The Role of Creatives in the Augury of a Better American Culture

Mel Hardy is Chairman of Millennium Arts Salon (MAS) which recently announced its newest exhibition “In Unison: 20 Washington, DC Artists”, which was on view at the Kreeger Museum of Washington, DC ( through February, 26, 2011. We will move the exhibition to New York City’s Village of Harlem for a 4 month run of show from October 15th through January 30th, 2012 at the Dwyer Cultural Center.

The exhibition represents MAS’ strategic vision for inter-cultural collaborative creativity, between and amongst mid-career artists across all verticals of cultural, ethnic, age, gender, artistic and aesthetic identities.  Significantly, MAS has produced an exhibition of scale and scope with impacts in the arts and cultural life of the Greater DC region far beyond that expected from a small non-profit, local community, arts advocacy and education organization based in the Columbia Heights village of DC.  MAS is in its 11th year of arts and cultural programming from its Washington base in the DMV (District, Maryland, Virginia).

To date, in certain particular but important reviews of the exhibition, some art criticism provides a recitation of recent shows over the last number of years, such, perhaps, being out of context for what one might observe in the display of this sampling of a body of works on view at the Kreeger and created at George Mason University’s sparklingly new and state-of-the-art print production studio.  What the casual reviewer could not have observed was the origination of vision of a major artist in Washington pillar Sam Gilliam, and its interplay under the sponsorship of a local arts-advocacy and DC arts-community building organization in Millennium Arts Salon, the fiscal convener of the exhibition.

In auguring the prowess of this show, there has been attribution of the “patronage” of Kandinsky and Klee as a wonderful gift from an established art critic to each of the “In Unison” artists hanging at the Kreeger.  It is lost on no one that Kreeger Director Judy Greenberg’s willingness to accept this exhibition represents a major advance in the careers of many of the artists, also, a mission of Millennium Arts Salon. Physically, the “Patrons” welcome the viewer to the exhibition by their placement at the entrance to the Gallery where “In Unison” is on view.

In this, perhaps the initial viewer may miss the point with a focus on a backward looking predisposition, to the restrictions on innovation and creativity imposed on our local Washington artists by a less-than-assertive Washington cultural infrastructure.  Millennium Arts Salon and the project team structured a framework for persons across the spectrum of cultural, ethnic, aesthetic, experience, gender, and age identities to experiment with artistic and aesthetic dialogue whilst in the process of creation of works.

In an initial viewing of the exhibition, one cannot have known Sondra Arkin’s frustration with running her typical encaustics through a press only to work with the master printmakers to innovate in finding process to present her beautiful details.  The casual observer cannot have known the truly vanguard applications of tools applied by Akili Ron Anderson in the creation of his works, and for which each of the five “small paintings” he created are tour de force works of art.

To what many observers of this important exhibition might immediately attach to recent historical reference, the viewer is guided not to miss the prospective references to our national need for modeling how Americans, regardless of station, cultural, or ethnic identity, can find ways to interact in the spirit of innovation, in the finding of new ways to re-calibrate our national dialogue for building a sense a national identity, an American culture. This meets both purpose and strategy for the project, the third such print publication project by Washington’s own Millennium Arts Salon. Of note is Millennium Arts Salon’s newest program entitled “Millennium Arts Salon Diasporan Dialogues”, a strategic overture of outreach to the culturally and ethnically specific communities in the Greater Washington SMSA (Richmond through Baltimore) which includes the monolithic “blocs” we will call the African, Latino and Asian immigrant communities. MAS has developed it confidence to conduct such programming, the first of which will occur at the Kreeger Museum on February 5, 2011.

The project team was lead by: Sam Gilliam in identifying the artists who would inspire a new Washington signature in collaborative creativity;  Juanita Hardy, (my wife of 14 years) of Millennium Arts Salon who initiated and funded the enterprise; Helen Frederick and Susan Goldman who “mastered” the printmaking and counseled many of the artists in innovation; Claudia Rousseau, who provided art historical and critical context; and Judy Greenberg, who initially housed this new vision of the American experiment with American inter-culturalism.

Of course, none of this is possible without the creatives themselves, and Millennium Arts Salon, its Board of Directors, and supporters are all grateful that the artists would lend themselves to this highly managed strategy.  The “In Unison” exhibition provides that essential balance that fuels all of us in the creative classes to look forward to our leadership in the better America that is to come.  Contact:  Melvin Hardy:  202-239-8450  • Email: with subject line: In Unison.

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