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1920: The Year That Made the Decade Roar

One hundred years later, there is a continued fascination with “The Roaring Twenties,” the only decade in American history with a widely applied nickname. How did a surge of innovation and cultural milestones emerge out of the ashes of WWI? Eric Burns, author of 1920: The Year That Made the Decade Roar, will look back at that critical (and often misunderstood) time, highlighting events that set the tone for the century that followed. more

The public is invited to celebrate local music and nature at the virtual “Sourland Mountain Happy Hour.” The first is event is on Thursday, March 4 from 6-7 p.m. Tickets are on sale now for $10 at www.sourland.org.

Sourland Mountain Spirits will create a bespoke cocktail for the occasion and offer a 20 percent special for Happy Hour participants on all March 3 and March 4 purchases. Founder and CEO Ray Disch says, “The Sourland Mountain has the largest uninterrupted forest in central Jersey. Between the forest, the fields, and the watershed, it provides us with magnificent well water that is the heart and base of all the spirits we make here.” more

Greek, Tarentine, statuette of Nike, mid-3rd century B.C. Terracotta. Princeton University Art Museum. Museum purchase, gift of friends and colleagues in honor of Frances Follin Jones.

“Drawing from the Collections: Rendering Clothing and Drapery”

On Thursday, March 4 at 8 p.m., Princeton University Art Museum, in partnership with the Arts Council of Princeton, presents “Drawing from the Collections: Rendering Clothing and Drapery.” more

Image Source: https://www.heartofdinner.org

New York City-based restauranteur Moonlynn Tsai (https://www.kopitiamnyc.com) and podcaster Yin Chang of 88 Cups of Tea (https://88cupsoftea.com), didn’t expect to spend the pandemic serving over 20,000 meals to the elderly of New York City’s Chinatown, but that’s exactly what they did. Beginning in April 2020, the couple watched and experienced displays of outright racism towards Asian Americans. They also observed how hardly hit Manhattan’s restaurants were and immediately thought that there was a need to make sure that New York’s elderly Asian population didn’t go hungry. more

Publicity photo of Paul Robeson from the 1930s.

Paul Robeson’s Legacy of Activism

By Donald H. Sanborn III

In “Becoming Anti-Racist,” a June 2020 essay for the Princeton Public Library’s website, the library’s executive director, Jennifer Podolsky, quotes a remark by Princeton native Paul Robeson (1898-1976). “I enjoy singing to you,” Robeson told Antonio Salemme, the sculptor who created the bust of Robeson that resides in the library. “You seem to get more than the voice, the music, the words; you know what I’m thinking, what I mean, what I feel when I sing.”

Singing was just one component of Robeson’s life. “People know him primarily as a singer, but Uncle Paul was more than a singer,” says Vernoca L. Michael, executive director of the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance/Paul Robeson House & Museum in Philadelphia. Michael, who refers to Robeson as “Uncle Paul” because of a friendship between their families, describes him as the “quintessential father of the civil rights movement.” She adds, “He was an actor, activist, lawyer, author, linguist, athlete, scholar, and all-American hero.”

When Michael was a student at University of Pennsylvania, she provided transportation and performed other tasks for the Robesons. She remembers the courtesy with which she was greeted. “Uncle Paul would stand up, and, from the waist down, bow to me, ‘Good morning.’ Now, who was doing that, to a lowly student? That was the kind of man that he was, in terms of respecting all kinds of people.”Shirley Satterfield, president of the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society, and secretary of the Paul Robeson House of Princeton, agrees. “His legacy is to respect everyone, no matter who they are.” She adds, “he was a noted scholar — and ‘scholar’ comes before ‘athlete.’”

Denyse Leslie, board vice president and managing director of the Paul Robeson House of Princeton, remarks that he was “an American citizen, in all the ways one should be … there wasn’t anybody else like him. He was a true Renaissance Man!”

