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Category Archives: Kellie Houx
Review by Kellie Houx
Musical Theater Heritage’s A Spectacular Christmas is a smorgasbord of sassy and sublime singers and storytellers, sentimental holiday favorites, straightforward and uncomplicated sets, which when all are rolled together produces a truly satisfying theater experience.
Musical Theater Heritage is a strong force in the theatrical and musical world here in Kansas City. I appreciate their approach to presenting musical theater. There are almost no set and limited costumes and props. The singers, for the most part, sing to the audience and the fourth wall gets very flimsy. Just for a quick refresher, the fourth wall is the imaginary boundary at the front of the stage in traditional theater through which the audience sees the action and the actors. It is that demarcation that separates the audience from the play. Another joy is how close the audience gets to be from the cast. There’s an intimacy that can be so appealing.
For the Christmas show this year, singers Lauren Braton, Bryan LaFave, Justin McCoy and Stefanie Wienecke led the program. Braton is a fan favorite. Vocally she has a range that moves from operatic to seemingly being the direct descendant of the voice of Patty Andrews of the Andrews Sisters. By the way, I truly believe she is as sweet and kind as she is lovely and talented.
McCoy is one of my favorites of recent months. I met him at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre’s rehearsal of Ragtime. I knew he was going to be a success. Here’s a handsome man who can play piano, organ and sing. He’s got this deep voice that fills the space and a charm that seals any little leaks. If I can make my predictions, McCoy will continue to develop his talents and be another strong force in town.
Wienecke and I have not met in person, but I am huge fan of her composing skills. She wrote some original music for the She & Her production of A Feminine Ending. She sent in a recording of the first minute of a piece and I was enamored. Hearing her sing just proved that Kansas City is blessed with people who can sing, act and play an instrument. Both she and McCoy got a chance to sit at the piano usually reserved for the wonderful Jeremy Watson, assistant music director. He does a mean version of The Nutcracker as a solo piano piece. It’s downright amazing.
LaFave is a new voice for me. However, I sure hope to hear more. He’s got that sort of cool, higher registered voice that is enchanting.By the way, LaFave was struck by a car on Dec. 10. He suffered serious leg and head injuries. He required surgery and by all accounts he is going to be just fine. However, in the true spirit of the theater, “the show must go on.” An understudy has stepped in. However, to help LaFave, donations are being accepted to help cover his expenses.
The other charmers came in the form of storytellers Marilyn Lynch and Richard Alan Nichols. I really enjoyed Lynch; she’s still that sort of feisty broad who tells just the right sort of naughty tales. (Of course there are no saucy tales here, but I am sure she could tell them.) Nichols, who is 79, told a lovely version of MTH founder George Harter’s 19 Cents Worth of Christmas. The other wonderful story came from Brendan Hulla who recited the story of The Bicycle of Julio Gonzalez. Maggie Marx, Willa Hope Walberg and Jordan Haas round out the youthful choir participants.
So sure, it’s a Christmas show and the Christmas songs are familiar such as What Child is This, Deck the Halls, White Christmas and Carol of the Bells, but as my father noted, the arrangements are different and a little bit unorthodox. As an example, Baby, It’s Cold Outside updates the gender roles. Of course, my favorite piece ends the show, We Are Not Alone, written by Pepper Choplin. This a cappella piece speaks to the heart and soul. It’s atypical for a Christmas show, but so moving. I dare anyone not to be singing this when they leave the show.
Subsequently go see the show. It’s a wonderful two-hour excursion from the creative mind of Artistic Director Sarah Crawford, Executive Producer Chad Gerlt and Executive Director George Harter. Performances are Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 12-15 and 19-22. The show times are 7 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays; and 2 p.m. Sundays.
Film festivals hold an increasingly important sway to viewers and those who make films. While a theatrical showing may have a financial reward, many times it’s through cable packages and DVD sales that help. Of course, a film festival allows smaller films to find a screen and a market. They may find a niche for the home video market. For others, a film festival allows an audience to seek out films they may not normally pursue in the larger cinema houses made for mainstream cinema.
THE KANSAS CITY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
From Oct. 12 to Oct. 20, the Kansas City Jewish Film Festival (KCJFF) brings in nine narratives and documentaries that explore and celebrate Jewish culture and film at the Jewish Community Center.
Rabbi Neal Schuster says film festivals, on the most basic level, bring people together. “Many festivals play films that we don’t have access to outside of the context to bring a movie in. There might be a connective element, such as a theme or genre. Many films can stand alone, but string them together, as with the Jewish Film Festival, and there is even more.”
Schuster will facilitate the discussion after the documentary film, Hitler’s Children, Oct. 15. Only two of the nine films directly deal with the Holocaust. Hitler’s Children is the third that leans on the Holocaust, but is very different, Schuster says. The 2012 documentary examines the lives of children and grandchildren of some of Hitler’s top leaders: Himmler, Goering, Hoess, Frank … “With the film, we are trying to understand the post-Holocaust experience. Can children and grandchildren carry the sins of another generation,” he says. Schuster says another aspect is this idea of perpetuating evil. “It is easy to see these men as monsters and we do so, but as appealing as that it, they were ordinary people on so many levels and had ordinary children.”
