Seeing stars! Actor and former City Council candidate hopes to make ‘El Barrio Walk of Fame’ in East Harlem

Businessman, actor, and former City Council Candidate Edwin Marcial wants to give back to the East Harlem community by creating a local version of the Walk of Fame. ‘I see so many artists in Harlem that deserve to be there,’ he tells The News.

Edwin Marcial wants to create an El Barrio Walk of Fame to honor local legends and stars on 106th St. between 3rd and Lexington Avenues.

Edwin Marcial wants to create an El Barrio Walk of Fame to honor local legends and stars on 106th St. between 3rd and Lexington Avenues.

Why should Hollywood have more fun than East Harlem?

A businessman, actor and former City Council candidate wants to create an “El Barrio Walk of Fame” on E. 106th St. between Third and Lexington Aves. to honor East Harlem stars and legends.

“I want to give it to the people who do something for El Barrio,” said Edwin

Businessman, actor, and former City Council Candidate Edwin Marcial wants to give back to the East Harlem community. ‘I see so many artists in Harlem that deserve to be there,’ he tells The News.

Marcial. “I see so many artists in Harlem that deserve to be there.”

He dreams of a block dotted with marble plaques that would bear the likenesses of luminaries from the theater, music, dance, art, film and government, along with a brief bio and the name of the sponsor.

Local officials say they can see what Marcial means.

“A Walk of Fame in El Barrio would be another way to celebrate the many cultural icons and community leaders that have hailed from our neighborhood,” City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem) said in a statement. “I look forward to working with members of the community to make this a reality.”

“We don’t always know our neighborhood history or neighborhood heroes, and this would be a great place to highlight some of that,” Brewer said.

The project — which would cost an estimated $500,000 per side of the block — is being spearheaded by Teatro Moderno Puertorriqueno Inc., an East Harlem arts and culture organization that Marcial heads.

The project — which would cost an estimated $500,000 per side of the block — is being spearheaded by Teatro Moderno Puertorriqueno Inc., an East Harlem arts and culture organization that Marcial heads.

The project — which would cost an estimated $500,000 per side of the block — is being spearheaded by Teatro Moderno Puertorriqueno Inc., an East Harlem arts and culture organization that Marcial heads.

A committee would select nominees and choose one man and one woman each year.

Marcial plans to reach out to divorced couple Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony to be the keynote figures of the annual enshrinement, which he describes as a red-carpet event accompanied by street vendors.

“It’s a way to empower the artists in East Harlem and the community,” said Marcial, who expects a portion of the project to be completed by 2015, if all goes well.

But the ambitious community man has a long road ahead.

Marcial, 74, who launched three failed bids for the East Harlem City Council seat, still needs the approval of Community Board 11, of which he is a member. Members have asked that he provide more information after the holidays.

He also needs the green light from City Council and the city Department of Transportation.

Marcial said he would request money from the city, but he intends to raise much of the dough on his own.

It’s unclear, he says, how much it will cost to maintain the Walk of Fame, but he believes the attraction will attract tourists and their wallets to the neighborhood.

Already , Marcial says, a local politician could be one of the first on the far-from-approved Walk of Fame, but he remained coy, saying: “It’s going to be a surprise.”

jransom@nydailynews.com

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/hopes-el-barrio-walk-fame-harlem-article-1.1538580#ixzz2mkqUSScI

The Apollo Theater to Relive Its Storied Past

  The Apollo Theater will be transformed into an old-fashioned nightclub for a new revue evoking the Harlem music clubs of the 1930s and 1940s, the theater announced on Tuesday.

The show, “Apollo Club Harlem,” will recall the theater’s early years, when it often presented variety programs featuring big bands, singers, dancers, female impersonaters, acrobats and comedians. The seats will be removed from the orchestra level and the audience will sit at cafe tables, tended by waiters and waitresses.

The lineup will include the jazz vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater and Cecile McLorin Salvant, as well as the dancers Storyboard P and Dormeshia. The show will play three nights: Feb. 18, Feb. 22 and Feb 23. Tickets go on sale on Nov. 19.

