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Examining the life and artistry of enslaved S.C. potter David Drake

On Sunday, Feb. 19, the Peace Center will host what may be the year’s best opportunity to celebrate the art and lives of South Carolina’s most distinguished Black artists, both living and deceased.

S.C. Governor’s Award recipient and poet Glenis Redmond, joined by MacArthur Fellow and literary historian P. Gabrielle Foreman, will lead a discussion of the collaborative book, Praise Songs for Dave the Potter. Featuring the art of internationally acclaimed Gullah painter Jonathan Green and Redmond’s poetry, Praise Songs for Dave the Potter examines how South Carolina slave David Drake has inspired visual artists and poets who claim him as an artistic ancestor. One of the country’s most accomplished 19th century potters, David Drake was a South Carolina slave in the Edgefield District. His pots—many inscribed with song and verse—are treasured artifacts by collectors and museum curators across the U.S. Redmond and Foreman will lead a discussion of Praise Songs, and books will be available for purchase and signing afterward. Tickets are $15 and all are welcome. Click here for more information.

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Launch party announced for new Jonathan Green book

Party with the artist Dec. 16

The Koger Center in Columbia announced plans to celebrate the launch of Jonathan Green's new book with a party on Thursday, Dec. 16 from 6-7:30 p.m.

Jonathan Green Spoleto 2016Green's depictions of the Gullah life and culture, established by descendants of enslaved Africans who settled between northern Florida and North Carolina during the nineteenth century have earned him considerable notoriety. The vividly colored paintings and prints have captured and preserved the daily rituals and Gullah traditions of his childhood in the Lowcountry marshes of South Carolina. In 2010, the South Carolina Arts Commission presented Green the Governor's Award for the Arts in lifetime achievement. From press materials about Gullah Spirit:

While his art continues to express the same energy, color, and deep respect for his ancestors, Green's techniques have evolved to feature bolder brush strokes and a use of depth and texture, all guided by his maturing artistic vision that is now more often about experiencing freedom and contentment through his art. This vision is reflected in the 179 new paintings featured in Gullah Spirit. His open and inviting images beckon the world to not only see this vanishing culture but also to embrace its truth and enduring spirit.

Using both the aesthetics of his heritage and the abstraction of the human figure, Green creates an almost mythological narrative from his everyday observations of rural and urban environments. Expressed through his mastery of color, Green illuminates the challenges and beauty of work, love, belonging, and the richness of community.

Angela D. Mack, executive director of the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, provides a foreword. The book also includes short essays by historian Walter B. Edgar, educator Kim Cliett Long, and curator Kevin Grogan.

Tickets for the event are $65 and available now by clicking here.

Jason Rapp

Jonathan Green to receive Order of the Palmetto

Governor to present award tomorrow

Jonathan Green will be awarded the prestigious Order of the Palmetto on Wednesday, March 20 at noon in the Governor’s office. The event will take place at 1100 Gervais Street, Columbia. Because of space constraints, the event is limited to media only. The Order of the Palmetto Award is given to recognize lifetime achievement and service. It is the highest civilian honor awarded by the state of South Carolina. Jonathan Green is a world renowned artist and 2010 recipient of the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Award for the Arts for lifetime achievement. Green has participated in traveling exhibitions throughout the U.S. and 48 solo exhibitions. His work is in the permanent collections of numerous museums, including the Smithsonian, Morris Museum in Augusta, Ga., the Afro-American Museum in Philadelphia, Naples (Fla.) Museum of Art, and the IFCC Cultural Center in Portland, Ore. Columbia City Ballet used his art as inspiration for a critically-acclaimed ballet that world premiered in Columbia in 2005.

Tuning Up: Creative Placemaking, Gullah Geechee in Philadelphia, more

Good morning!  "Tuning Up" is a morning post series where The Hub delivers quick-hit arts stories of interest to readers. Sometimes there will be one story, sometimes there will be several. Get in tune now, and have a masterpiece of a day. And now, in no particular order...

