Celebrating Black History Month in Seattle

February marks the beginning of Black History Month, but residents of Seattle are able to celebrate and learn about the rich cultural history of Blacks and African-Americans all year long. In honor of Black History Month we have compiled a few events to mark on your calendar in February and throughout the year.

Northwest African American Museum
Black Quarterly – Gentrification
February 4, 6:30 – 8 p.m.
The Black Quarterly brings people together to break bread and delve deeper into a world of topics. February’s conversation topic: Changing Neighborhoods, Displacement, Personal & Cultural Ownership of Community.  Hosted by Inye Wokoma.

With the fluidity of a dinner table conversation, the Black Quarterly takes socially pertinent topics and creates a space for deeper and honest discussion about the dreams and challenges we face as a society. While the table is set for a limited number of guests, the goal is for the fruits of the conversation to ripple into the community as participants learn from each other’s diverse perspectives. The conversation, whenever possible, will also extend directly into the greater community through social media. 

Dialogues in Art: Exhibitions on Racial Injustice
Sign of the Times
Seattle Presents Gallery opening
Thursday, February 4, 4 – 5:30 p.m.
In Sign of The Times Johnson reveals statistics and data that counter the negative media representations of African-Americans. The exhibition will feature artistic representations of data that illustrate the increase of graduation rates of African-Americans from the 60’s; and the increase of marriage in straight and LGBTQ Black homes. Sign of the Times not only demonstrates the power of data and how it is shared but pairs with Black History Month by having a black artist actively re-write history.

Dialogues in Art: Exhibitions on Racial Injustice is a yearlong series of exhibitions that explore artists’ and curators’ interpretations of racial injustice and systemic racism impacting Black and African-American people throughout America. 

Museum of History and Industry
Black History Month Celebration
Saturday, February 13, 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Get immersed in Seattle Hip-Hop culture and history through special film screenings, performances, and photography. Participate in a community panel discussion continuing the Town Hall Seattle conversation on the role of Black Lives Matter and the civil rights movement in Hip-Hop.

ARTS Presents: Lunch + Learn
Celebrating Black History Month
Friday, February 19, 12 – 1 p.m.

Please join us for a special Lunch + Learn, celebrating Black History Month. Artists Barbara Earl Thomas, Aramis Hamer and C. Davida Ingram will present their work and Ingram will moderate a conversation about how their artwork reflects their cultural heritage. Please bring your lunch; beverages and food for thought will be provided.

Northwest African American Museum
Complex Exchange – Tradition & Innovation
February 24, 7 – 9 p.m.
A Program Partnership with Seattle Art Museum
Complex Exchange pairs Seattle community members from varying disciplines in a series of conversations related to issues of race, power, and politics of representation.

Artists, technologists, activists, writers, and community builders tackle themes inspired by the exhibitions Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic—on view at the Seattle Art Museum, and The Harmon and Harriet Kelly Collection of African American Art: Works on Paper—on view at NAAM.

EMP Museum
Through the Eyes of Art
Sky Church at EMP Museum
Friday, February 26, 7 – 11 p.m.
$15 ($10 EMP members) All ages.
Presented by EMP Museum and Brandkings, Through the Eyes of Art is the city’s premier Black History Month celebration. Now in its third year, the event will take an artistic look at the topic of Black Love featuring live performances from Draze and others, presentation of the Servant of the People Award honoring gospel singer Pat Wright and Gregg Alex (Matt Talbot Center), and an art show from some of Seattle’s top painters and photographers. Visit Black History Month at EMP to learn about other events.

2016 Black Music Summit
Saturday, February 27, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
The 2016 Black Music Summit will bring together music stakeholders including musicians, artists, technologists, promoters, venues, media, educators, community organizers and others to discuss the music industry, innovation and future of Black music in the Central Area, Seattle and beyond.  The theme of the event will be innovation and explore the future of Black music at the intersection of art, technology and business. Tickets are available at http://blackmusicsummit.com/

Celebrate Black culture anytime:

STG Presents: Re:definition Gallery, Curated by Jonathan Moore & Tariqa Waters, Featuring works by Ari Glass & Aramis Hamer
The Paramount Theatre
911 Pine Street
Seattle, WA 98101
Re:definition aims to redefine historic cultural space in the form of an art gallery for local visual artists, with rotating exhibits occurring throughout the year. Current exhibit on display through May 31, 2016.

