CHESTERTOWN — “Migration: An Exploration in Art, Words, and Music, Inspired by Jacob Lawerence” opened Nov. 1 with a special guest in attendance, the first lady of Maryland Yumi Hogan.
“Migration” is a two-part project produced by the Kent County Arts Council in partnership with the Garfield Center for the Arts, RiverArts, Kent County Public Schools, the Hedgelawn Foundation, the Indian Point Foundation, the Philanthropic Network and the Maryland State Arts Council.
In 1941, Lawrence created a series of 60 panels depicting his interpretation of the migration of African Americans from the American South to the North. The panels can be seen at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
“Nearly a year in the making, none of us ever imagined that this production would be quite so timely. This project is not just about the Great Migration of African Americans from the legally separated south to the embedded, if not legislated segregation of the industrial north; this is a project about all who take a journey simply because not going is not an option,” John Schratwieser, executive director of KCAC, wrote in a news release.
For her visit, Hogan first viewed art created by KCPS students from all grade levels on display in RiverArts’ galleries. There she met with some of the local high school student artists including senior Alex Raimond, sophomore Sarah Herron and junior Alanis Bowman.
KCPS art teachers Teresa Jetton, Stephanie Spencer, Noel Morris, Janet McCormick and Aimee Boumiea also attended the gallery opening and met Hogan.
To help inspire the students in their creations, Schratwieser said on Sept. 25, nearly 40 Kent County High Schools students, along with all five KCPS art teachers, visited the Phillips Collection for a tour of the museum. The students’ tour put a specific focus on the “Migration” panels.
Following her tour of the gallery, Hogan then walked over to the Garfield Center for performances of “Migration Series Plays” and “Red Devil Moon.”
The “Migration” plays were presented as a five-part series, each with different writers, and all produced by Jacqueline E. Lawton for the Phillips Collection in Washington. They were directed by Michele Volansky, associate professor at Washington College.
Each 10-minute play in the series, presented as “rehearsed readings,” is based on one of Lawrence’s panels.
The play’s five parts were “In Constant Pursuit” written by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm; “We, A Legacy of Chains” written by Annalisa Dias; “A Long Arduous Journey” written by Lawton; “#51” written by Laura Shamas; and “Bagdad Carpet” written by Norman Allen.
The cast, which Schratwieser said consists primarily of local residents, was Barbi Bedell, Rakeem Hicks, Nivek Johnson, Melissa McGlynn, Shayla Moore, Kyle Roderick, Robert Earl Price, Mariam Satchell, Schratwieser, Ruth Shoge and Kennett Vail-Rojas.
Before the show began, Hogan talked briefly but glowingly about the KCAC and its dedication to bringing the arts to students.
“Art makes everything happy,” Hogan said.
Hogan said she has dedicated her life to being an artist and a teacher. She said that “art serves as a bridge to connect people in the community.”
She talked about the importance of teaching the arts and said art can be found in things or tasks one might not expect, such as preparing food.
“Presentation is art, you have to make it pretty,” Hogan said, getting laughs and nods from the audience.
She praised Schratwieser for his work to enhance the arts in the community. She said she has worked with him before and called him a “champion of the arts.”
Hogan also used her speech to congratulate the KCPS students for their work as well as all the actors in the “Migration Series Play” and musicians in “Red Devil Moon” for their work.
Hogan, who grew up in a small town in South Korea, also praised Chestertown.
Following the “Migration” performance, Hogan attended a performance consisting of a selection of songs from the musical “Red Devil Moon,” which is based on a book written by Price with music and lyrics by Pam Ortiz.
On Oct. 25, “Red Devil Moon” was presented to KCHS and KCMS students as well as students from Radcliffe Creek School and Kent School.