Gates and Fleming come to Ideas Fest | AspenTimes.com

Gates and Fleming come to Ideas Fest

Staff report
Renee Fleming
Courtesy photo |

Soprano/musical ambassador Renee Fleming and artist/activist Theaster Gates will serve as the Aspen Institute’s 2016 Harman-Eisner Artists in Residence, the nonprofit’s arts program announced this week.

As resident artists, Fleming and Gates will participate at the Aspen Ideas Festival (June 26 to July 2) and engage in Institute activities throughout the year in New York, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.

In the announcement, arts program director Damian Woetzel said he was “thrilled” to bring this pair on board and said: “Over the past years we have collaborated on projects working to expand the opportunities for good work through the arts, and now I look forward to this tremendous opportunity to focus our work together on the issues we face today.”

An alum of the Aspen Music Festival and School, Fleming is known as “the people’s diva.” She is a 2013 recipient of the National Medal of Arts and a four-time Grammy winner. As a musical statesman she has performed at the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the 2008 Olympics, the Brandenburg Gate to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and on the balcony of Buckingham Palace for the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Concert. An advocate for literacy, Fleming has been featured in promotional campaigns for the Association of American Publishers and on the READ poster campaign for the American Library Association. In 2010, she was named the first-ever Creative Consultant at Lyric Opera of Chicago, where she also is a member of the board and a vice president.

“It is such an honor to join the dialogue at the Aspen Institute as a Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence,” Fleming said. “Aspen was my training ground and the place where I nurtured my grandest dreams about life and art, so it’s fitting that I would return to share my current passions so many years later. … I’m thrilled to share the stage with Chicago colleague Theaster Gates, who has been an inspiration to me and to many others.”

Chicago-based artist, musician and activist Gates works to stretch the idea of what we understand visual art to be. Trained as both a sculptor and an urban planner, his work is rooted in social responsibility. Gates is the founder of the Rebuild Foundation and a professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago. For his most acclaimed work, Dorchester Projects, Gates transformed a cluster of buildings on Chicago’s South Side into alternative cultural spaces that now serve as vibrant centers of community life. Last fall he opened the Stony Island Arts Bank on the South Side, a platform for site-specific contemporary art commissions and exhibitions, a venue for artist and scholar residencies and a home for Rebuild’s archives and collections. It serves as a space for neighborhood residents to preserve, access, reimagine and share their heritage — and as a destination for artists, scholars, curators and collectors to research and engage with South Side history.

“The Aspen Ideas Festival is always a time when some of the greatest minds living come together to think out loud,” Gates said. “I hope that in participating, I’m able to more clearly articulate the things I believe in while deepening the relationships that have become key to my successes.”

Inaugurated in 2006, the Harman-Eisner Artists in Residence have included Memphis jookin’ master Lil Buck, actress Alfre Woodard, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, director Julie Taymor, architect Elizabeth Diller, conductor Robert Spano, author Tobias Wolff, painter Chuck Close, actor and playwright Anna Deavere Smith, stage director Stephen Wadsworth, and opera singer Jessye Norman.

“Renee Fleming and Theaster Gates are not just two of the most amazing, thoughtful, and inspiring artists we have working in America today. They also have proven track records of using their art to unify people of all ages, races and economic backgrounds,” said Michael D. Eisner, Institute trustee and chair of its Committee on the Arts, in the announcement.


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