One of the most creative activities during MCLA’s Black History Month celebration is a project by Adazae Shepherd-Edwards ’18 of Boston, Mass. A fine and performing arts major who concentrates in arts management with a minor in dance, she’s the vision and the force behind the upcoming “Many Nations, One Thread Fashion Show.”
“Growing up, I made a lot of strong connections with many people who are designers, models and stylists,” Shepherd-Edwards explained. “Most of my friends have become very successful in those fields. I am very interested in dance, modeling, wardrobe, and also in costume production, so curating a fashion show was a great way to introduce myself to those types of fields.”
With funding from a variety of co-sponsors, whom she petitioned to help finance the project, Shepherd-Edwards provided the fashion designers with the fabric and other materials they needed to create the clothing her models – MCLA students – will wear. She also brought the designers to the Berkshires for a silk-screening tutorial in the North Adams Makers’ Mill, and to visit MASS MoCA.
“I’ve tried to push the designers out of their comfort zones,” she said. “The process began with a conversation about art. So, I brought them to MASS MoCA.” There, Shepherd-Edwards and the fashion designers looked at the exhibits, discussed the different installations, and determined ways that the various artworks might influence what they created for the show.
The installations they considered included a collection of marble sculptures by Louise Bourgeois, and the “Thumbs Up for the Mother Ship” exhibition by New Orleans conceptual artist Dawn DeDeaux and Alabamian self-taught sculptor and musician Lonnie Holley.
“The art plays into the theme of arts as a method of survival and how we conduct conversations about integration in the arts field,” Shepherd-Edwards explained. “Part of the project is trying to find out how we integrate the contemporary art community, which is why I chose inner-city artists to come out to the Berkshires. I wanted them to interact with everything that’s happening here in North Adams.”
Inspiration to incorporate art from the Berkshires – and exhibits at MASS MoCA – came after Shepherd-Edwards took two performing arts management courses with MASS MoCA’s managing director for the performing arts and film, Sue Killam, who also teaches classes at MCLA. As a student, and later an as intern who served a performing arts internship with Killam, Shepherd-Edwards forged a relationship with Killam, who also mentored her through the process.
The oldest of nine children, Shepherd-Edwards is keenly aware that her siblings will also one day attend college. “At MCLA, I saw that I could not only work on my career as being an overall performer, but also the arts management portion, and not put my family in considerable debt.”
MCLA’s environment also allowed her to create opportunities to support her future career as a performer of modern dance and ballet. “I feel grounded in my experience here,” she said. “MCLA is in a really great location.”
For more information about this event, contact Michael Obasohan, MCLA’s assistant director of diversity programs and the Multicultural Education Center, (413) 662-5440, or M.Obasohan@mcla.edu.