.” Installed on the grand tier landings, they comprise chorus lines of imposing standing figures pieced together from thousands of fragments of colorful ceramics, mirror and branded wood, across which the artist has painted improvisationally in oil stick, wax and spray enamel.

Their wide-eyed expressions could read as frustration, fear, joy, anxiety or disappointment. “I’m trying to illustrate tons of different people and at the same time they’re probably all me,” Johnson said.

The works at the Met are also a good metaphor for the opera house, Peter Gelb, its general manager, said, as it has had to piece itself back together again after being shuttered for 18 months and during protracted labor disputes. Although the Met commissioned Johnson’s works two years ago, independently of Terence Blanchard’s opera, “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” which also debuts Monday, Gelb sees parallels. The first opera mounted at the Met by a Black composer and a Black librettist (Kasi Lemmons), it is based on the memoir of the New York Times columnist Charles Blow. “It’s a coming-of-age story about a life that’s damaged and then repaired,” Gelb said.

“Rashid thinks and works on a scale that is operatic,” said Dodie Kazanjian, director of the Met Opera gallery, who invited Johnson to make a site-specific work, as she had done before with Cecily Brown and George Condo.

Johnson ascribes a “Humpty Dumpty” quality to his series of “Broken Men” mosaics, which he began in 2018. But unlike in the childhood nursery rhyme, the artist has put his shattered figures back together again. They reflect the artist’s challenges and professional rise over the last decade — during which time Johnson has become a parent, with his wife, Sheree Hovsepian, whom he met in graduate school at the Art Institute of Chicago. He also stopped drinking and using drugs on his journey to sobriety in 2014.

Seeing things with newly clear vision, he began his series, “Anxious Men,” in 2015, rectangular faces with spiraling eyes and chattering teeth scrawled in black soap and wax on white ceramic tile. They were repeated across large-scale grids like crowds at Hauser & Wirth during the 2016 election as a personal and collective response to the searing tumult of polarized politics and racial dynamics.

Johnson has become a leading voice of his generation, taking on board positions at the Guggenheim Museum, Performa and Ballroom Marfa, and helping raise the awareness of contributions by other Black artists, introducing the photographer Deana Lawson to Kordansky and curating a show of Sam Gilliam’s hard-edge 1960s paintings at that gallery in 2013. This year Johnson’s work was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, and his “Anxious Red Painting December 18th” set a new auction record at Christie’s for the artist, over $1.9 million.

The characters in his mosaics may appear to have been roughed up but they are built into an armature that’s solid, something the artist likes about the medium. “They’ve definitely been through something, but those experiences they’ve had to negotiate are maybe the ones that have left good scars,” said Johnson. “The Broken Nine” for the Met were inspired in part by Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” which he read during quarantine with his family in Bridgehampton, N.Y., and also by the religious figures in Peruvian paintings. “There’s a real autonomy in each character. They don’t have to be tragic,” he said.

Ian Alteveer, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art who led its acquisition of “The Broken Five,” a 2019 work on view there, finds the figures wonderfully ambiguous. “They could be stand-ins for the artist himself or witnesses facing the world and the horror of it all,” Alteveer said. “They also could be more magical than that — strange new beings on the brink of a brand-new world.”

For Johnson’s show at Kordansky, titled “Black and Blue,” he used Louis Armstrong’s song of the same name as a departure point. In a new series called “Bruise Paintings,” his motif of the anxious face is now almost completely abstracted, rendered in a frenetic freehand with a palette of blues and repeated across linen in vast grids.

“It’s incredibly musical the way he works,” said Kordansky, “like bebop, growing off a template.”

In another room of the show, the face returns in three dimensions, now as weathered cubes cast in bronze and stacked like totems, with blue succulents sprouting from them absurdly like hair. Johnson jammed in vinyl copies of Armstrong’s “Black and Blue” — a record that the protagonist in Ralph Ellison’s novel “Invisible Man” listened to constantly. The artist mottled the surfaces with oyster shells, which he has also used in earlier works as a reference to Zora Neale Hurston’s “How It Feels to Be Colored Me,” in which she wrote: “I do not weep at the world — I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”

“I always found that to be so beautiful, this idea of being liberated to a place of nontragedy, but to expand even beyond that and imagine you have so much agency that you’re enjoying this leisure action,” Johnson said, referring to oysters’ connotations of luxury and sensuality.

