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A Fly and Fabulous MLK Weekend!

By Chiquita S. Williams, Communications Unit

January 15-17, 2022

I have always experienced immense joy and excitement as I have stewarded Fountain House MLK Weekend events year after year. When I realized that I would not be able to organize the 2022 schedule (due to preparation for surgery), I was quite nervous. What was going to happen in my absence? Would the community drop the ball? Were we going to have any celebrations at all?

Well, I learned it doesn’t help to be a doubting Thomas. When you lay the vision and groundwork for teaching about justice, others will step into leadership in surprisingly satisfying ways. That is exactly what happened this year. A formidable crew of staff and members pulled off a feat that had never been done before—6 events in three days! They did so with meaning and purpose.

Now, I must confess something. During my initial nervousness, I sent Mike Brown a very long list of potential MLK weekend activities, just to make sure nothing went off the rails. (I have power and control issues, y’all, so please excuse the ways in which I can be overbearing). However, members and staff were quite receptive, and many of them employed the suggestions I made.

All the events ran from Saturday-Monday, with two activities per day. The first event was a “Freedom Song Fest,” an original production by Zeus W., Kiko K., Wendy Peguero and Laura Anne W. Master DJ Queen Zeus spun some fantastic tunes from the 1960s-70s and then took requests from the audience. The songs ranged from R&B to gospel. Participants sang and danced their hearts out. The kicker, though—Kiko started playing film reels of Alvin Ailey dance sequences—set to musical selections played by Zeus. When I say there must have been some divine intervention with the way the music synchronized with every dance step, I don’t think I am exaggerating! It was so amazing! Nobody wanted to leave the room! We went an extra half hour in pure enjoyment.

Later that evening, Katherine Jacobsen led a film screening of Spike Lee’s classic documentary “4 Little Girls.” It was a deeply moving account of the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church. The church had been headquarters for desegregation organizing during Dr. King’s Birmingham Campaign. The KKK decided to attack the church after thousands of children had marched and been arrested during the campaign. The film itself focused on the four young Black girls who perished during the terrorist attacks, revealing their personal stories and how their families had coped with the devastating tragedy.

After the film ended, Katherine led us in a spirited discussion about racial and social justice organizing. We spoke at length about tactics we could use to challenge racial and gender harassment at Fountain House; and how to provide member support to current economic justice campaigns being waged within our organization.

Sunday’s activities were similarly moving. Andrew Schonebaum led a screening of the 1967 classic “In the Heat of the Night.” It was especially poignant since the film’s star, Sidney Poitier, died just days ago. The film itself revealed the deep, violent tensions that existed between Black people seeking just treatment and Southern whites who wanted to maintain de facto segregation. Although it was released more than 50 years ago, we realized that many of those tensions still exist today. Andrew facilitated an informative conversation, comparing the interpersonal and structural conflicts in the film to modern-day racial dynamics.

On a lighter note, Amy Ferrara and Cheryl Lynch led us in several exciting rounds of civil rights trivia! They curated outstanding questions about Dr. King’s life and career, as well as the civil rights movement writ large. In between trivia rounds, Cheryl showed clips of Fannie Lou Hamer’s 1964 voting rights speech at the Democratic National Convention; and a well-designed mishmash of excerpts from several Dr. King’s speeches. All trivia prizes were gift cards to the Black owned business of the winner’s choice. Although I sat out the first two trivia rounds (feeling I would have an unfair advantage), I couldn’t resist all the fun. Eventually, I gave in and played the third round, winning the grand prize!!! I chose a gift card from ASE Beauty, a cosmetics company.

