Performance Series at DAM Explores Culture and Diversity

Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald

‘Thoughtful introspection’ is one of the goals

Throughout its 100-plus-year history, the Delaware Art Museum has presented a myriad of dance, music and theater experiences, expanding upon its own programs and showcasing the broad artistic range in Greater Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley.

Now, the museum’s new (yet-to-be-named at press time) performance series will double down on that commitment, while attracting artists and performances that are relevant to the diverse population in the area. The entire series will aim to address critical issues affecting our surrounding communities while pushing the boundaries of experimentation in performance arts.

“This series allows us to create connections and conversations among people who may not otherwise come into contact with one another,” says Jonathan Whitney, the museum’s manager of Performance Programs and Community Engagement. “We’re responding in real time to what’s happening in our city, our region and our nation through opportunities for thoughtful introspection.”

The menu of interdisciplinary programs ranges from the popular chamber music of Concerts on Kentmere to the fusion of modern dance, music, multimedia and sculpture works. Some of the series events feature outside-the-box performances by the likes of trumpet virtuoso Nicholas Payton (Feb. 8) and large-scale collaborations like the contemporary dance project Step Afrika!

The Step Afrika performance, called The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence, will be co-presented with The Grand Opera House and Delaware State University (April 13).

The Step Afrika! project is inspired by Lawrence’s iconic paintings and combines body percussion and dance in a moving depiction of the migration north of African-Americans in the early 1900s. For this piece, the museum is also partnering with the Delaware Institute for the Arts in Education (DIAE) to bring three-day workshops to local elementary and middle schools.

“We encourage students to have a more in-depth art experience,” says Ashley SK Davis, DIAE artistic director and executive and artistic director for Pieces of a Dream, Inc. “Instead of students simply seeing a performance, we send our teaching artists to partner with schoolteachers. We work with the students to participate in art making, and through that experience help them develop a deeper understanding of the work they’ll experience.” Following the teaching artists, a performance artist will meet with the students and teach them to create a step dance similar to what they’ll see in the Step Afrika! performance.

According to museum staff, this first year of programming will see many presenters pushing the boundaries of their respective disciplines. In March, the museum presents Hand Eye, a performance from the multi-Grammy-winning sextet Eighth Blackbird (flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, violin and cello) at The Queen in Wilmington. The site-based dance performance, REPLICA, by choreographer and media artist Jonah Bokaer will be presented in the Copeland Sculpture Garden. In the summer, spoken-word and contemporary movement artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph will present /peh-LO-tah/, a groundbreaking hip-hop performance inspired by his memories of playing soccer as a child and his travels to World Cups in South Africa and Brazil. And in November, Bessie Award-winner Okwui Okpokwasili’s Poor People’s TV Room will consider the Nigerian histories of the Women’s War of 1929 and the 2014 kidnapping of nearly 300 girls by Boko Haram. Okpokwasili’s performance will be accompanied by outreach at the Cab Calloway School of the Arts.

“The museum is becoming more civically engaged,” says Sam Sweet, DAM’s executive director and CEO. But why bring in artists to present somewhere else? How does that come back to the museum? Sweet says he likes the idea of these partnerships and taking artists into neighborhoods where there is opportunity to create new audiences. “It will be up to us to get audiences to see these artists in venues where they live, but also to create incentives for them to come to the museum and discover what’s happening here,” he says.

To formally introduce the series, an exclusive preview party is planned for Thursday, Jan. 25, at 5 p.m. at the museum. The event will feature a sampling of the multidisciplinary works to be presented in the series.

Cultural Crossroads Honors 50 Years of Dr. King Legacy

Christina Cultural Arts Center’s student dance ensemble performs during a past Music School MLK & Black History Tribute program. Photo courtesy of The Music School of Delaware

The Music School of Delaware honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 50th anniversary of his death as part of its Cultural Crossroads series. On Friday, Jan. 12, at 7 p.m., the school’s Wilmington Branch hosts its Martin Luther King Jr. & Black History Tribute—a celebration fusing music, art and spoken-word performances.

Cultural Crossroads Series Coordinator Chris Braddock calls this program one of his favorite Music School projects. “Needless to say, it’s an exciting one to presentdrawn from an endless reservoir of inspiring music and words,” he says.

This year’s event focuses on the social upheaval of the late 1960s brought to life through the stirring words of award-winning Delaware storyteller TAHIRA and the soulful music of local R&B artists Fuzion Sol. Audiences will also hear live readings from King’s illustrious “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, given the day before his 1968 assassination. Performances from the DuPont Diversity Choir, pianists Clarence and Jacqueline Beach Faulcon, and the Music School’s student rock ensemble (in a tribute to bluesman Robert Johnson) round out the event. Works from noted regional visual artist Dane Tilghman will be displayed on site as well.

All tickets for the event are $5 and can be purchased at

Gamers’ & Musicians’ Worlds Collide

On Saturday, Jan. 13, at 8 p.m., The Grand Opera House taps into your arcade memories of yesteryear with the one-night-only event Video Games Live. It’s an immersive concert reviving music from some of the most popular video games in our collective memory. The performance features several members of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra playing along with exclusive video footage, synchronized lighting, live action and interactive segments to create an explosive event worthy of any Missile Command battle. Music includes themes from then to now and from such iconic games as Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Frogger, Mario, Zelda,” “Tomb Raider, Assassins’ Creed and more.

The concept was created and produced by gaming industry veteran and video game composer Tommy Tallarico to support the culture and art that video games embody in the zeitgeist of the 1980s to now. The performance also bridges a generational gap in entertainment by exposing new audiences to the symphony orchestra experience while offering a unique musical event for families and non-gamers alike to enjoy.

Tickets range from $54-$62, with an additional “Ultimate Gamer VIP Experience” available that includes a pre-production tour, meet & greet with Tallarico and more. All are available now at

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