Speed Art Museum opens two exhibitions as part of Shaker Commonwealth

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Speed Art Museum opens two exhibitions as part of Shaker Commonwealth
Shaker Commonwealth brings together 19th-century design and contemporary performance in a celebration of Kentucky Shaker art and faith.

LOUISVILLE. KY.- The Speed Art Museum is presenting Shaker Commonwealth, a celebration of the creative output representing Kentucky’s Shaker communities. Shaker Commonwealth is a combination of two exhibitions: Careful, Neat & Decent: Arts of the Kentucky Shakers and Mariam Ghani + Erin Ellen Kelly: When the Spirits Moved Them, They Moved.

Developed by Scott Erbes, Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, Careful, Neat & Decent: Arts of the Kentucky Shakers explores over 50 objects from Kentucky’s Pleasant Hill and South Union Shaker communities, borrowing heavily from the collections of both to tell the rich and complicated history of these communities from their founding in the early 1800s through their eventual decline.

“From handsome furniture and shimmering silks to inspirational hymns and popular fruit preserves, Kentucky’s Shakers left behind a remarkable history of making,” says Erbes. “It is a history forged within communal groups that aspired to attain Christian perfection, empowered women leaders, and elevated Black Believers despite conflicting responses to slavery.”

Mariam Ghani + Erin Ellen Kelly: When the Spirits Moved Them, They Moved is a contemporary dance and video work, made in collaboration between the two title artists with dancers from the Louisville Ballet and Moving Collective. The three-channel video condenses a day-long performance from 2018 at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill into a 22-minute meditation on the Shaker landscape, architecture, song, and dance as ways of organizing being-in-common.

“Mariam Ghani and Erin Ellen Kelly have created a new and fascinating interpretation of the Shaker’s deep faith expressed through the physicality of dance, bookended by a sense of place in the images of the architecture of Shaker Village,” says Dean Otto, the Speed’s Curator of Film. “The collaboration with the dancers from the Louisville Ballet and Moving Collective demonstrate the joy in a shared religious ritual and the ecstasy of individual connections with the spirit of God.”

When the Spirits Moved Them, They Moved is part of Performed Places, a long-running collaboration between Ghani and Kelly. This series of site-responsive videos draws on landscape archaeology to activate the history and memory of place through movement.

“In this time of isolation and uncertainty, Kentucky’s Shaker communities are a timely inspiration. They filled each day with meaning by focusing on their own place in the world, by living with creativity and intention, and by working together to build a better world ahead,” says Museum Director Stephen Reily. “We are excited to be able to share these exhibitions side by side, so that they may be in conversation with each other as well as with Andy Warhol: Revelation, which also explores the influence of faith and spirituality on the creative process.”

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