Schuster is the senior Jewish educator at the University of Kansas Hillel. He teaches on Jewish film and film in general. He looks at values and lessons presented. “The message, the teachable moment, is to look at the lines you don’t cross. I can see the tremendous burden and how difficult it would be to build a life, to create a sense of self when you want to remove yourself from the past. Film gives people a chance to view something powerful and seeing documentaries are something we don’t get often. We can learn about something together with this film festival.”
Associate Professor and Department Chair Tamara L. Falicov from the KU film studies department will also facilitate a discussion. She will lead a panel after the showing of the autobiographical Foreign Letters Oct. 20. In a note from the filmmaker, the film is autobiographical and looks at how critical and difficult it can be to be a teen, let alone being an immigrant teen.
KANSAS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
The Kansas International Film Festival has hit lucky number 13. From Oct. 4 to Oct. 13, at the Glenwood Arts Theatre, hundreds of enthusiastic film buffs will parade in to catch more than 50 films.
Dr. Dotty Hamilton, vice president of KIFF and in charge of programming, says one of the highlights is the audience awards for both the best documentary and the best narrative feature. There are two jury awards – one for best narrative feature and one for best social justice documentary – chosen prior to the festival, but announced that Sunday morning at the Filmmaker Recognition Brunch.
“All four award winners receive a one week theatrical run at the Fine Arts Theatres,” she says. “It’s a great prize for filmmakers looking for more recognition and exhibition of their films.” The jury award winners are also replayed on the Wednesday and Thursday evening of the festival. “On opening night, we will screen the Manhattan Short Film Festival, which screens around the world that weekend and our audiences get to vote on the winners, which are announced on MSF website.”
Other collaborations include working with the Kansas City Women in Film and TV, who will sponsor female-directed films for closing night, as well as the Independent Filmmakers Coalition, who will have a Wednesday night screening of their members’ films, Hamilton says.
TALLGRASS FILM FESTIVAL
Tallgrass is the most distant of the film festivals in Wichita, but Kansas City filmmakers have been known to enter this film festival. Last year, the 10th annual Tallgrass Film Festival screened nearly 190 films from 30 countries around the world, including two world premieres and 1 U.S. premiere.
Tallgrass flew in 34 visiting filmmakers from all over the country to present their films to Wichita audiences over four days, which also included parties and educational offerings. The 11th Tallgrass Film Festival will be held in and around downtown Wichita, Kan., Oct.16-20.
By Kellie Houx
It’s always surprising that the quiet and often simple things in life can be so impactful. Chalk is a porous sedimentary form of limestone. For school chalk, it’s usually the mineral gypsum and then there’s sidewalk chalk which is often pressed into larger and more colorful sticks.
Many a driveway and sidewalk has been decorated with rainbows, fairy tale kingdoms, jungles and other imaginative destinations and creatures. There’s something so comforting to see a child return to his imagination, his own senses and to truly look at the world around him. And the Kansas City Chalk and Walk Festival will do just that on the weekend of Sept. 7 and 8 at Crown Center.
Turn off those cell phones and slide the to-do lists away. Why not try a little creativity? The festival has a significant section set aside for children and families. Each child will be provided a bucket of chalk at no charge. This area is called Children’s Creative Corridor.
For Executive Director Lotti Halpern, the festival fulfills so many needs in the community. First, there is collaboration. For her, it’s the chance to pull seemingly divergent organizations together to help keep the event free and fun. She has several businesses pulling for her and sponsoring artist stone canvases.
Then she brings in groups such as Jumpstart-Kansas City. Many of the volunteers are University of Missouri-Kansas City students who help with the children’s corridor. Jumpstart’s mission is to have every child in America enter school prepared to succeed. To this end, Jumpstart trains and supports college students to serve as part-time Corps members, working individually with young children to build skills crucial to school success through fostering their early language, literacy, social and initiative skills; encouraging strong family involvement to help families support children’s learning; and training college students to be future teachers and leaders in early childhood education.
Artist and teacher Jenny Mendez has come in to share Mattie Rhodes’ arts programming. She also helps out, Halpern says. There’s also a hope to bring in some students to talk about science and math such as the creation of chalk or the mathematics within the grid used to create a sidewalk masterpiece.
“So many schools have limited art and I want to give them a chance to see adult artists and others involved in the arts with the festival,” she says. “We also take our programs into area shelters and into schools without art programs. We want children to find inspiration. Sometimes the adult artist talks about his or her challenges as a child and teen.” Halpern says artists have even provided demonstrations at other events and corporate settings to encourage adults too.
Even some of the younger artists who have participated in the past are interspersed with the older artists. “We have had teenagers in the mix,” she says. Watch artists – student, amateur and professional – create a full-fledged work of art on the sidewalk near Crown Center. Some are comfortable on their knees while others have more inventive ways to roll around such as skateboard and lounge chairs.
Visitors can casually stroll through the event and watch the artists as they create their classical and modern paintings. Artists submit sketches so Halpern knows where to place them. This year’s theme is Around the World while the Originals and the Masters remain. Halpern says so many artists live a sort of insulated life, producing their art, but putting them front and center at the festival gives them a chance to share what they do.
Never fear, last year, at the fifth annual event last year, there were more than 120 artists and assistants to chat with and ask questions. Some of the chalk creations are done by families or several generations working together. Halpern hopes to have as many participants, if not more.
