Tuesday, August 18, 2015

36 Hours in the Arts in Maine with NEA Chairman Jane Chu

From The Telling Room to Spindleworks and the Bowdoin International Music Festival in 3 Short Days

NEA Chairman Jane Chu greets members of the Somali
Bantu Community Association, recipients of NEA funds
via the Maine Arts Commission's grant programs
In less than 36 hours you can get a grand picture of the vitality and breadth of the arts in Maine. Here's a quick tour courtesy of last week's visit by National Endowment for the Arts chairman Jane Chu

I had the great pleasure of accompanying chairman Jane Chu and Maine Arts Commission Director Julie Richard to Brunswick on day 3 of the chairman's junket here. Hopefully many of you were able to attend the packed Town Hall meeting she conducted Monday night in Portland.

Thanks to the office of Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, the Chairman visited NEA grant award winners in Portland on Monday, August 10; in Waterville and Lewiston on Tuesday; and Brunswick Wednesday. Details of that day below, but in the meantime here are the great organizations that Chairman Chu visited -- and you can, too!

Day 1, August 10, Portland: The Telling Room, Terra Motto/Veterans Story Exchange, Portland Museum of Art
Day 2, August 11, Waterville: Maine Film Center
Day 2 continued, Lewiston: Bates Dance Festival, Bates College Museum of Art, Somali Bantu Community Association

Julie Richard, Executive Director, Maine Arts Commission;
Jane Chu, Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts;
Liz McGhee, Program Director, Spindleworks;
Spindleworks artist, seated, and teaching artist.
We started Day 3: Brunswick at the ever-amazing Spindleworksa non profit art center for adults with disabilities, where one of the most famous lines ever written or spoken is “HANDICAP, I HEARD ABOUT IT BUT I AIN’T GOT IT NOW," by participating artist Rita Langlois. As intrepid Program Director Liz McGhee walked us through the full and busy artist studios, they showed us their excellent work and described their inspiring days of art making at Spindleworks. We reluctantly tore ourselves away from the Spindleworks Gallery without buying armloads of art. You can purchase Spindleworks art online or at their new Spin Off Studio in Gardiner, but I truly recommend visiting and perhaps getting a chance to meet one of the 40+ artists who use these studios every week. 

We hiked up Maine Street and were lucky enough to greet briefly Bowdoin College's incoming president, Clayton Rose, who showed off Nathaniel Hawthorne's desk.
Then off to greet Peter Simmons and the staff of the Bowdoin International Music Festival whose violin instructor, Frank Huang, was recently named concert master for the New York Philharmonic--a testament to the amazing quality of work and student experiences offered by the festival. A quick tour of one of the Festival's musical homes, the beautiful Studzinski Recital Hall (where I swam as a Bowdoin student, as it was formerly Curtis Pool) and off we swept to see, last but not least, the renovated and re-energized Bowdoin College Museum of Art, now under the guidance of curators Anne and Frank Goodyear. If you didn't see my previous posts re the unexpected Night Vision exhibit, or the innovative new work now on display there from photographer Abelardo Morrell, check them out here.
Whew. You CAN do this, too--and I highly recommend it. Maine arts and artists in all areas -- whether folk or traditional artists, or those who hang in museums -- are of international quality. And they are right here in our very own, very beautiful backyard.
A final quick note re NEA Chairman Chu. This fall she is poised to announce her signature leadership initiative, Creativity Connects. Earlier this year she launched the Tell Us Your Story to celebrate this year's 50th anniversary of the NEA and said,
"We have an opportunity to start a new dialogue on the ways in which the arts—and the ways the NEA supports the arts—are an essential component of our everyday lives," says Chu. "Although many may not realize it, the arts actively intersect with areas such as the economy, human development, and community vitality. The arts and artists who are funded and supported by the NEA are an integral part of the solution to the challenges we face in all parts of our society."
We say YES.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Lincoln Festival Chorus 35th Season Performance

Soprano Suzanne Nance soloed with the Lincoln Festival Chorus in Boothbay Harbor and Newcastle, Maine this weekend in an all-Mozart concert including the Solemn Vespers.
This is a story about how great it is to get out of your own head/hood and into the world to see what others are doing: a kind of wake-up call for the way we need to break and cross boundaries in Maine arts.

There is a lot of beautiful, high quality performance work happening by and in Maine communities, and a great example of this is the Lincoln Arts Festival in the Boothbay region. The Lincoln Festival Chorus and the Mozart Mentors Orchestra conducted by maestro Anthony Antolini (disclaimer: yes, another fellow Bowdoin grad as well as member of the Bowdoin faculty) gave a fabulous, all-Mozart concert in Newcastle tonight of the Ave verum corpus, written in 1791, less than six months before the composer's death; and Vesparae solemnes de confessore from 1780. Both pieces featured soprano soloist Suzanne Nance, whom followers of this blog have seen frequently at Opera House Arts.

We rarely have truly hot days and evenings in Maine, and today was one of these. The beautiful St. Patrick's hall in Newcastle, where tonight's concert was held, had no AC and both audience and performers were swabbing our sweat from our faces. The maestro shed his white tie to reveal strong green John Deere suspenders over his soaked shirt.

Antolini mentioned to me after the performance that he was extremely grateful for the Maine Arts Commission's support of a world premiere commission he conducted in May, Elizabeth Brown's To Walk Humbly for theremin, piano, and chorus. Brown is composer in residence at Monclair State University in New Jersey. Her music, which has been heard around the world, is informed by her performances on flute, shakuhachi, theremin, and dan bau (Vietnamese monochord). It is always a thrill for the Arts Commission to support the world premieres of original performances, especially of contemporary classical works, right here in Maine.