Today, the Louis Armstrong House Museum (LAHM) announces its new program Armstrong Now. In its inaugural season, contemporary Black artists respond to Louis Armstrong in an integrative video series that will roll out from October 5 through December 31, 2020, culminating in a series of live online discussions. Armstrong Now provides museum-quality programming that promotes equity, access and inclusion to a wider audience outside of its Queens community.
Inspired by the newly digitized archives of Louis Armstrong and the LAHM research collections, four groups of renowned contemporary artists, with the help of filmmaker Ben Stamper, and artistic producer Jake Goldbas have created original short films exploring their respective artforms from spoken word to dance. Each piece is intended to reacquaint audiences everywhere with Louis Armstrong’s legacy of artistry and innovation. New programming content will be released each week, beginning with today’s trailer release and ending in the last week of 2020. Armstrong Now was initially brought forth by Kenyon Adams, former Director of the Museum, and turned into a reality by Jake Goldblas, Artistic Director of Programs at Louis Armstrong House Museum & Archives.
"I am humbled and energized by what we all achieved in this debut season of Armstrong Now,” says Goldbas. “In 2020, when we find ourselves in a calamitous landscape, the digitized Armstrong Archives and home provide a lens and perspective for some of the world's leading artists to show us the way through this. The magic that was created based on our research collections shows us the Armstrongs of today and tomorrow."
Through a nuanced engagement with the Armstrong home and Archives, notable Black artists delve into the complexities of Louis Armstrong and what he represents to culture, responding with new work that encapsulates their own journey. The collaborations, which draw from different art disciplines and synthesize into one cohesive body of work, were filmed in and around the Louis Armstrong House Museum. The immediacy of each short film’s environment allows viewers to revel in the beauty of the artists’ work while appreciating the deep history of the museum.
Each commissioned group of artists is as follows:
Kayla Farrish - Farrish is a New York-based director and dancer whose vision for intimate storytelling is carried out through her company Decent Structure Arts. Her work delves into socio-political structures placed on black and brown bodies in America, expectations on gender and the visibility of the underrepresented, while addressing the history and lineage through America that affects our current state.
Nêgah Santos - Santos is a percussionist from São Paulo, Brazil. Currently, she is part of Jon Batiste's band Stay Human, which is the in-house band of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Christian Sands - A Steinway Artist and five-time Grammy Nominee, pianist Sands has toured internationally with Christian McBride and was a American Pianists Association Jazz Fellowship Awards Finalist in 2014.
Braxton Cook - FADER Magazine called Cook a “Jazz Marvel” and “Jazz Prodigy” and was recently listed as a Top Five Jazz Artist To Watch by Ebony Magazine. In 2018, Braxton released his sophomore album entitled No Doubt (Independent) which debuted at #2 on iTunes Jazz Charts, amassed 1M streams in its first month and after 2 years totaled 5M streams.
“Armstrong Now is an initiative that is not only timely but necessary,” says Martha Nichols. “Understanding the parallels in cultural discourse between today and during Louis’ life, this initiative is a beautiful look into the humanity of the cultural and musical icon Louis Armstrong, while strengthening the connection with black artists of this generation.”
Earlier this year, Regina Bain was announced as LAHM’s new Executive Director. Bain brings nearly two decades of nonprofit experience with her as well as a formal education in theatre. As Executive Director, Bain will uphold LAHM’s dedication to serving its community with accessible, family-friendly arts and education through new programs like Armstrong Now.
"Through Armstrong Now, established artists of every discipline who know Louis can delve deep into his archives and create new work based on their experiences.” says Bain. “There is also a generation of artists whose work is deeply connected to Louis Armstrong but they don’t know it yet. Armstrong Now will bring them in intimate proximity to his legacy and give them the opportunity to learn, to interpret and to respond in ways that reflect the issues of today and their own artistic values."