Go Straight to the Art

By WGBHArts

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WGBHArts invites you to discover the arts in New England. Visit this space often to hear directly from the people who help make art happen in Boston and beyond.

If you're an arts organization and would like to see yourself in this space, email us at wgbharts@wgbh.org to request submission guidelines.


Straight to the Art Highlights:

 

Cindy Brockway, Cultural Resources Program Director for The Trustees of Reservations at Crane Estates, ponders the relationship between art and nature:
 
“I like to thing that extraordinary art is made exceptional by its juxtaposition to outstanding natural scenery. For me, great art is found in the interaction between the natural and the cultural, each inspiring and informing the other. A great work of landscape architecture can be humbled in the face of an incredible sunset, the birth of a Least Tern chick, or sunlight raking an old stone foundation. Similarly, some of our greatest landscape paintings celebrate the vicissitudes of the American landscape more dramatically that Mother Nature herself. It is this emotional and intellectual response to our surroundings that write newchapters in our emotions, shake our inner self, make us feel small, move us in awe, and encourage us to wander, and to wonder. At The Trustees, this is our journey.”

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Sarah Cunningham, Marketing and Programs Director at The Society of Arts and Crafts, reminisces about childhood’s creative spark:
 
“During the summers of my childhood, my sister and I spent our time in a family cabin without access to a television. Instead of idling indoors, we were constantly encouraged to engage in creative craft projects. Whether making dried flower collages, building sculptures out of found objects and hot glue, or fabricating Gaudi-style sand fortresses, these whimsical projects truly spawned my life long love for crafts. Though my childhood level of craftsmanship was certainly a far cry from the innovative work that surrounds my adult life, I recognize that my passion for craft was solidified through the process of making at such a young age. In this way, I am constantly struck by art. Every time I encounter the whimsical and uninhibited creations of our youth, I am reminded of the creative urge that is so integral to human nature.”

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Josiah A. Spaulding, Jr., President of Citi Performing Arts, discusses his passion for the arts:
 
"I’ve had many special moments related to the arts, but a pivotal moment was when I started to teach myself to play guitar and piano, inspired by the song In Memory of Elizabeth Reed by the Allman Brothers. In high school, I’d immerse myself listening to it in order to learn the chords. Once while driving my Volkswagen bus, I was so absorbed in the song (OK, it WAS a little loud), that I didn’t hear the sirens on a police car trying to pull me over..."

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Sara M. Bogosian, President of the Whistler House Museum of Art, speaks to the necessity of art:
 
“Sometimes amid our daily activities, it is easy to forget how critical the arts are to our lives. The truth is that they give us balance. Just like other types oflearning, knowledge of art, creative expression and thinking leads to a life of fulfillment and accomplishment, giving us a foundation for meeting today's social challenges. I became interested in art at the age of five when I would watch my mother, a dress designer from Argentina, create beautiful dresses and gowns made up of jewel-toned colors and interesting, unusual textures and fabrics. I painted my first oil painting at the age of nine. From there I sketched fashion designs for dresses, coats, suits, many of which I patterned and sewed myself. As a business executive, I have incorporated my knowledge of art in every project I have ever worked on. This keeps me balanced, continually inspired, and vibrant.”

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Norah Dooley, storyteller and co-founder of massmouth, inc. tells us about how storytelling changed her life:

"I heard my first storyteller in graduate school.  For her final project, she presented the story of her abusive relationship with no props, no visuals, no costumes, no notes, no lights, no staging - just a story.  We were all spellbound and by the end of it, totally speechless. I promptly changed my major, wrote my Master’s thesis on storytelling and have been a professional storyteller ever since. These days, we make art (tell stories), where it is least expected.  On street corners, coffee shops, and orchards we create a truly unique opportunity for strangers to stop, listen, share their own stories and come together."

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Hannah Burr, a teaching artist at the Museum of Fine Arts, remarks on the influence of the individual on art:
 
"I've been working with a blind painter for about 12 years, tutoring him on technique, composition and color theory, while helping him strategize and execute the painting compositions he describes to me (he does all the actual painting).  This is a unique art experience because it involves an evolving relationship that has furthered my interest in the value of discussing what is different in what we see… I care about the question, If we're in the same room at the same time, are we having the same experience? I explore what's fleeting and overlooked, for instance a look, a nod, a comment, a gesture, or sound."

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Karen Totman, Executive Director of Snow Farm: The New England Craft Program, shares her introduction to the art world:

"I grew up on a dairy farm in rural Conway, MA. My Great Aunt, Ruth J. Totman, who was a highly educated woman for her time, felt it her obligation to ensure the younger generations of farm children didn’t grow up void of culture and world view. As she had done for my father and his siblings, Great Aunt Ruth would take my brother and me for a week or weekend of exposure to travel and the arts. We went to museums, plays, national monuments, music events and even to a water ballet. These 'field trips' opened my eyes to creative living and personal expression through art. In my office hangs an architect’s drawing from 1959 of the building on the UMASS Amherst campus which carries her name. It serves as a constant reminder of how important it is to expose young people to the power of their own creativity." 

