Transcending Continents: A Black History Month Celebration

The Housatonic Museum of Art in collaboration with Shanna Melton of Poetic Soul Arts presents Transcending Continents: A Black History Month Celebration in the Performing Arts Center of Housatonic Community College at 900 Lafayette Blvd., Bridgeport, CT on Thursday, Febuary 27, 2014 from 6 – 9 pm, free and open to the public. Call 203-572-4937 or visit for more information.

This event includes artists from Senegal, Antigua and America who will explore how music, poetry and storytelling create a spiritual communication that transcends continents to create a psychic connection. Stories of love and ancestry that are universal are conveyed through the gift of art. Featured performers Bideew Bou Bess accompanied by Tony Vacca, along with Gina LeVon Simpson, Tenisi Davis and Iyaba Ibo Mandigo use words and sounds to share their experience.

Poet, painter, writer, actor and playwright, Iyaba Ibo Mandingo is a native of Antigua, West Indies, who came to the US in 1980 as a young boy. Mandingo appears regularly as an international performance poet. US venues include Nuyorican Poetry Café, Brooklyn Moon, and Next Door Café. He was the keynote performer at the 2011 Westchester, NY Poetry Festival. He was recently seen at 59E59 in Deb Margolin’s The Expenses of Rain (Laura Barnett, director.) Mandingo is the author of three chapbooks of poetry, 41 Times, Amerikkan Exile, and his latest, 40 days & 40 nites of write. His new novel, Sins of My Fathers, was released in 2013. He is a New York Theatre Workshop Summer, 2011 Artist in Residence. Mandingo was awarded a national Percent for the Arts Program artist grant, as well as grants from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, and multiple commendations from the Nassau County African American Museum. His artwork has been included in over a dozen group and individual international shows.

Gina LeVon Simpson, another performer that is a producer at Sound View Community Media, where she received two awards. Simpson has performed one woman shows, skits, poetry, drumming and presented workshops at many functions in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Ghana, West Africa, and in local community centers, libraries and churches. She was the Playwright and Creative Director of “The MAAFA Influence – Evoking the Pain of the Past…Building a Strong and Powerful Future” from 2004 through 2010. This original production showcased in Connecticut, Brooklyn, NY, and Aiken, South Carolina. Simpson is a minister, consultant, poet, storyteller, illustrator, producer, writer and director who passionately seeks to inspire, encourage, and teach through the many gifts she has embraced since childhood.

Tony Vacca’s Senegal-America Project combines the spectacle and spectacular performance of internationally renowned percussionist Tony Vacca and the West African hip-hop group Bideew Bou Bess. Vacca brings his American perspective to the African Balaphone, gongs and assorted other percussion instruments. Bideew Bou Bess, one of Senegal’s most popular and innovative bands is comprised of three brothers: Beydi, Moctar and Ibrahima Sall. They combine ancient griot traditions with global-minded contemporary Hip-Hop sounds. Together the four musicians create a very high energy, interactive cross cultural extravaganza.


Alison Saar

The Housatonic Museum of Art is pleased to announce Reimagining the Distaff Toolkit, an exhibition that explores household tools as metaphor for the social and cultural histories of women embedded in them. Reimagining the Distaff Toolkit will be on view in the Burt Chernow Galleries at the Housatonic Museum of Art from September 6 through October 26, 2012.

The term “distaff” itself refers not only to the tool attached to a spinning wheel to hold unspun fibers, but over time, came to refer to women generally. Solinger points out, “Many of these old tools facilitated….repetitive labor and evoke the various cultural histories of women’s unpaid, often diminished and disrespected status within the household and society. But in the 21st century, at a moment when ‘old tools’ have become aestheticized and expensive, we can look again and see their costly beauty.

Rickie Solinger, an award-winning author, historian and curator, reexamines women’s history by positioning tools used in a domestic setting as the “fulcrum for a contemporary work of art.” The artists in this exhibit place these old tools at the center of their own work: washboard, a dressmaker’s dummy, graters, doilies, an advice book, cooking pans, a basket, a garden hoe, dress patterns, a rolling pin, buckets, darning eggs, a work glove, a needle threader, rug beaters, ironing boards, mason jars and a telephone.

Battle Axe

Twenty-eight artists are represented in this show including Betye and Alison Saar, Lisa Alvarado, Dave Cole, Judy Hoyt, Larry Ruhl, Flo Oy Wong, Debra Priestly, to name a few.

Gallery Hours are: Monday through Friday from 8:30am until 5:30pm; Thursday until 7pm; Saturday from 9am until 3pm; Sunday from Noon until 4pm. For additional information and/or direction please visit our website