AHA! A House for Arts


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Artist Matt Hart has combined his love of fly fishing and metal work to create unique sculptures honoring the craftmanship of fly tying. Author Gretchen Sorin's latest book, Driving While Black, analyzes the history of race and the automobile in the US. Catch Seth Warden, from Warden and Co., singing "The Middle of Madness " and more

AIRED: April 07, 2021 | 0:26:46

- Taking metals to the next level.

Gretchen Sorrin reveals the history of race

and the automobile in America

The catchy performance by Seth Warden.

It's all ahead on this episode of AHA,

A House for Arts

- Funding for AHA has been provided by your contribution and

by contributions to the WMHT venture fund.

Contributors include Chet and Karen Opalka,

Robert and Doris Fischer Malesardi,

The Alexander and Marjorie Hover Foundation

and The Robison Family Foundation.

- At M & T Bank

we understand that the vitality of our community

is crucial to our continued success.

That is why we take an active role in our community.

M & T bank is pleased to support WMHT programming

that highlights the arts,

and we invite you to do the same.

(Flute music begins)

- Hi, I'm Laura Ayad and this is AHA.

A house for Arts, a place for all things creative.

Let's send it right over to Matt Rogowicz

for today's field segment.

- I'm here in Schodack Landing, New York on a very

windy spring day, to look at artist

Matt Hart and his amazing metal sculptures.

Let's go.

- [Matt] I work with metal,

I do sculpture, railing, signs, anything custom.

I like to do things that haven't been done before.

So I tend to make a lot of my projects

harder than they need to be.

As I started Hartist Metals,

that's my business,

custom creation, sculpture design and function in 2007

and you know,

focused on nature.

Meaning when I make railings

I like the balustrades to be natural, not symmetrical.

Oh, we did a giant butterfly,

that one commemorated the Karner butterfly,

which was really nice.

I went to the library, then went

up to the Pine Bush Preserve, that one's still there.

I liked that

Growing up,

my father was in the sheet metal fabrication union

and I got in, started sweeping the floors

and tinkering with little pieces.

And I remember my foreman

and my coworkers used to say, Oh, Matt, you need to be in

you know, Napa Valley making little funky sculptures.

So that naturally led to playing

with scraps and welding things together.

The Albany underground artists was a good movement

that guild, and that was very inspiring.

So that got me into a group of artists

making different things

than what we were making in the fab shops.

One of the first big sculptures dad and I made was the

the space-based man, that rock and roll guitar player.

That's downtown Broadway in the windows now,

but that opened our eyes opened the doors.

People would say

it's a dying trade, you know, the metal world.

And I just, I saw a window

and I like the idea of functionality

So you could make an artistic sculptural table

but it's functional,

people can set stuff on it,

so that,

that functionality really got me excited.

The whole time I was working on all those pieces,

I knew it wasn't it,

I was still searching and looking

The forge flight are these

new fly fishing sculptures

My experience at the shows, when people walk around,

I hear a lot of, I've never seen this before.

Holy, how did you do this?

And that is just fueling my fire

All these years I've been waiting and looking

and praying for something that hasn't been made before.

And these forged flies were

were just it.

So I make the sculptures

of the flies that we use catch the trout.

The mayflies have a life cycle.

They start as a nymph underwater

and then they emerge and they pop their wings

and then they fly and they drop their eggs

So there's a few stages of their life.

And we create them out of copper, stainless steel.

Trying to get the metals to imitate all these fluffy

and intricate fibers of the fly time world.

This is one of my favorite techniques

that I've ever done in my life.

This is the imitation of the hackle.

So when we tie the flies with the saddle hackle feather,

and you wrap this around the hook shank,

the feathers splay out.

So this here, this is, you know

and I love it when people walk

up to these cause they, wow, how did you do that?

But then also looks like

we weld each one on individually,

and this has come

through a long process of figuring out how to do this.

But when I figured out how to do this,

I was like a kid in the candy store.

So this year we literally trade half of one

of these feathers and then wrap it around the hook shank.

So this splays out,

so a lot of the techniques that we use

for the forge fly is actually very similar

to the world of fly time.