Mikki Shepard, the Apollo’s executive producer, said the fast-paced revue would pay homage to the great jazz musicians and dancers who once performed on the same stage, from bandleaders like Duke Ellington and Count Basie to dancers like Earl “Snakehips” Tucker and the tap master John Bubbles. “The Apollo was headquarters for the popular music of the day — jazz — and ‘Apollo Club Harlem’ will evoke the ‘first-name’ artists whose performances resonate at the theater to this day,” she said in a press release.

By JAMES C. MCKINLEY JR.

Harlem School of the Arts Gets $5 Million From Herb Alpert

A dance class at the school in 2011.

The Harlem School of the Arts, a community arts school that has faced major financial hurdles in the last few years, has received a grant of more than $5 million from the Herb Alpert Foundation that will allow the school to retire its debt, restore its endowment and create a scholarship program for needy students.

Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times Mr. Alpert performing in February.
Mr. Alpert performing in February.

Mr. Alpert performing in February.

The gift, to be officially announced by school officials on Monday, is the largest in the history of the school, which was founded in 1964 by the concert soprano Dorothy Maynor. The $5,050,000 grant from Mr. Alpert, the renowned musician, composer and recording industry executive, brings to $6 million the total amount he has given the school since a fiscal crisis forced its doors to close for three weeks in 2010.

The school, at 645 St. Nicholas Avenue (at 141st Street), provides training in dance, music, theater and the visual arts. In recognition of Mr. Alpert’s gift, the facility’s name will become the Herb Alpert Center. Mr. Alpert will also be honored at the school’s fall benefit on Oct. 10 at Lincoln Center’s Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse. Ticket information is available at www.hsanyc.org.

“They kind of needed a little more assistance,” Mr. Alpert said Thursday in a telephone interview about his gift. He became aware of the school and its problems from reading a newspaper article in 2010 about its closing, he said.

“When my wife and I visited the school a year, a year and a half ago, the kids looked happy; it just felt like a great place,” he said. “I believe that the best chance we have of creating happier and more responsible kids is through the arts. They get in touch with their humanity.”

The Herb Alpert Foundation was founded in 1988 by Mr. Alpert and his wife, Lani Hall, and is based in Santa Monica, Calif. It supports the arts and arts education, among other initiatives. The foundation has distributed $120 million in grants since 1990.

Betty Allen, then the executive director of the Harlem School of the Arts, monitoring a piano lesson in 1979.

Betty Allen, then the executive director of the Harlem School of the Arts, monitoring a piano lesson in 1979.

Yvette L. Campbell, who became president and chief executive of the school in January 2011, called the gift “transformative” during an interview on Thursday. She noted that the school’s entire operating budget is $3.4 million.

“It’ll restore our spent endowment and establishes a scholarship fund for families that need tuition aid,” Ms. Campbell said. She said about $100,000 in need-based scholarships would be awarded annually.

The Harlem School of the Arts started at a time when black children lacked easy access to arts training. It provides community and summer programs, programs in public schools, and tuition-based group and private lessons for children ages 2 to 18. The school also offers a selective pre-professional scholarship course of study for students age 12 to 18. Students from that program (including the actor Giancarlo Esposito) have gone on to conservatories like Juilliard, as well as to Broadway and feature films.

Review: ‘Carl Van Vechten & the Harlem Renaissance’ by Emily Bernard

In ‘Carl Van Vechten & the Harlem Renaissance: A Portrait in Black & White,’ Emily Bernard profiles the arts critic, a complicated supporter of black culture.

Carl Van Vechten & the Harlem RenaissanceA Portrait in Black & WhiteEmily Bernard

Yale University Press: 342 pp., $30

The line separating passion and obsession is porous. One step over that boundary, the territory becomes fraught — rutted with suspicion, quiet judgment if not outright accusation. This was the territory Carl Van Vechten — critic, novelist, photographer and, most famously, patron of the Harlem Renaissance — traversed with a singular vigor and preoccupation that bordered on fetishism.

Carl Van Vechten, critic, novelist, photographer and, most famously, patron of the Harlem Renaissance. (Carl Van Vechten / Associated Press)

He counted the black literati of the era — among them Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen, Nella Larsen, James Weldon Johnson — as collaborators and confidants. An idiosyncratic white man, of Dutch descent, Van Vechten dedicated his life’s work to, as Hughes once put it, “all things Negro” — literature, theater, ragtime, jazz and blues — nurturing art and alliances, but not without acrimony.

