The (Black Arts Movement Past and Present) is a 1960s-style happening, combining elements of painting, poetry, music, dance, and theater to blur the boundaries between life and art and invite audience members to not only witness but become a part of the art in action. The evening is centered around a set of concerts by Grammy Award-winning musician Vernon Reid and a band of renegade musicians from Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber in the Armory’s Veterans Room. The group will perform two sets, one at 8 pm and another at 9:30 pm, inspired by the greats of the Black Arts Movement and honoring the musical legacy of the late writer and intellectual Greg Tate.
Before and after their seated performance times, the audience will be invited to engage with screenings of the film Kolonial and other activations by interdisciplinary artist Stefanie Batten Bland, Shantelle Courvoisier Jackson, and other surprise guests in the Armory’s historic period rooms, open from 7 pm to 10:30 pm. Other participants include Nona Hendryx, Somi, Wunmi, Carrie Mae Weems, and Dianne Smith, among others.
Led by Black artists, activists, and intellectuals in the 1960s and 1970s, the Black Arts Movement shaped the ideologies of Black identity, political beliefs, and African American culture during its time and through today. Hapo Na Zamani is co-presented with Harlem Stage as part of their Black Arts Movement: Then and Now Conference, examining the relationship of the Black Arts Movement to race, gender, sexuality, music, photography, film, poetry, theater, and dance as well as the larger Black Power Movement. Curated by Harlem Stage Associate Artistic Director and Curator-in-Residence, Carl Hancock Rux, and Park Avenue Armory Curator of Public Programming, Tavia Nyong’o, with musical direction by Reid, Hapo Na Zamani (Swahili for “then and now”) builds on the conference’s programming that brings elements of the past and present together to reflect, examine, and point to the full experience and legacy of this cultural movement.
On the program, Carl Hancock Rux stated: “Hapo Na Zamani is a celebration of everything before, everything during, and everything to come from the rich, vibrant, multifarious culture of Black artists in America and abroad; an affirmation of the power of abstraction as a tool for the manifestation of Black arts and scholarship as a cultural revolution that allows us all to regain our connections to the African continent, and the experience of being American. We have pitched a tent, set a welcoming table, and call everyone to a festival of names.”
“Public Programming at Park Avenue Armory is delighted to partner with Harlem Stage in celebrating the culmination of their season-long engagement with the legacy of the Black Arts Movement,” added Tavia Nyong’o. “This evening of art, dance, music and ‘getting down’ reimagines a 60s-era happening for today.”
Arts Education at the Armory draws on this program for its Armory Art Together initiative this spring semester, which commissions original works of art from students in the Armory’s Youth Corps. Over four weeks, Youth Corps members are exploring the works of various artists from the Black Arts Movement—notably Thulani Davis, Kay Brown, Benny Andrews, Max Roach, and Adrienne Kennedy—and the idea of artmaking as a tool for liberation. Their final commissions will be collected in a digital exhibition for viewing at the May 20th event. The Armory’s creativity-based arts education programs provide access to the arts to thousands of students from underserved New York City public schools, engaging them with the institution’s artistic programming and outside-the-box creative processes. Youth Corps, the Armory’s year-round paid internship program, begins in high school and continues into the critical post-high school years, providing interns with mentored employment, job training, and skill development, as well as a network of peers and mentors, to support their individual college and career goals.
Held in the Armory’s historic period rooms and spaces, Making Space is an insightful series of cutting-edge conversations, performances, and activations that provides a unique forum for bridging art and culture. Curated by Tavia Nyong’o, these gatherings foster the art of conversation and dialogue about Armory productions and urgent questions of our day, making space for new points of view and unique perspectives from a diverse array of artists, scholars, cultural leaders, and social trailblazers. The 2023 Season of Making Space previously featured: Symposium: Sound & Color – The Future of Race in Design, an interdisciplinary forum exploring how race matters in creative design for live performance hosted by lighting designer Jane Cox, playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, set designer Mimi Lien, and sound designer and composer Mikaal Sulaiman and featuring collaborations with Design Action and Oregon Shakespeare Festival; and Juke Joint, a two-day event spotlighting the history of the juke joint in Black American social history and its legacy in music and culture, including performances by Pamela Sneed and Stew. Future programs on the Making Space Public Programming series include: Hidden Conversations, a salon responding to James Baldwin and Audre Lorde’s published conversation of the same name co-presented with National Black Theatre; Corpus Delicti, a convening of artists, activists, and intellectuals imagines and enacts transgender art and music as a vehicle for dialogue across differences presented in conjunction with Arca’s Mutant; Destrudo; and Seasons of Dance, a contemporary dance salon presented in conjunction with The Rite of Spring / common ground[s].
Tickets at $35 (plus fees) are available for purchase online at armoryonpark.org or through the Box Office by phone at (212) 933-5812, from 10 am to 6 pm, Monday through Friday. In person Box Office hours may vary.
Bloomberg Philanthropies is the Armory’s 2023 Season Sponsor.
Harlem Stage’s Black Arts Movement: Examined series is supported by the Mellon Foundation.
Support for Park Avenue Armory’s artistic season has been generously provided by the Charina Endowment Fund, the Donald A. Pels Charitable Trust, The Shubert Foundation, the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, the Howard Gilman Foundation, the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Marc Haas Foundation, the Prospect Hill Foundation, the Reed Foundation, Wescustogo Foundation, the Leon Levy Foundation, the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, GRoW @ Annenberg, The Emma and Georgina Bloomberg Foundation, the Richenthal Foundation, and the Isak and Rose Weinman Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the Armory’s Artistic Council. Public support for this program is provided, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.
