Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Art Everywhere!

Mark your calendars—Gallery Night is a week and a half away.

The twice-annual event, in which galleries, museums and businesses open to the public to showcase art and offer receptions and demonstrations, is October 3 from 5 to 9 p.m.

This year, fifty-four organizations across town are participating. That number has grown steadily over the years, says Katie Kazan, director of public information for the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, the group that’s organized the event for over twenty years. “I think that’s the clearest indication as to how important this event is to the community,” she adds.

In addition to museums galleries, a unique aspect to Gallery Night is the diversity of businesses that showcase art. Some places, such as frame shops and coffee shops, have a natural connection to the arts, Kazan says. And others are just fun additions.

“Now we have upholstery shops and veterinary services and acupuncture centers,” she says. “We’re really happy that they’re participating.”

And the special events that art part of Gallery Night—from artist meetings to watching demonstrations to listening to live music—attract a broader audience than traditional art events typically do, according to Kazan.

Additionally, a few galleries—such as Absolutely Art and Wisconsin Union Galleries—have artists participating in PhotoMidwest, the biennial photography fest sponsored by The Center for Photography at Madison, with exhibits, lectures and workshops around Madison during the month of October.

Read on for the lineup of organizations taking part in Gallery Night—or find a list and more info on the MMoCA website. Remember, it’s not too early to start plotting your course.

East Side

Absolutely Art
2322 Atwood Ave.

ArtSPACE Twenty-Two-Eleven
2211 Atwood Ave.

Atwood Acupuncture Center
2045 Atwood Ave., Suite 105

Body Conscious PilateSpa
2045 Atwood Ave., Suite 107

Bungalow 1227 1227 E. Wilson St.

Bungalow Pros
229 North St.

Cafe Zoma
2326 Atwood Ave.

Common Wealth Gallery
100 S. Baldwin St.

EVP Coffee
1250 E. Washington Ave.

Lucent Room Studio 305 S. Livingston St.

Morris Altman Studio
1149 E. Dayton St. 

Off-Center Studios 2716 Atwood Ave.

Radiant Glass
100 S. Baldwin St., Suite 100

Rene├ęglass Factory
100 S. Baldwin St., Suite 100

Spiritual Vibes 2733 Atwood Ave.

The Straight Thread—Furniture Upholstery
2033 Atwood Ave.

Studio Paran 2051 Winnebago St.

Theo Streibel Photography 202 S. Dickinson St.

U-Frame-It Gallery
857 E. Johnson St.

Willy Street Co-op 1221 Williamson St.

Winnebago Studios 2046 Winnebago St.


16 Hands Studio
104 King St.

Anthology 218 State St.

Architecture Network, Inc.
116 E. Dayton St.

Broden Gallery, Ltd.
218 N. Henry St.

HYART Gallery 133 W. Johnson St.

Little Luxuries, Inc.
230 State St.

Madison Children’s Museum 100 State St.

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art 227 State St.

Madison Public Library 201 W. Mifflin St.

Raw Materials
408 E. Wilson St.

State Street Gallery 109 State St.

Wisconsin Academy’s James Watrous Gallery
201 State St., 3rd floor in the Overture Center for the Arts

Wisconsin Union Galleries
800 Langdon St., Rm. 507

West Side

The Bohemian Bauble 404 W. Lakeside St.

Century House 3029 University Ave.

Chiripa, Artisan Crafts of the Americas
636 S. Park St.

Douglas Art and Frame
3238 University Ave.

Edgewood College—DiRicci Gallery 1000 Edgewood College Dr.

Fine Earth Studio & Gallery 2207 Regent St.

Gardens Gallery at Independent Living Retirement Community
602 N. Segoe Rd.

Grace Chosy Gallery 1825 Monroe St.

Higher Fire Clay Studio 2132 Regent St.

Hilldale Shopping Center
702 N. Midvale Blvd.

Janus Galleries 2701 Monroe St.

Lakeview Veterinary Clinic 3518 Monroe St.

Ma-Cha Teahouse and Gallery 1934 Monroe St.

Meuer Art & Picture Frame Company 8448 Old Sauk Rd.

Milward Farrell Fine Art 2701 Monroe St.

Orange Tree Imports
1721 Monroe St.

