Gordon Parks Celebration: Education, Entertainment, Art, and Fun

The annual Gordon Parks Celebration in Fort Scott did not happen last year.

“We were not able to have 17th annual celebration last year due to COVID, so we wanted to make up for that misfortune and combine them both for this year and make it the 17th and 18th annual celebration,” Kirk Sharp, director of the Gordon Parks Museum on the campus of Fort Scott Community College, said.

Kirk Sharp is the director of the Gordon Parks Museum on the campus of Fort Scott Community College. Submitted photo

This year there are three full days to look at the past and encourage creativity and activism in the future.

The activities are listed by day:

Thursday, October 7

A photo exhibit in the Lunt Lobby of the Ellis Fine Arts Center on the campus of Fort Scott Community College, 2401 S. Horton will feature a photo contest, whose theme was  “Fashion and Diversity.” Winners of the contest will be announced at the Fort Scott Chamber Coffee. The contest is sponsored by Merl Humphrey Photography, Fort Scott.

“Also part of the photo exhibit will be some of The Gordon Parks Mercy Foundation Collection with Gordon’s photos and poems, and behind the scenes photographs of the film Shaft and The Learning Tree,” Sharp said. “We will also have a promotional display of the Gordon Park: Homeward to the Prairie I Come Exhibition that is taking place now until May 2022 at the Beach Museum of Art at Kansas State University.”

There will be a sign and mural display featuring Gordon Parks at the Lowell Milken Center For Unsung Heroes, 1 S. Main, and also at the Riverfront Park, 400 N. National.

From 8-9 a.m.,  the Fort Scott Chamber of Commerce Coffee will be a Gunn Park, Shelter House 1, hosted by the Gordon Parks Museum. This weekly coffee will announce the grand opening and ribbon-cutting event of The Learning Tree Film Scene Sign Trail.

In case of inclement weather, the event will be in the FSCC Ellis Fine Arts Center/Auditorium.

9:30 a.m. – 11 a.m., The film The Learning Tree will be shown at the Gordon Parks Museum, FREE – Introduced by Kyle Johnson.

10 a.m. – 3: p.m., Registration for the celebration opens (Outside of Museum)

10 a.m. – 3 p.m., “Mayhew Cemetery” and “Homeward to the Prairie, I Come Exhibition” table displays will be available at the museum.

11:50 a.m. – 1 p.m., “Gordon Parks: Fort Scott and The Learning Tree Revisited” is a free lunch and learn at the Ellis Center. Local historian Arnold Schofield will open with a short presentation on the history of Gordon Parks and his return visit to his hometown of Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1950, as documented in the book Back to Fort Scott. Schofield will then introduce keynote speaker, John Edgar Tidwell, Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Kansas for a presentation on  The Learning Tree legacy, comparing and contrasting the book and film. The presentation will also cover the importance of the cultural and historical impact of them both, along with the story and subject matter compared to today.

John Edgar Tidwell. Submitted photo.

Box lunches with sandwich wraps, desserts, and drinks are available in the lobby for $8 – to purchase that day – or bring your lunch and grab available desserts and join the lunch and learn.

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m., There will be a guided trolley tour of Gordon Parks’ Fort Scott & The Learning Tree film scene locations. Meet at the entrance of the FSCC Ellis Fine Arts Center to see the places in Fort Scott that are part of Gordon Parks’ history. (Fee: $7)

2:45 p.m. – 3:45 p.m., Showing of the film Moments Without Proper Names (Gordon Parks Museum, FREE).

“Moments without Proper Names is a film directed by Gordon Parks in 1986,” Sharp said.  “This film has a wonderful mixture of Gordon’s iconic photos that he has taken during his career and his most updated photographic work during that time along with some of his musical compositions. It is narrated by actors Avery Brooks, Roscoe Lee Browne, and Joe Seneca.”

 

6:45 p.m. – 7 p.m., “Gordon Parks: Homeward to the Prairie I Come” Exhibition (FSCC Ellis Fine Arts Center/Auditorium, FREE).

Aileen Wang. Photo by Doug Barrett. Submitted.