  • You'll be hearing more from us about this, but we have to start somewhere. South Arts is presenting the "Beyond Big Cities" Southern Creative Placemaking Conference in Chattanooga, Tenn. next month. This is the place to be for civic/arts leaders interesting in leveraging the creative assets in rural communities and small towns to attract and retain residents, creatives and businesses, and bring visitors to experience the unique nature of your place.
  • The Gullah Geechee remain in the spotlight, this time as Aunt Pearlie Sue and the Gullah Kinfolk take the story of Gullah Geechees to the City of Brotherly Love for a free performance at Villanova University. The performance will recognize the important link between Philadelphia and the Sea Islands of S.C. during slavery and Reconstruction. Group leader Anita Singleton-Prather is a Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award winner and an acclaimed musician, storyteller, and actress.
  • Verner Award recipients Jonathan Green (2010) and William Starrett (2002) rekindle a collaboration that took Green's paintings (right) Off the Wall and Onto the Stage with Columbia City Ballet when they reprise the critically acclaimed ballet at Township Auditorium in Columbia this Friday and in Charleston Saturday, March 3.
  • And finally, a hearty congratulations to Arts Commission Chairman Henry Horowitz for receiving the Buck Mikel Leadership Award from the Greenville Chamber of Commerce.

South Carolina Ballet production to celebrate human spirit in response to Emanuel AME shootings

From the Charleston Post and Courier Article by Adam Parker

When William Starrett, artistic director of the Columbia City Ballet, received in 2002 an Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award, artist Jonathan Green delivered the remarks at the ceremony. Green was impressed enough by Starrett’s accomplishments to offer the ballet director a painting to auction as a fundraiser. Starrett was speechless and grateful. Once he gathered himself, he said he wanted to make a ballet based on Green’s art. Three years and $1.2 million later, the ballet company presented "Off the Wall and Onto the Stage: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green." At the end of each vignette, dancers formed a tableau mimicking one of Green’s paintings, then a huge screen dropped to the stage revealing an enlarged reproduction of the original piece of art. Arguably, the show is to Columbia City Ballet what “Revelations” is to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: a beloved cornerstone of its repertoire that helps define the company. Now the dance troupe is working again with Green and several others to produce a new work that honors the victims of the Emanuel AME Church shooting, their families and the broader community, whose members continue to grapple with the significance and aftermath of a terrible crime. “Emanuel: Love is the Answer” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. April 1 at the Sottile Theatre, 44 George St., with support from the Patrick Family Foundation and the South Carolina Arts Commission. The ballet will include a series of danced vignettes involving 22 of the company’s 32 dancers, Starrett said. “This is my effort to make sense of all this, and to heal from it,” he said. The multimedia production is by the South Carolina Ballet, an enterprise of Columbia City Ballet. It will include projected videos and images: Green’s colorful Gullah-inspired paintings, Jenny Horne’s now-famous General Assembly speech calling for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds, comments from great spiritual and political leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Theresa, and more. The 90-minute ballet will be organized into three parts, beginning with an exploration of “how we are here and why,” continuing with a survey of the social progress we’ve made in South Carolina and concluding with a rumination on love, fraternity, forgiveness and acceptance, Starrett said. “Dance is a great art form to help unify and bring us together,” he said. Starrett grew up in California, danced professionally with the Royal Winnepeg Ballet, Geoffrey Ballet and American Ballet Theater, then settled in South Carolina 30 years ago to run the Columbia-based ballet company. He said “Emanuel: Love is the Answer” surely has a spiritual dimension, thanks in part to its use of paintings. “All art, especially visual art, is a form of prayer,” he said. Charles “Bud” Ferillo, coordinator of the South Carolina Collaborative for Race and Reconciliation, a project of the University of South Carolina, said his organization endorses the ballet project. Ferillo is helping to promote it. “This ballet is poetry in motion and will be the basis for further healing,” the Charleston native said. "Every citizen, of every race, will benefit from this performance.” Horne said she was driven to deliver her heartfelt speech, credited with pushing reluctant lawmakers to agree to the flag’s removal, because the banner was an offense to her friends. “It was personal.” She had known the Rev. Clementa Pinckney first as a young page at the Statehouse and later as a senator, and his death at the hands of a white supremacist on June 17, 2015, was devastating. When she witnessed many thousands of people enduring the summer heat and hoping to gain access to Pinckney’s funeral, she was especially moved, she said. “The image of young and old, black and white, American and people here to tour the city from other countries” — this array of grieving people gave her hope. So in a last-minute, Hail-Mary attempt to convince her colleagues to take down the flag, she delivered her fiery, from-the-heart speech. Though she is no longer serving in the Legislature, her speech continues to reverberate. And now it is part of a work of art. “I’m so grateful to be part of this beautiful tribute to the families, the victims, this church and this city and all of South Carolina,” Horne said. Tickets for the ballet are $25-$45 and available at http://columbiacityballet.com/production/emanuel9/. The company will perform "Emanuel" at the Camden Fine Arts Center on April 4 and at Columbia's Koger Arts Center on April 7 and 8.

