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Walters, Oscar, Jayne Cortez and Melvin Edwards lecture at the University of Connecticut

 Digital Record


  • 1970 April 2



A 4/2/1970 lecture featured 3 artists: Oscar Walters, Jayne Cortez, and Melvin Edwards (2015-0002/RR315).

Biographical / Historical

Oscar D. Walters, Associate Professor of Art & Art History at the University of Connecticut (1966-1995). Walters graduated from the Philadelphia College of Art and then earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in fine arts from Yale University.

Jayne Cortez was born Sallie Jayne Richardson on the Army base at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, on May 10, 1934. At the age of seven, she moved to Los Angeles, where she grew up in the Watts district. Young Jayne Richardson reveled in the jazz and Latin recordings that her parents collected. She studied art, music and drama in high school. Later she attended Compton Community College, but dropped out of her course work due to financial difficulties. She took the surname Cortez, the maiden name of her Filipino maternal grandmother, early in her artistic career.

In 1954, Cortez married jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman. Their son Denardo, born in 1956, began drumming with his father while still a child and devoted his adult life to collaborating with both parents in their respective careers. In 1964, Cortez divorced Coleman and founded the Watts Repertory Theater Company, of which she served as artistic director until 1970. Active in the struggle for Civil Rights, she collaborated with famous Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer and strongly advocated using art as a vehicle to push political causes, with her work being used to register black voters in Mississippi in the early 1960s. She traveled through Europe and Africa, and moved to New York City in 1967.

In 1969 her first collection, Pissstained Stairs and the Monkey Man's Wares, was published and Cortez went on to become the author of 11 other books of poems, and performed her poetry with music on nine recordings. Most of her work was issued under the auspices of Bola Press, a publishing company she founded in 1971. From 1977 to 1983, Cortez was an English professor at Rutgers University. She presented her work and ideas at universities, museums, and festivals in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, the Caribbean and the United States. Her poems have been translated into 28 languages and widely published in anthologies, journals and magazines, including Postmodern American Poetry, Daughters of Africa, Poems for the Millennium, Mother Jones, and The Jazz Poetry Anthology.

In 1975 she married sculptor and printmaker Melvin Edwards, and they lived in Dakar, Senegal, and New York City. His work appeared in her publications as well as on some of her album covers. Cortez and Edwards maintained two residences, one in New York City and one in Dakar, Senegal, which Cortez said "really feels like home."

Cortez died in Manhattan, New York, on December 28, 2012, aged 78.

[ /

Melvin "Mel" Edwards (born May 4, 1937) is an American contemporary artist, teacher, and abstract steel metal sculptor. Additionally he has worked in drawing and printmaking. His artwork has political content often referencing African-American history, as well as the exploration of themes within slavery. Visually his works are characterized by the use of straight-edged triangular and rectilinear forms in metal. He lives between Upstate New York and in Plainfield, New Jersey.

He has had more than a dozen one-person show exhibits and been in over four dozen group shows. Edwards has had solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, New Jersey.

Melvin Eugene Edwards, Jr., was born May 4, 1937, in Houston, Texas. He was raised in Dayton, Ohio for five years, but by middle school age the family moved back to Houston. He was a creator from a young age and was encouraged by his parents with his father building his first easel when he was 14 years old. Edwards was introduced to abstract art by a high school teacher. While attending high school he started to take art classes at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

In 1955 he moved to southern California to pursue studies at Los Angeles City College. Edwards transferred schools to study art and play football at University of Southern California (USC), where he received his B.F.A. degree in 1965. While attending USC, Edwards took a history course that was rooted in a European-centric view, which upset him and fueled him to learn more about African history. This inspired his travel to Africa five years later.

He attended Los Angeles County Art Institute (known as Otis College of Art and Design) during breaks from USC to study sculpture with Renzo Fenci. Additionally, he was mentored by Hungarian-American painter Francis de Erdely, and studied under Hal Gebhardt, Hans Burkhardt, and Edward Ewing.

In 1965, he went on to teach at the Chouinard Art Institute (now known as the California Institute of the Arts) until 1967. He moved to New York City in 1967. Additionally he taught at Orange County Community College in New York (1967-1969), and the University of Connecticut (1970-1972).

In 1972, he began teaching art classes at Livingston College of Rutgers University, (now part of the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences). By 1980 he was a full professor and teaching at the Mason Gross School of Creative and Performing Arts at Rutgers University. By 2002, he retired from teaching.

Edwards married poet Jayne Cortez, herself a frequent lecturer to the Black Experience in the Arts course.

[Wikipedia /


1 Reels (Magnetic tape audio recordings) : RR 315 1 reel, Side A-1:05:11, Side B-0:45:44; tape speed 3¾ IPS; track position ½-Track Mono; Substrate: Polyester. The recordings were combined for ease of listening. The combined run time of the digital recording is 1:50:51.

Existence and Location of Originals

Original audio recordings reside in the University of Connecticut, Black Experience in the Arts Collection, Archives & Special Collections, UConn Library.

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US