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At the time of our 8/4/2006 ARTSCAPE interview, Dr. Robert Capanna was Executive Director of the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, PA. Settlement Music School, founded in 1908, is the largest community school of the arts in the United States. With six branches in the Philadelphia region and one in Camden, NJ, the School now serves about 15,000 students of all abilities, and awards nearly $2 million a year in financial aid. There is at least one Settlement Music School alumnus in every major symphony in the United States and Settlement is the largest employer of musicians in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Dr. Capanna has been an active and widely respected composer. His works have been performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, Mendelssohn Quartet and Colorado Quartet and in numerous chamber music and broadcast series. Under his leadership, Settlement Music School Settlement grew from three to six locations serving over 10,000 students on-site and 6000 students off-site.

In our ARTSCAPE interview, Dr. Capanna discussed

  •  Settlement Music School’s primary mission and has it changed throughout the years
  • The experience of Settlement Music School and similar community-based programs across the United States
  • The many benefits music study offers, besides music training
  • The strong connection between music and science
  • The relationship between music and young children
  • How music study supports cognitive as well as emotional development

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At the time of our 7/28/2006 ARTSCAPE interview, Pierre Parisien was Head Artistic Director, Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas. As protector of the creative concept, Mr. Parisien ensures the artistic creation of each of the then five Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas stays true to their form. The shows include KÀ, Mystère, “O”, ZUMANITY, ANOTHER SIDE OF CIRQUE DU SOLEIL, and the then new production at Mirage, LOVE. Mr. Parisien works with over 350 performers, as well as the artistic and coaching staff to preserve the creativity and artistic integrity for which Cirque du Soleil is known.

In our ARTSCAPE interview, Mr. Parisien discussed

  • How Cirque shows evolve over time and how the creative integrity is maintained
  • How casting for Cirque shows works and how the company finds their artists
  • How to motivate artists when they are performing the same show 10 times a week
  • Some of the reasons Cirque du Soleil has become such a successful live entertainment company

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Dr. Franklin Kelly is Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the National Gallery of Art. At the time of our 12/1/2006 ARTSCAPE interview, Dr. Kelly was Senior Curator of American and British Painting at the National Gallery of Art. Dr. Kelly’s concentration is on 19th- and early 20th-century American painting. His publications include Frederic Edwin Church and the National Landscape, Thomas Cole’s Paintings of Eden, and Nineteenth-Century American Paintings in the National Gallery of Art, as well as articles and essays on a wide range of artists, including Thomas Eakins, George Bellows, and Edward Hopper. Dr. Kelly was curator of Constable’s Great Landscapes: The Six-Foot Paintings, that was on view at the National Gallery of Art through December 31st, 2006.

In our ARTSCAPE interview, Dr. Kelly discussed

  • Why John Constable created the full-size sketches
  • The role these sketches played in realizing the final paintings
  • Characteristics of Constable’s brushwork in the larger canvases
  • The story of the rehabilitation of Constable’s The White Horse
  • Dr. Kelly’s trip to the Stour valley and walking tour through “Constable Country”

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On March 21, 2007, ARTSCAPE was “live” at Urban Marketplace 2007 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Urban Marketplace 2007 was hosted by Urban Land Institute/Los Angeles. We were privileged to speak with Councilwoman Jan Perry of the Los Angeles City Ninth District. Councilwoman Perry understands the unique needs of her diverse constituency. She continues to work with the community to bring millions of dollars in capital improvements to parks and recreation centers, to increase public safety, and to achieve environmental justice for all. Since her first term of office, Councilwoman Pery has greened her district by reducing blighted property and cleaning brownfields. Over the past 10 years, she has invested over $73 million in improving, expanding, and developing new recreation and park space throughout the Ninth District, from downtown to South Los Angeles. Additionally, she initiated the Augustus Hawkins Wetland, the first-of-its-kind, man-made wetland in a highly urban area in the nation. The wetland is a demonstration project aimed at launching the development of a larger urban wetland park that will bring nature to the heart of South Los Angeles. Councilwoman Perry also serves as the Assistant Pro Tempore for the Los Angeles City Council, making her the first African-American woman to hold this position in the history of the city.

In our ARTSCAPE interview, Councilwoman Perry discussed

  • The Grand Avenue project, which created housing for people of varied income levels
  • LA Live, a catalytic development in downtown Los Angeles
  • The potential for transit-oriented development in downtown and the surrounding areas
  • Industrial land use policy

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Sean Scully – Wall of Light

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibited Sean Scully: Wall of Light in Fall 2006, the first U.S. museum presentation of Mr. Scully’s Wall of Light series. The exhibition began its national tour at The Phillips Collection, followed by showings at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the Cincinnati Art Museum. By the mid-1980s, Mr. Scully’s work had garnered international recognition, and many major museums began to acquire his paintings. His work was included in The Museum of Modern Art’s 1984 exhibition An International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture. The following year, the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh organized the first major exhibition of his work in the U.S., which traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Four years later, his work was the subject of a major solo exhibition in Europe that originated at London’s Whitechapel Gallery and traveled to Madrid and Munich.

In our 10/20/2006 ARTSCAPE interview, Mr. Scully discussed

  • The inspiration for his Wall of Light series
  • Metaphysics, mysticism, and alchemy
  • His relationship to the history of painting
  • The issue of nuance in painting
  • Spirituality in painting, and how an artist’s process shifts as he creates work over a period of many years

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THE MOVEMENT, UCSD Wagner Dance Studio, June 17, 2007

I had the extraordinary privilege of attending last night’s performance of THE MOVEMENT. This terrific evening, amazing from top to bottom, was produced by grace shinhae jun, CRW Enterprises, and Rebecca Bryant and Don Nichols [past)(modern performance duo].