The mission of the Kansas City Chalk and Walk Festival is to engage with all members of the community regardless of social or economic status using art as a means of education, expression and “common ground.” “It’s camaraderie with chalk,” Halpern says.
Since opening the doors of their home, the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity in August 2011, Kansas City Ballet has been, well, creative in their approach to appealing to Kansas Citians with an interest in dance.
In addition to the performing stage at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity, the permanent home of Kansas City Ballet, provides the community with a stunning, award-winning space for dance experiences. Each season the series begins with a Free Community Event called KC Dance Day. This year’s event will take place on Saturday, Aug. 24 beginning at 9:30 a.m. and running through 6:30 p.m.
Attendees will have a wealth of dance opportunities available to them, all at no cost. From free ballet dance classes for kids and adults dance classes from ballet to Zumba® to world dances from India, Ireland, China and more. In addition to classes, attendees can enjoy kid-friendly performances from Starlight Stars of Tomorrow, Ailey Camp and Kansas City Youth Ballet—the performing ensemble for Kansas City Ballet School in the morning, multi-cultural dance presentations in the early afternoon, and wrap up the day with KC’s Best Dance Showcase featuring companies like Seamless, City in Motion, and the Kansas City Ballet.
In addition to KC Dance Day, the “At the Bolender Center” Series opens its doors to other community events throughout the season. From Free First Friday events to Kansas City Youth Ballet performances and even a choreographic workshop for KCB dancers called Dancers Making Dances, there are so many opportunities for people to engage with the city’s dance company. Director of Community Programs Linda Martin says, “Often when people get to see the company rehearsing, they will buy tickets and become audience members right afterward. It’s been a great tool for building audiences.”
Ballet Marketing Director Mike Alley says he enjoys helping to promote the Bolender Center as the destination for dance. “We are working hard and are one of the top five dance facilities, right up there with the Houston Ballet and the Alvin Ailey studios in New York. While we have gained inroads with the local professionals and the amateurs, our ‘At the Bolender Center’ Series reminds the rest of the dance community that we are a destination for dance.” Executive Director Jeff Bentley wants to see the facility, anchored by the ballet and become the destination for dance in the metropolitan area.
The former power station for Union Station regained a second life as Kansas City Ballet’s rehearsal space, ballet school and administrative offices, but it is not limited to only KCB dancers using the facilities.
Director of Production Amy Taylor has a hand in the coordination of the center and helps organizations and groups seeking to use the center. “If a chorale group needs certain lights, I help. The idea is to meet specific needs and create the looks that are wanted. Sure, in the past two years, we have felt our way along, but we knew we wanted to open this building up for groups that may not have a permanent space for performances and rehearsals. We have had weekend yogathons and development departments of non-profits hold cocktail events here.”
Whether it is an outside dance, arts or non-profit organization that seeks to share the space or an event created by the ballet staff, Taylor says each event gives her a burst of creativity. “Looking to the future, I can’t wait to see what more we will bring in while continuing to do what we do best.” Organizations interested in renting the space should contact Rene Horne for more information at 816-931-2232 x1346 or email@example.com.
Family Measures Generosity in Creativity
One million … What does one million mean? It seems like a large number, perhaps associated with burgeoning wealth. However, it is wealth of a different kind that inspires artist Jeff Hanson.
In mid-May, the Make-A-Wish North Texas Gala proved to be a very positive tipping point. The goal of $1 million was reached at the event. Since the age of 12, Jeff has been donating his paintings to charitable live auctions. At the age of 19, he and his mother talked in the family kitchen about raising $1 million for charity before his 20th birthday. Four months before that birthday, Jeff and his parents Julie and Dr. Hal Hanson were able to witness the threshold reached and surpassed.
To reach his milestone, Jeff donated an original painting titled Siena Breeze, a second painting that was a commission of choice and a hand-painted custom-made evening gown. The three items were auctioned for $46,000, which was $2,000 more than Jeff needed to reach his $1 million goal. Proceeds went to Make-A-Wish North Texas. Since 2007, Jeff has donated a total of 125 works to charities nationwide. The thrill came
that goal was exceeded at a Make-A-Wish event and it meant a little more because at 12, he was a Make-A-Wish recipient. His wish was to meet singer Sir Elton John.
“We ended up turning the tables on Elton John and giving him $1,000 for his children’s AIDS foundation. It was the grand opening of the Sprint Center,” says Julie. “He couldn’t understand how generous Jeff was when it was his Make-A-Wish event. We ended up in Dubai as his guests.” On top of the trip, Jeff presented John with a painting he titled View from the 22nd Row. John also asked Jeff to paint 12 works for an Elton John AIDS Foundation sponsored Baphumelele Children’s Orphanage in South Africa. “They arrived on Christmas Day and that is the gift that has meant the most,” he says. Julie says that became the family gift that year as it was costly to send the paintings to Africa. “But what a life-changing moment for me too,” she says. Hal says the orphanage workers and children loved the paintings. “We were told we helped give them back a little of their childhood.”
While Jeff has caring parents, he attributes his lessons and attitude of giving to John. “He told me that if you give to the world, the world will give back,” he says. “It seemed like good wisdom.” Today, business magnate and philanthropist
Warren Buffett has a Jeffrey Owen Hanson painting hanging in his home.
