All Articles Tagged "arts"

Actress Anna Deavere Smith Wins $300,000 Prize

January 18th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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anna deveare smith pfAnna Deavere Smith — actress, playwright, and New York University professor — has been awarded the prestigious 2013 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, which comes with a $300,000 prize, one of the largest in the arts.

The 19-year-old award is named after the sisters and actresses who got their start during the dawn of film back in the 1910s. Past recipients include Robert Redford, writer Chinua Achibe, and filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. It’s given to “a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.”

Smith is known for her work in Rent, the cable program Nurse Jackie, and the network show The West Wing. She’s also made a name for what the New York Times calls “socially conscious” one-woman shows, such as Twilight: Los Angeles, about the violence after the Rodney King verdict. Smith also has a namesake program, Anna Deavere Smith Works, that cultivates the arts and social change. Smith was chosen from a list of 30 finalists, according to IndieWire.

Rosie Perez and Other Minority Arts Activists Lead Protest Against Time Warner Cable

January 15th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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lev radin /

lev radin /

Actress Rosie Perez is fired up and recently kicked off a rally against Time Warner Cable, Inc., accusing  the company of discriminatory programming practices. The rally was organized by minority and arts communities.

The protesters claim that Time Warner Cable, Inc.’s is unwilling to offer customers diversified programming “as evidenced by their decision to drop the Ovation channel,” according to a press release.

The Ovation Channel was a cable network dedicated to arts and artistic expression. The dropping of Ovation has caused outrage among various organizations including Citizens’ for Access to the Arts, a nonprofit coalition of organizations and individuals, and the Urban Arts, of which Rosie Perez is Artistic Board Chair.

The arts organizations point to a new survey as evidence that minority community desire to enjoy the arts. The survey found that over two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) and nearly three-quarters of Hispanics (74 percent) said that it’s important to have the arts available to them in their communities. The survey polled Hispanic and African-American Time Warner Cable subscribers in both New York and Los Angeles. Ovation, the protesters argue, was the only access to the arts many minority communities had.

“I am deeply saddened by Time Warner Cable’s refusal to provide minority communities with quality programming,” stated Bertha Lewis, president and founder of The Black Institute in a press statement. “It is disturbing to witness the yearly destruction of creative expression on the part of cable networks.  Our young generations rely on the subsistence of art to not only better themselves, but to better the future of our communities. It is unfathomable to think that Time Warner Cable would willingly substitute this necessity to satisfy demands for mindless reality television.”

Time Warner Cable responded to Madame Noire via email will the following statement:

“We agree the arts are important, and we are committed to providing our customers with a diverse lineup of programming they want to watch. As for Ovation, the majority of their programming is old movies, reruns and infomercials, not arts. Our customers seem to agree that Ovation’s programming can easily be replaced with similar or identical programming on other networks such as PBS and others, as we have had very little customer response to the removal of Ovation from our channel lineup. We don’t agree with any of the claims made from this supposed study; through the video and Internet services we provide to our customers, we allow them to gain much greater access to the arts, regardless of their race, income or geography.”

Time Warner Cable customers: Do you miss Ovation?

Studying Art, History, and Culture: African-American Museums in the US

December 14th, 2012 - By Kimberly Maul
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Across the country, there are many museums promoting, preserving, and honoring the history and culture of African-Americans. With a focus on art, music, technology, history, and even firefighters, here are ten amazing places to check out if you want a little more culture in your life.

African-American Museum in Dallas

African-American Museum, Dallas, TX
As one of the only museums of its kind in the Southwestern United States, the African-American Museum in Dallas was founded in 1974 at Bishop College, a HBCU that closed in 1988. It ran independently starting in 1979, constructed a new facility that opened in, and houses one of the largest African-American Folk Art collections in the US.

The Urbanworld Film Festival Kicks Off With Gabrielle Union, Mara Brock Akil, and More

September 21st, 2012 - By Tonya Garcia
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Richard Brooks, writer Corie Murray, Gabrielle Union, Tika Sumpter, writer Mara Brock Akil and her husband director Salim Akil. Image: Fernando Leon/PictureGroup via AP Images

We tweeted yesterday about Urbanworld Digital, but, even bigger, the 16th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival kicked off last night with the opening film Being Mary Jane. Starring Gabrielle Union (number 22 on The Root 100) and written by Mara Brock Akil (number 51, who also wrote Sparkle, Girlfriends and The Game), the BET Networks movie is about a single TV news anchor (Union) making a way in her personal and professional life.