THE MOVEMENT was an evening of dance theater. Or was it poetry dance? Or was it a play, masquerading as dance-poetry-slammin’ hip-hop? THE MOVEMENT was all of these, featuring a Greek chorus of twenty-something urban poets, rhythm sections of dance duets, trios, and quintets, heart-stopping and gut-wrenching poetry monologues, full-on jazz choreography, and a percussion soloist (Don Nichols) who could comfortably have shared the stage with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Miles Davis, or Muddy Waters.

I’ll begin at the beginning – “In this piece, something will be revealed and something will stay concealed” – choreographed and performed by Rebecca Bryant. “In this piece … ” is a brilliant theatrical creation, combining dance, graphics, sound effects, narration, film-like cuts and transitions, a treasure-hunt sense of adventure, and a killer postmodernist story line. Wow!

Onstage, Rebecca informs us she is investigating “how people construct reality”. I straightened up in my seat and took notice. Then she regales us with a cautionary tale of a fifth-grade production of “Macbeth”, letting us know this is when she became a postmodernist. “Reality is subjective” Rebecca declaims, and proceeds to exit stage left. A moment later a new performer appears, dressed as Rebecca was dressed and continuing the dance and monologue as if she IS Rebecca, but “reality is subjective”. This was a great moment.

Throughout “In this piece … ” Rebecca was contrasting, for our edification and delight, the objectives and goals of the “Performer” and the “Audience Member”. A chart takes shape on the scrim, with axes and labels. We’re told that audience interest is based on how well the performer tells her story, and Rebecca concludes forcefully, “by good I mean effective, and by story I mean lie”. My jaw literally dropped.

What about the choreography? Well, in such a dance event ? really performance art ? the actual dancing is a sidebar. Not inconsequential, certainly not, but serving the overall design, purpose, and message (subjective, of course) of the performing artist. The dancing was strong, graceful, supple, and attractive, and most of all, extremely intelligent.

“In this piece … ” incorporates a lot of script. The performer has a lot to say, all of it provocative and of great interest. Importantly, Rebecca Bryant is a very well-rounded stage artist, both a terrific dancer and a terrific actress. When she speaks, she speaks truthfully. She is in and of the moment. What she has to say may not be the “truth”, but that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

OK. Now for the poetry. THE MOVEMENT poets were Ant Black, Rudy Francisco, and Kendrick Dial, comprising Collective Purpose. From the program notes, Collective Purpose is “committed to utilizing creative expression as a means to inspire others to become truth seekers, truth speakers, and positive change agents.” Ant Black “has been called a mastermind of paradox in urban culture”. Rudy Francisco “combines activism and poetry”. Kendrick Dial is “an MC, spoken word artists, and songwriter”. Together and individually, these three very talented poets are a powerful force to be reckoned with.

“On the Fly” was a unique multimedia performance event featuring poetry, live percussion, and dance. The poets – Ant, Rudy, and Kendrick – each possessing a commanding yet caring stage presence – drifted purposefully across and through the stage space, singly and in a group, interacting with the dancers – Rebecca Bryant and grace shinhae jun – in a graceful, loosely constructed pas de cinq.

The poets – spoken word artists – took the audience on a tour of American society, focusing on the mid-1960s and the now. They gave us a painful, shattering overview of Black History in America, as told by those only a generation removed from the water hoses, beatings, and murders done in those places and during those times.

At one early moment in “On the Fly”, on a darkened stage, the three poets stood in an open triangle, the apex forward, with right arms upraised and fists clenched – a tribute to the Black Power salute given by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics. I gasped in recognition at this living glimpse of history. I had tears in my eyes then and now, as I write this.

Martin Luther King. Coretta Scott King. Betty Shabazz. Gordon Parks. Gil Scott-Heron. The Black Panthers. And back through history to Sojourner Truth. As each honored name was spoken, echoing across time, visions of those troubled yet glorious days raced across my memory. My Dad and I Marched on Washington in 1963. I read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” in real-time, in 1965. In 1968 I read “Soul on Ice” by Eldridge Cleaver, Minister of Information of the Black Panthers. I was there. I remember. And I’m very grateful to Collective Purpose for reminding us what our collective purpose was, is, and needs to be.

And, finally, “The Movement”, choreographed by grace shinhae jun in collaboration with bkSOUL dancers Lauren Dockweiler, Amir Khastoo, Jacqui Lang, and Lavina Rich. grace’s dynamic, powerful, intensely rhythmic choreography provided the perfect energizing, uplifting, and hopeful conclusion to the evening’s rollercoaster ride. Deep pliés, tight, fast turns and spins, karate-style leg kicks, modern ballet arabesques, and super-strong partnering propelled bkSOUL along sharp diagonals and up, down, around, and through the available four dimensions of space and time. The house was rockin’ and we all were feelin’ the love.

So, THE MOVEMENT was not only a brilliant creative collaboration. THE MOVEMENT sets a new standard for performance art, really a new standard to what it means to be a performer and present a performance. We had the joy of experiencing dance, poetry, and music of the highest order. And, by being present at THE MOVEMENT, we were enabled to share the deeply human experience of memory, pain and loss, and the joy of creation, the joy, heartache, and blessing of striving to be human.

My great appreciation and thanks to each and every artist of THE MOVEMENT.

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