And I think that really,

people in the sport really connect with that.

This has got to be in one of my top three favorite

pieces I've ever made, just because of this part right here.

This was over 10 foot of a saddle hackle feather

I wrapped and stacked and then trimmed.

And when you tie the actual is called spun deer hair.

So when you spin the deer hair,

then you shave it with a razor blade on the flies,

And it leaves these little nubs.

And this here I just, I can't believe this came out.

This is still one of those pieces and

I made it three years ago, but every time I look at it

I'm like how, when and who

- [Matt] The forge fly,

There's no end to the possibilities and combinations

of colors and materials are probably endless.

I'm probably making forge fly sculptures until

till the end of time.

Guiding and teaching fly fishing

and making the sculptures, that goes hand in hand.

It's kind of a dream come true.

- Gretchen Sorrin is a distinguished professor

and director at the Cooperstown Graduate program,

a training program for museum professionals,

her latest book "Driving While Black"

analyzes the history of race and the automobile

in the U.S.

How did African-Americans use cars

as vehicles for social justice in Jim Crow America.

I talk with Gretchen to find out.

Gretchen welcome to A House for Arts,

It's a pleasure having you.

- [Gretchen] Thank you, Lara.

It's great to be here.

- So you are the director of the

Cooperstown Graduate program and a distinguished professor

who trains students in work at museums.

And I know you've also served as consultant to

over 200 museums, and that you specialize

in African-American history and art.

So tell me first, how do you, how do you use your specialty

in African-American art history to help museums

reach more visitors on meaningful ways?

- You know, I think

as a historian, and I'm a historian not an art historian,

I teach my students how to contextualize art

and how to use it, to get people really excited

about American history and culture.

So I would say that, I look at it as an art historian

but I also look at it as cultural artifact

and what can we learn about it?

What can we learn about ourselves?

You know, what can we learn

about the artists that produced it?

And hopefully to get people really excited about it.

I also really like to juxtapose art

from the past with contemporary pieces.

And I think that gives us a new way

of looking and thinking about art.

- Yeah. Is there any specific example

of that that comes to mind for you right away?

That's been really effective

for helping people understand this form of history?

- Well, I think you're familiar with Fred Wilson

and his work and juxtaposing objects with art pieces.

And right now my students are working

on an exhibition about African-American mobility.

And one of the things that we're looking

at is the Amistad affair,

which is the ship that was shipwrecked

off the coast of Connecticut in the mid 19th century.

- They made a famous movie off of that in the 90s.

Right? I think so.

- Yeah. And the, the Amistad

was a slave ship that was taken over by the enslaved people

and they wanted to go back to Africa.

So we're using, we're talking about mobility in the

21st century and 20th century

but we're also comparing it to mobility in the 19th century.

And we're using art as well as artifact to do that.

- Right. You know, Gretchen it's sounds

like you're using exhibitions and

museum collections to help people understand the truth

because we've been hearing a lot in the news lately

about disinformation and fake news,

and searching for the truth, you know

in the news and at college campuses.

Can you maybe tell us a bit more

about how do exhibitions have the power to

help us find the truth?

- You know, one of the things about museums

I think that I find so appealing is authenticity.

The objects are real, the objects are authentic

and you're looking at this kind of

real piece of the past that can help you understand it.

And, and that's, we talk to our students about research

and how important it is to really dig into that research

and not to just look at one single source

but to look at multiple sources and to really question all

of those sources and where the information is coming from.

So you never just look at one single thing.

You're looking at newspapers and magazines.

You're looking at artist's statements, as well as art.

You're looking at artifact

and you're verifying everything that you do.

- I want to switch gears a little bit

from your museum work to your writing,

albeit having to still do with social justice. Really.

I understand last year you published a

book called "Driving While Black."

So if I have this right,

this is a book that analyzes the history

of race in the automobile, in the U.S. right?

- Yes.

- So how did African-Americans use cars as a vehicle

both literally and metaphorically

for social justice in Jim Crow America?

Tell us a bit about that.

