WLIW Arts Beat

S2020 E610 | FULL EPISODE

WLIW Arts Beat - June 1, 2020

In this edition of WLIW Arts Beat, an organic farm embraces fresh ingredients and local cuisine; an arts organization's positive impact on the community; an artist's lifelong commitment to equality and justice; painting images of life in Afghanistan.

AIRED: June 01, 2020 | 0:26:55
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TRANSCRIPT

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>> In this edition of

"WLIW Arts Beat," bringing

the taste of New Mexico cuisine

to life...

>> My whole thing

is to be connected.

That's the whole thing.

If it's through an individual

relationship, either with

a person or with a food product,

they're the same.

>> ...the transformation

of a community through art.

>> Project Row Houses has led --

has been a leader in changing

the perceptions of what art is

and what it can do in terms

of not only community

development, historic

and cultural preservation,

empowering people to see

themselves in a different way.

>> ...one artist's journey of

art and activism.

>> All art is political,

whether you know it or not --

what the artist knows it or not.

>> ...and homeland memories

captured on canvas.

It's all ahead on this edition

of "WLIW Arts Beat."

Funding for "WLIW Arts Beat"

was made possible by

viewers like you.

Thank you.

Welcome to "WLIW Arts Beat."

I'm Diane Masciale.

First up, we meet

the executive chef

at Los Poblanos Historic Inn

and Organic Farm in New Mexico.

He uses fresh, seasonal

ingredients that embrace

the art of local cuisine.

Here's his story.

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>> Rio Grande Valley cuisine

tastes like...New Mexico.

It's the sky, it's the air,

it's everything

that encompasses this state

and that river and this culture

that resides here.

That's my main thing.

I mean, I'm from here,

so that's important to me.

I just believe in what I do,

and I believe in the nutrition

that it provides.

I believe in knowing that,

if you eat seasonal,

you tend to be more healthy

because everything is

at an optimal peak in nutrition

and taste and everything.

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The story of the food starts

from the people that produce it.

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I'm just the guy that gets

to play with it.

[ Laughs ]

To be honest with you.

And I get to carry that story

on.

I get to enhance what they do.

So I'm like part of their story.

And then, the people

that really get the full story

are the guests.

So, I'm just a facet

of the process of the story.

>> Behind.

>> And my whole thing

is to be connected.

That's the whole thing.

If it's through

an individual relationship,

either with a person

or with a food product,

they're the same.

They deserve the same attention,

and they deserve the same level

of respect.

The challenge of local food

is that you have to be ready

to change.

We have to be willing

to change as people.

This will be nice for the mole.

Because if you can't change

as an individual, it's gonna be

really hard to change

when you get a curveball

because your eggplants

didn't manifest the way

you wanted them to.

So what are you gonna you do?

Are you gonna be upset?

No, you're gonna make

adjustments.

Or, if we have a huge bumper

crop, what are we gonna do?

So all of a sudden, the creative

juices just start flowing,

and you're thinking,

"I can do this, I can do this,

I can do this, I can do this,"

and you've got one thing,

and you're coming up with

half-a-dozen, a dozen different

things that you can start

creating out of this one thing.

I do think it's important

to hold on to traditional foods,

because those are the things

that make a space special.

Because you can't get it

anywhere else.

If you want the true essence

of it...

You can only get the green chile

here.

You can only get the red chile

here.

You can get it other places,

but in different forms.

We -- We started thinking about

moles for this restaurant,

for this menu quite a while ago,

orI did.

And then it kind of just

evolved, and so we're running

like two moles every six months.

So we'll have a vegetarian

version and a meat version.

With the yellow mole,

it was really about showcasing

these vegetables that are in

abundance right now.

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So, potatoes and onions

and garlic and the eggplant

and the Aji Cristal peppers,

and the jujubes are gonna be on

there, and the pomegranates.

So, this whole dish,

this vegetarian mole, was --

the sauce was created

to showcase these harvests.

So as we move into winter,

all those vegetables

that are on the dish now

are gonna change because

the seasons have changed.

But the sauce will be the same,

so it's kind of like the mother.

It carries them, you know,

and some things

will be stewed in the sauce,

and then some of those items

will ornate the dish

so that you have some

visual textures,

and maybe we'll create

some height with it.

It evolves as the seasons

evolve, and that's what I like

about the moles.

They can -- they can adapt.

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I think that the dishes

pretty much evolve themselves.

I just have to make sure

that I'm aware enough

when to change them.

That's the hard part.

