Friday, August 8, 2008

ICA - Live music, silent meditation, and Anish Kapoor

I found myself at the ICA last week experiencing music and art. At first, I lounged on The Back Patio watching the water while listening to live music. The atmosphere was great despite the stuffy air. I wish I lived closer because I would definitely take advantage of the free music and the beautiful surroundings on Thursday nights. I was with others, but I spotted people by themselves just unwinding after work with books or dreamy gazes. The music wasn't great. I think I was expecting something with more Brazilian beats and tempos, but it just sounded like "easy listening" jazz, which I don't enjoy. If the musicians don't want to challenge ears with unusual beats, silences, or noise, I prefer to hear tried-and-true swing and/or samba. But, I still enjoyed myself because a soul can buy drinks and just camp out on the benches overlooking the water. The vibe reminds me of Bryant Park in New York. But, it's much tinier and more obvious when you people watch. And, I don't wear sunglasses.

The ICA really does have one of the best views in town, and I'm very appreciative that there's a way to appreciate it without having to enter the museum. I just love watching the water, and seeing how the sun sets. One of the best things I observed was this tiny girl in a rocking outfit. She must have been six or seven years old. She was dressed in black--a black halter top with a red heart paired with frilly black pants. The pants had tiny ruffles from the waistband down to the hemlines. The pants were so adorable, and she totally rocked her look. Her hair was in a sharp bob and her feet were shod in purple crocs. She attracted a lot of attention as she dashed madly around adults. Normally, I find the presence of young children annoying when cocktails are being served. But, the bold fashion and haphazard running just enhanced my chill.

We were at the ICA to see a performance linked to the special project exhibition, Momentum 11: Nicholas Hlobo. Hlobo has art installed in one of the galleries on the top floor at the ICA. I admired his art that was installed in the gallery. The three-dimensional object that inserted itself through one of the gallery walls was beautiful, and instantly reminded me of Petah Coyne. It was a giant hanging rubber organ that bulged midair but narrowed as it approached the wall, cut into it, and then burst out on the other side with entrails of ribbon, plastic and rubber. Wall pieces consisted of large unmounted paper pierced by ribbon in a lacing pattern. From far away, it had the effect of an incomplete topographical map. Closer, the art had more of a sensual impact. In addition to the ribbon lacing (immediately I flashed back to my Montessori preschool's lacing toys), Hlobo would blend in some crocheted yarn or rubber pieces to the work. I found the built-up forms fascinating, especially has I had done something familiar with Baba Lala's house. I'm remembering that the gallery's light was diffused by pink gel. I don't know if the pink lights were meant to either differentiate the space from the other galleries (walls and the art usually do that for me) or enhance the art experience (I find that a bit stagey).

The performance consisted of Hlobo appearing in a natty costume and attaching himself to another wall piece. This piece was in the corner and consisted of ribbons entwined with rubber emerging from the wall and terminating to a headpiece lying on a mat of what resembled moss. Hlobo appears without introduction, sits on the mat, and meticulously puts on the headpiece to completely cover his bound dreadlocks. He then meditates for a time. I'm not sure what happens afterward because I left after watching him sit silently and/or fidget with the headpiece for 15 minutes. I'd rather have my attention arrested by a piece of art and lose track of time and space that way.

I couldn't help compare Hlobo's performance to last summer's performance piece by Ernesto Pujol, The Water Carrier. Both performers wore costumes referencing the past--Pujol in his 15th century sailor costume, and Hlobo in a black robe ornamented by a ruffled collar--and both performers linked themselves to the building. Pujol started his performance piece as if he were a piece of the museum, as if a memory had awakened and detached itself to complete a journey. Instead of detaching from the museum, Hlobo plugs into the wall. I wondered if he heard the same cranky complaints that Pujol reported on his blog. I wondered if the building was in a better mood this summer. But, I'll never know because Hlobo silently remains on the moss pad with crossed legs and no expression. His audience is left to contemplate him and come to their own conclusion. My conclusion was to check out and look at the Street Level exhibit again.