- Well, I have to say

that you couldn't have the civil rights movement

without the automobile.

When you think about the number

of white Americans and black Americans that went South

during the civil rights movement to participate

in marches and demonstrations,

they needed places to stay and they needed places to eat.

And the variety of businesses that grew up

to support African-American automobile travelers,

whether they were segregated motels, restaurants, hotels

little luncheon, luncheon spots,

all of these places were available

to civil rights workers when they went South.

The other thing I think that's really important,

is if you think about the bus boycotts.

In order to desegregate the buses

in various towns in the South,

they had to boycott the buses in order to boycott them,

they didn't want people to lose their jobs

to lose their source of income.

so they purchased fleets of automobiles

that were used to drive people to work.

Those automobiles really made it possible

for the bus companies to be bankrupted.

And that's what desegregated the buses.

- That's incredible.

Yeah. And I understand too, that you worked with Rick Burns

who's Ken Burns' brother

on making a film based off your book right?

Tell us about that.

What's the title of the film

and what was it like working on this?

- The film has the same first title

as the book "Driving While Black", but the subtitle

of the film is race, space, and mobility in America.

And Rick is an old friend.

I took him, we went

to lunch together after we were

on a panel for OAH, the organization of American historians.

And I told him

that I had a story idea that I wanted to pitch to him.

And I wanted him to look at some pictures

and I pulled out my laptop in a restaurant in Manhattan.

And we just started flipping through all

of the pictures that I had collected

of African-Americans and their automobiles.

And it was interesting because

the hostesses and the waiters

and waitresses in the restaurant gathered behind us

and they were looking at the photographs as well.

- Wow. So they were all just kind of

like watching this whole history unfold in a way.

- And that's how we got started.

And, you know, I think Rick was a little nervous

about doing an African-American history topic

thinking, well maybe it should be a black filmmaker.

And my feeling was he was someone that I knew

and it was really important to me to work

with someone that I knew to do this story in particular

because it was so important to me

but also that African-Americans need white allies.

We need allies and supporters.

African-American community is only

about 13% of the U.S. population,

so we can't do all of this work ourselves,

we need white allies.

- Right. Absolutely.

And bringing forward those important stories

through both a book, as well as a film format.

That's so important.

And you know,

it's making me think about our current situation actually.

And Gretchen I'm curious to know

do you think there's anything we can learn both

from the book and the film that can help us

understand our current situation,

for instance do you see any parallels between

what African-American drivers had to deal with

and how they use the automobile 60 years ago and,

how black American drivers deal today?

- Yeah. I think what the film does and what the book does

in more detail is really provide a context

for understanding what's happening today.

It really shows us where we've been.

And one of the things that the book really talks about

is the origin of police departments.

Because police departments

in this country, really begin as slave catchers.

And as people who were working to restrict the movement

of both African-Americans and Native Americans,

depending on what part of the country

the police department was established in,

And when you understand that and you really

start to see how that tension between African-Americans

and the police has developed over time.

Of course, during the period of segregation

many of the police were not supportive

of the civil rights movement, and they were, you know

sicking dogs on people and, and hurting,

murdering people as well.

And letting people out of jail

so that they could be captured recaptured

by the clan, you know

so you can start to see where that animosity and that

that real fear comes from

that we see today in traffic stops.

- Yeah. Do you think that even police departments today

kind of engage in some similar practices as well

that restricts the movement and the mobility

of many African American men and women?

- I think that not only, it's not only the police, I mean

I think Americans have absorbed this, these ideas

about white space and black space, and that there are spaces

that African-Americans are not supposed to be in

because you find people, you know

calling the police because they find a young woman sleeping

in a dorm, say at, Harvard or Yale.

And of course she's a student

but they've called the police.

Or they call the police because there are people,

black people sitting in a Starbucks

and they don't think they should be sitting there.

Or they call the police,

or they murder someone like Ahmed Aubrey

running in a white neighborhood because

it's perceived to be a space that he shouldn't be in.

So I think this is not just the police,

but I think ordinary citizens are guilty of this as well.

