Toronto actor-brothers Stephan James and Shamier Anderson launch The Black Academy

Shamier Anderson, left, and Stephan James, Co-Founders and Co-Chairs of The Black Academy, pose in this undated handout photo. When Toronto-raised actor Stephan James got the inaugural Radius Award at last year's Canadian Screen Awards, he felt incredibly honoured but also a bittersweetness. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Nicole De Khors *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Shamier Anderson, left, and Stephan James, Co-Founders and Co-Chairs of The Black Academy, pose in this undated handout photo. When Toronto-raised actor Stephan James got the inaugural Radius Award at last year’s Canadian Screen Awards, he felt incredibly honoured but also a bittersweetness. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Nicole De Khors *MANDATORY CREDIT*

TORONTO – When Toronto-raised actor Stephan James got the inaugural Radius Award at last year’s Canadian Screen Awards, he felt incredibly honoured but also a bittersweetness.

The elation from being presented the trophy by his brother and fellow actor Shamier Anderson, while their friends and family tearfully watched from the audience, grew complicated when James realized: “I was probably going to be one of maybe a few Black people that were going to step on that stage that night.”

“Something about it was just unsettling,” the Golden Globe-nominated star of the Amazon Prime Video series “Homecoming” said in a recent interview from Los Angeles.

“It was unsettling for myself, it was unsettling for Shamier.”

Anderson and James are now taking steps to change that experience for Black Canadians in various lines of work — from arts and culture, to sports and science.

On Thursday, they launched The Black Academy, a new national division of their not-for-profit group B.L.A.C.K. Canada (Building A Legacy in Acting, Cinema + Knowledge), which they started about five years ago as a gala fundraiser in Toronto.

The brothers are still figuring out the details of exactly what the Black-led academy will do.

But they say it will be a permanent, year-round operation to honour, celebrate and showcase established and emerging Black talent, both anglophone and francophone, across the country.

“Shamier and I truly feel like it was our calling to have this placed on us now, and we’re stepping into that calling,” said James, whose film credits include “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Race” and “Selma.”

“But the reality is, there’s been a glaring gap for a long, long time.”

Planned initiatives at the academy include awards presentations, educational programming, community outreach and panel discussions.

The bigger-picture goal: to break down barriers of discrimination and combat systemic racism in Canada for decades to come.

“That’s how you create generational change,” James said. “We’re not for the moment. We’re Black 365 days a year, we live in this experience in our own work life and our personal lives. And so this is really a place that is going to be around for the short term and for the long term.”

The Canada Media Fund is providing financial support to the academy, through its Black and People of Colour (BPOC) Sector Development initiative, but the brothers are looking for more corporate partners who share their vision and mission to combat systemic racism.

“The time is now,” said Anderson, whose credits include the series “Wynonna Earp,” the upcoming sci-fi thriller “Stowaway” and the boxing drama “Bruised,” which marks Halle Berry’s directorial debut.

“We’ve seen from our American counterparts that they’ve built things like the BET awards, the NAACP awards, the Soul Train Awards — and the list continues. And it’s important that in Canada we now have our platform, our stage, our infrastructure — for us, by us.”

And it’s important to change the optics in the media, he added.

“If we can get the same love that ‘Schitt’s Creek’ got at the Emmys, which was so incredible, it would be so great to now see the next Black show, the next Black producer, the next Black artist, the next Black athlete,” Anderson said.

“I was such a proud Canadian when I saw ‘Schitt’s Creek’ sweep, I was like ‘Yes!’ And now I’m looking forward to having somebody who looks like us as well.”

The brothers have started to assemble what they call the academy’s “Avengers” board of directors team, which the brothers will co-chair.

Board members who’ve signed on so far include Vanessa Craft, director of content partnerships at TikTok in Canada; Alica Hall, executive director of the Nia Centre for the Arts; and Wes Hall, founder of the firm Kingsdale Advisors.

Other board members include Jennifer Holness, president of Hungry Eyes Media; Divya Shahani, an entertainment lawyer at Miller Thomson LLP; and actress-producer Tonya Williams, founder of the Reelworld Film Festival and Reelworld Screen Institute.

The board has only been able to meet via video conference, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the brothers are determined to launch now.

As the world faces a racial reckoning in the wake of the George Floyd killing and policy brutality protests, they want to create something that lasts longer than a “hashtag moment.”

“The reality is, we’re still breathing,” Anderson said, “we’re very fortunate, and there are other Black people who don’t have the opportunity to still be alive, to even see the next day, pandemic or not pandemic.

“So this is why seeding this and founding this now, getting ahead of the game, getting ahead of what’s to come.”

Anderson and James grew up in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, in a northern community housing project called Bay Mills.

“They were gruelling times,” Anderson said from Toronto. “Ten years ago was a very different time in our life.”

It’s an experience they’ll never forget and it’s why they feel a responsibility to try to help others now, said the brothers, who are also ambassadors for the Equity and Inclusion Fund at the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.

“If we have resistance, given our position in this industry, I can’t imagine a little Black boy or girl at (the Toronto community of) Jane and Finch who wants to get out,” Anderson said.

“Like Stephan says, you have to see it to believe it sometimes. And this is why the academy is formed. This is why two brothers under 30 are forming it with an Avenger team.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.

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50 years of representation: Black Theatre Workshop marks a milestone

For half a century, Montreal-based Black Theatre Workshop (BTW) has been telling stories of and by Black artists on stage, making it the longest-running Black theatre company in Canada.

The company came from modest beginnings, starting out as the drama committee of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Montreal.  At the time, members of the committee felt the theatre stages in the city were sorely lacking stories about them, their culture and their lives as Black people in Canada.

“They started the early version of Black Theater Workshop to address that lack,” said Artistic Director Quincy Armorer. “We’ve now become a fully professional company that’s achieved a lot of success.”

A scene from The Gingerbread Lady. Credit: Black Theatre Workshop

‘Diversity’ is mainstream

Armorer said the longevity and success of the company is proof that representation not only matters, but is what audiences want.

“There are … Canadian stories other than the settler stories to be told,” he said. “It’s been 50 years. So saying that there isn’t going to be an audience for that … that’s not an excuse anymore. Canadians overall want to see a diversity of representation on their stages.”

To that end, Armorer feels companies like Black Theatre Workshop are doing vital work to breakdown archaic ideas that people of colour and their experiences are somehow outside the norm.

“We just need to retrain ourselves to think that the stories of Black communities or Indigenous communities or other underrepresented communities, aren’t ‘the other’ stories, they aren’t on the fringe. These are the stories of the people,” he said.

A scene from ‘How Black Mothers Say I Love You.’ Credit: Black Theatre Workshop

Black Theatre Workshop and Black Lives Matter

Armorer says, to some extent, he sees parallels with the origins of the company and that of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

“I think the philosophy behind the Black Lives Matter movement is very much the same as the philosophy that started Black Theatre Workshop in the beginning. BTW exists because they felt that Black lives mattered and [their] stories mattered,” he says.

