PARAMUS, N.J. – Bergen Community College will close its monthslong celebration of Englewood artist and activist Faith Ringgold with a musical and stage performance on Thursday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the College’s Anna Maria Ciccone Theatre at the main campus. Guests can visit tickets.bergen.edu to purchase their seats; general admission is $25, with discounts offered to senior citizens, students and College staff.
The event, “With Faith, Coming to Jones Road,” will feature two newly commissioned creative works developed specifically for the Ringgold exhibition.
Grammy-nominated composer Rufus Reid, who has recorded on more than 500 albums and received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, will perform a jazz suite that will provide the evening’s soundtrack. Reid has divided the suite into five sections - each named for a piece within Ringgold’s “Coming to Jones Road.” He will play bass, with Mark Gross (alto saxophone), Freddie Hendrix (trumpet), Roberta Piket (piano) and Kenneth Salters (drums) comprising the ensemble.
Meanwhile, a verbatim theatre performance developed by College faculty and read by students will offer a window into the origin stories of ancestor journeys to Bergen County alongside Reid’s suite. Compiled by professors Christine Eubank, Ph.D., and Leigh Jonaitis, Ph.D., the oral histories provide verbatim stories from members of the community who worked with the professors to include their narratives.
After the performance, guests can enjoy refreshments prepared by the College’s culinary students in the theatre lobby and visit the “Coming to Jones Road” exhibition currently on view in Gallery Bergen. The series of artwork, inspired by the Ringgold family’s 1992 move to Englewood that subjected them to racism and hostility as Blacks, chronicles her own story of survival while celebrating her ancestors and their journeys along the Underground Railroad into Harlem. The exhibition opened in January at the College.
The Ringgold project at Bergen has also featured a children’s reading room/makerspace where parents could accompany their children to hear stories from Ringgold’s 17 books and create artwork inspired by what they have seen and heard.
The College secured $22,500 in grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Puffin Foundation and the Bergen County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs to develop the comprehensive celebration of Ringgold’s work and activism. Gallery Bergen Director Tim Blunk led the initiative and also collaborated with the National Coalition of Black Women (Bergen/Passaic Chapter), the Englewood Public Library, the Teaneck Public Library and the Black Child Development Institute (BCDI) - Paramus Affiliate in support of the projects. The Puffin Foundation presented a smaller, contemporaneous show of printed works by Ringgold at the Puffin Cultural Forum in Teaneck.
Born in 1930 in Harlem, Ringgold began painting in the 1960s. Later, she would create tankas (inspired by a Tibetan art form of paintings framed in fabric), of which her “Tar Beach” remains in the permanent collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City. As a writer, Ringgold received the Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King award for the best-illustrated children’s book of 1991 for “Tar Beach” as well. Professor Emeritus of Art at the University of California in San Diego, Ringgold has received 23 honorary doctorates.
Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls more than 13,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.
Photo caption: Observers have enjoyed Faith Ringgold’s works as part of a Bergen Community College exhibition since January.