Spirals Antiques & Interiors
1843 Monroe St.

Studio Jewelers 1306 Regent St.

1719 Monroe St.

 2501 University Ave.

Photos top to bottom are works by Robert Barnes at MMoCA, Paula Swaydan Grebel at Bungalow 1227, Lane Hall and Lisa Moline at the James Watrous Gallery of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, Connie Frisch-Cherniak at the Wisconsin Union Galleries and Yueh-mei Cheng at Grace Chosy Gallery.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

October Artist: Drawn to Create

Robert Schultz became an artist for three compelling reasons: He was good at drawing, always liked it and never stopped.

Perhaps it’s this natural and straightforward progression that imbues Schultz’s drawings, which are showcased starting this Saturday at the Chazen Museum of Art, with such directness and honesty.

To be sure, there’s nothing simplistic about Schultz’s work. Working primarily in graphite, and sometimes in silverpoint, his drawings are meticulously detailed and render the body with scientific accuracy while also revealing the beauty of the human form.

Schultz is represented in galleries in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, and has had shows of his work across the country. Yet he calls Madison home. Indeed, it has been since he was three years old, and he also received his art education at UW–Madison and has worked from a studio overlooking State Street since 1981.

It’s from this perch that Schultz sometimes finds inspiration for his work. “You feel everyone around you,” he says. “It’s nice to people-watch here. You never know what you’re going to find and end up drawing.”

Schultz regularly works eight- or nine-hour days in his studio, stopping only to eat a quick lunch, take a ten-minute break or go teach his life-drawing class at MATC. He likes having an entire day to work, to bring an idea out in a drawing. “Most days I never leave here,” he says. “It’s really fulfilling. The day just goes right by me.”

What Schultz does within those days at the studio can result in drastically varied drawings. One day it could be an anonymous nude with a long strip of cloth wrapped around his leg. And on another, it’s a study of a girl with a tough, confident expression, a ribbed tank top and lots of metal jewelry.

Such concepts for drawings didn’t always come easily for Schultz. The first year and a half out of graduate school was rough as he struggled to find ideas and the right way of expressing them. “Then once I got it, I really got it,” he says. “It just clicked and one idea would lead to another would lead to another.”

His greatest period of change occurred in the late 1980s as hard edges gave way to more gradation of light and shadow. He also began incorporating more texture, particularly in his depictions of skin, he says.

One thing that never changed, however, was Schultz’s dedication to drawing. He never regarded it as a means to become a better painter, as some artists do. Painting always seemed messy and felt like work, he says.

Over the years, Schultz’s drawings have been showcased in over twenty-five solo exhibitions. He’s finished and framed over four hundred pieces and creates about twelve to fifteen a year now.

Despite the work that goes into each drawing, Schultz doesn’t have a problem saying goodbye. If someone purchases a piece, that means the work resonated with the buyer, and the transaction helps validate the art, he says. “If they don’t sell, I feel like they’re failures,” he says.

And selling work is simply one step in a work’s journey. “They’re always mine,” he says. “It’s just that they’re on someone else’s wall.”

Schultz believes he’s at his peak, technique-wise, in creating art. The challenges now are to not repeat ideas and to get even better.

“You end up competing against yourself,” he says.

Robert Schultz Drawings, 1990–2007 runs September 20 to November 16 at the Chazen Museum of Art. An opening reception is Friday, 6–7:30 p.m. And on September 27 at 1 p.m., Schultz will present a studio talk and drawing demonstration.

Photos are courtesy of the Chazen Museum of Art.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Global Grooves

A Hungarian ska group. A Bulgarian wedding band. An Indian electric guitarist.

To say the least, offerings at the Wisconsin Union Theater’s fifth World Music Festival are eclectic. But they’re also stylistically and culturally diverse, and representative of the festival’s goal.

“We have a mission, which is to bring music that is unfamiliar to Madison,” says Esty Dinur, chair for artistic selection. “We’re part of the university, so we see what we do as educational—but in the most fun way.”

Held September 12 to 20 at the Memorial Union Terrace and other venues across the city, the free music festival draws musicians that might not otherwise perform in Madison. Often, the artists are popular in their own countries but haven’t yet traveled to the United States, Dinur says. But once they perform here, as well as at other festivals in the region, many return—and find enthusiastic and full audiences waiting for them.

