Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Looking Back on 2009...

Like many fans, we enjoyed recalling “standout” moments and people for Arts in 2009. Below are a few we felt were truly impactful.

Arts Allure (by Jessica Graae)
We saw unique approaches in exciting, unusual Arts programs. These organizations in particular made heroic efforts to not only cultivate their fan base, but also take programming risks that may be off the beaten path…

The Delaware Valley Chorale’s season opened with a performance of God’s Trombones by Roy Ringwald. Not often performed, the work based on the poetry of James Weldon Johnson drew a large, appreciative audience. Under the direction of David Christopher, this chorus has grown artistically and vocally. Be sure to catch the Haydn Creation performance in May.
See http://www.delawarevalleychorale.org/.

Bootless Artworks, a theater company performing in Arden Gild Hall, made interesting choices as well. Run by Rosanne DellAversano and Jim Fuerst, the group provides unusual, accessible theater, and secured support to bring works to children and elderly. They reworked The Velveteen Rabbit into a puppet musical and brought the outrageous Evil Dead, The Musical to a packed house nightly. Next up is an evening of One Acts in March.
See http://www.bootless.org/.

City Theater Company raised the bar with creativity and out-of-the-box production. Downtown Wilmington is thirsty for affordable, local theater; CTC quenched that with the brilliant, bloody Sweeney Todd in December. They too, filled the theater and brought edgy drama with excellent singer/actors showcased. March brings By George, One Acts by local playwright George Tietze.
See http://www.city-theater.org/.

Arts Arrivals (by Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald)
This past year also saw a number of newcomers to the scene, making it an exciting year for us all!

As part of Wilmington's 9th Street revitalization, Geoff Blake & Red Mohawk Gallery are making a big splash. You can't miss the gallery or Geoff....he's the dude with the fiery crimson, spiked hair. Welcome to Wilmington! Although not as new but totally as impactful has been the New Wilmington Arts Association (see below as well), making a way cool path for modern, wacky, arresting, contemporary art all around d'town Wilmo.
See http://newwilmingtonart.blogspot.com/ and http://www.redmohawk.com/

Delaware Art Museum took a bold step forward launching Concerts on Kentmere, featuring its new all-female, ensemble-in-residence, Pyxis Piano Quartet. The events, held in the Pre-Raphaelite Galleries, have drawn sold-out crowds, providing yet another reason for DAM to celebrate its increasing good fortune.
See http://www.delart.org/prog_events/concerts_on_kentmere.html.

Folks in Wilmington lined the muddy Market Street sidewalk in October as Lt. Gov. Matt Denn led the official groundbreaking for the "new" Queen Theater on Market Street. More than 50 years after its initial closing, the re-opening of the immense venue is scheduled for Spring 2011, as part of a partnership with World Cafe Live and WXPN 88.5 FM. We can't wait to see what the future holds.
See http://www.lightupthequeen.org./

Did Wilmington have the chops to put on a Fringe? YOU BET. Tina Betz & Rich Neumann (below) brought their vision of Fringe Wilmington to life in a big way. And it was fringy, with visual installations, film, dance, music and theater events throughout the city. Plans for FringeWilmo 2010 are currently under way.
See www.fringewilmingtonde.com

Arts Angels (by Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald)
There were folks who dedicated time, energy and vision to the promotion and development of new Arts ventures. We applaud their efforts; hopefully, they’ll inspire others to follow their lead in 2010!

City of Wilmington Cultural Affairs Director Tina Betz and Associate Communications Director Rich Neumann worked tirelessly to bring us Fringe Wilmington. In addition, thanks to Tina's department's efforts, Wilmington's First Night 2010 provided free admission to attendees this year---with great success, despite less-than-stellar weather.

Michael Kalmbach & the NWAA (above) have made contemporary art a force to be reckoned with and celebrated in Wilmington (and beyond). Every month, NWAA events draw increasing crowds and energy to the city, and Michael was honored with a 2009 Christi Award for his efforts and vision. Thanks, Michael!

Among all of this positive energy, Delaware also lost an Arts Angel in 2009: Peggy Amsterdam, former DDOA director and Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance leader, passed away just before year’s end.

Arts Allies (by Margaret Darby)
This year, businesses and Arts organizations successfully collaborated in unique and mutually beneficial connections. Smart thinking for each, and lessons that could (and should) be replicated and expanded upon…

Case in point: Veritas, the wine store that opened on Justison Landing this past spring. Owner Venu Gaddamidi jumped right on to Wilmington’s Art on the Town bandwagon, becoming a permanent gallery every first Friday—good for art and good for business! And, if you are like me, you can’t help but buy something on your way out.
See http://www.veritaswineshop.com/.

