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The Expansiveness and Inclusivity of Art: A Keynote Address Celebrating 25 Years of Art by Nixon Leger

The Expansiveness and Inclusivity of Art: A Keynote Address Celebrating 25 Years of Art by Nixon Leger
Written by Reza “Rites” Clifton; Abbreviated Version Delivered Saturday, July 16, 2022

Thank you for the warm welcome. It is truly an honor to be in attendance, and before an audience, to speak of and spotlight the artistic voyage of Nixon Leger, and to build a connection between his 25 years of artistic excellence, and my own life and work as a writer, artist, and “cultural savant.” I named this talk “The Expansiveness and Inclusivity of Art” as a way to highlight Nixon’s work as an artist, and as the mastermind behind the fundraising part of tonight, as well as to take you on a journey to truly think about the reach, impact, and sometimes subtlety of art.

I don’t want to oversimplify or hide the relationship I have with the aesthetics and iconographies you can find in Nixon’s work, and of other Haitian artists. As a teenager, I had the opportunity to visit Haiti when my uncle was stationed there doing diplomatic work in the 90s – an experience that not only affected my uncle and I, but also my cousin Camille. Camille, who is a few years older than me, ended up so moved by her time, experiences and exposure there, and accompanying her father, that as a young adult, she supported and highlighted art from Haiti through a gallery she opened in Newport, RI – and through day-to-day conversations about art.

Fast forward to my introduction to Nixon. When I began seeing his work, I was already in a love affair with the colors, stories, and multilayered presentations in Haitian art – but now, I had a chance to be closer to an artist from the region. Whether is an ode to music, a statement on Christianity, a dance with the Caribbean Sea, or an homage to women and mothers, I am constantly in awe and, quite frankly, emotionally charged when I see Nixon’s work. His subject matter is expansive, and inclusive of the lives, anecdotes, and dreams of his observers and, I theorize, his country men and women in Haiti.

I think this last point is important when we think of the intersections between the past and present of Haiti, the role of art in the Caribbean – and world – and the effect that will emerge through tonight’s fundraising. Consider these highlights from research I did to prepare this talk:
After reviewing a number of websites, internationally the top art galleries were identified as located in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and Russia, to name a few. Nowhere in the Caribbean was listed when I searched for global “facts.” In addition, not one museum in Haiti was listed as a part of the “Museums Association of the Caribbean.” On the other hand, Nixon with his 25 years of excellence, his current exhibits around Providence, his upcoming one in Brockton, and his inclusion and participation in a Caribbean Festival in Quebec tells us something is missing from these lists.

Click here or on the Soundcloud link above to hear the (super) abbreviated version of the talk, which was abbreviated by request due to time constraints at the event.

Nixon’s 25 years of excellence as an artist also means that he is much closer to the industry, economy, and professional world of art; let’s talk a little about the facts and stats about this world.

  • Globally, the art market is valued at 65.1 billion US dollars, by some estimates, and as reported in 2021.
     – UNESCO – or the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization – reports that there are at least 104,000 museums worldwide. Think of how low this number is when you consider privately-run art galleries, pop-up shows, cafes and restaurants that hang art, etc.
  • In the US, some figures show that the museum industry in the US alone is worth 16.33 billion dollars, while 40.5 million dollars was budgeted for museum services. Apart from that, the Smithsonian institutions received over a billion dollars in government monies and appropriations.
  • In 2019, the production of arts and cultural goods and services brought in more money as an industry than construction, transportation, agriculture and mining. Of course, these would be pre-Covid numbers. Still, those numbers also showed that there were 5.2 million workers that were part of the arts and culture industries – and this figure does not include self-employed folks.
  • Overall, according to the Department of Commerce, 2020 saw 876.7 billion dollars generated through the arts and culture economy.
  • Art also positively correlates to travel. 76% of people who travel for pleasure in the US participate in cultural or heritage activities, and cities with museums and other cultural sites and activities rank higher in surveys that compare cities. In fact, in 2018, ore people visited museums, historic sites, and other arts/culture/history spaces than professional sporting events.

