The Kennedy Center Launches ‘The Cartography Project’

By David Salazar

The Kennedy Center has announced the launch of “The Cartography Project,” a multi-year initiative aimed at providing a platform for creators of color from communities grieving from race-based violence in the United States.

The first installment of the project, which comes during the Kennedy Center’s 50th Anniversary season, will include eight new commissions, each of which will receive live world premiere performances from Washington National Opera singers and members of the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera Orchestras.

The eight commissions include “The Road Ahead” by composer Carlos Simon and Marc Bamuthi Joseph; performers will include Katherina Burton, Karen Lowry-Tucker, Amy Frost Baumgarten, and Robert Ainsley. Taking on Jessica Mays’ “Anthem for Go” will be instrumentalists Heather LeDoux Green, Jane Bowyer Stewart, Eric deWaardt, David Teie, Jeffrey Weisner, and Scott Christian.

Nathaniel Heyder’s “Ahead of Time” will be performed by musicians Paul Cigan, Ruth Wicker, Paul Denola, and Jiyoung Oh. B.E. Boykin and Brittny Ray Crowell’s “Mo(u)rning” will star Martin Bakari, Amy Frost Baumgarten, and Dana Scott.

For Jasmine Barnes and Joshua Banbury’s “The Burning Bush” audiences will see Suzannah Waddington, Daniel J. Smith, and Roderick Demmings, Jr.

Liz Gre and Junauda Petrus-Nasah’s “Progeny of Perpetual Independence” will be performed by Amber R. Monroe, Karen Lowry-Tucker, Amy Frost Baumgarten, Christian Gray, and Dana Scott.

Jens Isben and Yasmina Isben’s “Pretty Girl” will star Katerina Burton, Amber R. Monroe, and Robert Ainsley.

The project was conceived by Artistic Director and VP Social Impact Marc Bamuthi Joseph.

“We use maps as connective tissue to mark pathways to freedom and delineate ourselves in space. With ‘The Cartography Project,’ empathy becomes pedagogy and the sheet music becomes the textbook. We are mapping, figuratively, these incidents of violence but we are also mapping the possibility of who we can be,” Bamuthi Joseph said in an official press statement. “We are drawing dots – and those dots not only show how to go between but also how to move beyond. Cartography is inspired by the idea that somebody has to chart the beyond – to chart the course forward. Equally important, we knew we couldn’t do this work without engaging some of the families of individuals who have been murdered in the last several years. It was critical that we let them know that we care about them and think of them, not only in connection with this moment in time but also as the true pillars of dignity that these pieces represent.”