weekend links: Obama portraits, Third World Press, Austin jazz

  Michelle Obama,  Amy Sherald (2018).  Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution/ Hyperallergic.

Michelle Obama, Amy Sherald (2018). Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution/Hyperallergic.

Barack and Michelle Obama’s portraits for the National Portrait Gallery were unveiled earlier this week. Kehinde Wiley’s colorful portrait of Barack drew accolades, but Amy Sherald’s painting of Michelle stole the show. The portrait beguiled viewers, many of whom felt it didn’t look like the former First Lady. (They may have been looking at small, low-resolution images—the portrait is undoubtedly of Michelle, albeit in a pose and expression not often expressed on TV.) Sherald’s painting is masterful, audacious in its form and even more impressive in its palette than Wiley’s pop-art portrait of her husband. However, as Chiquita Paschale writes, “it’s okay to feel ambivalent about Michelle Obama’s official portrait.” [Hyperallergic]

After growing up in the Jim Crow South, moving to Chicago, and being influenced by the growing Black Arts Movement, Haki R. Madhubuti founded Third World Press, a publisher for black poets, historians, scholars, novelists, and essayists that became the most important literary addition to the era. In addition to publishing voices otherwise overlooked, Madhubuti embarked on a literary career himself. Here, he discusses his interest in art and how he came to be a driving force in the Black Arts community for decades and decades to come. [Biography]

Because the White House proposed another budget that seeks to eliminate the NEA, the NEH, and many other important initiatives for the arts, artists are speaking out against the administration. Here, arts leaders point out why the cuts are illogical and damaging to communities around the country, threatening museums, theaters, community centers, and more. [Washington Post]

In Florida’s Jim Crow era, a group of two dozen black painters known as the Highwaymen survived by selling paintings out of their car trunks due to galleries turning them away. Every day, by car or bike, these men made ends meet by painting and selling, most times on the same day, to tourists, business owners, and anyone passing by. Today, some of those same paintings will be shown at the Smithsonian to highlight the tenacity of the men and the legacy of their story, and finally, they have the opportunity to be loved and celebrated, but this time on a much larger scale. [Artsy]

Austin is known as the music capital in Texas, and by music capital most mean psychedelic, rock, or singer-songwriters. Along with those genres, Austin has a jazz scene that has, for a long time, been overlooked.  In 2016, Austin’s jazz community started taking matters into their own hands and creating spaces for themselves, which has resulted in local musicians Kris Kimura and Eric Leonard’s new joint, Parker Jazz Club, and a monthly speakeasy on Cesar Chavez called Monks. With these new developments, it raises a serious question: Can Austin be a jazz city? [Austin Chronicle]

In the last half-decade, hip hop has been so influential that it’s made its way to classrooms. Because of its elevated use of the English language and relatability to students, teachers are now seeing hip hop as an educational tool and using it either to teach various concepts, or teaching hip hop as its own class. Here, a math teacher and a student-run indie label exec talk about how hip hop culture influences the classroom and how they’ve used it to both promote learning and local art. [DJ Booth]

Since grade school, you’ve probably heard of the innovative and highly influential William Shakespeare. Romeo & Juliet, King Lear, and others have been common reads in America for (at least) the last two centuries, and for a number of years, scholars have wondered what inspired Shakespeare. Thanks to new plagiarism software used by teachers to check students’ papers, it’s been discovered that Shakespeare was heavily inspired by a manuscript titled A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels, and now one of the world’s most celebrated authors might be under scrutiny. [The New York Times]

While we’re thrilled with Ellsworth Kelly’s beautiful Austin (see our Instagram for a sneak peek), Michael Argesta reminds us of the terrible paradox at play in Austin’s arts community: as we grow our stature on the international stage, our local artists are being pushed out of their spaces at an alarming rate. If we’re not supporting our own talent, will we ever truly become a respected arts destination? [Texas Monthly]

Artists and co-curators Billi London-Gray and Daniel Bernard Gray have a history of hosting pop-ups that both market and politicize their unconventional art, but this time, they’re showcasing their art in their own front lawn in Arlington, Texas. Their new front-yard exhibition, Vexillology, features 10 to 12 flags from artists around the U.S., and they plan to introduce new pieces through a flag-raising ceremony every month. Each flag stands for something different, and through this public display, Billi and Daniel hope to both promote the art through their imprint, Zosima Gallery, for all of 2018 and beyond. [Dallas Observer]

In light of America’s latest gun tragedy on school campus, we’re just going to leave this here. RIP. [The Rumpus]

—Nia KB

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