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AIS | Follow the Drinking Gourd

Curated by: AIS Students + Education Curator Kimberly Becoat, and 2023-2024 Teaching Artists

SUMMARY

Follow the Drinking Gourd: Documentation to Liberation exhibition by our 2023-2024 Artists in Schools students is inspired by the anthropologist, writer, filmmaker, and activist Zora Neal Hurston. MoCADA Teaching Artists Kimberly M. Becoat, M. Scott Johnson, and Sunah Nash led students from 3 Brooklyn Public schools — PS 316 Elijah G. Stroud International Baccalaureate Elementary School, PS 375 Jackie Robinson School, and MS 267 Math, Science and Technology — across a variety of different artistic mediums while exploring African Diasporan stories to connect them as maps, codes, and blueprints toward a vision of their future selves.

Photos from the 20 week after-school program where students also took a field trip to see Giants at The Brooklyn Museum. The program culminated in an outdoor exhibition at MoCADA’s Ubuntu Garden in Fort Greene on June 22, 2024.

To find out about other MoCADA youth programs, click here.

SELECT WORKS

Of Home and Sanctuary
Teaching Artist: Kimberly M. Becoat
Students: PS 316 Elijah G. Stroud International Baccalaureate Elementary School
Medium: Quilting, Mixed media on Felt

Elijah Stroud students used personal notions of home and sanctuary to explore storytelling via quilt-making-based techniques. Whether re-imagining or documenting their present experience, each student unpacked what having a nurturing home environment and/or community looks like to empower them as they navigate their daily lives in real time.

7 Stars of the Drinking Gourd
Teaching Artist: M. Scott Johnson
Students: PS 375 – Jackie Robinson School
Medium: Mixed media on Felt, soft sculptures

This soft sculpture is a conversation with the African American narrative and the basis for the folk song “Follow the Drinking Gourd” which tells the story of Black resistance to enslavement by running away. During this time enslaved Africans would follow the North Star located in the Big Dipper/Drinking Gourd north to freedom. After a deep exploration into this phenomenon, students discovered the many ways these African people could navigate an almost impossible journey. The sculpture attempts to highlight emotions and impulses runaways must have felt and lived through. In creating the artwork students cut patterns to represent the stars in the constellation. The images were created using traditional photography and MidJourney, an artificial intelligence image generator. Students created word prompts using both narratives of escaped enslaved Africans and archival images of the antebellum South. Each star is numbered and coincides with a word: 1. Ancestors 2. Freedom 3. Fear 4. Courage 5. Pain 6. Intelligence 7. Hope

Toward Our North Star 
Teaching Artist: Sunah Nash
Students: MS 267 – Math, Science + Technology
Medium: Paintings

The Students at MS 267 created work inspired by the intersection of their exposure to the works of Zora Neale Hurston and their own unique and contemporary experiences. Considering the Drinking Gourd constellation (Big Dipper/Polaris) as both a powerful cultural symbol and a physical object for liberation, students cultivated personalized symbols of their own, which can both represent and lead to their desired destinations. The works shown here are the elaborations and stories behind those symbols for personal liberation.

Artists in Schools 2023-2024 Team

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Kimberly M. Becoat (MoCADA Education Curator) is a contemporary mixed media artist whose work is a stylistic abstraction with a conceptual investigation of new materials and visual experiences with social commentary. Her most recent abstract & conceptual work is an investigation of urban environments meant to create “urban displacement”, such as in public housing – aimed to surgically remove “massive amounts of Blacks and Latinos” into designated forgotten pockets of city landscapes. Kimberly has been featured in a number of exhibits including her current solo exhibition; URBANIA, at MoCADA Museum in New York, Welcome to Urbania, at RUSH Arts Gallery NY (solo exhibit), New Abstractions, at Essie Green Galleries (solo exhibit), Capital One Bank in NY, BAM -art at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, and Deutsche Bank as well as the television shows, HBO’s Insecure, Netflix’s Luke Cage and the FX series, The Americans.

M-Scott-Johnson-Clay-Techniques-

M. Scott Johnson (Teaching Artist, Sculpture) revives the intuitive process of Direct Carving in Black American expression while investigating the mythologies, ritual and post-colonial realities of the culture. Deeply impacted by his 19-year teaching artist residency at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, NY, Johnson has developed a unique multi-historical vision of contemporary Negro aesthetics. As an undergraduate student, Johnson was intellectually mentored by acclaimed Black anthropologist, Dr. Warren Perry. Perry was central in his recognition of anthropology as a conduit to map and reclaim dormant visual aesthetics. The essay Characteristics of Negro Expression (1934) by cultural anthropologist, Zora Neal Hurston, provided Johnson his Rosetta Stone.

M. Scott Johnson works are included in the permanent collections of Hampton University Museum, VA.; Kenkelaba House NY; The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture NY; and the U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Norway. His work has been exhibited at the Embassy of the Republic of Ghana D.C.; Galerie Myrtis MD; Harvard University; Hampton University Museum VA; Kenkeleba House NY; Wilber Jennings Gallery NY; TransAfrica Forum; National Gallery of Zimbabwe; Grey Art Gallery at New York University; Museum of Contemporary Diasporan Art Brooklyn NY; Rush Arts Gallery, NY; The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture NY; New York Botanical Gardens; The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History MI; United Talent Agency Artspace Los Angeles; U.S. Embassy in Oslo Norway;The 13th Havana Biennale, Galeria Carmen Montilla and the 59th Venice Biennale Personal Structures: Time, Space and Existence at Palazzo Bembo. Johnson’s public work with Black youth have been installed throughout New York City including the Bronx Historical Society, Cork Gallery in Lincoln Center and more.

Sunah-Nash-Painting-Techniques-

Sunah Nash (Teaching Artist, Painting techniques) is a visual artist, writer, and educator from Newark, NJ. She is currently pursuing a BFA at Pratt Institute, and holds a previous degree in social science. Her academic and personal pursuit of the humanities and social sciences informs her own work and teaching practices, particularly her anthropological interests in myth, history, and the human story. Sunah is a MoCADA Artists in Schools teaching artist and a frequent guest instructor at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Junior Scholars Program.

Many thanks to School Coordinators, Aides, Teachers, and Administration, including:

 

PS 316 Elijah G. Stroud International Baccalaureate Elementary School 

Principal Olga Maluf, Assistant Prinicipal Karen Weekes, Assistant Prinicipal Michael Pizzingrillo, Parent Coordinator Karen Jenkins

PS 375 Jackie Robinson School 

Principal Mecca Geters, Community Liaison Julieth Kennedy Yearwood, and Parent Coordinator Shatema Dockery

MS 267 Math, Science and Technology

Principal Patricia King and Parent Coordinator Kirieff Pettway

 

And many, many thanks to the patience and expertise of MoCADA’s education staff, including:

Additional Resources

Click to view more…

Made possible thanks to generous gifts from NYC Council Member Crystal Hudson, Council Member Chi Ossé, and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnership with City Council :

 

        

MoCADA is committed to giving wings to artists by bringing dynamic, contemporary African art to a broad audience through a series of highly visible artists’ projects, new commissions, installations, and exhibitions in public spaces, like this virtual gallery. Your support goes in a long way in helping MoCADA create exhibitions and other special programs that benefit the community. Click GiveMo to give a gift today. 

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