The John F. Kennedy Center's Arts Across America series stops in Clarksdale, Mississippi today. Ben Wiley Payton will play live from Clarksdale for the "Blues of the South" concert at 3pm Central -- link below.
We founded Live From Clarksdale at the beginning of the pandemic to help musicians keep playing, online if not in person, and keep our tradition of live blues alive. It's touching to revisit the Kennedy Center's origin: Eleanor Roosevelt first proposed a national cultural center during the Great Depression, in envisioning how the Emergency Relief & Civil Works Administration could create work for unemployed actors.
Almost a century later, the Arts Across America concert takes this spirit on the road, uplifting and showcasing artists across the country. It's free online daily. They've just visited the Northern Plains, and will continue West to present "Many Voices, One Song." South Arts worked with Scott Barretta -- blues writer, scholar, and co-founder of the Mississippi Blues Trail -- to curate today's performance. We're thrilled to host Scott & Ben Payton here in this birthplace of the blues, in the heart of the Delta.
When we first started with the virtual Juke Joint Festival we were figuring out this Facebook Live stuff like everyone else. It's been awesome working with the Kennedy Center's pro team on this. They use a program to manage a seamless switch between performers who are, well, across America (Clarence "Bluesman" Davis & Jock Webb are also playing today). But both pro and beginner musicians take heart: while we do use a few lights to make things look better on your screen, we're using a MacBook like everyone else -- nuthin you can't do at home yourself!
...Though the wizards behind the curtain are truly magical. Follow South Arts for more great work, and the Kennedy Center as they continue their journey Across America.
Link LIVE at 3pm Central, 4pm Eastern:
While we hate that it's harder to travel now, we're grateful to programs like this that help you Visit Mississippi virtually, and institutions like the Kennedy Center (and Visit Clarksdale!) that continue supporting the arts.