On the last day of programming (which was the observed King holiday), we enjoyed two more selections from staff and members. Yuselffy Denize and Samantha Sherman led a screening of the film “Selma,” which is about Dr. King’s voting rights campaign and the famous attack on protestors at the Edmund Pettis Bridge. Ava Duvernay, the film’s director, constructed expert insight into Dr. King’s personal struggle and resolve; the federal, state and local politics at play during voting rights campaigning; and the depth of violence directed at Black Americans who simply wanted to exercise rights promised to U.S. citizens. After the film, Yuselffy and Samantha generated a penetrating dialogue about our perceptions of the film and the current struggle for voting rights today. I personally underscored the need for all of us to be involved in the work of justice. As Dr. King famously said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Finally, Philip C., Kadie Radics and Arlin Valenzuela led a program focused on Dr. King’s speeches and letters as the main course, with a Juneteenth side dish! We watched King’s most famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” which he gave at the 1963 March on Washington. In addition, we listened to an excerpt from his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and watched a video about Juneteenth (the commemoration of the last enslaved people being liberated from the Confederacy). Then came the best part—the trio invited participants to read poems they had written, reflecting their feelings about Black freedom struggle. The whole room was lit with powerful recitations. At the end, Phillip gave the most soul-stirring speech that reminded us of King himself!!! It was a beautiful homage to the slain civil rights leader and all who fought for racial justice.

Whew! MLK Weekend was AMAZING!!! And the best part was I didn’t have to lift a finger to do the planning!!! I want to extend so much gratitude and favor to all the people who worked so hard to create such fantastic events. Dr. King would be so proud of you.

Some event participants asked how they could learn more about the topics we discussed during MLK Weekend. Here’s a personally curated list of resources. Remember, knowledge is power and self-education is empowering!

King Institute at Stanford University https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/

SNCC Digital Gateway at Duke University https://snccdigital.org/

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture https://www.nypl.org/locations/schomburg

#SchomburgSyllabus https://www.nypl.org/schomburgsyllabus

The Lemonade Syllabus (based on Beyonce's 2016 visual album) https://issuu.com/candicebenbow/docs/lemonade_syllabus_2016

A Seat at the Table Syllabus (based on Solange's 2016 album) https://issuu.com/ajcwfu/docs/seatatthetablefinal

Slavery in New York Online Exhibition (NY Historical Society) http://www.slaveryinnewyork.org/

Black Past Online Encyclopedia https://www.blackpast.org/

Black Women Radicals Global Activist Database https://www.blackwomenradicals.com/database

African American Intellectual History Society https://www.aaihs.org/

Dr. Gabrielle Foreman's Teaching About Slavery Study Guide https://docs.google.com/document/d/1A4TEdDgYslX-hlKezLodMIM71My3KTN0zxRv0IQTOQs/mobilebasic

August 2021


Fountain House Gallery Presents “Water”

Group Show Explores an Elemental Force of Nature

On view: July 29 – August 25, 2021

In the Fountain House Times Newsletter August 6, 2021, the Fountain House Gallery ‘Water’ show took center stage. You can find it dispersed around the clubhouse and in the General Channel on Slack. Here on the Blog, you will find full articles of those too long for the Newsletter and much more information and art. I hope you consider coming to the Gallery to see these special pieces in person.

Boo Lynn Walsh

In her own words.

July 29th, 2021 was a long-anticipated day for me because Covid had forced NYC to close and go virtual so it had been over a year and a half since the Fountain House art gallery had presented artists’ work in person. I was so excited to see people I’d missed in real life, not just on my computer screen or through social media postings. Anticipating the reunion also brought bittersweet thoughts though as I was reminded we’d lost a few very talented artists over the past two years and that there was less of us to carry on. For me, coming together as a community and sharing our collective and individual work is such a joy that I was inspired to work with my Media & Tech Center, by creating a short segment for an upcoming FHTV that would serve as historical documentation and “invitational bridge “ between the members and staff of the House to encourage them to come to see the show and utilize the gallery space for their enjoyment and positive mental health more often. I was elated to experience this thrilling evening and the memory of it has not faded. I am more optimistic about our ability to survive and create through the pandemic’s continued assaults and I have renewed confidence in my artistic endeavors.

When I learned of the show’s announcement it gave me a renewed sense of purpose to dive back into making art on a daily basis, even though my working space is cramped and not ideal and life has a way of producing more hurdles than I think I can overcome, I didn’t give up. I created about 10 pieces in various mediums. In truth, I abandoned some attempts, destroyed others, coaxed and cursed and prayed at I tried to capture that deceptively simple subject “water”. By the deadline I had 4 I was proud of, but had to limit my submissions to just three. Just like other galleries and competitions, one is never guaranteed their pieces will be accepted for the show. I was absolutely thrilled that the curators chose two for inclusion among so many talented artists’ artwork. The show is beautiful and must be experienced in person to fully appreciate and swim in these interpretive images.

