This spring, the UMass Fine Arts Center takes full advantage of the virtual world to engage and inspire audiences with over 40 online events featuring renowned artists like visual artist Alison Saar and the South African choral icons Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Audiences can witness musicians from around the world perform in the newest configuration of the Silkroad Ensemble and enjoy the return of audience favorites like cellist Matt Haimovitz. “This moment to pivot enabled us to expand our reach, allowing us to bring the wonders of the arts to more communities in our richly diverse region,” said director Jamilla Deria.
In keeping with tradition, the first event of the semester is the annual Fine Arts Center Gala hosted via Zoom on February 6 and sponsored by Greenfield | Northampton Cooperative Bank. With the theme of “Relive-Renew-Reimagine,” the virtual version of this beloved and historically sold out event celebrates and supports the Arts/Access outreach programs of the Fine Arts Center. The presentation includes a trivia contest and prizes sponsored by Florence Bank and a “mini” silent auction featuring work by Tom Friedman and Laura Radwell. The evening concludes with a virtual dance party to an original set by FEVER thanks to Finck & Perras Insurance. Registration is required and while the event is free and guests are asked to make a donation at whichever level they are comfortable.
The performing arts season kicks off with Ladysmith Black Mambazo on Wednesday, Feb. 17. The concert recorded in South Africa features the chorus performing the songs of unity and love that have made them globally renowned. On Sunday, April 25 as part of the UMass Bach Festival, renowned cellist Matt Haimovitz presents a virtual presentation of his “Bach Listening-Room” repertoire focused on Bach’s solo cello suites. To close out the season on Thursday, April 29, members of the Grammy Award-winning Silkroad Ensemble present highlights from their 20+-year trajectory recorded from all over the planet.
For families, the Fine Arts Center welcomes the virtual tour premiere of Manual Cinema’s “Leonardo & Sam: the Terrible Monster and the Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole World, Respectively,” on Sunday, April 11. Inspired by the beloved books by Mo Willems, the piece is realized through Manual Cinema’s critically acclaimed use of projection, shadow puppetry, and immersive sound to create a live cinematic experience.
The Bodies at Risk series, featuring BIPOC artists in creative dialogue about the racialized body and social justice, continues from the fall. In conjunction with UMass Dance and Five College Dance Department’s virtual conference, “Beyond the Proscenium,” hip-hop based choreographers Rennie Harris and Jon Boogz talk on Saturday, March 13 followed by a conversation between Indigenous dance artist and company director Emily Johnson and choreographer and disability rights activist Alice Sheppard on Thursday, March 18.
The Reimagine Artist Residency series introduced last fall continues to feature groundbreaking artists as they redefine what it means to be socially engaged artists. Performance artist Kristina Wong returns on Monday, March 1 to present her virtual piece born from the COVID-19 pandemic, “Sweatshop Overlord.” Inspired by her experience forming “Auntie’s Sewing Squad,” the work grew into a now national grass roots effort to provide masks and more to communities in need. Multimedia artist Miwa Matreyek will be in residence focused around her climate-based work, “Infinitely Yours,” leading workshops and participating in a climate crisis panel in collaboration with the UMass School for Earth and Sustainability and the MFA for Poets and Writers.
Additional programming includes Japanologist Alex Kerr discussing his book Lost Japan; jazz performances by the Fay Victor Chamber Trio and Zaccai Curtis Afro-Cuban Quartet; and a Valley Jazz Network performance and conversation event focused on jazz and gender featuring Grammy-award winning drummer Teri Lyne Carrington.
The University Museum of Contemporary Art has three virtual exhibitions this spring. Of special note is “Mirror Mirror: The Prints of Alison Saar” from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation. For the exhibition “We Are For Freedoms,” the Museum commissioned a series of posters from local and regional artists, asking them to visually respond to their interpretation of freedom. The third exhibition, “Artifacts at the End of a Decade,” the Museum’s annual Curatorial Fellowship Exhibition, was originally scheduled to debut in March 2020, and features a portfolio of work that has not been on view in its entirety since 1989. Each exhibition will be on view online February through April and features live virtual events with the artists and curators involved in each.
Augusta Savage Gallery continues with its 50th Anniversary theme, “Healing Bodies,” presenting exhibitions by women from Northampton’s Anchor House of Artists, New Mexico-based artist Carolyn Mae Lassiter, and a posthumous celebration of the work of Brettney Young. Each virtual exhibition launches with an opening reception on Zoom. Additionally, the Gallery hosts artist JuPong Lin’s installation, “Poetics of Repair – Being Earth, Being Water,” a participatory installation of poetry and paper cranes and canoes, “concocting a medicine of de-colonial love to mend our ravaged world.”
Hampden Gallery launches February 1 with a group exhibition “CURRENT UNDERCURRENT” curated by Linda Griggs and M. Charlene Stevens, a visual conversation relating to current events such as COVID-19, gender, racial justice, and climate change featuring over 30 artists. Hampden’s spring schedule also features solo exhibitions by artists Bruce Ackerson and Alicia Renadette.
Fine Arts Center venues including the Box Office, Augusta Savage Gallery, Hampden Gallery, and the University Museum of Contemporary Art, remain closed to the public until further notice. Full program details are available at fineartscenter.com. Some events have a nominal access fee per household or device; many are free. For more questions, the Box Office can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone at 413-545-2511 or 800-999-UMAS Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., hours subject to change.
The UMass Fine Arts Center is supported by the New England Foundation for the Arts through the New England Arts Resilience Fund, part of the United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund, an initiative of the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with major funding from the federal CARES Act from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support for spring programming comes from the Daily Hampshire Gazette; Five College Credit Union; the Jordan Schnitzer Foundation; Florence Bank; New England Public Media; Applewood & Loomis Communities; WRSI – The River 93.9; the UMass Amherst School of Earth & Sustainability, MFA Program for Poets & Writers, and Music and Dance Department; Five College Dance Department and Center for East Asian Studies; and Gathering at the Crossroads: Building Native American and Indigenous Studies program of the Five College Consortium, an initiative underwritten by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.