S.C. African American Heritage conference features Jonathan Green

Jonathan GreenSouth Carolina artist Jonathan Green will headline the annual conference of the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission in Columbia on Friday, March 28, at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Green, widely known for his bold, colorful paintings depicting Gullah life in the South Carolina Lowcountry where he grew up, will be the keynote speaker for the conference's awards ceremony. Two signed posters of his paintings will be up for auction.

This year's conference theme is "Exploring African American History Through the Arts." Presentations include building arts education into today's education curricula, capturing family stories using visual and media arts, and preserving a community's history.

The day will end with a performance by the Concert Choir of Benedict College demonstrating the evolution of spiritual music from chants and shape notes to hymns and contemporary gospel.

The conference runs from 9 a.m. -- 5 p.m. and is open to the public. Registration is $50. Find more information or register online.

Image: Jonathan Green, Sea Swing

Via: South Carolina African American Heritage Commission

Artist Jonathan Green working to reclaim the legacies of Lowcountry rice culture

What are the cultural legacies of rice production by enslaved West Africans, and how did those legacies shape life in the South Carolina Lowcountry and beyond? The Lowcountry Rice Culture Forum will examine these questions in an effort to revive the significance of rice in the building of Charleston and the Southeast. The forum will use this history as a launching point for broad discussions of race, class, art, trade, history and economics—the various aspects of culture in the Southeast. Organized by artist Jonathan Green's nonprofit, the Lowcountry Rice Culture Project, the forum takes place Sept. 12-14 in several locations in Charleston. The forum includes sessions on cooking rice, its historical and economic impact, and a visit to a rice field under cultivation at Middleton Place Plantation. Three-day registration is $125, with a one-day registration (Friday only) for $25. For more information or to register for the forum, visit Lowcountry Rice Culture Project's website. Jonathan Green, Lowcountry Blue HouseIn addition, Green's involvement with the Lowcountry Rice Culture Project has inspired an exhibition, Unenslaved: Rice Culture Paintings by Jonathan Green, which runs Aug. 29 through Dec. 15 at the College of Charleston's Avery Research Center for African American Culture. The exhibition features 25 of Green’s original works that highlight the prominence and prevalence of rice and its lasting impact on culture in the South Carolina Lowcountry. (Green's work, Lowcountry Blue House, pictured, is one of the exhibition works on loan from a private collector.) Read more about Green's vision for the Lowcountry Rice Culture Project in this article from the Island Packet:

