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Diving Deeper Into Shared History

Jorge Otero-Pailos, The Fall

ArtsWestchester’s current Who Writes History? exhibition focuses on a more inclusive recounting of the past and present. Who “owns” history? What is the “truth”? Is there one truth, or many? Twenty exhibiting artists explore the ways in which images and language (together and independently) shape society’s collective memory and mainstream narratives. 

However, the show also delves deeper. A series of in-person and virtual programs bring music, fashion, poetry, lectures and more together in an effort to create a rich and diverse conversation around the different interpretations of a shared history. 

According to Exhibitions Manager Adam Chau, “the concurrent lectures, performances and celebrations of Who Writes History? all weave in topics that artworks in the gallery touch upon. Other programs will give audiences a deep-dive into the pursuits of exhibited artists, and will provide insight and context to the artworks.“

On May 7, artist Marcy Freedman presents Women: This Much and More!, an in-person multimedia performance that blends visual art with other artistic disciplines.  Freedman’s digital collage series, for which she transformed women from the past into a contemporary version of them, will be on display behind the performances of poets, dancers and musicians as they create and perform their own interpretations of these artworks. 

Later in the month, Luangisa African Gallery will celebrate the culture and history of Africa with a new May 19 Gallery Nite Out event, which will feature live music and an immersive fashion show. Rose Luangisa, the Gallery’s founder, says: ” My family and I have dedicated our lives to showcasing the work of African artisans and supporting women and their children while also supporting their art and craftsmanship.” Luangisa has also done a take-over of ArtsWestchester’s gift shop with a pop-up shop that will remain in place through July 3 when the exhibition comes to a close. 

A series of four lectures will make subjects and conversations accessible to all audiences through a virtual format. On May 31, exhibiting ceramic and mixed-media artist Sana Musasama will discuss her I See Me dolls. In a recent interview with ArtsWestchester’s gallery intern, Georgia Connor, Musasama explains that as an early teenager, her mother saw her sulking about her hair. She pulled hair from Musasama’s brush and placed it on a wooden doll to show her how beautiful her African-American hair was. Now, Musasama creates dolls similar to these from clay. “It’s important I have ownership over my own story,” says the artist: “…and that my voice is the first and loudest telling it.”

On June 6, artist Jean-Marc Superville Sovak will virtually sit down with White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach to talk about how public art can direct our understanding of civil discourse, including the timely addition of a visiting Harriet Tubman statue in the City’s downtown.

Only two days later on June 8, a full discussion will bring together several distinct perspectives in Latinx media and storytelling – spanning documentary work, journalism and academia. Telling Our Stories From the Roots Up will be in an informal and bilingual conversation that allows panelists to deliberate various approaches for sharing immigrant and community narratives. Chau says that panelists “will also grapple with the politics of authentic storytelling within communities while liaising with mainstream media channels.”

Finally, a virtual lecture on June 15 will bring to the table For Freedoms, the largest community of creative civic engagement in the United States, which includes thousands of artists and organizations. In addition to having works displayed in the exhibition, For Freedoms will participate in You are just in time, an invitation to play, during which one of the group’s team members, Jun Mabuchi, will talk about the collective’s evolution and share more about re-imagining the future of the artist-driven society. 

A version of this article first appeared in the May 2022 issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.