MFA to use art, music and film to celebrate MLK Jr.

MFA to use art, music and film to celebrate MLK Jr.

By Nick Mendez

To commemorate the 77th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) is inviting all Boston-area college students to celebrate with a more artistic look at the activist’s legacy.

The third annual Citizens Bank Foundation Martin Luther King Jr. Community Open House is free from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Event organizers said they expect thousands of visitors to file in for a day of music, lectures, art and film when the event opens Jan. 15.

The museum will host a number of events aimed at exploring King’s legacy, and opening discussion about social identity. This year’s theme is “Beyond the Dream: The Impact of the Civil Rights Movement on Art, Access, Identity and the Creative Voice.”

“When most people think about Martin Luther King Jr. they think about sit-ins; they don’t usually think about cultural institutions or fine arts,” said Zakiya Thomas, Citizen Bank’s Back Foundation Manager of Community Relations at the MFA. “The goal is to get people to think beyond their normal framework about MLK Jr. and what the impact of his legacy is.”

Highlights of the event include a performance by Project STEP (Sting Training and Education Program for Students of Color), a string orchestra made up of aspiring black and Latino musicians from grades K-12. The young orchestra, co-sponsored by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, will play pieces from William Grant Smith, James Weldon Johnson and other black composers, as well as European composers like Bach.

“It’s a chance for us to share some of these composers that are not usually heard in the concert hall,” said William Thomas, Project STEP’s artistic director. “They are certainly worthy. It’s a big world and there’s a great deal outside the usual Mozart and Bach.”

For Thomas and Project STEP, music is an integral part of celebrating King’s legacy.

“Art has been a very important part of the black freedom movement,” he said. “In every gathering, from people in church, or at a demonstration, music is a great and important part of [those events] and does a lot for the spirit.”

Monday’s festivities also include a collection of short films focusing on race, identity and social justice in America. One of the films is “Something Other Than Other,” directed and produced by Andrea J. Chia and Jerry A. Henry. The film won the Tolerance Education Award at the Media that Matters Film Festival, and follows the pregnancy, birth and first months of life of an interracial couple’s first child.

Other featured programs include a seminar hosted by artist Theresa India Young on notable black contributions to the world of fashion, gallery tours and drawing activities for families.

Students, like Kelsey McGuff, a freshman international affairs major, spoke enthusiastically about the opportunity to attend the event.

“Music and art are a huge part of a group’s culture,” she said. “Music is something all humans can respond to, the same with art. If you can connect with them in that sense then you can connect with them in other ways too.”

Sophomore economics major Mina Safai said she plans to attend and looks forward to gaining a new perspective on a day that can sometimes be overlooked.

“You learn something from it but it’s not too boring and it’s not too didactic,” she said. “It promotes something positive. It brings a lot of different people together.”

The open house is a reflection of the community surrounding the MFA, Thomas said.

“It’s really a collective effort between neighbors, the museum and individuals who are interested in connecting what’s going on outside the building with what’s going on inside the building,” he said.

For more information about the event, contact the MFA at 617-267-9300.

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