Through Oct. 16, the historic Old Manse in Concord, Mass., becomes home to The Meeting House, a site-specific outdoor installation by multimedia artist and CalArts faculty member and alumnus Sam Durant (Art MFA 91).
The Meeting House, part of nonprofit organization The Trustees' art initiative Art and The Landscape, is a participatory installation that focuses on the African history of the area using the Old Manse location to tie the past and present together and generate discussion. Built in 1770, the Old Manse is a National Historic Landmark that served as the center of Concord's political, literary and social revolutions in the mid-19th Century. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller and Nathaniel Hawthorne are some of the people who have used the property as a meeting place to talk about ideas and as a place of residency.
From the press release:
The Meeting House focuses on the African presence in colonial and post-revolutionary Concord and seeks to make the connection between our difficult past, slavery and segregation, and the fact that we are still today unable to create the just society that our revolution promised.
On the site's north side, Durant has constructed a structure based on the houses of the first emancipated African men and women in Concord. The constructed pavilion features an open, transparent framework that is designed to function as a platform for the public to share and explore history, artwork and issues of race, while reactivating the Old Manse as a setting for critical discussions.
Inside the Old Manse, Durant has curated an exhibition which gathers replicated post-colonial African artifacts. The collection includes a manuscript written by Phillis Wheatley, the first published African American female poet; a warning poster from April 1851 directed at freed slaves; and a slave ship plan view from Boston’s Museum of African American History.
Visitors who want to send comments or questions for the artist may leave a message for Durant through the phone numbers posted around the property: 857.244.0651
As part of the installation, The Trustees is also hosting four events called "lyceums," in the spirit of 19th century gatherings, for the public to discuss African American writing, philosophy, music, food and spirituality. The first lyceum, on Aug. 13, hosted community members in a potluck style picnic that featured a menu of traditional African American dishes, with speakers sharing the history of the food, the ingredients and the recipes. The picnic used food culture as a means to start a willing dialogue of healing.
The schedule of the remaining lyceums is as follows:
Sept. 24, 2-4 pm: Poetry Reading
A select group of leading poets will be invited to compose new work specifically for a reading at The Meeting House. Featuring: Kevin Young, Danielle Legros Georges, Robin Coste-Lewis and Tisa Bryant.
Oct. 15, 2-4 pm: A New Framework for Dialogue
While explicitly racist policies and structures have been dismantled, systemic forms of racism and inequality remain. A panel discussion will be moderated by Tim Phillips and organization Beyond Conflict and will include Durant. Other panelists include Ebrahim Rasool, former South African Ambassador to the US, Penny Outlaw of the Royall House & Slave Quarters, and Adam Foss, Assistant District Attorney.
Oct. 16 2-4 pm: New England Town Hall Meeting
In the spirit of a town hall meeting, the public is invited to share their thoughts about The Meeting House. The artist and curator will be present for the discussion to listen and respond.
Art and The Landscape is a multiyear initiative produced by The Trustees as part of its yearlong 125th anniversary celebration. With the help of independent curator Pedro Alonzo, the new initiative is designed to present compelling contemporary art in a public landscape to create inspirational and meditative experiences for visitors at some of its most iconic and historic properties.
Sam Durant: The Meeting House
Aug. 9 through Oct. 31
The Old Manse
269 Monument St., Concord