It’s all deuces on this issue’s date — 2/2/22 — but there’s far more than a couple of things percolating. Let’s start with the widest impact first.
Filmmaker and native Mobilian Margaret Brown’s latest documentary, “Descendant,” picked up a Sundance Film Festival award along with a global distribution deal on Netflix, according to Brown’s social media posts and an article in Variety magazine. Helmed by Brown, it was created through collaboration with folklorist and University of South Alabama professor Kern Jackson.
The film centering on the Africatown saga was honored with a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Vision six days after its festival premiere. The documentarian and her producers tweeted the celebratory news Jan. 28.
Higher Ground, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company, will work with online streaming platform Netflix for a release “later this year.” The film has the capacity to reach a worldwide audience faster than any of Brown’s previous works.
This coincides with other work bringing Africatown into greater focus. Ben Raines’ book “The Last Slave Ship” was published Jan. 25 and a National Geographic documentary titled “Clotilda: The Last American Slave Ship” is due out Feb. 7.
Mobile Opera presents “La Canterina” on Feb. 5, 7:30 p.m., at Murphy High School Auditorium (100 S. Carlen St.) in their annual Winter Gala. The presentation also includes a performance of newly emergent opera talent.
The main event is Josef Haydn’s 1766 comedic opera about a young woman who plays suitors for personal gain. As the paramours ratchet the stakes, the humor rises with them.
The accompaniment is period-perfect. Pianist Eric Andries joins harpsichordist Bernard McDonald. Haley Cox, Thomas Rowell, Rachel Gibson and Myles Garver are cast.
The first part of the evening will be dedicated to the three recipients of Mobile Opera’s Young Artist scholarships for this academic year. University of Mobile student Katelyn Karcher will join University of South Alabama’s Mary Bradley Knight and Diamond Sparks onstage. They will sing arias from Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliette,” Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore” and Massenet’s “Werther.”
Tickets are $25, $9.99 for students, and can be purchased online or by calling 251-432-6772. Masks are recommended. Program runtime is 100 minutes.
The art students at Connie Hudson Mobile Regional Senior Community Center (3201 Hillcrest Road) have created works with a personal significance for a historic observation. Activities specialist and art instructor Carmel Alvis assembled the Black History Month exhibit of 25 pieces in a variety of mediums by 15 artists, many of whom have personal recollections reaching back to before the Civil Rights Era.
The exhibit will hang for the remainder of February. For more information, call 251-602-4963.
Alabama Contemporary Art Center (ACAC) was approved to receive a $150,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) as part of the American Rescue Plan. The Conti Street showplace downtown issued an official acknowledgment of the funding the same day it accepted a Mobile Arts Council award for its enduring programming and relief efforts throughout the pandemic.
ACAC will take possession of the sum over the next two years. ACAC stated funding can be used for jobs, to fund operations and facilities, for health and safety supplies, and for marketing and promotional efforts to encourage attendance and participation.
Alabama arts agencies received a total of $850,000 in American Rescue Plan grants. Mobile Opera was another recipient, qualifying for $50,000.
In total, NEA will award grants totaling $57,750,000 to 567 arts organizations in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington, D.C.
While the Jan. 27 Arty Awards were a bit lighter in attendance than customary, with attendance estimated to be 30 percent smaller than usual, it has some choice moments.
When Soynika Edwards-Bush climbed on stage to accept the Artist award, young daughter Ellie carried her new film camera, supposedly to capture her mother’s award acceptance with the last remaining shot. Instead, Ellie enticed the audience to pose for a photo.
Some of the evening’s best thoughts were thanks to absent award winners. Honored patrons Charles and Mary Rodning sent grateful eloquence to be read aloud.
They stressed the arts as essential to having “abundant, authentic … purposeful and joyful lives” in conjunction with “humanistic, scientific, athletic and recreational” endeavors. They cited the arts’ “fostering … creativity, ingenuity, reflection, empathy, understanding and wisdom.”
The Rodnings further postulated the arts as part of good citizenship, a “responsibility” and “obligation” in building a thriving community aimed at the common good.
Such idealism is everywhere in our arts realm. No wonder this columnist is hooked on it.
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