Initially, the artwork was something to do as Jeff dealt with an almost non-existent immune system due to treatments for his optic tumor. Jeff lives with a genetic disorder called Neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder where nerve tissue grows tumors that may be benign, but may also cause serious damage by compressing nerves and other tissues as is Jeff’s case. As a pastime during chemotherapy, young Jeff painted watercolor note cards and sold them at his driveway bake sale, “Jeff’s Bistro,” to raise money for the Children’s Tumor Foundation and for his own needs, when he was healthy enough. “People started telling me how much they liked my art and said I should put it on canvas,” Jeff says. The watercolors were tucked away and bright acrylics replaced the washed out colors.
Jeff has no professional training. “I honestly didn’t know I had the talent.” Hal says no one in the family thought about a family artist business, but their model has worked in that sort of backward and accidental way. “Well, think about it this way. Most people would start a business where the art would be sold for a profit. It wouldn’t be the reverse where a bulk of the art was heading out of the door for charities,” Julie says. Most corporate giving comes after profit, Hal says. “The three of us could never have conceived that philanthropy came first.”
In the beginning, Julie purchased the less expensive acrylics for Jeff. Now he uses high-end art supplies. “We have had to walk this journey as a family,” she says. “I learned what he needed as far as supplies. I watched how he shaped his passion for color. I wanted to carry the burden for him, like any mother, but I watched this artist blossom.”
Hal, who is an emergency room physician, wrote a book titled Lessons from CLOD to help define Jeff’s medical condition and the turbulent emotions he and Julie felt as their son stared down his health problems. “We all have our CLODS in life. Jeff proved how he would make his choices and decided not to let the optic tumor define him. I struggled as I watched my dreams for my son drift away. I wanted him to be the CEO
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of Apple, but the dreams have changed and the deposits are bulging. Who would have thought that within seven years of diagnosis and treatment, that art would lead us to this point?”
Now, the family has Jeff’s art business in hand. His art is made of layers of paint, impressionistic and stylistic of Jeff’s memories of places in Europe or from a cruise through the Caribbean, as examples. He often spends only a couple of hours a day, adding layers and colors of paint. “He may work on 20 paintings at one time. The paintings progress to meet the demand,” Julie says, “and the demand for his work is high.” Originally Julie and Hal thought the attraction to Jeff’s work was more about their son’s story. “People like his art and many have never heard his story,” Hal says. The stack of commissions is substantial, Julie says. And every year, they plan to give one organization “one big gift.” Jeff painted 30 paintings for Children’s Mercy Hospital’s pediatric oncology and three paintings for the board room. Sometimes the paintings include woven canvas on top of the canvas.
“Jeff is still one person who is exploring what the future might hold for him,” Julie says. “There’s always exploring that needs to be done.” Now, the family is not looking at numbers anymore, Hal says. “It was a fun goal to dream big and see that goal reached. We have learned our lessons, especially from CLOD. This is the story of one kid who still had dreams despite challenging medical issues.”
Philanthropy will always be a part of the Hanson household, even as the accolades settle. He has been recognized as a “Hero Among Us” by People Magazine. The Huffington Post readers voted Jeff the “Top Kid Making a Difference in 2011.” He’s also received the National Prudential Spirit of Community Award. “Sure things will quiet down. However, I rather like the idea that art transforms faces and my works will continue that. I want to be defined by the smiles on the faces that see my art,” Jeff says.•
An apprentice is one who learns by practical experience under skilled workers or individuals in a trade, art, or calling. For Artistic Director Ward Holmquist, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and its apprentice program aids developing opera singers with a rare opportunity to continue to hone their art and shape their voices along a more confident path. Those who are selected participate in a two-year program of training and performances, which includes supporting roles in main stage operas, vocal coaching, and serving as ambassadors for their art form.
The Lyric Opera’s apprentice program accepts participants from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and the University of Kansas voice department. The program ties with UMKC have been around for more than two decades. Holmquist says the program has always been robust. The KU program is similar, having been around for roughly 15 years. “What makes our program rare is the partnership with the universities. Most opera companies don’t have this. We are fortunate to have the teaching and training at the university level so close to the opera. These young artists already have good professional potential and are working toward a graduate degree of some sort. Adding this apprenticeship gives them even more ability. They get supporting and smaller roles. We look to them to be understudies. We want them to be ambassadors in the community,” Holmquist says.
Holmquist appreciates the veracity of an apprenticeship. “I am an example of how an apprenticeship benefits a young person. I had my training with the Houston Grand Opera. I had a good education in music and knew about the operatic art form, but I didn’t have any professional experience. I learned how to value all the aspects to the art and craft of presenting opera. It was utterly invaluable. I don’t think I would have had the career I have without this starting point.”
Expectations for participants are high. The singers are advancing in their education, their training and their physical age. “Opera is one of the few disciplines where age is a benefit. Because the voice is a tool, the muscles have to develop and age helps that. Singing is one aspect, but learning how you as a performer fit with the stage crafts, costuming and more … it’s just critical,” Holmquist says. “The apprenticeship is two years. First there’s a period of adjustment and then we start charting out where we think the participants need to develop. We will see how comfortable they are on stage and how familiar they are as actors and actresses. Can they move and sing at the same time? Sometimes they come into opera later in life so as they are figuring out the art form; we are also trying to give them what they need.”
