Category Archives: Cultural Encounters

Curator’s Choice: Photos that make you feel

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
― Ansel Adams

A woman in a pollera and tembleques at a Latin American Festival in Washington, D.C. Anacostia Community Museum Black Mosaic archives. Photographer: Harold Dorwin
A woman in a pollera and tembleques at a Latin American Festival in Washington, D.C. Black Mosaic Collection, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution. Photographer: Harold Dorwin

This woman de la tercera edad, as we would say in Spanish, is a quiet representation of pride.  In her pollera, the national costume of Panama, with her gold hair pieces and tembleques, the white hair ornaments, she is intently working on another hair adornment, seemingly unperturbed by the men around her in t-shirts. She isn’t in Panama. She is in Washington, D.C.

The first time I saw this picture in the Anacostia Community Museum Archives, I felt.

As the opening quotation alludes, every viewer brings something unique to the photographs they view. Viewing pictures is not passive; it is an active interpretation. Sometimes we can articulate why we like an image or why we do not. But other times, images just touch you.  They simply make you feel.

This picture touched me for various personal reasons, related to the quotation by Ansel Adams.  Of the thousands of pictures in the Black Mosaic archives, this image would of course catch my attention.

I look at this, as you do, through multiple lenses. For example:  as a woman, the daughter of a Panamanian father, someone that was very close to my grandmothers, someone who works directly in visual representation, as an anthropologist concerned with the politics of the quotidian, as a scholar that studies international representation in U.S. spaces, as someone that loves polleras… the reasons I am drawn to this image are countless.

Often times, nation and pride are visually represented by flags and/or children.  This picture has neither. And yet, to me, perhaps because of what I’ve seen, read, the music I’ve heard and the people I’ve loved, this is a strong and sweet representation of love, nation, and pride.

*This image will be included in the upcoming exhibition: Bridging the Americas: Community and Belonging from Panama < — > Washington, D.C. , opening at the Anacostia Community Museum in April 2015.

Finding Community Heroes at Home and Abroad

 

Anacostia Community Museum MAP students meet Ambassador Francisco Roberto Altschul  Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
Anacostia Community Museum MAP students meet Ambassador Francisco Roberto Altschul Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Anacostia Community Museum Academy is an after school program dedicated to broadening the horizons of some of the younger members of our local community.  One late afternoon in November the ACM Museum Academy crossed international borders and paid a visit to the Salvadoran Embassy in DC.  There, they met with Ambassador Francisco Roberto Altschul; learned about El Salvador; tasted traditional Salvadoran food like pupusa de queso (a thick corn meal tortilla filled with cheese) and served with curtido (a delicious cabbage slaw made with vinegar); and enjoyed a film screening with Oscar-winning Salvadoran director Andrè Guttfreund about a Salvadoran man who had an idea and turned that into a school that benefitted the entire community.

ACM Museum Academy students enjoy the pupusas, curtidas, fresh fruit and corn bread, traditional Salvadoran fare. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
ACM Museum Academy students enjoy the pupusas, curtidas, fresh fruit and corn bread, traditional Salvadoran fare. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
The Anacostia Community Museum Academy enjoyed a visit to the Salvadorean Embassy in Washington, DC where they met Ambassador Francisco Roberto Altschul, Salvadorean Oscar-winning director Andre Guttfreund, and Counselor for Cultural Affairs Vilma Herrera.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
The Anacostia Community Museum Academy enjoyed a visit to the Salvadorean Embassy in Washington, DC where they met Ambassador Francisco Roberto Altschul, Salvadorean Oscar-winning director Andre Guttfreund, and Counselor for Cultural Affairs Vilma Herrera.Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Andrè shared this story about Hector Morales , a director of a poor rural school, El Zapote, in El Salvador who changed the face of a community. In Andrè’s own words:

Hector Morales, El Zapote’s hero Director, took over 4 years ago. In that time he has done the following:

1) Introduced hydroponic gardening all done by the kids themselves in order for the school to feed itself. Leftover produce is sold by the kids to raise money for their other projects. In addition, 80% of the kids took hydroponics home, so that their families now also feed themselves, and barter what they don’t need with fishermen, allowing both parties to balance out their diets.

2) The kids and their parents, with the help of community members, have built two tilapia ponds and one shrimp pond. What they don’t eat has already been pre-sold to fish markets in the area.

