This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance, and the city of Columbus is celebrating in a big way. The cultural and social movement known as the Harlem Renaissance quickly spread to cities across the country, and saw the rise of a new sense of black pride. From art to dance, to music and more, Columbus’ celebration offers an opportunity to experience black art past and present. Here are five things not to miss.
'I, Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100' and Isaac Julien: 'Looking for Langston' Exhibitions at Columbus Museum of Art
The centerpiece for the citywide celebration is the I, Too, Sing America exhibition, guest curated by award-winning journalist Wil Haygood, a Columbus native best known as the author of The Butler. The exhibition includes more than 130 paintings, prints and sculptures by Jacob Lawrence, Aaron Douglas, Augusta Savage and more that explore the artistic legacy of the Harlem Renaissance. As Haygood writes, “the Harlem Renaissance became the first collective salvo in the history of the Americas to herald the black experience.” Accompanying the art are important books and magazines from the era, and audio recordings of Columbus poets Barbara Fant and Tripp Fontaine reading works from the era by Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Claude McKay.
Isaac Julien: Looking for Langston is presented in conjunction with I, Too, Sing America, and includes Julien’s landmark film, which reimagines on the life of poet Langston Hughes and a community of gay artists during the Harlem Renaissance. Both exhibitions will remain on view through January 20, 2019.
Image: Allan Rohan Crite, School’s Out, 1936. Oil on canvas, 30 1/4 x 36 1/8 in. (76.9 x 91.8 cm.). Smithsonian American Art Museum,Transfer from General Services Administration
Mickalene Thomas: 'I Can’t See You Without Me' Exhibition at the Wexner Center for the Arts
If the I, Too, Sing America exhibition is an homage to past black artists, Mickalene Thomas: I Can’t See You Without Me is very much about the creative explosion of the present. Inspiration for Thomas’ work comes from everything from the writings of Alice Walker and Toni Morrison to 1970s music and design, to iconic portraits from art history. Thomas’ rhinestone-studded portraits of her muses (her late mother, Sandra; her former girlfriend, Maya; her current partner, Racquel; and the artist herself) reclaim female identity, and fill the galleries with joy, strength and love.
Harlem Renaissance – Speakeasy on the Avenue
Columbus’ dance troupe BalletMet teams up with the King Arts Complex and local musicians and writers to present a roaring 20’s-inspired program of dance, music and poetry. Guests are encouraged to dress in their finest Harlem Renaissance attire for this November 9 performance at the King Arts Complex on Columbus’ east side.
Short North Mural Series
Look for the work of the next Renaissance of black artists in the most recent version of the Short North mural series. The Short North Arts District collaborated with Short North art galleries to create a new round of public art murals that showcase established and emerging Columbus black artists. Most of the dozen murals are installed up and down High Street in the District. Don’t miss Marshall Shorts’ I, Too, Columbus mural (a nod to Harlem artist Aaron Douglas), or the Richard Pryor mural by Terry Norman who was inspired by Pryor’s use of humor to tackle hard conversations.
Songs and Sounds of the Harlem Renaissance at the Lincoln Theater
The citywide celebration culminates in January, when Columbus’ Jazz Arts Group brings the sounds of the Harlem Renaissance alive through the music of Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong and more. The concert takes place at the restored Lincoln Theater in the King-Lincoln District, where much of Columbus’ own artistic flourishing occured during the Harlem Renaissance.
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