When actresses LisaGay Hamilton and Yolonda Ross finished reading the script for two-time Oscar nominee John Sayles' new film, Go For Sisters, they immediately knew they wanted to be cast in it since they appreciated the script's sensitivity in dealing with issues of sisterhood and race.
"I like the fact that he didn't pit these two female characters against each other which sometimes comes up in many scripts -- women scratching at each other and all that stuff," Ross says.
In the film Ross' character, Fontayne, has just been released from jail for drug violations and is reunited with her old friend and newly appointed parole officer, Bernice (Hamilton). When Bernice's son goes missing on the Mexican border she enlists the street savvy skills of Fontayne to help find her son. Against the backdrop of an ensuing cat-and-mouse game the film explores the universal human condition which made the script even more appealing to Hamilton.
"John is interested in the common man and he wants to explore stories with people of color because there does come an extra burden with that existence. Some may say something about him being a white male writing for two black women. But any human being with empathy and compassion for another human being is qualified to me," Hamilton says.
The theme of sisterhood was further celebrated at the 5th annual ASCAP Presents...Women Behind the Music series which honored women in Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta including Melanie Fiona, LeToya Luckett, Kandi Buruss, CEO of Phase Too Management Inc., Tina Davis and more. For the past five years ASCAP's vice president of rhythm & soul membership, Nicole George-Middleton has spearheaded the initiative which she considers essential to balancing the image of women in music. "I think it counteracts some of the hypersexuality you see today to show that our contributions are more than just being a sex symbol," she says. "It's not that sex symbols don't contribute but there are people doing other things just as big and important."
Honoring industry leaders was a similar focal point at the American Federation of Arts (AFA) 2013 Gala & Cultural Leadership Awards on Tuesday, October 29 at the Metropolitan Club in New York. This year, the AFA presented awards to Eugene V. Thaw, the esteemed art dealer, collector, and author, and internationally acclaimed portrait painter, Kehinde Wiley.
At the event, Wiley reflected on how he narrowly avoided a day job as a cook to become one of the most successful visual artists of the modern era. "It is humbling to stand back as an artist around ten years after graduating from Yale and thinking I was gonna study cooking to support this art habit. It means this type of existence making beautiful things and meeting interesting people is indeed a possibility."
AFA Director Pauline Willis is focused on exploring the possibilities of a partnership with China. Later this month Willis and her team will embark on a three-week research oriented five-city tour of the country to explore opportunities for collaboration. Willis acknowledges that one of the challenges to solidifying a deal will be navigating China's censorship of contemporary art. Still she refuses to let that hold her back. "We want to respect the culture and find ways to collaborate that respects both cultures," she says. "We will gather information to see what kinds of exhibitions they want. Simultaneously, we want to expand diversity and our mission of increasing awareness of art."
One of the areas where greater exposure for the arts is needed is Hunts Point located in Bronx, NY. The House of Spoof Collective continues to strive to develop this artistic community with their latest exhibition, Dia de los Muertos. The title's translation, Day of the Dead is a holiday celebrated throughout Latin America. For the exhibition the collective presented works to honor the memory of loved ones through photography, mixed media and a participatory site installation which invited viewers to create an altar for the deceased. The show's theme held special meaning for the collective since they were formed to carry forth the legacy of the late emerging artist and community leader, Glenn "Spoof" Wright.
From "Go For Sisters" to The House of Spoof Collective the possibilities to find value and meaning in all forms of art are infinite.
The weekly column, On the "A" w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.