Since its debut performance in California in 1974, Shange’s workhas captivated, provoked, inspired and transformed audiences all over the world. Since, the work has remained a cornerstone of feminist, black, and LGBTQ-theory studies in colleges and theaters alike, both in the United States and abroad.
Shange is a past recipient of the The Women of Power Legacy Award, which recognizes outstanding impact, achievement and leadership by women in business, the arts, education, government and other influential industries. Black Enterprise recognized Shange in 2011 for her body of work as a playwright, poet, and self-proclaimed feminist who addressed issues relating to race and gender.
Turning to the choreopoem not simply as an engaging work of text or drama but as a well of social, political and deeply personal issues affecting the lives of women of color, the New York exhibition will feature 20 specially commissioned pieces in honor of each individual poem, additional non-commissioned artworks on display at satellite locations that address the work’s themes and archival material donated by Shange. The exhibition’s title is drawn from one of the last lines recited in the finale poem a laying on of hands. The title suggests that navigating through the complexities of what it means to be of color and female is only enlightened by an understanding, acceptance and appreciation of self. With self-empowerment comes the process of “…moving to the ends of their own rainbows.”
Curator and art afficiando Souleo has put together a multi-destination art exhibition called “Motown to Def Jam” in collaboration with ArtCrawl Harlem in New York City.
The meticulously planned, four-gallery, 49-artist exhibition takes visitors from the early days of Chess Records in the mid 20th century, all the way through to the contemporary offerings of rap and R&B label Def Jam in a series of visionary visual works. Also referenced in the show are the legendary Stax and Philadelphia International labels that helped pave the way in bringing new African-American sounds to the mainstream.
For pieces in the show, participating artists created or contributed works that described their interpretations of specific songs from singers and rappers at these record labels. Each piece, inspired by a beloved song, or songwriter, from black and American pop music history, brings black music history to life in a new way.
“A lot of people don’t know that June is African-American Music Appreciation Month,” said Souleo. “I wanted to share our struggles and triumphs and the unique ways that we express ourselves. For example, instead of the usual pop hits from Motown, I wanted to use more of the later socio-political music that came out of Motown.”
A lively Black Music Month kickoff
Souleo kicked off the five-weeks exhibit with gallery tours and a series of parties. An exhibition this grand required not one, but four different galleries, and these ancillary events connected them all.
The guides for a special preview tour were celebrity columnist and author Flo Anthony, pop culture critic Patrick Riley, historian John T. Reddick and renaissance media man Walter Rutledge. “I chose these people as the tour guides because they are the experts and they have been in the same room with some of these musical artists. They can give those extra tidbits that you would not get anywhere else,” said Souleo.