On a cold Sunday afternoon the ALN studio was transformed into a sanctuary of remembrance bringing warmth and comfort to those who came to the book and film release event offered by Ira and Nadine Baumgarten.
This year brought with it our 3rd annual Festival, where we once again celebrated and shared the works created over the course of our 2018 Summer Workshop, Hinges, Mirrors & Eclipses. With 45 participants, representing an incredible range of fields and nationalities, it was the largest workshop in the history of Arts Letters & Numbers, resulting in a truly memorable festival.
The site of Hinges Mirrors & Eclipses was the wooded hillside between the Mill and the House, and on August 3rd-4th our guests were invited to explore this previously uninhabited terrain on our grounds. On an angle with trees, wood stumps, and undergrowth, visitors were free to wander and experience performances, installations, mini-workshops, concerts, works, meals and actions, which included:
Creative music intensive Concert - Culinary Creations - Espresso yourself - Vulnerability - On going space Travel - Water Mirror - Elements - Poems Without Words - Babyhead - Open Mic - Tales From Fujian - American Carnage - Cosmos - Mirrors & Eclipses - Tone Room - Polyaman, Sine wave rhythm - FRSTRTN - Untitled Film+Audio - Burn - Taking Notes from Nature - Guitar Music - Electric Pom Pom - Communal Poem Improv - Spiral Movements + words - Music Bottles - Next Dimension - Horizon - Delay - Walking Across the Axis - Cello Concerto - Voices of the Mill group Performances
We want to thank everyone who came and supported these magical days. Each summer it is truly our pleasure to have the wider community share in what we do: the collaborations, thoughts and works created by all the visiting artists and participants, all of which continues to bring new energy and ideas to Arts Letters & Numbers.
Aaron More. Adrianos Efthymiadis. Alex Hae Min Chang. Ann Morris. Anne Lanzilotti. Anthony Staiti. Bahar Avanoğlu. Bill Morrison. Claudia Cortinez. Crystal Waters. David Gersten. Diane DeBlois. Ebenezer Eferobor. Ed Keller. Evan Burgess. Frida Foberg. Ginger Teppner. Gizem Atalık. Homa Shojaie. Hyunbae Chang. İpek Avanoğlu. Jennifer Park. Jenny 如 Hsiao. Jesse Maw. Joel Brynielsson. Jonathan Brewer. Jonathan Russ. Josephine Saabye. Karen Kiene. Kasper Hübertz. Keren Mendjul. Kristyna Milde. Krysta Dennis. Kyrin Chen. Laurie Olinder. Loren Howard. Manuel Perez. Marek Milde. Martha Cargo. Merethe Bahn Trolle. Michael Harrison. Natalie Stepaniak. Natasha Holmes. Nick Meehan. Nico Athene. Nina C. Young. Noah Silver. Panthea Lee. Payton MacDonald. Pedro Wainer. Rich Kuperberg. Robert Dalton Harris. Saam Shojaie. Sam Torres. Sandip Bhattacharjee. Sarv Gersten. Sepehr Shojaie. Siyu 思予 Chen. Sophia Vastek. Steve Fry. Susmita Chakraborty. Troels Heiredal. Ursula Bustillos Daza. Vaughn Lewis. Victoria Wolff. William Fillmore. Zubin Singh
Over the years we have been fortunate to experience the transformative work of AHS Theater Ensemble and NCBI, bringing students stories, experiences and observations to the stage. The production of 2018, Blaq Boi is a truly deeply moving, pure and honest student written performance about the young black male experiences in this country today.
Growing out of initial workshops on diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as the student’s own experiences, the performance put the spotlight on racial identity; institutional racism, white privilege and internalized oppression, and celebrating the black America.
In addition to the performed play, each act was accompanied by real footage from the news, and an open heartfelt talkback followed each of the four performances. Needless to say, no one left the theater untouched. Keep your eyes open to the journey of Blaq Boi, because this, as one of the students very precisely said: “This is a movement.”
The play was written by students Camille Dobbs, Jacklyn Flynn, Thia Fowler, Sion Hardy, Jaidyn Hires, Xji-Anne Hudson, Zanief Washington and Immanuel Williams, and director Gregory Theodore Marsh.
AHS Theater Ensemble's director Gregory Theodore Marsh, co-director Ward Dales and Noelle Gentile, worked with Tawana Davis and Ira Baumgarten of the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI), an international leadership group that promotes diversity, equity and inclusion. In addition, NCBI worked with the cast, crew and writers on how to honestly and comfortably discuss racism. On the production team was also Arts Letters & Numbers Associate Director Frida Foberg as set designer.
Directors notes from Gregory Theodore Marsh:
"Have you ever been racially profiled? Have you ever walked down the street and had someone in front of you cross the street because they felt unsafe? Have you ever had someone be so amazed with your success because they couldn’t believe that someone who looked like you could achieve so much? Have you ever had someone say, “I’m not saying this because you’re Black, but…”? If you answer yes to any of these questions, then are someone who has experienced some of the pain and frustration of being Black in America.
What does it mean to be a Black man in America? For some it means a life dictated by circumstances that are beyond your control. For some it means “beating the odds”. For some it means having a life of little societal value. For me it means living in a world that made its mind up about me before I was even born. A world that said that my worth was predicated on my ability to “rise above”. I’ve spent much of my artistic life pandering to the needs of white people. My work centered on telling predominantly white stories, many tokenizing the Black presence. And on the rare occasion that the story was Black, or ethnic, whitewashing only further invaded spaces that should have been reserved for people of color. I am forever grateful for what I have been fortunate enough to do, but I look back on those early years of shucking and jiving and I see a man who had lost his sense of self and his ownership of his blackness.