Aileen Wang, curator at Kansas State University’s Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art will discuss the current exhibition that features photographs that were donated by Parks to K.S.U.,  in 1973 and work by the photographer, Doug Barrett.

Doug Barrett. Submitted photo.

The social hour starts at 6 p.m. with wine and light refreshments available.

7 p.m., “All things Kansas” (FSCC Ellis Fine Arts Center/Auditorium, FREE) – Doug Barrett, photographer and videographer based in Manhattan, Kansas, will share some of his work and show how Gordon Parks continues to inspire contemporary artists. Barrett covers all things in the American Midwest. Some of his recognized work includes his project started in 2018 documenting homeless veterans living on the streets across America. He is currently documenting the black community on Yuma Street in Manhattan, Kansas, and covered the civil unrest last year within black America. This performance was supported in part by the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

 

Friday, October 8
9 a.m. – 3 p.m., Registration open (outside of Gordon Parks Museum)

Doug Barrett. Submitted photo.

9 a.m. – 9:50 a.m., “All things Kansas, Part 2” (FSCC Ellis Fine Arts Center, FREE) – Doug Barrett, photographer, and videographer will continue the presentation of his work and show how Gordon Parks continues to inspire contemporary artists.

10 a.m. – 3 p.m., “Mayhew Cemetery” and “Homeward to the Prairie I Come Exhibition” (Gordon Parks Museum/FSCC Ellis Fine Arts Center).

10:05 a.m. – 11:00 a.m., “A Conversation with Choice of Weapon Honorees.” (FSCC Ellis Fine Arts Center/Auditorium, FREE) – The 2021 “Choice of Weapons Award” honorees, Kyle Johnson and Eli Reed.

Kyle Johnson. Submitted photo.

 

Eli Reed. Submitted photo.

11:30 a.m. – noon, “I Needed Paris”(FSCC Ellis Fine Arts Center/Auditorium, FREE) – With Michael Cheers, Associate Professor of Photojournalism, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, San Jose State University.

Michael Cheers. Submitted photo.

This will be the launch event for the immersive educational experience that will take a group of diverse American and Parisian student photographers through Paris, traversing the same streets and neighborhoods as Gordon Parks. These students will reimagine Gordon’s spirit as a fashion photographer while using the same type of camera Gordon used – twin lens reflex film cameras. Student participants will style and photograph their models at some of the same locations chosen by Parks.

12:15 p.m. – 1:15 p.m., “Children of the Promised Land” (FSCC Ellis Fine Arts Center/Auditorium, FREE), Lunch and Learn.

Angela Bates. Submitted photo.

Angela Bates, executive director of the Nicodemus Historical Society, will explore the lives of free-born children after the Civil War. Nicodemus, Kansas, a small unincorporated town in Graham County, is the only remaining western town established by African Americans during the Reconstruction Period following the Civil War.

“Children of the Promised Land” is part of Humanities Kansas’ Movement of Ideas Speakers Bureau, featuring presentations and workshops designed to share stories that inspire, spark conversations that inform, and generate insights that strengthen civic engagement. The program is brought to the community by Humanities Kansas.

Sack lunches are available in the lobby for $8 – to purchase that day, or bring your lunch.

1:30 p.m. – 2:15 p.m., “Book Club Presentation, A Choice of Weapons” (FSCC Ellis Fine Arts Center, FREE) – With John Mason, Associate Professor, Associate Chair, University of Virginia Department of History and Eli Reed, Choice of Weapon Honoree.

Hosted by Susie Arvidson, Fort Scott Community College Librarian. Snacks and drinks will be provided.

John Mason. Submitted photo.

2:30 p.m. – 3 p.m., “Eli Reed, Photography Collection of Works” – Photographer, author, and Choice of Weapons Honoree Reed, will provide a short presentation of some of his photography.

3:30 p.m. – 4 p.m., African-American Suffragists Exhibit Reveal (Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes, 1 S. Main St., FREE). Come to the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes for the unveiling of a new panel exhibit featuring Kansas suffragists Mamie Dillard and Carrie Langston Hughes. Also, visit the Unsung Heroes Park, where Gordon Parks is one of the featured signs. (Refreshments available).

