Categorized | Arts & Culture

Lest We Forget

MSU Museum
[museum]If you\’re stranded in East Lansing, have no fear; the “Lest We Forget: Triumph over Slavery” exhibit at the MSU museum is at your back door. Although many students walk by this museum daily, few think to stop and experience the intriguing exhibits inside. The current exhibit, which will continue through March 4, displays the history and artifacts from the period of American slavery.
While many exhibits on slavery focus on the horror of the practice, “Lest we Forget” focuses on the power that Africans obtained and the culture that was created by overcoming their hardships. Artifacts of the exhibit include published books, essays and poems written by slaves, musical instruments, letters, clothing, as well as a two-dollar bill signed by U.S. treasury register and former slave, Blanche K. Bruce.
Along with the artifacts, the exhibit features information about important figures in slave history, including Phillis Wheatley, the first published black author, Benjamin Bannicker, a mathematician and William Henry Lane, (a.k.a. Master Juba), a former slave credited with creating American tap dancing. Museum volunteer Tom Corwin feels that the exhibit deserves much more attention than the few visitors it gets. “Blacks make up 14 percent of our population,” Corwin said. “People should know about other cultures. A lot of people tend to only want to learn about their own culture, but we are all part of the human race.”
Main Info
Open 9-5, Monday through Friday; 1-5 on Sunday and 10-5 on Saturday.
The exhibit is FREE.
The MSU Museum is located on West Circle Drive, immediately east of Beaumont Tower and just north of the main library.
JAZZ KATS
The Wharton Center will be hosting two different events showcasing African-American music. The first, which will be performed on Feb. 3, is a unique performance that combines history and jazz. “The Jazz Kats,” in memory of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will be performing compositions written by jazz artists who participated in the Civil Rights movement. The “Kats” will not only play theses pieces but also explain the significance they had to historical events. The Jazz Kats\’ performance will feature the music of Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus and Duke Ellington, according to public relations manager Bob Hoffman. Hoffman said that viewers of the show will leave with a “sense of history and musical appreciation.” The performers will also be explaining the stories behind important events in African-American history including the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s \”I Have a Dream\” speech. “Jazz is an American institution,” Hoffman said. “It’s historical, it’s educational, it’s entertaining. It makes the show a great experience.”
Main Info
Feb. 3rd, 1:00 pm
Tickets are $7 each, with an additional $2 restoration fee.
Contact (517) 432-2000 for tickets and more information.
LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO
[ladysmith]Made famous on Paul Simon’s Graceland, Ladysmith Black Mambazo will be at the Wharton Center on Feb. 18. They are a South African group that focuses on the music and culture of Africans in their home country. Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a Grammy-winning African all-male a cappella group, will perform their uncommon musical blending style, which consists of a mixture of native African rhythms with Christian gospel sounds. According to Hoffman, the group has been quite successful. So far, they have released 40 albums and performed with many popular American artists, such as Dolly Parton and Ben Harper. They have also had the opportunity to perform all over the world at many important events including Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and the 1996 summer Olympics.
[hoff]Hoffman feels everyone should see the performance because of the high level of musical talent, regardless of their previous interest in African music. “Ladysmith has a 30-year history of being a group that has been considered the world’s greatest,\” Hoffman said. \”They have amazing performances vocally, and they are just astounding. I think it is awesome to reach out and expand your repertoire. Whether or not you’ve heard of them, it’s good to open yourself up to new things. Going to Ladysmith Black Mambazo is an opportunity to see a world-famous group as well as learn about the culture and music of South Africa.\”
Main Info
Feb. 18 7 p.m.
Wharton Center Cobb Great Hall tickets starting $15 for students.
