United by the inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris, When We Gather is a multifaceted art project that begins with a three-minute film directed by Codie Elaine Oliver (Black Love/OWN) and an online special broadcast meant to move people to join in the celebration from wherever they are, with a film launch one week after the inauguration, January 27, 2021.
When We Gather is produced by Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco and the film is presented by Creative Time, New York
Artists María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Okwui Okpokwasili, and LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs are launching a multifaceted art project that includes a three-minute art film, directed by Codie Elaine Oliver (Black Love, OWN Network) and narrated by Emmy and Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee Alfre Woodard, meant to inspire people across the country to mark this historic moment and join with them in reflection, dance, and song from wherever they are, with a film launch on January 27, 2021. A one-hour behind-the-scenes, interactive program, When We Gather: Together, will be presented alongside the film.
The film and interactive special pay homage to heroines of the past, visionaries of the present, and leaders of the future. The performers have choreographed circular movements and gestures from diverse traditions evoking storms, spirals, and ancestral energy. Knotted blue fabric is a powerful symbol of connection between the performers. The soundscape incorporates both lyrics and a poem written by Diggs for the project. Attentive to both the upcoming transition of power in our nation and the global pandemic crisis, When We Gather was performed in separate studios and outdoor spaces in Brooklyn, Nashville, and Houston then artfully forged into the short film, narrated by Alfre Woodard.
When We Gather: Together is a 60-minute online production that contextualizes the themes of the film: heal, unite, create. The multi-generational presentation features creative conversations, diverse artistic interpretive performances, and behind-the-scenes interviews with the director and performers and an array of arts and education professionals. This special program is co-produced and hosted by Dr. Nikki A. Greene, tenured professor of art history at Wellesley College and author of an upcoming book that prominently features Campos-Pons.
When We Gather is performed by María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Okwui Okpokwasili, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Dell Marie Hamilton, Jana Harper, Lisa E. Harris, and Samita Sinha.
“When We Gather offers an empowering moment to heal and unite the country through creative energy,” says Campos-Pons, who envisioned the project and brought the artists together. “The circle shows us how we can remain connected even while we are separated due to this pandemic or due to the state of the nation. All of these factors have informed the collaborative choreography and spoken word of this global collective experience.”
“In accepting the nomination for Vice President, Kamala Harris evoked the memory of her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who ‘believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible,’” adds the participating artists. “Harris claimed this moment for ‘the generations of women—Black women, Asian, White, Latina, and Native American women throughout our nation’s history who have paved the way for this moment.’ She called on us all: mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, girls; cis and trans, to celebrate with her. When We Gather is our collective answer to her invitation.”
During a time of seemingly unbridgeable divide, the film celebrates the elemental role women have played during this election season and throughout history in bringing sweeping change across this country.
“Women have voted at higher rates than men in every presidential election since 1980, and exactly 100 years after women won the right to vote we elected the first female Vice President,” says Oliver. “When We Gather celebrates the powerful force of women who have influenced history by first demanding the right to vote and 100 years later, determining an entire Presidential election. It represents the power demonstrated when we, as women, use our voices.”
“When We Gather arrives at an inflection point—serving as both a moment of reflection and a galvanizing call to envision, and enact, a better tomorrow. At this historic moment, the work speaks to the elemental role that women have played in the progress of this nation,” says Justine Ludwig, Executive Director of Creative Time.
“When Magda shared her vision with me, I was so moved that I began to mobilize immediately. This performance presents us all with an opportunity to take part in healing and uniting our divided country through positive action and through the strength and ability of women, starting with the Vice President and running through the accomplished When We Gather team,” said Wendi Norris, founder and director of Gallery Wendi Norris and executive producer of the project. “Tune into the film and to the web site. Imagine our future together. Create your movement and share. #WhenWeGather.”
The project includes costumes designed by Meg Neville with fabric and dresses contributed by Eileen Fisher. When We Gather is produced by an all-female identifying team of artists, scholars, and producers.
Everyone can participate in When We Gather by tuning into the online broadcast at www.whenwegather.art on January 27 at 7 pm EST. The art film and When We Gather: Together will be available at www.whenwegather.art and streamed free worldwide from January 27 through February 15, 2021. The film and special will be screened at locations across the country on select dates thereafter, and these screenings will be published on www.whenwegather.art.
When We Gather is a collaborative artwork produced by Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco. Creative Time, a leading public arts non-profit based in New York, is the presenting organization of the film. It is underwritten with major support from Carl M. Freeman Foundation, Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, and Arts Equity & Education Fund among others.