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Culture in Central MA: Gallery of African Art

Friday, January 10, 2014

 

Clinton's Gallery of African Art is a sight to behold, and starting February will include vibrant musical performances.

The Gallery of African Art is both a traditional museum and an interactive educational center, where an artistically powerful private collection of over 400 works of art from Africa is displayed in a traditional museum setting. What sets the gallery apart, however, is its emphasis on being an educational center with a hands-on component and a strong relationship with the community.

The visually stunning collection of the Gallery of African Art encompasses various regions, tribes, and traditions of the African continent with an emphasis on West Africa. The gallery began with the private collection of retired industrialist and art collector Gordon B. Lankton. It has grown with the donations of several other private collections and includes masks, figures, household items, religious icons, vessels, musical instruments, tools, textiles, and jewelry. This diverse collection is crafted by hand in a variety of mediums including stone, bone, fabric, wood, shells, clay, bronze, beads, raffia, and gourds.

A lively experience

In addition to the collection on display, there are a number of interactive pieces to help immerse visitors into African culture. Gallery visitors can sit in an ornate African Chief’s Throne set up as a unique photo op. They can also watch a Balafon, a musical relative of the xylophone, being constructed on video and then sit down and play it. Ceremonial hunters vestments and charms are an enthralling display while playing a West African “hunters harp” called a N’goni. Visitors can even challenge a friend to a game of Mancala, the African stone game.

Ongoing art, music, dance and other participatory programming help inspire both an appreciation for African culture and a better understanding of African customs. The gallery holds drumming and dance classes, group tours, in-school residencies and concerts.

A community affair

A partnership with Crocodile River Music, now housed in the gallery, brings interactive African arts programming to participating schools. In the words of one fourth grader who attended, "It's kind of unexplainable, like it was way too good!"

Through a recent grant from the Sun Hill Foundation, a fun new program is now available to area schools. Trinidad to Timbuktu provides matching funds to take schools on an interactive musical journey through Mali, Spain, Brazil, and Trinidad. The whole school assembly performance follows a day of in-school residency with instruction from master drummers and a 1-month installation of pieces from the gallery’s collection. The grant also provides free field trips to the gallery for 30 students with the school responsible only for transportation.

Independent shops, restaurants, and the world-renowned Museum of Russian Icons surround the gallery, which has become an anchor of the city’s vibrant downtown. A renaissance has been happening in Clinton’s diverse business district...Russia, Ireland, Africa, Thailand, Iraq and Italy are all represented, which has led to the slogan, “Discover Clinton, Discover the World.”

Upcoming events

In February, the Gallery of African Art will partner with one of those local businesses to add to the international flavor of the downtown area. Coffeelands World Gift Espresso Cafe will be hosting a series of free performances by notable African musicians in addition to a display of African art from the Gallery’s collection.

On February 6 Yacouba Sissoko, a Kora player from Mali, will be performing. And on February 20, guitar player Banning Eyre will be featured. Eyre is an NPR contributor and Afropop Senior Editor. Other artists are also being scheduled. Lectures/demonstrations will be held from 6:15-6:45pm at the Gallery and concerts from 7-8:30pm at Coffeelands.

The Gallery of African Art is open Monday -Friday from 10 am-5:30 pm and Saturday from 9 am-5:30 pm. The gallery is also open Thursday evenings from 5:30-8pm. The website is undergoing a transformation so for more information or to schedule school programming, contact the gallery by calling (978) 368-1840. You can also reach director Zach Combs at (978) 265-4345 or email [email protected].

 

Culture in Central MA is the portal for arts and cultural events in the region. The heart of Massachusetts, rich in arts and culture, provides a wide array of events in venues that range from refurbished architectural gems to full stadiums. Central Ma. Culture will shine a weekly spotlight highlighting one of the many diverse cultural opportunities. If you have suggestions for a cultural event, email [email protected].

Susan Wagner is the president of Susan Wagner PR. In this challenging economy, she has begun a new division to offer affordable start-up packages to new and emerging small businesses and non-profit organizations that include professional writing services, websites, collateral, marketing, social media, grassroots outreach and PR campaigns.

 

Related Slideshow: 7 Art Galleries To Visit In Central MA

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Worcester Art Museum

55 Salisbury Street, Worcester

The Worcester Art Museum, often referred to by its acronym WAM, is the most acclaimed cultural attraction in the city of Worcester. The world famous "classic American museum" contains over 35,000 pieces of artwork spanning over 5,000 years. Currently on display is [remastered]: A reinstallation of the Worcester Art Museum's paintings from the 16th-18th centuries provides a new look at Old Masters.

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Worcester Center for Crafts

25 Sagamore Road, Worcester

The Worcester Center for Crafts’ Krikorian Gallery, in conjunction with Worcester State University, is committed to "sustaining craft as a vital part our community" through education, advocacy, and entrepreneurship. They are currently holding its Holiday Festival of Crafts 2013 this weekend.

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Fitchburg Art Museum

25 Merriam Parkway, Fitchburg

The Fitchburg Art Museum is one of the cultural treasures of North Central Massachusetts. Though not quite as famous as its cousin to the south, the Worcester Art Museum, the Fitchburg museum still houses an impressive permanent collection of art spanning 5,000 years. Check out their current exhibition: Still Life Lives! - A celebration of the vitality of the still life tradition and its themes of beauty, bounty, darkness, fragility, and fleeting moments, which runs through January 14.

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The Sprinkler Factory

38 Harlow Street, Worcester

The Sprinkler Factory is a unique gem in Downtown Worcester and a true center for all the arts. Once a manufacturing plant, the Sprinkler Factory now provides space for individual artists to form their own studios and contains areas for music, dance, and other fun activities. The massive atrium on the second floor in the middle of the complex is available for local artists to show their work. The public is welcome to browse the artists' studios and galleries. An upcoming exhibition entitled Indoor Games , runs from December 7 through January 25, captures the spirit of creativity during the winter months.

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Boulder Art Gallery

960 Main Street, Fitchburg

Since its opening in 2008 by founders by Ann and Peter Capodagli, the Boulder Art Gallery has been committed to showing original and vintage paintings, photographs, prints and sculptures from the region's most talented artists. A true variety of work from both new and established artists is on display in a multitude of mediums and styles; check out oils, acrylics, watercolors and pastels. Many pieces are also available for purchase.

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Aurora Gallery and GArtH Gallery (ArtsWorcester)

660 Main Street; 657 Main Street, Worcester

The Aurora Gallery and the “GArtH” Gallery of Art at the Hadley are run by the organization ArtsWorcester, and both show the work of local artists, many of whom are members of the group. For a list of current and upcoming exhibits, click here and here.

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Davis Art Gallery

44 Portland Street, Worcester

Since its founding in 2006, the Davis Art Gallery has made it its mission to promote the Worcester art community and create awareness of the local creative culture. One of the ways the gallery does this is by showing the work of local artists in a great variety of different mediums. Currently, you can see an exhibit by Emily and Robb Sandagata; Unearthed, which runs through February 7th.

 
 

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