Contemporary Black artists have come together to create new, breathtaking work in response to iconic jazz singer-songwriter Louis Armstrong’s legacy through a video series that will culminate in live online discussions, as part of Louis Armstrong House Museum’s (LAHM) new program, Armstrong Now.
The integrative video series began on Oct. 5 and will continue through Dec. 31. Armstrong Now provides museum-quality programming that promotes equity, access and inclusion to a wider audience outside of the museum’s Corona, Queens community.
Four groups of renowned contemporary artists, with the help of Filmmaker Ben Stamper and Artistic Producer Jake Goldbas, created original short films exploring their respective artforms — from spoken word to dance — inspired by the newly digitized archives of Louis Armstrong and the LAHM research collections.
Each piece is meant to reacquaint audiences with Louis Armstrong’s legacy.
Armstrong Now was initially brought forth by Kenyon Adams, former director of LAHM, and turned into a reality by Jake Goldbas, artistic director of programs at LAHM.
“I am humbled and energized by what we all achieved in this debut season of Armstrong Now,” said Goldbas. “In 2020, when we find ourselves in a calamitous landscape, the digitized Armstrong Archives and home provide a lens and perspective for some of the world’s leading artists to show us the way through this. The magic that was created based on our research collections shows us the Armstrongs of today and tomorrow.”
Notable Black artists delve into Armstrong’s repertoire and what he represents to culture in the series, including Naomi Extra, Melanie Charles, Kayla Farrish, Alita Mose, Vuyo Sotashe, Michael Mayo, Nêgah Santos, Martha Nichols, Christian Sands, Daniel J. Watts, Derrick Baskin, Brett Williams and Braxton Cook.
“Armstrong Now is an initiative that is not only timely but necessary,” said Martha Nichols, a prominent figure in the world of dance who has performed everywhere from the Oscars and Cirque du Soleil to La La Land and a Rihanna tour. “Understanding the parallels in cultural discourse between today and during Louis’ life, this initiative is a beautiful look into the humanity of the cultural and musical icon Louis Armstrong, while strengthening the connection with black artists of this generation.”
Their work responds to his while encapsulating their own journey as artists. The collaborations, featuring a variety of art disciplines that synthesize into one cohesive body of work, were filmed in and around the LAHM.
The Louis Armstrong House Museum & Archives is a National Historic Landmark and a New York City landmark, located at 34-56 107th Street in Corona, Queens.
The museum’s backdrop in each of the short films allows viewers to revel in the beauty of the artists’ work while appreciating the deep history of the museum.
New programming will be released each week. See the awe-inspiring trailer here:
Regina Bain, the new executive director of LAHM, has a mission to uphold the museum’s dedication to serving its community with accessible, family-friendly arts and education through new programs like Armstrong Now.
“Through Armstrong Now, established artists of every discipline who know Louis can delve deep into his archives and create new work based on their experiences,” said Bain. “There is also a generation of artists whose work is deeply connected to Louis Armstrong but they don’t know it yet. Armstrong Now will bring them in intimate proximity to his legacy and give them the opportunity to learn, to interpret and to respond in ways that reflect the issues of today and their own artistic values.”
For more information, visit www.louisarmstronghouse.org.