Cinque Artists Talk Program: A Conversation Celebrating Nanette Bearden

Tuesday, January 31 2023  6:00 – 7:00 pm – Virtual on Zoom/Youtube/Facebook

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On January 20th Nanette Bearden would have been 96 years old. The Staten Island native and fashion model married artist Romare Bearden in 1954 and was his partner in all things until he died in 1988. Soon after his passing, Nanette established the Romare Bearden Foundation, requested by the artist in his will. Meanwhile, she also found a contemporary dance company and an art gallery on the Caribbean Island of St. Martin.

Romare and Nanette were institution builders, and she kept to her word to care for his artistic and intellectual legacies. When she passed away in 1996, her sisters continued to build the foundation, now 33 years strong.

For our conversation we will hear from dancer Sheila Rohan, Nanette’s sister and collaborator, and choreographer Walter Rutledge, artistic director of the Nanette Bearden Contemporary Dance Theatre (NBCDT). Nanette founded the company in 1977, as a collective for established and emerging dancers, choreographers, and dance artists. (PICTURED ABOVE: Left – Sheila Rohan, Nanette, and Romare Bearden; Right- Walter Rutledge)

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Pictured: (left) Sheila Rohan, Nanette Bearden, and Romare Bearden / (right) Walter Rutlege.

About the speakers

Sheila Rohan is one of the founding members of Dance Theater of Harlem (DTH), under the direction of Arthur Mitchell. She toured extensively in the United States, Caribbean, and Europe, performing as a soloist in several works – Geoffrey Holder’s “Dougla,” Arthur Mitchell’s “Biofera,” “Tones,” and “Rhythmetron.” She is also one of the founders of The 152nd Street Black Ballet Legacy, whose mission is to collectively preserve, educate, and give voice to the essence of Black Ballet. In 2021 they were honored by Misty Copeland.

Sheila danced the role of Rosa Parks in Gordon Parks’ film for television “Martin…the ballet,” and performed in a production of “Porgy and Bess,” choreographed by Carmen De Lavallade at the Metropolitan Opera House. She performed with the Louis Johnson Ensemble, Fred Benjamin Dance Company, Rod Rodgers Dance Company, Walter Nicks Dance Company, and Clive Thompson Dance. Ms. Rohan is one of the founding members of the Universal Temple of the Arts (UTA) of Staten Island. Founded in 1967, UTA was a unique resource and platform for artists of color with a multicultural perspective. Sheila served as their Performing Arts Coordinator, along with the long-time Director, Sajda Musawwir Ladner, the late Maurice Phillips, and Andrea Phillips, a prominent Staten Island visual artist. Sheila has worked with the Romare Bearden Foundation since its founding and currently sits on the Board of Directors.

Renaissance man Walter Rutledge is a choreographer, playwright, director, teacher, and visual artist who worked and collaborated with world-renowned collage artist Romare Bearden. In 2014, he teamed up with the model and actor Adewale Adekanbi Jr. to create the popular online entertainment publication Out and About NYC Magazine. Rutledge is presently Out and About’s Editor-in-Chief.

A dance graduate of Temple University, Rutledge began his professional career at the Harkness House for Ballet Arts; advancing from scholarship student to company member, to school administrator and company manager of the last touring company. During his tenure with the Harkness Ballet Foundation, he was given the opportunity and encouragement to develop his choreographic and directorial skills. His work received favorable reviews in the New York Times, N.Y. Post, N.Y. Daily News, United International Press, Canadian Dance News, Backstage, Showbiz, and Variety.

In 1983 Rutledge became choreographer-in-residency and associate artistic director with the Nanette Bearden Contemporary Dance Theatre. His seven years of association with the Bearden Company introduced him to the crème de la crème of African American dance, art, music, and literature. Including choreographers Alvin Ailey, Talley Beatty, Louis Johnson, Fred Benjamin, Diane McIntyre, literary figures Maya Angelou, Ntozake Shange’ and Richard Long, musicians Kenny Burrell, Andy Kirk, Dizzy Gillespie Roberta Flack, and artist Romare Bearden. Rutledge continues to create, teach, and design programs for people of all ages. Dance of The Village Elders is a dance and fitness program designed for senior citizens, in contrast, Walter’s Dance Party is designed for ages K3 to 6th grade. Rutledge playfully remarks, “my motto has become I work from the stroller to the walker”.

The Cinque Artist Program is named after the Cinque Gallery founded by artists Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, and Ernest Crichlow in the late 60s. The gallery served as a catalyst for artists and curators of color to exhibit, but also as a place for networking and building community. Our series promotes presentations from professionals, and practical information, as well as provides a platform for artists to showcase their work. We encourage adult artists, students, and enthusiasts to share in discussions in an intimate setting.

Topics include global travel, artist portfolios, Uptown Galleries, and more. This is the second year the Foundation has partnered with the Harlem School of the Arts to host the series.

This program is part of the Harlem Cultural Collaborative of Harlem One Stop

And the Clara Elizabeth Jackson Carter Foundation

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