3) Given that there is no artisanship in their village of 500, and because Hector felt the kids needed an activity which they would enjoy, instill pride, and help them make some money for themselves and their families, he brought a teacher in, from an area in El Salvador which weaves for a living, who taught the kids how to make hammocks. This program has been so successful that the kids are having to catch up with the orders. Each kid gets $25.00 for their hammock; the rest goes for the materials involved. Hector introduced them to branding, by having the kids choose the colors which would identify the hammocks as having been made in El Zapote. They are now sold to tourists at airport gift shops, and orders have started to come in from abroad.

4) Hector made a deal with local turtle egg fishermen in which they keep 70% of their crop and give the other 30% to the school. This helps conserve the species, and makes the kids responsible for taking care of the eggs, and then releasing the turtles before they imprint. This project is part of his biology class, and he has integrated ecology, environmentalism and self-sustainability into the entire curriculum

5) Every Friday, the whole school participates in a total community clean-up operation, ending with recycling and mulching.

6) Some of the recycled material is used to make puppets for a puppet show on environmental awareness, which the kindergartners perform throughout the county.

7) Before Hector, education at El Zapote would end at 8th grade for 95% of the students. The closest high school was a 2 1/2 hour bus ride away (each way). Now a ninth grade schoolroom has been built for the upcoming school year, and one will be added every year until the 12th grade is finished. Every eighth grader has been inscribed other than three whose families are moving.

Andrè finished his impassioned presentation by telling the students that they had the tools to create a film like the one he made (linked to below), with the ubiquity of personal technology like smart phones, and outlets like YouTube and Vimeo, we all can be the creators of our stories and share them with the world.  Andrè Guttfreund’s movie served to create awareness of how one dedicated person harnessed a community to become positive conduits for change, and has since inspired the curriculum at schools around the world. Watch it below.

The students of Anacostia Community Museum Museum Academy pose outside the El Salvadoran Embassy in Washington, DC.  Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum
The students of Anacostia Community Museum Museum Academy pose outside the El Salvadoran Embassy in Washington, DC. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum

On being Black in the U.S.: Community Stories from the ACM Archives

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A Washington, D.C. police officer and members of the Latino community in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, D.C.,  Black Mosaic Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution 

In 1991 Washington, D.C. experienced its own civil unrest – the Mt. Pleasant riots.  In the wake of those riots, the Anacostia Community Museum, at that time the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum,  was undertaking a research project about Black Immigrants in the DC metro area.   The exhibition that came from that researchBlack Mosaic: community, race, and ethnicity among Black immigrants in Washington, D. C.  opened at the Museum in August of 1994.

One of the largest treasures of the Black Mosaic collection is the trove of oral histories, collected by community members. The range of stories talks about perception of the U.S. before coming, arrival to the U.S., arrival to Washington, D.C, building community, barriers to community acceptance, struggle, triumph, pain and joy.

During the research phase, the DC metro area was still very much healing from racial tensions, from distrust between the community and the police.  The oral histories reference this tense time in D.C. history, but also offer reflections of community members on the issues of race, Americanness, Blackness, community and identity.

In light of recent national events, I share these three small oral history excerpts from the Black Mosaic archives for your reflection and comment.

 I remember when Mr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. I basically lost almost all of my black friends—they suddenly decided that I was the enemy because I had white skin. I felt terrible about that, especially being a member of another minority group [Latino] that was always discriminated against. However, I understand that people are embittered by their experiences.

I remember being in the playground of St. Joseph Catholic School and a child came up to me and said, ‘I feel sorry for you.’ I never forgot that because for a long time I couldn’t understand why it was she felt sorry for me. And then I recognized that it was because of the fact that I was black and it really hit me. I gained an understanding of what that means, in the context of this country, that I just never had, even though I was very well aware in the Dominican Republic and In St. Thomas that I was black … I was never made to feel when I was growing up in the Dominican Republic that I was less than a human being because of my color.

To be true to yourself means you have to follow your pain. And so that when you come on pain, you have to re-explore it and get to root of where that pain is coming from. And so that it meant for me following my pain, or society pains around my blackness, because there IS pain around being black! Here! And I followed that pain, in other words, I kept dealing and dealing with that. And there is pain about being Latina, and there is certainly pain about being a woman! And so I followed that pain and that has made it possible for me to be true to myself. I’m not going to be anything than what I am. I am going to enrich what I am! I’m going to enhance what I am! But I’m never going to be anything but a woman, I’m never going to be anything but black, and I am Latina. And so being true to that identity, and going through the process that it takes to polish that identity, is the greatest thing that I’ve learned.