Dr. Lindsey R. Swindall, author of The Politics of Paul Robeson’s Othello and Paul Robeson: A Life of Activism and Art, observes that Robeson “could speak to issues — not just as a reformer or an activist, but as somebody who has participated in so many different endeavors in his lifetime.” more

The Roosevelts with Skip. (Library of Congress)

Presidents and Their Canine Companions Through the Years

By Laurie Pellichero

When Joseph R. Biden Jr. moved into the White House in January as the 46th president of the United States, he not only brought his wife, Dr. Jill Biden — he also brought their two German shepherds, Champ and Major. This continues a long tradition of pets, especially dogs, in the home of the first family.

Champ is no stranger to the White House, having been a fixture at Biden’s side when he was vice president during the Obama administration. Major was adopted from the Delaware Humane Society in 2018. Biden has often posted about Champ and Major on social media.

Donald Trump was the first president to not have a pet while in office since Andrew Johnson in the 1860s. The New York Times reported that, at a February 2019 rally in El Paso, Texas, Trump said he didn’t have a dog because he didn’t have time and felt it would be “phony” to get one for political reasons.

White House historian Jennifer B. Pickens, author of Pets at the White House: 50 Years of Presidents and Their Pets, points out that pets have played an important role in the White House not only by providing companionship to the presidents and their families, but also by softening and humanizing their political images.

Presidents and their dogs go all the way back to the first, George Washington, who had several hounds with clever names such as Sweet Lips, Vulcan, Captain, Tipsy, Tipler, Taster, Drunkard, and Mopsey.

According to the White House Historical Society (whitehousehistory.org), top presidential dogs include one of Theodore Roosevelt’s favorites, Skip, a short legged black-and-tan mongrel terrier that was brought home from a Colorado bear hunt. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed as a Teddy Roosevelt terrier in 1999. The Roosevelt family also had a St. Bernard named Rollo; a bull terrier, Pete; and a Chesapeake Bay retriever, Sailor Boy; among many other pets including ponies, guinea pigs, lizards, snakes, a small bear, and even a one-legged rooster. more

Pilot the rescue dog peers out at the October sunrise at Segment 14 of the LHT. 

For the COVID-weary, the Lawrence Hopewell Trail Has Provided Relief

By Anne Levin | Photos by Sarah Emily Gilbert

 

The Great Blue Heron that frequents the Pole Farm at Segment 13 is captured before taking flight.

Four strategically placed counters keep track of foot and bicycle traffic along the Lawrence Hopewell Trail (LHT). In recent months, they have recorded a stunning statistic: a 205 percent jump in usage during the third quarter of 2020, compared to the same quarter a year before.

Clearly, the 22 miles that wind through scenic stretches of Lawrence and Hopewell townships have become a refuge from the COVID-19 pandemic. There are more joggers, walkers, cyclists, families, photographers, birdwatchers, wildlife observers, and naturalists making use of the trail than any other time in its 18-year history.

“We get emails from people saying the trail makes such a difference in their lives right now,” said Eleanor V. Horne, co-president of the nonprofit that oversees the LHT. “They tell us that getting on the trail makes them feel normal in this crazy time. They need to have that experience in nature, to have that feeling that all’s right with the world.

Evan Kaplowitz discovered the LHT after moving to the area from Philadelphia three years ago. His property, he was happy to learn, is right next to a section of the trail. “I work from home in corporate finance. I’m crunching numbers all day,” he said. “So sneaking away for an hour in the afternoon, and seeing people out there, has been really nice. It’s a way to get outside and reconnect with neighbors without having to worry about proximity. I can keep my distance. And it’s beautiful. I jog, and I have also taken my bike on the trail. Whatever your needs that day, there’s an area that calls to you.” more

Amir ElSaffar

Destined to “Transform the Art World and Society”

By Lori Goldstein | Photos courtesy of the Office of Communications, Princeton University

Each academic year, Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts selects five Hodder Fellows, artists who receive an $84,000 stipend to support their work. The committee looks for “emerging artists who have attained a certain level of achievement, yet are not fully established — people who will transform the art world and transform society,” says Stacy Wolf, professor of theater and director of the Arts Fellows. “We look at what they’ve accomplished, what we imagine they’ll accomplish in the future, and what they plan to do in their ‘studious year of leisure.’” Financial support has been critical during the pandemic. “Artists’ lives are always precarious, no artist can ever count on an income. Especially this year, the University is happy to be able to support this group of artists.”