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Because the way the seasons

work, the way the harvest works,

you just don't know from one

year to the next to the next

to the next to the next.

And you have to have

that flexibility about yourself

in this industry.

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The things I love about food

and what inspires me about it

is always being surprised,

because you just never know

until you apply yourself,

either if you're a diner

and experiencing something

you've never had before,

or if you're a cook and you're

being presented something

you've never worked with before

and you have to work through it.

Those are the surprises.

Those are the things

I look forward to,

because there are always...

There's always -- it's always

rewarding, no matter what.

I just invest myself into the --

into the product,

and I hope that when people

order these dishes that me

and my team create,

that they're as invested in

eating it as we are prepping it

and creating it.

That completes a cycle to me.

And to feed people well, I think

that that's -- that's huge.

'Cause you're interacting

with somebody

that you don't even know,

and you're interacting with them

on kind of an intimate level.

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>> Find out more

at lospoblanos.com.

And now here's

the Artist Quote of the Week.

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Since its inception,

Project Row Houses in Houston,

Texas, has had a positive impact

on the lives of the people

in the city's Third Ward.

The arts organization has

transformed and celebrated

the neighborhood's

African-American culture

through the exhibition of

contemporary installation art.

Here's a look.

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>> 25 years ago, you couldn't

even walk down this street,

if you didn't live in the

neighborhood, without some

threat of physical violence.

It was considered one of

the most dangerous neighborhoods

in the city of Houston.

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What the city saw as poverty,

blight, crime and all the social

ills that come along with that,

the artists saw as an

opportunity to showcase their

work and use their work in a way

to enrich the community.

Project Row Houses is

a 25-year-old arts and culture

organization based in Houston's

Northern Third Ward.

We're located approximately

three blocks from

Emancipation Park,

a 10-acre park bought by

freed slaves to celebrate their

freedom.

We walk on the grounds of

freed slaves here every day,

and that's not lost on us.

When our most well-known

founder, Rick Lowe,

stumbled upon these houses

and he discovered this site,

he saw it and the other founders

saw it as this unique

opportunity, right?

So they were able to acquire

what was 22 shotgun-style row

houses.

They were able to acquire

this site and really work

with the community, renovate,

and bring some life

back into these houses.

And that is how the concept

of Project Row Houses started.

We foster the creation

and exhibition of art

in several ways.

One's through our artist rounds

that we have in the fall and

spring of each year.

What the rounds do

is they address whether it's

a social, political, economic --

whatever issue,

it's curated to address a theme

or issue that's happening

in the neighborhood.

We had, a couple of rounds ago,

black women artists

from Black Lives Matter.

A round before that dealt with

the fact that art could be used

as a way to address prison

reform.

Most importantly, we use

the resources that we have

to ensure that the history

and culture of this community

is not erased.

We were one of the first

organizations to look at,

holistically, what can we do

to use our resources

to enrich the community?

Not just beautify the space,

but actually bring some

much-needed services --

to bring affordable housing

into the community,

a place for young mothers

to provide a sustainable,

supportive living environment

for themselves and their

children so they can reach their

professional and personal goals.

Project Row Houses has led --

has been a leader in changing

the perceptions of what art is

and what it can do in terms

of not only community

development, historic

and cultural preservation,

empowering people to see

themselves in a different way.

We get people from all over

the country that come in

and just want to sit and learn.

And this is not

some cookie-cutter,

"Here's a tool kit, go take this

into your community,"

but really explaining to them

what it has taken over the

25 years for us to get here.

Now it's an institution.

It is deeply rooted.

It's not justin the Third Ward,

it isof the Third Ward.

It was this conceptual idea

that has transformed

into what many consider

to be one of the greatest

social sculptures in the world,

and it just came out of this

idea that art could transform

and enrich a community.

>> To find out more,

go to projectrowhouses.org.

Now here's a look

at this month's Fun Fact.

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At the height of

the Black Power Movement

in the mid-'60s,

some spoke out for social

and political change

not on city streets,

but in plays, homes,

and visual art.

Among those was Jeff Donaldson.

Here's more about his work.

>> He was really interested

in creating images

of black people that could be

appreciated by a black audience.

Jeff Donaldson is originally

from Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

He studied art at

the University of Arkansas,

Pine Bluff, and then moved

to Chicago, where he earned

both a master's degree in art

and also a PhD in African and

African-American art history

at Northwestern University.

He's a practicing artist,

and also -- or hewas.

I'm sorry.

He passed away in 2004.

