Collections Highlight: Joy McLean Bosfield Papers

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A page from Scrapbook II, 1945-1985. Joy McLean Bosfield Papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Joy McLean Bosfield.

Joy McLean Bosfield (1924-1991) was a singer, musical director, actress, and musical instructor who performed throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East from the 1940s to the 1980s.  Her papers in the Anacostia Community Museum Archives, documents Ms. McLean Bosfield’s professional career through photographs, correspondence, programs, and scrapbooks.

Joy was born on January 27, 1924 to John and Florence Mearimore.  Her mother, an immigrant from Demerara, Guiana (now part of Guyana), married McLean’s father, a prominent New York businessman, in March of 1923 in New Jersey.  Joy lived in Paramus, New Jersey until 1940, when she graduated from Ridgewood High School.  During that same year Bosfield was accepted to the prestigious Hunter College, in New York.

On February 26, 1945, McLean Bosfield performed her first recital at St. Martin’s Little Theatre. Three years later in 1948, McLean married Charles McLean, who was originally from British Guyana, and the couple moved to England.  She began performing in Europe in the early 1950s, singing soprano leads for productions for the BBC, British churches, and English musical plays. While in London, an American production of Porgy and Bess used her talents during their international tours as a rehearsal accompanist, vocal role coach, and assistant to the musical director.

After returning to the United States in the mid-1950s, Bosfield continue her career as a concert artist. In 1963 she moved to Washington, DC, where she became musical director of John Wesley AME Zion Church. She also worked for the Frederick Wilkerson Studio of Voice as a vocal coach, and managed the studio after the death of Wilkerson until the 1980s.

Retiring and moving to Chapala, Mexico in 1985, Bosfield participated in community theater productions and other community functions there, until her death on April 4, 1999.

Do you want to learn more about Joy McLean Bosfield’s long and distinguished career?  You can by helping transcribe her two fragile scrapbooks in the Smithsonian Transcription Center.

Joy McLean Bosfield Scrapbook I, 1923-1964

Joy McLean Bosfield Scrapbook II, 1945-1985

 

New Acquisition! Guadalupe has a gun

The following post is by Elena C. Muñoz, research/curatorial assistant for the Gateways exhibition. 

Happy Latinx Heritage Month! 

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When we met with Rosalia Torres-Weiner  in March of 2016, she was one of the artists-in-residence at Latin American Contemporary Art Projects (LaCa) in Charlotte. Wearing colorful and elaborately decorated cowboy boots, she greeted us with a big smile and hugs before sitting us down in her brightly decorated studio-space. Her space at LaCa was decorated with large paper flowers, Calaveras, panels from her children’s story “the Magic Kite” which had just been turned into a play by the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, and of course, her vibrant, patterned paintings.

High on the front wall of her studio, she had painted, “I AM AN ARTIVIST AND I BELIEVE IN ACTIVISM THROUGH MY ART.”

Rosalie Torres-Weiner's Charlotte, NC studio in March 2016

Rosalie Torres-Weiner’s Charlotte, NC studio in March 2016

While sitting and chatting, Torres-Weiner’s passion for social justice and making the invisibles visible, particularly children, is evident. Throughout our visit, her “artivism” and community engagement manifested itself through our conversation, and of course through the paintings that were displayed throughout the studio.

Many of Torres-Weiner’s pieces deal with the complexities of the United States immigration system as well as the injustices and dangers immigrants often face. Some of her work sheds subtle light on the plight of immigrants in the United States, but some of her pieces are far more overt. One piece in particular that is direct in its handling of the hazards of immigration and crossing the southern U.S. border is Madre Protectora.

 

Madre Protectora 


 This piece is a reimagining of the patroness of Mexico, the Virgin of Guadalupe. The standard representation of the Virgin of Guadalupe is of a young, brown-skinned woman, hands clasped in prayer and eyes cast downward. Typically she is shown standing atop a crescent moon held by a cherub and encircled by a golden mandala.Torres-Weiner’s version of the Virgin has morphed from a static, passive depiction of holy femininity into one of vigilant agency.

Madre Protectora by Rosalia Torres-Weiner. Collection of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Madre Protectora by Rosalia Torres-Weiner. Collection of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Instead of being clasped in prayer, her hands clutch a three-dimensional AK-47 constructed of wood, one finger on the trigger. A small, golden pocket watch dangles from her trigger finger, which in Torres-Weiner’s words, “indicates that over time, this situation will change”. Though her dark eyes are still averted from the viewer’s gaze, they are raised and alert, searching for any sign of danger.

