WHYY's ArtWorks draws on performing and visual arts stories from its sister PBS stations to bring viewers a geographically diverse arts experience.

Featured Artists: SMAG Dance Collective, Albert Ewing, and Texas Southern University Murals

Meet a dance company that provides a creative outlet to all dancers; find out if there is a formula for making people laugh; tour history through murals at a university in Houston; and learn the shocking truth behind some frightening old photographs.

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SMAG Dance Collective

SMAG Dance Collective is a contemporary fusion dance company founded by Michael Groomes in 2003. The company’s eclecticism in movement, choice of venue and its dancers pushes the boundaries of contemporary dance. SMAG’s mission is to provide opportunity for dancers and choreographers, educate and entertain diverse audiences, and to bridge the gap between artists, arts organizations and the community. SMAG collaborates with other organizations as a part of our mission. The company has spearheaded an effort to dialogue with other arts producing organizations and develop collaborations which push the impetus of the region toward being an arts and cultural destination.

Texas Southern University Murals

For more than 60 years, the walls of Texas Southern University have served as the canvas of expressive students. Today the halls are lined with over 100 murals, and they are dripping with American history. In a major commitment to preserve the cultural legacy of 128 university murals painted by Texas Southern University art students that adorn the walls of Texas Southern University’s Hannah Hall, the TSU administration, led by University President, Dr. John M. Rudley, and College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences Dean, Dr. Danille Taylor, implemented plans to restore the historic works of art. Inspired by the murals of Charles White and Diego Rivera, Dr. John T. Biggers – world renowned artist and founder of the Art Department at Texas Southern, instituted the program of mural painting for art majors soon after he arrived on the campus. The result is a visual narrative of African American culture with themes ranging from Reconstruction and the early development of Historically Black Colleges, to the Civil Rights Movement, to the impact of global culture and migration on the world’s youth.

  • Photo credit: TSU Murals

Albert J. Ewing

Traveling photographer Albert J. Ewing was born in 1870 in Washington County, Ohio, near Marietta. He most likely began his photography career in the 1890s, and the 1910 US Census and a 1912-1913 directory both list his profession as “photographer.” A negative signed “Ewing Brothers” and a picture with his younger brother, Frank, indicate that the latter may also have joined the business. During the period of 1896 to 1912, Ewing traveled extensively as an itinerant photographer in southeastern Ohio and central West Virginia, dealing primarily in individual and group portraits, as well as landscapes and others scenes of daily life. After 1916, directories list Albert as a salesman. He died in 1934.

The Ewing Collection consists of 5,055 glass plate negatives, each individually housed and numbered. Additionally, the collection includes approximately 450 modern contact prints made from the glass plate negatives. Subjects include infants and young children, elderly people, families, school and religious groups, animals and rural scenes. The Ohio Historical Society received the collection in 1982, still housed in the original dry plate negative boxes purchased by Albert J. Ewing. A selection of the original glass plate negatives were exhibited for the first time in 2013 at the Ohio Historical Center.

  • Photo credit: Albert J. Ewing, courtesy of Ohio Memory

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