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The travails of Sugar City

Artsbeat features Sugar Cit

Sugar City co-founder Aimee Buyea sits in front of the new arts venue at 19 Wadsworth St. in Allentown. Sharon Cantillon / The Buffalo News.

The ArtsBeat column, which focuses on the local arts scene, was recently launched in the Spotlight section. Because of the column's affinity with this blog, I'm going to post Sunday columns in this space to encourage dialogue from the community on the issues I'll be writing about. For the first post, check out my column on Sugar City, a new multidisciplinary arts center, which ran in the Spotlight section on Sunday.

Aimee Buyea and Dan Carosa were sick of operating under the radar. Buyea, a visual artist who often hosted unsanctioned art exhibitions in the attic of her apartment building, hoped to start a bona fide art space. Carosa, a denizen of the underground hardcore and punk rock scene that’s been operating out of basements around the city for decades, wanted to give the all-ages music scene a decent public venue within the city limits.

Their solution was to create Sugar City, a volunteer-run, multidisciplinary arts center on Wadsworth Street that would cast the sub-sub-cultural activities of these musicians and artists out of the darkness of Buffalo’s basements and attics into the cultural light of day.

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From Hawaii to Buffalo: an Allentown artist heads east

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Randelito Calzo, an artist from Hawaii, will bring his art to the Allentown Art Festival this weekend.

In today's Gusto story on the annual Allentown Art Festival, I profiled a few artists who come from far and wide to participate in our region's mammoth summer-kickoff tradition. I wasn't able to fit in information from the artist who's traveled the farthest, but that's what ArtsBeat's for. Meet painter Randelito Calzo, a first-time Allentown participant, who comes to us all the way from Wahlawa, Hawaii.

ArtsBeat: How did you wind up applying to this particular art festival so far away from home?

Randelito Calzo: I had the chance to visit my girlfriend’s family, the Komm’s, in Buffalo this December. The Christmas gifts I gave happened to be some of my art work. The family enjoyed my pieces and they starting talking about the Allentown art festival that is held every year. I knew I would be returning to Buffalo, so they encouraged me to apply for this year's art show. I sent in my application and some samples and I was selected to participate. I am stoked that I was chosen to share my art among the other artists this year.

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The "Should Creative Writing Be Taught?" question

Call it "synchronicity of the mailbox".    That's when two publications you've subscribed to for years arrive simultaneously containing articles that seemingly comment on one another.
 
This week's mail brought the Summer Fiction Issue of the The New Yorker with Harvard English Professor Louis Menand's "Show or Tell: A Critic at Large" (subtitled "Should creative writing be taught?"), a largely sympathetic piece on the evolution and social history of creative writing programs in the American university system.  If you happen to be a teacher in or a "product" of a MFA writing program, you'll want to check out the essay and take the The New Yorker's rather snarky poll, Take Our Poll: Should Creative Writing Be Taught? : The Book Bench: Online Only: The New Yorker .
 
In the same mail drop came the May/June issue of American Book Review in which editor/publisher Jeffrey R. Di Leo poses the focus question "Why Teach Creative Writing?" to nine contributors to ABR who teach it at the college level.  You can read and/or download a portable document format file version of their responses at http://americanbookreview.org/PDF/InFocus.pdf

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The new music video

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The Spanish pop group Labuat has produced an interactive music video that's as addictive as it is cleverly conceived. As the band's middling song "Soy tu Aire" plays, you can drag your cursor across the screen to manipulate a constantly morphing and whimsical series of animations, which break off at random intervals from a line of black paint trailing from your cursor. It's far better experienced than described, but be prepared to waste a good 20 minutes. 

It's a great example of what the internet can offer the to a music video experience that reality show-driven networks like VH1 and MTV abandoned long ago. [Via VSL.]

--Colin Dabkowski

The wonderful Leiber lyrics

In case you've forgotten how wonderful the lyrics of Jerry Leiber -- of Leiber and Stoller -- could be, consider these after reading the story today on Page 3 of the Spotlight Section:

   FROM "POISON IVY" By The Coasters

   Measles make you bumpy

   And mumps will make you lumpy

   And chicken pox will make you jump and twitch

   A common cold will fool you

   And whooping cough can cool you

   But Poison Ivy, lord'll make you ITCH

   You're Gonna Need an ocean

   Of Calamine Lotion

   The minute you start to mess around

   Poison Ivyyy, Poison Ivyyyy.....

  

   FROM "SAVED" by LaVern Baker

   I used to lie, I used to cheat

   I used to life and cheat and step on people's feet, oh yeah

   But now I'm steppin' on to glory

   Salvation is my beat.

   Because I'm saved, saved

   I'm saved, saved.

  

  

   FROM "STAND BY ME" by Ben E. King

  

   If the sky that we look upon

   should tumble and fall

   or the mountains should crumble in the sea

   I won't cry, I won't cry

   No, I won't shed a tear

   Just as long as you stand

   Stand by me.

--Jeff Simon

Sherman Alexie excoriates the Kindle at Book Expo

New book technologies and the effects of the ongoing recession dominated the headlines at last week-end's Book Expo America, the publishing industry's leading annual trade show and book fair at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.  It was the anti-corporatist remarks of one award winning author at the event, however, that ignited the most controversy and subsequent debate among writers on and off the world wide web.
 
Even as Google was unveiling plans to undercut corporate rival Amazon's Kindle in the emerging market for e-books by launching a new program that would enable publishers to sell digital versions of their newest books directly to consumers on any device with a web browser, and Amazon was touting its soon to be released Kindle DX ($459 retail) with its vaunted 16 shades of grayscale, National Book Award winning author Sherman Alexie (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian) launched a minor insurgency both inside and outside the arena by calling the expensive reading devices "elitist" and claiming that their widespread adoption would harm both readers from poor communities and authors of all books other than bestsellers. 
 
Mokoto Rich of The New York Timesreported that while on a panel of authors speaking primarily to a group of independent booksellers, Alexie denounced digital publishing in general and the Amazon Kindle in particular as "elitist", claimed that he had refused to allow his novels to be made available in digital form.  In what was surely a misguided attempt at levity, he declared that when he spotted a woman in a nearby seat on his plane flight to New York reading from a Kindle, "I wanted to hit her."  

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Pianos and public art

Piano They are trying a fascinating new public art project in London, England -- a combination of music and performance art. What they are doing is installing 31 pianos at public locations throughout the city. It is supposed to promote interaction between strangers -- a pianist could perform for passers-by, or lead an impromptu singalong. It is also supposed to encourage trust. You trust other people not to wreck the pianos or steal the laminated songbooks.

An American blog has examined the concept here.

And you can read about it in the London Times here. I love their lead: "We can all be Elton John now."

What a nice idea! As well as a nice opportunity to try out my Schubert on random listeners. Too bad it would never work in Buffalo.

In Buffalo, our idea of public art is to wreck pianos. Remember last year, when they destroyed a couple of pianos at the Albright-Knox? Here is one reference to it on this blog, in case you need to refresh your memory.

How is that for a tale of two cities?

I am just saying.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

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