Terry Foreman, Executive Director of the Newark Arts Alliance, has placed works in restaurants along Newark’s Main Street, providing venues for artists and great atmosphere for businesses. I actually purchased clothes and jewelry at Gecko in Newark when reporting on a jewelry display in that store—which I would not have discovered without the draw of the art.
See http://www.newarkartsalliance.org/

Marilyn P. Whittington, Executive Director of the Delaware Humanities Forum, was brilliant in planning DHF’s Interpreting Dreams: Book & Authors Series at three area venues: Ameritage (now closed), Union City Grill and Washington Street Ale House. Each restaurant provided space for live readings by City Theater Company and discussion with the authors. There was a crowd every time and the restaurants profited from their largesse. A perfect match!
See http://www.dhf.org/.

Clear Space Productions, with Executive Director Ken Skrzesz and Artistic Director Doug Yetter, has such outreach success that it now has a four-year theatre program partnership with Cape Henlopen High School. In March, it was awarded a 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant from the U.S. Department of Education for an after-school enrichment program with H. O. Brittingham Elementary School.
See http://www.clearspaceproductions.org/.

Arts Army (by Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald)
Amid all of the energy and discussion around the Arts in 2009 came a groundbreaking alliance of statewide Arts organizations, and it couldn’t come at a more appropriate or critical time.

The Delaware Arts Alliance, a consortium of more than 15 Arts organizations throughout the state (and growing), was launched in June. The group is open to membership for both individuals and organizations, and aims to serve as a vehicle for increased awareness, participation and multilevel government/community advocacy for the Arts throughout the state. In these times, it is an exciting and invaluable effort developed by a core group of visionary Arts administrators. I hope that many more organizations—large and small; Arts, business, and corporate—will join the cause. Please support their work to promote and advocate for the importance of the Arts in our community, education, culture and lives!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Born in the 20th Century

On a very cold and dull January Sunday, musicians were busy preparing for a most unusual concert – a gathering of composers, some performing their own pieces, in a church. As our blog has reported before, Calvary Episcopal Church has invited musicians, actors and other artists to show their creativity to their congregation and to the community.

All of the composers on the program were born in the twentieth century, all but Miles Davis are still living. Three of the composers were present and two played in their own works.

Christopher Braddock’s piece, All the days he has seen, was inspired by Winterthur’s Hippocampus and Box Scroll Garden. The guitar, flute and violin trio is a baroque-inspired work but with modern harmony – a muse on what Hippocampus sees during the changing seasons in his reflecting pool.

Chuck Holdeman’s Avant, adage, apr├Ęs for bassoon and piano is a piece in three movements – the first and last movements having a very jazzy and syncopated style and the middle movement made up of sustained chords which the composer used to create an effect of dreamy contemplation.

Kirk O’Riordan’s Pressing forward, pushing back was perhaps a bit too amorphous for my taste – the wild beginning felt like ambulances off to an emergency – with Melinda Bowman, flute and Richard Gangwisch, piano giving it a great run for the money. But O’Riordan told me later that his piece was his expression of how people resist new ideas…and I guess I am guilty of resisting.

Andrea Clearfield (not present) wrote a trio called Spirit Island and two movements were offered, showing off Hiroko Yamazaki’s amazing energy and technique on the piano. Her playing provided a great basis for Jennifer Stomberg’s cello and Melinda Bowman’s flute lines. I found Rowing much more of a structured piece than Variations on a dream.

Hats off to Zachary Crystal for a startlingly surprising soft beginning of Michi by Keiko Abe for solo marimba. Crystal played with four mallets and started and ended so softly that he drew the audience’s attention with a pianissimo and said adieu the same way.

Next month’s community event is a photography contest. Entry forms and rules are on their web site.

See http://www.calvaryhillcrest.org/.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A "One-in-a-Million" Arts Leader

Just before the New Year, the Brandywine Valley lost a true hero in our Arts community. Peggy Amsterdam, former executive director of Delaware Division of the Arts and Director of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, passed away after her corageous battle with cancer.

In her long and accomplished career, she was a tireless advocate, a fearless leader, and a real visionary for artists and the Arts. She gave so much to the Arts culture of Delaware and Southeastern Pennsylvania, and we will be forever grateful for her devotion and dedication.

All at Delaware Arts Info and Arts in Media thank you and will miss you terribly, Peggy. You are an amazing person who has left an incredible legacy. Thank you for all you have done and the impact you have made for everyone who loves, supports and participates in the Arts.