ArtsRevive celebrates the blues

Published 8:11 pm Thursday, October 3, 2019

ArtsRevive hosted an evening of visual art, blues and jazz at the Carneal Building on Thursday night with Snapshots, Stitches and Selma Blues.
ArtsRevive Executive Director Becky Youngblood was excited about the evening’s festivities.
Youngblood expressed her appreciation for all forms of art present at the event.
“They’re amazing,” she said of the photographs by Roger Stephenson. “You can look at them and almost hear what they’re playing.”
Stephenson specializes in photographing blues musicians.
As a performance photographer, Stephenson has mastered the art of taking photos of musicians in mid performance, overcoming the challenges of bad lighting and moving subjects.
“I suppose I’ve developed an eye for it over the years,” said Stephenson. “You have to really anticipate the next move.”
A few of Stephenson’s photographs were referenced by the event’s other featured artist, Leanna Lesley.
Lesley creates needle point portraits of jazz and blues musicians.
Lesley began these works after meeting with Dr. Frank Adams, director of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.
Before speaking with Adams, Lesley knew nothing about jazz, but after meeting with him, she felt compelled to tell the stories of the figures within the genre.
“He educated me about Jazz and helped me understand who all these people are and why they’re important,” said Lesley. “Now I’m a huge Jazz fan.”
“It’s so awesome,” said Youngblood of Lesley’s portraits. “I asked her if she knows anybody else that does work like this and she said she doesn’t know of anybody else in the whole world that does needlepoint portraits. She’s kind of got a little niche.”
Several members of the community shared Youngblood’s enthusiasm for the art by Lesley and Stephenson as they admired the artists’ works on display.
While everyone was enjoying the art, blues musicians, many of which were depicted in Stephenson’s photos, provided live entertainment.
Among the entertainers present Thursday was Elnora Spencer.
Spencer, hails from Birmingham, where she began singing at the age of four.
For Spencer, the beauty of blues lies within its true to life themes.
“I sing blues, jazz all type of songs,” she said. “I live the life I sing songs about.”

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