Lincoln Center Premieres Visual Poem Tribute to John Lewis and C.T. Vivian

Lincoln Center has released Baptism, a three-part tribute poem inspired by the legacies of civil rights leaders John Lewis and C.T. Vivian by award-winning poet and artist Carl Hancock Rux. The Lincoln Center commission has been crafted into an 11-minute short abstract film, The Baptism, directed by MacArthur Fellowship-winning artist Carrie Mae Weems.

The tribute is now available to view for free at TheBaptismPoem.org. Semi-permanent installations and special screenings will be announced in the coming months.

Lincoln Center continues to commission artists to create new works of art that respond to our current moment, and reimagine the use of its digital and public spaces to better support our communities through the arts and civic engagement. In addition to the release of The Baptism – with its themes of the importance of engaging in the democratic process – Lincoln Center joins cultural organizations around the country in presenting Carrie Mae Weems’ large-scale, outdoor installation of Resist COVID/Take 6!, a public art campaign seeking to raise awareness about measures to prevent the spread of the deadly virus within Black, Latinx, and Native American communities. Resist COVID/Take 6! will be on display as Lincoln Center serves as a polling site during early voting and on election day this November and beyond.

“When I was asked by Lincoln Center to write a poetic tribute to John Lewis and C.T. Vivian, I could only realize that as a Black man in America, I owed a great ‘thank you’ to the many men and women who had already confronted the world, and did something in order to change it,” said poet and artist Carl Hancock Rux. “Some of them simply sang a song. Some preached a sermon. Some marched. Some organized protests and some gave themselves willingly to insurrection. These two men did all of the above so that I could inherit my own survival in the constant narrative of a turbulent world. Being asked to do the work of writing and performing poetry that somehow paid tribute to these men was more than a commission. It was actually a nudge to remind me of who we, African American people, really are.”

The Baptism pays homage to the monumental impact of the late statesman John Lewis and minister C.T. Vivian, two towering figures of the Civil Rights Movement who stood at the front lines of the battle for racial justice in the 1960s. In addition to the full film, audiences can view an intimate interview with Rux conducted by Carrie Mae Weems, available at TheBaptismPoem.org. In this telling conversation, Rux shares the profound and pivotal moments of his life that shaped him as a person, activist, and artist who grew to find inspiration in leaders like Lewis, who “found a tongue, a language, a means of articulation, a way of speaking to the universe and through time.”

“We are so touched by this powerful tribute to John Lewis and C.T. Vivian. Carl’s poetry captures the enduring influence of these two iconic men and calls us all to think about how we are part of a larger community,” said Jordana Leigh, Director, David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center. “The film was made with the deepest admiration for John Lewis and C.T. Vivian, which can be seen both through Carl’s words and Carrie’s compelling visuals and direction. This dream-team of artists have stirred my soul and I hope the film does the same for our viewers.”

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About Carl Hancock Rux

Carl Hancock Rux is an American poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, actor, director, singer/ songwriter. He is the author of several books including the Village Voice Literary Prize-winning “Pagan Operetta,” the novel, Asphalt, and the Obie Award-winning play, Talk. Rux is also a singer/songwriter with four CDs to his credit, as well as a frequent collaborator in the fields of dance, theater, film, and contemporary art. Notable collaborators include Nona Hendryx, Toshi Reagon, Bill T. Jones, Ronald K. Brown, Nick Cave, Anne Bogart, Robert Wilson, Kenny Leon, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jonathan Demme, Stanley Nelson Jr., Carrie Mae Weems, Glenn Ligon and others. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Doris Duke Award for New Works, the Doris Duke Charitable Fund, the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Prize, the Bessie Award and the Alpert Award in the Arts, and a 2019 Global Change Maker award by WeMakeChange.Org. His archives are housed at the Billy Rose Theater Division of the New York Public Library, the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution as well as the Film and Video/Theater and Dance Library of the California Institute of the Arts. Mr. Rux is a co-Artistic Director of Mabou Mines.

About Carrie Mae Weems

Widely renowned as one of the most influential living American artists, Carrie Mae Weems examines how our society structures power through deeply embedded stories, images, and ideas. A gifted storyteller who works porously between text and image, Weems has developed a revolutionary approach to the expression of narratives about women, people of color and working-class communities, “conjuring lush art from the arid polemics of identity” (The New York Times). With a complex body of work encompassing photography, text, fabric, audio, digital image, installation, performance, and video, Weems’ work asks us to look deeply at the two-dimensional image, to explore complex realities and revisit unexamined perspectives.

Weems has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions at major national and international museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Frist Center for Visual Art, the Solomon Guggenheim Museum in New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo in Seville, Spain. Weems has received numerous awards and honors, including the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, the Rome Prize, the U.S. Department of State Inaugural Medal of Arts, BET Honors Visual Artist Award, and W.E.B. Du Bois Medal from Harvard University. She is represented in public and private collections around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; MoMA, NY; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; MOCA, Los Angeles; Whitney Museum, NY; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Tate Modern, London. Weems resides in Syracuse and Brooklyn, New York. She is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery.

THE OFFICE produces a variety of Weems’ projects, which include her multi-artist, multi-disciplinary performance works Grace Notes: Reflections for Now (premiered Spoleto Festival USA, 2016) and Slow Fade to Black with Geri Allen (premiered BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival 2012); Resist COVID/Take 6!, her COVID-19 public awareness project; The Future Is Now and I Am It: A Parade to Mark the Moment at the opening festival of the REACH at the Kennedy Center; and unique, expansive gatherings like Carrie Mae Weems LIVE: Past Tense / Future Perfect, a two-day series of presentations, performances, and conversations with artists, activists, curators and others held in association with her 2014 career retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

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