Cart 0

Art and the Life of the City

Seminar Leader:
Edward Epstein


In various instances, time and place have come together to create a cultural nexus. In such moments, political, economic, and geographic forces have brought creative minds together to birth new ideas in visual art, music, and literature. Although there have been many such “art scenes” throughout history, this seminar will focus on a few key examples, both in the United States and abroad.

First, we looked at the original “Bohemia”- Paris in the mid-19th Century, which was home to such figures as Manet, Zola, and Baudelaire. Next we will move to Harlem in the mid-twentieth century, which was the backdrop for the development of avant-garde jazz (Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, etc) as well as innovations in painting by Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden. Finally, we examined the East Village in New York in the 1980s, which saw a flowering of many kinds of creative expression: a range of”­ isms” in visual art; punk, new wave, and rap music; and a variety of other forms, including video and performance art.

The seminar was geared toward teachers in a wide range of subjects, and thus with each situation we explored not only the art created but the social and political factors that contributed to it. As participants developed their own curricula, they were encouraged to look at examples around the world, and also to consider whether Philadelphia played host to an “art scene” at any time.

Unit TitleAuthor


Strange Fruit – Metaphors, Music and Place – Jazz and Hip Hop as Reflective of the Times

Samuel A. Reed, III
Keywords: Art, Culture, hip-hop, Jazz, lyrics, Music, popular culture, Reading, social studies, society, videos, writing

Dance, Readings, Acting, Music, and Art (D.R.A.M.A.): A Study of African American Performing and Visual Arts in the 1940s – 1950s

Leslie Carlis
Keywords: acting, African American, Art, dance, Music, performing arts, Reading, visual arts

Paul Robeson, African-American Artist, and the McCarthy Era

Carole Chernecky
Keywords: African American, American Literature, Art, artist, Drama, Elgnish, Identity, Paul Robeson, social justice, social studies

The Harlem Renaissance

Richard P. Holmes
Keywords: African American, African American art, African American History, dance, History, Literature, Music, The Harlem Renaissance

Elizabeth Catlett, Charles White and the Taller de Grafica Popular of Mexico

Audrey J. Jackson
Keywords: African American art, Art, artists, Mexico, printmaking, social awareness

Celebrated Impressions from the Painters of Paris

Debra Migden
Keywords: Art, artists, Impressionist, Paris, society

American Expatriates in the 1920s: Why Paris?

Deborah Samuel
Keywords: American Literature, Art, British literature, dance, Harlem, Literature, Music, Paris, Renaissance

The Life and Work of Dox Thrash: An Expression of Identity

Pamela Toller
Keywords: African American art, African American History, Art, cultural climate, Culture, Dox Thrash, History, political climate, social climate

Shedding False Images Through Art and Poetry

John J. Grob
Keywords: bravadi, code switching, Identity, masks, stereotypes