Amir ElSaffar, composer/musician/vocalist

Amir ElSaffar, a jazz trumpeter and composer who has just completed his seventh album, is assembling a creative team for an opera in the Arabic tradition, entitled Ruins of Encampment.

The opera’s narrative is the Mu’allaqat, a body of pre-Islamic poems revered throughout the Arab world from the sixth century to present day. Myth has it that the poems were written in gold on a black cloth in Mecca, where the Kaaba, the holy site for Islam, is located.

In ancient times, nomadic tribes convened at certain points in the year; for example, they would meet at an oasis or at a place where rainfall was expected. A young man might see a young woman from another tribe; they would exchange glances, experience an intense romantic connection but never meet, as their tribes departed. In the tripartite Mu’allaqat, the narrator, the young man, arrives at the campsite where his beloved once was; he experiences trials and tribulations in his quest to find her. In some cases they will find each other, oftentimes they won’t. Yet he’ll experience a transformation before he returns to his tribe.

ElSaffar wants to set the story in the present-day Middle East. The city could be Aleppo or another city damaged by war. “The ruins could be a literal or figurative encampment. You could read into the story that it’s about a refugee who is cut off from his homeland and now attempting to survive in his current situation,” he says.

The style of singing will derive from the Iraqi maqam, a melodic modal system which ElSaffar studied in Iraq from 2002 through 2006. (Iraqi-American ElSaffar sings in the maqam style on several of his albums.) “What I’m interested in structurally is finding a way to use some of the elements of Middle Eastern maqam music and juxtapose them with the structural elements of Western opera.”  more

Interview by Taylor Smith | Photo by Bill Cardoni, cardoniphoto.com

The Accessibility Resource Center (ARC) at The College of New Jersey promotes an awareness of disability by providing learning, social, emotional, athletic, and residential accommodations for students, faculty, staff, and guests. Since her appointment as director of ARC, Meghan Sellet has continued to break down barriers and change definitions of what it means to be “different.” Rooted in social justice, Sellet’s work is at once uplifting and inclusive. All those who are interested can receive services and accommodations through ARC. In fact, Sellet details how the onset of COVID-19 and remote learning has only increased access to special services in a manner that is completely stigma-free and much less stressful.

Please describe what led you to your current work, including your academic background and your own higher education experience.

I accessed reasonable accommodations throughout my K-12 and college experiences. There were points during high school at which my guidance counselors gave me advice about “the best I could do with my future.” This advice didn’t exactly align with my own goals and vision. If I weren’t resilient, that advice would have unraveled me. Instead, I used others doubts as fuel to keep moving towards success. I went on to college to receive a B.S. in rehabilitation services from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. Given the large population of students with disabilities at Wright State, I really was able to explore my identity as a disabled woman. For the first time in my life, I saw people like me on a daily basis. It felt so empowering. I played competitive sports at Wright State and was really involved on campus. Once I figured out how to balance my academic, social, and athletic obligations, I felt ready to take on an on-campus job in the Office of Disability Services (ODS) at Wright State, where I was a test proctor for other students with testing accommodations, such as extended time. It may sound silly to say that this job as a test proctor changed my life, but it truly did. From my sophomore year in undergrad to now, I can’t imagine working in a different field. My time at Wright State provided me with the confidence I needed to move on to my next chapter — grad school. When I think back on it, it is interesting how graduate school just fell into place for me.

