COLUMBUS – In the only such celebration in the U.S. outside New York, Columbus arts organizations have teamed up to create “I Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100.” The commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance starts during Black History Month and runs through January 2019, with experiences and explorations across all disciplines, including photography, literature, painting, music, spoken word, dance and theater. Events will take place throughout the city. In addition, the Urban League convenes its national conference in Columbus in August. Conference programming includes a lecture by COSI president and CEO Frederic Bertley on the African-American scientists and thinkers energized during the Harlem Renaissance.
The Harlem Renaissance was an explosion of African-American culture, art, literature and social change in New York that took place during the 1920s and spread rapidly across the country to cultural centers like Columbus. Author and journalist Wil Haygood (“The Butler,” “Showdown,” “King of the Cats”) grew up on Columbus’ Near East Side toward the end of this decades-long period of exuberance and art. He witnessed slowly fading speakeasies and jazz clubs that were remnants of the Harlem Renaissance’s impact on Columbus. Haygood is playing a key role in Columbus’ 100th anniversary celebration, curating and hosting several events that welcome visitors to the city.
“It really is the story of America, not only black America,” Haygood says of the period and its impact on Columbus. “It is the story of a nation through the prism of artistic soldiers. And all they wanted was peace. There’s not been another epochal period like this when we saw giants — and I mean giants.”
The first event marking Columbus’ Harlem Renaissance celebration is “Dream,” a conceptual theater experience marking the American Civil Rights era, Jan. 24-May 4 at Shadowbox Live. Specific dates for some of the celebrations are still being finalized. Additional programming is also being developed at the Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center at The Ohio State University, Thurber House, Pizzuti Collection and other locations, however events and programs confirmed to date include:
Feb. 5-May 4, Denison Museum will feature the thoughtful and provocative work of renowned revolutionary artist and Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, Emory Douglas. Douglas will lead an artist talk Feb. 21.
Singer, producer and actor Aloe Blacc leads moviegoers in Louis Armstrong’s footsteps on “America’s Musical Journey,” showing on COSI’s giant screen.
The Columbus Museum of Art’s Wednesdays@2 series will explore “Mozart to Matisse: Music of the Harlem Renaissance.” In partnership with the Columbus Symphony, CMA will present a lecture exploring works from the Harlem Renaissance exhibition paired with chamber music of the time.
The Columbus Metropolitan Library will celebrate the opening of its new Martin Luther King branch on Long Street.
Wexner Center for the Arts will feature Mickalene Thomas’ portraits of women of color and their powerful spirit of strength and self-confidence.
Also in September, the 1921 Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake musical “Shuffle Along,” will be produced by CATCO in collaboration with the Lincoln Theatre Association. Revelatory when it premiered, “Shuffle Along” put African-American performers squarely and triumphantly in the spotlights of Broadway.
CATCO and the Lincoln Theatre Association will launch an oral history project, including an online component, collecting stories and photos of Columbus’ black community during the period of the Harlem Renaissance.
Wil Haygood hosts “Lyric Lounge” at the Lincoln Theatre, gathering local writers and poets in a night of performance.
The Wexner Center for the Arts presents “Duke Ellington & Friends: Jazz Greats on Film,” a series of six short films featuring some of the greatest musical performers of the Harlem Renaissance and produced by Paramount Pictures between 1929 and 1935.
Columbus Museum of Art will premiere its “I, Too, Sing America,” exhibition of paintings, works on paper, books, sheet music, ephemera and photography. The show includes works by artists of the Harlem Renaissance, including Jacob Lawrence, Romare Beardon, Aaron Douglas and others and is being curated by Wil Haygood.
The Harlem Gospel Choir performs at the Lincoln Theatre.
Wil Haygood curates Community Conversations at the Lincoln Theatre, inviting authors and scholars to examine the Harlem Renaissance and how this work resonates in America today.
On Nov. 17, the King Arts Complex will host a 1920s speakeasy-inspired performance in Nicholson Auditorium in partnership with BalletMet, featuring dance, live music and spoken-word artists.
In mid-November, Dance Theatre of Harlem, celebrating 50 years, performs at the Lincoln Theatre.
The music of Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters and others springs to life in the hands of the renowned Jazz Arts Group orchestra when it performs “Songs and Sounds of the Harlem Renaissance.”
Columbus is a city unlike any other. Vibrant and alive, Ohio’s capital is known for its open attitude, smart style and entrepreneurial spirit. Columbus’ uncommon blend of neighborhoods, arts and culinary experiences, events, attractions and accommodations are made unforgettable by its diversity of outgoing locals who warmly welcome visitors. Columbus was ranked “Highest in Visitor Satisfaction in the Midwest” by J.D. Power in the 2016 Destination Experience Satisfaction StudySM. Free travel guides, maps, online booking and detailed information are available at www.ExperienceColumbus.com or 866.397.2657 (866.EXP.COLS). Visitor information is also available on Facebook: facebook.com/ExperienceColumbus and facebook.com/ColumbusFoodScene, Twitter: @ExpCols and Instagram.