South Carolina rice, and the West African slaves who cultivated it, built Charleston into one of the largest and wealthiest cities in British colonial America during the 1700s. Now artist Jonathan Green sees rice as a way to build bridges between people. Green, whose colorful paintings of Gullah scenes are featured in art collections worldwide, has formed the nonprofit Lowcountry Rice Culture Project, through work with other Charlestonians and an advisory panel of artists, educators and historians. He said the idea is to focus on the significance of rice in the building of Charleston and the Southeast and use it as a starting point for broader discussions of how race, class, art and history influenced the region and reverberate today. Slaves from West Africa brought the skills to grow and harvest the rice that provided planters with wealth and built the economic foundation for the region. Those slaves also developed a culture that survives today in the Gullah people of the Carolinas coast and the Geechee people of the Georgia and Florida coast. But Green, 58, said that history has largely been lost in the telling of America's story. "How is it through all the years that all we take from it is music and dance?" Green said. "Why not the presentation of cultural customs? Why not the visual imagery? Because there was no interest in the entirety of America to have it part of the culture." Green said the forum, developed over three years, will work to inform people of how the bedrock of wealth in the region was the work of slaves and their cultivation of rice. It will be a way of looking at history that may be new to many. "I hope it will be a new way of having conversations about Southern American history," Green said, adding that such discussions often get sidetracked by the issue of slavery. "I knew and believed that my life had never been based on the residuals of slavery but was always based on West Africa and what the people did in terms of craft and culture," said Green, who grew up in rural Gardens Corner, between Charleston and Beaufort. "But I kept bumping into these really bad dudes called cotton and tobacco." On Thursday, the project gets underway when an exhibit titled "Unenslaved: Rice Culture Paintings by Jonathan Green" opens at the College of Charleston's Avery Research Center for African American Culture. Then on Sept. 12, a three-day Lowcountry Rice Culture Forum will be held at various locations around Charleston. It includes sessions on cooking rice, its historical and economic impact, and a visit to a rice field under cultivation at Middleton Place Plantation. A delegation of officials and historians will attend from the West African nation of Guinea, an area from which slaves were brought to South Carolina. The forum's partners around the country include the Maryland Institute College of Art Center for Race and Culture in Baltimore, the Georgetown County Library and the College of Charleston. "I feel strongly the Lowcountry is truly the center for African-American culture," said Jane Aldrich, the forum's executive director. "Yes, there was slavery in Virginia and slavery in New York. But here in the rice culture these rice plantations had large numbers of people who congregated and created a culture." She added that South Carolina rice planters such as Arthur Middleton and others were able to support the American Revolution because growing rice gave them the money and time to do so. "Without West Africans, we might not be in the United States of America today," she said.
Via: The Island Packet, Lowcountry Rice Culture Project In 2010, Jonathan Green received an Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts for Lifetime Achievement.

Gibbes Museum exhibitions: Vibrant Vision and Witness to History

Vibrant Vision: The Collection of Jonathan Green and Richard Weedman is on view in the Main Gallery through April 21, 2013.  Over the past 35 years, acclaimed artist Jonathan Green and his partner and studio director, Richard Weedman, have amassed an astonishing collection of paintings, sculpture and works on paper. Selected from their collection, this exhibition features work by African American, Caribbean, Latin American and American artists that reflect the diverse cultural influences that have shaped American art since the 20th century. Pictured: Growth–A Life Symbol, 1974, by Ralph Arnold (American, 1929–2006), acrylic on canvas, 56 x 56 inches, courtesy of Jonathan Green and Richard Weedman. Witness to History: Civil Rights Era Photographs by James Karales is on view through May 12, 2013 in the Rotunda Galleries. Engaged as a photo-journalist for Look magazine, acclaimed photographer James Karales witnessed and documented many historic events during the Civil Rights movement and created some of the era’s most iconic images. Pictured: Selma to Montgomery March for Voting Rights in 1965, 1965, by James Karales (American, 1930-2002), vintage gelatin silver print. ©Image courtesy of the Estate of James Karales. Pictured in header: Fishing Spot, 2011, by Jonathan Green (American, b. 1955), oil on canvas, 11 x 14 inches. Courtesy of Jonathan Green and Richard Weedman. Pictured in search results: Southern Family Series, 1943, by William H. Johnson (American, 1901–1970), serigraph on paper, 17 x 13 ½ inches, courtesy of Jonathan Green and Richard Weedman.