Gentrification and the Arts

Beautiful Things That Heaven BearsIf you have picked up this year’s Seattle Reads novel, The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu you’ve had a chance to get one novelist’s take on some of the issues and pressures that can fracture a community changing in the face of gentrification and immigration.

Facing similar issues, particularly those of gentrification pressures, local Capitol Hill artists, arts activists, neighbors and interested citizens are gathering at Seattle City Hall in April to discuss community concerns about rapidly diminishing affordable space for arts uses in the City’s core neighborhoods. Get details at:

Make Room for Art: Cultural Overlay Districts for Seattle
April 2, 5pm-6:30pm, Seattle City Hall

City Councilmembers will hear from Seattle residents, arts and entertainment venues and organizations, property owners, developers, and officials on how the Council might go about establishing an overlay district to offer incentives and controls in a specific area to encourage or preserve particular kinds of activities, spaces, and/or design. How can the city grow in a healthy balanced way that benefits all? This could be an exciting opportunity to add your voice as “A City Makes Herself.”

Comedy from Canada

Slings & ArrowsAre you constantly annoyed by what’s on commercial television and find you have watched all the hot HBO series from beginning to end? Try Slings & Arrows, a three season comedy from Canada available on DVD. The story takes place behind the scenes of the fictional New Burbage Festival, a theatre troupe modeled loosely on the real life Stratford Festival, in Stratford Ontario. The Canadian actors and writers offer a subtly different voice from the US or British shows I’m used to and the episodes are chock full of behind the scenes back-biting and shenanigans delivered with pure Shakespearian flair.

The first season begins when the festival falls on difficult times with the untimely demise of its artistic director Oliver Welles. In a pinch they bring in the notorious Geoffrey Tennant, formerly an actor with the production, best remembered for his mental breakdown while on stage seven years earlier playing Hamlet. Tennant must cope with the notoriously difficult play, the foibles of his cast of actors, a sponsor run rampant AND the ghost of Oliver. No need to be Shakespeare literate to enjoy the production – the fine acting brings the playscript to life right before your eyes.

Tapping your feet at the Ballet

Pacific Northwest Ballet Dancers perform in A Sense of DoubtBallet is a feast for the eyes. But don’t forget your ears. DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s March 2008 program, includes some material from new choreographers and some unusual composers. Musical selections by Mikel Rouse, Arvo Paart, Phlip Glass and Thom Willems will be previewed in the Microsoft Auditorium of the Seattle Public Library’s Central Library on Tuesday, March 11, at noon. See The Library Calendar for more information. And once you’ve been to the preview or to the performance, explore more unique musical offerings by some of these composers.

  • Arvo Paart is a unique electronic book that combines a biography of this Estonia composer as well as selections from his music including material in the distinctive “tintinnabuli” style developed by Pärt. You can download the book by clicking on the link above.
  • Orient & Occident – a 2002 recording of Paart’s work by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. According to some critics this performance reveals Paart’s music genius at its most mystical.
  • Heroes Symphony – a 1997 recording by the American Composers Orchestra of this classic Philip Glass piece, which includes music by David Bowie and Brian Eno.
  • The Illusionist– a 2006 recording of Philip Glass’s score from the award-winning film from the Czech Film Orchestra. Glass’s dreamy and dramatic work won several awards for Best Score.

Dear Farmer John

veggies7.jpgFor Valentine’s Day I made dinner and invited friends over to watch the documentary The Real Dirt on Farmer John.  It’s the deeply personal story of John Peterson, a creative northern Illinois farmer who suffered from the near loss of his family farm and exclusion by his neighbors. The film narrates the history of the Peterson family and explains how John ended up running the farm at a young age.  During that time he was able to balance running the farm with going to college and enjoying his playful life. Then came the 1980’s and, like so many other farmers at the time, John was in financial trouble. 

The film brilliantly conveys the emotional burdens that John bears after inheriting the family farm: the pride of three generations of farmers as well as the shame of having to make great sacrifices with his land. One of the most personal moments in the film is when John communicates his dread of having to tell his mother about the farm’s financial problems.  His expressive mother brings the family’s memories alive and becomes the reason for John’s persistence with organic agriculture.  Farmer John’s Angelic Organics is wildly successful now due in part to Community Supported Agriculture.  I loved The Real Dirt on Farmer John because it’s a story of small farm success in the age of corporate agriculture. 

Leaving Deadwood

deadwood_music.jpgOne thing I notice when watching some of the edgier television shows released on DVD for home viewing, is the excellent music selections that appear incidentally at the end or in the middle of a show, sort of audio riffs on some programatic theme. Whoever is choosing this music has a great ear for matching mood to sound.

Lately I’ve taken to following up and tracking down some great CD’s by finding a soundtrack compilation CD in the library collection, say music from the excellent HBO Shakespearian gone Western series Deadwood. Going through the list of performers on the CD leads me to these blues/folk/roots recordings in the library collection that I might otherwise have missed:

Press On by June Carter Cash, a Grammy award-winning recording issued late in her career.
1963 Isn’t 1962 by Bukka White, a terrific live recording of the blues great made animal_folk_songs_for_children.jpgafter his “re-discovery” in 1963.
Animal Folk Songs for Children compliled and performed by Ruth Crawford Seeger, noted American Modernist and music scholar (no relation to Pete Seeger). She originally published this collection in 1948 for use in children’s music education.