Ward 7 Arts Collaborative Debuts Documentary Film "Ira Blount: The Common Threads That Bind"

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On August 1, the Ward 7 Arts Collaborative, Inc. premiered its first community-developed documentary film, Ira Blount: The Common Threads that Bind for nearly 100 attendees, including Ward 7 Council representative Yvette Alexander and Joy Ford Austin, executive director of the Humanities Council of Washington, DC.

Ira Blount is an extraordinary 92 year-old artisan who has mastered nearly a dozen handcrafts, including quilting, basket weaving, wood and leather carving, calligraphy, origami, beading, tin punching and paper cutting. He has lived in Washington’s Ward 7 community since the 1950’s and has exhibited his award-winning crafts throughout the city. “Mr. Blount's life and artistry promotes lessons that are universally applicable,” says Aaliya Muhammad, who served as project coordinator for the film. “Overcoming life’s obstacles, discovering your passions, sharing your gifts with others, and arts ability to strengthen the human spirit are all themes found in the film that can reach people no matter their age, race, or gender.”

Produced by Emmy Award-winner Beverly Lindsay-Johnson and narrated by Lorna Newton of WHUR-FM, the 30-minute film follows Blount from his childhood in Memphis, Tennessee, through his college and army years, onto his ill-fated marriage and eventual discovery of crafts as “a strong force in turning my back on some of the bad habits that I had,” Blount states. “I hope and pray that [the movie] will influence other people,” says Blount. Interviews with Blount’s neighbors and fellow parishioners at Asbury United Methodist Church, where Blount helped to found the hand bell choir, shed additional light on his later years.

The Arts Collaborative is planning several additional screenings at locations throughout Ward 7 and is seeking arrangements to have the documentary broadcast on television as well. To increase the film’s educational impact, Muhammad has developed the “Ira Blount Traveling Trunk,” which contains a DVD, teacher’s guide and three interactive art projects to help students gain hands-on experience with Mr. Blount’s crafts. “This very unique community teaching tool gives children, adults and teachers an interesting way to establish stewardship of their community, history and culture,” says Wanda Aikens, the collaborative’s executive director. “It uses audio, visual, and tactile learning styles to help students absorb the lessons presented in The Common Threads that Bind more thoroughly.”

Major funding for the film and trunk was provided by the Humanities Council of Washington, DC. Additional funding for this project was provided through the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, an agency supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.