Get to know Maori Karmael Holmes in just five questions. Maori founded the BlackStar Film Festival and currently serves as its Artistic Director & CEO. We are a proud presenting partner of the Festival (August 20-26), and recently announced the appointment of Maori as our new Curator-at-Large for Film. She’s also serving as Mediamaker-in-Residence at the Annenberg School. Read on to find out what we can expect from Maori!
1. There is a lot of great film, discussion, events in the BlackStar Film Festival this year. What one thing should we not miss?
That’s always a hard question to answer. The entire festival is carefully planned by all of us and we want folks to participate in everything!
2. What’s your process for evaluating and selecting films?
This year, we started working with a crew of a dozen student reviewers (many of whom attend Penn) who watched the films in full and made notes. Read more...
BlackStar Film Festival, the prestigious celebration of the visual and storytelling traditions of the African diaspora and of global communities of color, is the only event of its kind in Philadelphia. Since 2012, when the multi-day festival was founded by Artistic Director & CEO Maori Karmael Holmes, this showcase of work by Black, Brown and Indigenous film and video artists has brought together filmmakers, patrons and enthusiasts from around the world. The Annenberg Center is a producing partner of the Festival, which runs August 20-26.
Due to COVID-19, BlackStar has gone digital for this year. More than 80 films representing over 20 countries will be shown, including 24 world premieres. Among the highlights are the world premiere of The Ancestors Live – 50 Years of Kùlú Mèlé African Dance & Drum Ensemble (August 22), which honors Philadelphia-based Kùlú Mèlé’s 50th anniversary and the making of Ogun & the People (which was commissioned by the Annenberg Center and received its world premiere on our stage in November 2019), and Legendary: 30 Years of Philly Ballroom, an inside look at the preservation of Philadelphia’s ballroom scene, a Black and Latinx LGBTQ safe-space that has endured for 30 years (August 22). Visit the BlackStar website for the full schedule of feature films, documentaries, shorts, live panel discussions and special events. Read more...
Koresh Dance Company recently expanded its digital reach with the release of “Hide Your Face/Unmask Your Heart.” Subtitled A Trilogy of Yearning for Normalcy, Justice and Peace of Mind, the short film trilogy is a specially curated project by founder Roni Koresh intended to refocus and reimagine new ways of dance expression during times of uncertainty and fear. Each film features words or poetry by Karl Mullen, a Philadelphia-based specialist in non-traditional art and music making, and were edited by fellow Philadelphian Sandy Mitchel, a sought-after videographer for her work in capturing dance. “Hide Your Face/Unmask Your Heart” provides relevant commentary to our current times and elevates voices of our Philadelphia arts community.
Developed and led by New Victory’s outstanding teaching artists, each Arts Break spans five days, offering a different activity for each weekday. With age recommendations and material lists, most activities take around 30 minutes and can be done using easy-to-find household objects.
The teaching artist program at New Victory is focused on the impact of live performing arts on kids. With a foundation of robust research, the company seeks to continue its meaningful educational programming in the at-home setting. Read more about New Victory’s research-based approach and be on the lookout for the next Arts Break.
Last September, there was hardly a dry eye in the house as we kicked off our dance season with Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal’s Dance Me / Music of Leonard Cohen, a riveting homage to famed poet/singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen. Set to some of Cohen's most beloved songs including “Suzanne,” “So Long, Marianne” and “Hallelujah,” choreographers Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Andonis Foniadakis and Ihsan Rustem created a stunning multidisciplinary work. Writing in The Dance Journal, Debra Danese said, “Under the artistic direction of Louis Robitaille, [Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal] strives to present work that is both high quality and accessible to audiences. Dance Me truly represented those key values with brilliant dance artists and innovative musical, light, and media design.” Grab a tissue and have a listen to Cohen’s evocative soundtrack.
