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Racial Integration of the Arts the Focus of Otelia Cromwell Day

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—Although the arts, in general, have begun to include a spectrum of racial participation and talent during the past century, the process of achieving greater diversity within various artistic genres remains somewhat sluggish.

This year’s Otelia Cromwell Day at Smith College will explore the racial history and integration of the arts with a series of performances, lectures and workshops.

The five-day program, titled “The Arts in Color,” will offer opportunities to consider the contributions of jazz, hip-hop and other artistic categories to American culture, while exploring the visual arts and poetry as well as music.

In the world of professional classical music, for example, fewer than 5 percent of musicians are people of color. Meanwhile, hip-hop culture remains largely dominated by African-American artists, although widely marketed to the mainstream population.

The event’s keynote address will be given by Aaron Dworkin, founder and director of the Sphinx Foundation and a MacArthur Fellow, on Thursday, Nov. 1, at 1 p.m. in Sage Hall. Dworkin, through his foundation, is committed to building diversity in classical music through music education and presentation.

A chamber music concert by three guest musicians on Friday, Nov. 2, will underscore Dworkin’s mission. Violinist Sanford Allen, cellist Astrid Schween and violist Marcus Thompson will join members of the Smith Chamber Ensemble in performing works by Dvorak and Brahms. Also on the concert program is a piece for solo violin, “Blue/s Forms,” dedicated to Allen by innovative African-American composer Coleridge Taylor-Perkinson.

Otelia Cromwell Day honors the first African-American graduate of Smith College in 1900. All of the events are free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible. Attendees who need disability accommodations or sign language interpretation should call 413-585-2071 (voice or TTY), or send e-mail to

See below for the full event schedule:

Smith College Museum of Art
Exhibition “I.D.: A Selection of Works in Honor of Otelia Cromwell, Class of 1900.”
A collaboration between museum staff members and Smith College students, featuring works on paper by African-American artists that take different approaches to the theme of identity. Join a guided discussion of the exhibition on Wednesday, Oct. 31, noon-1 p.m. in the Museum of Art.

1 p.m., Sweeney Concert Hall, Sage Hall
Performance “I Dream a World.” Smith College Glee Club; Jonathan Hirsh, conductor, Clifton J. Noble, Jr., pianist

1:15 p.m., Sweeney Concert Hall, Sage Hall
Keynote address “Breaking the Sound Barrier: The Sphinx Organization and Music Education.” Aaron Dworkin, founder and director of the Sphinx Foundation, who will offer an overview of his background and aims in starting Sphinx, in the context of the world of classical music.

2:30-4:30 p.m. McConnell Hall, Otelia Cromwell Day Workshops
McConnell 102 “People of Color in Western Art Music.” Aaron Dworkin and guest musicians Sanford Allen, Astrid Schween, and Marcus Thompson will discuss their personal experiences as people of color in a decidedly monochromatic profession.

McConnell 103 “The Roots and Branches of African-American Dance and Music.” This panel will explore the roots of Black musical and dance forms as panelists draw on their expertise in ethnomusicology and dance to moderate a discussion on the origins of these artistic forms.

McConnell B05 “Project 2050 Performers Speak Up—Revolution or Evolution?” Project 2050 is a multi-year exploration of what it means to be a person of color as we head toward the year when it is projected that people of color will become the majority in the United States.

McConnell B15 “Representation and Race in Portraiture.” Portraits can communicate who we are, what we value, and how we hope to be understood. With assistance from Shanta Scott, School and Family Programs Coordinator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, staff and interns from the Smith College Museum of Art lead an interactive workshop.

7 p.m., Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall
Film screening “The Hip-Hop Project,” the inspirational story of a group of New York City teenagers who transform their life stories into powerful works of art, using hip hop as a vehicle for self-development and personal discovery. The hip-hop group founder Chris “Kharma Kazi” Rolle will lead a post-film discussion.

9:30 p.m., Campus Center Carroll Room
Performance by slam poet Alvin Lau.

Noon-1 p.m.
Discussion about the exhibtion “I.D.: A Selection of Works in Honor of Otelia Cromwell, Class of 1900,” at the Smith College Museum of Art.

8 p.m. Sweeney Concert Hall, Sage Hall
Performance Terzetto by Antonin Dvorak; Piano Quintet by Johannes Brahms; “Blue/s Forms” by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson. Otelia Cromwell Day Chamber Music Recital with guest artists Sanford Allen, Astrid Schween, and Marcus Thompson, and members of the Smith Chamber Ensemble.

7 p.m., Sweeney Concert Hall, Sage Hall
Performance “The Love in Revolution.” Project 2050, a youth initiative sponsored by New World Theater, explores the meaning of “revolution,” examining how the term is used, where it comes from, and where the youth of today want to take it. Engaging revolutionary political movements as well as revolutionary modes of artistic expression, the local youth in Project 2050 present a dynamic performance of music, poetry, dance, and drama that explores revolution and hip-hop, racism and power, and the creation and transformation of identity.

10:30 a.m., Helen Hills Hills Chapel
Multi-faith service in Celebration of Otelia Cromwell. Featured guest speaker: Al- Hajjah Khalilah Karim-Rushdan, former Muslim Chaplain, Smith College.

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