Bringing Fortune's Bones to APAP|NYC

This post was written by Jane Hirshberg, our Community Engagement Manager.

This January, we were invited to present a session at APAP|NYC 2013, a yearly national conference presented by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. In this session titled “Fortune’s Bones: An Adventure in Less Control and More Collaboration", we discussed last year’s Fortune’s Bones project and the community-based collaborations forged over the course of the year.

All session attendees were given a DVD, which provides a glimpse into the project that has informed much of the thinking and planning we are now doing as we continue to engage the on- and off-campus communities in activities that have the power to transform our lives. Watch the video above, or click here.

From the DVD insert:

The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s Fortune’s Bones project (2011-2012) explored issues raised by the story of Fortune, an enslaved African in post-Colonial Waterbury, Connecticut. When Fortune died in 1798, the doctor he served during his lifetime boiled the flesh from Fortune’s bones and continued to use the skeleton for research purposes. Connecticut poet-laureate Marilyn Nelson wrote a book-length poem, Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem, about his story in 2004. This poem was the inspiration for Dr. Ysaye Barnwell’s cantata of the same name, which became the centerpiece of the Fortune’s Bones project.

From the beginning, the project was shaped and guided by community members, including activists, artists, organizations and programs from the University of Maryland and Prince George’s County. A year-long series of events and performances, from September 2011 to April 2012, explored the continuing impact of slavery in our society, engaging the community in conversation and debate. These included Creative Dialogues hosted by radio personality Kojo Nnamdi; lectures; film; and a celebratory, interactive closing event.