BAG: "point from which Creation Begins" : the Black Artists' Group of St. Louis

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Missouri History Museum, 2004 - Art - 316 pages
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From 1968 to 1972, St. Louis was home to the Black Artists' Group (BAG), a seminal arts collective that nurtured African American experimentalists involved with theater, visual arts, dance, poetry, and jazz. Inspired by the reinvigorated black cultural nationalism of the 1960s, artistic collectives had sprung up around the country in a diffuse outgrowth known as the Black Arts Movement. These impulses resonated with BAG's founders, who sought to raise black consciousness and explore the far reaches of interdisciplinary performance—all while struggling to carve out a place within the context of St. Louis history and culture.A generation of innovative artists—Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake, and Emilio Cruz, to name but a few—created a moment of intense and vibrant cultural life in an abandoned industrial building on Washington Avenue, surrounded by the evisceration that typified that decade's “urban crisis.” The 1960s upsurge in political art blurred the lines between political involvement and artistic production, and debates over civil rights, black nationalism, and the role of the arts in political and cultural struggles all found form in BAG.

This book narrates the group's development against the backdrop of St. Louis spaces and institutions, examines the work of its major artists, and follows its musicians to Paris and on to New York, where they played a dominant role in Lower Manhattan's 1970s “loft jazz” scene. By fusing social concern and artistic innovation, the group significantly reshaped the St. Louis and, by extension, the American arts landscape.


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Double Vision Black Arts and urban reform
Poets of Action The arts and the local village
A Singular Expression BAGs multimedia continuum
Creative Adaptation New sounds new institutions i87 Chapter 6 Points of Departure European interludes
Going Out Live BAG and the New York loft scene 247 Epilogue
BAG membership list i970
Recordings led by BAG performers i97073
26i List of Author Interviews 262 Key to Abbreviations in Notes
Selected Bibliography
3i2 Index

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About the author (2004)

Benjamin Looker is a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan. He received his bachelor of arts degrees in 2000 from Washington University in St. Louis, with majors in urban studies and music. Looker earned a master's degree from Goldsmiths College, University of London, and recently held a Fulbright scholarship to Canada for study of immigration and the arts.

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