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Digitized Artist Talks from the 20th Century, from Alice Neel to Gordon Parks

The Maryland Institute College of Art’s Decker Library is digitizing rare audio from their cultural lecture archives, and offering them to stream on the Internet Archive.

Audio for Alice Neel's 1981 lecture at the Maryland Institute College of Art on the Internet Archive (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)
Audio for Alice Neel’s 1981 lecture at the Maryland Institute College of Art on the Internet Archive (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

The Decker Library at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) has over 700 audiocassette tapes in its MICA Mades collection, including poetry readings, cultural discussions, and artist lectures from the 1960s to the 1990s. This month, MICA announced that through its Digital Initiatives Unit over 80 of these recordings are now digitized and available online through the Internet Archive. MICA confirmed to Hyperallergic that this is the first time these recordings have been made available to the public.

This newly accessible resource shared on the nonprofit digital library platform will continue to grow. The digitization project was launched in March, with academic lectures and readings by late authors like Amiri Baraka, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Charles Bukowski included. Alongside are 20th-century artists discussing their work, including photographer Gordon Parks,  painter and printmaker Elizabeth Murray, color field painter Sam Gilliam, portraitist Alice Neel, landscape and domestic scene painter Fairfield Porter, abstract painter Ad Reinhardt, social realist Ben Shahn, and collaborative duo Gilbert and George.

Below you can find a few of these recordings embedded, such as Parks in 1970 discussing how he took up photography as it would be “a quicker outlet” than any other medium, and how when he saw black and white participants in the Civil Rights sit-ins in the South, he “knew that something had happened in America that we could never turn back on.” Neel in 1981 talks about a painting process based on her witnessed world, including how she “used to do something from memory every day just to train my memory.” Reinhardt states that for him, art is “always academic,” and “is always a construction or contrivance or a formula, or as, Yeats may say, some kind of a mask. It is a manner and it’s an artifice, and this is the only point of view that an artist can take.” And Murray, in 1981, emphasizes that it’s the experience of creating her art “not the product afterward,” that’s important, otherwise the work “doesn’t stand for very much.” Many more recordings from MICA are streamable at the Internet Archive.

Gordon Parks, 1970:

Alice Neel, 1981:

Ad Reinhardt (nd):

Elizabeth Murray, 1981:

Sam Gilliam, 1977:

Ben Shahn, 1963:

Access all of the digitized MICA Mades audio from the Decker Library at the Maryland Institute College of Art online at the Internet Archive.

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