And was also a founding member

of AfriCOBRA.

AfriCOBRA started in 1968.

>> AfriCOBRA is

the African Commune of

Bad Relevant Artists.

And "bad" being very overt and

kind of, I think,

maybe antagonistic

to what defines "good."

So, it was a way to bring people

together to kind of define

a unifying aesthetic

and then to help those artists

kind of present their work

in different ways.

Being in Chicago in the '60s,

he was very active

in the political scene,

and he was very conscious

of social issues at the time.

He studied -- He was very close

with the Harlem Renaissance

and worked with

kind of WPA muralists.

So, the connection

between art and activism

was -- has always run through

Donaldson's life and work.

He was using art as a vehicle,

kind of using art as

a message machine to talk about

race relations in America.

Kool-Aid colors was one of

the kind of unifying principles.

For AfriCOBRA, it was kind of

about beauty in action,

so it was about artwork that was

meant to be legible and readable

and accessible to people.

They're very interested

in kind of mass-producing images

so that they were kind of easily

understood and that they were

kind of acting as art

and propaganda at the same time,

so kind of an agitprop

kind of philosophy.

>> He outlined a lot

of the principles that kind of

aesthetically grouped

these artists together.

Those include a number of things

like expressive awesomeness,

this idea of shine,

and Jeff Donaldson meant that

literally in the sense of shine.

If you look at his work,

he has quite a bit of

metallic paint and surfaces,

but he also means it in a sense

of shine and attractiveness

and well-polished things

and well-put-together things.

He's also interested in rhythm.

He's interested in repetition.

He's interested in bright,

Kool-Aid colors.

And those are just a few of

the things that he outlines

in this essay.

They all were interested

in finding a shared aesthetic

that they could use

to promote their message

and to create work that appealed

to African-Americans

and also told their story

and was something that

could be appreciated

just by looking at it

for its pure aesthetic quality.

And you didn't have to have a

PhD in art history,

like Donaldson did, in order to

appreciate the work.

They thought of themselves as

a family.

They thought of themselves

as a united group.

But they also had their own

individual identities and

their own individual practices.

Jeff Donaldson in particular,

when he talks about this,

he talks about the art that was

being made by black artists

around the time of -- before

the formation of AfriCOBRA

not having the same kind

of aesthetic rigor

that AfriCOBRA members wanted

to put into their work,

and that was really important

to him, that all the members

have a certain quality.

They held themselves to certain

standards aesthetically.

>> It is really kind of heady

material, but it plays out

in the realm of everyday,

and his grassroots activism

laid the foundation for that.

So, he's a very smart man,

but he also understood what it

meant to communicate to the

masses, to communicate to people

who weren't as well-educated

as he was.

So, as he was looking at kind of

the influence of Western art

on the development

of American art,

he was also trying to insert

kind a Pan-African aesthetic

into the work at the same time.

He was trying to say --

trying to really develop

a more encompassing iconography

of American art,

and his work was definitely

with the intent that it would be

for a populist audience --

art for the people.

Art for the masses is kind of,

you know, one of -- kind of

Donaldson's mantras, you know,

and all art is political,

whether you know it or not.

"Whether the artist knows it or

not," I think is the quote

that Donaldson said.

So even if you're not intending

the message to be political,

it's political.

And so, that was one of kind of

Donaldson's central tenets.

>> And here's a look at

this week's Arts History.

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In this segment,

we meet a refugee artist

who is newly resettled

in Dayton, Ohio,

and paints images of his

Afghan homeland from memory.

Take a look.

>> Imagine being uprooted

from your home during a time

of war or civil unrest.

This is the reality

for many refugees

coming to the United States

in search of a better life --

one free of violence

and persecution.

Dayton has been a welcoming city

for many years, accepting

immigrants and refugees with

open arms -- refugees like

artist Mohammed Esmaty

and his wife and children.

After receiving

his bachelor's degree

from Kabul University,

Mohammed traveled to Russia

to further his education

in the arts, focusing

primarily on portraiture.

After returning to Kabul,

he worked in a studio painting

and teaching for many years.

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>> That wraps it up for this

edition of "WLIW Arts Beat."

We'd like to hear what you

think, so like us on Facebook,

join the conversation on

Twitter, and visit our web page

for features and to watch

episodes of the show.

We hope to see you next time.

I'm Diane Masciale.

Thank you for watching

"WLIW Arts Beat."

Funding for "WLIW Arts Beat"

was made possible by

viewers like you.

Thank you.

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