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July 25, 2011

uncovering the smithsonian’s jazz archives

James Moody 1984. copyright 2011, Stephanie Myers.

Jazz saxophonist James Moody was raised in Newark, New Jersey, so it is little wonder that the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District, the sole New Jersey Affiliate, celebrates his legacy so predominantly. In 2008 as part of the District’s annual Music Festival, they hosted a homage to James Moody, in which he himself played with many jazz luminaries, as well as with the Smithsonian’s Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.

When Moody passed away in 2010, Anthony Smith, Director of Communications and Community Affairs, and Producer of the Music Festival, knew that it was time for a major tribute to this legendary figure. That’s when he turned to the Smithsonian. In addition to a musical tribute and naming a housing unit in the District for Moody, Anthony wanted to highlight Moody’s career through images, and to create a photography exhibition in Lincoln Park’s community gallery.

With the help of archivists in the Archives Center of the National Museum of American History, Anthony found a collection of Stephanie Myers’ photographs, an artist and jazz photographer who donated prints to the Smithsonian in 2005 and 2009. In addition to images of Moody and his peers, she also captured timeless moments from prominent jazz festivals, such as La Grande Parade du Jazz in Nice, France, represented in the Archives Center’s collection of her works.

David Haberstich, Curator of Photography in the Archives Center, remarked that a great strength of the Archives Center’s holdings is material related to American music, especially jazz. “This includes a good representation of many fine photographers who specialize in photographing jazz musicians in action, up close and personal,” he said. “We’re eager for opportunities to exhibit these photographs and share them. We’re pleased to show them to anyone by appointment, from members of the general public to serious scholars.”

Although the Smithsonian’s prints could not be reproduced because of intellectual property concerns, seeing this collection “opened a door” for Anthony that led him directly to the photographer herself, who lives in New York City. Stephanie Myers was also a close friend to James Moody. “We hit it off immediately,” says Anthony. “She understood how we were trying to honor James, and wanted to be a part of it.”

James Moody, 1987. Copyright 2011, Stephanie Myers.

Together, they consulted Moody’s discography and crafted an exhibition of 30 of Stephanie’s photographs that highlight Moody and the musicians who played with him throughout his 50+ year career. The prints will be arranged in the gallery much like a stage performance, with Moody surrounded by various members of the rhythm section and fellow soloists. (Many of these same musicians will be playing in the 6th Annual Music Festival in Newark, July 29-31, 2011.) In addition, the gallery will present 20 of the District’s own photographs from the 2008 Music Festival Tribute to Moody.

Music Speaks: Moody’s Musical Moods show will open on July 28, 2011 and run through October. Visitors to the exhibition will be encouraged to leave their memories and experiences with James Moody’s music. Several public programs are planned, including a photography workshop for youth with Stephanie Myers.

“Sometimes collaborations with Affiliates turn out differently than the original plan,” said Jennifer Brundage, National Outreach Manager in Smithsonian Affiliations. “It’s especially nice when it results in new opportunities we hadn’t imagined before!”

 

 

January 11, 2011

food for thought


Does there seem to be a cultural zeitgeist about food these days?  Food has always been a engrossing social topic of course, but between the First Lady’s vegetable garden, school lunch revolution movements, reality TV, and more, it seems that discussions of food and all its attendant concerns – health, nutrition, benefits of organic, agriculture policy, star chefs – are raging everywhere.

Even among museums.

I was delighted to discover, in the first post of 2011 on the Center for the Future of Museum’s blog, that museums, food and community will be one of their focus themes this year.  No doubt we are all aware of and have seen many food-related exhibitions over the years, such as The Field Museum’s Chocolate show, or the Smithsonian’s own Key Ingredients: America by Food.  We’ve all experienced many collections shows related to food, foodways programs, and museum cafes that reinforce missions, such as Mitsitam at the National Museum of the American Indian.   But the specific inclusion of “community” as a component is an important one that seems to be gaining momentum and relevance in the museum field.

The CFM blog post links to an example of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Illinois.  But there are some great examples among Smithsonian Affiliates too.

Students learn about composting at Snug Harbor in NYC

At Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island in New York City, gardening is already an integral part of their identity.  Their expansive grounds house an exquisite Chinese Scholar’s Garden, and a newly-opened Tuscan Garden, both authentic replicas of their international precedents.  But their Compost program, and under-construction Sustainable Farm, are taking their commitment to gardens to the next level.

Working with the NYC Department of Sanitation’s Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling, Snug Harbor’s Compost Project teaches community groups, teachers, and students through tailored hands-on workshops.  In addition to exposing the benefits of composting, the workshops, classes and curricula foster a sense of environmental stewardship, uncover complex ecosystems, and explore soil and plant health.   Now, in the same plot of land that historically was farmed to feed sailors, Snug Harbor will start plantings in the spring on its own Sustainable Farm.  A brand new initiative, the farm is engendering ideas ranging from “grow a row” for classrooms, growing food for food banks, duplicating the Obama vegetable garden, and presenting exhibitions of artists who address ecosystems.   “We want to create a triangle of programming,” says Patrick Grenier, Director of Visual Arts, “that combines our gardens, the farm, and [adjacent] gallery to present exhibitions and programs about horticulture.”

