Two women at the forefront of innovative writing in North America visit Buffalo over the next two days for a series of readings and lectures that are free and open to the public. Although Lily Hoang and Lisa Robertson belong to different generations and ostensibly work in different genres, both are noted for their ability to adapt and reconfigure traditional narrative and lyric forms into work that challenges and expands our understanding of language, gender, and difference.
At 7 p.m.this evening, award-winning Vietnamese-American novelist Lily Hoang -- widely considered one of the most important American fiction writers under age 30 -- will read from her work in the library in Huber Hall at Medaille College, 18 Agassiz Circle as sponsored by Medaille's the Write Thing Series.
Ms. Hoang is the author of Parabola -- the winner of Chiasmus Press' "Un-Doing the Novel" contest in 2006, in which she foregrounds and "disorients" the trajectory of a traditional coming-of-age in a Vietnamese-American family story in as a plottable mathematical function -- and Changing, her [Italo] Calvino-esque reworking of the hexagrams of the I Ching to represent tableaus of a Vietnamese family gone mad in the United States, and out of whose seemingly random arrangement, the reader freely constructs an accretion of family history and practical wisdom.
In this week's issue of The New Yorker, music critic Alex Ross takes stock of the decline in the public appetite for classical music in America. In his column (unavailable online for non-subscribers), Ross cites a recent study released by the National Endowment for the Arts, a problematic document which I wrote about last month. The study shows, rather unsurprisingly, that audiences for classical music are in the midst of a protracted dive that, for a host of reasons, classical music institutions have not been able to stall or reverse.
Ross, not unlike like the orchestras, string quartets and opera companies he covers, seems to be looking high and low for any approach that might usher a new and younger generation of musical thrill-seekers into the art form's fold. He urged organizations to find "a deeper transformation," asking what ought to be the key question among arts groups of any kind as they search for a way to sustain themselves in the future: "There's a growing feeling in the classical business that the customary way of presenting music must evolve if new devotees are to join the ranks. But how? Can you refresh the ritual while remaining true to the music?"
I dropped by day three of the Burchfield Penney Art Center's 23-day John Cage festival on Sunday to check out performances by Ron Ehmke, Kyle Price and J.T. Rinker. I have to identify myself here as something of a Cage neophyte and say that I am attracted by the philosophy behind the performances and the festival in general, without knowing as much about the composer's work as I'd like to. That said, there are 20 days left in the festival, and I intend to get my fill of Cage before it's over.
Out of what I saw today, Ehmke's relatively conventional storytelling performance was what grabbed me most.
Cage, who was of course one of the 20th century's great explorers the musical unknown, could hardly be described as conventional. So I was surprised to learn, from Ehmke, that the composer was also an accomplished, compelling and funny storyteller. That's something that obviously appeals to Ehmke, who, through his solo performances and work with such outfits as the Real Dream Cabaret, embodies all those attributes. (Hear an audio interview with Ehmke after the jump.)
Board member Daryl Rasuli, who has effectively become the organization's spokesman in the wake of Lawson's firing, e-mailed today an infomercial-esque recruitment pitch for future Arts Council board members, which follows below:
Have you been just sitting around watching the TV and really wanting to do something meaningful in your life?
Now is your chance. The Arts Council of Buffalo and Erie County is embarking on its vision to regain its position as a protector and provider for the cultural arts community. It’s expanding its board. If you have a passion for protecting and developing the cultural fabric of the community and can commit some time and expertise to re- building this important art institution please call 856-7520 or email a brief bio/vita/resume to Info@artscouncilbuffalo.org.
There you have it. Proof positive that the Arts Council is not yet quite beyond saving. The powers that be at the AC, such as they are, at least recognize that a wholesale reorganization of its long-weakened board is necessary before any private or public source will even entertain the idea of tossing money the Arts Council's way. Even with that realization, it's going to be a steep climb for the organization to return to relevancy and, one hopes, genuine effectiveness as an multi-functional advocacy group.
But it's a good first step.
Anyone under 40 who works or is interested in working in the arts sector is invited to the launch of Buffalo's chapter of "Emerging Leaders in the Arts" at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The event, organized by Arts Council in Buffalo and Erie County's Lauren Albrecht, aims to create a local community of current and aspiring arts professionals.
The event, which takes place at Sample Restaurant in Allentown, will be facilitated by Kimberly Billoni, the chief executive of SPLiCE, a product licensing company.
The text of a release about the event follows after the jump.
The arts are alive, as the Web site of the embattled Arts Council in Buffalo and Erie County proclaims. But what about the Arts Council itself?
Following Monday's announcement that Celeste Lawson was dismissed from her post as Executive Director at the arts advocacy organization, the local arts community is scratching its collective head over the future of the organization. But rest assured, the group isn't going to evaporate into thin air just yet.
Today, Milton Rogovin, the internationally known social documentary photographer who has called Buffalo home for more than 70 years, turns 100. Rogovin, whose photographic explorations of the poor and working classes -- in Buffalo and around the globe -- was honored earlier this month with a celebration at the Burchfield Penney Art Center.
Rogovin began his life in New York City, and moved to Buffalo to start an optometry practice in 1938. He was inducted into the army in 1942. In the anti-communist fervor of the 1950s, Rogovin was called before the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee and refused to name names. Because of his silence, Rogovin was effectively forced to give up his optometry practice and turned instead to photography, which he saw as a way to expose social injustices and to tell the stories of the world's oppressed minorities. This turned out to be fortuitous for Rogovin's social causes, and for the field of photography as a whole. His travels took him from Buffalo's West Side, where he still lives, to the factories and neighborhoods of Latin America, Africa and Europe.
The faces of his subjects, though they hailed from different continents, bore the unmistakable mix of strength and discouragement that characterizes the experience of the world's working poor. In this way, his photography became much more than mere documentation, but a link that joined together disparate sections of the world's population and pointed toward a great and painful commonality among all cultures.
Some of Rogovin's work, with accompanying poetry by local professor Eric Gansworth, is now on view at the Burchfield Penney. See a slide show of that work, with narration by Gansworth, below:
Kathleen Turner will play the late liberal columnist and firebrand in the Philadelphia Theatre Company production "Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins."
One of the most entertaining radio interviews I have ever heard aired in February of 2007 on NPR's "Fresh Air." It was in commemoration of the life and work of Molly Ivins, the rabble-rousing, unapologetic and unfailingly incisive liberal columnist whose work consistently skewered American and Texan politics.
In the piece, which included Terry Gross's interviews with Ivins from 1991 and 2003, the late columnist talked about growing up liberal in conservative Texas, documenting the absurd lives of that state's legislators and, finally, running afoul of her boss at the New York Times for using the phrase "gang-pluck" in a description of a community chicken-slaughtering event.