I also quickly romped through the Anish Kapoor exhibit and I was mildly disappointed. It was a like a funhouse exhibit. There were loosely formed lines to "experience" the art, and people were very animated--lots of movement and talking. But, I found it irritating. Too much like the P.S. 1 part of the Olafur Eliasson's retrospective in New York. It was a scene, it was not an exhibit. I looked around to see where the funnel cakes and cotton candy were being sold. I'm a huge Kapoor fan, but I had a better experience viewing his work in his Soho gallery.

Friday, August 1, 2008

At least I didn't have my firebomb scenario...

I went to see Step Brothers starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. It was surprisingly glorious. I have to say the man-chemistry between Ferrell and Reilly is so awesome. They just made it onto my man-couples list:

1. Peter Falk - Alan Arkin
2. Vince Vaughn - Jon Favreau
3. George Clooney - Brad Pitt
4. Will Ferrell - John C. Reilly
5. John Amos - Jimmie Walker
6. Paul Newman - Robert Redford
7. Bill Murray - Jeffrey Wright
8. Brad Pitt - Robert Redford
9. Robert De Niro - Al Pacino
10. Jerry Orbach - Benjamin Bratt

Friday, July 25, 2008

His name is Salvatore...can't be coincidence.

I just finished reading Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan. If you're from the Eighties, have any affinity for the Eighties, or you're addicted to romance--you should read this book. A key character in the story is "Salvatore," which is a name I love. One of my favorite poems features a "Salvatore." [The poet and his book are quite obscure, and I will now tear apart my apartment to find this poem. I think I turned it into a graphic poster because I loved it so much.]

And, I just came across a great interview with Salvatore Scibona. He's a former fellow, of the Mass. Cultural Council, and he discusses his experience as an author on their awesome (and getting better) blog, ArtSake. I'm going to quote the lines that made me swoon, but you should take the time to hit the blog and read the full interview. I'll post links below.

Mr. Salvatore Scibona:
"But also, what could be more unlikely, more uncanny from a writer’s point of view, than that a stranger he will never know should walk down a street with years of the writer’s thoughts in her bag? A book is such an elegant technology, something so complex in such a crude device."

"The finished novel is like a house that stands on the ruins of a previous house that stood on the ruins of another house that was built on a meaningless little patch of ground."

These expressive and lovely ideas will now drive me to a bookstore where I can peruse his new novel, The End. The description on the book's website states that it's a "...about a single day in 1953 as lived by six people in an Ohio carnival crowd." I've requested the book through my library, but impatience might drive me to purchase it despite my scholar's income. As well as checking out this book, I will browse August: Osage County, Madonna's brother's dish-all, and keep desperately searching for the July Vogue Italia, which is the issue featuring black models (editorial, not ads, and, yes, that makes a difference).


ArtSake interview with Salvatore Scibona
The End
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sure Signs of Spring

I was walking down the street and got that sweet, strong whiff of doo doo. People with kids and dogs know that smell. Looking around, I spied that a crew had spread new peat around the trees by the sidewalk. Aaaah! The peat signals that someone has expectations of growth. Winter tension just unraveled from my shoulders. Left it on the curb.

I stepped off the train. Warm air. Blue skies and an air of bonhomie. As I descended the flight of steps, a tickle started in my heart. You know it's spring when a young lady's thoughts turn to cute shoes and pedicures.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Good morning, Sunshine

Another space shuttle mission is underway. The mission crew along with the space station personnel are going to add the first part of a Japanese module to the station. Also being assembled on the outside of the station is Dextre. He's a Canadian robot with arms and gripper hands. He'll cut down on the amount of time a EVA takes up. (E.V.A. - Extra Vehicular Activity or a space walk.) His first arm was attached yesterday. Three of his robot friends showed up at the shuttle launch to celebrate his trip to space. Although some grumbling about the Three Laws of Robotics and equal rights were heard, the mood was cheery.

