Prince George’s African American Museum & Cultural Center Hosts Afro-Brazilian Artists for a Mural Project Reflecting African American History in Prince George’s County and the Americas

By Annamarya Scaccia

brazilian artists for linkArt is more than the width of a brush stroke or the hues of a color palette.

It’s more than the end result—more than the stunning imagery released from the artist’s fingertips. Art is vast and fluid, a conceptual discipline that morphs ceaselessly as philosophies shift.

Art is, if nothing else, boundless. And, as the Prince George’s African American Museum & Cultural Center (PGAAMCC) has proven, it is also borderless.

From May 28 to June 6, PGAAMCC will host six Afro-Brazilian artists from Sao Paulo, Brazil as part of the culturally-charged Brazilian Mural Project. Over the 10 days, the visiting muralists—Andre Firmiano, Soberana Elias, Guillermo Larraín, Amanda Doria, Bruno Pere and Museu Afro Brasil’s Arts Educator Glaucea Helena—will tour the county, meet public officials including Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, and paint a large scale mural at the Suitland High School’s Center for Visual and Performing Arts—the location of the museum’s Culture Keepers after-school program—using fine arts and aerosol mediums. The completed mural will be unveiled at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5 at Suitland High.

“The program [is] an amazing opportunity for the artists from Brazil and the Culture Keepers youth participants to learn about Prince George’s African American history and Black culture and history throughout the Americas,” says project mastermind Chanel Compton, PGAAMCC’s education director and manager of the Culture Keepers.

You can say the 2012 Brazilian Mural Project in Prince George’s County started in the belly of the U.S. State Department’s 2011 Summer Cultural Envoy Program in Brazil. Compton, who led three mural projects in Sao Paulo, Salvador, and Brasilia while participating in the envoy program, worked with the six Brazilian artists on a mural painting echoing Afro-Brazilian culture at Sao Paulo’s Museu Afro Brasil. “I was amazed by their dedication to the project and talent,” she says.

According to Compton, the undertaking sowed the seeds of possibility as the Museuo Afro Brasil and the United States Consulate in Sao Paolo were “eager to continue the cultural exchange” by bringing the artists to the States to not only complete a mural but learn about African-American culture. Compton kept in contact with Maria Estella Correa, cultural affairs specialist for the United States Consulate in Sao Paulo, and eventually this week’s Brazilian Mural Project bloomed.

“The ultimate purpose of the project is to educate and inspire communities of African-American culture in Prince George’s County and throughout the Americas,” says Compton. “This project is a tremendous opportunity for global communities to come together to share their history and to discover connections.”

The imagery depicted in the final mural will not only reflect Black culture in the Americas but also the art, history, and culture of Prince George’s County’s African-American community, as well as the county’s relationship to the African Diaspora. “[This is] one great opportunity of learning about American Black culture and enables us to draw a parallel with our history with the community values found in Prince George’s County,” says Larraín. “We hope to create cultural and professional permanent links with the Prince George’s African American Museum & Cultural Center.”

To get a larger sense of this, the muralists visited PGAAMCC’s A Space of Their Own exhibit celebrating Prince George’s County’s historically Black-incorporated townships of North Brentwood, Fairmount Heights, Glenarden and North Brentwood, and toured some of the townships including Fairmount Heights, Glenarden and North Brentwood (the first town to be incorporated) with North Brentwood’s first female mayor, Lillian K. Beverly on May 29. They also visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Brazilian Embassy, and Howards Theater in Washington, D.C., the same day. The six visiting participants will hold an artist discussion at Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville on June 1 (read more here).

The mural will also express “how that strong foundation can foster creative, strong, and impressive scholars” at Suitland’s visual and performing arts center. And she hopes that, in the end, this experience fosters lasting contacts, and continued collaborations between the international arts community and Prince George’s County.

“We also aim for our Culture Keepers teen participants to have experience working with international artists and gaining further confidence and skills to implement creative projects that will improve their own communities,” Compton explains. While working alongside the muralists, PGAAMCC Culture Keepers will learn about race relations and the link between Brazil and Prince George’s County as related to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

The artists’ visit and stay in Prince George’s County is sponsored by the Embassy of Brazil, Museu Afro Brasil, and the Consulate, with their trip itinerary and transportation sponsored by the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation. Wells Fargo also provided support for the project. “Suitland High School, PGAAMCC, the Embassy of Brazil, the United Consulate in Sao Paulo, our sponsors, artists, and youth, are all working together to implement this mural project,” says Compton. “It is truly an international (global) community effort.”

Ultimately, though, this mural project is more than an educational and cultural opportunity that spans continents. It’s also a chance for all Prince Georgians to engage in the conversation, and learn more about the history projected in the mural’s colors and strokes.

“The project will have a lasting impact not only for the students at Suitland High School, [but] on the artists, and our museum staff in ways that will encourage us to not only reflect on the history of our county in regards to African American history but how these histories are connected to the Black experience throughout the world,” says Compton.

Photo features the visiting Brazilian artists, Glaucea Helena, Andre Firmiano, Amanda Doria, Regina Elias, Bruno Pere, and Guillermo Larrain, and Lillian K. Beverly (North Brentwood’s first female Mayor) during a tour of North Brentwood. Courtesy of Larrian.

Published on Prince George’s Suite – Friday, June 1, 2012

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