Mwenso Screenshot.

Published November 17, 2020

Each semester, the Arts Collaboratory’s Working Artists Lab hosts a Visiting Professor in the Arts. This semester, we welcomed musician, performer and activist Michael Mwenso, leader of the internationally acclaimed Mwenso & the Shakes. Mwenso’s course Protest, Hope and Resilience Through the Black Arts led students on a fascinating journey through the history of African and African American art—and revealed the ways in which Black artists have always propelled cultural and political change.

In association with UB music and dance professors–including renowned jazz musician George Caldwell and internationally recognized master teacher, actor, director and producer Maria S. Horne–Mwenso’s Working Artists Lab combined instruction and mentoring to give UB students an understanding of how professional artists create and collaborate in the real world. Mwenso’s own unique form of musical code-switching brings together the great American songbook, African beats, funk, modern jazz, dance pop, Delta blues and cabaret theater. Students were able to witness these disparate influences coming together to produce art intended to build hope and inspire change.

Michael Mwenso’s last Fall 2020 classes at UB took place this month. Now the Arts Collaboratory is making our videos of Protest, Hope and Resilience Through the Black Arts available to all. We know you’ll find them entertaining, enlightening and uplifting.

mwenso thread.

“In times of crisis and uncertainty it’s through the arts that we might bring enlightenment and awareness and yes, healing too. In our forum, we strove to make visible what often remains invisible, to address erasures, to build community, to hope, and to open a safe environment where we can engage in healthy dialogue. While learning about “Protest, Hope, and Resilience through the Black Arts” from a team of exceptionally talented interdisciplinary artists, our students and our faculty discovered so much more! We are all overwhelmed by the richness of this experience and hope there will be more of the kind soon."

– Maria S. Horne, Associate Professor, UB Department of Theatre and Dance and director of the IACE International Artistic and Cultural Exchange Program


“Having Michael Mwenso at UB has been an experience I will never forget. The Working Artists Lab gave me an opportunity to express myself honestly and unapologetically in a safe space filled with joy and love. I learned things about myself that were rooted so deep I didn’t recognize it at first. For the first time I saw and learned from people who looked like me, who were thriving in the artistry they’ve chosen. It was invaluable.”

– Timiyah Love, Theatre Performance BFA


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