These references resurface in a short film on gallery view shot at Johnson’s home in Bridgehampton that captures some of the monotonous, surreal, fearful, mundane qualities of quarantine life. The artist plays the main character — waking up, brushing his teeth, watching the talking heads drone on TV, going for a run. His 9-year-old son, Julius, practices “Black and Blue” on the piano and does homework as Johnson reads Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon.” At one point he shucks oysters at the table.

“It’s quite rare to see a Black character unencumbered and centralized,” said Johnson. “Yet you have to ask yourself, Why does it still feel anxious? This guy’s in a house in the Hamptons. Why does it still feel like something is about to happen?” (He directed a film adaptation of Richard Wright’s novel “Native Son” in 2019 that ends with the death of his young Black protagonist.)

Katherine Brinson, a curator at the Guggenheim Museum, remembers Johnson once telling her that he enjoyed wondering what Patrice Lumumba, the 20th-century Congolese independence leader, did when he got home and stopped living in the space of public activism.

“Rashid’s new work also deals with this foundational idea of how life is lived in the private quotidian sphere, away from the public gaze and the obligations to perform certain expected roles,” Brinson said. “It’s still a space that’s fraught and complex.”


The Met opens its doors 90 minutes before a performance, but because of Covid-19 only ticket holders are admitted. Next week Rashid Johnson’s mural can be viewed at metopera.org.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Actors Theatre Of Louisville Announces Return Of In-Person Shows (And New Virtual Productions)

Things we’ve missed because of the pandemic have been many. One of them is live theater. Now, Actors Theatre of Louisville has decided to begin reintroducing live theater experiences starting as soon as the end of this year. Actors’ has been closely monitoring the pandemic data including how the disease is affecting the local community and health care system. In consideration of that, the approach to theater moving forward will continue to include multiplatform storytelling. 

In the Bingham Theatre, the first production to welcome back the audience is a production of “A Christmas Carol,” which explores this tale in a mixed media way using motion capture for virtual and augmented reality experiences. “A Christmas Carol” will happen Dec. 16-19. 

Other in-person events: (from a press release)

“Every Brilliant Thing” – Early 2022 

Duncan Macmillan’s warm, funny, and beautifully moving play that shows how to practice resilience and find reasons for living everywhere. 

“Still Ready” – Spring/Summer 2022 

Created and performed by Christina Acosta Robinson and Ken Robinson, “Still Ready” shares the creative partnership between these multifaceted artists. Blending Ken’s gorgeous musical compositions and Christina’s stunning artwork and poetry, this live production celebrates family, faith, identity, and the love and joy of unapologetic, expansive Black artistry. The virtual production of the Robinsons’ original work that was released in spring 2021 remains available for streaming. 

Virtual offerings: 

“Dracula: A Radio Play”  – Streaming Now-Nov. 7 

Join the hunt for the world’s most infamous vampire! Inspired by master of suspense Orson Welles’  innovative broadcast, this electrifying listening experience comes to life with the talents of Actors Theatre’s creative team, in collaboration with award-winning radio professionals. Tune in for a spine-chilling trip to Transylvania that you won’t soon forget! For more information and tickets, visit ActorsTheatre.org

“In the Lab: A Look Inside the Dracula Process” Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. EDT, with recording available Oct. 2-5 

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This virtual event offers a glimpse of the work in progress as we build toward a new, in-person production of “Dracula” for the 2022 Halloween season. This future show will also be introducing Louisville to Kate Hamill’s adaptation, and audiences will meet the creative team and hear excerpts from Hamill’s script, which reimagines the classic as “a bit of a feminist revenge fantasy.” For more information and tickets, visit ActorsTheatre.org. 

“Collective Care: Finding Freedom and Joy Through Movement and the Arts” – Virtual Event on Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. EDT 

This virtual presentation is curated from a workshop led by nurse, artist, and creative caregiver Tara Rynders. Rynders is the founder of The Clinic, which combines art, music, movement, and caring science to create immersive experiences and resilience workshops for healthcare professionals. 