Haiti is, however, part of Caricom, the Caribbean Community umbrella organization that helps bring prosperity and support to the entire region. They recently launched an initiative called “Creative Caribbean: An Ecosystem of Play for Growth and Development.” Part of this project is about highlighting and supporting the history, tradition, and needs of the art community – especially in the post-Covid era. One goal is ensuring that the creative sector has a sustained positive impact on the lives of artists and entrepreneurs, and on festivals and art initiatives in the Caribbean. Another goal of this Creative Caribbean initiative is ensuring opportunities continue and grow for the participation and creative energy of youth in the area.

If this is a macro effort, then like me, you probably see Nixon’s efforts tonight as a micro effort, but important contribution toward this goal. Nixon’s objectives with the fundraiser, and money going toward the Centre Cultural Soleil Leve, is about providing supplies to youth and encouraging access and mentorship to and through professional artists in Belle Anse. And it’s important to think about Nixon’s efforts, not just through the lens of the Caricom initiative, but when considering the impact art has on the lives of young people. One statistic I came across describes how children who visited a museum while in kindergarten show higher achievement in reading, math – and science! – even when accounting for youth identified as “at-risk” of lower achievements or facing higher educational deficits.

These are the big elements when we think of Nixon and his efforts tonight, but I want to remind us all about the subtleties as far as the expansiveness and inclusivity of art. Because what these datapoints fail to account for are the day-to-day exposures and interactions with murals and street art, the sights and sounds of neighborhoods – including the aesthetics of survival – and the way people take in what I call “the bountiful beauty of nature.” Around the world, and right here in RI, you find people taking in water vistas, daydreaming in the green of plants and trees, and getting comfortable gazing upon sunrises and sunsets. Yes, this too is about the expansiveness and inclusivity of art.

So as I approach the end of this talk, I want to close by returning to Nixon; his 25 years of excellence speaks to the expansive industry, opportunities, and reach that exist for artists and professional engagement in the art world. His personality, and fundraising efforts, speak to the inclusivity that comes with the warm smiles he brings to the canvas and gallery openings – and to the children of Haiti. And his work reminds us to see and appreciate the beauty that lives in everyday sites, sounds, and stories. Art is expansive, like Nixon.
Thank you.

Abbreviated List Sources/References:

  • UNESCO
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • US Department of Commerce
  • Caricom.org
  • Statista
  • Museum Association of the Caribbean
  • The American Alliance of Museums
  • Annarubin.com

#3amblackpoetry in July, Day 29: Levitate

If I had to give everything a cute name or title, I would call today “Pay on the Way Day.” That is because I had to create and send invoices for projects and work I’m excited to produce and share. It feels especially good as I approach the end of #3amblackpoetry in July.

Keep in mind, the pay that will follow these paydays aren’t just for my pockets, but to also invest in and advance my next steps as a “writer, artist, and cultural savant.” You can help, too, by visiting and making a purchase from the new 3 AM IS THE NEW BLACK online store: https://bit.ly/3OkyedM

Sunshine and laughter. – Reza Rites

#3amblackpoetry #3amblack #rezarites #poetry #blackpoets #blackwomenwriters #blackgirlmagic #writingwhileblack #fyp #foryourpage
#carefreeblackgirl #blackwriters #digitalart #collageart #nationalpoetrymonth #ambitiousblackfeminist
https://www.instagram.com/p/Cgn0UEsMPzB/?igshid=NGJjMDIxMWI=

Anyone who has put on a successful event knows that the smoother it looks, the more filled it was with planning, strategizing, delegating, and all the ings. That is to say, there is what happens before an audience, and what happens behind closed doors and/or around the boardroom table. The same is often true for writers, artists, and creatives who set up to sell or share work.

I’ve been writing a good deal about my behind-the-scenes process, but for Day 28, I am excited to share details about some in-person, patron-driven events I will be part of. Details about both are below, but if you happen to be there, or are curious, I will have my normal 3 AM IS THE NEW BLACK vending set-up and “mobile studio,” which includes stickers, bookmarks, postcards with and without pre-written poems, and my typewriter set-up for those requesting on-the-spot, original greeting cards and poems. I am excited to announce that I will ALSO be sharing links, QR codes and “coupons” for the new 3 AM IS THE NEW BLACK online store.

