Highlighting History: "Harold Neal and Detroit African American Artists: 1945 through the Black Arts Movement"
Though Detroit is synonymous with musical innovation, the Michigan cultural center is not frequently framed as an epicenter of fine art. In a new exhibit, curators suggest that this is not because Detroit lacks—now or in the past—a vibrant art scene but because of historical oversight on the parts of art historians.
Eastern Michigan University’s University Gallery is the first place to host what will be a traveling exhibit with an in-depth look at an era, movement, and place in Harold Neal and Detroit African American Artists: 1945 through the Black Arts Movement. (You can also view the virtual exhibition here.)
The exhibit and presents a view of post-World War II African-American art history "essentially unknown to other scholars,” as the catalog states, and took 10 years to research. Julia R. Myers conducted interviews with artists, scholars, friends, and families of the featured artists, and located many works in private collections. Additionally, research was conducted by reading through numerous news sources, including the Detroit-based African-American newspaper Michigan Chronicle.
Joseph Moncore March’s 1928 book-length poem The Wild Party was a scandal at the time. March portrayed in rhythmic language the shifting landscape of sexual relations and raw desires in the Roaring ’20s as captured in a Hollywood party run amok. The book was banned in Boston and beyond.
The University of Michigan Department of Musical Theatre production of Andrew Lippa’s sung-through musical adaptation of March’s book is reset to portray a group of overprivileged Upper Eastside Manhattan teenagers.
Lippa is a 1987 University of Michigan grad who has had a very successful career as a composer and lyricist. He wrote the music and lyrics for Big Fish, The Addams Family, and three songs for You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown among others. The Wild Party premiered off-Broadway and won the Outer Critics Circle Award for best Off-Broadway musical and Lippa won the Drama Desk Award for best music.
The student cast brings high octane energy to the singing and dancing. The emotions run high in what is basically a complex love (or is it lust) triangle.
Friday Five: Anest, Kendrick & McKinney Organ Trio, Booker & Bridges DaLight, Mista Midwest, Smiles Like Sewage Fires, Mista Midwest, Adlai
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features soul jazz by the Anest, Kendrick & McKinney Organ Trio, eclectic jams by Booker & Bridges DaLight, grindcore by Smiles Like Sewage Fires, hip-hop by Mista Midwest, and house/electronica by Adlai.
I felt guilty for stealing away, by myself, for a few hours on Sunday to see U-M’s Department of Theatre and Drama production of Stef Smith’s Nora: A Doll’s House, leaving my kids and spouse to fend for themselves.
Fittingly, this discomfort points to Nora’s raison d’être: no matter how much we want to believe otherwise, a woman’s role in the domestic sphere really hasn’t changed that much over the past century.
Using Henrik Ibsen’s classic 1879 play, A Doll’s House, as a blueprint, Smith retells the story of Nora—who scrambles to keep secret her method of keeping the family afloat during her husband’s past illness—as she would appear in three different time periods: 1918, 1968, and 2018.
Artober is a celebration of arts, taking place October 9 and 10 along Fourth Avenue and into the Kerrytown Market. There will be around 75 selected fine artists, live entertainment, food trucks, craft beer, cider, and free admission.
The Guild of Artists & Artisans is kicking off its part of the Artober celebration with a new exhibition, Emerge, an all-media exhibition featuring work from young and rising artists in its Gutman Gallery.
Emerge, juried by local teaching artist Payton Cook, features 22 works from 15 talented artists ranging from middle school, high school, and college students as well as works from talented adult artists who are newish to the gallery scene. The exhibit represents a variety of styles and techniques, with a focus on exploration and experimentation, from sculpture and collage to photography and mixed media.
The Guild will also be hosting a socially distanced open-house-style reception on Friday, October 15, 4-6 pm. Artists, patrons, and community members are invited to experience the exhibition and meet some of the artists in a laid-back atmosphere. Visit Gutman Gallery’s Emerge Facebook Event for opening reception details, exhibition updates, and artist highlights.
