FlyOver: June 2007 Archives
Arts writer Bill Van Siclen reviews the exhibition "Pulp Function" at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Mass. Writes Van Siclen: "[T]he show's real star is paper itself. Indeed, it's hard to think of another material -- including art-world staples such as canvas, stone and wood -- that crosses so many artistic boundaries so effortlessly."
(Thanks to Bill Van Siclen of the Providence Journal [Rhode Island])
Ken Ross previews Mikhail Baryshnikov's upcoming appearance in Hartford.
(Thanks to Ken Ross of the Springfield Union-News & Sunday Republican [Mass.])
Edward L. Loper, Sr., is 91 and still artistically active--making him a less-recognized contemporary of Andrew Wyeth. Christopher Yasiejko examines a current exhibition of Loper's work.
(Thanks to Christopher Yasiejko of the the Wilmington News Journal [Delaware])
While I had planned on writing this Tuesday about the role of readers in the quality and quantity of arts coverage, I am a) too pooped to take that on right now and b) inspired by Joe's post to take another look at coverage of the "Outback" by big-city media.
While Joe had some frustrations with the New Yorker's musical coverage, I enjoyed an article in the New York Times last week about the very small town (pop. 65 or so) of West Lima, Wis., which is home to an "intentional community" of artists and eccentrics. The Times piece ("Into Middle America but Staying on the Fringe," June 20), by Matt Gross, actually appears in the travel section, not arts, since it's part of the Frugal Traveler's "American Road Trip." While the community Gross writes about, Dreamtime Village, has already been covered by Wisconsin papers, I'm guessing this is its first national exposure in a major paper. Gross offers up a nice place-portrait that captures a sense of quirkiness without overdoing it.
As Gross notes, West Lima is not far from Spring Green, Wis., home of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin. I've been to Spring Green twice in the past two weekends since it is also home to American Players Theatre (APT), a professional repertory company. I caught Saturday's opening night of George Bernard Shaw's "Misalliance," an excellent production that I find myself already mentally red-flagging for December's year-in-review piece of local arts highlights. (My review of the show will appear in this week's Isthmus.)
APT performs in an outdoor amphitheater that seats about 1,150 and, when Mother Nature cooperates, the result can be stunning. It's also a laid-back spot filled with pre-show picnicking and crowds that feel a little more alive than at most indoor shows. Sitting in the crowd last Saturday night, life seemed pretty good.
My aunt, who lives on a dairy farm between Madison and Milwaukee, forwarded me the NYT article and wrote in her e-mail, only half-jokingly, "Why would anyone live anywhere else but the Midwest?" While I can think of several cities I'd gladly give up Madison for, my aunt's got a point: there's some interesting stuff here, and I think living in any community is enhanced exponentially by being plugged into your local culture (in whatever form "culture" resonates with you).
My fellow blogger John Stoehr recently forwarded the rest of us a piece Greg Sandow wrote for the Wall Street Journal ("Yes, Classical-Music Criticism is in Decline: But the last thing the industry should do is blame the press," June 16). In that article, Sandow explains the decline in classical music criticism from his perspective and argues that the recent flurry of outrage (among some) about cuts in positions may be a bit misguided.
Although I'm of a different generation than Sandow and have a different background as a writer, I also have mixed feelings about arts journalism cuts. While of course I generally feel it's a bad thing--having fewer people getting their critical voices out there can't be good, and I feel for anyone losing his or her job--we must look at the reader's perspective. Some papers have argued that freelancers will fill the gap left by cuts in staff-writer positions. While time will tell if that truly happens (and that's a crucial "if"), cutting staffers does not automatically mean less arts coverage within the paper. As a freelancer myself, I think there are positive and negative aspects to current trends.
Thanks to Joe Nickell for getting us off to a great start yesterday and introducing the theme of this collaborative blog: arts and arts journalism outside of the major metros.
I'll be weighing in from Madison, Wis., a city of about 225,000 best known as the home of the flagship campus in the University of Wisconsin system. As a laid-back college town and also the state capital, Madison has its share of charms and frustrations, some of which I'll explore here over the coming weeks.
By day, I manage Wisconsin's statewide, nonprofit cultural Web site, Portalwisconsin.org, a project of the Cultural Coalition of Wisconsin. As an arts writer, I contribute regularly to Isthmus, Madison's alternative weekly, and other publications. While my academic background is in art history--and visual art remains my first love--I write about theater and books in addition to visual art.
My fellow bloggers and I share the belief that living in a smaller community does not necessarily doom one to a lesser cultural life in terms of quality or quantity. There's more happening in Madison than I would ever have the time to get to and an authentic local culture of which we can be proud. We Flyover bloggers look forward to sharing our local cultures with you and hope you'll join the discussion.
Due to the construction of the Overture Center for the Arts, Madison's downtown performing and visual arts complex, the Wisconsin Triennial--a showcase of contemporary visual art organized by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art--was knocked off its every-three-years schedule. The first Triennial since 2002 is now on view.
My review of the show ran in a recent issue of Isthmus, Madison's alternative weekly. Brief interviews with two of the included artists and one of the curators ran alongside the review. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's visual art critic also covered the show.
Simply put, the Wisconsin Triennial is one of my favorite things on the local visual art calendar. I'd love it if it were an annual tradition, but the scope of the show makes that nearly impossible. (This year, the curatorial team whittled about 500 applicants down to about 50 exhibiting artists.) I'd also like to see it get wider coverage - I just did a quick Google News search on "Wisconsin Triennial" and only four results turn up. While the show might not be able to get national coverage (even if it deserves it), we are living in a regional arts economy, so to speak - Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago form a sort of triangle and it's not unusual for residents of one place to attend theater, visual art, etc. in another. While farther away for me, Minneapolis is not out of the question, either.
I can't help but think that with all the coverage in recent weeks about arts journalism cutbacks in places like Minneapolis and Atlanta that it will be even harder for worthy events and artists to attract attention beyond their immediate environs. There will be fewer people out there with their radar attuned to noteworthy, high-quality events. But unless the reading public responds to these cuts in arts journalism positions with an outcry (and I doubt they will), such cuts are unsurprising.
Bloggers We Love
Bridgette Redman and Lansing Theater
Drew McManus' "Neo Classical" at the Partial Observer
Marc Moss (Missoula, MT artist)
Mary Louise Schumacher's "Art City"
Other Great Sites
American Composers Orchestra
Arts & Letters Daily
Center for Arts and Culture
Cultural Policy and the Arts National Data Archive
National Arts Journalism Program
NEA Arts Journalism Institute for Dance Criticism
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater & Musical Theater
New Music Box: American Music Center
USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program