During my junior year at Wright State, Teri Jordan, my future wheelchair track coach at Penn State, called my parents’ house in New Jersey looking for me. “She’s in Ohio,” my parents said. So, tenacious Teri tracked me down in Ohio, with the hopes that I would consider transferring to Penn State to participate in Penn State’s Ability Athletics program as a wheelchair track and field athlete. Penn State had just become a Paralympic high-performance training camp, and it was a great time to get in on that initiative at the ground level. As it turns out, I didn’t end up transferring to Penn State, but I did complete my undergraduate practicum with Teri in ability athletics. I got so comfortable at Penn State that I ended up staying there for grad school. It was tough and rewarding, and so snowy, but my time there was just amazingly memorable. more

Writing in Plague Time

By Stuart Mitchner

The bubonic plague hit Stratford on Avon in the summer of 1564, a few months after Shakespeare was born, killing up to a quarter of the town’s residents. Four and a half centuries later, another Warwickshire resident named William Shakespeare made headlines as the first male Briton to be injected with the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

Predictably, the coincidence set off an epidemic of Shakespearean puns and wordplay (viz. The Taming of the Flu, Two Gentlemen of Corona). Not so predictable was the timely arrival of Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague (Knopf $26.95), which was named one of the 10 Best Books of 2020 by the editors of New York Times Book Review. As Geraldine Brooks suggests in her lead NYTBR article, the novel explores why Shakespeare titled his most famous play after the 11-year-old son who had died several years earlier (Hamlet and Hamnet being considered essentially the same name in parish records of the time).

Camus and Human Nature

Another book-oriented side effect of the pandemic was the sudden resurgence of critical and commercial interest in The Plague (Vintage $15) by Nobel laureate Albert Camus. In a New York Times op-ed (“Camus on the Coronavirus”), Alain de Botton says that Camus “speaks to us in our own times not because he was a magical seer who could intimate what the best epidemiologists could not, but because he correctly sized up human nature.” Writing in The New Yorker (“The Coronavirus Crisis Reveals New York at Its Best and Worst”), Adam Gopnik observes that the plague, as Camus insisted, “exposes existing fractures in societies, in class structure and individual character; under stress, we see who we really are.”  more

The Stocktons, 1900s, dressed as their Colonial-era ancestors.

Every clan has its stories. The Stocktons’ take us from the founding of our nation to the arts and culture of today.

By Ilene Dube | Family photos courtesy of Lisa Stockton Wilson

On a Zoom call in early December, when the end-of-the-year light was ebbing low, Lisa Stockton Wilson brought a spark to my computer screen. The actress, goth opera singer, composer, and independent filmmaker was clad in a black Moroccan tunic with a white lacy placket and a turban atop her blond pageboy. Images on her website, showcasing both her music and film careers, present her in everything from frilly Victorian gowns to a velvet dress suggestive of the silent film era.

“I have all these costumes from my performances and like to wear them around the house,” says Wilson. “We Stocktons like to get dressed up.”

Wilson — her stage name is Lisa Hammer — is a descendant of Richard Stockton (1730-1781), signer of the Declaration of Independence. Along with his wife Annis Boudinot Stockton (1736-1801), one of the first published female poets in the U.S., Stockton built a residence and farm in Princeton. They named it “Morven,” from the mythical Scottish kingdom of Fingal. (In recent years Morven has been turned into a museum.)

“Grandma Nannie always said, ‘don’t leave the house without lipstick,’” Wilson continues. “Grandma Nannie” was Anne Strobhar Stockton, married to Bayard Stockton III. The story goes that if she used her initials to monogram her towels, it would not look proper and thus she changed Anne to Nannie.

Although Wilson grew up in Massachusetts, she summered in Princeton with Grandma Nannie, where the attic was filled with the kind of period costumes children of a certain passion love to dress up in. Among the accoutrements, Wilson remembers the sword that belonged to Commodore Robert Field Stockton (1795-1866), now on display in a case at Morven Museum & Garden.
“Lisa was the oldest of the grandchildren, and she would write a play and get everyone in costume to enact it,” says Marty Stockton, Wilson’s aunt and the daughter of Nannie and Bayard III, from her office at Stockton Real Estate in Princeton, the firm founded by her mother. more

Stephen McDonnell and Jill Kearney in the Hatch building.