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Tony Beadle, Executive Director for Rockport Music, on his first experience with music: 
 
“When I was a child, the living room of my home had a cabinet filled with classical music LP records and atop was what we called the ”record player.” It was portable and monaural. I was only about three years old, and found the playing of a record a visual delight. I loved to watch the label spin… I hardly ever noticed the music playing. But one day it happened.  I was playing Gaite Parisienne with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, watching the word C O L U M B I A spin around… I realized the sound of an orchestra playing the raucous cancan was far more fun than watching the needle! The world of sound had opened its doors to me, and music was its reward.  As I grew, I listened to every record in that cabinet repeatedly, eventually graduating to a “stereo console,” as it was called. The love affair with music persists.”

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Wendy Lement, Producer at Wheelock Family Theatre, reflects on the significance of audience experience:
 
“In the 1980’s, I was riveted by the telecast of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. I was particularly struck by how the actors shifted scenes seamlessly in full view of the audience. The staging gave the illusion of simplicity, but in reality it was a complex, well-choreographed dance. That production influenced my approach to directing. I strive to immerse the audience in the world of the play from the moment they enter the theatre. Whether directing a highly stylized play or one that’s realistic, it’s important to me that the concept supports the story, and that the design elements support the acting. Most of all, I want audiences of all ages to view the world and their place in it from a fresh perspective.”

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Troy Siebels, Executive Director of The Hanover Theatre, discusses the power of theatre:
 
"As a regional theatre guy who’s now running a performing arts center, booking touring shows instead of creating them, I am grateful to have the opportunity to stage A Christmas Carol each year – I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.  Working on the show puts everyone in such a cheerful frame of mind, and the story itself is so powerful and timeless.  What’s most rewarding to me is discovering anew the power of a live theatrical performance – sitting in the audience during moments of tension in the story, when there are 2,000 people in the room and yet you could hear a pin drop.  At the end of the play even the most cynical people in the audience can have a tear in their eye.  For something that I’ve created to make the holiday spirit come alive in so many people is a powerful thing."

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Jordan Butterfield, Educations Programs Manager and Teaching Artist at the Trinity Repertory Company, relates the transformative power of theater:
 
"I first felt the power of theater in second grade when I was cast as a cigarette in Pinocchio, Don’t Smoke that Cigarette. I was hooked (but not on nicotine!) Theater has the unique ability to transform, provoke, and teach like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. I see it every day in my acting classes for children on the autism spectrum who struggle to understand and be understood by the world around them. Performing, improvising and creating gives power to the powerless and a voice to the voiceless. Theater is the art of the people: living, breathing, feeling and ever-evolving."

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Dennis Kois, Director of deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, discusses the synthesis of art, place and idea:
 
“A transformative art experience for me was my first visit to Marfa, Texas to visit Chinati. The sculptor Donald Judd bought an old Army base, and installed a lot of his own work in the old artillery sheds and out in the nearby desert. His abstract, minimalist sculptures—simple aluminum or concrete boxes in endless variations—had never really blown my skirt up. I just didn’t get them. But seeing his sculptures there in Marfa, in the most austere andminimal environment you can imagine, it all came together and suddenly madesense to me. It was, and still is, the best synthesis of art, place, and idea I’ve ever seen. Going back there—which is a travail, it’s about a hundred miles past the middle of nowhere—is hugely replenishing. It is a pilgrimage everyone who loves art and ideas should make once in their lifetime.”

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Barbara Lewis, co-founder of the Boston Black Theater Collective, relates her thoughts on the necessity of art:
 
“Perhaps the most revealing encounter with art and the window it offers into what matters individually and culturally came during a visit I made about a decade ago to Charleston. I had been there previously as a child with my mother, and the beauty of the cypress trees in Brookgreen Gardens, a sculpture park, imprinted my mind with a towering majesty. On my second trip, I visited an exhibit of items women created in the Civil War. Because of scarcity, they invented what they needed out of what they possessed. The hair they collected in their combs and brushes was fashioned into everyday items such as buttons. That level of ingenuity extended my definition of art. It is not just inspirational, suggesting a cultivated ideal like the cypress trees, but also a balance struck between the discarded and the necessary. I usually think of art as ornamental, but it can also be pragmatic, reflecting the will and imperative to weave solidity into life and hold our selves together against trauma and assault.”

