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Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium

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Opera is New

The first opera I ever saw was Carmen at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion during a dress rehearsal.  I went with hoity-toity charlatans who told me repeatedly that this was a ‘good introductory opera’ with an air of disgust for my lack of exposure to the art form.  Now, I hate that opera and everything it personally stood for (not to mention if I hear the music in another commercial I might just take up arms).  I digress, opera is meant to be shared, explored, and enjoyed with a company of feelers rather than judgers.  My first experience was less than extraordinary; yes, Milena Kitic was stunning, and yes, the spectacle was more than I imagined; but the taint of others is still palpable.

Since then, I have been to many operas during their actual runs, and enjoyed some more than others.  What sticks in my craw; however, is the lack of diversity of the audience.  As a college student who received free tickets through a generous donation to my university, my ‘kind’ was outnumbered.  The audience was a veritable sea of pink and purple hair (if you don’t know what that means, it’s the color of elder women’s hair).

The last opera I went to was over two years ago, when I was still in LA.  This time I was with a friend at Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, a far cry from Carmen.  It was exquisite.  Thus was the end of my opera going days, with Opera Pacific shuttered and difficulty in affording a ticket to the LA Opera.

My path back to the opera took an unexpected turn this weekend in the most unusual of venues with the most unusual of audiences seeing one of the greatest operas ever written.  Opera in the Outfield at National’s Stadium streamed the live performance of Don Giovanni from WNO‘s performance at the Kennedy Center.  The crowd assembled was massive, the entire outfield covered in blankets and the sweater-clad.  Up into the stadium near half the lower level was filled with people of all ages and creeds.  Children were running around or like the little one next to me, positing questions about the show to his parents.  The entire audience on a whole was a good 30-40 years or so younger on average than the crowd inside the Kennedy Center.  For once, my age group was the majority.

We were free to talk and comment, free to check our phones for everything from the score of the Orioles/Red Sox game to information on the opera itself, free to eat M&M’s and drink coffee, free to sit wherever we pleased, and free to enjoy the way we wanted to enjoy.  I didn’t have to pay for a ticket (although I would have happily paid up to $20 – it was chilly, outside, and the seats weren’t super comfy).  I’m sure thousands of others (for indeed, it was in the thousands) who attended would have paid as well; but we were not asked, nor were we solicited for donations.  Instead, we were simply expected to see and hear.

WNO brought the opera to the masses, in an old custom akin to the Opera Buffa days of Mozart.  People still love opera.  The current problem is the delivery system, but by focusing on social aspects rather than financial and puritanical artistic facets, opera succeeds.

Gallery Artist Elizabeth Grusin-Howe

Artist Elizabeth Grusin-Howe

The Studio Gallery on R St has graciously allowed the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium to host a benefit for the past two years.  In doing so, they have exposed our patrons to the wonderful world of local artists.  The Studio Gallery features American and International artists residing in the greater Washington, DC Metro Area who are as diverse as they are talented.  The Gallery also takes part in First Fridays, a coordinated open house of the galleries on R St.

I had the opportunity to attend this past month’s open house and to my delight found a new medium of visual artistry.  I also met the artist who created these works which will be exhibited during our EALS Benefit Reception.  Featured on the first floor of the Gallery, Elizabeth Grusin-Howe’s work is, from every angle and lighting possible, in a word: stunning.

Basillica de San Marco, 2011 - Courtesy of E. Grusin-Howe

Although I am not myself a visual artist, I know true art when I see it (or should I say feel).  Her collection of prints inspire and remind without unnecessary nostalgia attached.  The works are created starting with a photograph, then are transformed with a process involving layers of wax and powders.  This layering and finishing gives the prints the appearance of eternity, an otherworldly effect that relates not to your outright self, but the inward expressive self.

View from the Campanile, Venice, 2012 - Courtesy of E. Grusin-Howe

 

Pictures of these works do not do justice to the emotive quality and vibrancy they produce.  While there are many prints of the same original photograph, the treatment with which Grusin-Howe applies varies the feeling and the purpose of the piece.  A few works are done in burnt-orange and sienna wax and powder that you see to the left, and above – which give these an unusual quality of familiarity while remaining intangible.

Basilica di San Marco, 2011 - Courtesy of E. Grusin-Howe

Grusin-Howe’s work invites the audience to transport themselves to an alternate reality.  I can remember as a child wanting to make the old new again, whether that be by polishing silver until it shone or repurposing old clothing.  What Grusin-Howe has done is similar – making the old new but in a not so gentle fashion.  Her work, though incredibly pleasing to the eye is challenging to thought.  With the introduction of blues and silvers, Grusin-Howe opens a world of stark contrast and transparency.

Laguna Veneta, 2012 - Courtesy of E. Grusin-Howe

 

I had the chance to chat with Elizabeth about her work and the upcoming EALS Benefit Reception.  When I spoke to her I asked what her favorite work in the exhibition was.  (To me that would have been impossible to decide).  Her answer was, “They’re all my babies, but if I had to chose, it would be this one [featured at left].  It’s serene.”  And serene it is, this piece along with many others are immersive.  She has created dreamscapes from reality and asked us to step into them.  The subtlety of her inquiry is not light, as it is impossible to be disenchanted by these prints.

You can see all of these prints and many others from the collection at the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium Benefit coming up on February 25th from 8PM – 10PM.  Tickets include an open wine bar, hor d’oeuvres, live jazz, creative conversation, and of course access to a collection of art that you will remember for years to come.

Please purchase your tickets now at: http://ealsbenefit.eventbrite.com/

All proceeds support EALS.

You Don’t Have to Save the World. Change it.

Can art change the world? French street artist inspires. Enjoy his accent and sweet shades. Take his ideas and SPREAD your artistic-brain-wings, go forth, be inspired. Join up


About This TALK from TED:

JR, a semi-anonymous French street artist, uses his camera to show the world its true face, by pasting photos of the human face across massive canvases. At TED2011, he makes his audacious TED Prize wish: to use art to turn the world inside out. Learn more about his work and learn how you can join in at insideoutproject.net

Get ’em Young

What can a young person do to advocate for the arts?

Pursue their passion.

We are the first generation of arts managed who trained as artists before coming to the field of management.  At American University alone our Arts Management class is made up entirely of students who trained as professional artists but chose instead to pursue a career of management.

Sure you could argue that maybe many of us are pursuing this path because we couldn’t hack it, but if you ask around you’ll find most of us continue to pursue that artistic path… but we dream bigger. We want to touch lives of artists and audiences. With our background and training we have the understanding and language to understand our artists, but also the ability to communicate with an audience. I believe one day this relationship between arts and audience won’t have to be facilitated, it will be natural.

For now we must continue to encourage all students of all ages to pursue their passion for the arts. They can still get their degree in economics or drive race cars or answer phones at a doctor’s office… but wherever life may take them I hope they’ll have had that early artistic access. The arts don’t just enrich, they are essential. If all American get to experience the artistic pleasure we have, there would be no need for advocates. High art, low art, there would be no question that is should be accessible and treasured. Arts would be part of everyday life.

As if they weren’t already. Sometimes we just don’t have the tools to see it.

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