‘Troublesome Presence’ at the Arts Council

12 01 berriesThe Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County presents the “Troublesome Presence”  exhibit until March 13. The intent of the exhibit is to create conversations about troublesome moments for African Americans in today’s society.

 “The exhibit, as far as the artwork that is featured inside of the art gallery, includes paintings, sculptures, videos, mixed media, photography, spoken word, poetry and movement,” said Metoya Scott, public relations manager at the Arts Council. “The exhibit features 19 pieces by 13 black North Carolina-based artists, and it is an amazing exhibition that is very thought provoking.” 

The presenting artists are Derrick Beasley, Johnny Lee Chapman III, Dare Coulter, Andre’ Leon Gray, Jaki Shelton Green, Carly P. Jones, Stephen Hayes, Anthony Otto Nelson Jr., Nicole Oxendine, Telvin Wallace, Lamar Whidbee, Antoine Williams and Stephanie J. Woods.

12 02 Exhibit“There is a five-minute film in our west gallery that loops all day long,” Scott said. “It is called ‘Free Market.’ It features an original poem and movement that was directed by Michael S. Williams and was filmed at the Market House in downtown Fayetteville.” In the piece, Williams speaks about the value that is placed on African Americans in history and today. 

“With this exhibit, ‘Troublesome Presence,’ we are looking at identity, agency, introspection, intersectionality and other things,” said Williams, independent consultant, curator and founder of The Black On Black Project. “The title of the exhibition comes from a speech that Abraham Lincoln gave in 1852 when he gave a eulogy for Henry Clay, who was president and one of the founders of the American Colonization Society, in which Lincoln referred to free African Americans as a troublesome presence on slaveholders.”
The Black On Black Project  website,, explains why America needs to be willing to examine its stance on equality saying, “This work matters because important conversations about equity need to happen so that all community members are valued. A diverse community can be enriching, but engaging in dialogue about identity and difference is a must.

“This work makes a difference in the lives of marginalized individuals and communities by allowing space to be seen and heard. It also makes a difference in the lives of the larger community by creating space to engage with others. When this engagement and dialogue happen, everyone’s life is enriched.”

Williams added the idea of the exhibition is to show the antithesis of troublesome — that African Americans have not been troublesome in the United States.

 “One of the pieces in the exhibit includes  two works called ‘A Radiant Revolution II’ and ‘A Radiant Revolution III’ which are mixed media pieces by an artist named Stephanie J. Woods from Charlotte,” said Williams of the two-piece installation that is considered one work. “The work really highlights how much (black women matter) and how important black women are and how showing black women their ‘black is beautiful’ and ‘strong black girl,’ which is another phrase in one of the works, (is important).
“There’s a piece in the show called ‘Untitled,’ and it is another video piece,” said Williams. “It features words from North Carolina poet laureate Jaki Shelton Green, dance instructor Nicole Oxendine and opera singer Carly P. Jones, who are outliers in their respective fields because you don’t see a lot of African American women in those roles. The idea is to show you have agency.    

“Through artwork and some of our programs and workshops, we hope to showcase these 13 North Carolina-based artists and the work that they produced to show African Americans in a different light other than troublesome, but rather (as) folks who have done a lot to help the United States,” said Williams. “Through that, we hope to bring communities together to have somewhat difficult conversations about some of the things we face today.”   

On its website, the Arts Council notes “The Arts Council of Fayetteville-Cumberland County partners with the Black On Black Project to produce an art exhibition and community programming that respond to the challenges communities of color face locally and across the country. After spending time in conversation with local leaders and members of the community, we’ve created an exhibit that aims to reflect a diversity of experiences. This partnership desires to bring more perspectives to the table for an open, honest dialogue to create an equitable future.”

There  are four remaining events at the Arts Council in conjunction with this exhibition.

Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. is a screening of “Wilmington on Fire.” The documentary covers the only successful coup in United States history, which happened in 1898 in Wilmington, N.C. Following the screening, a panel discussion will take place, featuring the director of the film, Christopher Everett, as well as some of the documentary’s other team members.

Thursday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. is a panel discussion titled “How artists can affect change in the community.” The panelists are Derrick Beasley, artist; Dare Coulter, artist; Sherris Johnson, founding director of OUR Place; Sonny Kelly, writer and performer of “The Talk.”

Thursday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. is a panel discussion titled  “The importance of understanding and documenting history.”This panel discussion will address how the documentation of history will affect how people remember history later.

Friday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. is an evening of spoken word. Featured poets include Ayanna Albertson, Ashlee Connors, Ashley Lumpkins and Sherris Johnson. The poetry is written in response to the “Troublesome Presence” exhibit. The spoken word event is the Arts Council’s monthly Fourth Friday event.

The film screening and three panel discussions are facilitated by Williams.