Veterans Remembrance Ceremony at Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Campus

St Elizabeths historic cemetery. Photo by Susana Raab
St Elizabeths historic cemetery. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Tucked away behind Johnson Middle School on 12 Place SE, lies the remains of many of Saint Elizabeths Hospital former residents, veterans all.  Today at 11 AM a small but significant group of people gathered to honor these veterans, many of them anonymous, but some with stories that persevere.  Among those gathered to honor were: Arrington Dixon, President of the Anacostia Coordinating Council, keynote speaker and Civil Rights activist Dr. Frank Smith, now Director of the African American Civil War Museum, members of the Anacostia High School Junior ROTC, members of FREED, the Female Re-Enactors of Distinction, and the combined chorus of the US Coast Guard and St. Elizabeths Hospital, among other notables.  It was a beautiful ceremony on a perfect Washington autumn day, complete with a bagpiper, bugler, and speeches that recognized the struggles of those who were interred in the Cemetery, advocated for mental health care, and honored those who continue to serve in the US Armed Forces.

Dr. Frank Smith, Director of the African American Civil War Museum delivers the keynote address at the Veterans Remembrance Ceremony at Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Campus. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
Dr. Frank Smith, Director of the African American Civil War Museum delivers the keynote address at the Veterans Remembrance Ceremony at Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Campus.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
The Coast Guard Color Guard posts during the Veterans Remembrance Ceremony at Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Campus. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
The Coast Guard Color Guard posts during the Veterans Remembrance Ceremony at Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Campus.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
 Members of FREED (Female Reenactors of Distinction of the American Civil War): Judy Williams, Joyce Bailey, Helen Hassell, Asa Gordon, Carol Gordon, and Shirley Holmes pose for a portrait before the commencement of the Veterans Remembrance Ceremony at Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Campus. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
Members of FREED (Female Reenactors of Distinction of the American Civil War): Judy Williams, Joyce Bailey, Helen Hassell, Asa Gordon, Carol Gordon, and Shirley Holmes pose for a portrait before the commencement of the Veterans Remembrance Ceremony at Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Campus.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
Members of FREED (Female Reenactors of Distinction of the American Civil War): take a cellphone photograph during the Veterans Remembrance Ceremony at Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Campus. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
Members of FREED (Female Reenactors of Distinction of the American Civil War): take a cellphone photograph during the Veterans Remembrance Ceremony at Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Campus.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

 

-Jeffrey Burton of the US Coast Guard Pipe Band plays during the Veterans Remembrance Ceremony at Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Campus.   Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
-Jeffrey Burton of the US Coast Guard Pipe Band plays during the Veterans Remembrance Ceremony at Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Campus.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
Members of the Anacostia High School Junior ROTC places flags on graves of soldiers during the Veterans Remembrance Ceremony at Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Campus. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
Members of the Anacostia High School Junior ROTC places flags on graves of soldiers during the Veterans Remembrance Ceremony at Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Campus.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
A gravestone in Saint Elizabeths Cemetery.  Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
A gravestone in Saint Elizabeths Cemetery. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

 

 - The historic Saint Elizabeths Cemetery at Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Campus. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
– The historic Saint Elizabeths Cemetery at Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Campus.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Artist Talk w/Sheila Crider @Honfleur Gallery Nov 15 PLUS PHOTOBOOK Exhibit @VividGallery

Volume by Sheila Crider at the Honfleur Gallery

Friend of the Anacostia Community Museum local artist Sheila Crider has an exhibit up at the Honfleur Gallery on Good Hope Rd SE called Volume. It features beautiful paper sculpture assemblages and mixed media prints.  Sheila is a lifelong East of the Riverite, and participated in several projects with ACM.  Please join her for an artist talk on November 15 @ 2 pm @Honfleur Gallery.  

Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution
A sculpture in Sheila Crider’s Volume
Volume by Sheila Crider at the Honfleur Gallery
Volume by Sheila Crider at the Honfleur Gallery

 

My practice focuses on making objects that challenge notions of decorative and fine art, questioning what real value and purpose these objects and “the artist” serve in the 21st century.  It is centered by study of the varied languages of art movements since Modernism to construct contemporary pictures, using texture, pattern, line, color, form, sequence, and now, volume, with a goal of integrating image, object, and frame.