A scene from The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God. Credit: Black Theatre Workshop

He adds that given that BTW’s work is about the Black experience, it follows that the resurgence of the current BLM movement would find its way onto their stage. Many of the works in the company’s upcoming season speak directly to the contemporary movement.

“This is very current and very important to a lot of the playwrights that are out there, so we’re going to support them in the stories that they want because it’s the stories that we want,” he says. “I think it would be irresponsible of us as a Black organization to not actually be addressing specifically Black Lives Matter in some of the work that we do.”

Coping with COVID-19

“Our entire industry has just essentially been decimated [by COVID-19]. It’s quite devastating,” said Armorer. “[But] we’re a very resilient bunch, those of us who are theatre folk.”

Like many other live events, BTW is adjusting to the inability to perform in front of an audience by going virtual.

Their upcoming season will consist of several livestreamed performances and readings as well as their annual awards show and a poetry jam.

“It’s not quite the same thing though. I think we’re still navigating that desire to want to be productive and to support the art and the artists, but realizing that if it’s online, it’s not really what we’re all trained to do,” said Armorer. “It’s been a difficult time for the industry, but we’re all crossing our fingers and hoping that we’ll be able to come back to doing theater, at least in some way, close to the way that we used to do it before.”

In the meantime, Armorer hopes BTW will inspire people to discover and support diverse theatre and artists across the country.

“I want to tell people about the incredible talent that exists in this country, the Black artists that are creating and developing new work and thriving in this industry from coast to coast to coast. It’s quite extraordinary,” he said. “I hope that we can be an example to the industry on how art that reflects underrepresented communities can be successful and can thrive.”

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Coffee-Table Books to Give (and Get) This Season

From a splashy, limited-edition Depeche Mode retrospective to a serene collection of quiet Japanese crafts; contemporary Black art to nature photography that will remind anyone who needed reminding just how much we stand to lose: There’s a visual book here for everyone.

The oil portraits collected in LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE: Fly in League With the Night (D.A.P./Tate, $55) depict people the contemporary British artist has imagined into being, and allude to the long tradition of European portraiture by men like Rembrandt, Goya and Degas — only to overturn these examples, making the message, and the medium, her own.

In YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK: A New Generation of Artists (D.A.P., $49.95), the art critic Antwaun Sargent highlights hundreds of works by Black artists working predominantly in America today, from Kerry James Marshall and Tunji Adeniyi-Jones to Chiffon Thomas, Eric N. Mack and Wilmer Wilson IV.

For book collectors, bibliophiles and design nostalgics, Peter Mendelsund and David J. Alworth’s THE LOOK OF THE BOOK: Jackets, Covers, and Art at the Edges of Literature (Ten Speed, $50) tells an alternate history of the Western canon, in the physical editions they think have shaped it most.

THE OXFORD ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE BOOK (Oxford University, $39.95) takes a more scholarly approach to bibliography: James Raven edits essays by academics from around the world to illuminate the evolution of global book making, from the ancient world to today.

Much has been made of the Bloomsbury Group’s impact on the ethos of 20th-century Anglophone culture, but Wendy Hitchmough’s THE BLOOMSBURY LOOK (Yale University, $40) is the first book to thoroughly unpack the group’s visual aesthetic, from painted portraits of John Maynard Keynes to photographs Leonard Woolf took of his wife, Virginia, to fashion designs and handwritten correspondences.

Whether or not you follow him on social media — do — Humans of New York’s Brandon Stanton deserves a place on your coffee table: With HUMANS (St. Martin’s, $35), the photographer expands his local scope to capture the stories of remarkable everyday individuals from all around the world.

In REFUGE: America’s Wildest Places (Earth Aware Editions, $50), the environmental photographer and filmmaker Ian Shive captures nearly half of the world’s National Refuge Wildlife System, making a powerful visual case for preserving what we can of the natural world — both species and landscapes — around us.

Shive is far from alone. HUMAN NATURE: Planet Earth in Our Time (Chronicle Books, $45) features the work of 12 photographers shedding light on the greatest threats to our planet right now, from the decimation of our forests and oceans to industrialization and poverty and species extinction.

Anton Corbijn, the Dutch music photographer and the creative director for DEPECHE MODE (Taschen, $900), releases an astounding limited-edition trove of the photographs he’s taken of the English electronic band since 1981.

In 200 pages of comic book stills that will bring the reader immediately back to 1998, PEARL JAM: Art of Do the Evolution (IDW Publishing, $39.99) revisits the making of the rock band’s seminal animated music video, as related by one of its producers, Joe Pearson.

Nineties fashion, celebrity intrigue and punk rock nostalgia intertwine in KIM GORDON: No Icon (Rizzoli, $45), a scrapbook-style memoir of a life and career spent in the furthest depths of the New York underground.

To celebrate her 80th birthday last year, Tina Turner compiled a visual memoir tracing her lonely childhood and her rebirths as a musician and a Buddhist. “I vowed that someday I’d sing my music, my way,” she writes in TINA TURNER: That’s My Life (Rizzoli, $65). “It took me a little time to get there, but it was my destiny.”

In SHAPING THE WORLD: Sculpture From Prehistory to Now (Thames & Hudson, $60), the artist Antony Gormley and the art critic Martin Gayford conduct a magnificent, comprehensive survey of the medium, ranging from the Lion Man in 35,000 B.C. to the Chinese Terracotta Army to the work of Kara Walker.

It’s hard to put your finger on why it’s so soothing to page through HANDMADE IN JAPAN: The Pursuit of Perfection in Traditional Crafts (Gestalten, $60). The Tokyo-based photographer Irwin Wong captures intimate moments of creation that satisfy the reader’s cravings for travel, escape and tactile design.

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Black Lives Matter tops art power list after year of driving change

Black Lives Matter has taken the number one spot in an annual power list which attempts to rank movers and shakers of the contemporary art world.

The movement tops the 19th Power 100 list published by ArtReview, one in which theorists, non-western art scenes and artists who have many strings to their bows feature heavily.

ArtReview said BLM’s influence this year had been unprecedented, and that it had brought and accelerated change at every level in the art world whether by statue toppling, raising the visibility of black artists, appointments or “the rush by galleries to diversify their rosters … in museums rethinking who they represent and how they do it”.

The movement had also shaped the work of many others on the list, said ArtReview’s editor, Mark Rappolt. “Art is about freedom of speech,” he said, “it is also about who has the ability to speak to the platforms that art creates and I think there has been something of a reckoning in that.”

Number two on the list is the Indonesian collective ruangrupa, which champions collaborative practice and will curate one of the world’s most important contemporary art events, Documenta 15, in 2022.

