DeLand museum celebrates 20th year

BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
DAYTONA TIMES

The African American Museum of the Arts (AAMA) is celebrating 20 years since the vision of a place where Black artists could display their artwork year-round became a reality.

Internationally known violinist Mazz Swift (above) will be at the Athens Theater in DeLand on March 28. (PHOTO COURTESY OF MARY ALLEN)
Internationally known violinist Mazz Swift (above) will be at the Athens Theater in DeLand on March 28.  (PHOTO COURTESY OF MARY ALLEN)

It was founded in 1994 by Irene D. Johnson and her husband, Maxwell, in an effort to shape the thinking of young African-Americans in a positive and self-affirming manner.

“We are still here,” Mary Allen, executive director of AAMA, told the Daytona Times. “And we are going to continue to provide enrichment programs to our community.”

‘MazzMuse’ concert
As part of the celebration, Allen says an encore presentation by violinist Mazz Swift featuring Richie Barshay will be held at the Athens Theatre in DeLand.

“This is a celebration of our 20th anniversary,” Allen shared. “We wanted to bring ‘MazzMuse’ back for a second time. She is an international violinist and plays the traditional and electric violin, she sings as well as plays. She does a phenomenal job.”

Barshay is a nationally recognized percussionist.

Critically acclaimed as one of America’s most talented and versatile performers of today, Swift has engaged audiences all over the world with her violin/vox/freestyle composition that uses a weaving of song, melody, and improvisation that she has named “MazzMuse.”

Julliard-trained artist
The native New Yorker and solo artist combines elements of classical, folk, electronic, jazz and otherwise free improvisational music to create a complete musical experience.

She is a singer and Juilliard School-trained violinist (playing both electric and acoustic instruments) who brings her passion for creating true compositions in the spur of the moment to audiences around the world.

As a solo artist, her performance highlights include an appearance at the National Action Network’s 20th Annual Keepers of the Dream awards ceremony where President Barack Obama was the keynote speaker; a “Today’’ show appearance; and a TEDx appearance during the TED Women Conference.
Mazz also sits on the artistic board of Con Vivo (the New Jersey City-based chamber music society that brings free chamber music to New Jersey City and surrounding areas).

History of museum
After numerous community meetings with friends and leaders from West Volusia, a board of directors was established on Sept. 22, 1994, to create the African American Museum of the Arts.

Two months later in November, the museum signed an agreement with the DeLand Housing Authority for a 1,200-square-foot facility located at 325 S. Clara in the heart of the African-American community in DeLand.

The museum was incorporated on Jan. 10, 1995. On May 3, 1995, the museum received its 501(c)(3) not-for-profit tax-exempt status and opened its doors to the public on Oct. 8, 1995.

Since its founding, the museum has provided exhibitions, held classes for youngsters and seniors, and is frequently the meeting place for community organizations.

Next for museum
In interacting with the community, the museum has participated in numerous festivals and sponsored exhibits in schools, businesses and churches throughout Volusia County.

While celebrating the past and the present, Allen looks forward to the future of the museum as well. There are plans to renovate the building and build a new museum in upcoming years.

“We are here and we will continue to be here,” she said.

Tickets to the MazzMuse show can be purchased online at the Athens Theatre website: http://athensdeland.Blurbs/mazzmuse.html.

For more information about the museum, contact Mary Allen at 386-736-4004.

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