NCAAA History, continued
the early 1970's, the NCAAA/ELSFA offered professional
and teaching programs in dance, music, theater, visual
arts, sewing and costuming, and technical theater, as well
as continuing the operation of the Elma Lewis Playhouse-in-the-Park
that had begun in 1967. By the mid-1970s, in addition to
serving more than 400 6-12 year- old students, and 100
teen and adult students annually, the NCAAA/ELSFA taught
an additional 100 students from community schools and nearly
as many prisoners in Norfolk Correctional Institution.
Serving these students was a staff of over 125 full and
part-time teachers, including such distinguished artists
as noted Nigerian drummer Michael Olatunji, Talley Beatty,
Billy Wilson and A.B. Spellman.
the site of an abandoned firehouse in Franklin Park, Boston's
largest park, the NCAAA/ELSFA produced free (1967-1978)
nightly performances from July 4th through Labor Day. Traditionally,
Michael Olatunji opened the season. Each season, Duke Ellington
was featured. Other greats presented over the years include:
Max Roach, Billy Taylor, Odetta and the Boston Pops Orchestra.
The model of the Elma Lewis Playhouse-in-the-Park inspired
the city of Boston to begin its popular outdoor performance
series dubbed "Summerthing".
in 1971, the NCAAA presented an annual spring extravaganza
titled "Celebrate!" Consisting of an art exhibition
in City Hall, an original show of music, dance and theater
at the Music Hall (now Wang Center), and a cabaret in its
own facilities, "Celebrate!" events focused on
aspects of black cultural and social history combining
teaching, entertainment and fund raising ambitions into
one dynamic program series. Celebrate brought many great
cultural and artistic figures to Boston, including Mary
Lou Williams, Eubie Blake, Muhammad Ali, Thomas Dorsey,
Vinette Carroll and Bea Richards.
of the NCAAA, founded in 1969, developed
in close cooperation with the Museum
of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston, and in addition
to presentations in its own space, has co-presented nine
exhibitions with the MFA. Prominent among these were "Afro-American
Artists: New York and Boston" (1970); "Reflective
Moments: Lois Mailou Jones" (1973); "Afro-American
Artists on Afro-America" (1975); "Contemporary
Art of Senegal (1980)"; "Dialogue: John Wilson/
Joseph Norman" (1994) and "View from the Upper
Room: The Art of John Biggers" (1997).
Museum of the NCAAA, relocated to its own building in 1980,
has organized and presented a rich schedule of exhibitions
since 1969, including several which have toured nationally,
such as "Our Commonwealth: Our Collections: Works
from Historically Black Colleges and Universities".
Other shows, such as "Invisible Man: Blacks in Post
Colonial Europe", travelled internationally.
1995, the Museum opened "Aspelta:
A Nubian King's Burial Chamber", featuring the world's only scale
recreation of a Nubian tomb interior supported by more
than 50 2,600 year-old objects. Exceeding 4,000 works,
the Museum's collection includes a 17th-century illuminated
Ethiopian manuscript of the Miracles of Mary, as well as
art by Charles White, Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett,
Jacob Lawrence, and others. Since its beginning in 1969,
the Museum has been directed by Edmund Barry Gaither.
the late 1970s, the ELSFA underwent a period of great financial
stress resulting in staff and service reductions, and a
transfer of facilities ownership from the ELSFA to the
NCAAA. Compounding the problems was a fire which interrupted
operations—except for the Museum which was housed
elsewhere--at the turn of the 1980s. Use of the school
building ended altogether after a second fire in 1984.
Nevertheless, the Museum and Black Musical Productions
remain vital divisions of the NCAAA.
present plans, the NCAAA hopes to return to the scale and
scope of its earlier operations, since its original mission
NCAAA remains the largest independent black cultural arts
institution in New England. It has forged an unbroken record
of public service in the celebration of the world heritage
of black people since 1968. Commitment to excellence in
the arts and wholesome cultural development remain its