- That's sounds like many Americans

no matter what profession they're in,

no matter what their background,

could really benefit from,

reading your book and watching the film and learning a bit

about this history so that we can all know how

to get together and help support each other

and really help support the freedom

and the mobility of black Americans today.

- Yes, I hope so.

And I think it's really an important part

of history that we don't teach in schools.

- Yeah, absolutely.

Gretchen, thank you so much for being on the show,

it was such a pleasure having you.

- [Gretchen] Thank you so much.

It was great to be here

- Please. Welcome Seth Warden.

- Hi there. My name is Seth Warden.

I play in a group called Warden and Company.

This for someone who plays,

it's called The Middle of Madness.

And I think we've all felt

like we've been in the middle of that recently.

So this is my interpretation.

♪ Guitar music begins ♪

♪ Life's getting blurry from the tears in my eyes ♪

♪ a chance for change, adjust, just to sympathize. ♪

♪ How can we fix this is there hope for us all ♪

♪ when you're dying to climb just to watch it fall. ♪

♪ Oh, we're in the middle of the madness ♪

♪ whose mouth speaks for you ♪

♪ inside all of this sadness ♪

♪ is yours, mine, and the truth. ♪

♪ I canceled my cable, I turned off the news ♪

♪ I'm wise and I'm able and it's time to choose. ♪

♪ It's taught to our children, this golden rule. ♪

♪ And when it's time to use it ♪

♪ grownups rarely do ♪

♪ Oh were in the middle of the madness ♪

♪ whose mouth speaks for you ♪

♪ inside all of this sadness ♪

♪ is yours mine and the truth ♪

♪ we're in the middle of the madness ♪

♪ whose mouth speaks for you ♪

♪ inside all of this sadness ♪

♪ is yours, mine and the truth. ♪

♪ Guitar instrumental ♪

♪ Oh we're in the middle of madness ♪

♪ Who's mouth speaks for you ♪

♪ Inside all of this sadness ♪

♪ Is yours, mine, and the truth ♪

♪ Guitar instrumental ♪

- This song is called Misfortune.

♪ Upbeat guitar begins ♪

♪ Upbeat guitar begins ♪

♪ Upbeat guitar begins ♪

♪ What are you waiting for? ♪

♪ You never really know for sure ♪

♪ until you make a move. ♪

♪ Is this what you expected? ♪

♪ It's all cause and effected. ♪

♪ So what are you gonna do? ♪

♪ So here's to you misfortune ♪

♪ Standing outside your door ♪

♪ Is it really true, take precaution ♪

♪ Could it be the one you've been waiting for ♪

♪ Is this what you wanted ♪

♪ Living in a house that's haunted ♪

♪ with forgotten memories ♪

♪ When all you did was exist in ♪

♪ in opportunity, this is ♪

♪ the one that could set you free. ♪

♪ So here's to you misfortune ♪

♪ standing outside your door. ♪

♪ Is it really true, take precaution? ♪

♪ Could it be the one you've been waiting for ♪

♪ Is it time to make things happen, ah ♪

♪ It is time to take some action, ah ♪

♪ Is that all it takes ♪

♪ So what are you waiting for ♪

♪ What are you waiting for ♪

♪ What are you waiting for ♪

♪ What are you waiting for ♪

♪ So here's to you misfortune ♪

♪ Standing outside my door ♪

♪ Is it really true, take precaution ♪

♪ Could it be the one you've been waiting for ♪

♪ Upbeat Guitar instrumental ♪

- Thanks for joining us

For more arts visit wmht.org/aha

and be sure to connect with WMHT

On social

I'm Lara Ayad, thanks for watching

- Funding for aha has been provided

by your contribution and by contributions

to the WMHT venture fund.

Contributors include Chet and Karen Opalka,

Robert and Doris Fischer Malisardi,

The Alexander and Marjorie Hover Foundation

and The Robison Family Foundation

At M & T Bank

We understand that the vitality

of our community is crucial to our continued success.

That is why we take an active role in our community.

M & T Bank is pleased to support WMHT programming

that highlights the arts,

and we invite you to do the same.


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