Carysbrook Performing Arts Center celebrates Black History Month

By Page H. Gifford

On February 24, the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center celebrated Black History Month with Dr. Dena Jennings performing Afrolachian music on her own handcrafted musical instruments made from gourds, similar to the originals slaves made centuries ago. Over 100 people attended the performance.

In addition to the evening’s performance, there was a display of art pieces by Jabari Jefferson, an internationally recognized artist based in D.C. The pieces were loaned for the evening for the pop-up art exhibit from his grandfather Calvin Jefferson, who lives at Lake Monticello.

Since the Center is used by Fluvanna County on an ongoing basis, it is not feasible for Fluvanna Count Arts Council to promote visual arts in a space that has limited access to the public. Both Sharon Harris, president of the FCAC, and Page Gifford, president of the Fluvanna Art Association, have explained this to the artist community and agreed that one alternative was to have pop-up art at performances, where it has exposure in a shorter period with more viewers in attendance.

“It is part of our mission to include the visual arts,” said Harris, who also added that this performance and exhibit of Jabari Jefferson’s work is also part of FCAC’s mission to be more diverse and inclusive. Jefferson’s work is edgy yet tells many stories. As an artist, he takes a closer look at the black experience through his work. The three pieces are as diverse as the mediums he chooses, from an offbeat college, featuring a deceased rapper to a large detailed mixed media collage and the thought-provoking painting of a black child pondering a room full of books.

Collage by Jabari Jefferson.

A graduate of the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago, Jefferson studied painting at the International Center for the Arts in Monte Castello, Italy, as well as earning residencies in D.C, Baltimore, and Brooklyn, N.Y. His work has hung on corporate walls, hotels, and exhibits along the eastern seaboard and California.

Jefferson is a mixed-media oil painter. Some of his bold and vibrant, multimedia paintings are mixed with collages, layered with materials including books, fabric, paper, ink, acrylic, and oil paints.

“My process involves searching local black communities for once owned items and re-purposing them into usable pieces that add to his overall palette of materials,” he said. Inspired by ritualistic practices, Jefferson believes in the transfer of energy in the materials from their previous owners. The subject of the work is obvious and is about self-education, self-development, and learning self-identity. He says his goal is to communicate what the process of learning looks like. He uses the symbolism of a library of books to promote the message of mentally and spiritually enhancing ourselves through reading, reflecting, and learning.

“The primary intended audiences are Black communities due to lack of representation in these categories of artistic conversation,” His current body of work, The Library Series, speaks directly to the viewer, with figures surrounded or engulfed in books and learning symbols.

And then I knew God, by Jabari Jefferson.

“It draws attention to the pursuit of understanding who we are and transitioning into a deeper more complex way of interpreting the world around us. Metaphorically, we are all living libraries composed of experiences, wisdom, history, and heritage,” 

The aesthetics of a traditional library was instilled in him as a young man by his father, a librarian at the Library of Congress, and his grandfather, a retired archivist for The National Archives. Having been exposed to an assortment of books around him, like the little boy in awe of the books surrounding him in the painting, was his inspiration for the multicolored vertical compositions and the optic effect they create as seen in the larger mixed media piece.

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