Songs that have been used to wake up the space crew:
"Linus & Lucy" -- A Charlie Brown Christmas
"Godzilla" -- Blue Oyster Cult
"Turn, Turn, Turn" -- The Byrds
"We're Going to Be Friends" -- The White Stripes

I tried to decide which song I would want to be awakened with in space, and here's what I came up with:

"Take Me Home (Country Roads)" -- Toots and the Maytals
shout out to my Jamaican and Pennsylvania roots

"Cherry Bomb" -- Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
yeah, i said it!

"Heartache Tonight" -- The Eagles
I'm ret and rarin' to go!

"Return of Django" -- Lee Perry & the Upsetters
Jamaica, again! Plant the Black, Gold & Green, guhl!

"Turn Me On" -- Nina Simone
"like a lightbulb in a dark room, I'm just waitin' for you to turn me on..." how apropos, non?

Holey Moley! How could I forget?

"Pennsylvania Polka"
shout out to my home state, y'all!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Meeting President Susan Scrimshaw

After the first forum meeting to discuss the hate mail (see previous posts) sent to a Simmons professor, I made an appointment to meet President Susan Scrimshaw. Only ten minutes were allotted for the time with the President, so I wanted to have at least three points to bring up from my side of the table. This is what I came up with:

  1. The library is not an unwelcoming place, at least, not fundamentally. I have observed with my own eyes and ears how every librarian from the top down to student workers strives to make the library inclusive and easy-to-use. So, if there's a negative perception about the library, I wanted to zero in on what was causing the perception and change it.
  2. A forum such as the one that happened the previous week needed to be repeated for students. The response at the forum was extremely positive and displayed strength--not the intended result of whoever authored the hate mail.
  3. The culture of micro-insults that exists in the hallways wasn't limited to just race and gender--ageism exists at Simmons, too.

With those talking points burned into my brain, I met President Scrimshaw. She's awesome. We discussed what was said about the library. She clarified that she believed the unwelcoming attitude and atmosphere were being created before guests were entering the library. The guests in questions were teenagers participating in a summer program using Simmons' facilities. I remember that Upward Bound used the library a lot during the summer; and foreign exchange students made their home at Simmons at the same time. Usually, these groups are given an orientation and tour before their programs begin--much like the admissions tours that go year-round. My suggestion was that the tour guides feel free to stop at the circulation desk and introduce their group to the desk workers. Especially during the summer, the patron traffic is infrequent. Stopping for a moment to exchange greetings with new patrons wouldn't be a big deal.

Then, I reiterated that a forum for students should be organized. Lo, and behold! The Diversity Council and the Office of Multicultural Affairs were hosting a forum the next day. President Scrimshaw mentioned green fliers around campus (yes, I saw them afterward--easy to pick out by the color, but teeny-tiny type and not easily scanned). After the meeting, I noticed that the event was posted on the Announcements web page on MySimmons. That one was easy.

The rest of our meeting turned to more personal topics. Honestly, I was impressed. I was cautiously hopeful about how the incident was going to be handled after talking to President Scrimshaw. Cautiously--because I'm big believer in waiting for action and not betting the rent on just talk.

The coolest thing about the meeting was the example of leadership that President Scrimshaw provided. She was open, confident and ready to exchange ideas. It was very different from the last experience I had with a college president. I "hung out" with the president of my former college. We tipped a pint back together--he was awfully diffident, awfully British. I definitely wasn't inspired, just disconcerted. I was a true freshman back then. Back to the future, President Scrimshaw gave me a template of the kind of leader I want to be.

Before attending Simmons, I sort of pooh-poohed female colleges. My take was you eventually have to join the world of men upon graduation, so you might as well get used to them. I've changed my stance a bit. At a women's college, you get to see women leaders close-up not compromising themselves or accommodating the male prerogative that is embedded in US society. And, a light goes on, "Oh! That's how you do it." I don't think I would single-sex my kid's entire education, but I definitely see how there's an advantage for girls to get rid of the boys for a while.

[I will post about the student forum soon.]

Monday, March 10, 2008

Essential Blog for MA Artists & Art Lovers

I discovered a new blog at the Massachusetts Cultural Council called ArtSake. I've already discovered two great items: weekend passes for the CRAFTBOSTON show will be available at 200 public libraries AND the heartening news of a grant for women artists over 35.

