This Week in Black Art and Culte is sponsored by The Children’s Trust
A Pittsburgh community hosts the opening ceremony for the August Wilson House. The New York City Ballet hires Solange Knowles as its first Black female composer. Jordan Brand and Howard University sign a multi-year collaboration. Danni Gee isnamed the new director of programming for the Joyce Theater. Read more in This Week in Black Art and Culture.
August Wilson House Opens
Hundreds, including Oscar winner Denzel Washington, attended the inauguration of a museum dedicated to August Wilson’s childhood home in Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District, where the playwright was born and raised, according to The New York Times. After years of fundraising and restoration, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright’s childhood home finally is accessible to the public. In this home, located at 1727 Bedford Ave., Washington gave the opening comments. The home is now a place where the next generation of artists’ interests may flourish as a result of the help of many Pittsburgh foundations and other great individuals like Washington.
Paul Ellis, Wilson’s nephew, took action to preserve the playwright’s boyhood home after his untimely death in 2005 at age 60 by establishing the Daisy Wilson Artist Community, named after Wilson’s mother. The renovated building will host community events, tiny artist studios, and scholarships for local and national artists and researchers to honor Wilson’s legacy and benefit the local community. With the annual August Wilson Birthday Celebration Block Party hosted by Dollar Bank in April, the August Wilson House Year of Celebration officially launched.
The celebration will continue with various unique programming and activities until April 2023. From Aug. 12-Sept. 18, Wilson’s Jitney, directed by Mark Clayton Southers and performed by Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, will be performed in the backyard on an outdoor stage.
Constanza Romero Wilson, who costumed several of her husband’s later plays, was also a featured speaker at the opening. “This is sacred ground,” she said of the house. “It commemorates our generation’s hero—August Wilson. August Wilson House belongs to the Hill, to Black Americans, and because his stories are American stories of triumph under oppression, it belongs to all of us Americans.”
NYC Ballet Hires Solange Knowles
New York City Ballet (NYCB) has commissioned Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, and visual artist Solange Knowles to compose a new score for the company’s 11th annual Fall Fashion Gala, which will be performed on Wednesday, Sept. 28 at Lincoln Center. This is Solange’s debut work for a ballet company, and it will be performed by members of the New York City Ballet Orchestra and some of her regular musical colleagues.
The score will be written for a world premiere by choreographerGianna Reisen, her third composition for New York City Ballet. In 2017, Reisen set a record as the company’s youngest choreographer. New York City Ballet’s Resident Lighting Director Mark Stanley and Costume Designer Alejandro Gómez Palomo for Palomo Spain have collaborated to create the sparkling outfits for this year’s gala.
After its world debut at the Fall Fashion Gala on Sept. 28, the piece will be performed in October, and in May, shows will be scheduled as part of NYCB’s Spring Season of 2023.
No stranger to artistic performance, Solange created Orion’s Rise (debuting in 2016), a concert tour with meticulously crafted visuals, spurred by her A Seat at the Table album. The tour featured two sold-out performances at Radio City Music Hall and concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, the Kennedy Center, the Greek Theatre and the Orpheum Theater. Solange played four sold-out gigs in Australia’s renowned Sydney Opera House in June 2018 to promote the album.
Jordan X Howard, Nike and Howard University To Collaborate
Jordan X Howard, Nike and Howard University have committed to working together for the next 20 years. The collaboration aims to improve Howard University’s sports programs, broaden the school’s recruiting pool, and encourage the next generation to strive for greatness. Michael Jordan and Nike’s Jordan Brand have pledged $100 million to the Black community, bolstering the efforts of groups working to bring about structural change.
“Howard University and Jordan Brand share a legacy of excellence and deep commitment to the Black Community,” Craig Williams, Jordan Brand president said. “As an HBCU graduate, I understand the educational impact an institution like Howard University has. We are proud to partner with Howard University and see the growth in Black talent on the field and well beyond it.”
The partnership deepens Jordan Brand’s connection to HBCU culture—which has influenced all aspects of Black culture in North America—and honors the university’s heritage by driving cultural connections across the diaspora. “We have always been proud of our legacy at Howard University, but we are audacious enough to believe our future could be brighter than our past,”Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick, Howard University president, said. “Partnering with Jordan Brand is another signal of our ambitions as a university to become an even brighter beacon for Black excellence. We are thrilled to work on that vision of greatness together.”
The first official debut of the Jumpman outfits for the Howard University athletic department is scheduled for Aug. 27. “HBCUs have been impacting culture since the beginning,” said Jordyn Allen, Howard University Student Association president. “Now we see a new era on the horizon and an opportunity with Jordan Brand to introduce Howard University to the world. I’m excited to see our university collaborate with a partner like Jordan Brand that already means so much to the Black community. Together, we have the power to make a difference and inspire the next generation of students to do the same.”
Danni Gee Takes on New Role at Joyce Theatre
Danni Gee will take on the role of director of programming at the Joyce Theater Foundation. Aaron Mattocks, who had been in the role since its inception in 2018, has resigned in order to move to the Catskills, and Gee has been appointed to take his place beginning Sept. 12. Formerly a main dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Gee has performed all around the world. Gee, a member of the Ailey group since 2002, had her Joyce Theater debut in 1990 while dancing with the Philadelphia Dance Company.
Gee’s extensive background in the performing arts includes, but is not limited to, singing backup for Gloria Gaynor, Kathy Sledge, Cher, and her indie rock band, Suga Bush, and more than a decade as dance curator for City Parks Foundation’s SummerStage. Gee had previously appeared at the Joyce in 1990 as a teenage dancer with Philadanco before she joined the Ailey company. She took over as host of the weekly DIY Instagram series “dannIGeeLive” in April 2020.
In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, she developed the program to provide aid to her creative community through the livestreaming of stimulating and illuminating discussions between artists and teachers working in various fields and styles.
Danni Gee said, “As a dancer, it was a profoundly fulfilling journey performing with such legendary companies as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and with some of the world’s best music artists. Since becoming a presenter, I have thrived on bringing the arts to a wide array of communities.
“And now, it is an incredible full-circle moment returning to the renowned Joyce Theater as its director of programming, having danced on that stage in 1990 with Philadanco—even appearing on the marquee poster for that engagement. This is the cherry on top of a tremendously delicious cake. I am excited about and look forward to working with Linda Shelton and the entire Joyce family as we look to share our love of dance with as many people as we can.”
-Compiled by Sumaiyah E Wade