Seating is limited for the programming events, so attendees should RSVP by emailing or by calling 910-323-1776.

 The exhibit is free and open to the public. For more information visit or call 910-323-1776.

Picture 1: “The Blacker The Berry” by Dare Coulter

Picture 2: “Through It All” by Lamar Whidbee

Two galleries collaborate on new media abstraction and identity politics

10 Close up of Falling Down WallpaperTwo local galleries have collaborated to bring a thought-provoking exhibition about materials, style and content. “New Media Abstraction and Identity Politics: in Traditional and Contemporary Black Visual Art” is an exhibit that spans two galleries: Rosenthal Gallery at Fayetteville State University and Ellington-White Contemporary Gallery at 311 Gillespie St. in Fayetteville.

Visitors to each gallery will immediately feel that each artist in the exhibit has something to communicate about a fixed experience and possibilities. In combination with the diverse materials artists use, no one will leave the exhibit without reflecting on the power of the visual image to evoke someone’s passion on a subject — more than likely a transformative experience will take place for anyone visiting the galleries.

One can sense that each artist in the exhibit is part of a greater intent — to help people come to know or understand something by feeling it emotionally or physically. Dwight Smith, the curator of the exhibit at Rosenthal Gallery, defines new media abstraction as “a contemporary aesthetic used to examine, interrogate and re-imagine dominate cultural narratives of black experiences … contemporary artists exploring a wide range of traditional and nontraditional materials from a variety of sources.”

Smith noted, “Looking for works that infuse elements of technology, music and pop culture, science fiction, magical realism or historical fantasy is effective in helping visual artists articulate new subjectivities as well as new realities. In this invitational 10 02 For Strengthexhibit, artists were asked to freely interpret the various ideas discussed within the theme of new media abstraction.”

Of the 48 artists from the East Coast and Midwest, 30 works are in Rosenthal Gallery and the remaining 18 are located at Ellington-White Contemporary gallery. Included in the exhibit are new young artists, but also a “Who’s Who” of nationally recognized artists: Ben Jones, Peggy Blood, David C. Driskell, Willis Bing Davis, John Biggers, Margaret T. Burroughs, Shirley Woodson, Charlie Johnson, Louise M. Johnson, Lee Ransaw and Robert J. Stull.

An older generation and a new generation of black artists are exhibiting together to create a wave of Afrocentric sensibility, social justice and everyday black life as the structural underpinning. There are so many excellent works of art in the exhibition that visitors will need to visit each gallery several times to absorb the range of themes and ways in which materials are used to evoke meaning.

I did select two artists to share with readers. New generation artist Ackeem Salmon is exhibiting a large work titled “For Strength.” A mixed-media photo transfer on wood, the portrait is an enticing work on many levels. Visitors will be stunned by the classical beauty of the image. Yet upon closer examination, one will see Salmon leaves the surface rough in areas; seams of the transfer paper are evident to contrast with what the image renders possible — perfection.

An older and established artist, Ben Jones, has two works in the exhibit that reflect his preoccupation with two themes, environmentalism and social justice. Rosenthal Gallery is exhibiting an 8’x 8’ detailed wall hanging on canvas titled “Falling Down Wallpaper.” In this work, the artist promotes the idea of saving and valuing our environment by including words from poems and painted a series of images from nature — birds and plant life.

In contrast, Ellington-White Contemporary Gallery is exhibiting an installation by Ben Jones titled “Trayvon Martin.” The 8’x 8’ wall hanging on canvas is a grid design of hundreds of images of the slain teenager. Jones modified each image to reflect the results of social media and the variety of ways people across the county viewed the teenager. A wooden chair painted a flat black and a stack of toy guns are in front of the 8’x 8’ detailed and challenging wall hanging.

Jones is presenting lectures, one on Feb. 7, to Fayetteville State University art students and the public at Rosenthal Gallery and another lecture for the public, Feb. 8, at Ellington-White Gallery.

Jones is an American artist with a great interest in Cuba, where he is well-known and has had several major exhibitions. Jones has made over 50 cultural exchange visits to Cuba since the 1970s and is noted by the Granma International of Havana, Cuba, as one of the most important African-American artists of his generation. For nearly five decades, Jones’ multimedia installations have reflected his travel and research in Africa, Europe, South America, the United States and the Caribbean to include the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; Studio Museum of Harlem, New York, New York; and Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba, to name a few. He has received numerous grants and awards including two National Endowment for the Arts grants (2007 and 1974-75), The Puffin Foundation (2005) and The Joan Mitchell Foundation grant (2002) among many others. Jones has lectured at universities, museums and cultural institutions worldwide including, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Howard University, Washington, D.C.; Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia; Wilfredo Lam Center, Havana, Cuba; and University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana.

Having such a powerful large exhibit as “New Media Abstraction and Identity Politics: in Traditional and Contemporary Black Visual Art” leads to a simple question, how were the galleries able to coordinate so many established and new artists in one exhibition?