First Item

Thanks to a very generous donation by CRAFTBOSTON, 200 public libraries throughout Massachusetts will have 10 weekend passes available for their members to attend the CRAFTBOSTON event March 28-30, 2008 at Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center. CRAFTBOSTON is sponsored by The Society of Arts and Crafts.

Link to Pass Out on ArtSake

Second Item

I am proud to report that one of our commonwealth’s very own, Jill Slosberg-Ackerman (Drawing Fellow ‘06), has been awarded a prestigious grant from the foundation Anonymous Was a Woman.

If you are not familiar with the foundation, its name refers to a line in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. As the name implies, the nominators and those associated with the program are un-named, and artists are unaware that they are being considered for the award. The program was started in response to elimination of National Endowment for the Arts grants to individual artists. Awards are $25,000 each and recognize the work of women artists over the age of 35.

This year’s other winners include Miriam Beerman, Lois Conner, Petah Coyne, Agnes Denes, Diane Edison, Paula Hayes, Joan Semmel, Leslie Thorton, and Carrie Mae Weems. 121 such awards have been made over the past 12 years.

Link to Who Are You on ArtSake

I think it's awesome that CRAFTBOSTON is making free passes available through public libraries. If you want to find out which Massachusetts public libraries have the passes go to CRAFTBOSTON's website and sniff around the News Room page. The list is part of a press release. I will say that the BPL is well-represented--shout out to Main Branch and West End--and passes are available at the Brookline Public Library. You have to be a member of the library to check out the passes. If you're not an official member already, bring a picture i.d. and some mail with your address to the relevant branch. 1-2-3, presto! You should be hooked up for an awesome day of crafts browsing (sorry, Etsy, sometimes you just gotta see and touch it in person). A birdy told me this year the Society of Arts & Crafts will provide a way for people to identify immediately the affordable items at a vendor's stall. Start stuffing the cookie jar for a springtime splurge, y'all.

I love that there's a stealth grant exists for women artists over 35. Like the flying finger of fate, BOOM!, twenty-five grand lands in your lap to get you to the next stage of your artistic growth. It's very hush-hush because I couldn't even find a website for it. Foundation members' identities are secret, and the artists don't know they're being nominated or considered until they get word about the check coming their way.

I only found two web articles via Google about the foundation--no serious search using my super-powered e-databases at my college library. If you want to search for yourself, keep the verb tense correct: 'was,' not 'is.' If you use the present tense, you're bound to find a personal blog and whatnot. One of the articles, found cached on, uses the grant recipients' own words to illustrate how necessary and wonderful this grant is for women artists.
Another previous recipient explained, “For a woman things don’t get easier as one gets older, they get harder…[I]n my experience, the backlash becomes stronger and stronger against those women who have chosen or fallen outside of societal norms in terms of career, marriage and family. I’ve never felt the weight of society’s judgment more since I turned forty...

The other article provides some background information about the grant and can be found by clicking this link. (I didn't link the article because I think Google has cached it and therefore pulling it up can be sticky, but not impossible.) Both articles are from before 2005, and I find it fascinating that there's nothing more recent about the award and the recipients. Let's get out there and promote these women artists! Why? Because one of them, Petah Coyne, is a favorite of mine.

I discovered Coyne at the Chicago Culture Center. She was on the top floor gallery in a splendid Beaux-Arts ballroom. Her accumulative sculptures entranced me as I wandered among them. They were familiar to me on some level--awake or asleep, I don't know. A woman came up to me, and very sweetly informed me she recognized them from nightmares. She was a complete stranger, but shared this personal information with me anyway. [I was compelled to take a vocational test sometime during high school. According to the test, the two careers for which I'm best suited are advertising account executive and priest.] I replied with wide eyes and pleasant sounds. To me, that's a successful gallery experience.

Congratulations to all the recipients of this year's award from Anonymous Was a Woman! I will soon be looking for you on the web and in the library.


