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Benefit TONIGHT: A Guide to Dressing the Part

In mere hours, (well 11) wine will be a flowin’, conversation a hummin’ and the arts leaders of today and tomorrow will be celebrated starting at 8 pm at the EALS Benefit at Studio Gallery. All proceeds of the benefit will go to putting on April 15th’s Emerging Arts Leader’s Symposium.

Buy your tickets here or at the door for $15!

Now you may be coming to enjoy the incredible art (Elizabeth Grusin-Howe), guzzle wine with the witty Wineboy (Ryan Wegman), jam along to the live jazz (The Burning Wicks), have your picture snapped by DC’s best dynamic photographer (Cedric Terrell) or perhaps because you are/know/were once an emerging arts leader and want to show your support.

Or maybe you’re coming, as I am, for this very line:

Dress with the inspiration of your favorite art

Hell, yeah.

I LOVE dressing up. In college I went greek mostly for the joy of attending mixers with questionable titles such as “Hoes and Bros” (I may have made an appearance to that one as Lil Wayne, all photographic evidence has been since destroyed). Halloween was always a three night extravaganza where each party warranted a wardrobe change. While these days running around a fraternity house in a get-up made mostly of duct tape sounds about as appealing as plunging my entire head into hot oil, I do miss the “getting ready” part.  That’s the creative part where you use clothing, make-up and a variety of hair styling tools that look like torture devices to literally make an entirely different creation with yourself as the canvas.

Tonight’s benefit is an opportunity to do just that. Dress like your favorite artists, your favorite art form, or even your favorite art piece. Our very lovely hostess, Jennie Sue, will be appearing as Pollock’s Number 7 (she has a dress, I’m told).  So the question remains, what will you wear?

For those of you who are lacking the inspiration or decided the best mode of action would be to ignore line, “Dress with the inspiration of your favorite art” I have created the below GUIDE to help you inspire you while picking your fancy dress this evening.

EALS Benefit: A Guide to Dressing the Part

Inspiration: SALVADOR DALÍ

When it comes to eccentricity, Dali will always be my king. The artist had a great interest in fashion from his 1936 Aphrodisiac Jacket to the infamous 1937 Lobster Dress . To achieve either of these looks is simple:

Dress: Find white dress and lobster stickers or stamps. Combine. Presto!

Jacket: Steal your father’s dinner coat and hot glue on 81 various types of drink-ware. Filling glasses with creme de menthe and dead flies is elective.

Still stumped? Glue on some freaky facial hair, walk around with an expression of permanent surprise and go as the artist himself. Rooster optional.

Inspiration: RAY CHARLES

Called by Sinatra, “the only true genius in show business”, Ray Charles is a classic dress-up option. While you may not have his talent nor his glaucoma, stealing his style is easy!

It’s all in the sunglasses.

While you are unlikely to be in possession of a pair of Billy Stickles originals, you can still fake it for cheap or shell out like a hipster. From there add a snazzy suit (I suggest pin stripes) and bow tie and you’re ready to make some “Sweet Memories.”

Inspiration: FRIDA KAHLO

Doesn’t matter how you feel about her use of (or lack of use of) tweezers there’s not denying Kahlo was a brilliant and passionate artist. While it may be a tall order to grow out your unibrow by 8 pm tonight, a little eyeliner can go a long way.

Frida was all about lavish layers of colors. Pull on a brightly patterned frock and drape yourself with as many shawls you can handle.

Check out this girl’s video on Frida inspired hair and make-up then top it all off with a pair of big Chandelier earrings and you’re ready to stare angrily across the room at your artist lover, and possibly throw a drink at his head.

Inspiration: The Son of Man by René Magritte

Magritte’s witty and thought provoking works always encourage viewers to look twice. Your Son of Man outfit is sure to do the same.

While only the double jointed can mimic the man’s off putting left arm, the recipe for an outfit of mystery is relatively painless. A classic gray overcoat + red tie (learn how to tie one here)+ Chaplin hat + a leafy Granny Smith = one enigmatic outfit.

Plus if you get hungry after the benefit, you can always eat the apple..