The new store houses tee-shirts, hoodies, bags, pouches, and even a custom-designed yoga mat! I also have e-book versions of some of my poetry collections, including Las Canciones de la Sirena/Siren Song. To peruse – and purchase – visit https://bit.ly/3OkyedM.

Thanks for your support! – Reza Rites

North Attleboro Farmers Market
Wednesday, August 3, 5-8pm.
43 South Washington Street
North Attleboro, MA 02760

Anti-Robot Club’s Market Place
Saturday, August 20, 3-7pm
at (the) Farm Fresh RI (headquarters)
10 Sims Ave.
Providence, RI

#3amblackpoetry #3amblack #rezarites #poetry #blackpoets #blackwomenwriters #blackgirlmagic #writingwhileblack #fyp #foryourpage
#carefreeblackgirl #blackwriters #digitalart #collageart #nationalpoetrymonth #ambitiousblackfeminist
https://www.instagram.com/p/CglPGwcM6dy/?igshid=NGJjMDIxMWI=

#3amblackpoetry in July, Day 27: Levitate

Earlier today I came to a somewhat arresting and almost painful truth: #3amblackpoetry in July is like a monthlong writing retreat, but without the guesthouse, people cooking and cleaning for you, and without the wide open space and time to create at-will. But this is the month I’ve chosen, or maybe that chose me.

And so in the last 24 hours, I have recorded audio versions of a poem, uploaded sound, converted video to audio, and transferred video from one device to another – all in between work, straightening my home and supporting loved ones. I have, thank goodness, been to the beach twice in the last 96 hours (or four days). And though it’s not a private cottage with an airy balcony and doting staff, the hypnosis of the waves and expressions of summer’s joy have birthed and rebirthed my commitment to create – and has helped make this time a fruitful retreat, after all.

Sunshine and laughter. – Reza Rites

#3amblackpoetry #3amblack #rezarites #poetry #blackpoets #blackwomenwriters #blackgirlmagic #writingwhileblack #fyp #foryourpage
#carefreeblackgirl #blackwriters #digitalart #collageart #nationalpoetrymonth #ambitiousblackfeminist
https://www.instagram.com/p/CgioQ0Vs1WD/?igshid=NGJjMDIxMWI=

My job @sistafireri is better than yours. Sorry.

#rezarites #rezaswims #iamsaltwater #gaiafallactica #beachlife
https://www.instagram.com/p/Cghmoemr_jQ/?igshid=NGJjMDIxMWI=

#3amblackpoetry in July, Week 4, Day 26: Levitate

“We’ve traced the call; it’s coming from inside the house.”

Although this iconic line from a 1979 film, “When a Stranger Calls,” came to me in relation to some recent personal goings-on, I realized in preparing today’s post that it also very much describes the motivations behind what and why many of us create – including me and my motivations. The doldrums of the day-to-day have an appeal to me, as does the notion of finding a daily rhythm that keeps me afloat. And those close to me know that I have certainly tried. Yet no matter what, the call from inside the house pulls me back in, and charges my drive until ideas become written, visions emerge from the dark, emotions so large ooze out the sides of my soul, and/or goals become action steps.

Tonight I planned to write about the tasks I’ve checked off this month. But as I began, I realized I wanted, instead, to levitate toward or continue forging forward with the mundane of completion rather than the earnestness of celebration. You see, the calls from inside the house have become louder and louder over the years, and it feels like I have no other choice than to pick up.

Sunshine and laughter. – Reza Rites

#3amblackpoetry #3amblack #rezarites #poetry #blackpoets #blackwomenwriters #blackgirlmagic #writingwhileblack #fyp #foryourpage
#carefreeblackgirl #blackwriters #digitalart #collageart #nationalpoetrymonth #ambitiousblackfeminist
https://www.instagram.com/p/CggEtIqsTGZ/?igshid=NGJjMDIxMWI=

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