Dates and Hours

Friday March 28, 2008 10am - 6pm
Saturday March 29, 2008 10am - 6pm
Sunday March 30, 2008 11am - 5pm


Seaport World Trade Center

200 Seaport Boulevard
Boston, Massachusetts 02210

The Seaport World Trade Center is wheelchair accessible.

Admission Prices

  • General Admission $15
  • Senior Citizens and SAC Members $12
  • Children, 12 years and under Free
  • Admission tickets valid for readmission throughout the weekend.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Simmons College update - response to hate mail

The open meeting that divulged the details about the hate mail sent to an African-American professor at Simmons College occurred on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008. The campus newspaper, The Simmons Voice, appears weekly on Thursdays. I had little expectation of my letter being printed in the Feb. 14 issue. And, it wasn't.

News of the incident did make it to the front page. It was located in the bottom left hand corner. Below the fold. Left hand side. Underneath a large square picture of a t-shirt with a red mouth. Handwritten in large letters with a marker on the shirt was "Silence Kills."

Anyone who has studied media knows that the upper right-hand area of the front page is the most prominent place for a story to run. The story that ran in that position was "Guns are coming to Simmons." I think the 'guns' story is of importance. It communicates to the student population that security guards will soon be armed while also describing other security measures being implemented in response to the Virginia Tech incident last spring. I also can see its relevance to the recent N. Illinois University shooting. But, the article's slant bends towards what will happen, not what just happened.

The 'hate crime' incident is RIGHT NOW and has implications of great importance. I will say that the paper was delicate in handling the topic. They didn't name the professor; they didn't quote or describe the contents; therefore, they didn't have much substance to deliver in the article.

Please, keep in mind that this a weekly college paper. I don't know when they deliver their content to their publisher. I'm used to The Daily Free Press who stay up until 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. to deliver breaking news. And, The FreeP has a website where they can update content instantly.

Here's my fear. That the incident, the culture that propagated it, and the issues that surround it will remain abstract as long as they are restricted to the pages of a weekly paper. As of today, I haven't seen anything appear on the homepage of MySimmons, the place that has all the news fit to post for the student (grad & undergrad) body.

There have been four official mentions of the incident available to undergrads as of now.
  1. the "Urgent Communication" email sent from President Scrimshaw alerting the Simmons general community of the incident and that an open meeting will occur
  2. the change of location for the meeting
  3. the "congratulatory" email sent from President Scrimshaw that praised the response and lessons learned at the open meeting
  4. The Simmons Voice article - "Simmons professor targeted in hate crime"

Here's what was said in the "congratulatory" email from President Scrimshaw:

Dear Students:

Thank you, Simmons! The standing-room only community gathering yesterday to condemn racism and affirm our commitment to an honest, open, and inclusive community was heartening. Already we have gotten some good suggestions for follow up. Yesterday, we heard about steps we can all begin to take now as individuals to make our community more welcoming and more respectful - a smile, a hello, acknowledgment for every one who helps make Simmons operate so well each day, and being there for each other. In the next weeks, I will be meeting with the Diversity Council, BAFAS members and President’s Council to talk about how we can translate our concerns & energy into action. I commit to sharing next steps through your student leadership. This was Simmons at its finest and I am very proud of our community.


I will be waiting to see what the next steps are and how Simmons is going to be sure that its undergraduate students take their share of the load. I have an appointment with President Scrimshaw next Tuesday at 3:10 p.m.

I declared that I would take my share of the load in my various identities. As a friend and daughter, I have reached out to many to let them know about what happened. And, I want to thank you for all of your responses. Your words and conversations have made my world safer and brighter.

As a student, I sent a letter to The Simmons Voice. I spoke to the president of the Student Government Association urging her to recreate the warmth and strength in Wednesday's forum for the student body. I plan to attend next week's SGA meeting.

As a librarian, I did reach out to co-workers and my boss. I wanted to post a link to my blog about the incident on the Access Services blog, so that the librarians would come together as a whole to discuss issues raised at Wednesday's meeting. One thread of discussion was how the library is perceived as unwelcoming, specifically to young black students. I don't believe this is true on a fundamental level, but the perception is seeping out there. As I don't think the library is rotten at its core, constructive remedies could be applied to stop the misunderstanding.

