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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Breaking down BLACK BOX at Spelman

Makeba Dixon-Hill
  • Scott C. King
  • Makeba Dixon-Hill

Artophiles - locally and nationwide - are aware of the significance of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. The museum, housed here in Atlanta at one of America's premier academic institutions, regularly exhibits work by world-renowned artists like Romare Bearden, Faith Ringgold, Sheila Pree Bright and many more.

One of its newest offerings is the series titled BLACK BOX, which is described as "a site for play, dialogue, and creative risk taking for cultural producers of all types," providing an opportunity to "share in-progress works on the art and culture of the African Diaspora in the museum in front of a live audience for feedback, engagement and encouragement."

Launched in March, the latest edition of the series takes place tomorrow (Wednesday, May 1) and features actor/playwright James Ijames performing the nonlinear movement suite "FRoNTiN: The Post Soul Cake Walk," inspired by "personal experiences and interviews" about "black male identity." We caught up with the Makeba Dixon-Hill - curator of education at the museum and creator of BLACK BOX - and she offered more insight into the series and tomorrow's performance.

Creative Loafing: What was the motivation for creating BLACK BOX?

Makeba Dixon-Hill: BLACK BOX was created to support artists of all kinds at the midpoint of their creative process: when a work is in progress ... [it was] inspired by what a black box theater is: a space that supports the practice of emerging artists workshopping ideas and concepts. But the idea was born in a conversation with Lynnée Bonner - aka dj lynnée denise, the first BLACK BOX artist who delivered a performance paper in the form of a DJ set followed by an interactive, multimedia lecture titled "Planet Rock: Techno, House Music & Afrofuturism" - and the impetus was an invitation by Fahamu Pecou to commune over his creative process nearly seven years ago.

How do you think Black Box will affect the overall perception of arts-based programs at Spelman?

It will provide an interesting addition to an already dynamic landscape of arts-based programs. Spelman has an entrenched history in the arts scene in Atlanta, focusing on artists of African descent. BLACK BOX will communicate the need for artists to build their networks, be encouraged to take risks, and be compensated and recognized for it.

What should folks expect from this week's edition of the series - "FRoNTiN: The Post Soul Cake Walk"?

Folks should expect to see new work from an amazing talent and discuss it with engaging, colorful people. James is a comedic intellectual observer that has very compelling ideas about ... everything. "FRoNTiN" is James making a piece that presents a dialogue between how he's been asked to perform - as an actor - and a self-created version of himself using the tradition of blackface performance.

What's coming up next at the museum?

I'm very excited by the entire programming calendar this fall. The museum will be presenting "Posing Beauty in African American Identity," an exhibition curated by Deborah Willis. The works in this photography exhibition served as inspiration for many of our programs, including BLACK BOX; two [BLACK BOX events] are planned each show, and they will be completely different from what we've done before. We have an open submission process. If interested in participating in BLACK BOX, email for more information.

"FRoNTiN: The Post Soul Cake Walk" takes place May 1. $3 (suggested donation). 6:30 p.m. Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, 350 Spelman Lane.

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