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Maddy Bragar, an artist featured on The Art Drive, talks about the inspiration she draws from the land around her:
 
“People often ask me why I moved to Westport.  My answer is simple: the light.  The same light and air that grow grapes for wine, provides an incomparable foggy day, and a pink sky at night, puts many artists here in the mode to create, totally immersed in the landscape of the sea, air, and change of seasons. I find my source of inspiration and materials in the natural world surrounding me. My interest is in the erosion of time on objects related to the sea and nearby farmlands. My studio in Westport has brought my work into the pine trees, the ever changing seascape, and the places where people work with their hands over generations of seasons respecting the elements that simultaneously challenge and sustain their existence.” 

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99% StoneAbe Rybeck, Executive Artistic Director of The Theater Offensive, discusses the power of performance:
 
"I was a gay Jewish boy in the hills of West Virginia when the Blacksville mine disaster killed nine men.  Throughout my childhood, whenever I’d gone to the doctor, I’d sat next to emaciated miners, hacking their guts out from Black Lung.  So I pictured those men crushed and burned in Blacksville.  My Dad brought me along to a stormy United Mine Workers protest where speakers struggled in vain to express the horror of the disaster.  Then folklorist Michael Klein stood up in the hot rain and he sang a traditional mining song with the words artfully altered to address the tragedy.  I found myself crying, everyone did.  My heart opened to the pain all around me.  In the face of catastrophe, the beauty and anger of the music—the unexpected depth Michael found in a little old ditty—swept us all up and pulled us all together."

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David Costa, Manager of Public Relations and Marketing at Stoneham Theatre, tells of his passion for theatre:

“What I love about live theatre or a great piece of artwork is that it stays with you. We all have specific theatrical memories that we will cherish forever. I have many:  seeing my babysitter play Dorothy in her high school production of The Wiz, my first Broadway show Annie with Andrea McArdle, and being enveloped by the opening number of the touring company of Ragtime at the Colonial Theatre. In reflecting on my theatrical memories, I was struck by the fact that it didn’t matter what the “level” of theatre was (Broadway, community theatre, etc.). What mattered was that the experience was so powerful that it stayed with me. "

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Andrew Burgreen, Managing Director of Gloucester Stage Company, relates the first time he was struck by the performing arts: 

"I was six or seven years old when my parents took me and my sisters to see Ethel Merman in Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun at Shady Grove Music Fair located outside Washington, D.C.  I remember being totally enthralled.  My head was spinning with this dynamic legend belting out 'There's No Business Like Show Business'. It had a profound effect on me for the rest of my life and it was there that I was bitten by the 'show business bug'. I was in every school play, directed the Sophomore Variety Show, and double majored in theater and English in college. My long career in theater was fostered by my parents and mentors who believed in the value of the theater arts and its capacity to capture the imaginations of countless generations, affecting the way our society sees itself within a unique perspective of playwright, audience and artists' collaboration." 

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Alexandra Rozenman, Owner of Art School 99, reminisces about finding art where she least expected it: 

"I grew up in the Soviet Union, in Moscow. Many old buildings have been destroyed by the Soviets, and by time, and neglect. In some areas they stood empty and half-open. Going to those buildings was always so amazing! Once a friend and I managed to get inside an old Russian Orthodox Church that had been used as a storage space and was under reconstruction. When the door opened we saw beautiful frescos on dirty walls..." 

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Nancy Berliner, Curator at The Peabody Essex Museum, tells us about finding art in surprising places:

"One of the most inspiring parts of my job is coming upon beautiful and unique objects in the most unexpected places – and then being able to share those objects with our audiences. I have walked into humble houses in remote Chinese villages and seen dynamically-composed patchwork bed covers and door curtains made from old clothes by the women of the house. I’ve blown away dust in the Forbidden City to reveal intricately inlaid mother-of-pearl patterning in black lacquer. And I’ve opened drawers here in the museum storage and found imperial molds for making cricket-cages from gourds, donated to the museum almost a century ago. There is a human desire that finds deep satisfaction and inspiration in creating and experiencing visually stimulating objects. Being part of the process that allows more people to engage with these objects is a privilege for me. "

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alt titleJill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director of the The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, discusses the first time she was struck by art:
 
The first time I recall being thunderstruck by a work of art was at the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, CT, where I grew up. It was by Marcel Duchamp and I loved that it was a verbal and a visual pun. The piece was Tu m' and it set me on the path I walk today.
 
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Edmund Barry Gaither, Director and Curator of the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, tells us about the first time he was struck by art:

"As a child during the Korean Conflict, I loved art drawing. Brushing back the brown soil to reveal a perfectly smooth surface, I sketched planes and soldiers on the ground with nails. My battle narratives filled the yard. The insurance man had to hop-scotch his way to the door to avoid stepping on my art. I knew it mattered—I saw that it got other people’s attention. Thus began my love of art, and my growing awareness that it could affect the behavior of others."

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