I’d been working on the “water” theme diligently for months, researching water, taking pictures and videos of water, playing and swimming in water attempting to capture the essence and magic of water in my artistic endeavors. It was sometimes frustrating and disappointing and at other times encouraging and elating as I homed in on utilizing liquid resin, dye, paint, granite, and wood as my materials of choice to produce two sculptural, multi-layered pieces for this water-themed exhibit.

One piece entitled “WHEN WATER ARE CLOUDS” represents that mystical phenomenon when water transcends upward to the sky and transforms into clouds. I poured 6 coats of resin and dye, painting in-between the layers and adding stones and metal along the way as each layer dried over a period of weeks. The wood cradle frame I painted and distressed to make it appear like some type of weather-worn beach structure or boat hull. I came very close to destroying this piece with a hammer while it was in progress because I struggled with the materials and the results were not initially matching what I intended. But with determined repeated efforts and patience I finally reached a place with the artwork where I felt it had that evasive transformation.

The second piece “FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH” is a freestanding sculpture that appears to be translucent glass, mounted on a granite base that captures the multi-directional flow of water energy upward as it then spirals and turns on itself creating multiple, sensual forms and foam. I began this piece over a year ago and revived it to bring it to fruition for the Water show. To me, it represents those sacred, orgasmic combinations of water-based substances we generate from within our bodies as they recombine and erupt in absolute pleasure and perhaps even conception. It is the quest for those experiences that have often lead humankind to seek the evasive promises of “the fountain of youth”.

Susan Spangberg

In her own words:

I painted this piece, Mermaid, on the floor of my first art studio/rehab program, 'The Living Museum' where I was a member artist and patient, located on the grounds of Creedmoor Psychiatric Center. Being a self-taught artist and far removed from the art world, I never imagined it ever hanging up, let alone in a gallery. Sometimes I feel like a mermaid trapped under glass as a female in a patriarchal society, on display yet not allowed to swim beyond the parameters that are allowed by the one keeping me in the cage. The mermaid figure is larger and more magnificent than the keeper, thus signifying an understanding of my own power.

In my Spiritual Fabric Octopus Series, I substitute the octopus for the Hindu Gods as well as Christ as demonstrated in 'Swami Octopus'. I started this work after a vision/hallucination of an octopus being crucified. Later, I dreamed of the Hindu God Ganesh as an octopus. The hand sewn elements are a throwback to my childhood, taking my life back from my abusive mother. Was it a symptom of my mental illness or was it salvation from God?...

I feel so grateful and blessed to be a part of Fountain House Gallery. My hope is that the rest of our country and world will get vaccinated soon, so we can keep enjoying our Openings at the Gallery. I am sad our Gallery Assistant Miguel Martinez is leaving. Not only did I make a personal connection with him in such a short time, but he is a talented, hard worker and did an amazing job in the short time he was with us. It was an honor to have him hang my 'Mermaid' painting, a two-man job because of its 12 feet in size.

Angela Rogers

Written by Tara Sue Salusso

Angela’s work already fit perfectly with the theme of the show. She creates sea creatures, primarily mermaids, so when the show was announced she went to her chest of about 50 of creatures to select her favorites. She started with three mermaids and then remembered Layla the Lobster and decided to mix it up. She finally decided to just submit the two, Layla and Aradia. While she does other creatures such as sea horses, her thing is mermaids.

She selected Aradia because she liked the hanging string and the form of her breasts. She has never done breasts like that before making them so pronounced. She likes everything about her. From her lobster claws to the way she is frayed around the edges. All her other mermaids are tightly woven. Aradia is different and stands out.

It means a lot to her to be able to come out to be around people she knows and to connect with friends. Just being at the Gallery is so great.

Some great links to see more great Exhibit Content

Link to art for sale on artsy.


The Fountain House Gallery Website Water Exhibition Page


Photo's taken by photographer and Gallery member, Kelly Han's, taken at the event. Kelly also had one of her own photographs displayed in the Exhibition.