Before the movie, however, there was the red carpet (we snapped a quick pic of Gabrielle Union for the cell phone, along with the dozens of photogs and reporters who showed up for opening night). In addition to Union, Akil, BET CEO Debra Lee, Tika Sumpter, and other stars and notable names turned out for the event.

Though Urbanworld has been around for more than a decade, it’s still hard work to finance and organize the event.

“It’s definitely a comprehensive labor of love,” said Gabrielle Glore, the festival’s executive producer and head of programming, who spoke with us over the phone just before opening night. “No one is getting rich off these festivals. Not even the big ones.”

Among the big ones are, of course, Sundance, the Toronto Film Festival, which got a lot of attention this year because Kristen Stewart made her first pre-scandal debut, and Cannes. For all of these festivals, publicity — for the films, for the event itself — is important. Last night’s media turnout no doubt drums up a good deal of attention for the festival.

But more than that, sponsors are important to Urbanworld. “It’s all about sponsors,” said Galore. HBO is Urbanworld’s founding sponsor; BET is its presenting sponsor. “It lets people know that there’s some credibility. The sponsor piece is critical.”

According to Glore, it’s the marketplace that determines the level of sponsorship. “The years that have been more difficult in terms of funding, it’s about what’s happening in the marketplace,” she told us. She says they’ve already started working on the slate of sponsors for next year. The sponsors help determine festival activities, like the digital events and labs.

In addition to that, the festival operates on a strict budget.

“We’re lean and mean and we have money to make it happen,” said Glore.

Historically, Urbanworld has showcased some big-name movies. Collateral, starring Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise debuted there. Night Catches Us with Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington opened there two years ago. And there were the showings of both Barbershop films and Secret Life of Bees, among others.

Though many of the movies that the festival screens aren’t necessarily blockbusters on the level of Twilight, they are successful (as that list shows). More than that, they give famous actors the chance to attach themselves to indie projects that they’re passionate about. And it gives filmmakers a chance to show their work in a theater, something that many of them might not otherwise be able to do.

“We definitely don’t characterize ourselves as a black film festival,” said Glore, while acknowledging that many of the films they include involve African American artists. “There’s a cross-cultural sensibility that reflects what America looks like.”

Which is very good for enlisting sponsors. “Companies want to align with brands and with what’s the future,” Glore adds.

Among the other films showing this year are Won’t Back Down, about reform at an inner city school starring Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Rosie Perez; The Girl is In Trouble a crime movie starring Columbus Short, boasting executive producer Spike Lee and directed by Julius Onah; and the closing night film, Middle of Nowhere, directed by another Root 100 honoree, Ava DuVerney, who was the first African American to win the director’s prize at Sundance for this movie.

For the complete Urbanworld schedule, click here.

Image: Fernando Leon/PictureGroup via AP IMAGES

Beyonce Covers Jones Mag

December 13th, 2011 - By Brande Victorian
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Beyonce is on the cover of Jones magazine’s 2011/2012 Winter issue–their first-ever dedicated to entertainment and the arts.

Inside, King B discusses her contributions to music, film, and fashion, and where she stands now as one of the most celebrated artists of our time.

The issue hits newsstands Dec. 15. Tell us what you think about the cover!

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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See What You Get for Acting Up: Black Nominees for the 2011 Tony Awards

June 9th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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The story of black people and the 2011 Tony Awards can be summed up in one word: musicals.  Patina Miller has been refining her lead in “Sister Act” for years, both here and abroad.  The three men nominated this year, Joshua Henry, Colman Domingo, and Forrest McClendon, all hail from “The Scottsboro Boys”, a show that proves popular appeal isn’t everything.  Finally, Nikki M. James is a member of “The Book of Mormon”, which apparently is a lot more fun than the title suggests.


