By Walter Rutledge
Back in 2014 I received a phone call from Arthur Mitchell. He knew my association with the Romare Bearden Foundation, and that Romare’s archives were housed at Columbia University. He needed information about the process so he could do the same with his own legacy. “Hold on Sir”, I put him on hold and called Deidre Kelly the co-director of the Romare Bearden Foundation. Diedre gave me the contact information he requested.
“I knew I called the right person! His exuberance caught me pleasantly off guard causing me to playfully respond, “Mr. Mitchell that sounds like a compliment”. “Of course, it’s a compliment! Why wouldn’t I give you a compliment?”
Fast forward: one morning in August 2017 the phone rang, “Walter Rutledge… Arthur Mitchell”, the voice declared with that unmistakable Mr. Mitchell swagger. “Columbia University is honoring me (for housing his papers) and I would like you to cover the event and other events planned throughout the year.”
For the next 10 months I documented Mr. Mitchell at numerous events. He spoke at most, was simply honored at others, and just attended a few (where he rubbed elbows with the dance and social elite). Throughout the experience I marveled at his non-stop energy, and great sense of humor. He loved to share and inspire; it was part of his own insatiable quest for artistic excellence.
One of the new projects he had begun to implement involved guest teaching and lecturing to the next generation of aspiring artists. He had planned to travel across the country sharing his message of perseverance, self-determination and artistic inclusiveness. The video excerpts are from a recent visit to his alma mater the School of American Ballet, where he shared anecdotes about his prolific career, race in ballet, and working with Balanchine.
Arthur Mitchell May 2018 at SAB