Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Newark Arts Alliance Welcomes New Director, Dennis Lawson

Newark Arts Alliance Executive Director Dennis Lawson
Delaware Arts Info recently sat down with "newcomer" Dennis Lawson, the new Executive Director of the Newark Arts Alliance.  And, we say "newcomer" with tongue in cheek — Dennis has been a fixture on the Delaware scene for some time, previously holding a position at the Delaware Art Museum before leaving to complete an advanced degree.  Here's a little Q&A we enjoyed with Dennis upon his return to the Delaware arts world...

Welcome back to the area! What brought you back into the Delaware Arts Scene? 
Thanks!  I left my position as Manager of Public Relations at the Delaware Art Museum in 2010 to pursue my MFA in Creative Writing—something I’ve always wanted to do to become a better writer overall.  When I finished the degree, I hoped to get back into the arts.  It’s exciting to see how art can inspire people and enrich their lives. 

What are your immediate and long-term goals for NAA?
One of my immediate goals is to improve communication so the public knows what’s going on here, from our exhibitions and events to our classes and summer camp.  I want people to know this is a place where they can be creative, and I want artists to have their work seen.  We've already started to get our Literary Arts program off the ground, with a monthly Open Mic dedicated to Poetry, Prose and Performance, and new writing classes scheduled for April and May.

Long-term, I want to see the Newark Arts Alliance and the City of Newark as a whole be as successful and vibrant as ever.  I hope to build relationships with local businesses and organizations, increase our offerings to the community, and increase the number of NAA members as well as our levels of fundraising.

What would you say is the strongest asset of NAA? What (if anything) would you change or improve?

Our strongest asset is the great people who are involved as volunteers, artists, teachers and supporters.  The NAA has been going strong for 20 years, thanks to an incredible level of local enthusiasm!

One thing I would change is the perception that some people have of the NAA as a sort of invitation-only club—nothing could be further from the truth! The NAA exists for everyone in the community to be able to appreciate local art and find a creative outlet for themselves and/or their children. 

Here's a situation for you. Arts Patron: "I've never been to the Newark Arts Alliance and don't really know much about it." What is the one thing you would say to this person to draw them in?
NAA is where you can view and purchase art by local artists, and a welcoming location where you or your children can participate in any number of creative events and classes.  Come on in!
Who is your favorite renowned visual artist — living or dead, and why? Who is/are your favorite local artist(s)?
My favorite renowned visual artist would have to be Dante Gabriel Rossetti, whose Pre-Raphaelite paintings I discovered while working at the Delaware Art Museum.  His use of poetry helped invite a literary guy like me into his visual works.  And his Lady Lilith is the ultimate femme fatale!

My favorite local artist is my wife, who is quite a woodworker and painter.  But she tends to keep her creative works to herself.  I’ll get her to submit a piece to the NAA someday.

I also want to add that all of the talented local artists who submit works to our exhibitions and gallery shop, and all the great performers who get up in front of the room at our Open Mic, have my appreciation and respect!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mélomanie: Holding Our Attention

How do keep your audience challenged and still keep them engaged? To give them both the contemporary “classical” music and early music experience? Mélomanie, the Wilmington-based ensemble, does this with its varied, unusual programs, which are always brilliantly executed.  Mélomanie’s April concert at Wilmington’s Grace Church included guest artists Elizabeth Field, baroque and modern violins, James Wilson, baritone and David Laganella, composer.

Dr. Wilson opened the program with four concert arias by Giovanni Bononcini.  As Wilson discussed, the text does not touch on a conventional subject like love, but rather, one of betrayal, deceit and politics.  The arias form a cantata, with each one ending with the words, “Tutto è interesse” (All be interest.) Wilson sang with beautiful tone and precision, his presence utterly charming.  His performance of Agostino Steffani’s Lagrime Dolorose was equally impressive, with his command of the long, florid phrases and his excellent musicianship.

Composer David Laganella’s The Last Ray (2013), for baroque flute, baroque violin, baroque cello, viola da gamba and harpsichord is a sometimes eerie, but still hopeful piece.  Laganella explained how the work is a depiction of the world’s last moment: the very last ray of sun.  He was inspired to write the piece because of the Mayan doomsday predictions and the news of the 2013 sequestration.  The piece was featured both before the intermission and at the end of the program.

Flutist Kimberly Reighley performed Claude Debussy’s tantalizing Syrinx with her usual expressive phrasing and warm, mellow tone.  Tracy Richardson, harpsichord and Donna Fournier, viola da gamba graced us with August Kühnel’s Suite in G Minor.  The suite-perhaps the most typical “early music” offering-was a delightful showcase for the two musicians.

Be sure to catch their LiveConnections concert, Mélomanie+Minas, at World Cafe Live at the Queen on May 19 at 12:00pm.

See www.melomanie.org.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Delaware Producers Kickstart A Film's 'Awakening'

A group of Delawareans – including Christopher Bruce of Bruce Productions – is hard at work bringing their adaptation of the groundbreaking play Spring Awakening to the silver screen, and they want YOUR HELP to get the project over the finish line!

"Spring Awakening: The Movie is a true collaboration," says Bruce, who producing the film. "It embodies the spirit of Independent Film and features many local actors, crew and locations in the tri-state area." The movie is a  non-musical version based on Director Kurt Leitner's English translation of Frank Wedekind's original German play. "As the first feature-film version, our production follows closely the themes of the original, revolutionary author," says Leitner.  "[the story is]...filled with teen angst, rebellious actions and sexual questioning and follows what young teens experience when coming of age. Across the globe, this cautionary tale continues to inspire rebels and surge debate." And they're thrilled to produce it here in the Brandywine Valley. 

The producers have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help raise the final funding they need.  For those unfamiliar, Kickstarter is a type of "crowdfunding"—a social network designed to help accomplish creative projects. A group or individual creates a project and asks supporters to help meet their predetermined funding goal, with special incentives/"backer rewards" for varying levels of support.  (Note: Kickstarter does not charge for your pledge until the fundraising campaign ends and ONLY if the requestor reaches the set goal.)

Spring Awakening's funding campaign ends on April 3, so Bruce is urging interested folks to visit their Kickstarter page, make a pledge and share it with their social media networks.  You can get a full background on the Spring Awakening story and their progress thus far at the Kickstarter page as well.

If you want to learn more about the film or the funding process, email Christopher Bruce directly.

Click here to see a video promotion of the film!