"patina miller"
Patina Miller

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Sister Act


Fresh from Carnegie Mellon’s theater program Patina Miller gathered her bartending money, boarded a Greyhound and set out for New York.  The first part she read for was Deloris Van Cartier, the lead character in “Sister Act”.  She made understudy, but later, when the show headed to London, she was the star.   The run lasted two years and when Whoopi Goldberg decided to bring the show to Broadway, Patina was the only actress to make the transition.  Film may be next.  Aretha Franklin is working on a biopic and after being turned down by Halle Berry, recently announced that Miller is in the running.

Reed Reverses Arts Cuts

May 20th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(AJC) — Mayor Kasim Reed has reversed his decision to cut the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs grants program by half, telling arts leaders Thursday that he’s restoring its full budget to $470,000.  Reed acknowledged that the arts trim, as part of an attempt to close an overall shortfall of $17 million in the city’s 2012 budget, “didn’t sit right” with him. It didn’t sit right either with arts leaders and artists, more than 200 who held a rally at City Hall and spoke at a City Council budget hearing last week.  “I’ve been thinking about it and then I realized, I was the mayor,” Reed said with a smile. “We’re going to restore every single penny.”  A full Marriott Marquis ballroom of metro Atlanta arts and corporate leaders attending the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund luncheon gave Reed a standing ovation.

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Atlanta Weighs 50 Percent Cut in Arts Funding

May 11th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(AJC) — The city of Atlanta’s support for artists and cultural groups appears heading for a significant cut, and the local arts community is preparing to rally.

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Theater World Takes to Casting Across Color

March 21st, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Washington Post) — A few days before opening in “Sabrina Fair” at Ford’s Theatre last fall, Susan Heyward found herself bawling in front of the cast.  “At first I didn’t understand why I couldn’t stop crying,” Heyward says in an interview from New York. Heyward was playing the lead — the Audrey Hepburn part, if you think of the movie “Sabrina” — in Samuel A. Taylor’s 1953 Cinderella romance. Chauffeur’s Daughter Captures Heart of Rich Employer’s Son, goes the story, only Ford’s made the play about race by isolating Sabrina and her father as black figures in an affluent white milieu.

The script itself remained unchanged. But even though the characters did not mention the new theme, it was blatant.  “It hurt so much to be in a world where something so elemental to your being was ignored,” Heyward says, explaining her sudden eruption. “I had to acknowledge that for Sabrina.”  There may be power yet, then, in an idea that last seemed vanguard a couple of decades ago: nontraditional casting. Latinos, blacks and whites in Arena Stage’s “Oklahoma!” last fall, and now an African American version of Horton Foote’s 1953 “The Trip to Bountiful” at Bethesda’s Round House Theatre. The concepts don’t necessarily seem fresher than Arena’s “Pygmalion” with an African American Eliza Doolittle 20 years ago or an all-black “Waiting for Godot” on Broadway in 1957.

But Timothy Douglas, director of “The Trip to Bountiful” (best known as the 1985 film that won Geraldine Page the Academy Award for Best Actress), suggests that nontraditional casting is enjoying a renaissance. The flurry on Broadway in recent seasons has included Morgan Freeman in Clifford Odets’s “The Country Girl,” S. Epatha Merkerson in “Come Back, Little Sheba” and an all-black “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” — all 1950s plays, curiously, like “Bountiful.”  “I don’t think we’re beyond it,” says Douglas, adding that the notion of the Obama era as post-racial is fantasy. “There is this other huge section, and I belong to it, that says no, the conversation just begins. So, on that level, nontraditional casting has a potential for even greater impact now.”

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‘Fela!’ Eyes Flight to Africa

January 4th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(New York Times) — After a 14-month Broadway run, “Fela!” could return to its origins.  Producers for the Tony-winning show, which closed to an enthusiastic audience Sunday at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, are in talks for a two-year international tour that would stop in the Nigerian capital of Lagos and include the summer festival circuit in Europe. The musical, which explores the life of Afrobeat pioneer and activist Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, is set in 1970s Lagos, home of Mr. Kuti, the hottest musician in Africa at the time. He became an international music star in the 1980s, releasing nearly 70 albums before his death in 1997.  Nigeria has been touted by supporters and cast members as the penultimate stop for the production, but dollars, cents and venues are still in play.

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