“Now that it has moved along to the point where it can be used, the Abyssinian needs to reach out to the community and share what it is ,” said painter Daniel Minter this afternoon. He was curating what will be a landmark event for the historic Abyssinian Meeting House on Munjoy Hill as it participates for the first time in the monthly First Friday Art Walk tomorrow evening. “People walk by all the time and wonder what is this building about? It’s time to tell them. This art show gives us a connection to our diverse history in this neighborhood,” said the soft-spoken Minter.
Although Minter is primarily an illustrator for children’s books, he paints larger pieces of work as well. On display is a striking oil of the African-American blues singer Ma Rainey. She was known for her powerful voice and phrasing,. She recorded with Louie Armstrong and was born in Georgia. She died in 1939. Minter’s painting now for sale at the Abyssinian was used as publicity for a revival of an August Wilson play about the blues singer that ran in Chicago in 2003. (See below right photo.)
Also for sale by Minter are the carving tools used by James Washington, Jr., a granite sculptor who was a mentor for Minter. “I learned from him. I learned that there is life in everything – even in stone.” said Minter. Washington had an art studio in Seattle on which Minter served as a board member.
Minter was raised in the south in a large family – eight sisters and four brothers. “We had no money, but we didn’t call ourselves poor.” said Minter this afternoon. “Just because a woman is physically strong, it doesn’t mean she can’t be feminine. My sisters were physically strong as well as feminine.” (See above right photo of painting.)
The Abyssinian Meeting House, 75 Newbury Street on Munjoy Hill was built in 1828. It was part of the Underground Railroad and survived the Great Fire of 1866 incredibly. However, remains of smoke damage used to be visible on the walls. Thanks to the amazing perseverance and vision for the future of the Abyssinian, Leonard Cummings, his daughter, Deborah, and his wife, the historic Abyssinian has gotten to the point where it is now renovated sufficiently to be open to the public. That has always been the vision of the non-profit that Leonard Cummings led.
The Abyssinian will be open with other cultural events through the month of May 2017. Please check the website for more specific information. abyme.org