Our protagonist “Treasure Johnson” is a black boy who represents all Black boys. His voice, along with that of his father and his chorus of Black men known as The Pride, serve as representations of who Black men really are. Regardless of the different places and circumstances we may come from, we can all relate to Treasure. His story begins after his family is met with an unspeakable tragedy that changes the trajectory of his life. As he grows and matures, he yearns to be on TV, but he struggles to find his voice. It isn’t until Treasure discovers his father’s tapes that were recorded before he was born, that he begins to find his voice and truly begins to own what will be become his Black pride. While his mother and his best friend, Isabis, are perpetual voices of reason and pride, they are often overshadowed by the white “allies” and adversaries in his life. His school friend Scott, media darling Michelle Carrier, and even one of Treasure’s teachers serve as examples of white “allies” who have yet to recognize their own complicity in displaying and living in their white privilege. They highlight white liberalism that still does not give space for them to understand what it means to be an ally to marginalized groups.
Blaq Boi is piece that serves not to educate, but to celebrate. We celebrate being unapologetically Black against a system that portrays us in an unsavory manner. Much of the media’s depictions of Black men paints us onto a white canvas with brush strokes that come from the hands of white people. We do not choose to be seen as thugs and criminals, but these are the expectations that are usually placed upon us. For our students, this play serves as an opportunity to highlight a voice that is rarely heard. Our Black students, writer and actors, have spent this school year working on a play that allowed them to be unabashedly proud of the richness in their Blackness. They have put all of their hearts and souls into this play and have embraced the idea that their Black is beautiful. For our white students involved, they have made a conscious choice to be allies in telling this story. Through this meeting of the minds, all of our students have gained a sense of pride whether it is a pride in being Black or pride in being an effective ally.
I am incredibly proud of the work our students have done not just telling this story, but allowing themselves the freedom to be honest and authentic. I would like to thank Tawana Payton-Davis, Ira Baumgarten, Joyce Shabazz, and the National Coalition Building Institute for their assistance in preparing our students, and adults, for this monumental undertaking. We have all come to an understanding of the necessity to tell this story. Too often, the Black boy voice goes unheard. Blaq Boi is a play that takes this voice and allows it to shout from the mountain top. While it may be uncomfortable for some, it is a story that is poignant, proverbial, and must be told. We are resilient. We are brilliant. We are empowered."
On Saturday October 28th we welcomed a number of leaders from the many arts and cultural organizations in the Capital Region to Arts Letters & Numbers Tasting. With this event, we opened our doors to the extended creative community around us: to share our experiences and spaces, and to begin and continue the conversation about how we can best foster collaboration and contribute to the vibrant arts and cultural communities growing in the region.
As with everything we do, we build on past experiences and our present moment, creating spaces and circumstances to grow and ask new questions. With Tasting, we transformed the ground floor of our Mill into a space to share a meal, to connect with others, and to participate in a collective art piece. To acknowledge the significance of each person's presence, the plates were custom-made for each course of the meal: plates of glass, concrete, wood, leaves and ice. In addition, each course was set on suspended tables of different heights, also specially built for the evening. Throughout the dinner guests migrated between these floating horizons within the columns of The Mill, with each course and spatial condition creating different occasions for interaction. Finally, this movement of bodies and objects between horizontal surfaces culminated with the rotation of the guests’ visual and tactile experience, with the plates being placed on the wall in a collective vertical composition, created together by everyone present.
After years of growth on the international level, this was a huge step for our regional involvement. Indeed, seeing The Mill filled with so many engaged and inspiring people, people who are enriching the arts and culture of the region with such care and precision, was simply astonishing. We are beyond excited about what is to come...
Friday 25th November
Going back in time at the House on the Hill, we opened the doors to a the speakeasy salon from the 1920’s. It was a classy event with no end-time. Musicians and friends who were either in town for the Thanksgiving weekend or who live in the area year-round came in and out creating a constant flow of sound. Lot's of songs and laughs with everyone decked out in their best pre-war era garb. A wonderful new thanksgiving tradition hosted by Arts Letters and Numbers
Photography © Zelé Angelides. 2016. All rights reserved.
Arts Letters & Numbers would not have grown to where we are today, without the tireless, continuous support and help of our friends and volunteers. Though we sometimes might seem too busy to show it, we never forget it. And we are eternally grateful to each one of you for what you have brought to the project.
On October 30th, 2016 we invited our local friends and our volunteers to join us for an evening of appreciation. Sharing stories and images of what we have been able to accomplish so far in this immense project. For dessert, we shared in the magical experience of the installation piece, Harmonic Sky in the Barn created by Meghan Mosholder and Michael Harrison.
Photography by Zelé Angelides
The spaces we inhabit have been around for much longer that we have and that requires a certain precision of care and awareness; to repair and maintain and furthermore to imagine their full potential at every step of the way. Luckily we have the privilege of being in a heart-warming community, who sees the value in our project, and support us with their endless dedication. We are constantly learning from everyone around us, whether it’s to fix leaks or washing machines, build walls, and restore barns or how to deal with parasites. There is always someone who has an answer, or knows where to find one. Our work weekends are a great way for this kind of knowledge to be shared, where we bring people together and in a joined force focus on specific facility based tasks. So far, these gathering have made it possible to create spaces for our artists, expanded our accommodations, winterizing the facilities and much, much, more. There are not enough words to show our gratitude to everyone involved in building this project!
A book release event was held at the Mill on May 14th for A Night on Buddy’s Bench – An End of Life Story – an adult picture book written by Ira Baumgarten, a local resident (who lives two mile from the Mill) and illustrated by his mother-in-law Ann Bonville Trombly, another local resident. It was a celebration of how we hold life’s grief and gratitude in the same moment.