Call the box office 517-432-2000 or toll free at 1-800-WHARTON
FLINT INSTITUTE OF ARTS
For those who are willing to go the extra mile, several nearby towns have events worth traveling to. A short drive from East Lansing, the Flint Institute of Arts showcases several African-American artists. Currently, they are displaying 30 works from the abstract painter and artist David Driskell. David Driskell: Painting across the Decade 1996 – 2006 is free, and runs until March 25. According to assistant to the curator Jill Johnson, Driskell is considered one of the leading experts of African-American art and has contributed to many books and exhibitions. His art is very colorful and consists of abstract shapes inspired by his African heritage. “People will take away a great sense of enjoyment, and appreciation for other cultures from Driskell’s art,” Johnson said. “They will get a great sense of African-American history.” This exhibit will give visitors an opportunity to view and learn about a well-known African-American artist, but also to view the styles and types of art inspired by Africa. “We want to get a good mix of people and cover the largest range of cultures to keep people interested and have something here for everyone to relate to,” Johnston said.
The Flint Institute of Arts will be continuing this effort by paying tribute to another type of African-American artist as well. While this type of art can not be hung in a museum, it is a form of artist expression that most are familiar with: film. Throughout the month of February, the FIA’s theater will be playing several films starring or directed by African-American actor Sidney Poitier in honor of both Black History Month and Sidney Poitier’s 80th birthday. These films include The Defiant Ones, A Raisin in the Sun, In the Heat of the Night and Uptown Saturday Night. Poitier is known from raising himself from poverty and becoming one of the biggest breakthrough actors in the black community during the \’60s and \’70s. After numerous rejections he was able to make a name for himself and went on to win several awards, including two lifetime achievement awards, an Oscar, and an award for best foreign actor.
A Tribute to Sidney Poitier
Matinee Film Series
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Feb. 3 : The Defiant Ones (USA, 1958)
Feb. 10: A Raisin in the Sun (USA, 1961)
Feb. 17: In the Heat of the Night (USA, 1967)
Feb. 24: Uptown Saturday Night (USA, 1974)
Flint Institute of Art
120 E. Kearsley Street
Flint, MI 48503-1915
For more information, call (810)234-1695.
KALAMAZOO INSTITUTE OF ARTS
Regardless of its unusual name, Kalamazoo has a lot more to offer than just Western Michigan University. Namely, the Kalamazoo Institute of Art, which, according to WMU sophomore Erick Skowronski, has a lot to offer those interested in learning about various cultures. Skowronski, who has visited KIA several times, stated that one of things that KIA is best at is diversity. “The institute as a whole does a really good job with cultural activities. They try to reach out to all different groups and find something for everyone,\” Skowronski said. “There is a lot of variety there in both the types of art and the culture. They do a really good job of showing a lot of different things that are important to a variety of people.”
Their coverage of black history doesn’t seem to be an exception. Currently, the institute is presenting ARTbreak, which displays different African-American artists and ideas each week for three weeks. According to ARTbreak coordinator Greg Waskowsky, the first presentation will be showcasing African-American metal sculptor and Western Michigan art professor Albert LaVergne. LaVergne will be talking about his techniques and ideas as well as the African history that inspired him. LaVerge’s art is made mostly of metal and bronze and abstractly depicts everything from human hands to cars.
Waskowsky stated the KIA decided to bring in more contemporary artists like Albert LaVergne because they want to show something different and break away from the stereotypes some people have about African-American art. Waskowsky feels that values shown in African-American art can be applied to all aspects of society. “Black history tends to be viewed in a narrow scope, but I think that it really applies to the whole scope and ideals of American life,” Waskowsky said. “The ideals of identity, memory, struggle, all these things we can take away from black history and art. Black Americans are uniquely qualified to tell about many things that we are all concerned with because of their background in this country.”
Switching gears the following week, the KIA will be showing a film highlighting several different kinds of artists entitled “New Voices, New Directions: Contemporary African-American artists.” Artists including Kara Walker, who creates sometimes-controversial depictions of slaves and slave masters in the antebellum south through silhouettes; Trenton Hancock, whose drawings are inspired by superheroes; and Martin Puryear, a sculptor who takes a minimalist approach to his works. Waskowsky hopes that people will enjoy this presentation because of the wide varity of artists depicted in the video. “The three of them work in really different ways, but they all draw on African-American influences,” Waskowsky said.
The third and final presentation showcases African-American photographers, including James Van Der Zee, Gordon Parks, and Ernest C. Withers. According to Stermer, these photographs not only are artistically-pleasing, but also inform the viewer about the Civil Rights movement. The photos will be explained and presented by KIA director of Collections and Exhibitions Susan VanArendonk.