Inspiration: Ambassadeurs: Aristide Bruant dans son cabaret by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Best part of dressing like Ambassadeurs is that you really only need two items to make the outfit work: one long red scarf plus one floppy black hat and your in business.

Aristide Bruant, the cabaret singer in the painting, wore a red shirt, black velvet jacket, high boots, and a long red scarf when performing at the club Le Chat Noir.

Brown gloves are encouraged but we will ask you to relinquish and kind of stick-like item before entering the gallery.

Ultimately we don’t care what you wear, as long as you show up!

Looking forward to seeing you tonight!

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Advice from the King, no not that King

Yes, yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and although his memory deserves much more than one blog post – today, I prefer to discuss a different King, a literary king, Stephen King.

Amid the hefty stack of books I slated for my winter-break reading, Stephen King’s nonfiction piece, On Writing, claimed the top of the pile. Before this summer, I had never read one of his novels, but a literati friend put Green Mile into my hands. I was impressed by his storytelling ability and found myself willing to forgo my predilection for writers who teach me a new vocabulary word each page for solid, page turners like King churns out. Next, my same wise friend recommended On Writing to me, King’s autobiography and advice book for nascent writers.

Now, like many of my peers who study arts management, I struggle to make time for my own art while spending time studying the management of it. After reading about the challenges King overcame to produce his first novels – juggling marriage, small children, factory shifts and teaching – he reminded me that yes, it’s possible to keep artistic focus despite all the life happening around us. But it takes discipline. Amid the many sage observations in this book (including my favorite aphorism – “The road to hell is paved with adverbs”) what most resonated with me is his topic of muses.

How often do we as artists wait for that illusive moment for our inspiration to strike? We avow there will be a perfect moment to begin our opera, our painting, or our novel, but the time we have now does not seem quite right. Chances are, that instant will never come unless we pave the path. King puts it this way:

“There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think this is fair? I think it’s fair… It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the midnight oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life.”

How I envision King's muse

We must not wait to strike when the iron is hot, but rather, we must work on what we love when the iron is tepid, downright frigid even. In order to be a successful arts manager, it’s paramount to foster my enthusiasm for the arts by being an active participant. Perhaps if we all find time to keep creating, then maybe, our reluctant muses will snub out their cigars and help us create work that can, in fact, change lives.

National Council on the Arts: RECAP

So just got back from the National Council on the Arts public meeting. Though a little long  it was CHOCK FULL of inspiration. Some pretty incredible individuals got a chance to speak about themselves, the work they do, and most importantly, what inspires them.

Watch it HERE (skip to about 5:39 to get past the “please stand-by” part, you’ll know you’re there when you see Rocco in his red St. Louis hat).

After the swearing in of the fabulous Aaron Dworkin, NEA’s fearless leader, Rocco Landesman, shared about his travels across the world from his Art Works Tour. Be sure to check out his reflections on his trip to Alaska and Australia, really fascinating discoveries on the power of indigenous art, the importance of creative peacemaking, and the exploration of how “art works” so differently across the country and the world. He spoke of how across his travels he found in so many places where this incredible intersect of arts and daily life takes place for the benefit of all.

The Arts Journalism Initiative was discussed by the council, a relatively new initiative by the NEA and Knight Foundation that seeks to address the problems with declining arts coverage and the decline of professional arts journalists in favor using regular staff.  Landesman identified fives types of arts coverage that the Knight/NEA Community Arts Journalism Challenge addresses:

  • Factual information about arts
  • Casual discourse
  • News coverage and investigative reporting
  • Criticism within historic and current context
  • Academic writing

It was found that increasingly arts organizations are making the push to distribute factual information about their arts events themselves removing the need for journalistic contribution and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have created a platform for casual discourse between fans (of which Opera fans are apparently the most vocarious ) allowing for discussion and personal analysis of the work. Academic writing has soared with more MFAs and PhDs in art and art history than ever. But what was missing was the initiative to support local arts coverage that is both accessible and professional.

Landesman pointed out that for the arts to flourish, arts criticism must be active. After all, “if art happens and no one covered it, does it have impact?”

