"Arkestry of the Cosmos" Exhibition

sun ra "Arkestry of the Cosmos" is an exhibition of the archives, art, and interviews of Sun Ra and members of the “Ark” at the William Grant Stills Center. 

Sun Ra (1914-1993) was a prolific jazz composer, bandleader, synthesizer, known for his music, poetry and performances based on a “cosmic philosophy” and quest to expand minds, music, and the souls through musical experimentation. Known for his eclectic and quirky music and lifestyle, Sun Ra led an ensemble called “The Arkestra” which changed names as Sun Ra’s music constantly changed and grew. Music aficionados consider Ra’s influence great, including many technical music innovations, and a reaffirmation of music rooted in black history,
mysticism and spirituality.

Featuring artwork by video art pioneer Ulysses Jenkins, Ramsess, Norm Maxwell, Samuel Pace, and murals by Aise Bourne, the exhibition consists of over 150 rare photographs, videos, articles, important highlights from The Arkestra’s vinyl discography (33 1/3s, 45s, and 78s) plus original concert posters pulled from local collections. This exhibition is especially relevant to local audiences because Sun Ra first appeared in Los Angeles at the Dorsey High School Auditorium in 1969, just blocks from the Grant Still Arts Center.

The exhibition was launched to a SRO audience with special one-time performance of alumni from The Arkestra and other noted local musicians, including former Arkestra member Dale Williams with Dwight Trible , Edwin Livingston , Bobby West , Marcus Miller , and Derf Reklaw. Reklaw was a musician with Kelan Phil Cochran’s Artistic Ensemble, a spiritual jazz ensemble with ties to Sun Ra’s Chicago years, when Mr. Cochran “learned his keys from Sun Ra” and played with the Arkestra.

The exhibition is fifth in the Still’s African-American Heritage Exhibition series, celebrating the life and work of African American composers. Prior exhibitions spotlighted such jazz legends as Charlie Mingus, Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach. 

Sun Ra and the Arkestry is also the current theme of the Still Center’s remarkable Heritage Music Education Program. The Center offers low-cost instruction for children and teens on various musical instruments and voice. This quarter students will learn to play Sun Ra’s works, culminating in free public concert scheduled at the end of the exhibition on April 20, 2013. 

Three Generations Grow Strong at the Grant Still

Parent Brenda, daughter Rosly and grandmother Norma represent three generations of the Guzman family active in the Center’s youth workshops. Brenda echoes the sentiments of most participants in the Center’s popular programs: “It’s helped us be a lot more creative. We are learning so much and spending time together. It’s good because I see my daughter more active, in a creative way. “ Brenda attributes the Center’s programs as a big influence in her child’s development, “She is shy so it forces her to interact and build confidence. Actually I feel her self-esteem has improved a lot. I love the programs that are offered here.

Youth Musicians Performing Professionally

In addition to the public music lessons, The William Grant Still Youth Ensemble consists of local youth musicians ages 11-14, most of whom began their music education with the center as young children. The Ensemble was formed in 2012 and made their public debut summer 2012 at the South LA Summer Power Festival and at LAXART gallery as part of Made in LA. They are currently also learning about Sun Ra and will be performing April 20-21 and April 26.

The William Grant Still Arts Center is located at 2520 South West View Street (off Adams) Los Angeles, CA 90016

(323) 734-1165 

You can also visit the center's facebook page for more information.


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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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