Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Rothko Chapel

Published 01/08/2016


HOUSTON – Join the Rothko Chapel for a discussion and performance in honor of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Discussion, Performance, Audio Installation Planned

“Still Dreaming: Black Lives Matter, Hip Hop and MLK’s Legacy” is slated for 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 15, King’s birthday.

The evening will feature award-winning recording artist David Banner, Houston legend Bernard “Bun B” Freeman, musical ambassador Toni Blackman and Rice University professor Anthony Pinn. Together, they will discuss the intersection of hip hop music and civil rights.

“This outstanding panel will explore how hip hop has contributed to conversations on racial justice, including the Black Lives Matter movement, and the responsibility artists have in continuing Dr. King’s legacy,” public programs director Michelle Ashton said.

Following the discussion, guests are invited to a cipher performance and reception on the plaza, featuring local Houston artists like Genesis Blu.

The celebration will continue on Monday, Jan. 18 with an audio installation at the Chapel. Speeches delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. will be play at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

David Leslie, executive director at the Chapel, explained that King’s words are especially relevant today.

“It is helpful to pause and reflect on the inspirational words of Dr. King,” Leslie said. “His vision of peace and justice is just as meaningful today as it was in the 1960s.”

Throughout the year, the Rothko Chapel's “Broken Obelisk” stands in honor of King.

Leslie explained that the sculpture’s placement in its current home came as a result of the tenacity of the Rothko Chapel’s founders.

“Getting the sculpture delivered to the chapel’s lawn was much more difficult than moving its 6,000 tons of steel,” he said. “The chapel's lawn was not originally intended to house the masterpiece.”

In 1967, a government program offered to help fund monumental works of contemporary art in public places. Houston was one of four cities to receive funds – but the program required a matching grant from other sources. The program was in advisement for two years, while city staff searched for donors. Near the deadline, John and Dominique de Menil were approached.

The couple agreed to help underwrite the project on two conditions. First, the city had to agree to purchase Newman’s “Broken Obelisk.” The sculpture was designed in 1963-64, fabricated in 1967 in an edition of three. The edition that the de Menils had their eyes on was first exhibited in front of the Seagram Building in New York City and then the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington.

The couple’s second condition was that the statue be dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. The city, at the time, would not support this requirement -- it was too politically charged. While the de Menils lost the battle, they could not bear to see the city lose the sculpture. They decided to buy it on their own and place it in front of the Rothko.

For more information about the Rothko Chapel and the full calendar of upcoming programs, workshops and events, visit rothkochapel.org or call 713-524-9839.


About the Rothko Chapel
The Rothko Chapel is open to the public every day of the year at no charge and successfully interconnects art, spirituality and compassionate action through a broad array of free public programs. Founded by Houston philanthropists Dominique and John de Menil, the Chapel was dedicated in 1971 as an intimate sanctuary. Today it stands as a monument to art, spirituality and human rights. As an independent non-profit, non-governmental organization, the Chapel depends on contributions from foundations and individuals to support its mission of creating a space for contemplation and dialogue on important issues.

Attached photo courtesy of the Rothko Chapel.