Save the date. On March 8, the Birmingham Weekly will host its first art exhibition opening reception in its new Avondale Bricks gallery space. You are all invited.
On March 8, Birmingham Weekly’s Avondale Bricks Gallery will unveil its first show, EN CADA BARRIO, REVOLUCIÓN. The title comes from an authentic propaganda poster I pulled down off a wall in Old Havana and brought back from Cuba. You can see it on the cover of the Birmingham Weekly. It translates as, In Every Neighborhood, Revolution.
The Weekly is part of revolutionizing the upand-coming Avondale neighborhood, for starters. We have a renovated park, a brewery across the street, new restaurants coming. And we are doing our part. Tell us what revolution is occurring in your neighborhood. The most insurgent project, in our opinion, will win the submitter dinner at the Fish Market.
As you may have noticed, you have a revolution right under your nose. The Weekly, under new ownership and management since June, 2011, is no longer content to sit back and record the happenings in Birmingham. Rather, it is creating them and inviting the public to participate in its new gallery/event space in Avondale.
The Cuban artwork that will go on display March 8 at the Avondale Bricks gallery consists of works by prominent Cuban artists who have exhibited their work in prestigious biennials, galleries, and museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Art in Birmingham, Alabama. I brought all of it back from Cuba myself.
It will include works by José Bedia, Olimpia Ortiz, Kasia Badach, Jorge Luis Marrero, Carlos del Toro, Isolina Limonta, Noel Morera Cruz, and Vladimir de Leon.
The Cuban art will be set off against photographs I have taken on approximately fifty trips to the island. Don’t ask how I got there because then I would have to kill you.
Consistent with the themes of much of the Afro-Cuban art, Birmingham artist Dick Jemison will exhibit some of his African totem-inspired painted wooden sculptures. Dick was also the first artist featured in our Instudio section. I actually got the idea for that section, in which we go into the studios of artists and photograph them at work with their materials in the space they have created for themselves, by visiting the makeshift studios of Cuban artists and documenting them photographically.
Dick Jemison’s work will also give a preview of his upcoming show at the Alabama School of Fine Arts upon the dedication of its new theatre named in honor of his sister Dodie. Dick and I share an ASFA connection, as my grandmother, Mrs. Edwin A. “Bill” Rose, was one of the principal founders of the school that is now one of the finest of its kind in the nation.
Food for the March 8 exhibition opening will be a Greek-Cuban fusion cuisine created in the imagination of George Sarris of the Fish Market and Yellow Bicycle Catering. These include Caribbean-Aegean style shrimp and Cuban sandwiches made with slowroasted pork with rosemary mojo sauce and topped with feta cheese. This unique fare will be complemented by wines I import through my company that sounds like it was named with George Sarris in mind, Athens Imports, to complete the Greek-Latin theme.
Well the wines come from Argentina, not Cuba. But Cuban wine, there is no such thing. There are some wineries in Cuba, down in Pinar del Rio. The wine is not bad at all—the only problem is that the wine is made in Italy and was brought to Soroa, Cuba by my friend Enrico Garzaroli, who used to be the main wine and beer distributor in Cuba till he was kicked out by the authorities who saw too much money being made to let someone else have it.
Wines at the event will include Malbec and Torrontés from Viña Cruz in Mendoza, and Ampakama Viognier and Syrah from San Juan, Argentina.
In addition, the proprietor of Kool Korner, home of authentic Cuban sandwiches in Vestavia, Ildefonso Ramirez, born in Matanzas, Cuba, will co-host the March 8 event along with Stephen Humphreys (that’s me), current owner and publisher of the Birmingham Weekly, and Tina Savas, the original founder and publisher of the Birmingham Weekly and the Birmingham Business Journal.
I am sure Señor Ramirez and I will swap “Historias de Matanzas.” Matanzas is the port city where Ramirez was born and grew up but has not returned since his family fled Cuba after the Castro revolution. I , on the other hand, a mere punk from Birmingham by comparison, have visited Matanzas several times a year for two decades. I started going to Cuba on U.S. Senate and classified State Department business. But on every visit, whatever the mission, I took time to visit and get to know Cuban artists in their homes and studios, and have even collaborated on art projects with them. I will never forget early visits when I visited Tomas Alea and José Bedia in their homes, mesmerized by our conversations about their artistic processes.
I bet Tina Savas can tell some war stories and tales of intrigue, too. A few we even have in common.
And, finally, the Weekly will be announcing special musical guests from its Birmingham-Athens connections. I’m talking about the event on March 8 again, in case you got lost.
The event signals some new directions for the new company, Birmingham Communications, established in 2011 to publish the Weekly, among other things. The Weekly will be hosting events, art exhibits and receptions by local and international artists, as well as dinners and wine tastings.
The Weekly’s gallery/event space is also part of the resurgence of the Avondale neighborhood, complemented by the new park renovations and the opening of the Avondale Brewery and new restaurants, along with established favorites Parkside and Bottletree.
Sharon Lewis, formerly of Hotel Brazil notoriety in Mountain Brook Village, will have funky and antique furnishings on consignment in the Weekly’s Avondale Bricks space on an ongoing basis. Some will be on display at the March 8 opening, also.
But that is not the only thing new for the Weekly. Based on my experience as an entertainment and intellectual property lawyer (hey, why waste a law degree?), the Weekly is starting a campaign to represent its writers and artists not just in Birmingham but worldwide and the company is in the process of finalizing its first nationwide licensing agreement for its content. The Weekly will only be one promotional arm of these far-flung activities. We will tell you more about those later.
To keep up with the pace of the developments, the Birmingham Weekly has recently brought on Jocelyn Bradley Palmer of Director of Special Projects and Jessica Drake as associate publisher. Many people already recognize Jessica from the cover a few weeks ago. She knows what it takes to become the cover girl, but she does not complain about it like lovely Aisha or get all bashful like dear Mallie.
One adjustment the Weekly is making to accommodate all these other activities is to adjust its production schedule. Instead of coming out weekly, per se, the Weekly will come out every ten days. Our rivals are already complaining that it is unfair, but we are not here to suit pseudo-bloggers, and the weekly treadmill did not leave breathing room for these other projects, plus it seemed to me the community did not have enough time to digest all the enthralling contents of one paper before it was replaced on the street by another. We looked at coming out every other week, but decided that the content was too stale by then. So ten days was just right.
We are not weekly, if you want to be literal about it, but we are more or less weekly, and we are still the Weekly, but quite a bit more than that. Come on out, March 8, and check it out.