Actors Theatre of Louisville is partnering with Rynders and the Kentucky Nurses Association to bring this work to Kentucky, to support the health and wellness of our nursing communities. For more information and tickets, visit ActorsTheatre.org.

“A Christmas Carol: A Radio Play” Streaming Nov. 16–Dec. 31 

An Actors Theatre of Louisville audio adaptation of Charles Dickens’ tale, created in collaboration with expert radio producers and sound designers, returns this winter.

Here are the ongoing virtual theater experiences, available to stream now:

Projects include the Drama League Award-nominated ‘Where Did We Sit on the Bus?’ and  ‘Ali Summit,’ inspired by the summit of Black athletes and politicians who supported Muhammad Ali’s conscientious objection to military service, and the collection “COVID-Classics,” which includes “The Breasts of Tiresias” (Official Selection of the 2021 BlackFilm Fest ATL, in Atlanta). Projects available for streaming can be found here.

Keep Louisville interesting and support LEO Weekly by subscribing to our newsletter here. In return, you’ll receive news with an edge and the latest on where to eat, drink and hang out in Derby City. 

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Students at Ryerson University can now learn about Drake, The Weeknd in unique class

Students at Ryerson University will now be able to take a course that delves into two of Toronto’s most influential artists in the music industry: Drake and The Weeknd.

The course, titled Deconstructing Drake & The Weeknd, will study the artists’ careers and lyrics. 

The course is the brainchild of Toronto author and publicist Dalton Higgins, who is also a music professor in residence at Ryerson, also known as X University, which will soon be renamed.

“On the college and university scene, there are all kinds of courses being taught about rock, pop, folk artists, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, it goes on and on,” Higgins told CBC’s Metro Morning on Monday.

“So why shouldn’t there be a course about Drake and The Weeknd?” he said.

Higgins said he was prompted to create the course to show students that learning can be fun and inspire the next generation of young creative artists in Toronto.

Over the last decade, Higgins lectured about Black music at different universities and has also written an unauthorized biography of Drake.

The influence and success of Drake and The Weeknd guided him to create the course, Higgins said.

“When you go outside of Toronto and travel the globe like I’ve had the opportunity to, you’re very hard-pressed to find a hugely successful … Black Jewish rapper like Drake or an Ethiopian R&B star like The Weeknd, from anywhere really,” he said.

The course will talk about the artists in relation to the issues of culture and race..

Higgins said he hopes the course on the two recording artists will encourage students to ask critical questions like, “What made this possible?” and “Why is that?” and also teach them how to succeed in marketing themselves. 

Metro Morning5:46Ryerson students can now learn about Drake and The Weeknd in new course

Ryerson professor Dalton Higgins explains what students can learn from the chart-topping Toronto artists. 5:46

“[They] are both products of the Canadian music scene that does very little to foster the growth of its Black artists, so how did all of this happen?” Higgins said.

The course begins the Winter 2022 semester.


For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

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Kerry James Marshall to create ‘racial-justice themed’ windows for Washington National Cathedral

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

The Washington National Cathedral announced Thursday it has commissioned renowned Black artist Kerry James Marshall to create “racial-justice themed windows” that will replace two stained-glass windows the church removed in 2017 that memorialized Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

The church has also tapped celebrated poet Elizabeth Alexander, who was the inaugural poet for President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, to write a poem that will be inscribed on stone tablets alongside Marshall’s new windows. The tablets with Alexander’s poem will overlay the previous ones that revered the lives of Confederate soldiers.

Both projects are expected to be completed by 2023 and permanently installed in the cathedral that year.

In its announcement Thursday, the National Cathedral said Marshall’s new windows would mirror the church committee’s desire to “capture both darkness and light, both the pain of yesterday and the promise of tomorrow, as well as the quiet and exemplary dignity of the African American struggle for justice and equality and the indelible and progressive impact it has had on American society.”

Marshall, a recipient of the MacArthur “Genius Grant” and one of Time’s most influential people famous for his portraits of Black subjects, said Thursday that conceptualizing the project would take time because the windows will address complicated issues.

