A Way Out of No Way

A Way Out of No Way is a multimedia documentation of the life and work of the extraordinary musician, educator, activist and cultural worker Jane Wilburn Sapp.

Sapp is collaborating on this project with Cynthia Cohen, director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts. Sapp's late husband, the educator, activist and historian Hubert Sapp, also contributed to the project.

The project draws on an extensive archive of songs, CDs, DVDs, digital stories, photographs and articles. Through a book and accompanying disc, and a series of presentation/performances, Sapp and Cohen will identify the principles that inform Sapp’s practice, and illustrate its application in education, community arts and development efforts as well as its effectiveness in strengthening intergroup relations.

The project is multifaceted. It includes a book; a series of presentations and performances; trainings and workshops; and a catalogued archive of images and print materials.

This website also includes a gallery of works by and about Jane Sapp.

Project Background

The challenges communities are facing today are in some ways different, but in many ways, the dynamics are disturbingly familiar to those faced by Black communities since the end of slavery in the United States. Since many of those who began their work during the movement of the 1960s are now approaching their 70s, the time is right to capture the lessons of their social and political efforts and synthesize a legacy that will be accessible for young people and educators today.

"A Way Out of No Way" touched on aspects of Sapp's work and experience, including:

  • Her sensibilities as an artist developing within the context of a community struggling against the daily assaults on human dignity and human rights

  • How music became platform in which voices, lives and struggles of African American people could be heard by each other and by society at large

  • How Sapp's rich understanding of the dynamics within communities supported her as she worked to bring groups together across differences

  • The core principles that Sapp believes are at the center of excellent cultural work practice

  • The distinguishing features of cultural work compared to the related practices of community organizing, community-based art and community development

  • The implications for practitioners, educators and policy-makers