As a society, we prescribe definitions to our spaces and faces, in an effort to put the world around us into context. Via participation with a significant number of arts managers in our area, Seattle Theatre Group has gained an increased sensitivity to how definitions can be limiting, outdated and in many cases, hurtful. To expand the conversation on the importance of space and how it can be illuminating, STG will be showcasing three visual art exhibits featuring Black artists and their work.

Spectrum Dance Theater
201516 Season #RACEish
An exploration of America’s 240 years of (failed) race relations. #RACEish is a series of productions that boldly disrupt the current conversation around race – a conversation that has become tinny, familiar, insular, limited, narrowed by political correctness, self-censored, afraid to offend and peopled by people that think alike.

Intiman Theater Summer Festival
July 2016
Award-winning director and University of Washington School of Drama professor Valerie Curtis-Newton will serve as co-curator of the 2016 Intiman Theatre Festival, which will be devoted to great American playwrights who are also inter-generational black female writers.

Young artists find inspiration in the Conservatory

Northwest African American Museum Youth Curators with Volunteer Park Conservatory Senior Gardener Bridget Lamp

Seattle’s park system has served as a muse to many artists. It’s not uncommon to see paintings of the Green Lake path or photos taken from Kerry Park. The Volunteer Park Conservatory is another perfect place to find inspiration, and that’s exactly where 10 youth curators found it this year.

Youth curators tour the Volunteer Park Conservatory.

Each year, the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) hosts a 12-week Youth Curator program for teens ages 14-18. The goal of the program is to introduce youth to the philosophy and practices of museum work through creative, community-engaged projects on timeless and contemporary topics. The youth gain social skills, learn and understand new concepts and develop artistic expression.

This year’s participants created a museum exhibit, “Transparent, Translucent and Opaque,” that is a response to the natural world in both written word and glass art. A major component of the project was to gain inspiration from visits to the Volunteer Park Conservatory. The Youth Curator exhibit complements an upcoming NAAM installation by award-winning glass artist Debora Moore, Glass Orchidarium, showing May 16 – Nov. 9, 2015.

Since Moore’s exhibit will showcase sculpted glass orchids, Youth Curator Program Lead Stephanie Johnson-Toliver knew a trip to the Conservatory would inform the students’ creative process.

“I can’t say enough about the wonderful cooperation and interest from Volunteer Park Conservatory for NAAM Youth Curators,” Johnson-Toliver said. “I’m singing their praises. They helped round out the project to make it a huge success.”

Conservatory Senior Gardeners Bridget Lamp and David Helgeson were eager to support Johnson-Toliver’s request. Lamp led the students on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Conservatory’s Lower Greenhouse and allowed the students to examine its orchid collection up close. It was a unique experience since only a fraction of the collection is on display to the public at any one time.

After their visit, one of the students used plant biology descriptions provided by Lamp to create a story that received a standing ovation of NAAM’s gala on April 18.

The 2015 Northwest African American Museum Youth Curators

The Youth Curators also toured Chihuly Garden and Glass, spent time working with urban poet and writer Jordan Keith and visited Pratt Fine Arts Center where they created their final project, glass art tiles to be put on display.

Six of the tiles were auctioned off at NAAM’s gala and earned $30,000 for the museum.

“In early April I saw and heard the students’ finished pieces – both in glass and written word,” Lamp said. “I was struck by their stories about orchids, a wonderful mix of fantasy and the natural world. To my delight, it changed my perspective on the plants I work with every day. I now see birds, monkeys and babies as they did in these flowers. Though I only met the curators a couple of times; I am very proud of what they accomplished.”

The students’ work can be viewed at NAAM now through Nov. 9, 2015. For more information on the Youth Curator program, please visit http://www.naamnw.org/youth-curator/.

“It’s so important to have these strong community connections,” Johnson-Toliver said. “After the students visited the Conservatory, they just took off; it was like they went to another planet. They created meaningful stories and saw how their work could make a real impact.”