Ruangrupa is followed by the Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr and the French art historian Bénédicte Savoy, authors of an influential report on colonial-era artefacts and the need for restitution. At number four is #MeToo and at number five the influential US philosopher and poet Fred Moten.

The highest-placed individual British artist on the list, at 16th, is Steve McQueen, who this year filled Tate Britain with class photographs of London’s year 3 school pupils, had a retrospective at Tate Modern and released his Small Axe series of films for the BBC.

Steve McQueen on the red carpet at the Rome international film festival in October
Steve McQueen on the red carpet at the Rome international film festival in October. Photograph: Steve Bisgrove/REX/Shutterstock

Rappolt said issues of injustice, repression and colonialism were reflected many times in the list.

There was also a striking number of entries for people and collectives who do more than one thing. Forensic Architecture, for example, which is listed at 14th, is considered part of the art world but could just as easily be described as a group of investigative journalists or social justice campaigners.

Wolfgang Tillmans, at 23rd, is a Turner prize-winning photographer who is also chair of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) and created the non-profit exhibition space Between Bridges.

“Collaboration and how we work together is one of the themes which goes through the whole list,” said Rappolt.

The 2020 list is the first not to be topped by an individual. Previous number-ones have included Damien Hirst in 2008, the artistic director of the Serpentine, Hans-Ulrich Obrist in 2009 and 2016, the German artist Hito Steyerl in 2017 and the head of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Glenn D Lowry, last year.

It was compiled by a network of around 20 unnamed people described by ArtReview as artworld insiders (and outsiders).

They would usually have run into one another once or twice a year at art events but that had not happened, meaning a process of Zoom meetings, emails and arguments, Rappolt said.

The Power 100 top 10

1 Black Lives Matter

2 ruangrupa

3 Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy

4 #MeToo

5 Fred Moten

6 Arthur Jaffa

7 Glenn D Lowry

8 Thelma Golden

9 Saidiya Hartman

10 Judith Butler

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29 micro grants given to black artists as new round announced

The Black Theatre Alliance of Philadelphia recently handed out 29 micro grants to theatre artists.

Each of the 29 grants was $200 and was given to black artists who live in the Philadelphia area. Donations to fund the grants were collected after the coalition was announced in August.

The Black Theatre Alliance has announced it is collecting for another round of micro grants to be given out in the near future to first-time applicants.

“On the other side of this pandemic, we want Black artists financially poised to hit the ground running into the new year,” said Lindsay Smiling, BTAP Steering Committee member.

More micro grant information can be found on BTAP’s website: www.blacktheatrephiladelphia.org, where donations will also be accepted.

Mark Zimmaro

Mark Zimmaro is a reporter for the South Philly Review. Follow him on Twitter @mzimmaro or email at mzimmaro@newspapermediagroup.com

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The 7 Best Movies New to Netflix in December 2020

After a lackluster November that left Netflix scrambling to rescue its award season ambitions after “Hillbilly Elegy” didn’t quite hit the mark, the streaming giant is showing its full strength with a December lineup that pairs unmissable Originals like “Mank” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” with quintessential library titles like “E.T.” and “Jurassic Park.” Add a bearded George Clooney and a rapping Meryl Streep into the mix, and you’ve got the kind of holiday viewing slate that only Netflix has the chutzpah to put out into the world.

Here are the seven most exciting movies coming to the platform this month.

7. “The Prom” (2020)

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Future historians will note that 2020 ended the only way this cursed year possibly could: With Meryl Streep rapping on camera in a Netflix musical directed by Ryan Murphy. And yet, despite all evidence to the contrary, it seems “The Prom” might be just the party we’ve all been waiting for over these last nine months.

In their approving review of this glitzy and Golden Globes-ready Broadway adaptation, IndieWire’s Jude Dry writes that “‘The Prom’ has all the makings of a classic Hollywood musical,” and that the story — about a quartet of washed-up theater legends who hoof it to a conservative Indiana town in order to support a lesbian teen who was banned from bringing her girlfriend to the big dance — unfolds as if “the strivers from ‘The Philadelphia Story’ went to Allentown to help Peggy Swayer find her way to ‘42nd Street.’”

Calling the movie “exactly the kind of feel-good entertainment we needed,” Dry observes that while Murphy may not be the second coming of Busby Berkeley, he gets all the help he needs from costume designer Lou Eyrich, virtuosic cinematographer Matthew Libatique, choreographer Casey Nicholaw, and an all-singing, all-dancing, all-smiling-until-their-faces-crease-that-way-forever cast of mega-stars likes Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Keegan-Michael Key, Kerry Washington, and more. If you’re looking for love, acceptance, a renewed sense of purpose, and enough sequins to single-handedly revive disco, “The Prom” is sure to be the safest party in town, and everyone’s invited.

Available to stream December 11.

6. “The Midnight Sky” (2020)

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George Clooney’s directorial career went a little sideways after the success of “Good Night, and Good Luck” (though “Leatherheads” remains a minor screwball delight), but even in the aftermath of misfires like “The Monuments Men” and “Suburbicon,” it’s still easy to root for him and chalk up the existence of “The Midnight Sky” to perseverance instead of privilege, or at least perseverance and privilege instead of just privilege alone. This is a guy who could live 100 comfortable lifetimes on his tequila money alone, and yet he still seems fully invested in everything he does, whether it’s a happy-go-lucky Nespresso commercial or a Netflix epic about a lonely Arctic scientist who’s desperately trying to stop a team of astronauts from returning to a ruined Earth.

Adapted from Lily Brooks-Dalton’s “Good Morning, Midnight” and supposedly more of a heartfelt sci-fi epic than the Oscar contender its release date and Alexandre Desplat score might suggest, “The Midnight Sky” finds an immaculately bearded Clooney pulling double duty as both director and leading man, while Felicity Jones plays the space-bound aeronaut who he’s so urgently trying to reach.

The film hasn’t screened for critics at the time this article is being published, but word around the campfire is that “The Midnight Sky” is an earnest and satisfying return to form for its biggest star, and might be the closest thing that any of us get to an adult-oriented blockbuster this holiday season.

Available to stream December 23.

5. “Rango” (2005)

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Pixar’s imminent “Soul” may not re-write the rule book of what’s possible or commercially palatable in terms of mainstream CGI animation, but its different and ambitious enough to make you wish that other Hollywood studios would spend more time thinking outside the box when it comes to dreaming up kid-friendly movies. Mass appeal doesn’t always have to mean simplicity and superheroes and babies who are bosses; there’s plenty of room for big ideas, and for auteurism, and for the kind of weirdness that’s usually consigned to the wee hours of Adult Swim.