Student apprentices leave the program “almost professionally blossoming,” Holmquist says. “From an artistic point of view, their voices and techniques have grown. They are refining their talent and ready to start either pursuing a professional career or they may explore another opera apprenticeship with a bigger opera. We go to see these festivals such as those in Chicago and San Francisco. The places serve somewhat as finishing schools.”
Three apprentices shared their stories. First, mezzo-soprano Tara Cooper debuted in the role of Inez in Verdi’s Il Trovatore and was a chorus member in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer, and Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado.
She has also been selected to be a member of the Marcello Giordani Young Artist Program at the Crested Butte Music Festival this summer. Cooper is currently a student of KU Voice Professor Joyce Castle and a graduate teaching assistant in the voice program. Cooper grew up in the Northland and attended Park Hill High School. She then attended the University of Missouri to study voice and then onto Boston Conservatory for a master’s degree in operatic performance.
“I am also working on my doctorate in vocal performance at KU,” she says. “I auditioned a year before for an apprenticeship and didn’t get it. I re-auditioned and was so very excited to make it.” During the experience, she has received her Union card. “One of the biggest things is to watch the more advanced singers and the guest directors. It’s invaluable to get to spend time with them, ask questions and
She also credits Holmquist with many of her vocal improvements. “We have run the gamut with everything from Verdi and Wagner to Gilbert and Sullivan. It has been a terrific experience so far.” Ironically her first opera was Madama Butterfly at the Lyric Opera as a 16 year old and then she sang in the chorus this past season. “Like some of the others, I was planning on musical theater and playing the flute. However, I wanted to sing correctly and opera became that tool. My voice started developing classically and I came to opera during my master’s degree.”
Elizabeth Tredent also sings mezzo-soprano. She attended Cleveland Institute of Music and is continuing her education at UMKC. “I came here for the apprenticeship. When I knew about it, this was where I wanted to be. Getting my master’s degree is icing on the cake. I was also shocked by how generous the apprenticeship is … a living stipend and funds for school.” Initially opera wasn’t the first love. She didn’t see an opera until her high school junior year.
During her tenure at the Lyric Opera, she has had roles in The Mikado and Madama Butterfly. “These two years were life-changing, especially with Ward Holmquist. He is a great mentor and watching him every day is a treat. You learn from him and from the international singers. You see how they navigate this career. I owe the Lyric so much. I am grateful.” Now Tredent will become an apprentice at the Sarasota Opera. “I will have to start working my way into the industry and hope that I can play the houses such as the MET (Metropolitan Opera).”
Casey Finnigan is a tenor who says being part of the apprenticeship was partly good luck and partly hard work. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of North Texas and his master’s in vocal performance at the University of Houston. “There was a call for more tenors and luckily a teacher of mine got in touch with UMKC and the Lyric. I wound up getting in and I just wrapped up my second year in the program. I gained several opportunities including singing the bigger role of the Steersman in The Flying Dutchman. However, part of it is what you create for yourself and put into the program.”
Finnigan say his parents met in music school so being involved in music seemed inescapable. “When I started off, I was aiming more for choral conducting. Then I had a couple of roles in a summer program. Opera gives you the opportunity to embrace all the art forms …” This summer, Finnigan will head to San Francisco to take part in the Merola Opera Program which has 20 to 25 participants out of a total of 800 who audition. He then is heading to another apprenticeship with Florida Grand Opera.•
“I am interested in the eccentrics that are often in plain sight,” says Lyn Elliot, filmmaker and professor at the University of Missouri-
Kansas City. “So often there are people and objects that are part of our daily landscapes and daily lives that have something unusual, strange, or absurd about them, but we don’t stop to notice it.”
With short films, Elliot has discovered a means to share these treasures. In her latest short film, A Good Match, she explores what happens when a couple breaks up, but the young woman, portrayed by local actress Liz Golson, in the relationship still wants to be around her ex-boyfriend’s mother. Actress Nancy Marcy who plays the ex-boyfriend’s mother sees a hopeful message.
“What I wanted to do was take a character getting out of that narcissistic stage and realizing she is not going to be 25 forever. Instead, she starts noticing older women who have something to offer rather than simply being someone’s mom,” Elliot says. “This young woman realizes that she has found a woman who is satisfied with her life and could learn from her. Unfortunately, that can be tough when other relationships change. The joy is the connection the younger woman Ann has to Carol as the audience can see Carol as a person who is well-rounded. She’s a teacher, a church choir member and a friend.”
Elliot’s favorite scene comes in the park as the two women are sharing a walk and a conversation. “Ann asks Carol about how she decided on marriage. Carol says her life was good before marriage as a young woman starting off on a career. Hopefully the feeling conveyed
is that happiness does not hinge on being married, but that happiness comes from all sorts of positive connections made in life,” she says.
For Elliot, this short film marks her first film in Kansas City. She had almost the entire cast and crew from Kansas City. “I moved here almost two years ago for the job and found lots of outlets for my art.” She found the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City. A call for short films that might be featured at the annual arts luncheon spurred her to submit Another Dress, Another Button. The charming short stop-motion animation film drew attention earlier this year at the luncheon. The short can be seen at her website, www.lynelliot.com.
