Tour Curator

Martin Grizzell

Martin Grizzell is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area who has made France his home away from home. A familiar personality on the American theatrical stage, Mr. Grizzell has performed at the Lincoln Center for the Arts in New York City and the Nice Jazz Festival in Southern France.
Martin is also a textile artist and historian His work is in the permanent collection of the recently opened Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. Grizzell has represented the United States in the annual ConsulArt Exposition at the prestigious Maison de l’Artisanat et des Metiers d’Art Gallery of Marseille, where his iconic quilted pieces, Wink-Pyramids and Capstonesand Middle Passage/Big Bang, drew major attention from the fine art community of Marseille.
His first exposure to Marseille was through Claude McKay’s 1928 novel, Banjo. Intrigued by the African presence, musicality and cosmopolitan nature of the first city of France, Banjo became a regular reread over the years. Mr. Grizzell was invited to Marseille in 2013 to exhibit his collection entitled, “Carolina Code: Post Modern Variations of Coded Underground Railroad Quilts” on the Vieux Port. Grizzell has lectured at Aix-Marseille University on the historical significance of symbolism in textile.
In his spare time, Martin manages a dynamic singing group, New Grizzell Chorus-Gospel Soul (NGC), the only gospel roots group in the region. NGC was honoured to sing at the 2014 inauguration of Passage Claude McKay, bringing heart and soul to that occasion and the relationship that has historically existed between African American artists and a welcoming France.
Grizzell states: "Alexander Dumas, Josephine Baker, Claude McKay and many other artists of African descent found a home away from home, in Marseille. At it’s founding, the Mediterranean Sea was the centre of the world. The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans were unexplored by the peninsula’s early inhabitants and Kemet, aka Egypt, was the imperial power of the time. Greece had not come into its glory and the Roman Empire was hundreds of years in the future when brave Black Hannibal made his historic march to the very gates of Rome through the mountains just north and east of the city. The immigration of multitudes of North Africans after two World Wars and the massive influx of Algerian immigrants in the early 1960’s have given Marseille a distinct, African flavour, unlike any other metropolis in Europe. It is a grand pleasure to introduce you to this ancient, cosmopolitan city."