Located in an urban Black neighborhood on Tremont Street in Rochester, NY – the peace altar San Souci is dedicated to project curator Rachel DeGuzman’s grandmother Mrs. Lillian Mae Eubanks Givens (photo above) and commissioned artist Miah Leslie’s grandmother Mrs. Sidberry.
Central to Miah Leslie’s artwork for the altar installation is her conceptualization of worry dolls that she prototyped in workshops with youth around the country. As she developed her vision for the project, she imagined the worry dolls embedded in bouquets of flowers much like those at her grandmother’s house when she was growing up. Back in the day - when Miah left to go home, her grandmother would give her a piece of a flower to take with her and plant when she got home. To her these cherished memories epitomize peace.
Miah’s memory of her grandmother struck a familiar chord with DeGuzman because her grandmother had a love affair with flowers and even had a degree in Botany. Rachel’s grandmother “Ninnie” had a cottage up north in Michigan in the historic Black resort Idlewild – which “Ninnie” named Sans Souci. The cottage was surrounded by flowers in cultivated beds as well as wildflowers sprayed across an acre of surrounding land. Though not always calm and peaceful, summertime in Idlewild with her grandmother evokes warm memories of more carefree times.
San souci translates from French to English as without worry, which is why it became the name of 21st Century Arts Inc.’s Earth Altar installation at The Black House. Perhaps DeGuzman, and Leslie’s grandmothers were guiding them on this project – connecting dots and bringing their separate visions in alignment.
Visual artist Rafael DeGuzman is painting the back wall of San Souci with Buffalo native Lucille Clifton’s poem – flowers. Visitors will be able to take inspirational messages from the space and leave written thoughts in exchange. The peace altar installation is conceived as a room within a room in The Black House where guests will be able to enter the space, meditate, and experience a respite from hate and negativity.
Photos of Miah Leslie’s and Rachel DeGuzman’s grandmothers will be featured as a part of the installation.
The Earth Altar at The Black House – a peace altar - will open on July 15 at noon and be available to visit during open hours, until September 30. San Souci at The Black House was created in conjunction with the Ganondagan Earth Altar community-wide project.
Hours: 7/16, 5-7 pm; 7/17, 2-4 pm; 7/18, 1-3 pm; 7/29, 12-4 pm; 7/30, 4-6 pm; 8/5, 12-4 pm; 8/6, 4-9 pm; 8/7, 1-6 pm; 8/8, 1-5 pm. The installation will be up until 9/30 and fall hours will be added soon - including an altar installation party.
Funding to support the commission of Miah Leslie for this project was generously donated by Friends of Ganondagan