In June of 2009, I ran into Nic Phillips at the Dance/USA conference. "Are you busy these days?" he asked. "I have this new thing, it's called CultureMap."
It's 124 stories later.
As Culturemap has just celebrated its one year anniversary and revealed its sleek streamlined look, now seems like an ideal time to reflect on some of my favorite stories.
My musings on exposing kids to art touched a nerve, as many of us worry about the next generation of art goers. I have nothing but good news to report.
Musiqa's middle school program, ReMix, presented in collaboration with the Alley Theatre and the Hobby Center, is sold out. Karen Stokes of Travesty Dance Group won Dance Teacher Instructional Video of the Month at Dance Media for her Framing Dance Program. Angela Foster and InterActive Theater Company are part of the MODE Incubator program at Houston Arts Alliance, where they are growing their organization. And get this, my son Joseph, the kiddo who could speak so fluently about Jackson Pollock, is trying to steal my thunder at Houston Press' Art Attack.
I will never forget the hour I spent in a room with WindSync. I am happy to report that the young upstart wind quintet is going strong with tours lined up, some new members and a their own version of West Side Story called WindSync Story on Dec. 5, at Duncan Recital Hall at Shepherd School of Music. Think movie night with wind instruments.
"Mow it into an artsy design to outdo Donald Judd," I told the author, who has just finished his next Marfa Shadows book. I'm planning my second jaunt to Austin for the Fuse Box Festival this spring. Director Ron Berry promises another weird-as-ever lineup, including Morgan Thorson, who rocked the DiverseWorks house with Heaven.
My leaving the Big Apple story had some repercussions. Erin Reck headed back to New York to dance with Molly Rabinowitz and Sara Rudner shortly after the piece ran. She's back in Houston now (thankfully!) working on new choreography in a HopeWerks residency at Hope Stone. Philip Lehl and his entire ex-New Yorkers troupe at Brave Dog Theater open Craig Lukas' Reckless on Dec. 2.
Those branching out artists are still at it. Brian Byrnes, who tried his hand directing opera last season, directs Pearl Fishers and Don Carlo at Opera in the Heights, while the husband and wife team of Hillerbrand + Magsamen are busy re-designing the lawn at Lawndale for an April show. Now that's a big move.
The fallout from the surviving on reception food story has resulted in many a tasty offering by arts people fearing I might be hungry. Allison Hunter had freshly baked cookies ready when I showed up for a studio visit. Way to go girl. A big shout out to Rice Media Center and Cinema Arts Society for the post Max Ernst Hanging reception featuring simply dreamy chocolate covered macaroons. Oh, the movie was good too.
I loved my Art in a Bar story, not only because I like art and bars, but because I find bars transformed by art. Brewery Tap is a holy place since the Horse Head Theatre Co. production of Fault Lines. "Look at the Ancient Greeks," says Kevin Holden, Horse Head's Artistic Director. "They tied theatre in with their festival for the god of wine. I think a bit of alcohol loosens up our ability for catharsis." Amen brother Kevin.
Now about your favorite columns.
The Young Professionals arts groups story examined how we spend our precious resources on audience development. I checked in with the folks at Houston Ballet Barre at a rehearsal for Stanton Welch's Velocity in preparation for the upcoming annual Jubilee. Not all about bubbly liquids, these ballet connoisseurs sat through a serious rehearsal, complete with a substantial Q & A before the hobnobbing began. Their hold the party until we get a big hit of ballet strategy has worked. Enrollment has increased by 50 percent.
Society for Performing Arts canned their YP group after realizing that their audiences are diverse in age. HYPA leader Heather Pray reports that her mother has still not forgiven me for saying she was not raised in an artsy house. Young artsers should not miss the HYPA gala on Feb. 5, "Andalusional: A Spanish Dream World" in conjunction with the Houston Symphony's Ravel's Spain with Bolero. Jessica Walters and her gang at Dominic Walsh Dance Theater's Friday Night Casting Couch are still holding snazzy and open-to-all-ages, quasi YP events.
I'm still waiting for the couch, because, you know, I'm old.
My social media saga continues as I still shamelessly beg you every week to "like," "share" and "tweet" my stories. My tutors are going strong. Culturemap's social media guru Fayza Elmostehi wants me to join Foursquare so I can be the mayor. I have no idea what's she's talking about but mayor sounds good.
I finally caved and got a Facebook Fan Page. Yeah, like me baby!
Sydney Skybetter's double life of net wonk at Design Brooklyn and rising New York Choreographer plows ahead on both fronts. His new operation, SkyNova15, live streamed from backstage at the Bessie Awards.
"I've gotten more fully involved in creating media to be put out on social networks. The SkyNova project is very much in development, but is essentially a near no-cost means to push forward the discourse on technology and infrastructure in the arts," Skybetter says. "If I can generate this content, and syndicate it for free through online/social networks, why can't we all?"
His company landed a Joyce show in a shared program, and he's featured in my upcoming story on how dancers and choreographers use Twitter in Dance Magazine. Monica Danna and Katie Laird continue their social media-lite status.
"I'm trying to help Houston arts groups convert tweets to butts in seats," Danna says. And well, little me, won Best Houston Arts Tweeter by The Houston Press. Know that I thanked all my teachers in my acceptance speech.
Artists and their Day Jobs got people riled up about the myriad of ways artists sustain themselves.Caroline Collective co-Founder Ned Dodington just published Factory Farmed Architecture: You Are How You Eat in Bracket. These days, he fuses his interests in architecture and art with "Urban Aeries: increased opportunities and awareness for avian citizens," a collaboration with Melissa McDonnell funded by the Rice Design Alliance. Dodington hopes to take the project another step with "Urban Aeries: PURCH (Positioned Urban Roosts for Civic Habitation)."
Elliot Cooper Cole left Houston to get a Ph. D. at Princeton, but recently returned to premiere his newest opus, Selkie, A Sea Tale with Misha Penton and Divergence Vocal Theater. I sat next to River Oaks Chamber Orchestra violist and personnel manager Suzanne LeFevre at Alecia Lawyer's Oboe concert/tasting at Kirans. LeFevre reminded me that truthfully she has a triple life. She also plays with Houston Grand Opera and Mercury Baroque, for which she (and the rest of the orchestra) will be bringing Vivaldi's lost opera Montazuma back to life this very Saturday at Wortham.
I continue to marvel at the lives artists manage.
I thank everyone who gave me something to write about. Without you, I'd be home watching old Glee episodes.
Have I missed you? Got a story idea? The Arthropologist is in.
Karen Stokes award winning "Framing Dance" video.
WindSync in WindSync Story, redefining classical music