Required reading

As James Smethurst recounts in This is the Land: The Black Arts Movement in the South, the Free Southern Theater was just one of many institutions that sought to marry art with local Black Power politics in the South. In a broad history of art institutions from the 1930s to the 1980s, the book chronicles how the turn to Black Power politics in the 1960s produced a corollary black arts movement that lasted particularly long in the South. The Black Power and Black Arts movements, according to Smethurst’s account, were “so twinned and joined at the hip that it is truly impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends”. While Black Power generally aimed to develop black autonomy rather than integration into American society, the Black Arts Movement sought to produce a culture that valued black people and used cultural forms like theater to encourage their entry into Black Power politics.

Central to Smethurst’s story is how the Free Southern Theater and other institutions of the Southern Black Arts Movement were funded. As he notes, among the enduring successes of the Black Power movement in the South are its election victories, which enabled politicians like Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first black mayor, to allocate funds to black arts institutions. “The movement in the South”, writes Smethurst, “saw one of the most intense public institutionalizations of African-American art and culture anywhere in the country”. Funding these institutions enabled them to survive not only the greatest period of success of the Black Arts Movement in northern cities like New York, but also the early stages of post-civil rights conservatism in the South. Their longevity has allowed these institutions to continue to provide essential services and arts education to black communities. In his special attention to this story, Smethurst reminds readers that building strong institutions can provide a way to survive the backlash that inevitably follows radical progress.

Many such projects feature in the Atlantic Coast of Sub-Saharan Africa volume, a massive new architectural guide that brings together a staggering collection of more than 850 buildings from 49 countries across 3,400 pages. Seven years in the making, the publication offers an illuminating glimpse of the continent, from the gleaming skyscrapers of oil-rich Luanda in Angola, to the earthen mosques of Mali and the art deco buildings of Burundi. It has more than 350 authors, half of them of African origin (it is also available in individual volumes, which allows you to distribute the load of the complete set of 8 kg).

Philipp Meuser and Adil Dalbai, co-editors of the guide, write how, on the one hand, “glossy magazines dealing with Africa normally show safari lodges with pseudo-ethnic architecture, or fanciful resorts set on long sandy beaches” or, on the other hand, “reports of overcrowding and lack of education and health care”. Although by no means exhaustive, the guide aims to fill some of this void, combining descriptions of historical, vernacular and contemporary buildings, considering them in the context of race, gender and power, whether colonial, neocolonial or local.

In the months following the accident, the artist gradually resumed his practice. The first piece he built was a very miniature coffin for his recovered thumb, which he buried in his yard in a ceremony attended by friends. “Under My Thumb” played. A gallows humor guided Powers’ recovery. A small grave marks the spot.

The other, across the street – larger, oversized letters affixed to a chain-link fence surrounding the Swedish Museum parking lot – is in cahoots.

you are beautiful.

It is unavoidable.

That’s what I feel, stopped in the light, seeing first one then the other. Surrounded by these converging signs, this suspicious feeling. Or maybe the suspicion is all mine. What is this public molasses? I resent being forced to feel good by signs put up by feel-good public performers. It’s coercion with a smile.

When I mentioned the you are beautiful Signaling to my friend M.—who had seen it too, in another part of town, this time with Lake Michigan as a backdrop—she said it sounded like a prayer.

The word that describes the appearance of this second image is “desaturated”. The colors have been pulled back giving everything a slightly washed out look like in an old photograph. Desaturation is not inherently bad. It is a tool that can be misused or used well. But why is he everywhere now?

There’s no single answer to this question, but here are my five best guesses as to what I think is behind Hollywood’s endless desaturation.

Five American college graduates have sued 16 major American universities, including Yale, Columbia and the University of Chicago, accusing them of collusion to limit financial aid to undergraduate students in violation of antitrust laws.

The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status, saying the collusion limited price competition and caused 170,000 financial aid recipients to be overcharged by hundreds of millions of dollars over two decades.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center said Thursday that fall 2021 undergraduate enrollment fell 3.1%, or 465,300 students, from a year earlier. The drop is similar to the previous fall and contributes to a 6.6% decline in undergraduate enrollment since 2019.

This means more than a million students have disappeared from higher education as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Clearinghouse.

Required reading is published every Thursday afternoon and includes a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts or photo essays worth a second look.

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