I'm still trying to formulate how to respond as a Dix Scholar and an artist. BUT, I WILL BE DOING SO, BELIEVE ME.

As an African-American, I'll be approaching the Dean of Multicultural Students, Lisa Smith-McQueenie. And, I plan to attend the next meeting of the Black Student Organization.

As a human, I am looking people in the eye. I'm smiling at them. I infuse a little warmth in my interactions. And, I'm so glad to say: it's working!

Much love,

Two of my favorite things: space and football

On a positive note, it should be recognized that there is an African-American on the shuttle space team that's currently orbiting earth. His name is Leland Melvin, a former football player that turned to science when an injury ended his pro football career. He has an excellent entry on the NASA web page that explains how playing football gave him skills he utilizes on space missions. So cool! And, in case anyone didn't know, the current commander of the International Space Station is Peggy Whitson, a female.

The link to his website entry (which includes two mp3 interviews) is right here.

NASA is a world unto itself. This is a place where grown men sincerely and emphatically utter "Darn!" as an expletive. And, they're not being ironic or's serious when you hear "darn."

When the astronauts are up in space, Houston and ground control usually beam up a song to start off each day. Ground team asks family members to select a song for each astronaut. The first day after the shuttle meets up with the space station, usually the flight commander is serenaded in the morning. On the day Melvin was on tap to move the European section of the space lab from the shuttle to the space station, Houston beamed up "Fly Like An Eagle" to start Melvin's day. His sister picked it out. They just mentioned the song title, so I don't know if it was the Steve Miller or Seal version.

Anyway, this definitely cheered me up after a disturbing week at Simmons.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Taking My Share of the Load

Someone tried to take down a faculty member of my college this week with a piece of vicious hate mail. I won't repeat verbatim what was written in this post, but I will just say the phrases "Go back to Africa" and "Remember the Jena 6" were used.

An open meeting was held to address the situation. Professors, college staff, and administrators flocked to the meeting. Indeed, the room wasn't big enough. Unfortunately, I didn't perceive a student presence as strong.

Too many students did not witness the positive reaction and beautiful show of support that the meeting evoked. I wrote this piece and submitted it to the student newspaper immediately afterward the meeting. I also approached the president of our student body and asked her that the SGA provide an opportunity for students to experience something like it.

Taking My Share of the Load

Stepping into the meeting, I asked my professor, “Is this for students?” I was unsure because I recognized dozens of staff, professors, administrators and librarians, but I counted the number of students on two hands.

I am not condemning the student body. All Simmons College students have the daily challenge of slicing hours of the day to accommodate our assignments, jobs and opportunities. I almost didn’t show up myself. Almost.

Maybe it’s because I’ve had hate shouted at me on the street or calmly directly at me in a classroom. Maybe because I’ve experienced how hate can keep my eyes down and make me hold my breath until I reach home. I know about the burden of hate and I would never let someone carry it alone. That’s why I showed up.

Professor Bailey stood and spoke the words that were meant to close mouths, lower eyes, and halt steps. These words weren’t meant for just Prof. Bailey. They were an assault on us. Our community. Our Simmons.

But, we were not bowed down. Of course, there was suffering and there was outrage. Then it happened. All of us present stood up as one and transformed shock and outrage into resolve and purpose. Instead of showing tears and shame, we created laughter and hope.

We resolved that the courage and support visible in that room would not end at the door. We would not let the memory of this meeting fade as deadlines and paperwork approached. Each of us as individuals would take the shared lessons and carry them out to those who were absent.

We learned to acknowledge each other. Now, our gazes will meet and we will trade smiles. We learned not to stay strangers with each other. We will not remain silent when another person says or does something hurtful. Because we will first hold ourselves accountable, we will not hesitate to hold others accountable as well.

Simmons College will be stronger because this burden does not rest on one set of shoulders. I have taken my share of the load, but it will be lightened as I stand up and speak to others in my role as a student. As a friend and a daughter. As an artist. As a Dix Scholar. As a library worker. As an African-American.

Because I am you. We are a community. We are Simmons.