Before UAMA ever opened its doors to students, the school’s planning team identified James Baldwin’s, “The Fire Next Time,” as a grounding text that exemplified our school’s missions and would serve as a touchstone for all of our students over their course of study at UAMA. Excerpts of Baldwin’s novels, plays, and essays are literally printed on the walls at UAMA and reverberate through all aspects of our curriculum.
In the tradition of artistic collaboration that UAMA works to foster with our students, in the Fall of 2016, Principal Paul Thompson was invited to join a collective of artists, poets, writes and musicians in a musical theatrical tribute to James Baldwin. “Can I Get a Witness? The Gospel of James Baldwin,” created by 11-time Grammy nominated musician Meshell Ndegeocello, debuted in December 2016 at the Harlem Stage in Harlem, New York and was subsequently adapted in 2018 as, “No More Water | The Fire Next Time”, for the Park Avenue Armory and in 2019 as part of a group exhibition at the David Zwirner gallery in New York, entitled, “God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin,” by writer Hilton Als.
In the Fall of 2020 the Fisher Center at Bard along with UCLA’s Center For The Art of Performance, The Museum Of Contemporary Art Chicago, Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre, and Festival De Marseille, commissioned a multi- media interpretation of the piece, “Chapter & Verse: The Gospel of James Baldwin”, as a 21st century ritual tool kit for justice. A call for revolution. A gift during turbulent times caused by political unrest and the world-wide pandemic. Chapter & Verse includes audio, video, and print components which have engaged audiences around the world and provide a lens for confronting the painful, complex societal challenges we face today.
As we have worked to meet the challenges of supporting our students through remote instruction, our staff have used these works as direct inspiration to drive instruction and as a vehicle to what is possible as we design student deliverables. We encourage you to explore, “Chapter & Verse: The Gospel of James Baldwin”.