Van Vechten’s theater of life unfolded across Manhattan: both in opulent drawing rooms and at formal dining tables as well as Harlem “rent parties” or at smoky Uptown clubs. He “lived at the intersection of black and white,” writes Emily Bernard, an associate professor of English at the University of Vermont, in her deeply absorbing and elegantly evoked biography of a man and his era, “Carl Van Vechten & the Harlem Renaissance: A Portrait in Black & White.” His presence, however, among the black intelligentsia was far from neutral: Was he an insider or an intruder? An advocate or a voyeur? Van Vechten was not simply a champion of the black arts movement flourishing in the first decades of the 20th century but, suggests Bernard, a man who helped it “to come to understand itself.”

Van Vechten was born in 1880 and grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a child of progressively thinking parents — his father operated a lumber mill; his mother was “a suffragette who kept company with abolitionists.” He exhibited an interest in art early: photography, opera and writing. And though he made his way to the University of Chicago for his studies, “a formal education was not on his mind,” writes Bernard. “He went to Chicago for the art.” Once there, he set himself on the road to become a journalist — a critic, first with the Chicago American and later the Chicago Tribune. It would be his launching pad into the world of arts criticism and finally into a post writing about opera and ballet — in New York City — focusing on artists who were pushing boundaries. He was, Bernard writes, “the first serious American ballet critic” and the first to seriously appreciate the work of writer Gertrude Stein.

In those years, as a critic for the New York Times and Vanity Fair, he pressed his highly placed connections — most effectively Alfred and Blanche Knopf — to publish the work of heretofore unheard of poets, essayists and novelists writing forthrightly about the black experience in America.

But it was a very particular expression of “blackness” with which he was most enchanted. In a piece written in 1925 for Vanity Fair, he posited that “authentic black theater would not succeed until black artists began to value what was already there, which included ‘honest-to-God Blues, full of trouble and pain and misery and heartache and tribulation…’” [Africa, writes Bernard, “to Van Vechten was black authenticity, a primitive birthright that Negroes must reclaim if they wanted to make commercially viable art.”

He meant his statements not as patronizing but as a prescriptive. He viewed himself as an “insider” — a status that, Bernard explains, “he claimed and cultivated for the rest of his life — that of an exceptional white person among black people.” He would count many of the Harlem Renaissance writers not just as professional connections but as intimates. Out of his proximity came a 1926 novel that was to be Van Vechten’s “celebration” of Harlem, to advertise, literally, its “virtues and vices to white readers,” writes Bernard. The title, however, contains a racial epithet that proved beyond problematic then and is still charged nearly 100 years later. It was an audacious choice. One that would strain those long-cultivated friendships (as it did with Cullen) — and vilify Van Vechten beyond the circle. That choice was, as one of Van Vechten’s most vocal critics, W.E.B. Du Bois, characterized, “an affront to the hospitality of black folk.” The move was a breach that would shadow him the rest of his life, but one he never capitulated on nor apologized for.

Bernard’s examination, told in three acts, isn’t simply an exploration of Van Vechten’s life, letters and various boundary crossings; it’s also a meditation on a personal passion turned obsession — Van Vechten’s role as literary impresario had haunted Bernard since her junior year at Yale — more than 20 years ago. “It would be years before I learned to love the seeming paradox: a black woman inspired by the black addiction of a white man,” she writes in an author’s note at the end of the book.

Van Vechten didn’t just live his life, he consciously documented and curated it. He kept copious daybooks and composed long, elegant letters and took thousands of photographs, many of which are now housed at Yale University in a collection Van Vechten named for the man he felt embodied the dignity of the Harlem Renaissance: The James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection “founded by Carl Van Vechten” — the culmination of his life’s work to once again convene the voices of those architects of the movement. Bernard (who previously visited the correspondence between Hughes and Van Vechten in 2001′s “Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten”) dips into all of these troves to animate a narrative; consequently, the text feels alive with cocktail party conversation, vivid anecdotes, whispered intimacies and trenchant debates with friends and enemies.

It’s a bit like eavesdropping on a historic work in progress. Did Van Vechten overstep? Did arrogance obscure his intent to elevate? Bernard explains at the outset that her quest was not to determine whether Van Vechten was a “good or bad force”; rather, it’s a measure of legacy and the potency of language — the fraught territory of race and the still-present wound of racism. Van Vechten’s choices and motives became a catalyst for discussion among the black literati who would debate and sculpt and define for themselves — not simply the stigma of one word but also the language and stories that would come to define the complexity — “the epic theater of blackness.”