Another Dress, Another Button looks at the charming lives of spare buttons. “I wanted to give these forever-waiting buttons some activity.” Three women also share brief narratives about why they keep the buttons and what they mean. The film received awards at the Black Maria Film and Video Festival; James River Shorts; Humboldt Film Festival; and Kansas City FilmFest. There were also selected screenings at Maryland Film Festival, Florida Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, and 2012 Black Maria Film and Video Festival Tour.
“I also applied for an Inspiration Grant through the Arts Council. I used the funds for sound mixing, color correction and final touches to A Good Match.” The short film should make its way around film festivals. “I also plan to enter it into some of the regional festivals such as Tallgrass and the Kansas City Film Festival. The curated festivals are tough, but if you make it, you know your film had the right qualities. As a filmmaker, you start creating a positive reputation. That can help with future collaborations and future funding opportunities. For some, the creation of short films means you might think about a full-length feature. I don’t know if directing a feature is in my future, but I would like to write one.”
She also met some of the actors and other artists at the Artist INC program. This program focuses on coaching teaching artists in business skills such as marketing, finance, grant writing and more. Artist INC is taught by artists for artists and is appropriate for generative artists of all disciplines. Visual artists, musicians, film makers, dancers, performers, and writers come together for intensive work on the components of a viable and sustainable arts practice. “I got involved quickly when I moved to town. It has been such an inviting community,” she says. “I also joined the Kansas City Women in Film and Television and the Independent Film Coalition.”
Elliot grew up in Wellesley, Mass. Initially she jumped into English as a major. She read voraciously and wrote short stories. Then the filmmaking bug bit. She took a screenwriting class and then a video production class. After growing up and attending undergraduate school out east, she moved to the University of Iowa for graduate school. While working on her English degree, she started taking film production classes. She was treated basically as an individual working artist. “I suppose another way to say, I learned to value short-form filmmaking as an end in itself,” she says.
Because of her background with literature, Elliot starts with a script. “I have loved short stories since I was a kid. I have written many since my youth. None are published, but I see the start of the story that way. Sure I took screenwriting in college, but I look at describing the images first and foremost. Then I aim to surround myself with actors and crew with good visual imaginations.”
She taught undergraduate film and video at Penn State and since 2011, she has been a film and media arts professor in the communication studies department at UMKC. Elliot describes herself as an academic filmmaker. “I am fortunate to be in a university setting. I identify being an educator. I like to teach. I have been working on films for 15 years and I have evolved. I teach them about the skills that work for me, but I want them to make their own mistakes.”
Inspiration still comes from books and the little things around her that are often overlooked by others, Elliot says. “I still aim for the humor in life. I may think about examining something important, but it might be in the context of the little moments.”
Elliot’s next project will be a short animation in collaboration with co-director Nina Frenkel. “We are even creating a Kickstarter for the month of July that will help us employ some animators here.” The short animated film is called I Was a Teenage Girl, Apparently. “A found diary leads a grown woman to journey back in time to talk some sense into her former teenage self. It should be fun,” she says.
The setting sun burned a dull orange as Kimberly Masteller stepped out of a contemporary art gallery in the city of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. As her eyes became used to the dusty twilight, the evening call to prayer came from neighborhood mosques in all directions. The dissonant voices sang at different pitches and speeds, yet cycled in and out of union with each other.
“I was struck by the juxtaposition of stumbling from a white cube gallery into a place so steeped in tradition,” says Masteller, Jeanne McCray Beals Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. “As I listened, I realized that it was only a surprise to me because I was bringing my perceptions and assumptions to this moment, assumptions that separate culture into impenetrable zones like past and present, tradition and modern. Of course, we all live within and beyond the boundaries of these categories. We are contemporary, but are also informed and influenced by our histories, our traditions, our cultures–artists certainly are.”
This layering of tradition and modern would become the framework for Masteller’s exhibition, Echoes: Islamic Art and Contemporary Artists, which opens at the Nelson-Atkins on Aug. 31. The works in the exhibition date from the 9th century to the 21st century, and come from Islamic cultures across the globe, including contemporary art from U.S. artists. A Pakistani cargo truck made in Kansas City by artist Asheer Akram will be installed outside near the entrance to the Bloch Building.
Akram, a Pakistani-American educated at the Kansas City Art Institute, is a metal artist known for sculptures that incorporate bold patterns and designs. He was inspired to create the truck after traveling to Pakistan and encountering boldly painted trucks throughout the country. Akram purchased a 1950s Chevy farm truck, and with the help of mechanics and a team of artists from Kansas City and Pakistan, he has transformed the vehicle into a Pakistani-American painted truck, filled with hybrid imagery and decoration.
The collections of the Nelson-Atkins provide the historical foundation of the exhibition. Visitors approaching the gallery will be greeted by a monumental mosaic arch that will serve as the entrance to the exhibition. Acquired by the museum in 1932, this early 17th-century Persian arch has not been on view for more than three decades, and Nelson-Atkins conservators have been restoring the arch over the past year in preparation for this exhibition.