There is definitely room for Gore Verbinski’s delirious “Rango,” an acid-washed pseudo-Western about a chameleon who becomes the sheriff of a town called Dirt after his terrarium falls out of his owner’s car somewhere in the desert. Scored by Hans Zimmer, featuring cinematography by Roger Deakins, and altogether so inspired that it’s possible to skirt over the Johnny Depp of it all (even if Rango himself is a blinkered caricature of the actor’s Hunter S. Thompson screen image), “Rango” raked in $245 million on its way to winning an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Not only does it hold up, it leaves the last 15 years of Hollywood animation in the dust.

Available to stream December 28.

4. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

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A star-studded adaptation of an August Wilson play is always a special event, and George C. Wolfe’s riff on “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” — the first of the 10 plays that shaped Wilson’s landmark Pittsburgh Cycle — was a tantalizing prospect from the moment it went into production. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that Chadwick Boseman’s tragic death earlier this year consecrated his final performance in a very different context, as what should have been a promising showcase for one of the best actors of his generation became the ultimate monument to the talent he took with him.

And that talent was even greater than most people already know, which is saying a lot considering how beautifully Boseman embodied a series of Black icons like James Brown, Jackie Robinson, and Thurgood Marshall before becoming one unto himself in “Black Panther.” His sly turn as the scheming trumpeter Levee in Wolfe’s brassy ode to the Mother of Blues is so vital and incendiary that it would have felt like the performance of a lifetime even in the best of circumstances. Boseman — along with a show-stopping Viola Davis in the title role – bursts off the screen with the kind of fire that makes it easy to overlook the staginess of the film around him, or even celebrate Wolfe’s direction for having the good sense to get out of his way.

As IndieWire’s Eric Kohn put it in his appreciative review: “‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ embodies the frustrations of Black artists in a society rigged against them, with the boisterous singer and her combustible band wandering a recording studio on a sweltering Chicago afternoon, squabbling and grandstanding until the final minutes. The result is a chamber piece with occasional flashes of musical intensity and thematic depth to spare.” It’s also an unforgettable swan-song in a year that deserves to be remembered for more than its grief.

Available to stream December 18.

3. “Mank” (1980)

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There will be a lot to say about David Fincher’s first movie since “Gone Girl,” which is both one of Netflix’s awards season juggernauts and also a cruise missile aimed right at the heart of the cinephile discourse. But to understand why “Mank” will be worth fighting over, here’s what IndieWire’s Eric Kohn had to say about Fincher’s return upon naming it one of the best films of 2020:

There have been countless movies about the Golden Age of Hollywood that celebrate its grandeur or bemoan the harsh business tactics of cigar-chomping leaders. But David Fincher doesn’t have to worry about precedents. With “Mank,” the filmmaker transform his late father Jack’s screenplay into a rich, haunting meditation on the restless career of “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (a frantic Gary Oldman at his best), working around the mystique of the proverbial “greatest movie of all time” to create a more alluring window into the world that inspired that work — namely, powerful men whose influence extended far beyond the arena of entertainment and changed the fabric of society as a whole. Zipping between the 1934 gubernatorial race and bedridden Mank’s attempts to piece together his magnum opus, “Mank” uses its meticulous black-and-white scenery and complex soundscape to resurrect its era while commenting on how it reverberates to this day. Countless movies about Hollywood go behind the scenes; “Mank” is one of the few tells us what they really mean.

Available to stream December 4.

2. “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial”

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This sweet coming-of-age story about a desiccated little alien who just wants to go home and see his family might hit a bit different this holiday season.

Available to stream December 1.

1. “Jurassic Park” (1993)



Sixty-five million years in the making and somehow still worth the wait, “Jurassic Park” proved that the guy who invented the modern blockbuster could still make them better than anyone else, and almost three decades later it hasn’t aged a day. And that’s good, because a culture-breaking popcorn epic like this should always be more about transcendence than nostalgia, and that’s where “Jurassic Park” delivers most.

From the childhood-scarring opening sequence to the bittersweet final notes of John Williams’ anthemic score and all of the earth-shaking moments of cinematic spectacle in between, Spielberg’s second-best film of 1993 is the kind of experience that gives the summer movie season a good name, or at least redeems it from the movies that don’t. The special effects not only “hold up,” but some of the animatronics seem as if from a more advanced era of movie magic than the computer-generated follies that followed.

It’s been almost 30 years and the multiplexes still haven’t offered another shot of wonder and adrenaline quite like it. Watching it at home might not capture all the same magic, but if you squint real hard you might be able to see a faint shadow of what we missed at the movies this summer.

Available to stream December 1.

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60 Years Ago, San Antonio Teenagers Invented the Westside Sound

Also known as Chicano soul, the Westside Sound blends rock’n’roll with San Antonio roots.

After World War II, two record labels, Rio Records and Corona Records, showcased the music of the working-class neighborhood.
After World War II, two record labels, Rio Records and Corona Records, showcased the music of the working-class neighborhood. Ray Howell Photograph Collection, MS 354, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections

This story first appeared in the December 2020 issue of Texas Highways. See the story in its original format here.

Texas music is known for its sense of place, whether it’s Western swing, guitar-powered electric blues, or Dirty South hip-hop. But at least one Texas city, and one specific part of that city, can claim a sound all its own: the Westside Sound of San Antonio.

The Westside Sound refers to a specific place and time, beginning in the 1950s, when Mexican American teenagers in San Antonio first heard rock’n’roll. Budding musicians from across the city formed bands playing music that incorporated rhythm and blues, often with a heavy horn section, and influences of swing, conjunto, and country. Sometimes referred to as “Chicano Soul,” the music drew on the early rock’n’rollers from New Orleans like Fats Domino and emphasized slow-dance standards known as “bellyrubbers.”

But unlike scenes in other places, the Westside Sound never completely went away. Its popularity persists thanks to veteran San Antonio musicians and fans championing their city’s native sound. You can hear the influence of the Westside Sound in songs like “Hey Baby Kep Pa So,” by enduring San Antonio keyboardist Augie Meyers, and in the music of younger musicians such as Los Texmaniacs, Garrett T. Capps, Mitch Webb and the Swindles, Adrian Quesada, and Jonny Benavidez.

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One of the local fans keeping the Westside Sound alive is Chris Varelas, a retired firefighter who operates the NoHitNetwork.com website and KCJV 97.9—a low-power FM radio station based in Leon Valley in northwest San Antonio. Featuring non-charting regional releases from the 1950s through the ’70s—or “The Greatest Sounds You’ve Never Heard Of”—the station plays a whole lot of Westside Sound records.

“The Westside Sound is to San Antonio what Motown is to Detroit,” Varelas says. “The sound is unique and immediately identifiable. It’s really hard to convey the impact of a few local high school teenagers who decided to sing and dream.”