The crescent moon and cherub are replaced by a blood red banner proclaiming her new moniker of “Madre Protectora”. Her golden mandala is supplanted by pink hibiscus flowers and stylized white dots, which according to the artist are, “one thousand points of loss. Each dot representing a life lost on the border.” The painting is recessed within a blood red wooden frame, with four lines of plastic barbed wire encasing the bottom of the piece, representative of the U.S.-Mexico border. Behind the wire are three red figures: the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and a pope.

I have always been obsessed with the devotion to, and various depictions of the Virgin Mary, particularly in Latin America and by Latino artists. The fact that a woman, (and oftentimes a non-white woman) was such a potent instrument of conversion during colonization, and can still command such power, zeal, and national pride is incredible to me. That being said, when we walked in to Torres-Weiner’s studio, I was immediately drawn to this armed Virgin. Madre Protectora follows a tradition of Mexican-American and Chican@ artists not only depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe, but of depicting her as one of active, maternal protection, central to the immigration experience.

Like many Catholic saints, the Virgin of Guadalupe is regularly prayed to for help and protection. Here, Torres-Weiner has imbued her with a hyper-vigilance that speaks to the extreme anxiety and desperation that often comes with the experience of crossing the border. Torres-Weiner is confronting the life-threatening circumstances that people often face when they come to the United States, whether it’s during the journey, or once they reach their destination.

The artist writes, “The Guadalupe, portrayed as a young millennial is armed with an AK-47 to show that faith can be as strong as the challenges that we face (deportations, narco-terrorism, economic disparity).”

 

Gateways opens to the public on December 5, 2016.  The exhibition explores the triumphs and struggles of Latino migrants and immigrants in four urban destinations: Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Raleigh-Durham, NC and Charlotte, NC

Elena C. MunozElena Muñoz received her MA in Art History from Rutgers University, and her BA in Art History from Fordham University. Her primary research interest is teasing out the African influences in Latin American
and Latino art. She is also fascinated with the evolution and uses of Marian imagery in the Americas. In 2014, she was a recipient of the Smithsonian’s Latino Museum Studies fellowship, working with the Teodoro Vidal Collection at the Lunder Center and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Currently she is a research assistant at the Anacostia Community Museum, working on the upcoming exhibition Gateways, which examines Latino im/migration in the D.C. Metro Area, Baltimore, the Raleigh-Durham region of North Carolina, and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Rosalia y Madre Protectora

Rosalia Torres-Weiner with Madre Protectora

Rosalia Torres-Weiner is a self-taught artist-activist who has lived and worked in Charlotte since 1992. Born in Mexico City, Mexico, she came to the United States in 1985. After working in the hospitality industry, she gradually turned to a career as an artist. She initially worked as a flight attendant; after painting murals in her children’s rooms, her neighbors commissioned her to paint murals in their homes. She launched her company Home Art Designs in 2001, painting murals in residential as well as commercial properties. In 2010, she pivoted and began to focus primarily on using her art as activism for the Latino community. She started the Papalote Project, (the Kite Project) using art as therapy for local children who were suffering from the loss of a parent due to deportation. She continues to produce socially conscious and community-engaging work from her studios in Charlotte, NC.

New acquisition! Rosalia Torres-Weiner part 1

Charlotte, North Carolina has been on our minds and in our hearts these past few days. In an act of community and resilience, it felt appropriate to celebrate both the city of Charlotte and Latino Heritage Month in the next few blog posts.

Thanks to the Latino Initiatives Pool, the Anacostia Community Museum was able to acquire new collections!   The Museum has acquired two pieces by Rosalia Torres-Weiner for the upcoming exhibition, Gateways, opening December 5, 2016.  Gateways explores the triumphs and struggles of Latino migrants and immigrants in four urban destinations: Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Raleigh-Durham, NC and Charlotte, NC

It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with Rosalia. She is a talented Mexican born and raised, Charlotte-based artivist (artist+activst). Her energy, creativity, thoughtfulness, and commitment to social justice and community stories pervade all aspects of her life and work.  I am excited for visitors to get a small glimpse of this in Gateways.

