Singer-songwriter, Alice Smith says that she now finds herself in a powerful place in life, hence the title of her sophomore album She. Smith’s current positive outlook is hard earned after debuting to critical acclaim with her debut album, For Lovers, Dreamers & Me only to be shelved by Epic Records and forced to start her career all over again six years later.
With her new release, Smith effortlessly creates harmony out of a multitude of genres. The approach is borne out of her reaffirmed creative freedom, which she says is inspired by her upbringing. “I come from a big family and my grandmother was kinda free and that trickled down to everybody,” she says. “People are allowed to be themselves in my family and not pressured to be or do anything.”
While Smith is living out her current dreams as a recording artist and mother, she knows that soon her free spirit may take her in another career direction. “My dream now is that some other part of my life grows into something else and that a new adventure comes to me that I love.” What that new journey is remains a mystery but for now Smith is happy to be free to discover.
Music legend, Nile Rodgers is already engaged in the next chapter of his career with the We Are Family Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that creates and supports various projects designed to mentor youth and create future leaders. At the inaugural We Are Family HONORS held at Manhattan Center’s Grand Ballroom Rodgers honored Sting and Trudie Styler with the Humanitarian Award. One of the event highlights was a rousing concert featuring performances by Sting, Rodgers & CHIC, Sam Moore and Russell Peters. Before his performance Moore revealed that he is working on a follow-up to his 2006 album Overnight Sensational. “I am gonna redo the last album I did with Randy Jackson,” he says. “Queen Latifah and Justin Timberlake want to do some stuff. If I do it, it may be live. So we will see.”
Knox Gallery, Art in Flux Harlem and wine sponsor Simone International/Papi Wines are currently paying tribute to legendary jazzman and activist, Fred Ho with the exhibition, Mirrors of the Soul. On display are the sculptural portraits created by artist, Leah Poller including a specially commissioned portrait of Ho. On opening night viewers enjoyed for the first-time ever the sartorial designs of Ho. The project has special significance considering that Ho is diagnosed with stage 4b metastatic cancer and is primarily focused on ensuring that he leaves behind an impactful legacy. “My mission for the time I have left on earth is to do the music, art and politics no one else can or will do. I only work on that which is impossible,” he states. “We need to bring down this toxic system and replace it with a revolutionary, matriarchal, indigenous-centric and communalistic existence. Ego-centrism replaced by eco–centrism. Commodity and mass production replaced by restoration of the commons and self-sufficiency. Money replaced by intrinsic values of love, creativity and wisdom. We must start there and imagine and do the impossible.”
Art and politics also converge with this week’s opening of the Community Works exhibition, Spirit of Community: Artists of El Barrio & Beyond. The exhibition is on display at The Interchurch Center now until May 3 and is curated by Community Works and Frank DeGregorie of The Interchurch Center. Featured in the show are eight established, mid-career artists for whom the people and culture of El Barrio/East Harlem have served as significant inspiration. Kathleen Benson Haskins, Community Works board chair and cultural consultant notes, “Community Works is making a contribution to redressing the under-recognition of these artists by featuring them in an exhibition at The Interchurch Center. Their work will find new audiences there—and ideally stimulate interest in the neighborhood that either produced or greatly influenced them.”
One of the current neighborhood changes potentially impacting these artists is gentrification but featured artist, Manny Vega chooses to embrace this change rather than see it as a threat.
“Both long-term residents as well as new ones express appreciation for my public art initiative. My personal experiences while growing up in both East Harlem and the Bronx and now Brazil, have provided opportunities for me to appreciate living with cultural diversity,” he says. “It has been a life in constant flux, allowing for more and more evolution on a human level.”
The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.