While organizers never choose a “theme” for the festival, some connections emerge organically as the event comes together, Dinur says.

This year’s festival boasts several bands from Eastern Europe, including the Plastic People of the Universe, a band from the Czech Republic inspired by the Velvet Underground that formed in 1968 and performed in opposition to the Soviet occupation. “It’s amazing to have them,” Dinur says. “It’s their first time touring in the United States.”

Also performing are Hungarian pop-ska band Little Cow; Reelroad, a Russian folk revival band that started out in 1999 playing Irish folk music; and Kabile, a six-piece traditional Bulgarian wedding band.

Dinur expects electric guitarist Prasanna to be a hit with audiences. “He’s known as the Indian Jimi Hendrix,” she says.

Also exciting are “four acts from the Muslim world,” Dinur says. She’s looking forward to presenting Mamak Khadem of Iran, Gaida Hinnawi of Syria, Baba Zula of Turkey and Etran Finatawa of Niger.

Through these and other acts, the festival does more than simply bring good music to Madison, Dinur believes.

“It’s kind of a political statement—make music, not war.”

Concert Schedule:

Friday, September 12
Memorial Union Terrace (rain: Wisconsin Union Theatre)
Dragon Knights and World Percussion Ensemble, 5 p.m.
Prasanna, India, 5:30 p.m.
Dragon Knights, 7 p.m.
Mamak Khadem, Iran, 7:30 p.m.
Dragon Knights, 9 p.m.
Nation Beat, Brazil/USA, 9:30 p.m.

Saturday, September 13
Memorial Union Terrace (rain: Wisconsin Union Theater)
Dragon Knights, 4 p.m.
Little Cow, Hungary, 4:30 p.m.
Dragon Knights, 6 p.m.
Plastic People of the Universe, Czech Republic, 6:30 p.m.
Dragon Knights, 7:15 p.m.
Reelroad, Russia, 7:45 p.m.
Dragon Knights, 9:15 p.m.
Maraca, Cuba, 10 p.m.

Sunday, September 14
The Annex
Weapons of Mass DeFunktion, 6:30 p.m.
Little Cow, Hungary, 7:30 p.m.
Plastic People of the Universe, Czech Republic, 9 p.m.

Thursday, September 18
Memorial Union Terrace (rain: Der Rathskeller)
Student and Community Showcase, 5 p.m.
Kabile, Bulgaria, 8:30 p.m.

Friday, September 19
Memorial Union Terrace (rain: Wisconsin Union Theater)
Gaida Hinnawi, Syria, 5:30 p.m.
Dya Singh, India, 7:30 p.m.
Baba Zula, Turkey, 9:30 p.m.

Saturday, September 20
Willy Street Fair
Chiwoniso, Zimbabwe, 1:45 p.m.
Zazhil, Mexico, 3:45 p.m.
Etran Finatawa, Niger, 5:45 p.m.
17 Hippies, Germany, 7:45 p.m.

Visit the World Music Festival website for recent additions, musician bios, and a full schedule of events including classes and workshops.

Photos of Reelroad, Prasanna and Baba Zula are courtesy of the Wisconsin Union Theater.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Going for It

In these anxious days when nearly everyone’s feeling a financial pinch, a trip to the theater might be just the thing to take our minds off our troubles. Better yet would be to see a musical about a group of down-on-their-luck guys who turn unemployment into unexpected opportunities.

Mercury Players Theatre kicks off its season with The Full Monty, a musical about six British men who lose their job in a steel mill and take inspiration from Chippendale dancers to raise some cash.

Director Pete Rydberg offered some insight into his—as well as music director JS Fauquet and choreographer Cindy Severt’s—plans for the production. 

How does the musical fit into the types of productions your company typically takes on—or how is it a departure?

Full Monty is one of the most mainstream productions Mercury Players has done in a long time, and it was certainly a discussion topic at our artistic committee meetings. First and foremost we put the artistic integrity of any possible production, and all three of us (myself, JS and Cindy) felt we could make a really exciting production of the show, and the company has the people and material resources to pull it off. It is without question the largest budget and one of the largest casts Mercury has had in a long time. And while it is a more recognized title than most of our other productions, it is still a new opportunity for area theatergoers who are likely only familiar with the screen version, which is a horse of a very different color. We also have a twelve-year-old lead—and Mercury rarely chooses pieces with young actors (last year’s Pillowman is the only other instance I know of, and the role in that show was fairly small).

