In Permanent Collection, a white patron of the arts dies and leaves his collection to a black university. Thomas Gibbons drama -- which opens at Karamu House tonight -- explores how art and race converge and collide over the collected works.
After controversial businessman Sterling North takes over the Alfred Morris Foundation, he discovers a wealth of black art stored in the basement. He decides to replace the paintings of naked white women hanging on the walls with the black art. Theres a tussle over the idea of the permanent collection, says director Terrence Spivey. Norths intentions set off a battle with the foundations longtime arts education director. Theres no underdog, says Spivey. In the end, you dont know who to root for. Whos right? Whos wrong?
Spivey carries this ambiguity to the plays staging: Instead of showing the artwork in question, its described. The frames hanging on the walls are empty. Yes, thats symbolism at work. You cant fit into predetermined spaces with different shapes, says Spivey. Its a matter of allowing people to walk into your space. You need to know what goes on under peoples skins.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Jan. 19. Continues through Feb. 11