George is a Los Angeles-based journalist and an assistant professor of English and journalism at Loyola Marymount University.

By Lynell George, Los Angeles Times

February 19, 2012

At Harlem Arts School, New Chief Hits Her Stride

An ordinary Saturday at the Harlem School of the Arts finds children in black tights learning dance moves, pecking away at keyboards or torturing clay into intricate shapes. Given its recent travails, ordinary is most desirable here.

Yvette L. Campbell, president and chief executive of the Harlem School of the Arts.

In April of 2010, financial problems led to a three-week shutdown. Even now, the community arts school, which for more than 35 years has helped tens of thousands of children receive arts training, faces a debt of $2 million with no endowment, a fraction of its former attendance and only 2 of its 32 pianos in good condition. But thanks to the efforts of a new chief executive and a constellation of other supporters, the Harlem School of the Arts does have one thing that has long been in short supply: optimism.

Yvette L. Campbell, in her first year (she started in January) as president and chief executive, has cajoled $2 million from donors both old and new, trimmed the operating budget by 30 percent and won the support of other arts and academic organizations.

Little ballerinas at a classical dance class at the Harlem School of the Arts

“We’re doing what we said we were going to do,” said Ms. Campbell, 45, who was a dancer with the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble and Elisa Monte Dance and the former administrator of the Ailey extension program. “It’s been quality arts. I see the possibilities and I am trying to get believers on my train.”

Her believers include Geoffrey Canada, the president and chief economic officer of the Harlem Children’s Zone. He has started sending hundreds of children from his education and social service program to the school at 645 St. Nicholas Avenue (at 141st Street) for classes in the school’s four divisions: dance, music, theater and visual arts.

And Lincoln Center is considering a partnership with the school. Reynold Levy, the president of Lincoln Center and a member of the school’s advisory council, called Ms. Campbell “a force of nature” who has built relationships and trust with people now committed to seeing the school survive. “By the time she walks out of your office, you’re sold,” he said.

Saving the nonprofit school is a major concern, particularly in Harlem. Founded in 1964 when the concert soprano Dorothy Maynor gave piano lessons at a nearby church, the Harlem School of the Arts has its roots in the struggles of the 1960s, when many black children did not have easy access to arts training.

Sketches by students in a fashion design class. The school offers wide-ranging courses in dance, music, theater and the visual arts.

Since then it’s expanded to include community and summer programs and some that it runs in public schools. The children’s program charges tuition for group and private lessons for students 2 through 18. The cost for a semester (17 weeks) of classes is generally under $1,000. The courses are wide-ranging: piano, voice, percussion, tap, ballet, hip-hop, playwriting, acting, drawing, photography and graphic design, among others.

The prep program is a selective pre-professional, scholarship course of study for students 12 through 18. Though not a full-fledged school offering arts and academics, like LaGuardia, the performing arts high school, it provides advanced training in all four arts divisions, and its students (including Giancarlo Esposito) have gone on to conservatories like Juilliard, as well as to Broadway and feature films.

“We will not allow this institution to fail; it’s far too important,” said Charles J. Hamilton Jr., a senior counsel at the law firm Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf, who became the chairman of the school’s board in 2010. “This school saves lives, period. It produces extraordinary young people who go off in life with an appreciation for life and an appreciation of themselves. There aren’t a lot of other institutions in our community that do that.”

The school is increasingly important as financial support for arts education has been whittled away in the public schools, some education and arts leaders say. School funds for art supplies, musical instruments and equipment declined by almost 80 percent from the 2006-7 school year to the 2009-10 school year, according to a report by the Center for Arts Education, which works to expand arts education opportunities for New York public school students.

The choice between academics and arts education is a false one, Mr. Canada said.

“To think that poor children are going to have a full education experience without this exposure is a mistake,” he said. “We’re thinking about the time that children are not in school, and just watching TV or playing video games is not an option.”

The news that the school had run out of money hit Harlem hard, especially since few had any idea it was in such bad shape.

A report in The New York Times in 2010 showed that by 2004, the school was in trouble and losing donors. Its $2 million surplus had turned into a deficit; nearly half a million in payroll taxes had gone unpaid; and a $1.5 million grant and the proceeds from a $1 million loan could not be accounted for.

