Arté Noir has been a vision that has lived rent-free in my head for more than twenty years. It started as something completely different than what is here on these pages, but it was borne from a deep, deep desire to share the beauty, wonder, and magnificence of Black art that I’ve been so fortunate to have enhanced my life.
ARTE NOIR is my way of paying homage to the multitude of art and cultural makers; the dancers, choreographers, drummers, writers, directors, actors, playwrights, visual artists, graphic artists, singers, musicians, cultural trendsetters, culinary greats, decorating experts, filmmakers, producers and technical professionals whose labor has made my life have meaning. I want to honor them - the ones I know, and I want to invite you to explore them all - the ones we will meet together.
The whole purpose is to share! Perhaps you will find something new, be reminded of something you already knew, or be compelled to find your own artistic spotlight. ARTE NOIR is here to illuminate art, artists, and culture from the African Diaspora.
This inaugural letter is dedicated to two Mitchells, Kabby Mitchell, III, and Arthur Mitchell, both dancers, and choreographers. Kabby was the first African American to become a principal dancer with the coveted Pacific Northwest Ballet, where he was in the company from 1979 - 1984. Kabby was a dear friend and collaborator. He was much loved in his adopted home of Seattle and throughout the Seattle area. His legacy lives on through the Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center. Kabby became an ancestor at the age of 60, on May 4, 2017.
Whenever I was fortunate enough to visit the Dance Theatre of Harlem location on W 154th in New York City, I was always met with a “how’s Kabby?” as soon as I walked in the door. There was this symbiotic relationship between Seattle and the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and each time Mr. Mitchell (Arthur, b. 1934 - d. 2018) would visit, I was always welcomed to join the party, which was most likely a raucous dinner with the two Mitchells. Mr. Mitchell was a charm to be around. He would let off quips that always made you think. The last time we all dined together, I brought up my disappointment with how little shine Black artists get for their enormous contributions to American culture. Arthur listened, and responded, “Don’t hate, elevate.”
It’s taken longer than anticipated, but this is my elevation.
Welcome to ARTE NOIR. I’m glad to have you on this exploration of Black art!
- Vivian Phillips - Founder // Editor-in-Chief