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The Mosel as seen from the Reichsburg Castle, Cochem, GermanyThe Mosel River as seen from the Reichsburg Castle, Cochem, Germany (SEE Travel and Culture Essay)

Culturally Speaking

By Cornelia Seckel
ART TIMES July/ August 2010

It feels like the time between the May/June issue and this one has flown by. How did we manage every month? This issue marks the beginning of our 27th year publishing ART TIMES. At first we printed every month. After the first year I felt that we needed a break and so for the next 22 years we printed 11 issues a year and in 2006 we began printing 10 issues. Since 2009 our website has become more sophisticated and we are printing every other month and online with new essays, resources, and videos each month. As we keep up with the times we added an ART TIMES Facebook page that we hope you will join. 27 years ago we had no computer, no copy machine, a limited (3 county and Manhattan) distribution, and no assistants. Today we have computers, copy machines, but still no assistants and our core distribution has grown to include 5 states plus the over 600 visitors a day to our website from all over the world. I’ve written quite extensively about how we began and it is now online “about us” at www.arttimesjournal.com.

In mid May I drove up to WAMC Public Radio in Albany, NY to record the “Cautionary Tale” (online now, see Speak Out March/ April 2010 issue) about the need to check your insurance coverage if you are a business owner, artist, or craftsperson working from your own home/ property. I am glad so many people have heard this warning.

Online for June (you can still access the essays via the search bar) is Raymond’s Peek and Piques! “An Evening of Art, Music and Dinner at the Salmagundi”; Henry P. Raleigh on “A Shortage of Culture”; Behren’s review of CD’s, Raymond’s critique of Mary Whitehill’s exhibit at Duck Pond Gallery in Port Ewen, NY; and my Culturally Speaking column with videos from: 7th Annual YOHO Artists Open Studio Tour, Yonkers, NY April 2010; 142nd International American Watercolor Society Exhibit at the Salmagundi Club, NYC, April 2010; Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center, Tivoli, NY, May 2010; and Bar Scott in concert at Photosensualis Art Gallery, Woodstock, NY, May 2010.

Heidi Robertson and Cornelia Seckel in Washington Square Park, NYCHeidi Robertson & Cornelia Seckel
at Washington Square Park, NYC

It was a hard one to get a grip on, but my 50th Jr. HS Reunion was held last month and what an excellent time I had. Friends Heidi and Leta came in from California and others came from the old neighborhoods and across the country. The reunion was fun but what was more fun was a brunch Heidi and I hosted at my mother’s home (a home all the women attending remembered with fondness) and the day Heidi and I spent in Manhattan “doing the town.” As young girls we were allowed to go to “The City” by bus and subway for meeting friends at Washington Square Park to play our guitars and listen to folk music, to go to a show and eat in a nice restaurant. Well we did all that and more. We took the train from Little Neck to Penn Station, a subway over to the East side; a walk thru the Union Square Green Market where we sampled and then bought our “walking lunch”; and then a stop at the Salmagundi Club to see their members’ show “The Noble Nocturne” a theme exhibit (Raymond had 2 paintings accepted to that show) and in the Grand Gallery was the National Society of Painters in Casein and Acrylic’s 56th Annual (I particularly liked seeing Bruce Bundock’s River Road Looking North, Serge Hollerbach’s Resting, Carlton Plummer’s Forest Light, Bill Teitsworth’s Sunday Rebeccaand Doug Wiltraut’s Love Letters) before exploring the Washington Square Outdoor Art Show. It was “... one balmy spring day in 1931, in the heart of the depression Era. Jackson Pollock, desperately in need of funds to pay the rent on his Greenwich Village studio that also served as his home, took a few of his paintings down several flights of stairs and set them up on the sidewalk near Washington Square Park. His friend and fellow Village artist, Willem DeKooning, in equally desperate financial straits, soon joined him. They organized the art show that would evolve into the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit, a twice-a-year happening, every Memorial Day Weekend and the weekend that follows, and every Labor Day Weekend and the weekend that follows.” As a child, my parents often took us to this show that went on for blocks around the park. Artists were by their booths and Heidi and I talked with many of them as we enjoyed their work and the show.

