MoAD cuts the ribbon and welcomes art lovers to reimagined space

February 5, 2015
San Francisco Chronicle

Tuesday’s official ribbon cutting for the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) was a bright and shiny event, even more so in contrast to the gloomy skies outside. The barrier that prevented pedestrians from looking through the ground-floor windows is down, and I glimpsed several wind- and rain-whipped pedestrians peering in at the happy commotion of opening ceremonies, which began with a drum/dance performance by members of the Alayo Dance Company, somehow able not only to perform on a stair landing but also to work that topography into the dance.
Executive Director Linda Harrison welcomed the crowd and introduced board chair Wade Rose, director of the Institute for Afro-Latin American Studies at Harvard; Alejandro de la Fuente (who curated the “Drapetomania: Grupo Antillano and the Art of Afro-Cuba” show); and artist Lava Thomas (whose sculptures and drawings are featured in “Lava Thomas: Beyond”). Then — blessed are the brief, and
they were — short remarks were made by San Francisco City AdministratorNaomi Kelly and by Willie Brown, who as mayor had hammered out the deal that created MoAD as part of a redevelopment project and who sits on the board of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Brown, of course, was Brown: “When I go to board meetings, on my left is Colin Powell and on my right is Oprah Winfrey.” As to MoAD’s recent affiliation with the Smithsonian, “I am delighted after all these years, MoAD has arrived at the point where it is associated with the premier museum in America.”
And Brown, of course, was Brown again, masterfully taking charge when it was time to cut the ribbon, and the row of people wielding shiny pairs of scissors looked at each other nervously waiting for a signal. It was the natty man in pinstripes, pocket square folded into four precise points, who solved the how-do-we-do-this-with-precision question, when impromptu, he began a countdown: 10, nine, eight …
Most of MoAD’s permanent collection is now online, but there are photo blowups of images from its stairway photo mosaic on view in “Finding the I in Diaspora,” on the second floor. Thomas’ “Beyond” stunning exhibition, curated by Lizzetta LeFalle-Collins, includes “Mother 1,” a 2009 photograph of a lock of hair cut from Thomas’ grandmother’s head during preparations for her funeral. “Drapetomania” focuses on Grupo Antillano, a Cuban art movement with roots in Africa, mostly neglected when Cuban artists turned their attention to “new trends in Western art,” said de la Fuente.
“We are clearing our path,” said Harrison about the traditional role of the musicians whose performance started the ceremonies, “for a prosperous journey.”



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