Tonight at Irish Arts Center: Can We Talk About Stephen Foster?

Described as the “father of American music,” Stephen Foster penned an oeuvre that includes “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Hard Times Come Again No More,” songs that helped weave the fabric of America’s musical heritage.

But for all of his artistic impact, Foster’s legacy is complex: he also wrote for minstrel shows, which were founded on the comic enactments of racial stereotypes. In April of this year, the city of Pittsburgh removed a public statue of Stephen Foster with an African American man playing banjo at his feet.

For many years, ethnomusicologist Mick Moloney has explored connections between Foster’s songwriting, traditional Irish music, and black banjo music, and together with Irish Arts Center has sought an appropriate platform to present this history.

As part of this exploration, the Center will bring together a number of cultural practitioners impacted by Foster for a conversation about his legacy. How do we appreciate Foster’s musical influence while addressing its controversial origin?

Join Mick Moloney, musician Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton, artist and curator Leni Sloan, author and historian Emily Bingham, music journalist and Stephen Foster biographer Ken Emerson, and IAC director of programming and education Rachael Gilkey for a conversation that asks where we go from here.

The program is tonight, Sept 27, 2018 at 7:3pm at the Irish Arts Center, 553 West 51st Street. More details here.