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Arts Events Highlight Historic Fights for Justice, Equity

Photo by Dan Loh.

Photo by Dan Loh.

Exhibition, concert launch Sept. 24

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

There’s a lot to unpack in Horace Pippin’s paintings, and none more so than his powerful World War II-era work, Mr. Prejudice. Informed by the self-taught Pennsylvania artist’s experiences as a soldier in World War I, Mr. Prejudice is a testament to the horrors of war and the ongoing battle against racial injustice, and it’s as searing today as when it was painted, a decade before the American civil rights movement took hold nationally.

Mr. Prejudice is the central work in Horace Pippin: Racism and War, the first of two Trout Gallery exhibitions this fall showcasing important works by African American artists, courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Pippin exhibition opens with a Sept. 24 reception and continues through mid-February. Tracing Slavery, highlighting silhouettes by Moses Williams (c. 1775 - c. 1825) and by contemporary artist Kara Walker, runs Oct. 22 to Jan. 22.

Both exhibitions are amplified by robust educational programs that bring Dickinsonians and community members deeper into the works and their underlying themes. And both are made possible through a multiyear grant from the Art Bridges + Terra Foundation Initiative, a collection-sharing program that brings major American works from urban museums to smaller museums and galleries across the United States, with the stipulation that the hosting organizations provide educational programs that amplify the artworks to their local communities.

That’s an easy lift for The Trout Gallery, which regularly provides art-focused community programs. In the weeks leading up to the Sept. 24 opening, Trout Gallery student-interns have studied the history of racial justice in Carlisle and taken a racial-justice-themed tour of downtown Carlisle, courtesy of the Cumberland County Historical Society. Throughout the fall semester, the students are helping to plan and present accompanying tours and educational programs for fellow Dickinsonians and for young children, middle-schoolers, high-schoolers and adults in Carlisle and Central Pennsylvania.

These include age-appropriate artmaking workshops and a December discussion with local leaders on racial justice in Carlisle, cosponsored by the Cumberland County Historical Society. The Trout Gallery will also present an art contest, A Splash of Red, inviting local residents to create artworks in honor of Pippin, who famously incorporated that fiery hue in his works. A social-media campaign will challenge Dickinsonians to vie for swag by posting photos with a bit of red in them—in celebration of Pippin, and with a nod to Dickinson’s official color.

Lynne McMurtry (left) and Alison D'Amato.

Lynne McMurtry (left) and Alison D'Amato.

It’s all part of a full and rich calendar of fall public arts events at Dickinson that explore salient and timely themes, including issues surrounding race, diversity and identity.

Dickinson's music department makes joyful noise with its inventive “He/She/They” concert, staged Sept. 24,  just after the close of the Pippin exhibition. It will be presented by visiting musical artists Lynne McMurtry (contralto) and Alison d’Amato (pianist). 

The evening begins in traditional fashion, with music by cornerstone German composers Schumann and Brahms, and then expands into works by their female contemporaries Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel. The second half of the program is a musical celebration of women poets, Black American female composers, Indigenous and LGTBQ poets and Asian and trans composers. The concert is accented with elements of jazz and contemporary harmonies and concludes with a Haydn symphony, reworked with timely lyrics about pronoun usage.

"This concert is part of a larger project that exposes our students to new and diverse repertoire, along with more traditional works," says Assistant Professor of Music James Martin, who oversees the McMurtry/d’Amato residency with Professor of Music Jennifer Blyth and welcomes McMurtry and d’Amato back to Dickinson for a Nov. 7 liederabend concert featuring performances by music students. “We’re thrilled to highlight works by underrepresented poets and composers in this way."

Learn more about fall 2021 exhibitions at Dickinson and the college’s major fall arts events.

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Published September 21, 2021