“We are so excited to show the Mosaic arch again after all these years,” Masteller says. “It is a truly spectacular piece, and gives you a glimpse of the grandeur of Persian architecture. Imagine being a traveler to Isfahan in the 1600s and what it must have felt like when you approached the city, seeing grand gateways covered in mosaics and glistening in the sunlight.”
What makes Islamic art Islamic? Art historians use the term “Islamic Art” when discussing the wide range of art forms created in the historically Islamic lands (West Asia, North Africa, parts of southern Europe, and Islamic South
and Southeast Asia). The term is cultural rather than religious and refers to
the cultural context in which the art
There are some fundamental characteristics shared in many artworks from the Islamic world. They include the use of elegant calligraphy based upon the Arabic script, an exploration of geometric or vegetative design, an interest in intricate detail and patterning, and paintings rendered with calligraphic outlines, rich colors, and containing forms or figures suspended in flat or unnatural settings.
“We realized there was a real opportunity here to showcase some of the outstanding works in our collection,” Masteller says. “But we are also able to introduce Kansas City audiences to contemporary art from or inspired by the Islamic lands.”
Masteller interviewed several of the contemporary artists who have objects in the exhibition. Those interviews will be shown on iPads in the gallery so visitors can hear the artist talking about his or her work.
“The overarching theme here is dialogue,” Masteller says. “We use the installation and the artists’ interviews to invoke conversations between the works and their cultures, and also between past and present.”
When Masteller came to the Nelson-Atkins four years ago, she immediately surveyed the condition of the museum’s Islamic collection and developed a plan for treating and restoring key works of art. With this exhibition, she is seizing the opportunity to showcase some of the outstanding works in the collection in dialogue with the contemporary works.
“We are thrilled to have some of the top artists from across the Middle East and South Asia participating in this exhibition,” she says. “Their names are a veritable who’s who of key figures in the global art scene.”
This exhibition is part of a larger collaboration between arts organizations in Kansas City, including a joint summer exhibition at the Kansas City Artists Coalition and related programming with the Kansas City Public Library and the Friends of Chamber Music of Kansas City. Echoes: Islamic Art and Contemporary Artists runs through March 30, 2014 at the Nelson-Atkins.•
An exhibit of paintings and drawings of Kansas City buildings by Glen Hansen. The Guldner Gallery in the Kansas City Public Library’s Central Library June 27 – September 13, 2013
Some artists are known for their figure studies. Or landscapes. Or portraits. Glen Hansen creates paintings and drawings of buildings. And not even entire buildings. Just pieces of buildings.
“My thing is isolating the details of architecture,” he explains. “I don’t want to do entire street scenes. There are no human beings in my paintings. No cats on the window sills. No birds.
“It’s about a building and its relationship with the sky. The human element is found in the architects who designed the buildings and the craftsmen who sweated to make them a reality.”
Hansen has created one-man shows exploring the architecture of Paris, Prague, Venice, and New York City, where he lives. Now he does the same for Kansas City.
The Kansas City Project, on display through September 13, 2013 in the Guldner Gallery at the Kansas City Public Library’s Central Library, 14 W. 10th St., features more than 30 drawings and a half-dozen paintings of local buildings and their architectural and decorative details.
Admission is free.
Some of Hansen’s images will be immediately recognizable to local residents, like the rocket ship sitting atop the old TWA Building at 18th and Main. Or the façade of Town Topic Hamburgers.
Others, like the Strahm sign (on the Strahm Mailing Services building at 17th and Broadway) have been hiding in plain sight.
According to Hansen, his attraction to architecture as subject matter is practically genetic.
“Going back to my great grandparents, my family were all builders: carpenters, bricklayers, contractors. I worked on construction sites in the summer. And after I graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, I began making art based on my love of the Victorian homes found in my old neighborhood on Long Island.
“You do what you know, and I know buildings. I discovered that was what I was really good at.”
His transition from working class kid to fine artist was a gradual one, Hansen said. “I was always doing drawings for my grandmother and mom. In high school I had a couple of great art teachers who encouraged me. So I put a portfolio together, and the next thing you know you’re in art school.”
Over the years several of Hansen’s pieces have been purchased for the collection of Commerce Bankshares. Three years ago the bank’s chairman, Jonathan Kemper, commissioned Hansen to design a poster for the opening of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
“It was the first time I’d really attempted something based on modern architecture. But I really immersed myself into the work of architect Moshe Safdie, and I was blown away.”
Hansen’s painting of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts was purchased by the William T. Kemper Foundation, Commerce Bank, Trustee, and given to the Library. It plays a prominent role in the exhibit.
While doing studies of the still-under-construction Kauffman Center, Hansen began looking around Kansas City – and fell in love. He proposed to Kemper a show examining the architectural richness of the city and received an eager response. He produced 30 finished drawings in three months.
Hansen works both from photos and from sketches drawn on site. “I try to visit at different times of day and in different weather. I’m really interested in light and shadow.”
Though his work has been featured in shows of photorealist art, Hansen doesn’t think of himself as a practitioner of that style. He may work from photos, but doesn’t try to copy them.
“A transformation takes place between the photo and the drawing. There’s something going on, something interesting, something soulful. I’ll eliminate things from the photo that detract from the focus or the balance of the painting. There’s a lot of editing.
