Sunday, February 28, 2010

A new concept in conceptual art...

Heard about this on NPR this afternoon. It's called: "A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter" by artist Caleb Larsen.

"This object perpetually attempts to sell itself on eBay," and the purchaser must agree to specific terms to connect it to the Internet in order that it function properly.

Starting bid is $6,858. No bidders yet! Read all about it here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Assembly Member Solorio attends arts education advocacy breakfast

(left to right: Michael Buss, Assemblyman Solorio, Rick Stein)

This morning, Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-69th District, Anaheim/Santa Ana), participated in the first Anaheim Alliance for Arts Education breakfast, sponsored by the California Alliance for Arts Education and Arts Orange County. Coordinating the event was Michael Buss. Following presentations by CAAE's Joe Landon and ArtsOC's Pat Wayne, Mr. Solorio made brief remarks and then joined in the roundtable discussions.

I took this opportunity to invite Assemblyman Solorio's renewed support for the Creative Industries Revitalization Act (AB 1777). He had supported its prior-session version (AB 700).

Assemblyman Solorio's brief remarks...

Escondido Arts Center dodges a bullet

Reports in recent weeks that the City of Escondido was planning to close its performing arts center and turn it into commercial offices scared a lot of people--not least of whom was Griff Duncan, producer/artistic director of the FCLO Music Theatre in Fullerton, which sends its shows down there after their OC runs. Griff told me that one issue the City faced was that the site is not zoned for commercial offices, so the city was considering moving its own offices onto the site instead. The community was outraged, and the City has relented. The arts center still has to suffer a significant budget cut, but this is an example of how arts lovers in one community rallied to say "enough is enough" -- the arts are willing to take whatever fair share of cuts have to be spread around, but they won't be singled out as non-essential or easy pickings any more.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New mantra for America's regional theatres?

Remember the phrase, "think globally, act locally"?

Well, it seems that at least one major American professional resident theatre company is taking it to a new level: "think & act locally," according to this article about Boston's Huntington Theatre Company in today's New York Times.

This may be an example of what I predict could become a new wave of connectivity between professional and amateur artists in communities around the nation as institutional theatres (and other arts institutions) struggle amidst rapidly diminishing audiences for their work. Studies have been citing peoples' preference for curating their own arts experiences from the enormous menu of leisure time options. In such an environment, the role of the artistic director is evolving into one that must not only be visionary but also well-versed in the local artistic community--whether professional or amateur.

The "pro-am" divide has already been the subject of research in the U.K., and it's ripe for study in the U.S. I plan to pursue this topic again in future posts here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ya gotta have a gimmick

Chicago artist Patrick Skoff made it into that city's major daily newspaper today with a feature about how he drops off his acrylic paintings in spots throughout the urb, then drops hints on Twitter about where they're located. First come, first serve, free art. Here are his website, Facebook page, and Twitter page.

Whatever you think of his art, he's certainly getting his 15 minutes of fame.

Friday, February 5, 2010

"I can't tweet on. I'll tweet on."

Former Hunger Artists Theatre artistic director Jeremy Gable hightailed it to Philly last year but remains ubiquitous through the social media.

His latest venture, "The 15th Line," is a drama playing out entirely in 140-character maximum-length tweets on Twitter, commencing recently and continuing through March.

It's fascinating but it also lays bare the limitations of Twitter as a medium for drama.

The title presumably refers to a real subway station in Philadelphia and features 4 characters, 3 male and 1 female, each with a Twitter account (including their own personal profile pages).

The first tweet was on January 25:

PATRICK: Breaking News - Subway accident at 15th St Station. 21 believed dead, 17 injured. Cause is not yet known.

Each character is impacted by this accident in different ways, to be pieced out by the audience from sometimes cryptic, sometimes transparent tweets they post. And their tweets are consistent with the kind of messages people typically communicate through Twitter--random thoughts, expressions of frustration, attempts to reach out, proffering help, lonely musings. It possesses a high degree of authenticity, but also takes a long time to get to know these characters and to glean exactly what's taking place.

Gable tosses in a little inside joke for his friends back in the Orange County theatre scene by naming that city's Mayor Hodgins--coincidentally the name of the OC Register's longtime theatre writer & critic. (The real Philly Mayor is Michael Nutter.)

Though Gable's characters tweet daily, their terse text messages are rather few--only a handful are posted daily. If you're only an occasional Twitter follower, that means you can easily catch up on what's happening in the play. However, it also results in long waits for action to occur, or rather, be reported upon since we obviously can never SEE anything beyond the script and our own imagination.

So, this morning, I'm waiting for Gable.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

What Next for SCR as Founders Plan Their Departure?