I am the curator, but the other (invaluable!) member of the Gateways team is research/curatorial assistant Elena C. Muñoz. On our trip to Charlotte last week, Elena sat down and spoke with Rosalia about her art in general, and our recent acquisitions in particular. As an art historian, Elena has a deep knowledge of this work. Below, please find Elena’s post about the first piece we will show: Uprising Against ICE. 

 

Elena interviewing Rosalia for an Artist Speak out component of Gateways

Elena interviewing Rosalia for an Artist Speak out component of Gateways Photo: Ariana A. Curtis

 

Many of Torres-Weiner’s pieces deal with the complexities of the United States immigration system as well as the injustices and dangers immigrants often face. Her latest series of ten large format paintings that depict both the contributions and struggles of Latino immigrants in the United States.  This painting is a reimagining of one of Diego Rivera’s Mexican Revolution masterworks, The Uprising (1931).

The Uprising by Diego Rivera, 1931

The Uprising by Diego Rivera, 1931

Torres-Weiner’s paintings are typically bright, colorful pieces. This particular piece is painted in blues and grays, alluding to the ICE of the title. For this painting, the artist has abandoned her usual style and has instead mimicked both the style and composition of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera’s The Uprising.

 

Collection of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Uprising Against ICE by Rosalia Torres-Weiner,  Collection of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution

 Like Rivera’s painting, Torres-Weiner’s piece features a crowded and compressed picture plane, with a family unit battling an authority figure at the forefront. Torres-Weiner has replaced Rivera’s soldier with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent in full SWAT gear, reaching with handcuffs towards a humbly dressed, unarmed immigrant family. Like Rivera’s female protagonist, Torres-Weiner has depicted a mother holding her swaddled child, arm outstretched to protect her family. Her husband protects their older daughter to the right of the canvas. The daughter, not present in the Rivera original, is yellow, the color of hope. The father creates a barrier between himself and the agent with a farming spade, reminding the viewer that immigrants perform much of the farm labor in the United States. To the left and behind the agent are more ICE agents and U.S. government officials in suits and ties. On the ground between the family and the primary agent is another figure and dollar bills, both trampled underfoot. Behind the immigrant family is a crowd of protesters, from which a “DREAM” sign can be seen, referring to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act that failed to pass. In the background is a U.S. flag, a bright contrast to the icy blues and grays of the rest of the work.

In the 1990s, North Carolina led the U.S. in Latino population growth. The southeast U.S. is one of the fastest growing regions in the country, in overall population and Latino population. In January of 2016, there were several ICE raids throughout the Southeast, resulting in the detention of 121 people, most of whom are women and children. The relationship between law enforcement and North Carolina’s Latino population is strained and fraught with anxiety, especially for undocumented families.

Uprising Against ICE gives voice to this anxiety while also subverting it. Torres-Weiner reimagines a family being held together through their own power and through the support of the masses that revolt behind them.

 

 

SHORT BIO of Elena C. Muñoz

Elena C. Munoz

Elena Muñoz received her MA in Art History from Rutgers University, and her BA in Art History from Fordham University. Her primary research interest is teasing out the African influences in Latin American and Latino art. She is also fascinated with the evolution and uses of Marian imagery in the Americas. In 2014, she was a recipient of the Smithsonian’s Latino Museum Studies fellowship, working with the Teodoro Vidal Collection at the Lunder Center and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Currently she is a research assistant at the Anacostia Community Museum, working on the upcoming exhibition Gateways, which examines Latino im/migration in the D.C. Metro Area, Baltimore, the Raleigh-Durham region of North Carolina, and Charlotte, North Carolina.

 

SHORT BIO of Rosalia Torres-Weiner

Rosalia Torres Weiner with Uprising against ICE

Rosalia Torres Weiner with Uprising against ICE

Rosalia Torres-Weiner is a self-taught artist-activist who has lived and worked in Charlotte since 1992. Born in Mexico City, Mexico, she came to the United States in 1985. After working in the hospitality industry, she gradually turned to a career as an artist. She initially worked as a flight attendant; after painting murals in her children’s rooms, her neighbors commissioned her to paint murals in their homes. She launched her company Home Art Designs in 2001, painting murals in residential as well as commercial properties. In 2010, she pivoted and began to focus primarily on using her art as activism for the Latino community. She started the Papalote Project, (the Kite Project) using art as therapy for local children who were suffering from the loss of a parent due to deportation. She continues to produce socially conscious and community-engaging work from her studios in Charlotte, NC.