In the 1950s, San Antonio was far enough out of the mainstream, geographically and culturally, to foster a scene from local radio stations playing records by local bands. Only a few of those recordings—notably “Talk to Me” by Sunny and the Sunliners and “She’s About a Mover” by the Sir Douglas Quintet—made it onto the national charts. Still, radio airplay and jukebox spins made regional stars out of groups such as Rudy and the Reno Bops, the Royal Jesters, the Dell Kings, Sonny Ace y Los Twisters, the Dreamliners, the Commands, the Mar-Kays, and Charlie and the Jives.





Arturo “Sauce” Gonzalez was an early member of Sunny and the Sunliners in 1962. He later played Hammond B-3 organ with the late Doug Sahm, and today he leads Sauce Gonzalez and the Westside Sound.

“My band is called the Westside Sound and even I have a hard time explaining it,” he jokes. But, he says, a hallmark of the sound is simplicity.

“We used to play R&B tunes by Fats Domino, Little Richard, Smiley Lewis, B.B. King, Little Willie John, and lots of other Black artists,” he says. “We Chicanos from the Westside would rearrange the music for two tenor saxophones and piano. And it was very important to play the triplets. Playing them by ear rather than reading charts was the Westside Sound, too.”

The “Westside Sound” didn’t really exist as a moniker until 1983, long after the music’s heyday. That’s when Sahm, a San Antonio-born musical prodigy who made his mark on the sound with the Sir Douglas Quintet, released an album with Meyers titled The ‘West Side’ Sound Rolls Again.

“That’s the first mention,” Jason Longoria says, pointing to the cover of the album in the music room of his San Antonio home. “No one knew what to call it until then.”

Longoria, 42, is another local keeping the Westside Sound alive through collecting records and sharing his research with the world. “The musicians came from all over San Antonio,” he adds. “But the Westside is the heart.”

San Antonio’s Westside, the oldest urban Mexican American neighborhood in Texas, is the historic hub of the city’s Hispanic culture. After World War II, two record labels, Rio Records and Corona Records, showcased the music of the working-class neighborhood.

Corona recorded traditional Spanish music ensembles. Rio Records issued records by young Mexican Americans playing all kinds of sounds. “Rio Records was to San Antonio what Sun Records was to Memphis,” Longoria says. “All these people had an opportunity to make a record. Rio Records owner Hymie Wolf would record anyone who came in, press up copies, and service jukebox distributors and radio stations with copies. He didn’t dictate what people should sing or play.”

Longoria collects recordings and ephemera documenting the era. He has also sought out old performers and even gotten a few of them back on stage, including Rudy Tee Gonzalez, the lead singer from Rudy and the Reno-Bops; and Little Sammy Jay (Jaramillo), featured vocalist from the storied Tiffany Lounge club.

Longoria, who works at H-E-B’s corporate headquarters for his day job, developed his obsession through his parents’ love of the Texas Tornados, the 1990s Tex-Mex supergroup consisting of Sahm, Meyers, Freddy Fender, and Flaco Jiménez—all pioneers of the sound.

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“When that first album came out, my parents would tell me about Doug Sahm and all the guys coming from around here,” Longoria says. “Doug Sahm stuck with me because he was local, very eclectic, and played a mixed bag of stuff that I related to.”

Longoria’s research traces the origins of the Westside Sound to the merging of two bands, Conjunto San Antonio Alegre and Conjunto Mexico, which joined forces as Mando and the Chili Peppers in 1955. As the players traded their bajo sextos and accordions for electric guitars, their music transitioned from polkas and rancheras to rock’n’roll and Louisiana blues. They were also hearing music from local Black blues musicians, a scene with 1940s roots in the Keyhole Club, which advertised itself as “the First Integrated Night Club in the South.”

Mando and the Chili Peppers toured around the country, playing cities like Las Vegas, Denver, New York, and Philadelphia, where they appeared on the popular American Bandstand TV show. Back in San Antonio, the band had its own television show on KCOR, first with Spanish-speaking emcees and then with Scratch Phillips, a Black disc jockey.





On the Road With Rock ’N Roll, the band’s 1957 debut album, improbably fused country, conjunto, R&B, and triplet-powered rock’n’roll. The playlist incorporated songs from Ernest Tubb’s “I’m Walkin’ the Floor Over You,” to the popular standard “South of the Border,” to “San Antonio Rose” by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.

“San Antonio has got its own version of pretty much all of American music,” Longoria says.

And, it’s got music that no other place can claim.

Read more from the Observer:

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Barry Gibb Has a Mission: ‘Keep the Music Alive’

Earth’s last surviving Bee Gee was calling from his home studio in South Florida, just steps from the waters of Biscayne Bay.

“I used to have a great boat,” Barry Gibb said. “A speedboat.” He called it Spirits Having Flown, after a 1979 Bee Gees album that has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide. “I would tear around the bay and get ideas.”

Sometimes he didn’t even need the boat. One day the Bee Gees’ manager Robert Stigwood called. He was producing the film version of the musical “Grease” and needed a new title song. Barry had not seen the film; this was a creative challenge.

“How in heaven’s name,” he asked himself, “do you write a song called ‘Grease’? I remember walking around on the dock, and it suddenly occurred to me that it’s a word, and you’ve just got to write about the word.”

Grease is the word, he wrote, is the word that you heard. It’s got a groove, it’s got a meaning.

He’d solved his problem and he’d seen the light; the word was “grease,” and the word was good. “Grease,” recorded by Frankie Valli, was released in May 1978 and reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart by the end of August.

It was Gibb’s seventh writing credit on a No. 1 hit that year, after “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever” and “If I Can’t Have You,” all from the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack; and “Shadow Dancing” and “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water,” solo singles Barry helped write for his brother Andy Gibb. On the Hot 100 for the week of March 3, 1978, songs by the Brothers Gibb made up three of the week’s Top 5.

It was like this for a long while — No. 1 hits, one after another after another — and then it wasn’t.

In the early 1970s, the Bee Gees came to Miami to try making records in America. This worked out rather well for them, and Barry has lived there ever since.

“It’s just a big old house. I would never classify it as a mansion,” said Gibb, who in the time he’s lived here has counted Matt Damon, Dwyane Wade and Pablo Escobar among his neighbors.

He is 74, and his legendary lion’s-mane hair was gray and wispy under an Australian-style leather bush hat. His words slipped past his still-magnificent teeth in a rich, almost Conneryesque brogue that his origins (born on the Isle of Man, raised in Manchester, England, and then Australia) don’t fully explain.

Gibb’s latest album, “Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers Songbook, Vol. 1,” recorded in Nashville with the producer Dave Cobb, goes on shale in January; it’s preceded this month by the director Frank Marshall’s HBO documentary “The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.” Early in the film, we see Gibb and his brothers Maurice and Robin the way most people remember them — in open-necked shirts of shimmering silver, medallions blinging brightly against their mammalian chests.