For old times’ sake we went into, somewhat changed –well, after all, it’s been nearly 50 years­­ – Washington Square Park and found some street entertainers and musicians as well as children enjoying the filled fountain. As we headed over to 6th Avenue (we had theater tickets on the West Side) we walked through a typical NYC street fair with all sorts of vendors of food, clothing, and merchandise. We had a 4pm curtain at the Westside Theatre, a theater that houses 2 stages, with prices much less than Broadway and often a place for future “hits” to be “tried Out” (e.g.: I Love You, You’re Perfect Now Change, The Vagina Monologues, Penn & Teller) and with a much smaller budget. The building was constructed in 1889 as a German Baptist Church and converted to a theatre in the early 1980’s. The Screwtape Letters, written by C.S Lewis, is a story about the Devil’s work. This powerful play was adapted to the stage by Jeffrey Fiske and Max McLean and performed magnificently by Max McLean (the only voice during the 1.5 hr. production) and Karen Eleanor Wight (mime). McLean, a powerful and accomplished actor, plays Screwtape, one of the Devil’s “captains”, who throughout the play writes and sends instructions to his nephew who is on Earth and tempting a soul with all the things that will cause that soul to “fall from Grace” and join them in Hell. Wigh, an excellent mime, plays Toadpipe, the accomplice in getting souls to belong to the “Father Below”. Truly it is a powerful lesson to living a good Christian life. The audience cheered and gave a standing ovation for the play and performers. The Screwtape Letters is on an open run with no closing date scheduled. www.westsidetheatre.com. This is not the first venue and I’m sure not the last.

And then we went for dinner, but before that we saw that in the downstairs theatre Love, Loss, and What I Wore was being shown and we could get tickets for the evening’s performance — so we did. Returning to the theatre after a fine meal at a Turkish Restaurant (sitting outdoors in the “courtyard” of the restaurant), we thoroughly enjoyed Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron’s play adapted from Ilene Beckerman’s novel about love, loss and the clothing worn for these memorable occasions. It was a staged reading with Penny Fuller, Rachael Harris, Diane Neal, Daytime Emmy Award-winner Sherri Shepherd, and Cobie Smulders. The cast will change during the run of the show. Heidi and I laughed and then teared up as each actress related their experiences with: their first bra, the things their mother would say, the first prom, the first kiss, favorite clothing, favorite shoes, their purses, their weddings, their sisters and so on. It was truly terrific and even more so seeing it with someone I’ve been friends with since we were 10 years old. The show will run at the Westside Theatre until early October but I’m sure it will be touring (it is in LA now) for quite a while.

I just wanted to say a few words about Nine/Nine at Clove Church Studio in Saugerties, NY. Fay Wood and husband Skip gathered 8 artists and sculptors (plus Fay) to participate in this nine-day event. Each day a different artist would hold a demonstration, offer a lecturer, or invite a performer. Raymond was invited by Fay to give the talk about “The Art of Art Criticism” which he did to a very enthusiastic group. I do hope this unique event is repeated next year. For more information: www.faywoodstudio.com and to see images and videos of the show: www.faywoodstudio.blogspot.com.

This year the 7th SOMA Artist Studio Tour included 60 artists - many of whom shared a space to consolidate efforts and save on costs. Sponsored by The Pierro Gallery of South Orange and 1978 Maplewood Arts Center this was once again a very successful effort. The towns of South Orange and Maplewood, New Jersey comprise a hub for many artists, arts venues, restaurants, shops and boutiques and the annual studio tour attracted hundreds of visitors (last year over 700) to the studios and galleries of local talent. The Art Tour Shuttle was available and that made getting around and parking quite easy. As with most studio tours, this gives you rare access to the artists and their working environments, where you can view and purchase work directly from the artist  •  Coming up in Saugerties is the 8th Annual Saugerties Artists Tour with over 35 artists and craftspersons working in over 20 disciplines. The tour takes place on August 14 & 15 from 10am-6pm. Visit: www.saugertiesarttour.com for maps and more information  •  If you are looking for an interesting and stimulating outing or thinking of relocating and want to explore the arts in a region, this is the way to do it.