“And all my canvases and drawings are square. I think that goes back to my love of Victorian houses, which are basically boxes. I have to compose within a box, which creates a tension. Plus, I don’t want my canvas to be rectangular because it will remind you of looking through a camera’s viewfinder. That’s another choice that separates my art from photography.”
Hansen lives in an apartment with a view of the iconic Flatiron Building. But while most of New York’s great architecture has been repeatedly drawn, painted and photographed, he views Kansas City as virgin territory.
“I think it’s a great town. In fact, Kansas City is my second favorite city in the U.S. after New York. It’s just filled with hidden jewels.”
While some of the upcoming events require low priced tickets, many are free. For more details, call 816-931-2232, or visit www.kcballet.org.
Kansas City Fringe Fest
Dance events to be held at the Bolender Center are still to be announced.
Visit www.kcfringe.org/ for current information.
Dancer for a Day
Thursday, August 8
Early elementary school age children enjoy the opportunity to experience the world of dance for three exciting hours. For pricing and more info, visit:
KC Dance Day
Saturday, August 24
The third year of this community event includes FREE performances by youth groups, world cultures, dance showcases featuring Kansas City Ballet and other professional companies, plus FREE dance and movement classes for all ages.
Free First Friday*
September 6, October 6
Featuring an Open Rehearsal from the four ballets featured in KC Ballet’s Fall performances.
Free FAMILY First Friday*
A peek behind the curtain of Kansas City Ballet’s holiday production, The Nutcracker.
Kansas City Youth Ballet**
Friday-Sunday, November 8-10
Friday-Sunday, March 14-16
Three performances by Kansas City Ballet’s youth troupe.
Free First Friday*
Featuring an Open Rehearsal of KC Ballet’s winter performances of Dracula.
Dancers Making Dances**
Friday-Saturday, March 28-29, and Friday, April 4
A dance showcase featuring new works choreographed by guest artists and by company members on their fellow dancers.
Free First Friday*
Featuring an Open Rehearsal of KC Ballet’s spring performances of Cinderella.
*RSVPs are required for this event.
**Tickets are required for this event.
Sprint employee Gabrielle Casey gets Creative with Art@work
Gabrielle Casey, Technical Project/Program Manager at Sprint, spends a significant portion of her work week analyzing and reporting data. Because of Art@Work, her co-workers are not just fans of her IT skills … they’re also fans of her intricate and often humorous digital illustrations.
Three years ago, Casey entered her illustrations in Sprint’s Art@Work competition for the first time. As most artists, she was unsure of submitting her art for judgment.
“I have no formal training. I remember the first full company competition. I was only going to enter one piece and ended up submitting three. I swept the category! That year, the theme was something like ‘what inspires an innovator.’ I titled my three pieces What Inspires an Innovator? #1, #2 and #3. My subject was Dan Hesse, the CEO of Sprint. What Inspires an Innovator? #3, tells the story of Dan Hesse’s journey as the CEO of Sprint, the launching of 4G, propelling Machine to Machine, to his emergence as the Chairman of the 2011 CTIA – The Wireless Association Conference in Orlando, Florida. The picture is made up of 306 indexed photos and graphics … I was trying to tell his story. Needless to say, all three ended up in his office. The prints were given to him as presents. I met him in his office, which is covered in art, and we talked about my art.”
Using her technical savvy, Casey has created computer languages to allow her to “tinker” artistically. Currently, her favorite subjects are her grandchildren. Casey’s muse, her 4-year-old granddaughter, Brook, likes photo shoots. “She’s a diva who I also call Ladybug. At the time I took the photos of her I used in LadyBug/MonkeyWoman she was barely 3 going on 23. I am so blessed to have her in my life! She hangs with me quite often. She loves to dress up, have photo shoots, pose and ham it up in front of the camera. She then likes to take the camera and take photos of me too.”
This diva helped Casey win a “Best in Show” award at Sprint’s Art@Work competition in May. As Sprint’s coordinator read the title of the winning entry, LadyBug/MonkeyWoman, Casey let out a surprised yelp and danced up and down. She wasn’t the only one.
“The Art@Work experience has expanded my sphere of associates, friends, and cheerleaders at Sprint. I have received so many wonderful emails from Sprint associates that I have never had the privilege of meeting or working with simply because they have seen and liked my art. By the same token I have run into associates I haven’t worked with in years and they’ve said ‘Gab, you’re a rock star!’”
Now, Casey will take LadyBug/MonkeyWoman to the citywide Art@Work celebration at Union Station July 14-21. “This is my third year and I wanted to move onto the next level. Everyone is so supportive. … We have people who come from departments far and wide. I even talked a co-worker into showing her jewelry. I love that when I meet with people, we talk about their art. It just broadens everyone’s horizons.”
Casey even remarks on how her art has aided her job. “Being creative with my own computer work allows me to think outside of the box. I always want to put my own stamp on my work, professionally and personally. I always look for ways that make work enjoyable to me. I suppose it keeps my brain balanced after 13 years at Sprint.”
The art is also critical in coping. “My husband died unexpectedly, but he was able to see my first successes. I also have to celebrate my five-year survival from breast cancer and some of my doctors offer support. They don’t want me to quit my art work because they like the way my face lights up. It is a good confidence builder.”