Armstrong Manual Training School

On September 24, 1902 Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) delivered the keynote speech for the dedication ceremony of Armstrong Manual Training School.  The school was one of two high schools in the District of Columbia authorized by Congress for vocational education.  Armstrong school was built for African Americans and McKinley for white students.

The school was named for Samuel C. Armstrong (1839-1893), a white commander of an African American Civil War regiment and founder of Hampton Institute, now University. Designed by local architect Waddy B. Woody, the Renaissance Revival building provided carpentry, machine, foundry, and blacksmith workshops. In addition, courses in bookkeeping, domestic arts, chemistry, and physics were offered. The historic school has been described as, “an important institution and symbol for the African American community in Washington, D.C. . .”

Armstrongmanual

Armstrong Manual Training School Yearbook, 1902-1903. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr. Estate.

Much of the success for the school in the formative years is attributed to Dr. Wilson Bruce Evans, the founding principal and father of concert artist, Madame Lillian Evanti. In a 1904 article from the Colored American Magazine, Dr. Evans states, “although only two classes have been graduated, we find almost all of them employed in a variety of remunerative situations.”  He goes on to say, “. . . two are student assistants in the United States Department of Agriculture, four are teaching in the rural schools of Maryland. . .”

Armstrong graduates also gained local, national, and in some cases international acclaimed in their chosen field.  Duke Ellington, William “Billy” Eckstein, Lillian Evans Tibbs, John Malachi, and Jimmy Cobb are among a host of prominent alumni.

Armstrongmanual2

Pages from Armstrong Manual Training School yearbook. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr. Estate.

In 1996 Armstrong was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and now serves the local community as the Armstrong Adult Education Center. However, you can help us make a fragile Armstrong Manual Training School yearbook from 1902-1903 in our collection more accessible and searchable by transcribing it at the Smithsonian Transcription Center!

In the Spirit of Community: Georgette Seabrooke Powell

Powell-2

Georgette Seabrooke Powell conducting a painting workshop at the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 1983. Photo by Chris Capilongo.

In May 1995, Art Changes Things: The art and activism of Georgette Seabrooke Powell closed at the Anacostia Community Museum. The retrospective exhibit curated by Michelle Black Smith celebrated Powell’s artwork and her commit to community. The show featured ten selected artworks, family photographs, and awards documenting her long career as an artist and activist.

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Georgette Seabrooke Powell (1916-2011) moved with her family to New York at a young age. She graduated from The Cooper Union Art School and became involved with the Harlem Arts Workshop. In 1936, Powell became a master artist for the Works Progress Administration Program’s (WPA’s) Federal Art Project. She created a mural at Harlem Hospital and at Queens General Hospital. She later studied at Fordham University, Turtle Bay Music School, and Howard University. Georgette moved to Washington, D.C., in 1959 becoming a lifelong artist and educator, organizing art workshops and giving back to community by founding Operation Heritage Art Center, renamed Tomorrow’s World Art Center, a non-profit organization for education and the arts.

Powell

Georgette Seabrooke Powell conducting a painting workshop at the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 1983. Photo by Chris Capilongo.

A recipient of numerous art and service awards, Georgette Seabrooke Powell traced “many of her life’s most important moments to community.” For Powell, community was “a flexible and encompassing term that defines relationships with family, friends, fellow artist, neighbors . . .” In the spirit of community, she organized various exhibitions, demonstrations, and workshops for the Anacostia Community Museum and served as president of the District of Columbia Art Association (DCAA) in 1989. Researchers can learn more about Georgette Seabrooke Powell by consulting the National Visionary Leadership Project.

Powell-3

Georgette Seabrooke Powell conducting a painting workshop at the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 1983. Photo by Chris Capilongo.

This post originally published on the Smithsonian Collections Blog in 2012.

Transcribe Tuesdays: What we Discovered!

We discovered interesting information when reviewing transcripts of our projects on the Smithsonian Transcription Center.  While reviewing transcriptions of the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School autograph book, we discovered the signature of Angelina Weld Grimké.

TCGrimke

Page 3, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School Autograph Book, Signature of Angelina W. Grinke. June 14, 1923. Ella B. Pearis papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

Angelina was a poet, teacher, journalist, and playwright who was the only daughter of Archibald Grimké and Sarah Stanley. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1880 and moved to Washington, DC with her father after graduating from Boston Normal School of Gymnastics. Ms. Grimké began teaching at Dunbar High School in early 1900s.  In 1923 she signed the autograph book of student Ella B. Pearis.

