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‘Black Narratives’ series lands at LPCA next week

LAKE PLACID — The Lake Placid Center for the Arts is offering an online course this fall that will explore Black culture through words, artwork and music created by Black people. The four-part series, “Black Narratives,” starts on Oct. 7.

Janelle Gray, a University of Texas instructor and Harvard graduate, will lead the course through multimedia materials — literature from Toni Morrison, music from Nina Simone and television shows like “Black-ish” are some of the resources that Gray plans to use to guide participants in learning about Black stories. The class will explore the historical and political context of these stories, their messages, why they are important and their impact on communities.

LPCA Director James Lemons said that when the center started to consider creating a course “that uses arts and culture to explore what makes us as humans incredibly different and exceptionally similar,” he immediately thought of Gray. He met her over 15 years ago, when he worked with Gray’s mother Denise on a number of theater projects in Dallas, Texas. Even though Gray was in college when Lemons met her, he said she made a lasting impression.

“Even then I was so impressed with Janelle’s curiosity, her ability to communicate and explain complex thoughts in an approachable way, and her desire to share what she has learned with others,” he wrote in an email Friday.

LPCA Director of Education and Outreach Tara Palen said the center wanted to bring that talent and perspective to the Lake Placid community.

“We reached out to her to help create a course that would help us address the desire for more understanding and diversity in our area, to help us explore and embrace stories outside of our norm — using art as the vehicle,” she wrote in an email Friday.

In a news release, the LPCA encouraged locals and organizations throughout the community to take part in the course. The online classes will be globally accessible.

Nicky Hylton-Patterson, director of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative and a Clarkson University instructor, said she plans to enroll some Clarkson students from her Introduction to Sexualities course in the Black Narratives series.

“This class provides an opportunity for students to engage sites of knowledge on Black cultural expressions,” she said. “With Black Narratives, Gray brings Black culture to life in ways that expose the pain, anger, pride and beauty inherent in Black America.”

Palen said if the course is a success, the LPCA hopes to continue offering courses in cultural education.

Series registration and scholarships

Scholarship opportunities are available for anyone who wants to participate in the series but finds that the $62 entry fee is a barrier. Palen fields scholarship inquiries for the course, and she said in an email Wednesday that there is not a deadline to apply for scholarships and there is not a limit to the scholarships the LPCA is willing to offer.

“We want to make scholarships to this class as accessible as possible to people who are interested and remove any embarrassment or obstacles that would prevent them from applying,” she wrote.

Anyone interested in participating can email Palen at tara@lakeplacidarts.org anytime before the first day of class on Oct. 7. Attendees who are able to pay the full registration fee can sign up online at lakeplacidarts.org, or by calling the LPCA at 518-523-2512.

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