LPCCD's farm sits behind the historic church facade that serves as gateway to the neighborhood

At the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District (LPCCD) in Newark, NJ, leaders have created a community farm in the iconic center of the neighborhood.  LPCCD’s mission is to transform a low-income neighborhood from blighted lots into an urban eco-arts village.  And they are doing it, in a completely holistic way.  The neighborhood being created there is a mixture of LEED-certified housing units, green collar jobs, music festivals, historic restoration projects, a gallery, and eventually, a museum honoring African American music. 

LPCCD’s community farm addresses a common issue raised in the healthy eating dialogue – that of fresh, natural food being affordable and available in low-income urban areas.  Having just finished its first year, the farm promotes community supported agriculture (CSA) that enables city residents to have direct access to affordable ($40-80 per month) organic produce.  What’s more, the choice of produce grown is customized to the area’s demographic and responds directly to what local consumers most want – mostly hearty greens, like collard and mustard.  “People appreciate the value of the farm as an avenue to promote dialogue.  They loved the space and came to share stories of their histories, their parents’ recipes.  And they loved that something was growing in Newark, especially in our neighborhood,” according to Rob Wisniewski, Director Sustainable Development.   In its second year, LPCCD plans to focus on education of the price value of the food, in terms of nutrition and environmental impact.  They also hope to get the community even more involved by directing marketing efforts specifically to neighborhood stakeholders – the local school, restaurants, and residents.  To entice participation, LPCCD hopes to offer personal plots to garden, as well as the CSA, and to tie the farm’s maintenance into their green jobs training program.

a shopper at Plymouth's Winter Farmers Market

Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, MA is known for its historic foodways program.  It is ground zero for Thanksgiving after all!   Just last year though, Plimoth Plantation, which closes its living history exhibits for the winter, became home to the city of Plymouth’s winter farmers’ market once a month. 

And now they are linking the farmers’ market to their mission and programming.  This year, the Plantation is asking shoppers to bring their food to a communal “Cook Like a Pilgrim” program.  Together, they will prepare and eat a meal of their local and seasonal foods, guided by the museum’s colonial foodways historian to make the whole event historically accurate and educational.  “We like to think of ourselves as the hearth of the community,” says Jennifer Monac, Plimoth Plantation’s Public Relations Manager.  “When examining the values and goals of the Farmer’s Market, it just seemed like a perfect fit to make Plimoth Plantation’s unique resources available to its participants.”  

These projects (and no doubt countless others like it) exemplify the roles that museums can and do play as good neighbors and community partners.  They reveal the creativity with which museum missions can extend beyond collections and exhibitions, using their sites and resources to fill community needs in the social and cultural fabric of their cities. And, they leave you hungry for more.

October 14, 2010

on the road in New York

It’s a chilly, rainy, autumn day along the east coast, but that’s not stopping Smithsonian Affiliations National Outreach Manager Jennifer Brundage!  She’s on her way to visit our Affiliates in the New York- New Jersey area and participate in some really exciting events this weekend.  A golden Monopoly set, a Chinese pavilion, and a Tibetan Shrine Room are among the fascinating things she’ll be reporting on as she travels. You can follow her journey on Twitter at @SIAffiliates. Here’s a look at some highlights along the way:

Tomorrow, Jennifer will be on-hand when the Museum of American Finance in New York City unveils the display of an 18-karat solid gold Monopoly set covered with hundreds of precious gemstones, on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. In the afternoon, the museum will host Monopoly tournaments for children and adults to go along with the unveiling! Look for #Monopoly posts as Jennifer tweets during the day.

While she’s in the city, Jennifer will visit the Tibetan Shrine Room currently on view at the Rubin Museum of Art. On loan from the Alice S. Kandell Collection and organized by the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Shrine Room provides visitors an extraordinary opportunity to experience Tibetan Buddhist art in context. 

On Saturday, Jennifer will close her journey with the opening reception for the Within the Emperor’s Garden: Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion exhibition at Flushing Town Hall in Flushing, New York. Based on the original Wan Chun Ting pavilion that stands in the Imperial Garden of the Forbidden City in China, this highly detailed 1:5 scale replica is made of red sandalwood and constructed using mortise-and-tenon joinery. The exhibition was organized by the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute, with assistance of the China Red Sandalwood Museum and the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Also on her road trip, she’ll be stopping-by these Affiliates too:

Known for their rich history of African American jazz and pop music, the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District /Museum of African American Music in Newark, New Jersey, captures the energy, spontaneity, and spirit of African American music through a combination of live performance, physical artifacts, audio-visual media, interactive exhibits and educational programs.

Most recently hosting the SITES exhibition Legacy of Lincoln, Snug Harbor Cultural Center in Staten Island is one of New York City’s most unexpected and extraordinary destinations. Set within an 83- acre National Historic Landmark district, the center is a place where history, architecture, the visual and performing arts, and environmental science all come together to provide a rich and powerful learning experience.

Don’t forget you can follow Jennifer’s journey on Twitter at @SIAffiliates and look for #Monopoly posts tomorrow during the Monopoly tournaments! And keep checking the Smithsonian Affiliates Flickr photostream in the next week for photos from the road.

 

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