Then a spotlight hones in on him, cropping out the rest of the band. This is foreshadowing by literal shadow. Since 1979, Gibb has lost three brothers. Andy — the youngest, who soared as a solo artist under Barry’s tutelage but struggled with drug addiction — died first, in 1988, at 30, of myocarditis. Maurice passed away in 2003, of complications caused by a twisted intestine; Robin died in 2012, of complications of cancer and intestinal surgery.

This leaves Barry Gibb as the living steward of a catalog of songs that have become contemporary standards, performed and recorded by Janis Joplin (who sang “To Love Somebody” at Woodstock) and Destiny’s Child (who covered “Emotion” on its third album), as well as the Reverend Al Green, the irreverent Texas punkers the Dicks, Bruce Springsteen and Miss Piggy. A world in which no one sings Bee Gees songs anymore is hard to imagine for karaoke-related reasons alone, but Gibb has seen enough to understand that nothing is forever.

“The mission,” he said, “is to keep the music alive. Regardless of us, regardless of me. One day, like my brothers, I will no longer be around, and I want the music to last. So I’m going to play it no matter what.”

Gibb has only a passing acquaintance with modern pop music, which he understands to be a world ruled by children who go by nicknames and numbers. He hopes that someone is giving them good advice.

“He doesn’t listen to a lot of new music,” said his son Stephen Gibb. “He listens to the music of his youth.”

Barry Gibb’s earliest memories of music are of harmony — the Everly Brothers and the Ohioan jazz vocal quartet the Mills Brothers, playing from a single speaker in his parents’ house. He can draw a direct line from that to everything else; it’s why he and Robin and Maurice started singing together.

But after that, what got into Gibb’s head was country music, particularly once the Gibbs moved from England to Australia in 1958, just before Barry’s 12th birthday. “Bluegrass music,” Gibb said. “I fell in love with that. I became obsessed with that when I was a kid, because you didn’t hear much else but bluegrass music in 1958 in Australia.”

While exiled from the charts in the ’80s, Gibb and his brothers wrote country hits for Conway Twitty, Olivia Newton-John and — most famously — “Islands in the Stream,” a worldwide smash for Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. “Kenny always says, ‘I still don’t understand that song. I’m not sure what it’s about,’” Gibb said. “I say, ‘Kenny, I understand that song — it’s a No. 1 record.”

Gibb says there’s always been country in the Bee Gees’ sound, whether or not his brothers particularly wanted it there. But the idea of doing a full-length country album had been a bucket-list item for decades, until last year, when the Bee Gees signed a new deal with Capitol Records. There were discussions about Gibb revisiting the catalog in some way; Gibb realized his country moment had arrived.

“I had been turning my dad on to Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton and Brandi Carlile and Sturgill Simpson,” Stephen Gibb said. “He’s like, ‘Jesus, these records are great. These are brilliant.’ The common thread on a lot of those records turned out to be Dave Cobb.”

Cobb, 46, has won Grammys for his work with Carlile, Stapleton and Isbell; he also turned out to be a massive Bee Gees fan. By October 2019, Gibb was at RCA’s Studio A in Nashville, recording new versions of Bee Gees classics and obscurities with a range of country-associated duet partners: modern hitmakers like Keith Urban, traditionalists like Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, icons like Dolly Parton.

Parton and Gibb cut their rendition of the Bee Gees’ plaintive 1968 single “Words” on the first day of recording; Cobb described it as “probably the most intimidating session I’ve ever had in my life.” He remembered walking out to the microphone to play guitar, “and my legs started trembling a little bit.”

Isbell was equally intimidated about singing with Gibb on “Words of a Fool,” a deep cut Gibb wrote for the soundtrack of the long-forgotten 1988 film “Hawks.”

“At one point I was trying to sing a harmony part over Barry,” Isbell said, “and Dave said something, and I said, ‘Dave, one of us is not Barry Gibb, man — you have to back off a little bit and give me a few more tries at this.’”

Gibb’s voice on “Words of a Fool” is strong but also spectral, its shuddering vibrato bringing to mind the jazz singer Jimmy Scott. Nearly six decades after he first sang on a record, it remains one of the most otherworldly instruments in popular music.

“I asked him how the hell he still sounds like that,” Isbell said. “I’m always afraid to ask people that question, because I don’t want to offend them by acknowledging their age, but I said, ‘Barry, how can you still sing so beautifully and powerfully?’ And he said, ‘I never really liked cocaine. You had to do it every 15 minutes for it to work. So it just didn’t appeal to me.’ That’s the perfect answer to that question.”

It’s not surprising that Gibb found his way to country music. Listen to “To Love Somebody,” on which he builds from a gruff, tight delivery before releasing exquisite high notes, as if a dam is finally breaking inside him. It’s a voice made for country singing, because it’s a voice made for sad songs.

Gibb has written a lot of those. In 1964 alone, his copyrights as a songwriter included songs called “Scared of Losing You,” “Claustrophobia,” “I Just Don’t Like to be Alone,” “House Without Windows,” “Now Comes the Pain,” “Since I Lost You,” and “This Is the End.”

He can’t account for where this predisposition for melancholy subject matter came from, any more than he can explain what a 16-year-old and his even-younger brothers were doing singing a song called “I Was a Lover, a Leader of Men.”

In Australia, despite being underage, they played in bars, Gibb said, that were “‘Crocodile Dundee’ all the way.” He said the Australian audiences were amazing, “but it’s a drinking audience. We witnessed a lot of fights, while we were singing. I saw two guys punch each other out without standing up.”

The minute they had a hit, with a song called “Spicks and Specks” — “Robin used to say that was our first No. 1, but it was really only No. 1 in Perth”— they set sail back to England, signed with Stigwood, then an associate of the Beatles impresario Brian Epstein, and encountered ’60s London in full swing.

“We’d suddenly tumbled into flower power,” Gibb said. “The whole idea was to find out what character you’d dress yourself up as.” He described a vivid memory of getting in an elevator with Eric Clapton. “He’s dressed as a cowboy and I’m dressed as a priest.”

Barry was 20 then; his brothers were not yet 18. “We were still kids,” he said, “and we were still very naïve. I don’t think the naïveté went away for a long time.”

They did soon discover booze, pot and pills, Gibb said. But early British albums like “Bee Gees’ 1st” from 1967 with its trippy Klaus Voormann cover, oddball orchestration, and titles like “Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You” — made them seem like more active participants in the ’60s lifestyle than they were. Barry and Robin Gibb were once given a mescaline tablet; they decided to flush it down the toilet.

As steeped as they are in the vibes of the moment, the late-60s Bee Gees albums are also shot through with a twee, quavering sadness that feels unique to the Gibbs. They sound like the work of infirm boy-princes who’ve mastered the pop landscape by staring down longingly at it from the window of a tall tower. Drugs alone could not yield music this unaccountably odd.

“You have no idea how humans got in a room and made those records,” said Cobb, who found his way to the band’s ’60s material via an obsession with the Beatles and the Zombies’ “Odessey and Oracle.” “They just are. They feel like they’re coming from an alternate universe.”