River Valley Repertory Theatre, a new professional company housed for the summer at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY, will offer its inaugural program with the Actor's Equity production of the play "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Gril" beginning on July 9. The River Valley Repertory (RVR) Theatre intends to provide a three-play season of professional theatre for the Hudson River Valley and will present classical and contemporary works of musical and non-musical styles. I will report more after I’ve been to the inaugural production. www.rivervalleyrep.com.

Another new and exciting event for the Hudson Valley is the first annual “Phoenicia Festival of the Voice”, a three-day celebration of the “glory of the human voice” on August 13-15, 2010. Last year the Festival’s founders Todaro, Otey and Henderson premiered “Opera in the Park” to an enthusiastic audience of 500 on the lawn of Phoenicia’s Parish Field. All artists are donating their services. Programming includes concerts, recitals, opera and theatrical presentations featuring internationally acclaimed professional performers and popular local community performers. The Festival opens on Friday, Aug 18 with a gala concert under the stars performed by coloratura soprano Elizabeth Futral. The next day, Saturday, is a concert version of Verdi’s opera, “FALSTAFF”, starring baritone Louis Otey (who recently performed this role at the Metropolitan Opera), Kerry Henderson (Australian Opera) and Maria Todaro (Opera de Rio de Janeiro) and conducted by Metropolitan Opera maestro, Steven White. Additionally Grammy Award-winning Native American flutist and singer, Joseph FireCrow, along with Dennis Yerry, jazz and symphonic native flute soloist, will present a concert of native song, woodwind, and percussion. Also during the weekend, internationally acclaimed pianist Justin Kolb will present a very special program that combines pianistic pyrotechnics with outrageous spoken words, in collaboration with actor and local favorite Jay Braman, Jr. At the Shandaken Theatrical Society Playhouse; director Ricarda O'Conner will mount a special production of the musical revue “Closer Than Ever”, and for children of all ages there will be a show by the ever-popular “Uncle Rock”. The three-day festival wraps up with a glorious Choral Grand Finale at 3:30pm on Sunday, August 15th.  I am exhausted just writing this and can’t wait to attend. There are many fine places to stay and restaurants to enjoy in the picturesque hamlet of Phoenicia. For complete program scheduling visit: www.PhoenciaVoiceFest.com.

Congratulations to Prince Street Gallery as they celebrate their 40th Anniversary as an artist-run gallery (co-op). The celebration will include an exhibit of work by 77 of its past and present members. They have made a very impressive catalogue of the history of the gallery and work by members. www.princestreetgallery.com.

Ars Choralis performing at Opus 40, Saugerties, NYArs Choralis at Opus 40, Saugerties, NY. Barbara Pickhard (front), Director

Ars Choralis, under the artistic direction of Barbara Pickhard, is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to celebrating the human spirit through the performance of choral music of all periods and styles”.  Their first concert was in June of 1966 and now they perform three major concerts a season with auditions held prior to each concert. I had the pleasure of seeing them at Opus 40, an environmental sculpture not too far from my home. It was the beautiful evening of the Summer Solstice, a half-moon was high in the sky as members of the chorus began appearing on the ledges of what had been an old Quarry singing a 13th century song “Sumer is Icumen In”. The audience sat on ledges and the quarry bed, some with their picnic baskets spread on a blanket. It was an excellent concert, a beautiful night and venue. www.arschoralis.org

Helen Schofield is celebrating her 80th Birthday by showing her work in her studio. Tired of “playing the gallery game” she has set each of 4 weekends with a theme: Portrait Retrospective, Full Moon Celebration, Gathering, and Left over Sale. I think this is an excellent idea and urge other artists to take the rein and open their studios to celebrate their work.

Well that’s it for the past 2 months, except, of course, the trip to Germany. Raymond and I were in Cologne for the retrospective exhibition of Heinrich J. Jarczyk, an artist and friend for over 20 years. (See Raymond’s review in this issue and my Travel and Culture essay also in this issue and online at www.arttimesjournal.com where you will find more pictures and videos of this trip which included a tour of the wine country between Trier and Koblenz along the Mosel River).

Additional ways to stay in touch and to make your comments is at Raymond J. Steiner's Blog at www.rjsteiner.wordpress.com and the ART TIMES Facebook page.

See you out and about and I hope you say hello.