Gardner Museum Kicks Off Season By Visiting Performing Arts Curator Helga Davis

Gardner Museum Kicks Off Season By Visiting Performing Arts Curator Helga Davis

Helga Davis, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's Visiting Curator of Performing Arts, has announced a daring series of performances in music, theater, dance, and other art forms this spring, using the Museum's collection as a catalyst to spark contemporary discussions through multidisciplinary expressions.

Davis will bring artists and communities together, from Boston and from around the world, by creating performances connected to the Museum and to build on the legacy of Isabella Stewart Gardner who regularly hosted salons and dialogues with artists of all kinds, as well as to make connections through time for the upcoming exhibition, Botticelli: Heroines + and Heroes.

"My wish is to connect with those who already feel welcome at the Gardner Museum and extend the welcome to people who have not been here yet," said Davis "It's also important that people see me when they visit the Museum, so I'm looking forward to performing original works in many of the programs."

The spring programming ranges from intimate, spoken word performances to full-evening concerts. Davis, an accomplished singer and actress, will perform many original works herself as part of the programming. Here are some highlights:

  • On Thursday, Feb. 7, Davis has invited her longtime friend and collaborator, theater director Robert Wilson, to create a new work for Gardner audiences in Calderwood Hall. Wilson is known for his seminal opera Einstein on the Beach with Philip Glass, in which Davis was a principal actor during its 25th anniversary international revival tour.
  • On Sunday, Feb. 17, Davis and George Steel, the Abrams Curator of Music, have created The City of Women, a program that tells the stories of women from Lucretia to Sandra Bland, whose lives and deaths have inspired action against tyranny. The piece is a response to the upcoming exhibition, Botticelli: Heroines + Heroes. The music, performed by Handel & Haydn's Young Women's Chamber Choir, will be paired with readings from Christine de Pizan (1364-1430), Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (1648-1695), and the world premiere of a Gardner Museum-commissioned spoken word piece by Oompa, among others.
  • Also created in response to Botticelli's The Story of Lucretia, Davis will perform an original monologue written by The New Yorker's Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Hilton Als on March 21. The inspiration for the monologue comes from the one black character depicted in the painting and his point of view as a witness to Botticelli's The Story of Lucretia. Als has been a New Yorker magazine contributor since 1989. He is the author of several books, The Women, and White Girls, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has also collaborated with various artists for operas and exhibitions of paintings, drawings, videos, and performances.
  • Davis has also programmed two evenings in the spring designed to give teens an opportunity to engage with the Museum and art in a new way. On April 7, there will be a table reading of All American Boys based on the novel by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds. The novel explores the story of two teens-one black, one white-and their reaction to a violent act in their community. Following the performance, the actors will engage in a dialogue with the audience led by Davis. During Third Thursday on May 16, cellist Khari Joyner will lead a lecture-demonstration for teens in the community.

"The goal is to provide a dynamic, engaging artistic incubator for new and contemporary expressions through dance, music, theater, and spoken. Davis' innovative work will activate our historic and modern spaces for our visitors and underscore the continuing relevance of our collection to the ideas of our time," said Peggy Fogelman, the Norma Jean Calderwood Director. "We are thrilled to welcome Helga."

Davis has been an artist-in-residence at National Sawdust since 2016 and is host of the podcast "Helga" on WQRX/New Sounds. She received the 2014 BRIC Media Arts Fireworks Grant, an award that helped her complete her first evening-length piece, Cassandra. Her current projects include: Silent Voices with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus; Black Light by Daniel Alexander Jones; Requiem for a Tuesday with bass-baritone Davone Tines and dancer/choreographer Reggie Gray.

The Visiting Performing Arts Curator position is funded by Amy and David Abrams, the Barr Foundation ArtsAmplified Initiative, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Here is the complete schedule:


Forward Moving Memory
Thursday, February 7 at 7 p.m.

The Museum's Visiting Curator of Performing Arts, Helga Davis, is proud to present her friend and mentor, Robert Wilson, in an exciting evening of performance and music. Wilson-a seminal voice in fine art, theater, and architecture-brings with him vivid memories of a visit to the Gardner Museum in his youth.

