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Actor Bill Nunn on the Art and Power of Great Performance

Teenie Harris Photographs: Great Performances celebrates performances of all kinds as produced or experienced by Pittsburgh’s African American community between about 1935 and 1975. Whether it was a star showcase production from Harlem’s Apollo Theater, or a Sunday school nativity pageant, Teenie Harris was there to photograph the anticipation, excitement, and showmanship of a great performance.

Actor Bill Nunn’s work on this exhibition is also a great performance. In the midst of a battle with cancer, he has found the time and energy to sort through hundreds of Harris images, select 75 of the best, and brand this exhibition with his philosophy of the performing arts: “August Wilson and Teenie Harris brought young people and the everyday working man together with the great artists of the day.” Bill Nunn’s philosophy of art and community is also expressed in his work with the Bill Nunn Theatre Outreach Project, featured in a video by filmmaker Gregory Scott Williams, Jr. that is currently on view in the museum’s Lobby Gallery (and included here).

The Teenie Harris Archive at Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) and the August Wilson Center (AWC) are both dedicated to preserving, presenting, and sharing the work of two of the region’s most famous and important artists. It is especially fitting that this exhibition celebrating the renewal of the August Wilson Center can be seen at both institutions—with Great Performances Onstage at AWC, and its complement, Great Performances Offstage, here at CMOA.

The exhibition Teenie Harris Photographs: Great Performances Offstage, currently on view in the museum’s Lobby Gallery, runs from January 22, 2016 to July 17, 2016. Image credit (top): Charles “Teenie” Harris, Sgt. William H. Carney VFW Post 46 band including Stoney Gloster on trumpet on left, and Littleton Coleman “Rich” Richardson and Leroy Brown on saxophones, standing in front of drug store, 608 Kirkpatrick Street, Hill District, ca. 1941–1946. Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family.