“I’m not going to be able to shed any light on what the project is going to be because the challenge that the committee set for the replacement windows is a monumental task,” the Chicago-based artist said at a news conference Thursday at the cathedral, his first time stepping foot in the church to get a sense of the space.

It will be the acclaimed painter’s first time working with stained glass.

Marshall said his challenge is to create something that draws people to the art and can elevate their conceptions of what it means to be an American as well as “what it means to engage with the complex narratives of history that we all have some relationship to.”

The themes “set a great challenge for me as an artist and as a Black American man,” Marshall said in a news release, adding that his goal is to “make truly meaningful additions to an already rich and magnificent institution.”

The windows of Lee and Jackson were installed in 1953 at the request of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to “foster reconciliation” between the North and the South.

For decades, the windows were two of the many stained glass bays on main level of the cathedral, which had been imagined by George Washington as a “great church for national purposes” and is used for national prayer services and the funerals of top Washington officials.

The call to remove the windows of Lee and Jackson came in 2015 from the cathedral’s then-dean after the Charleston, South Carolina, shooting at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

In 2016, the cathedral’s leaders voted to remove the Confederate battle flags from the windows, replacing them with plain glass panes.

The windows were removed in 2017 following the White nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Very Rev. Randolph Hollerith, the current dean of the cathedral, said Thursday that the windows told an “incomplete story and one-sided version of history.”

“They were a barrier to our mission, and an impediment to worship in this place, and they had no place being in sacred space,” he said.

The Robert E. Lee window is currently on loan to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture for a year-long exhibit on the legacy of Jim Crow.

The two windows will be conserved and stored at the Cathedral.

The projects are being funded by private foundations including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Hearthland Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s William J. Cadigan contributed to this report.

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Educator Uses Art To Showcase Journey Through Pandemic

Photo: George Galbreath

ATLANTA, GA – Educators, like art teacher George Galbreath, whose art is shown above, continue to face decisions in the classroom that could literally cost them their life.

According to a recent study by the RAND Corporation, nearly one in four teachers said that they were likely to leave their jobs by the end of the 2020–2021 school year, compared with one in six teachers who were likely to leave, on average, prior to the pandemic. This number is even greater amongst Black and brown educators.

Meet George Galbreath. He currently serves as Art Department Chair at Westlake High School and teaches hundreds of young people each day in his role. “As an educator, I’m used to being overlooked, under-appreciated, and taken for granted,” Galbreath said. “I didn’t get into the field for attention nor the gratitude of others. I worked my first day as a high school teacher in 2002 and from that moment on, I was fulfilled knowing that the work I was doing made a difference in a child’s life.”

Galbreath, like many in the field of education, is passionate about pouring into young people. That is evidenced when you speak to the many students that he has impacted over the years.

According to Galbreath, “The arts are a gateway to all of the subject areas. Students exposed to the arts have a better understanding and are more creative in their learning.”

Galbreath has leaned into his art as an outlet to relieve stress during the pandemic. Throughout his eighteen years of classroom teaching, including fifteen years with the Fulton County School District in Atlanta, Georgia, he has maintained a career as a working artist. In fact, his next solo show will take place on October 8th in Atlanta with his inspiration centered around being an educator during the pandemic.

George Galbreath currently serves as Art Department Chair at Westlake High School. His work has most recently been featured at the 2018 African American Art Exhibition at the Actors Theatre (Louisville, KY) – awarded the Roanne H. Victor Merit Award; Juried Plein Air Exhibit at Rice Gallery (Kansas City, MO); and several exhibits throughout the city of Atlanta. He was awarded Best in Show in 2015, and Honorable Mention in 2016, at Georgia Art Educators Association (GAEA) exhibit. George was also a 2016 and 2018 Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series semi-finalist. He is the co-founder of non-profit UAE Youth Artist Program and Urban Art Expression; and co-founder/co-curator of ARTiculate ATL in Atlanta, GA.

Galbreath is an active member of the Castleberry Hill Neighborhood Association and finds inspiration living in the historic arts district with his wife Esohe. George and Esohe are members of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.

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