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Artist Date Recap: Black Suburbia at the Schomburg

Artist Date Recap: Black Suburbia at the Schomburg
A quote from the "Black Suburbia: From Levitttown to Ferguson" exhibition at the Schomburg Center for Black Culture.  A black man was denied the opportunity to purchase a home in Long Island, New York.

A quote from the “Black Suburbia: From Levitttown to Ferguson” exhibition at the Schomburg Center for Black Culture. A black man was denied the opportunity to purchase a home in Long Island, New York.

 

For this past week’s Artist Date, I took myself to the “Black Suburbia: From Levittown to Ferguson” exhibition at one of my favorite cultural institutions, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. I’m at the Schomburg at least twice a month because they have great programming (I’ve attended discussions there that involved everyone from George Clinton to Chimamanda Adichie to Ruby Dee), fascinating exhibitions and a glorious, world renowned archive of books, letters and other materials related to the African diaspora.

This particular exhibit highlighted the quantitative and qualitative experiences of black suburban life. There were videos, books, charts and pictures to peruse. As a former urban planner, I was interested to see how this exhibition would be put together and I am probably a harsh critic of such efforts given my background.  One part that I feel could have been much better was the presentation of demographic data. For most people, maps and statistics are not the sexiest things in the world. Knowing that, great care should be given when presenting such information so that it is visually engaging without losing the value of the data. There were a few boring maps and data sets on display that looked like they belonged in a dissertation.

Nonetheless, the exhibition was informative and there were other more engaging bits of the exhibition such as the old footage of white residents being asked about their thoughts on their new black neighbors. I also appreciated that the curators included other cultural aspects of integrated and segregated life such as music. There was a nice multi-media display about Compton and the rap group NWA.

All in all, it was a good Artist Date and I’m glad I went. If you’re ever in Harlem, you should visit the Schomburg!

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Posted by on January 4, 2016 in Creativity, Writerly Things

 

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Artist’s Way 3: Week 5

Artist’s Way 3: Week 5

 

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“A Subtlety” by Kara Walker

Week 5 is titled “Recovering a  Sense of Possibility.” It’s basically about nurturing yourself as an artist and getting rid of the 8,000 excuses you have for not feeding your creative spirit. A lot of times we feel pressure from other people and ourselves to be “selfless” or to just stay on the 9 to 5 track and nothing else.

Cameron is not suggesting that everyone ditch their day jobs to become underwater basket weavers, but she is suggesting that everyone should pay attention to and cater to their inner artists. You don’t have to quit your job, but you can buy an easel, a canvas and some paint. You can take a salsa class. You can create a bright orange accent wall in your living room. Let your inner artist be fed and be great. Get rid of those excuses! There is no upside to keeping roadblocks.

A quote from Collete in this chapter was my favorite for this week. “You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.”

For my Artist Date I went to see Kara Walker’s amazing art installation called “A Subtlety.”  It is a sphynx-like figure of a naked black woman made of 80 tons of sugar. This incredible artwork is housed at the historic Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn. The original structure was built in the 1850s and the factory was at one point refining more than half of the sugar in the United States. I knew about the factory’s existence (the sign is one of those NYC icons), but I did not know how old it was nor that it was such an integral part of the sugar industry. The curatorial statement was very enlightening.

A construction crew will be demolishing the old factory soon to make way for a new development, so Walker’s work is an elaborate adieu and a not so subtle way to finally acknowledge the labor and lives of the people who worked those sugar cane fields. If you don’t know anything about slavery, sugar cane fields and even post-slavery sugar cane field work, please do Google that.

This was perhaps my favorite Artist Date so far this year. Walker has a brilliant mind and the layers in this art installation are numerous and each worth a thesis. I’ll have to come back and do a seperate post with all of my thoughts on this work. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to go see “A Subtlety.” It’s free and it’s open every weekend until July 6th.

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Creativity

 

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Artist’s Way 3: Week 1

Artist’s Way 3: Week 1

 

"Meow."

“Meow.”

Technically, this will be my fourth time doing the Artist’s Way process, but it’s the third time I’m documenting it on this blog, so we’ll go with three. Follow this (successful) attempt at the Artist’s Way process by searching for the hashtag #AW3. My last attempt was last year and I made it to Week 8 before I quit. I don’t even remember precisely what happened, but I’m sure a bunch of life stuff got in the way and I just ended up tossing the process out of the window. But now I’m back! And I just completed week one! I’ll be here every Monday for the this 12-week process giving a run down of my experience with the process. Heeeeeere we go…

Week 1 is all about recovering a sense of safety as an artist. Sometimes (okay, a lot of times) we do not express creativity because on some level, we are afraid of exposing a vulnerability. Sometimes art is very personal and it stings to have prying eyes and critical thoughts lurking around the most fragile bits of yourself. I’m currently getting back on the book-writing horse, so this is right up my alley.

The  margins of The Artist’s Way are peppered with inspirational quotes and my favorite one from the Week One reading is by Joseph Chilton Pearce.  He said “To live a creative life, we must lose the fear of being wrong.” Just touched my soul. Indeed. It’s scary to not only share your work with others, but to even get to the point of expressing your creativity to yourself. We have so many excuses as to why we “can’t” do creative things that make us happy. No time, no energy, blah, blah, blah.  We do have time. We just have to carve it out. I’ve found that the early morning is the best time for me because it allows me to start my day with purpose and if I left it for the end of the day it would never get done. I would always find something more “important” to do.

For this week’s Artist Date (a weekly solo, creative adventure as described in the book), I went to the kitty cat section of the local pet store and hung out with the felines. Cats are great. I own a 12-year-old cat and cats in those little cages like that have to get creative to keep themselves from utter boredom. It was great to be around all those super duper cutie pies and all of  their stinky awesomeness.

In addition to doing Morning Pages  (three pages of free-write) everyday and an Artist Date every week, I’ll also be doing two to three of the recommended tasks each week. I won’t always go into great detail with those because I want you to pick up the book and do your own stuff and also because some of this process is just for me. I’m sharing the journey because I hope it will inspire others to take the leap and give it shot too, but I don’t feel compelled to share every single part of it. So, suffice to say that I completed three tasks and I’m feeling good about this go-round.

If you are looking to delve a little more deeply into your creative side, I highly recommend that you join me on this journey. Welcome!

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2014 in Creativity, Writerly Things

 

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