MAC launches United Through Arts with Black history celebration

The program honors life and work of artists from diverse backgrounds

Local artist Marcy Morris drew this depiction of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as part of Medford Art Center’s United Through Arts program (Marcy Morris/Special to The Sun

When Lesha Moore heard about the murder of George Floyd in May, she looked for ways she could make an impact.

“I was devastated,” she said. “After just so many years of seeing this happen over and over and over again, I found myself thinking, ‘How can we move forward from this?’”

Moore, the executive director of Medford Arts Center (MAC), spoke with her colleagues. From there, United Through Arts was born.

The new program celebrates the life and work of artists from diverse backgrounds. One of its first initiatives was a window exhibit recognizing the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

“We were watching mothers and daughters come by and have thoughtful discussion on the topic of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the things that she accomplished in our lifetime,” Moore noted.

That excited Moore and her partners at MAC. They got to work planning a month of programming focused on Black artists. Harlem Renaissance: Inspired by Black Achievements in the Arts will continue through Feb. 28. It will feature art from creators around the country, virtual concerts, guest speakers and family friendly storytimes.

“We wanted to talk about people’s life experiences,” Moore explained. “We’re all unique in so many different ways. We all are one people. We’re all united. That’s something that we wanted to bring to the center.”

Like its Notorious R.B.G. exhibit, MAC’s United Through Arts has also hosted a tribute to 100 years of women’s voting rights. Harlem Renaissance is the center’s first large scale program, beginning and ending in time for Black History Month.

“When you look back, there aren’t a lot of Black artists that were mentioned ever really,” Moore noted. “This is the time for that to change. We all should be represented equally.”

The current program will cite work on Black achievement in the military done by veteran artists. On Feb. 20, children and families will be invited to a virtual musical storytime focused on the Underground Railroad. Throughout the month, local musicians will sing and play the work of Ella Fitzgerald, Marian Anderson, Duke Ellington and others. 

“I have been reading the stories of people,” Moore said. “I know the art and I’ve heard of the music, but to see the inspirational stories behind them and the life story, that part for me is something that proves that we’re all connected.”

Speakers will include choreographer Renee Chambers Liciaga and author/playwright Harry Kendall telling stories about their work. All programs will be virtual.

A full calendar of Harlem Renaissance events is available at medfordarts.com, where new information and opportunities will be posted regularly. 

“At Medford Arts, we’re going to continue to try to equally represent artists,” Moore said.