Celebrating the innovations of “The Professor” Milford Graves and other pandemic programming from Ars Nova Workshop
By Yoni Kroll
September 30, 2020
A musician will go up on stage or be in a recording studio and play for half an hour, maybe an hour, at most two, and that will be all anyone might know about their accomplishments. When we do hear about other artistic or intellectual pursuits, they’re often presented in a way that obviously paints them as an afterthought, a bonus, even a novelty.
When it comes to Milford Graves – jazz percussionist, inventor and innovator, artist, gardener, martial arts practitioner, longtime faculty at Bennington College, community activist, dancer, herbalist, cardiac technician, acupuncturist, and lifelong teacher – there is literally no way to separate the different pieces of his life. Each of them impact the other and together they make the person known to friends, fans, and fellow musicians as The Professor.
That is all on display at the Institute of Contemporary Art in the recently-opened Milford Graves: A Mind-Body Deal exhibit curated by the Ars Nova Workshop and running until the end of January.
While Ars Nova might be best known for the numerous concerts and other live music events they host in the Philly area, the scope of their mission extends beyond that, something that is especially crucial these days. Artistic Director Mark Christman, who founded the organization almost 21 years ago, explained that this shift has been an ongoing one: “After the first decade it became more and more frustrating that the work that Ars Nova was presenting and supporting was limited by the stage.” To that end they began booking shows in non-traditional spaces and doing other programming that was not just the standard band, venue, and audience.
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