Both agencies have had connections to two established organizations that have promoted the works of black artists for many years: The National Conference of Artists and The National Alliance of Artists from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The National Conference of Artists, founded in 1959, is devoted to the preservation, promotion, and furtherance of African and African-American culture, and the creative forces of the artists that emanate from the African world experience.

The NCA proudly proclaims its existence as the oldest African-American visual arts advocacy organization in the United States. Its members include artists, educators, scholars, exhibitors, art distributors, art collectors and gallery owners, museum personnel and supporters of African and African-American art and culture. It has national chapters in many large urban areas of the country. The newest chapter is the North Carolina Chapter, which is located in Fayetteville.

Dr. Lee A. Ransaw, then dean of arts and letters and chair of the Fine Arts Department, along with Lamar Wilson, Director of the Ruth Hall Hodges Art Gallery, envisioned the National Alliance of Artists from HBCUs during the summer of 1999 on the campus of Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia. NAAHBCU’s mission statement defines the purpose of the organization is to bring art and art education to the forefront of member institutions and to keep these programs as institutional priorities for generations to come.

The Alliance is committed to developing in its members, and especially students, the artistic and life skills needed to function as literate citizens in the society of today and in the future. The NAAHBCU also exists to provide comprehensive activities that offer artistic and expressive opportunities for professional artists employed or formerly employed at member institutions as well as for historians and curators, collectors and friends of the arts.

“New Media Abstraction and Identity Politics: in Traditional and Contemporary Black Visual Art” will be on exhibit until Feb. 29. Ben Jones will be the featured guest lecturer for the exhibition on Feb. 7, at Rosenthal Gallery and Feb. 8,  at Ellington-White Contemporary Gallery.
For more information, contact Dwight Smith, assistant professor of visual art and director of the Rosenthal Gallery, Fayetteville State University at 910-672-1795.

Top picture: “Falling Down Wallpaper” by Ben Jones
Bottom picture: “For Strength” by Ackeem Salmon

Online exclusive: Givens Performing Arts Center presents the Siberian State Symphony Orchestra

Editor's note: The Siberian State Symphony Orchestra has been cancelled. The National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine will be at Givens Performing Arts Center on Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m. The orchestra’s performance will replace the previously scheduled Siberian State Symphony Orchestra. Tickets range from $21 to $31 for adults and $8 for children.

Siberian Symphony picLive from Russia: The Siberian State Symphony Orchestra embarked on its eight-week United States tour in January 2020. Music played by the acclaimed 80-member orchestra from Krasnoyarsk, Russia will fill the Givens Performing Arts Center on Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m.

Led by Music Director and Conductor Vladimir Lande, the Siberian State Symphony Orchestra will play celebrated Russian classics in an enchanting symphonic evening. Included in the performance are classical music compositions by 19th century Russian composers Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky and 20th Century composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Lande is also the Music Director and Conductor for the Washington Soloists Chamber Orchestra and the COSMIC Symphony Orchestra.

The orchestra dates back to 1977 in the former Soviet Union, winning the reputation as one of the premier orchestras of the time. After the political regime change in the Soviet Union, the Siberian State Symphony Orchestra was allowed to tour internationally and was received on the international stage with much praise.

Considered a culturally important institution, the Siberian State Symphony Orchestra eagerly shares the musical arts of Russia with the world through concerts and albums.

During the concert Peter Laul, award winning pianist and regular performer with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic and the Lincoln Center in New York, as well as other venues around the globe, will entertain guests with a solo performance.

Attendees will enjoy Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Shostakovich’s "Tango" from the ballet “Bolt,” and Mussorgsky’s "Pictures at the Exhibition."

Fun fact: Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concert No.1 was personally conducted by Tchaikovsky at the opening of Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1891. This was a rare occasion for a well-known composer of 19th Century European Romantic period music to come to the United States to perform.

When asked how the GPAC is able to host such an internationally acclaimed orchestra, Chad Locklear, Marketing Director for the Givens Performing Arts Center, stated, “The GPAC is committed to bringing high-caliber and diverse arts experience to our community. This orchestra meets that category because it has a reputation as being one of the best in Russia.”

“In the digital age of Netflix and social media, nothing will ever take the place of experiencing the arts live in person,” he said. “I hope attendees will come away feeling appreciative and inspired to continue to attend and support the arts.”  

The performance is expected to last 78 minutes with a 15 minute intermission in between. The GPAC seats 1,600 people and there are discounts for groups of 10 or more and for children under age 13.

Tickets may be purchased by phone at 910-521-6361 or online using the link found on their website. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the GPAC box office. Tickets prices are between $21-$31 for adults, $18 for children, $16 for faculty and staff, and $5 for UNCP Students. Visit for more information. 

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