Guitarist and two-time Grammy Award recipient Vernon Reid has been a musical force for four decades. Though best known as the leader of the groundbreaking rock band Living Colour, who debuted in 1988 with the double-platinum album Vivid, Reid has displayed his musical diversity through solo projects (Masque, Yohimbe Brothers), studio work (Lady Gaga, The Roots, The Ramones, Public Enemy), and film scores (Paid in Full, Ghosts of Attica). Breaking through on the avant-jazz scene on the Lower East Side with Decoding Society and Defunkt, Reid has been musically building on that groundwork ever since. In 1985, he co-founded the much-needed Black Rock Coalition to confront racism in the music industry. Additionally, Reid also worked with leading choreographer Bill T. Jones in 1994 on the two-part dance project Still/Here. Always moving forward, Reid is currently working on a variety of ventures, including a new solo album, a new soundtrack for the latest film directed by Brad Lichtenstein, and a book of his photographs. This summer Reid will be on the road with his band Living Colour, whose last album Shade was released in 2017.
Carl Hancock Rux
Carl Hancock Rux is an American poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, recording artist, actor, theater director, radio journalist, as well as a frequent collaborator in the fields of film, modern dance, and contemporary art. He is the author of several books including the Village Voice Literary Prize-winning collection of poetry Pagan Operetta, the novel Asphalt, and the Obie Award-winning play Talk. His music has been released internationally on several labels including Sony/550, Thirsty Ear, and Giant Step. Rux is also Co-Artistic Director of Mabou Mines, an experimental theater company founded in 1970 and based in New York City.
Park Avenue Armory
Park Avenue Armory’s Public Programming series brings diverse artists and cultural thought-leaders together for discussion and performance around the important issues of our time viewed through an artistic lens. Launched in 2017, the series encompasses a variety of programs including large-scale community events; multi-day symposia; intimate salons featuring performances, panels, and discussions; Artist Talks in relation to the Armory’s Drill Hall programming; and other creative interventions.
Highlights from the Public Programming series include: Carrie Mae Weems’ 2017 event The Shape of Things and 2021 convening and concert series Land of Broken Dreams, whose participants included Elizabeth Alexander, Theaster Gates, Elizabeth Diller, Nona Hendryx, Somi, and Spike Lee, among others; a daylong Lenape Pow Wow and Standing Ground Symposium held in the Wade Thompson Drill Hall, the first congregation of Lenape Elders on Manhattan Island since the 1700s; “A New Vision for Justice in America” conversation series in collaboration with Common Justice, exploring new coalitions, insights, and ways of understanding question of justice and injustice in relation moderated by FLEXN Evolution creators Reggie (Regg Roc) Gray and director Peter Sellars;the 2019 Black Artists Retreat hosted by Theaster Gates, which included public talks and performances, private sessions for the 300 attending artists, and a roller skating rink; 100 Years | 100 Women, a multiorganization commissioning project that invited 100 women artists and cultural creators to respond to women’s suffrage; a Queer Hip Hop Cypher, delving into the queer origins and aesthetics of hip hop with Astraea award-winning duo Krudxs Cubensi and author and scholar Dr. Shante Paradigm Smalls; the Archer Aymes Retrospective, exploring the legacy of emancipation through an immersive art installation curated by Carl Hancock Rux and featuring a concert performance by mezzo soprano Alicia Hall Moran and pianist Aaron Diehl, presented as one component of a three-part series commemorating Juneteenth in collaboration with Harlem Stage and Lincoln Center as part of the Festival of New York; and legendary artist Nao Bustamante’s BLOOM, a cross-disciplinary investigation centered around the design of the vaginal speculum and its use in the exploitative and patriarchal history of the pelvic examination.
Notable Public Programming salons include: the Literature Salon hosted by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, whose participants included Lynn Nottage, Suzan Lori-Parks, and Jeremy O. Harris, a Spoken Word Salon co-hosted with the Nuyorican Poets Cafe; a Film Salon featuring the works of immersive artist and film director Lynette Wallworth; “Museum as Sanctuary” led by installation artist and Artist-in-Residence Tania Bruguera, curated by Sonia Guiñansaca and CultureStrike, and featuring un docu-artists Julio Salgado and Emulsify; a Dance Salon presented in partnership with Dance Theater of Harlem, including New York City Ballet’s Wendy Whelan and choreographer Francesca Harper, among others; and Captcha: Dancing, Data, Liberation, a salon exploring Black visual complexity and spirit, led by visionary artist Rashaad Newsome and featuring Saidiya V. Hartman, Kiyan Williams, Dazié Rustin Grego-Sykes, Ms.Boogie, Puma Camillê, and others.
Artist Talks have featured esteemed artists, scholars, and thought leaders, such as: architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron in conversation with Ai Wei Wei, moderated by Juilliard president Damian Woetzel; director Ariane Mnouchkine and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner in conversation with New Yorker editor David Remnick; director Ivo van Hove in conversation with James Nicola, Artistic Director of New York Theater Workshop; artist William Kentridge and his collaborators Philip Miller and Thuthuka Sibisi in conversation with Dr. Augustus Casely Hayford, Director of the Smithsonian, National Museum of African Art; Lehman Trilogy director Sam Mendez and adapter Ben Powers in conversation with playwright Lynn Nottage; artist and composer Heiner Goebbels in conversation with composer, vocalist, and scholar Gelsey Bell; choreographer Bill T. Jones in conversation with architect Elizabeth Diller and designer Peter Nigrini, moderated by vocalist and performance artist Helga Davis; and composer, librettist, and director Michel van der Aa in conversation with conceptual and performance artist Marina Abramović.
At the www.armoryonpark.org
Photo credit: Kolonial by Stefanie Batten Bland (2021). By Maria Baranova.