Emmet Cohen protesting alongside Jon Batiste of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
In five questions, we aim to discover more about Annenberg Center artists, Penn faculty and others whom we find interesting. This time, we feature Harlem-based piano phenom Emmet Cohen who made his Annenberg Center debut back in 2019. Cohen blew us away with his prodigious technique, innovative sound and exuberant charm. And now, you can enjoy this rising jazz star from the comfort of your home every Monday night for his Live from Emmet’s Place series. Read on to learn more about Emmet Cohen, and join us tonight at 7:30 PM as we share his Monday night concert on our Facebook page!
1. What first got you into music?
I first started piano lessons at three years old, and there was always a lot of music – not in my immediate family, not my parents – but on my dad’s side of the family. I think he always wanted to be a musician and it was something that he considered going into as a profession when he was a teenager in the 1960s. Out of high school, he had a recording contract with Brunswick, the same record label with the same management as Jackie Wilson. Jackie’s record came out the same time as his record and no one ever called him back again. Read more...
When the Annenberg Center opened its doors in 1971, visitors were immediately captivated by a spectacular two-story sculpture, Homage to the Performing Arts, by Harry Bertoia (1915-1978). The sculpture is a site-specific commission designed for the two-story circular light well. Its bronze tensile spandrel rods extend from the ceiling to descend 35 feet into the lower level. An Italian-born American, Bertoia is best known for his sculptures, furniture design and jewelry. He began his career as a furniture designer. While working for Knoll, Bertoia created his most famous piece, the Diamond Chair, made entirely from polished steel wires in a basket-like shape. With his success in the 1950s, he devoted himself entirely to art. Bertoia began to make metal and wood sculptures that made various sounds when the rods were struck together. He became obsessed and made hundreds of them.
“I build sculptures that can move in the wind, or that can be touched and played, like an instrument,” Bertoia said in an NPR interview a few years before his death in 1978. A pioneering sound artist, Bertoia made recordings as he touched various sculptures together in his barn. The recordings were released as Sonambient albums. Unfortunately, we don’t know if Bertoia ever tried playing Homage to the Performing Arts. This sculpture was entirely conserved to its original splendor in 2015 and returned as the centerpiece of the lobby. Read more...
Internationally renowned all-female a cappella ensemble Nobuntu brightened our stage in 2018, wowing audiences with a mix of traditional Zimbabwean songs, Afro-jazz and gospel. While celebrating their vibrant African culture, these women continue to showcase how music can be a vehicle for change, one that transcends boundaries of race, religion and gender.
Over the past few months, the Dunedin Consort has taken to many formats of the virtual stage. Within the first weeks of quarantine, the Gramophone Award-winning baroque ensemble hosted a lighthearted and casual livestreamed Q&A with its Music Director, John Butt. In April, Dunedin’s musicians honored Good Friday with a socially distanced recording of Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. The video, along with Dunedin’s corresponding podcast episode, took the place of the group’s annual performances of the work that were cancelled. Since then, we’ve enjoyed Dunedin’s educational video series, Making Music with Dunedin Consort, and fun introductions to instruments such as the baroque horn, the oboe and the theorbo.
We were also very excited to see Dunedin release its performance at the Library of Congress (LOC) in Washington, D.C. This video brought us right back to January of this year when we presented Dunedin’s Philadelphia debut just two days before the LOC concert. Read more...
We continue our new series aiming to discover more about Annenberg Center artists, Penn faculty and others whom we find interesting in just five questions. This time, we’re featuring Natacha Diels who will be joining Penn’s music department faculty this fall. A founding member of the innovative Ensemble Pamplemousse, Diels is a composer who integrates visual and sound art with touches of whimsy and irony to reflect on the human condition. Read on to learn more about Natacha Diels.
1. What themes do you pursue in your work?
I primarily consider myself a collage artist— using as source material existing concrete music/sound/video. I do this to repurpose the emotional response to the material, pay respect to others, mark history through relevant reference, and also largely because of the sheer joy of creating in this manner. Broadly, I attempt to make art that approaches life and currently, highlights its absurdity by treading the tenuous line separating profound mundanity and a nearly fantastical loss of touch with reality. Read more...