Drop Me off in Harlem: Exploring the Intersections

Article excerpt

From time to time, enough artists of like mind or similar geography will inspire and encourage each other to the point of creating, a "movement." Just how many participants it takes to reach an artistic critical mass is anybody's guess, but there's no doubt that the threshold was reached during the Harlem Renaissance between the two World Wars. Drop Me Off In Harlem - exploring the intersections investigates the Renaissance by meeting the catalysts, touring the landscape, and witnessing the impact of a cultural explosion - at its point of origin and around the world.

Created by ArtsEdge (an education-through-technology arm of The Kennedy Center for the Arts), Drop Me Off looks at the outpouring of creative activity in Harlem between 1917 to 1935, and uses the unique capabilities of the Web to effectively illustrate the critical mass phenomenon. (As the authors point out, many of these people "...went to the same parties, danced at the same clubs, and lived and worked on the same streets.") Giving visitors the ability to interweave stories and move instantly from one reference point to the other, Harlem's intersections are meticulously mapped out in both the geographic and artistic context.

The artistic intersections are best illustrated in the first of the site's three main sections. Faces of the Renaissance uses individual "Cards" for each of almost 40 actors, writers, dancers, artists, musicians, and supporters - and accompanies each biography with a column listing influences on or from other members of the community. (For example, the card for Eubie Blake notes that he launched the career of Florence Mills, had his work played by Duke Ellington, performed with Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson, and appeared at benefits for the NAACP - co-founded by W. E. B. Du Bois.) Surfers can use these entries to link directly to another subject, or use a categorized navigation bar along the top of the card's frame for a more systematic survey. (There is also a "View All Cards" option that lists every personality profile on a single page - for those who want to be sure that they haven't missed anyone during all the intersecting.)

In addition to the bios and connections, many subjects' cards offer such media files as a video of Bill Robinson's "Step Dance," an audio clip of Cab Calloway,'s "Minnie the Moocher," and a transcript of "The Making of Harlem," by James Weldon Johnson. …