Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Lynn Garafola (Professor Emerita of Dance, Barnard College) is curator of the exhibit "Arthur Mitchell: Harlem's Ballet Teacher" now on view at the Wallach Art Gallery.
Arthur Mitchell’s invitation to join the New York City Ballet in 1955 was a seminal moment in dance. He accepted and became the first African American principal dancer in a major ballet company, later co-founding the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
In January, Columbia’s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery will celebrate his life and accomplishments in the first exhibition of objects from his archive, Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer. Curated by Lynn Garafola, the exhibition is presented with Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library, to which Mitchell donated his archive in 2015.
“This exhibition pays homage both to Mitchell’s creative magic and to his visionary achievements, revealing to those who never saw him dance his charismatic stage presence and the full scope of his career as an artist,” Garafola said. “At the same time, it places the Dance Theatre of Harlem at the crossroads of political, artistic and racial change in the United States and beyond.”
Mitchell, who received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Columbia in 2016, said, “I am a political activist through dance. I believe that dance, and the arts more broadly, can be used as a catalyst for social change—this is why I started the Dance Theatre of Harlem.”
See also Gia Kourlas's "Arthur Mitchell, Ballet's 'Grandfather of Diversity,'" an appreciation of Mitchell and the exhibit (New York Times, Jan. 5, 2018).