A production of “Parks: A Portrait of a Young Artist” is currently running at the History Theater until April 10, 2022. The show visually conveys to those in attendance the greatness of a young Gordon Parks and his tenacity for life.
Parks came to Minnesota as a young man, moving from Fort Scott, Kansas to the community of St. Paul’s Rondo. His early writing career included contributions to the Minneapolis Spokesman and St. Paul Recorder (now Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder) newspapers. He became the first African American to write and direct a major Hollywood feature film and a world-renowned 20th century photographer.
“A vision of peace, power, purpose and possibility” is how Robin Hickman-Winfield describes this visual celebration of his great-uncle’s young life. “Parks: A Portrait of a Young Artist” is a biographical musical comprised of drama, poetry, grief, discrimination and the self-determination of a young black man’s rise to greatness.
A Minnesota icon, Parks has received numerous awards for photography, writing, film and humanitarianism. He has also received honorary degrees in literature, fine arts, and humanities from colleges and universities across the country, including the prestigious Spingarn Medal from the NAACP.
Parks went on to become the award-winning author of two memoirs, “The Learning Tree” and “A Choice of Weapons”, as well as a freelance photographer for Vogue, Glamor and Life magazines. “He became a modern Renaissance man with a vision that spanned his 93 years of life,” Hickman-Winfield said.
In the spirit of her uncle, Hickman-Winfield is proud of the work behind “Parks: A Portrait of a Young Artist” and its cast comprised of more than 95% black talent. She describes her experiences from debut to performing as “an incredible journey”.
This journey took eight years, from conception to completion. Hickman-Winfield became emotional when she spoke about the talented people she has worked with, such as set designer Seitu Jones, Kevin Brown, Jr., (played as Gordon Parks) and James A. Williams (as Pigeon Man), and how much she enjoyed collaborating with writer Harrison David Rivers and director Talvin Wilks.
Hickman-Winfield, who currently works at Gordon Parks High School in St. Paul, has created artistic expression that goes beyond the stage. She passed on her uncle’s vision to his scholars as she encourages their artistic development through public performance and includes students in her uncle’s ever-growing legacy and life through art and culture. exposure.
“Parks: Portrait of a Young Artist” is an unforgettable sight, from the lobby of student art installations to the stage that brings art and craft to life. At a time when certain powers want to take the history of races out of schools, this production breathes power into the story of an experience. Hickman-Winfield said, “This is what Black Lives Matter looks like when we take our rightful place to tell our own stories.”
For more information on “Parks: A Portrait of A Young Artist,” visit www.historytheatre.com.
TerryAnn Nash welcomes responses from readers at [email protected]