Despite the Pandemic, ArtYard is Thriving and Expanding in Frenchtown

By Wendy Greenberg | Photos by Jeffrey E. Tryon

“Art is not an end but a beginning.”
– Artist Ai Weiwei; quote seen at ArtYard’s Hatch celebration, 2019

For many years, Jill Kearney’s spouse, Stephen McDonnell, ran Applegate Farms, a leading organic meat production company. After a debilitating stroke, he decided to sell the New Jersey-based company in 2015.

Then, as Kearney said, she took the entrepreneurial baton. The next year she opened ArtYard — a nonprofit community art, performance, and education center — in Frenchtown in 2016.

Despite the challenges of the past year that necessitated outdoor exhibits and art in store windows, ArtYard will soon open a 20,000-square-foot performance and exhibition space, and exhibitions are lined up for the spring. Creative juices are flowing, and the local community is excited and engaged.

If “past is prologue,” as Kearney titled an art exhibition (“The Past Is Prologue: Vernacular Photography, Pop Photographica, and the Road to Selfie Culture”), ArtYard’s prologue lies in Kearney’s childhood, which set the scene for something like ArtYard. Her parents ran an alternative arts center in a former dairy processing facility in Chicago that held galleries, a bronze foundry, and studios. Her father was a sculptor, and her mother was the administrator.

“The other artists had to walk through my mom’s office and my dad’s studio to get to their studios,” she said. “My dad pretty much built all the spaces. I’m sure it wouldn’t pass any building code anywhere now, but it was a few blocks from the school I went to, so I would go to school, and then walk there after school and wait for them to be finished. I was just doing my homework and watching potters, artists, painters, dancers, and photographers come and go. Or watching my dad do the casting. They had classes there, or maybe he was teaching classes, it was a wonderful place to grow up.” more

#BlackLivesMatter cofounder Alicia Garza

A talk by the co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter, weekly showcases of cultural empowerment apparel, and a panel on the importance of graffiti are just a sample of The College of New Jersey’s programming for Black History Month 2021.

The celebrations began on Friday, February 5 with the raising of the Pan-African flag in front of Trenton Hall in conjunction with a program featuring remarks from students and administrators, and reflections on Martin Luther King Jr. from TCNJ’s own the Rev. Jamal Johnson. The flag has served as a representation of Black people since early in the 19th century. The flag raising symbolizes the start of February’s unique education and social events. more

Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) “Officer and Laughing Girl,” ca. 1675. Oil on canvas. The Frick Collection, New York.

The Frick Collection announces days/hours and timed ticketing for its temporary new home on Madison Avenue.

Advance tickets available for purchase beginning February 19.

The Frick Collection announced today that it will open the doors to Frick Madison, its temporary new home, on Thursday, March 18, 2021. Located at the Breuer-designed building at 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street, former site of the Met Breuer and the Whitney Museum of American Art, Frick Madison will welcome visitors Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Timed entry tickets will need to be purchased in advance, with online sales beginning February 19. The Frick Collection will operate Frick Madison for approximately two years while its historic buildings on East 70th Street undergo renovation. This temporary relocation enables the Frick to provide public access to its celebrated collections during a time when the museum and library would otherwise be closed. Details about member previews and a virtual press preview will be shared in the coming weeks. more

All artwork by Honor Titus

Timothy Taylor Gallery now presents “For Heaven’s Sake,” the first solo New York exhibition of paintings by self-taught American artist Honor Titus (b. 1989). This exhibition will be on view through March 27, 2021.  more

The Arts Council of Princeton will hold a free online workshop on Saturday, February 27 at 1:30 p.m. entitled, “Harlem Renaissance and the Art of Collage.”  more