For this special event, Robert Wilson will perform John Cage's "Lecture on Nothing," a piece which, as a young man, he saw Cage deliver. Struck by Cage's performance, this groundbreaking artist began to refine the lens through which he viewed himself as a performer and maker of theater. This is a rare opportunity to see Wilson up close and celebrate his many decades in the world of art.

In the inaugural event of her curatorial season at the Gardner Museum, Helga Davis will also perform the piece "Comin' Home" from The Temptation of Saint Anthony, an operatic collaboration between Wilson, Bernice Johnson Reagon, and Toshi Reagon based on the novel by Gustav Flaubert.

Tickets are required and include Museum admission. Adults $20, seniors $15, students and members $10

The City of Women
Sunday, February 17 at 1:30 p.m.

Readings by Helga Davis

On Lucretia, written and performed by Oompa

World Premiere Gardner Museum Commission

Barbara Strozzi, Che si può fare, arranged and performed by Be Steadwell

Courtney Bryan, Yet Unheard (in memory of Sandra Bland) (2016)

Gloria Coates, "Illumination" from Transitions (1985), with dancing by Shellz

Kate Whitley, Speak Out (2017) (text by Malala Yousafzai), with the Handel & Haydn Young Women's Chamber Choir

Kim Baryluk, Warrior, Handel & Haydn Young Women's Chamber Choir

Helga Davis, the Gardner's second Visiting Curator for Performing Arts, collaborates with Abrams

Curator of Music George Steel on a program that tells the stories of women, from Lucretia to Sandra Bland, whose lives and deaths have inspired action against injustice and tyranny. The performance includes Oompa's On Lucretia; Courtney Bryan's Yet Unheard: In Memory of Sandra Bland (2016); Elisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre's Judith (1708); Kate Whitley's (text by Malala Yousafzai) Speak Out (2017); and Barbara Strozzi's È giungerà pur mai (1664).

This program is being created in response to Botticelli's companion paintings depicting the stories of Lucretia and Virginia. The pair forms a part of the Museum's special exhibition, Botticelli: Heroines + Heroes, which opens on February 14.

Tickets are required and include Museum admission. Section A: Adults $36, seniors $33, members $24, students & children 7-17 $15. Section B: Adults $31, seniors $28, members $19, students & children 7-17 $15 (children under 7 not admitted).

An Evening with Hilton Als of The New Yorker
Thursday March 21 at 7 p.m.

Davis will perform an original monologue written by The New Yorker's art critic Hilton Als. The dialogue's inspiration stems from the sole black figure in Botticelli's The Story of Lucretia who bears witness to the action in the painting.

All American Boys
Sunday, April 7 at 7 p.m.

The novel All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely explores the repercussions of an act of violence on a community and how two teens, one black and one white, grapple with the incident. Actors will perform a table reading of the play followed by a discussion with the audience.

Third Thursdays: Where I Stand
Thursday, May 16 at 5:30 p.m.

Cellist Khari Joyner leads a lecture demo for teens in the community followed by tours of the Museum led by the Teens Behind the Scenes.

Tickets are required and include Museum admission. Adults $15, seniors $12, students $10, free for members and children 17 and under.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum - a magical creation of one woman's daring vision - invites you to awaken your senses and be transported. Modeled after a Venetian palazzo, unforgettable galleries surround a luminous courtyard and are home to masters such as Rembrandt, Raphael, Titian, Michelangelo, Whistler, and Sargent. The Renzo Piano wing provides a platform for contemporary artists, musicians, and scholars, and serves as an innovative venue where creativity is celebrated in all of its forms.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum • 25 Evans Way Boston MA 02215 • Hours: Open Daily from 11a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursdays until 9 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. • Admission: Adults $15; Seniors $12; Students $10; Free for members, children under 18, everyone on his/her birthday, and all named "Isabella" • $2 off admission with a same-day Museum of Fine Arts, Boston ticket • For information 617 566 1401 • Box Office 617 278 5156 • www.gardnermuseum.org

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