-Sheila Crider, September 2014

 

Also of interest is the PHOTOBOOK exhibit at Vivid Solutions Gallery next door in the Anacostia Arts Center.  PHOTOBOOK  asks how the presentation of a photographic image influences its effect on the viewer. How do we consider an image seen in a book that we hold as opposed to a photograph in a frame hanging on the wall? Featuring the work of 7 artists, the exhibit is  tightly curated and offers an easily accessible framework in which to ponder these questions.

In the last 20 years photo books have become highly collectible and coveted objects.  Martin Parr‘s and Gerry Badger‘s history of Photobooks in 3 volumes explores the use of photo books, the myriad way photographers have re-represented their work within them, the changes made in the advent of self-publishing, more affordable methods of offset publishing, and the rise in popularity of the handmade artist book.  The photo book allows affordable entry into the world of fine art collecting. And first and limited editions have been known to appreciate greatly in value. Ask anyone who has their hands on a first edition of photographer Robert Frank’s seminal photo book The Americans.

Kristin Gudbrandsdottir "Faces of the Fallen" handmade artist book at Vivid Gallery
Kristin Gudbrandsdottir “Faces of the Fallen”, KGB press, handmade artist book at Vivid Gallery

The books represented by the artists in Vivid Solutions Gallery’s PHOTOBOOK exhibit represent many of these ways of interpreting the photo book.   Kristin Gudbrandsdottir’s Faces of the Fallen is a handmade artist book utilizing an acordian fold and cut-outs to represent the human waste of war.  Leda Black’s Mimesis examines three categories of objects: plant, animal, and human-made.  She prints out inkjet prints and had them hand bound into a book locally, offering yet another version of the handmade artist book

Leda Black's Mimesis, Palabra Press, inkjet print on canvas.
Leda Black’s Mimesis, Palabra Press, inkjet print on canvas.

 

Luke Strosnider’s I Wish You Where Here depicts images made during a European sojourn.  His book appears to be one made from one of the many companies offering offset printing in small publishing runs, companies that include  Blurb and MyPublisher.

 

Luke Strosnider 's Images from the series Wish You Where Here
Luke Strosnider ‘s Images from the series Wish You Where Here

 

PHOTOBOOK presents the work of Anna Agoston, Jordan Baumgarten, Leda Black, Kristin Gudbrandsdottir, Jay Turner Frey Seawell, Tatiana Shukhin, and Luke Strosnider.

Honfleur Gallery

1241 Good Hope Road SE · Washington DC 20020 · 202-365-8392 · arts@archdc.org
Hours: Tuesday – Friday noon to 5pm · Saturday 11am to 5pm

Vivid Solutions Gallery

1231 Good Hope Road SE · Washington DC 20020
(Inside Anacostia Arts Center)
202-365-8392
Hours: Tuesday – Friday noon to 5pm · Saturday 11am to 5pm

Throwback Thursday: Museum Visitors

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Four African visitors and Balcha Fellows pose in front of the Anacostia Neigborhood Museum, July 1970
Anacosita Community Museum Archives

 

Four African visitors to the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, now Anacostia Community Museum, July 1970.  The visitors, from Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast (Côte d’ Ivoire), Chad, and Mali, were in the United States as part of an Operation Crossroads Africa/State Department educational tour. Balcha Fellows (third from right), a special assistant to the museum’s founding director, John Kindard, arranged the Anacostia Community Museum portion of the tour.

 

Throwback Thursday: Revisiting Black Mosaic

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Installation shot of Black Mosaic exhibition. The groundbreaking show was organized by the Anacostia Community Museum and held there from August 21, 1994 to August 7, 1995.

For our very first throwback, an installation shot of Black Mosaic: Community, Race, and Ethnicity among Black Immigrants in Washington, DC exhibition.

The exhibition explored the immigration of people of African descent from Central and South America and the Caribbean to the Washignton Metropolitan  area. The show focused on several issues including: Identity; the African Diaspora in the Americas; memories of home; race and color at home; migration/immigration; music;  and community life in Washington.

To view the exhibition and research records from this exhibition contact: ACMarchives@si.edu.