The Dissident Arts Festival- Day 2

Dissident Art Festival -2As reported by John Pietaro

On Day two, August 16, we moved The Dissident Arts Festival to ShapeShifter Lab, a beloved home of new music for years now. What a gift to have two spaces that have equally caring, professional and considerate staff members. We opened this day with a jaw-dropping piece of multi-media art, downtown stalwart Trudy Silver’s Where’s the Outrage? There was nothing missing, from both an arts and political perspective as this presentation was performed in front of a screen projecting images of generations of fight-back. The musicians, speakers and dancer had largely interchangeable roles, producing a special new music performance art to life. It made me think of the 1930s workers’ theatre productions I have studied for so long but one that straddled the eras of the 30s and the late 60s.

Next was a wonderful spoken word artist, poet and actress Safiya Martinez, who offered a deeply moving piece about personal transformation.

And then next was the band I put together specifically for this event, one I called John Pietaro’s Literary Warrior Project. The writer/musician tightrope I regularly walk came together in this inventive ensemble of gifted artists which interacted with my readings of John Reed, Amiri Baraka, Langston Hughes, Woody Guthrie and Bertolt Brecht excerpts over my own hand drumming. I asked Raymond Nat Turner to come up and read one of the Hughes’ works and I was so moved when, at the end of the set, he presented me with a special award he called  The Dissident Arts Award, in honor of the fest’s 10th anniversary.

Patricia Nicholson Parker (a founder and administrator of Arts for Art/Vision Festival but an artist in her own right) and her own multi-media group Resurrection/Revolution: post-modern dance of herself and Jason Jordon with music by two celebrated new music/improvisation masters, Jason Hwang and Michael TA Thompson. The four were “painted on” by the projected video art of Bill Mazza. An amazing presentation by artists at the top of their game that easily tied together distinct genres.

Poet Chris Butters joined our festival for the second time, having also wowed audiences at Taller last year. Chris’ hard-hitting poetics speak of real-time struggles, echoing his many years of activism in the labor movement. Chris is also host of WBAI’s poetry show and a leader of the Workers Film Festival.

Dissipated Face featuring Daniel Carter closed off the festival with a set of music that defied description. The five piece band with the celebrated jazz musician Carter had performed from 1981-86 and came together again only recently, with this performance being a major focal point of their reunion. We were thrilled to host such an event.

We also had guest speakers on Day 2:  Tim Sheard of the National Writers Union, Mary Lonegran of the Len Ragozin Foundation–who offered us a generous grant– and Dawoud Kringle of Musicians for Musicians, also a journalist of  “DooBeeDooBeeDoo” magazine. Unfortunately, no one from the Rosenberg Fund for Children was available to join us (they are a Massachusetts-based organization), but these wonderful folks have in the past and again this year aided our efforts with a grant.

We are forever appreciative of each of the organizations that supported these efforts that made it possible to present such a powerful pair of concerts. I am always happy to help all with an endorsement or statement or action. In the case of the National Writers Union—my own union– I was very proud to have such an endorsement from this body. The connection was very meaningful statement of the legacy of the Literary Left.

Many, many, many thanks,

John Pietaro

Click here to read the recap of The Dissent Arts Festival- Day 1.