The Robert S. Duncanson Society of the Taft Museum of Art has selected violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama as the 2010 Duncanson Artist-in-Residence from a talented pool of local and national candidates. A nationally recognized orchestral soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician, Ngwenyama will be the Taft’s 24th resident artist.
Ngwenyama learned about the Duncanson Artist-in-Residence program during a visit to Cincinnati in April when she performed with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra at Music Hall. She describes the Taft’s historic Duncanson murals as “beautiful, peaceful works of art.”
The Taft Museum of Art established the Duncanson Artist-in-Residence program in 1986 to honor the achievements of contemporary artists of African descent working in a variety of disciplines and media. The program also honors the relationship between African American painter Robert S. Duncanson and his patron, Nicholas Longworth, who commissioned Duncanson to paint landscape murals in the foyer of his home, now the Taft Museum of Art.
“I think that it really shows the contribution that African Americans have made to the fine arts for such a long time. To be able to have a tie to that legacy is a wonderful honor,” Ngwenyama says. “To pay tribute to the relationship that Duncanson had (with Longworth) has given me a sense of tradition in this country that I wasn’t really aware of.”
Gramophone Magazine has proclaimed Ngwenyama’s playing as providing “solidly shaped music of bold, mesmerizing character,” and the Washington Post describes her as playing “with dazzling technique in the virtuoso fast movements and deep expressiveness in the slow movements.”
Ngwenyama’s orchestral appearances include performances with the Atlanta, Baltimore, and Indianapolis Symphonies, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestra. She has been heard in recital at Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, the Louvre, the Ford Center in Toronto, the Maison de Radio France, and the White House.
Born in California of Zimbabwean-Japanese parentage, Ngwenyama came to international attention when she won the Primrose International Viola Competition and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions at age 17. She graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music. As a Fulbright scholar she attended the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris and received a Master of Theological Studies degree from Harvard University.
“I hope to highlight the legacy (between Duncanson and Longworth) and make sure it continues today,” says Ngwenyama, “and show that the arts cross racial boundaries.”
In addition to her performance activities Ngwenyama served as visiting assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame in 2007, teaching in the field of ethnomusicology. She joined the faculty of Indiana University as visiting associate professor from 2008-10. Ngwenyama is the current director of the Primrose International Viola Competition and president-elect of the American Viola Society.
During her residency, Ngwenyama will gave public performances and workshops. She will also engage in educational outreach activities with students both in the classrooms and at the Taft. Please see the Artist-in-Residence Events for a full listing.