But even their alternate-universe albums were aimed at the charts. They never had a Brian Wilson lost-in-the-sandbox experimental phase. They were true immigrant hustlers, adaptable and industrious. They worked for Stigwood, who both managed them and owned their recordings, a conflict of interest that went unexamined for decades.

By 1969 all three Bee Gees were married and living separate lives. “I think we stopped really knowing each other after we arrived in England,” Gibb said. They began to argue the way only a band of brothers with two frontmen — Barry and Robin — could. Robin Gibb left the band in 1969, returning after 18 months at Stigwood’s urging. Many issues, Gibb said, remained unresolved. Instead of talking they wrote “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” together, singing to each other the things they couldn’t say.

Their early ’70s work represented a low creative ebb; after they relocated to Miami at the suggestion of their friend Eric Clapton, they began making some of the biggest records of all time.

Songs like the sublime “Jive Talkin’” had a heavier beat than anything they’d done before. Gibb thought of their new direction as a move toward R&B. But their contribution to “Saturday Night Fever,” a 1977 blockbuster produced by Stigwood, would redefine them differently. The minute John Travolta strutted down a Bay Ridge boulevard to the supple bass line of “Stayin’ Alive” — a showcase for the anguished falsetto Barry Gibb had lately discovered — they became a disco act.

“We got sucked into that,” Gibb said. “We were just making records we loved. In fact, we didn’t even call them ‘disco.’ I never thought a Stylistics record was disco, and I never thought ‘Shining Star’ by the Manhattans was a disco record, and ‘Too Much Heaven’ was not a disco record. ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ is not a disco record. But you get classified.”

The film’s soundtrack album became their biggest hit; it’s been certified platinum 16 times and remains the second-biggest soundtrack album of all time, after Whitney Houston’s “The Bodyguard.”

In 1979, as the Bee Gees toured the world in a customized Boeing 720 passenger jet with their logo painted on the tail, a reactionary anti-disco movement was coalescing among white rock ’n’ roll fans. Between games at a White Sox doubleheader that summer, a Chicago disc jockey named Steve Dahl blew up a crate full of disco records on the field at Comiskey Park.

In Marshall’s film, the Chicago house-music producer Vince Lawrence — who was working as a Comiskey Park usher that night — recalls seeing people showing up that day carrying records by Black artists who had nothing to do with disco, and describes the event as a “racist, homophobic book-burning.”

Disco, as a cultural phenomenon, was Black, brown and gay; the fact that the Bee Gees were none of these things didn’t stop them from being caught in the crossfire. They were the genre’s pop avatars, and the “Disco Sucks” movement would turn them into instant pariahs. Marshall’s film cuts back and forth between the countdown to the explosion and shots of the band onstage, smiling in silver, looking utterly unaware of the destiny bearing down on them like a train.

“The dynamic of their situation changed overnight,” Marshall said. “Everything that they had ever dreamed of was happening. They were at the pinnacle. And suddenly it became a nightmare, and they had to have escorts and there were bomb threats. And they’d go ‘Wait, we’re just a band’ — but it was much bigger than them. It was history, and they were caught in the middle. Their biggest moment became their biggest nightmare. I really loved that irony.”

Gibb said he never let the Comiskey event bother him: “I knew that whatever it is you do has to come to an end, no matter what it is.”

But of course the end is never the end, when you’re a Bee Gee. After the bell tolled for disco, Gibb and his brothers were a punchline and a punching bag for a long while. Gibb admits he was “a little upset” the first time he saw the “Barry Gibb Talk Show” sketch on “Saturday Night Live,” in which Jimmy Fallon played Gibb as a rageful, dyspeptic peacock while Justin Timberlake, as Robin Gibb, struggled to keep a straight face — but mostly because, in real life, “Robin was the one who was always angry.” (He popped up on a 2013 Christmas episode of “S.N.L.,” to sing with Fallon and Timberlake. No hard feelings.)

Gibb doesn’t expect to conquer the pop charts again; making more records like this duets one would be enough. “I’m a country singer,” he said. “I’ll always be a country singer. I’ve managed to shed all of these other things. I don’t even have a white suit anymore.”

But he’s lived long enough to see the conversation change around his music. There are dozens of videos online in which YouTubers — mostly Black, mostly too young to even remember Wyclef Jean sampling “Stayin’ Alive” in the late ’90s — react to the Bee Gees’ video for the “Spirits Having Flown” ballad “Too Much Heaven.”

The video is a quintessential document of its era, like a loose quaalude fished from the couch cushions of time. The Bee Gees are singing in a fern-filled recording studio, backed by a string section. They’re wearing open-necked silk shirts. Barry’s jeans are a lewd joke about avocados. So at first, the YouTubers are skeptical. Then, pretty much without exception, they’re struck speechless when the vocals come in and Gibb and his brothers begin building a cathedral with nothing but the breath in their lungs.

Barry Gibb has not seen these videos. But he’s watched a few clips of young people covering Bee Gees songs like “How Deep is Your Love” online, and some of them aren’t half bad. “This one boy couldn’t have been more than 11 or 12 years old. Whoever he is, he will be one of the greats if he keeps his head. That’s always the question. Right? Always the question.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Nine Galleries to Check Out During Miami Art Week 2020

Despite what it may look like, with the cancellation of an in-person Art Basel and much of Miami Art Week’s traditional fanfare sitting this year out, art galleries have been busy putting together major exhibitions. The work they feature speaks to the anxieties, pain, confusion, and reflection of our current moment. While it may not give you all the answers, it’s sure to give you lots to think about, and might even help you feel less alone.

Here are nine galleries you won’t want to miss as you make your (socially distanced) Miami Art Week rounds.

David Castillo Gallery

David Castillo debuts “Chapel Paintings,” a new exhibition of work by Florida-born artist Vaughn Spann, who has become a name to watch in the contemporary art world in recent years. His work can now be found in the permanent collections of institutions such as the Peréz Art Museum Miami and the Rubell Museum, and images like his Marked Man series of paintings featuring large Xs are instantly recognizable and striking. Spann incorporates bright colors and lots of texture into his works, which often explore the relationships between art, activism, and social practices. Through January 31, 2021, at 3930 NE Second Ave., Suite 201, Miami; 305-573-8110; davidcastillogallery.com.

Frances Trombly, "All This Time"

Frances Trombly, “All This Time”

Photo by Francesco Casale

Emerson Dorsch Gallery

For “All This Time,” Frances Trombly’s exhibit of new works at Emerson Dorsch, the artist was inspired by the realization that, while the colors and textures of draped fabrics have played an important role in Western art history, appearing in countless paintings and sculptures, the people who made these textiles are typically unknown. She framed fabrics dyed in red, blue, and yellow, and hung them on the wall just as stately paintings would be. Trombly is not interested in perfection and left glitches intact as she worked on the loom. Instead, she found beauty in the act of making itself, and in its essential components of draping, dyeing, spinning, and weaving. Through January 16, 2021, at 5900 NW Second Ave., Miami; 305-576-1278; emersondorsch.com.

