Josephine Baker: Muse for a New Generation

By: Susannah Abbate, Director of Education & Engagement and Melissa West, Vice President of Curation, Visual and Performing Arts

The Staten Island Urban Center recently partnered with Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden on the Josephine Baker Project, a visual arts workshop involving a multi-generation of participants to examine the life work of Josephine Baker, the talented artist of the 20th century. This project is part of Snug Harbor’s ongoing partnership with the Orchestra St. Luke’s, in which an upcoming virtual concert will explore work by contemporary composer, Valerie Coleman’s Portraits of Josephine.

The art produced is the result of shared thoughts and experiences about this performer whose life-long career started at age 15, whose experience as a stunt pilot enabled her to work as a WWII French Resistance pilot and agent, and whose life experiences as an African American woman led her to become a civil rights activist and icon in American history. The artwork itself includes various Mixed Media Art techniques that combine original portraits of colors, textures, fabrics and adornments reflecting the energy and vibrancy of Josephine Baker. Her life’s work encompassed not only her passion but her willingness to do it all. She did it all, from dressmaker and backstage worker to being the star on the stage; from becoming a valiant member of the French resistance to speaking out on civil rights in America.

The youth artists who participated in this project garnered inspiration from Baker’s radical and powerful legacy while being in conversation with Coleman’s music. Coleman, a Grammy nominated flutist and composer, is largely regarded as an iconic artist within contemporary chamber music.

As you look through the photo gallery, we recommend playing Coleman on Spotify. Let the music guide your viewing experience, let it move you. Then, please join our partners at the Orchestra St. Luke’s on June 9 at 6:30 PM EST for a free, virtual concert and discussion. Learn more!

Youth Artists – Staten Island Urban Center
Angel Munoz Aviles, Jahmya Padilla, Jazmyn Padilla, Leslie Vazquez

Teaching Artist & Digital Photographer
Everet Curry

Historical Guide
Virginia Allen

Project Coordinator
Kelly Vilar

Photo Gallery

Snug Harbor’s Youth Matters program is generously supported in part by NYC Councilmembers Debi Rose and Steven Matteo.