Art Historian Darby English on Why the New Black Renaissance Might Actually Represent a Step Backwards

Darby English

Darby English understands the power of art. The author of To Describe a Life: Notes from the Intersection of Art and Race Terror (2019) affirms its place in our lives during this period of social turmoil and incessant racial violence in America. Timely, poignant, and ruefully truthful, English’s work on African American art history and thought challenges us to remember the capacity art has to change not only our lives but the ways in which we see ourselves and the world at large.

Revered in the field as a thought-leader, the Cleveland-born scholar is currently the Carl Darling Buck Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago. In 2010, he received the University of Chicago’s Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the nation’s oldest such prize.

New Concert Series Weaves Together Music, Architecture for Online Audiences

During the November premiere of the SOUND/SITES concert series, pianist and UChicago artist-in-residence Clare Longendyke played music from Schumann and Debussy in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Image courtesy of UChicago Presents

While the past year has been challenging for musicians who normally perform before live audiences, it has also created opportunities for innovation.

One result is SOUND/SITES, a virtual concert series that combines music with architectural landmarks on the University of Chicago campus. A co-production of UChicago Presents and the Department of Music, the quarterly series offers a new way for artists and audiences to safely connect amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as an avenue for interdisciplinary artistic exploration.

“We created this program at a time of empty communal spaces, so that these accomplished performers could fill them with music, showcasing the deep resonance between tradition and innovation that animates the University as a place of listening and learning,” said Prof. Berthold Hoeckner, chair of the music department.

Amid pandemic, UChicago scholar launches program for international artists

Ghenwa Hayek

Early last year, Assoc. Prof. Ghenwa Hayek signed on to become the interim director of the University of Chicago’s Gray Center. A month after she accepted the interim directorship, the COVID-19 crisis was officially declared a pandemic.

Uncertain times call for certain decision-making, and Hayek quickly embraced the challenge. The Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry has long convened scholars and artists in the spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration—but without in-person events, it would have rethink the nature of its mission.

Drawn from Music: Art Exhibition Opens Window into Composers' Creative Process

Map of Form by University Professor Augusta Read Thomas; Image courtesy of UChicago Arts

For composers, drawing a “map” of music can give shape to a new work and articulate its overarching ideas. As evocations of the composer’s intentions—from sweeping curves to stars, birds and brightly-colored dots—such maps capture the ebbs and flows within a musical piece and complement musical scores, serving as guides for performers.

MAPS OF FORM, a new exhibition at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts, presents a collection of these musical illustrations as works of art in their own right. Drawn by UChicago faculty and graduate composition students, the maps vary from abstract representations of operatic arias in numbers and letters to contemporary works illustrated with chariots and drawings of hanging mobiles.

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