It is universally noted that Harlem is one of the central arts and culture centers of the world but in order to sustain that legacy requires greater economic support, visibility and unity amongst institutions. In an effort to promote these values the Harlem Arts Alliance recently kicked off its Harlem Arts Summit during Harlem Arts Advocacy Week. Under the theme “Harlem at the Crossroads: Sustaining Our Arts and Cultural Resources,” the seven-day series of free events kicked off on October 1 with presentations to actor and activist Danny Glover, legendary theatrical producer Vy Higginsen, pioneering arts producer/consultant Mikki Shepard and businessman and arts supporter, Fred Powell of Barbara’s Flowers at Aaron Davis Hall (The City College of New York).

“Harlem boasts some of the city’s most stellar arts organizations and artists, individuals and entities that are, in today’s economic climate, struggling to secure and maintain needed support,” says Voza Rivers, Chairman, Harlem Arts Alliance. “The Harlem Arts Summit is being held to shine the light on the treasures in our midst and to help them secure and sustain the crucial resources needed to continue their missions.”

Glover received the HAA Humanitarian Award and delivered an address about the role of arts and culture in promoting activism. “Art can be many things,” Glover said. “It can be a tool that brings us to action.”

The Arts Summit is all about taking much-needed action and will feature an array of performances, screenings, panels and presentations designed to build support for the arts in Harlem and in communities of color throughout the city. One of the central highlights includes the opening reception of the fifth annual Strivers Art Circuit Art Tour at Aaron Davis Hall. The self-guided art/gallery tour of key galleries, studios and alternative spaces in and around Harlem’s famed Strivers Row district will take place on Saturday and Sunday, October 6 and 7. Tour time is 12pm to 6pm.

Those that attend the tour may also want to stop by the new exhibition, “Unveiled/Unlocked,” curated by visual artist, Aleathia Brown. The exhibition being held at The City College of New York; Windows on Amsterdam Gallery located @the NAC Building Plaza addresses perceptions of beauty as visual artists present images about the struggles and triumphs of women with bare heads. Standouts from the exhibit include Jimbe’s photograph, “Opposite Direction,” which casts a tall bald female model in a dark mysterious shadow as onlookers gasp and stare at her image of proud beauty; and Beau McCall’s “Pretty Bald,” which dismantles notions of beauty in the commercial realm by featuring a bare head doll on a bed of pink, white and scissor buttons.

“We speak to the social justice of the bare head woman by unveiling her existence to celebrate and acknowledge her presence,” Brown notes. “Often she is underrepresented, misunderstood and in a sea of hair headed people alone, bare headed and negatively judged.”

It’s safe to say, that this is the kind of arts activism that Glover would be proud to support.

Editor’s Note: In last week’s column we announced the dates of the “Def Poetry Jam” reunion event. However the show has been postponed until further notice due to construction delays at the venue. Please visit MIST for updates.


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.