Monday, September 1, 2014

Monday Muse: James Baldwin Events

. . . once you realize that you can do something, it would be
difficult to live with yourself if you didn't do it.
~ James Baldwin, The Paris Review Interview, 1984*

Our National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., is hosting a series of events celebrating the 90th anniversary of the birth of James Baldwin (August 2, 1924 - December 1, 1987), whose writing talents extended to essays, poetry, plays, and novels. Baldwin also was a social critic and a civil rights activist. The events are just three of a year's celebrations, screenings, and public programs that will conclude on August 2, 2015.

On Thursday, September 11, at 3:30 p.m. in the East Building Atrium of the NGA, poets Carolyn Forche and E. Ethelbert Miller present "A Celebration of James Baldwin". Forche is a professor of English and director of the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown University. Miller is director of Howard University's African American Studies Resource Center.

On Friday, October 12, at 2:00 p.m. in the lecture hall of the NGA's West Building, Karen Thorsen and Douglas Dempsey talk about their award-winning 16 mm documentary James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket (Maysles Films and PBS/American Masters), which had its premiere in 1990 at Sundance and was first broadcast on PBS on August 14, 1989. Thorsen wrote and directed the film and Dempsey was co-writer and co-producer. Their conversation will encompass the importance of this film today and the challenges of restoring it. Containing verite footage and appearances by the late Maya Angelou (in the film, she reads from Baldwin's work), the late Amiri Baraka, David Leeming (he wrote a biography of Baldwin published in 1995), the late Bobby Short, and the late William Styron. The Price of the Ticket is described as "[a]n emotional portrait, a social critique, and a passionate plea for human equality" in which Baldwin tells his story about "being born black, impoverished, gay, and gifted".

Later on the afternoon of October 12, at 4:00 p.m., also in the lecture hall, the world premiere of the 87-minute restored film occurs.

Watch a 3:19-minute film clip.

The Price of the Ticket at PBS/American Masters (Be sure to browse the resources in Inside This Episode at the link.)

St. Paul de Vence 90th Anniversary Events (Baldwin died in St. Paul de Vence in France.)

National Gallery of Art on FaceBook and Twitter

James Baldwin Scholars Program at Hampshire College

Felicia R. Lee, "Trying to Bring Baldwin's Complex Voice Back to the Classroom", The New York Times, April 24, 2014

Henry Louis Gates Jr., "From the Stacks: 'The Fire Last Time'", New Republic, June 1, 1992

*Jordan Elgrably, "James Baldwin, The Art of Fiction No. 78", Interview, The Paris Review, Spring 1984

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