Martin Benson (left) and David Emmes shocked some in the community with today's announcement that they will seek a new artistic director to succeed them as they move into essentially "emeritus" roles at the theatre they founded more than four decades ago. Others in the community knew that these savvy theatre producers were not likely to leave it all to chance--that they would plan an orderly transition from the South Coast Repertory they led from an itinerant troupe to arguably one of the nation's finest resident professional theatres.

The mention in press reports (LA Times and OC Register) that SCR's associate artistic director John Glore (a respected literary manager) would be a candidate for the position inevitably suggests to some that, barring some calamity, this longstanding SCR artistic staff member will be tapped for the post.

It would not be the only theatre in the nation led by a non-stage director. LA's Center Theatre Group (Mark Taper Forum/Ahmanson Theatre/Kirk Douglas Theatre) is led by Michael Ritchie who began his career as a stage manager and produces--but does not direct--at his venues. About twenty years ago, an esteemed playwright Ed Graczyk ("Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean") was artistic director of Theatre Columbus (Ohio). Even the renowned Joe Papp was primarily a force of nature driving his enormous Public Theatre/NY Shakespeare Festival organization forward, rather than a director (only very early on did he stage the rare production).

Glore's forte as a dramaturg would mean that as an artistic director he would likely carry on the legacy of developing & producing new works at SCR. And with Emmes & Benson hanging on for at least 5 years as Founding Directors with stage directing assignments, the rest of the season's offerings can be farmed out to guest directors without an "Artistic Director" Glore batting an eye.

But...a plum job like an artistic directorship at one of the nation's most financially-stable theatre companies is going to attract some top-notch competition for Glore during the search process.

It will be fascinating to see who is ultimately selected.

NEA logo contest: a new controversy for the agency

AIGA, the professional association for design, has reacted harshly to the recent announcement by NEA Chair Rocco Landesman that the agency will award a $25,000 grant to the winner of a contest to create a new logo with the theme "Art Works." Read about it here.

The Arts: Survival of the Fittest?

The media and blogosphere are teeming with articles about the health of our nation's arts community as news breaks daily of more arts organizations that are folding their tents.

Some, like Goldstar Events CEO Jim McCarthy in his "Live 2.0" blog lean heavily toward the Darwinian view--"to be relevant and vital in our time, or not to be."

Others, like Anne Midgette in the Washington Post, explore the declining audience trends, extending the longtime debate in opera circles over warhorses vs. new work.

And Charles McNulty of the LA Times, talks essentially about how theater lost its way and will only recover once it rediscovers its roots.

These surely won't be the last words on the subject as more bad news arrives, and I'm not saying that to be a Cassandra--but rather to foster additional thoughtful discussion about what it is about the arts that has always compelled people to embrace it, what's preventing them from doing so now, and what can be done about it.

Please comment!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Design the new NEA logo! Win $25,000!

Well, it may be a gimmicky thing to do, but NEA Chair Rocco Landesman is a savvy marketer (and successful Broadway producer), so he probably thought a logo contest for a new era at the National Endowment for the Arts was a great way to kick off his tenure there (especially after the unfortunate incident months ago when he unthinkingly disparaged Peoria, Illinois as lacking in artistic resources).
Interested artists should go to for details.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Pasadena Playhouse is dead! Long live Pasadena Playhouse!

The announced closure of Pasadena Playhouse with the caveat that it hopes to re-open after a period of re-organization has seized the SoCal arts headlines (and also top tidbit in today's New York Times arts section page 2). This phoenix has burned and come back to life previously, but whether it can repeat its reappearance act is a big question mark in these difficult times. Notwithstanding LA Times theatre critic Charles McNulty's recent somewhat disingenuous johnny-come-lately defense of the LA theatre scene (his next review was of a play in NYC), LA may have lots of storefront theatres per capita but they and the larger theatres have all struggled amidst the general lack of arts philanthropy here. OC rode a wave of arts philanthropy that led to edifice building and, in the case of South Coast Rep, endowment building. But by and large, OC's established arts institutions are every bit as vulnerable as LA's. After all, we lost Opera Pacific a year ago, Ballet Pacifica before that, and while OC's arts organizations are trying their best to put on a happy face (note last week's OC Museum of Art announcement that last quarter was their best ever for fundraising--though that was due to renewed support from two large foundations, not the arrival of new money), there are enough signs that beneath the surface, the picture is far less rosey.
Bloggers love to take potshots by calling the arts elitist, but Arts Orange County's 2006 Cultural Indicators Study indicated a high degree of interest in the arts locally and a desire to participate in them.
Certainly, there's a lot more competition for leisure time, much of which is easily accessible from home--a trend that is not going to be all that easy to overcome without some truly compelling programming by arts organizations (cf. Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser's mantras on The Huffington Post).
But...the lack of grass roots arts philanthropy is astounding, and the process of educating the public of its necessity must be made a priority.