A detail of T. Eliott Mansa, Victory of John HenryEXPAND

A detail of T. Eliott Mansa, Victory of John Henry

Courtesy of LnS Gallery

LnS Gallery

The contemporary art gallery, which focuses on Miami-based artists, presents “For Those Gathered in the Wind,” a solo exhibition by the multidisciplinary artist T. Eliott Mansa, whose assemblages explore Black grief and examine the ways in which humans mourn. In mourning those who have lost their lives to state and extrajudicial violence, the artist looks to practices and traditions from Africa and its diaspora to the American West and incorporates items used in grassroots memorials, such as teddy bears, plastic flowers, and offertory candles. Proceeds from the catalog sale will go to the initiative for the planned Miami Museum of Contemporary Art of the African diaspora. Through February 9, 2021, at 2610 SW 28th Ln., Miami; 305-987-5642; lnsgallery.com.

Nadia Waheed, The Last Three Months (Lilies)

Nadia Waheed, The Last Three Months (Lilies)

Courtesy of the artist

Mindy Solomon Gallery

Mindy Solomon kicks off the season with two brand-new shows. A solo exhibit featuring the work of painter Nadia Waheed, “I climb, I backtrack, I float,” has been in development for over a year and makes its debut just in time for Art Week. Colorful images of mountaintops, lush green forests, flowing water, and seas of lily pads serve as allegories, providing a window into the artist’s internal narrative and state of mind during this tumultuous year. Meanwhile, the virtual exhibition “Lover’s Rock,” designed by artist Asif Hoque and curator Ché Morales, places the viewer inside a landscape crafted with inspiration from Hoque’s home state of Florida, his home country of Bangladesh, and the Italy of his childhood upbringing. The virtual reality exhibit tells the story of two lovers and how they find their way to one another with the help of mystic spirit guides. Hoque’s paintings are embedded throughout the landscape of the virtual world and are also on view by appointment at the gallery.
Through January 16, 2021, at 8397 NE Second Ave., Miami; 786-953-6917; mindysolomon.com.

Rochelle Feinstein, Plein Air IV

Rochelle Feinstein, Plein Air IV

Courtesy of the artist and Nina Johnson

Nina Johnson

At Nina Johnson, three solo exhibitions take on the emotional landscape of 2020, with all the loneliness, anxiety, political drama, and strange moments of humor it encompasses. When artist Nathlie Provosty had COVID-19, she lost her sense of smell and had vivid dreams of dragons, leading her to begin drawing them. She calls her newest paintings, collected in the exhibit “Poison Dart,” “therapeutic venom for facing dragons,” drawing inspiration from the biology of poison-dart frogs and the notion that vivid colors that can repel predators. In “Fredonia!” painter Rochelle Feinstein pokes fun at the traditional motif of the rainbow and takes it apart to create abstract images of graphs, charts, and — in one red-and-blue series — Election Day data. And Miami-born Woody De Othello’s “Coming to Light” digs into the way it feels to live in our current reality, with his paintings and ceramic vessels taking the form of contorted human figures forced to confront themselves. “Fredonia!” runs through January 9, 2021, “Poison Dart” and “Coming to Light” run through January 30, 2021, at 6315 NW Second Ave., Miami; 305-571-2288; ninajohnson.com.

A domino set by Rosa Naday GarmendiaEXPAND

A domino set by Rosa Naday Garmendia

Courtesy of Oolite Arts

Oolite Arts

While not exactly a traditional gallery, Oolite Arts’ pop-up exhibition and art sale on Lincoln Road, “Materialize,” is one of the best places to discover the work of Miami artists — and maybe even support their work and buy a piece or two for yourself at an affordable price. Taking over a vacant space on Miami’s busy shopping street, the exhibit is filled with pieces that can decorate a home or be worn on the body. It also invites visitors to experience some of the process and craftsmanship of making this work, while getting to know local artists. Works will range from photographs, prints, zines, and books to clothing, jewelry, and facemasks, by artists including Terence Price II, Pepe Mar, and Rosa Naday Garmendia. Through Sunday, December 6, at 928 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-674-8278; oolitearts.org/materialize.

Wade Tullier, Owl with fruit and tree

Wade Tullier, Owl with fruit and tree

Courtesy of Primary

Primary

For his collection of new sculptures and paintings at Primary, “Hear Say,” Detroit-based ceramicist Wade Tullier was inspired by storytelling and oral-history traditions. By using repetition in his work, he mimics the way stories are told and retold, changing their meaning and transforming over time as they’re passed down through generations. As for what those stories are about, the Louisiana native draws much of his imagery from the history of natural disasters and manmade catastrophes his homeland has faced, as well as its native wildlife.
Through, January 30, 2021, at 15 NE 39th St., Miami; thisisprimary.com.

Reginald O'Neal, My Little Brothers Casket

Reginald O’Neal, My Little Brothers Casket

Courtesy of Spinello Projects

Spinello Projects

Local artists of color take center stage in Spinello Projects’ three new exhibits. In his solo show, “At the Feet of Mountains,” the Miami-born artist Reginald O’Neal presents a series of small to large-scale oil paintings inspired by his personal experiences and observations of life around him, ranging from a poignant still-life of his grandmother’s eyeglasses to a view of Overtown, where he’s lived for his whole life. Jared McGriff, in his solo exhibit “Only Touching the Ground to Jump,” also uses the medium of oil painting as he explores the ways individuals interact with (and are affected by) the larger systems and environments they are part of. Meanwhile, The Annex, Spinello’s experimental platform dedicated to nurturing up-and-coming Miami artists and curators, presents “Imagine: An Anthology of Black Thoughts,” a collection of video works by local Black artists, curated by Octavia Yearwood. Through January 18, 2021, at 2930 NW Seventh Ave., Miami; 646-780-9265; spinelloprojects.com

Ward Rooming House

Located in Miami’s historic Overtown, Ward Rooming House will feature Hampton Art Lovers’ Point Comfort Art Fair + Show. This year’s show will feature the photography of Dennis Manuel in “Dennis Manuel: The Eye of Afropunk.” A recognized documenter of the New York music scene, Manuel has captured Black performance art with his camera for 20 years. Known as the official photographer of the annual Afropunk Festival, he’s followed the festival since it debuted at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2005 and as it’s grown to become the home for Black creativity and self-expression, and the movement for social change, that it is today. The exhibit will include projections of the photographs on the outside the gallery, and on screens in the building’s interior garden, so that much of the work will be visible from outside. Through Saturday, December 5, at 249 NW Ninth St., Miami; hamptonartlovers.com.

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