Below are some more works featured in the exhibition:
Kim Fairley’s Memoir "Shooting Out the Lights" Tells the Story of Navigating Her First Year of Marriage and an Unwanted Guest
Ann Arbor artist and writer Kim Fairley recalls the early days of her marriage to Vern Fairley and a visit from an unwelcome guest in her new memoir, Shooting Out the Lights. This fast-moving book focuses on what it was like to start a marriage amidst a big age gap, the aftermath of tragedy, and the contentious circumstances of an unrelated child who comes to stay with the couple. Fairley tells the story with humor and tenderness.
While Fairley quickly becomes pregnant at 25 after they married in 1982, the memories of Ben, Vern’s son who died in an accidental shooting, haunt them. Vern agrees to take in Stanislaus, an 11-year-old son of a friend, and their newlywed days are interrupted. The unwanted responsibility forces the couple to face what happened in the past and look ahead to their growing family.
A relic of the past is Ben’s bedroom, which had remained largely the same since his death. Fairley considers cleaning out the room in preparation for the new baby. She reflects on the task and its larger implications:
Does it matter to leave a legacy? My mother, jokingly, always said she wanted her endless pile of laundry done before she died. My father wanted to be missed by my mother. Maybe all that mattered was the here and now. Nobody two hundred years in the future would care a whit about any of us. It was the reality of Vern’s age and the recognition that he wouldn’t live forever that was getting to me.
Fairley is forced to confront change and mortality amidst the joy of starting a family, and she looks back with the clarity of time. She adds, “Vern had contradictory impulses, as we all do, about whether to hang on or let go, preserve or move forward.” The dilemma is relatable, but it doesn’t make the choice any easier.
Shooting Out the Lights is Fairley's second book. I interviewed her about what it was like to write this story.
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features electronica by Rohn - Lederman, a house mix courtesy of DJ Seance, dark ambient by G.B. Marian, two mixes via Sean Curtis Patrick, and demos from Fred Thomas.
George Frayne, better known as country-rock pioneer Commander Cody, died in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on Sunday, September 26, at age 77 as the result of cancer.
Best known for the Ann Arbor-spawned group Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Frayne was also a fine artist who graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor's in design in 1966 and a master's in sculpture and painting in 1968. In between those two years is when he formed Commander Cody and the group became mainstays of the Ann Arbor and Southeast Michigan music scenes, known for their marathon live shows that mixed country, rock, Western swing, and boogie-woogie.
Frayne was born in Idaho but grew up in New York City and Long Island. He came to Michigan to go to college, and because Commander Cody's formative years were in Ann Arbor, many folks in town still associate the band with the city even though the group moved to Berkeley, California, in 1969 and didn't release its first album, Lost in the Ozone, until 1971.
Cody, who was never for a loss of words, was more ambivalent about his place in Ann Arbor's history.
Carmen Bugan wields writing to understand and push back against the oppression and repression that she suffered while growing up in Romania in the 1970s and '80s and observed in her life and research. In her new book, Poetry and the Language of Oppression: Essays on Politics and Poetics, she writes:
This personal background experience gave me a first-hand knowledge of the power of language—how it can be used as an instrument of oppression and how it can be used as an instrument of resistance. That knowledge has shaped my voice as a writer.
Language is on the one hand very damaging and on the other very powerful. Bugan’s writing demonstrates her resilience and courage to nevertheless express herself when facing oppression.
Rashaun Rucker begins his artist statement for Never Free to Rest at U-M's Institute for the Humanities Gallery with a simple definition:
1. To assign to a particular category or class, especially in a manner that is too rigid or exclusive.
Synonyms: categorize, classify, label, typecast, ghettoize
In this exhibit, the Detroit-based artist examines the impact of pigeonholing Black men’s identities through a series of drawings and installations. Rucker's artist statement says he “compares the life and origins of the rock pigeon to the stereotypes and myths of the constructed identities of Black men in the United States of America.”