Angelina is mostly celebrated for her poetry and 1916 play: Rachel.  She is also acknowledged as an inspiration to various artists of the Harlem Renaissance.   Angelina left Washington, DC after the death of her father in 1930 and moved to New York where she died in 1958.

Thanks to the Smithsonian Digital Volunteers who help us make treasures like Grimké’s signature buried deep within our collections discoverable!

Learn more about Angelina Weld Grimké, here.

August Quarterly Celebration

This weekend members of the Wilmington, Delaware community will celebrate August Quarterly, an annual church and community festival that honors Peter Spencer and the anniversary of Spencer’s founding of the African Union Methodist Protestant (A.U.M.P) Church in Wilmington in 1813.  Occurring on the last Sunday in August, the festival, once known as Big Quarterly, is the oldest African American folk festival.

Bigquarterly001

The Big Quarterly booklet from August 30, 1981. Rt. Rev. Robert F. Walters Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

The Anacostia Community Museum featured this holiday in its 2008/2009 exhibition:  Jubilee!  African American Celebration which explored the history of various holidays and celebrations across the nation from the 18th century to the present.

To learn more about this celebration consult the Delaware Historical Society.

Transcribe Tuesdays: Turner’s Field Notebook

This #Transcribe Tuesdays we have a field notebook compiled by Lorenzo Dow Turner (1890-1972), the first professionally trained African American linguist.  Dr.  Turner assembled this notebook while conducting field research in Nigeria on a Fulbright Research Award in 1951.  Known as the father of Gullah studies, Turner discovered the speaking pattern of the Gullah people was actually a Creole language, heavily influenced by the languages of West Africa. Transcribe this notebook to learn more about Turner’s research in Nigeria!

Turnernotebook2

Turner’s notebook contains images taken by Dr. Turner in various Eastern Regions of Nigeria. Lorenzo Dow Turner papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Lois Turner Williams.

Transcribe Tuesdays: Travel Scrapbook

Evanti

Madame Evanti during her travels in the 1940s. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift Thurlow E. Tubbs, Jrs. Estate.

For this #Transcribe Tuesdays project, help us with transcribing the travel scrapbook of native Washingtonian Madame Evanti.  Born Annie Lillian Evans in 1890;  she was the first African American to sing in an organized European opera company.  In 1925 Madame Evanti made her operatic debut in Nice, France, in the principal role of Léo Delibes’ Lakmé.  Before her retirement in the 1950s, Evanti received acclaim in Europe, South America, Africa, and the Caribbean for her operatic talents.  Celebrated internationally, she was denied the opportunity to perform at many venues in her native country despite performing at the White House during the Roosevelt administration in 1934.  This continued until 1943 and her performance in Verdi’s La Traviata with the National Negro Opera Company at Washington’s Watergate Theater, a moored barge that floated on the Potomac River, while the audience sat along the riverbank to watch the performance.  Madame Evanti’s career spanned some thirty years.  She was decorated by several countries, served as a good will ambassador, and composed ten songs that were published by W. C. Handy.

Evanti helped to dispel the myth that people of African origins could only perform and succeed in selected musical genres.  In a letter sent to Madame Evanti, Marian Anderson asserts, “we feel you were indeed a pioneer in making a place for our race in the operatic field.”

You can view our project on the Smithsonian Digital Volunteers: Transcription Center, here.

Transcribe Tuesdays: Dunbar High School Autograph Book

For our first #Transcribe Tuesdays, help us discover more about the early graduates of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, DC. Known as the M Street High School from 1891 to 1916, the school quickly became the most highly rated secondary school for blacks in the country.

Pearis

A page from Ella B. Howard Pearis’ 1923 Dunbar High School autograph book. Ella B. Pearis Papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

This 1923 Dunbar autograph book belonged to Ella B. Howard Pearis (1905-1998). Mrs. Pearis was a fourth generation resident of Anacostia, Washington, DC. She came from a family of community activists and carried on that tradition through her work for organizations such as the Anacostia Historical Society and the Anacostia—Congress Heights Red Cross Service.

Transcribe the Paul Lauence Dunbar High School Autograph book, here!

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