The winning project ideas shared two common solutions of the problem of lagging art journalism: crowd sourcing and community creativity. This cute video summarizes the winning ideas:

Knight/NEA Community Arts Journalism Challenge Finalists from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

If you can’t/don’t want to check out the video now check out my quickly tapped out iPhone notes summary:

  1. Charlotte, NC: Charlotte arts alliance to train journalists and provide coverage content free for alliance outlets. Keep it all in single online place
  2. Detroit, MI: Lack of dialogue interactive mobile video booth iCritic record video reviews as they leave event. Reviews instantly available
  3. Miami, FL: arts spot Miami, crowd financing journalist pitch ideas to public. Winning ideas will be funded. Engaging public to select
  4. Philadelphia, PA: Drexel embed arts journalists into Daily News, partnerships, curate stories from both editorial teams. Leveraging existing resources
  5. San Jose, CA: Tech economy. Encourage better understanding using map based technology app plan will enable interactions with arts venues via map. Analyze to understand people’s understanding

Funding will be given to these winning ideas to develop “action plans” which will detail how exactly each idea will be launched, sustained and maintained. The winning action plan will receive $80,000 in implementation funding. The council asked questions two of which I found most applicable and fascinating.

The first concerned sustainability: will these projects be sustainable after the one time grant? The second, professionalism: some of the projects seem as if they may fail to elevate the arts journalism medium and instead provide a tool for  magnification of what discourse is already occurring on Internet.

It’ll be interesting into see how the action plans incorporate ideas for sustainability; many are addressing the needs for creating new types of revenue such has crowd sourcing.
As for the citizen journalist vs professional writer: many conversations that make sure of social media will be curated by professionals who through guiding the conversation and selecting the shows/areas in which they bring participation ensuring an increased level of professionalism. In the case of arts journalism it seems the difficultly is increasingly how to  determine whose voice will be heard and if all voices worth of being heard. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but are some more valid than others?

The Opera Panel and Research presentation were incredible. Favorite quotes include: “If you’re embarrassed by emotion you won’t like opera” and “to love the opera, you cannot be afraid of passion.” I suggest to watch the webcast for the truly interesting discussion between opera panelists and check out the Art Works blog and press release  for some great content about Artists in the Workforce.

The session concluded with a talk by dynamic couple: FloydFest producer, Kris Hodges and director, Erika Johnson. These two were dynamite and I was disappointed the Chairman had to leave to catch a flight before they made their presentation.

Have a little listen of the this past 2011 Floydfest lineup HERE.

Hodges and Johnson took turns describing the unique aspects of creativity and community that has made the festival such a success these past 10 years. While they weren’t shy sharing about the trails, tribulations and debt they struggled with to keep the festival running, one couldn’t help but be inspired by their pride in their community and desire to share the incredible Floydfest experience with everyone.

Born out of a combination of  “teamwork and dreamwork” (sounds familiar to anyone whose worked in the arts) and working with the ingredients on hand, Floydfest developed out of the natural and creative fertility of the land and people in the community. Hodges talked about being attracted to the “spirit of the community of creative thinkers and doers” where a pre-existing (and surprising) alchemy of tradition and open-mindedness allowed for a rich platform on which the festival could develop.

The environment of a self-sustaining community and place of pride meant Floydfest receives a lot of local support from organic markets (the couple started their own organic restaurant pre-Floydfest which they sold in order to keep the festival going) and has remained an event where authenticity, quality and sincerity are valued above all (nice-huh? Sincerity and the arts, nearly forgot about it). Despite getting some big name headliners, Hodges and Johnson say they treat all musicians in their line-up the same, as “fiercely independent artists looking to cultivate their art.”

It was nice to be reminded that “arts will exist even if there is no money behind it” because, after all, “people [ultimately] want to make art”, and will make often even without a financial goal in mind. This is what makes arts funding so tricky. Our organizations need the money, yet to make art is so basic and human, that no matter how much you cut our funding, the arts will never be quelled.

Check out a great video of the 2011 festival here and let me know if anyone wants to road trip from DC for Floydfest 2012:

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