Black arts group looks to recreate iconic 1958 Harlem photo in Arbor Hill
By Katherine Kiessling
Sep. 9, 2022
Sept. 18 is looking to be a great day in Arbor Hill.
Black Dimensions in Art, which focuses on supporting Black artists in the Capital Region and educating the public on their contributions, is organizing a network event centered around the recreation of Art Kane’s famous 1958 photograph of a group of mostly Black jazz musicians, “A Great Day in Harlem.”
Jacqueline Lake-Sample, longtime Black Dimensions in Art board member and co-organizer of the event, said shooting a Capital Region version of the photo had been a few years in the making. Like Kane’s photo, this one, shot by local photographer Robert Cooper, aims to gather as many local artists from the African diaspora as possible. Unlike Kane’s photo, which featured only jazz musicians, Black Dimensions in Art is encouraging artists across all disciplines to come.
Lake-Sample sees the event as an important opportunity for artists to meet their community and learn about workshops, grants and other opportunities throughout the region.
“We find that there are many artists of the diaspora in the Capital Region,” Lake-Sample said. “And many times it’s fragmented, people don’t know each other, always.”
The photo will be at the Underground Railroad Education Center, which was the home of abolitionists Stephen and Harriet Myers, who were active with the Underground Railroad. Co-organizer and poet D. Colin, who also serves on Black Dimensions in Art’s board, said while other locations were considered, the Myers house organically felt like the right choice.
“It’s really perfect, actually, given the history of the home and the context of the photo,” Colin said. “There’s a connection between the history of the home and what we’re trying to create that day.”
Black Dimensions in Arts has a longstanding relationship with the center helping organize exhibits over the years. “This is like coming home to do a gathering,” Lake-Sample said.
Colin and Lake-Sample said the response so far has been enthusiastic, with some artists who will be out of town on the day of the shoot asking if they can be edited into the final image. Plans for when and how “A Great Day in Arbor Hill” will be displayed are still in the works, but Lake-Sample said Black Dimensions in Art plans to have an exhibit.
“I think that the representation of self is important, and I think this is what this will do for the community,” Lake-Sample said. “Young ones can see all of these people in our community that are creating, whether it’s poetry, whether it’s art, whether it’s theater…it is really important that the next generation can see themselves so they can dream and they can do.”
Artists interested in being in the photo can reach out to Colin or Lake-Sample at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, respectively, or they can show up at the Underground Railroad Education Center by 2:30 p.m. on September 18.
Katherine Kiessling covers arts and entertainment for the Times Union. The New Jersey native has written for syracuse.com, Central New York Magazine and Charleston City Paper. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.