Art Exhibition Inspired by Little Rock Nine 'LR9: 1957' Now Open at The Gallery at The Sheen Center

Art Exhibition Inspired by Little Rock Nine 'LR9: 1957' Now Open at The Gallery at The Sheen Center

The Gallery at The Sheen Center (18 Bleecker Street, NYC) presents "LR9: 1957," a multimedia group exhibition inspired by the Little Rock Nine. Curated by Ajamu Kojo, the exhibition includes oil painting, collage, sculture, found-object art and projected film works by artists including Patrick Earl Barnes, Kimberly Becoat, Paul Deo, Aimée Everett, Chet Gold, Aaqil Ka, Ajamu Kojo, Roni Nicoleand Valincy-Jean Patelli. The exhibition is open to the public through August 3. The Gallery is open daily from 9AM to 11PM. All works on exhibition are available for purchase.

The Little Rock Nine is a group of nine Black American students who were enrolled in the all-white, segregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957: Melba Pattillo Beals, Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Thelma Mothershed, Terrence Roberts, and Jefferson Thomas. Their enrollment was followed by the Little Rock Crisis, in which the students were initially prevented from entering the racially segregated school by violent crowds and the Arkansas National Guard, who were called out by Orval Faubus, the Governor of Arkansas. The Nine were finally able to attend school after President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army to Little Rock, taking the Arkansas National Guard out of the Governor's control, and allowing members of the 101st to serve as guards for the Nine.

"The 'LR9: 1957' exhibition could not be more timely," says curator Ajamu Kojo. With this exhibition, the artists have been given an opportunity to reflect one of the most significant civil rights struggles in our nation's history. For this particular project, I am more interested in exploring the idea of the nine students as it relates to so-called Black Excellence. Based upon my own research, it's rarely discussed (or so it seems) what specific qualifications it took for these youth to be admitted to Little Rock Central High School. Who are these individuals and what kind of training did they go through in preparation of the hardships they came to face? Though not restricted to, these are the types of questions behind the motivation of the works. Of course, the story of the nine brave Americans who comprised The Little Rock Nine could not be more relevant today. Our headlines continue to reflect the ongoing hurdles that America faces in its quest for equality and we hope that this exhibition will serve as a reminder, an education for younger generations, and an inspiration for all who experience who visit The Gallery at The Sheen Center."

Exhibition curator Ajamu Kojo is from Little Rock, AR, where he also graduated from Little Rock Central High School. Kojo attended Howard University where he majored in Film and Television Production and minored in Theatre Arts. During the four and a half years he spent in the District of Columbia, he completed three independent shorts that he wrote, directed and edited; one of which earned him an award in the Chicago film festival. Upon moving to New York City, he penned two original screenplays and two adaptations. Then in 2002 he exhibited for the first time at GUMBO - a group show with curators Patrick-Earl Barnes and Lawrence Joyner. In 2004, he exhibited with Carol Jones at the Atelier International Art Group and also at the David Huckaby Gallery in New Haven, CT He splits his time between developing independent film projects, working as a scenic artist with USA Local 829 and concentrating on his works of fine art. In addition to working on such projects as "Law & Order,""Boardwalk Empire" and "Vinyl." He is continuously developing works which take on a critical view of social, political and cultural issues through story, slices of life and moments of voyeurism. In 2017. The Gallery at The Sheen Center exhibited Kojo's "Black Wall Street: A Case for Reparations," a socio-political collection created to shed light on a nugget of American history, Black Wall Street (Tulsa, OK). Kojo lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

The Exhibition "LR9: 1957" coincides with Little Rock, a new play written and directed by Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj, at The Sheen Center's Loreto Theater through September 8. Telling the riveting true story of the Little Rock Nine, Little Rock is at once harrowing and hopeful, bringing to urgent life the Nine's untold personal stories of challenge and resilience, conjuring memories of America not so long ago. (Little Rock features strong language and is not suitable for children under 13 years of age.) Tickets start at $39 and are available at www.SheenCenter.org.

The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture (www.sheencenter.org) is a New York City arts center located in NoHo that presents a vibrant mix of theater, film, music, art and talk events. An initiative of the Archdiocese of New York, The Sheen Center serves all New Yorkers by presenting performances and artists that reflect the true, the good, and the beautiful. Named for the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, best remembered as an inspirational author, radio host and two-time Emmy Award-winning television personality, The Sheen Center reflects his modern-day approach to contemporary topics. The Sheen Center is a state-of-the-art theater complex that includes the 270-seat off-Broadway Loreto Theater, equipped with five-camera high-definition TV and live-stream capability and a multi-track recording studio; the 80-seat off-off-Broadway Black Box Theater; four rehearsal studios; and an art gallery.

Image: Stranger Than Fiction; The Outlier Kimberly Becoat

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