The school was able to reopen because of a $1 million gift from four donors and the assistance of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and other city officials, who helped picked the board that hired Ms. Campbell.

“What we found simply was a diamond,” Mr. Hamilton said of Ms. Campbell, a mother of two with a bachelor’s degree in both applied mathematics and dramatic art-dance. “She has this energy, this spirit, this motion. She connects with parents and with students. And she’s not afraid of a spreadsheet.”

The school just feels better, said Susan Lee, who has spent 12 years taking her 16-year-old daughter, Nicole Hines, to the school, first for “Mommy and Me” programs and now for dance lessons. Since Ms. Campbell arrived, board members come to events, and parents are welcome at board meetings; administrators are approachable; and teachers no longer complain about not being paid, she said.

This semester the school is serving more than 2,400 students citywide, including 500 in the building. (Some programs are held outside the main headquarters.) At its peak in the early ’90s, the school served 3,000 students citywide.

For the first time in many years, the school is offering financial aid to students, and has its first early-childhood classes for ages 2 through 4. Ms. Campbell, whose paternal grandfather was Lincoln Perry, the actor known as Stepin Fetchit, has hired high-profile teachers, like Maria Ahn to teach cello. Aubrey Lynch II, a former Ailey dancer and a choreographer and producer who appeared in the original cast of “The Lion King,” now presides over the dance division and a new musical theater program.

To increase visibility, Ms. Campbell and her students have spent the last year getting around. In September the visual arts students appeared on an episode of the Lifetime TV show “Project Runway,” which features fashion design competitions. And last month dance students performed at the Apollo Theater during the Bessie Awards, while theater students performed a dramatic piece at the Jewish Museum during a day to celebrate the work of the author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats.

“These are tough times, but tough times are when you need the arts,” Ms. Campbell said. “The Harlem Renaissance, blues, jazz, hip-hop — they all came out of hard times and the possibility of change.”

By

Defiant Daughter – Harlem Renaissance Era Drama

A distinctly New York play finally lands in the city when Knock Me A Kiss, by playwright Charles Smith, begins previews Thursday in its Off-Broadway premiere at the New Federal Theatre on the Lower East Side.

Leading the cast, Tony Award nominee Andre De Shields said the role of W.E. B. Du Bois presented a great and satisfying surprise. “The role is reminiscent of Shakespeare’s tragic king, Lear, due to Du Bois’ inability to be spontaneous, his Ptolemaic need to be the center of his self-crafted universe, and his controlling relationship with his daughter, Yolande,” said De Shields. “Those similarities afforded me the opportunity to mine the tragic elements of Du Bois’ character.”

From left, sitting, Andre De Shields as W.E.B. Du Bois, and Sean Phillips as Countee Cullen. Standing, from left, Marie Thomas as Nina Du Bois, and Erin Cherry as Yolande Du Bois.

The year is 1928, and the daughter of America’s foremost black intellectual, Du Bois, is just one month away from marrying a young poet, Countee Cullen, whose work was considered one of the pinnacles of the New Negro movement, which we now know as the Harlem Renaissance.

The marriage marked the height of the renaissance and was viewed as the perfect union of African-American talent and beauty. It would unfold during the apex of a cultural phenomenon, which through intellect, literature, art, and music challenged the era’s pervasive racism and stereotypes, and redefined how America and the world perceived African-Americans.

What could go wrong?

“I want the audience, after seeing this play, to investigate these characters and dig deeper into the life of W.E.B. Du Bois, Countee Cullen, and the Harlem Renaissance,” said Chuck Smith, the Chicago-based, Emmy winning director of the play and one of its producers. “I want viewers to see what’s changed, and get more involved in our culture. They should know that the lifestyle of affluent black Americans is not that much different than anyone else,” Smith said.

Erin Cherry as Yolande Du Bois and Morocco Omari as Jimmy Lunceford.

The play opens as jazz bandleader, Jimmy Lunceford, woos a willing but skittish Yolande Du Bois, who insists that she and Lunceford be married in a manner befitting her stature. She tells her friend, Lenora, “I want to touch and kiss and all he wants to do is hump and bump.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/len-hollie/defiant-daughter-emerges-_b_780960.html