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Give Peace an Exhibit

The T-shirt worn by Stephen Downs when he was arrested in Crossgates Mall [Newsfront, March 13] will be saved for posterity as a part of the New York State Museum’s collection of political T-shirts.

On June 18, Downs was approached by the state museum and asked to donate both his shirt and the shirt worn to the mall that same day by his son Roger. The infamous T-shirt, which is white with blue lettering, features the words “Give Peace a Chance” and “Peace on Earth.” These shirts created a media frenzy in the Capital Region, nationally and internationally. Roger complied with Guilderland Police and removed his less-famous T-shirt, which reads “No War With Iraq” on one side and “Let Inspections Work” on the other.

“[Downs’ arrest] certainly was an event that generated a lot of media coverage, so the shirt documents that media event.” said Clifford Siegfried, director of the state museum. “When you’re collecting contemporary objects, you might not know what they mean at the time, but they got a lot of widespread attention, so it’s worthy. We’re waiting to find out the significance of that event. History will determine that.”

Of the 8 million pieces in the New York State Museum, the political T-shirt collection, as a small subset of the textile and clothing collection, consists of approximately 200 T-shirts. In the early ’90s, the biggest donation came from a printing company that went out of business and donated samples of shirts.

The T-shirts in the collection feature social and political commentary from the ’60s to the present. One of Siegfried’s favorites is about women’s rights: “A woman’s place is in the House and Senate.”

Downs was arrested by Guilderland Police on March 3 while shopping at Crossgates. Two days after his arrest, more than 100 people protested in a Mall Walk for Peace.

Pyramid Management Group, which owns Crossgates Mall, decided not to press charges.

Downs had never considered the possibility of having his T-shirt in a museum until it became official last week. When he was first approached about the idea, he thought it was a joke. But now Downs thinks immortalizing his shirt is “a way to show the temper of the times.”

“The incident seems to have struck a deep chord in the American people right now, in fact all over the world,” said Downs. “The chord seems to be that people look to America for freedom, democracy, for freedom of speech, and it troubles them everywhere when they see it being abused. It’s something I treasure very much about America.”

The political T-shirt collection is not on display, and there are no specific plans for a future exhibit.

“At this point we don’t have a curator of textiles, so I’m not sure [about future plans],” Siegfried said. “If we were going to exhibit it, we would do so in some context.”

—Jennifer Schulkind

In concert at Skidmore: Geri Allen.

Hot Jazz in the Summertime

The Skidmore College Jazz Institute has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, to help support the Institute’s annual two-week program, which begins Saturday (June 28) and continues through July 12.

This year’s all-star faculty includes bassist Todd Coolman, trumpeters Clyde Kerr Jr. and John LaBarbera, trombonist Curtis Fuller, saxophonist Pat LaBarbera, pianist Frank Mantooth, historian Hal Miller and former Tonight Show (Johnny Carson-era) drummer EdShaughnessy.

A major part of the Jazz Institute’s mission is to present a series of concerts by major artists. This year’s schedule includes the Terence Blanchard Septet (July 1, 8 PM), the Jazz Faculty Sextet (July 3, 8 PM and July 10, 8 PM), Jerry Gonzales and the Fort Apache Band (July 5, 8 PM), and the Geri Allen Trio (July 8, 8 PM). There are also two shows featuring Jazz Institute participants, at 1 PM on July 4 and 11. All concerts are in Skidmore’s Bernhard Theater, and are free and open to the public.


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