4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., Guided trolley tour of Gordon Parks’ Fort Scott & The Learning Tree film scene locations.

Meet at the entrance of the  Ellis Center and see the places in Fort Scott that are part of Gordon Parks’ history. (Fee: $7)

7:30 p.m., “A Night of Hot Jazz and R&B” (The River Room, 3 W. Oak St.) – Featuring, Dominique Hammons, multi-talented contemporary jazz, and R&B violinist.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with a cash bar available. All seats are reserved (fee: $30.00 each or $35 at the door). Supported in part by Peerless Products, Inc. in Fort Scott.

 

Saturday, October 9th
9: a.m. to 3 p.m., Registration open (outside of Gordon Parks Museum)

9 a.m. – 3 p.m., “Mayhew Cemetery” and “Homeward to the Prairie I Come Exhibition” Table Display (Gordon Parks Museum/FSCC Ellis Fine Arts Center)

9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m., “Just Talking about Shaft” (FSCC Ellis Fine Arts Center/Gordon Parks Museum, FREE).

Kevin Willmott. Submitted photo.

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the film Shaft. University of Kansas film professor and Oscar-winning filmmaker Kevin Willmott will host a conversation with David Parks about the film. David will share his insight and experience during the filming and Kevin will talk about the impact of the iconic film along with some behind-the-scenes clips of Gordon Parks directing and producing the film. (Coffee, water, juice, and light refreshments will be available.)

11 a.m. – noon., Panel Discussion, “Racism, Discrimination and Poverty” (FSCC Ellis Fine Arts Center/Gordon Parks Museum, FREE) – Join us for a panel discussion on racism, discrimination, and poverty. Gordon Parks used his camera and writings to fight against bigotry and poverty. People are using the same weapons as Gordon used to fight this same battle. Moderated by John Mason, Associate Professor, University of Virginia Department of History with featured panelists; Michael Cheers, Associate Professor, San Jose State University, Eli Reed, Choice of Weapons Honoree, Kyle Johnson, Choice of Weapons Honoree, Doug Barrett, photographer, and Robin Hickman-Winfield, CEO and Executive Producer of SoulTouch Productions and great-niece of Gordon Parks.

Noon – 1 p.m., “Picnic on the Patio” (FSCC Ellis Fine Arts Center) – Join us for some great E3 hamburgers, along with chips, drinks, etc. Sponsored by E3 Meat Co.

1 – 1:30 p.m., “Reflections on the Commemoration and Celebration of Greenwood 2021” (FSCC Ellis Fine Arts Center/Gordon Parks Museum, FREE) – The presentation will cover the seven important events as seen by photographer Don Thompson as the historic Tulsa, Oklahoma, Greenwood District move forward from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre to the future.

Don Thompson. Submitted photo.

2:00 p.m. – 3:45 p.m., Showing of the film Shaft (Gordon Parks Museum, FREE) – Introduced by David Parks.

7 p.m., social hour starts at 6 p.m.), “Celebration Tribute Dinner” at the Liberty Theater, 113 S. Main St. This is an evening of celebration, dinner, and tribute;  a 50th anniversary retrospective of the release of the film Shaft, and presentation of the 2021 “Gordon Parks Choice of Weapons Award” to Kyle Johnson and Eli Reed. All seats reserved (fee: $30.00 – reserve by Wednesday, October 6th).

Sunday, October 10

10 a.m., Breakfast at Crooner’s Lounge, at one of Fort Scott’s finest, 117 S. Main Street.  Check out the menu at: fscrooners.com. Everyone pays for their food.

Schedule subject to change. Please check at www.gordonparkscenter.org for any updates.

Questions? Please call (620) 223-2700 ext. 5850 or email: [email protected]

The Gordon Parks Museum Board is comprised of Janice Fewins, Elouise Young, Jane Campbell, Latisha Kelley-Cook, Marion Stepps, Angel Wilson, Debra Wood, and ShayLynn Clements.

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