A&E Roundup: YMI, local artists celebrate Kwanzaa

SEVEN SOULFUL NIGHTS: Elder Alexander Ravenel II is one of the community leaders and local artists featured in the YMI Cultural Center's digital Kwanzaa celebration. Daily installments will debut Saturday, Dec. 26-Friday, Jan. 1, on the YMI’s YouTube channel. Photo courtesy of Hamilton Media Design

The YMI Cultural Center hosts a digital Kwanzaa celebration Saturday, Dec. 26-Friday, Jan. 1. Organized by local DJ and educator Nex Millen, the series features a new hourlong program each day that explores a different Kwanzaa principle. Dubbed “Kwanzaa 365 — A Seven-day Celebration for a Year-round Practice,” the prerecorded installments include teachings from such community leaders as Alexander Ravenel II, Kenya Stevens and Michael Hayes; a description of each principle (unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith) and how to relate each to daily life; and a ritual and candle-lighting ceremony.

There will also be a daily musical spotlight. Local artists Leeda “Lyric” Jones, Kia “Virtuous” Rice, Davaion “Spaceman Jones” Bristol, Kevin Spears, Brothers in Christ and Jamar Woods have recorded performances for the occasion, along with a praise dance by Denise Carter. The free event will be viewable via YMI’s YouTube channel. avl.mx/8t0

Local screenwriter does good

Erwin High School media assistant Jeff Hand has had one of his screenplays turned into a feature film. Co-written with Australian director Mark Toia, the sci-fi/action movie Monsters of Man follows a corrupt CIA agent (Neal McDonough, Captain America: The First Avenger) who secretly sends four prototype robots into a suspected drug manufacturing camp in central Asia. The operation quickly goes awry, forcing a team of doctors on a goodwill mission to use their wits to avoid becoming the robots’ next targets. The film is available to rent or buy via Amazon Video, iTunes and other streaming platforms. monstersofman.movie

Shutterbug celebrities

The Asheville Art Museum opens Vantage Points: Contemporary Photography from the Whitney Museum of American Art on Friday, Dec. 18. The exhibit features work from Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Gregory Crewdson, William Eggleston, Nan Goldin, Sally Mann, Peter Hujar, Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, Lorna Simpson and Andy Warhol, on loan from the Whitney’s permanent collection. All of the photographs were taken between the 1970s and mid-2000s and explore how the medium has been used to represent individuals, places and narratives over that time. The show will be on display through Monday, March 15. ashevilleart.org

Sugar plum fairy season

Miss seeing The Nutcracker in person each holiday season? Local ballet and dance companies have you covered.

The Asheville Ballet has filmed a live performance at the Diana Wortham Theatre. For $20, the video may be viewed an unlimited number of times Sunday, Dec. 20-Sunday, Jan. 3 (ashevilleballet.com). And Asheville Community Dance Theatre will have the video of its 2019 Nutcracker screened at Rabbit Rabbit on Saturday, Dec. 19, at noon, complete with on-site appearances by a handful of cast favorites in costume. Free to attend, but donations to ACDT are encouraged. rabbitrabbitavl.com

Emotional return

Asheville-based singer/songwriter Ben Phantom’s new video for his song “Saigon” chronicles his Vietnam War refugee father’s return to his homeland after 42 years of living in the United States. The project took Phantom nearly a year to complete and was funded in part by those who support his work via the online Patreon platform.

“My father’s had so many painful experiences — I think that may be part of why it took him so long to want to go back to Vietnam,” Phantom says. “Despite that pain, there remains this joy and love and sense of connectedness to his country and his people. He’s shown me the importance of facing the past and how to find peace and acceptance around that.” benphantom.com

Buy local (holiday edition)

Shoppers in search of a last-minute, locally made present can find plenty of options via The Big Crafty’s online gift guide. Unable to host its seasonal indie art and craft festival in person for the first time in over a decade, the event organizers have pivoted to a digital platform, publishing a list of selected artists and spotlighting standout work and gift ideas via The Big Crafty’s social media pages. thebigcrafty.com

Creative history

The Asheville Area Arts Council has created a timeline that captures over 120 years of highlights from the local creative sector. Executive Director Katie Cornell was inspired to construct the chronicle after subscribing to newspapers.com in order to research the history of the AAAC. “What I found was so fascinating that it all sort of developed from there,” she says. ashevillearts.com/about-us/timeline


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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for ashevillemovies.com and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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