Monday, January 28, 2013

Art and Life: Strange Fruits

2013 Creative Workforce Fellow Gary Williams speaks with
textile artists Mary Diann Pinckney and Felecia Tinker at the CPAC awards
program last week at Cleveland's Museum of Contemporary Art

Cleveland has such acute civic, social and economic problems that it behooves us every now and then to step back and enjoy the vibrancy and potential of our cultural arts scene.

Last Thursday offered an occasion to do just that at a reception for 22 local artists who were recognized for the quality of their work with significant financial stipends from the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture. Twenty of the artists received Creative Workforce Fellowships in the amount of $20,000 each, thanks to the generous support of Cuyahoga County residents through Cuyahoga Arts & Culture [CAC].

The artists were truly a diverse and unique mix of homegrown and immigrant talent, varying in artistic media, appearance, ethnicity, size and shape. As each came forward to receive their awards and offer words of thanks, the audience received a reminder of art’s universality and unpredictability.

The 2013 Fellows are Kristen Cliffel, Andy Curlowe, Gary Dumm, Virgie Ezelle-Patton, Colleen Fraser, Brandon Juhasz, Mimi Kato, Andrea Levy, Michaelangelo Lovelace, Christine Mauersberger, Liz Maugans, Valerie MayƩn, Dru McKeown, Laura Paglin, Sarah Paul, Barry Underwood, Gary Williams, Gadi Zamir, Olga Ziemska, and Zena Zipporah.

Also recognized were artists Chris Comella and Todd Pownell. Each received a $2,500 Seth Rosenberg Prize.

CAC was approved by county voters in 2006, and since 2007 has approved more than $95 million in over 200 local arts and cultural organizations. For more information about the Fellowship Program, contact CPAC program manager Susan dePasquale at or 216.575.0331 x 127.

Other Arts News: Sundance, Ensemble Theater

Before there was Trayvon Martin there was Oscar Grant, a 22 year old African American shot and killed on New Year’s Day 2009 by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer at the Fruitvale subway station stop in Oakland CA.

“Fruitvale”, a film based on this tragic and all-too-familiar story, has just won top audience and grand jury prizes as the best U.S. dramatic film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

Ryan Coogler, 2013 winning Sundance Festival director
“This project was about humanity, about human beings and how we treat each other; how we treat the people that we love the most, and how we treat the people that we don’t know,” said first-time filmmaker Ryan Coogler, 26, who wrote and directed the dramatic narrative. [Read more here.]

Grant’s death, witnessed and recorded by many on their cellphones, led to widespread protests in Oakland and across the nation. The officer who killed Grant served a mere 11months of a two-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter.

Variation on a Theme 

Closer to home, and carrying a similar theme, “The Gospel According to James” opened over the weekend at Ensemble Theater in Cleveland Heights.

The play is based on the true-life story surrounding the attempted lynching of three black teenagers in Marion, Indiana in 1930. One of the youths, James Cameron, was able to escape. The ugly incident contributed to the enactment of federal anti-lynching laws and also inspired the writing of “Strange Fruit”, soon made famous by the immortal Billie Holiday.

According to Peter Lawson Jones, the play “is a highly dramatic and provocative fictionalized account of Cameron’s return decades later to the town where his friends were lynched and of his encounter with the European-American woman who incited the events of that night.”

The play will run Friday and Saturday evenings through February 17 at Ensemble, which is located at 2843 Washington Boulevard in the former Coventry School.

Jones plays the title role under the direction of Celeste Cosentino, the theater’s artistic director. For show times, tickets, etc. visit here.

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