What’s your approach to Full Monty?

It’s musical theatre, not a play—as I continually remind my actors. I like to direct “straight” theatre, but musical theatre is a completely different style of performance, so training actors to think outside of “realistic acting modes” is challenging. There is a technical precision that absolutely must be there in a musical that is not always as necessary or even desired in non-musical performances. There is more artifice, a demand for larger suspensions of disbelief, and the proscenium space does not allow for as much on audience-performer intimacy.

We began choreography workshops in May, and then focused June on music and choreography—both of which are extremely challenging for this particular production. Musically this is a huge challenge for both actors and musicians. There are times when all six of the leads will be singing their own line of melody creating a dissonant sequence—which is electrifying to hear in the audience but for performers on stage can sound “off” or “wrong” because, of course, it is dissonant.

As for the larger scope of the play, it is all about regular people finding ways to transcend their day-to-day—the six male leads transform from pathetic, antagonistic jerks and losers to a unified group of friends who, with the bond of their friendship behind them and the opportunity of doing something truly daring, achieve the improbable. The women in the show have a challenge as characters in charge of the household incomes and traditional male social roles. They must find a way to balance their relationships with these men who feel they have nothing to give back. The men feel like losers, and treat their respective partners poorly because of it. And the women need to find a way to overcome their significant others’ personal obstacles.

Most importantly, I have worked on making sure that while the show has many intensely dramatic moments, that it remained a musical comedy, as intended.

How close are you sticking to the original musical or the 1997 film?

I watched the film about ten years ago and not since. The musical adaptation takes a lot of liberties with the original film—resetting it in Buffalo as opposed to Sheffield or wherever it was in Britain, and adding/deleting a couple characters, but the basic storyline remained the same. As for the differences with the original production of the musical, I always throw those considerations out the window. The original was a multi-million production with hydraulic settings, etc etc. The Bartell demands different considerations, and I only have thirty grand—and I say “only” as comparison; again, it’s the most expensive show Mercury has ever produced. That is not to say that throwing money at a production makes for a good show—that is where Cindy, JS and I come in. The three of us discussed dozens of potential follow-ups to Reefer Madness [a musical Mercury Players produced last fall]. It had to be a fit for Mercury Players, and more importantly it had to challenge the music director, choreographer and myself. I have steered a couple scenes that played fairly realistically in the original production into more “fantasy” sequences, which ties in well with the overriding themes of hope, dreams and impossible situations. It has proven to be an immense challenge, but a very rewarding one.

Are there parallels to be drawn between the challenges the characters of the play face and what it’s like to work in the arts in the current economy?

I would say there are parallels to be drawn between the challenges of the characters in the play and the challenges we all face trying to live in the current economy. Who doesn't have a friend out of work? Who doesn’t know someone who has been laid off because their job went overseas? We are at a low time in our economy, which is the story of those in the musical. We have chosen to set it in 2008, as opposed to ten or fifteen years ago because of that resonance. This is a story we will all be able to relate to—and have a laugh at the same time.

What are your goals for the show and what do you hope audiences get from seeing the production?

I want the audience to be standing on their feet cheering for these characters at the end of the show. I want them to see the men go from losers to winners, to see and feel that regular schmoes like you and me can be more than we ever dreamed of if we just have the bravery to do so. I want to give that to the audience in a polished production—which is a lot to achieve with a twenty-plus-person cast and a two-hour show. But we are well on our way. The set looks fabulous, all my little bells and whistles are falling into place, and the choreography and music are almost ready to go. I want people to leave the theater feeling uplifted and humming the music as they walk away from the Bartell. The largest sell in Madison is audience word of mouth, so I hope if we do our job and deliver a polished, entertaining evening of theater, that people will come again, and tell their friends to check it out as well.

The Full Monty runs September 4 to 27 at the Bartell Theatre, 113 E. Mifflin St. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $20, $15 for students and seniors, and $12 for groups of ten or more. 661.9696 x 5,

Photos courtesy of Colm McCarthy.