Main Info
Feb. 6, 12:15 p.m. “The Evolution of a Style,” with Al LaVergne
Feb. 13, 12:15 p.m \”New Voices, New Directions: Contemporary African American Artists\” (video presentation)
“African American Photographers from the KIA Permanent Collection,”
12:15 p.m.
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
314 South Park Street Kalamazoo, Michigan
For more information visit http://www.kiarts.org/museum/
DIA DELA MUJER CONFERENCE
[dia]The 14th annual Día déla Mujer Conference features a variety of events, including a performance of the play \”Yo Soy Latina,\” written and directed by Linda Nieves-Powell. The play focuses on breaking down media images of both Chicano women and American women. It tells the story of a blond American actress that wishes to be more Latina and a Latina actress who dreams of looking like Farah Fawcett. The play attempts to break down stereotypes in an entertaining but serious manor. Along with the performance, the conference brings forth several other venues including discussions, workshops, and speakers, in an attempt to discuss issues that currently face the Latina community and celebrate what it means to be Latina.
Main Info
Feb. 24 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. at The Kellogg Center
To register, visit http://ddlm.oresa.msu.edu/?dna=registe or call (517)353-7745.
MARIO VARGAS LLOSA
Readers will have the opportunity to celebrate Chicano history month by listening to the words of Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa as part of Michigan States world lecture series. Llosa is the author of several books including In Praise of the Stepmother, The War of the End of the World, Conversation in the Cathedral, and The Feast of the Goat, as well as the winner of the Cervantes Prize and the Jerusalem Prize. In his works, he demonstrates the social injustices and political issues that the people of Peru face through the stories of fictional characters. Llosa is also the author of A fish in the Water, a memoir he wrote after unsuccessfully running for Peruvian president in 1990. The lecture is approximately 60 minutes and he will be speaking about his experiences in Peru and his inspiration for writing these stories. Want to brush up on his writings before hand? Several of Llosa’s books, including The Feast of the Goat and The Way to Paradise, can be found in many local bookstores.
Main Info
Feb. 26 7:30 p.m. Great Hall Wharton Center
Tickets are free for MSU students $20 for others
Call (517)432-2000 for tickets
Feb. 27 time and location TBA
No tickets required
Feb. 28 8 p.m. Auditorium, Kellogg Center
No tickets required
MICHIGAN WOMEN\’S HALL OF FAME
Two Latina women, Delia Villegas Vorhauer and Yolanda Alvarado-Ortega, have been inducted into the Michigan Women’s hall of fame for their extraordinary contributions in Michigan. Exhibits featuring both are currently at The Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame. Delia Villegas Vorhauer has made many contributions both for the Latino community and the disabled community, as she is legally blind. According to the Hall of Fame’s website, early in her career she developed a job training program in Chicago for Spanish-speaking people. As a result, she was rewarded with a presidential medal from Lyndon B. Johnson. She then went on to become the first Latino chairperson for the Michigan Commission of the Blind and founded the Mujeres Unidas de Michigan, a Latina organization. Toward the end of her life when she was diagnosed with kidney failure, she continued to look out for others, creating a support group for people with similar conditions in Lansing.
The other woman featured in the hall, Yolanda Alvarado-Ortega, is equally accomplished. She spent her life fighting for Latino rights starting in the 1970s when she worked at the Human Relations Commission in Holland, Mich., where she fought for Latino firemen to be included as part of the fire squad. She then made accomplishments as a journalist, working with MSU’s Latino in Journalism program and fighting for civil rights. Because she also had a mentally ill daughter, Alvardo-Ortega wrote a handbook on dealing with mental illness entitled Mental Illness: A Family Resource Guide, and worked to reform the mental health system. Both of these women have made excellent contributions to Michigan and to the Latino community. Check out their exhibit at the Women’s Hall of Fame in Lansing to learn more about the lives of these two influential women.
Main Info
$2 for adults; $1 for students
Wed.-Fri. 12-5 p.m. Sat. 12-4 p.m. Sun.2-4 p.m.
For more information, call(517)484-1880

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