Tag Archives: art and social justice

Women’s art for women’s rights

As renewed battles over women’s rights are making headlines here at home, the struggles of women in other countries too often go unnoticed.

The neglect and abuse of women is woven into the fabric of far too many societies, as evidenced by a recent exhibition of quilts at the United Nations Visitors Centre in NYC. Think fabric squares depicting burning villages, brutal acts of violence against women and other horrifying scenes — some involving infants and children.

Though “Women are the Fabric” recently closed, I’m pleased to share several snapshots of works I enjoyed during my March NYC visit. All serve as powerful reminders of the way interwoven threads of civilization unravel when women’s rights to dignity, safety, health, education and equal opportunity are trampled or ignored.

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Folks interested in world cultures can attend CultureFest, a family-friendly cultural dinner being presented by The Welcome to America Project. The dinner will raise funds to help refugee families from war-torn countries settle in to their new lives in Phoenix. It’s part of the organization’s World Refugee Day celebration.

Those attending the June 24 event — which is part of the group’s 2012 “Cultural Dinner Series” — will “experience and learn traditions about the cultures from nine representative countries.” Think Burma, Congo, Cuba, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and more.

Click here to learn more about United Nations policies and programs focused on improving the lives of women across the globe, here to explore Quilt for Change and here for information on the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

— Lynn

Note: Fountain Hills Youth Theater in Arizona presents a Y.A.B.O.Y. (Young Actors Benefiting Other Youth) production about dating sexual abuse called “The Silence Between the Whispers” March 15-31, 2013 (auditions for ages 12-19 are scheduled for Feb. 4 & 5).

Coming up: Youth theater meets social justice, Getting to know women playwrights, Cancer meets creativity


Voices of the Underground Railroad

Soprano Kathleen Battle performs tonight at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

“Underground Railroad: An Evening with Kathleen Battle” comes to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts this evening, and those who purchase two tickets will receive a pair of free tickets to an upcoming performances in the San Francisco Opera Grand Opera Cinema Series while supplies last.

PBS describes the Underground Railroad as “a vast network of people who helped fugitive slaves escape” (c. 1780-1862). Both PBS and National Geographic offer online resources to help parents and teachers learn more about this important piece of American history.

Battle is a five-time Grammy winner who gives voice to the struggles and triumphs of the Underground Railroad as she celebrates the roots of African-American music and freedom in a concert featuring majestic spirituals and hymns. The lyric soprano will be accompanied by renowned pianist Cyrus Chestnut.

“Sister Moses: The Story of Harriet Tubman,” which premiered in 1993 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix, is being performed Fri, Feb. 17 at Chandler Center for the Performing Arts.

The work was developed by Desert Dance Theatre artistic directors Marion Kirk Jones, Renee Davis and Lisa R. Chow — along with music director John D. Anthony.

The concept and much of the work was researched collaboratively with Susan Smith, director of the String Sounds quartet. Music featured in the work includes “traditional spirituals, slave songs and other music” from the Civil War era.

Desert Dance Theatre performs "Sister Moses" at Chandler Center for the Arts next month

The “dance drama” features Desert Dance Theatre with Renee Davis as Harriet Tubman, dramatic narration by Renee Morgan Brooks, African drumming and music direction by Step Raptis (accompanied by String Sounds) and vocal performance by a choral ensemble featuring baritone soloist Greg Dansby.

“Sister Moses: The Story of Harriet Tubman” has been performed for more than 60,000 students and other audience members in Arizona, Texas and Nevada.

The 45-minute piece highlights important episodes in Tubman’s life. Listen carefully to song lyrics when you attend, remembering that lyrics were used at the time to convey vital escape details.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for details about the special ticket offer for “Underground Railroad: An Evening With Kathleen Battle” (please note that the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts box office is open Mon-Sat 10am-5pm).

Coming up: Teens turn table into art, Spending time with my favorite actress, Fun with high school musicals

Walking with Waddell

Detail of the John Waddell Dance installation in downtown Phoenix

I pause each time I pass a work by sculptor John Waddell, whose pieces meld metal with movement to evoke emotion and reflection. Waddell is being honored Friday evening at the Herberger Theater Center, home to his “Dance” works created between 1969 and 1974.

Detail of Dance by John Waddell

I first encountered Waddell’s work when my children attended schools housed at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix — the church where we took our son Christopher to Gymboree classes as a toddler. It was designed by Blaine Drake, a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright.

The UUCP has lovely meditation and memorial gardens, which I strolled through on Wednesday before paying a visit to several of my children’s former teachers at Desert View Learning Center.

A winding path with a border of small stones on either side leads from the church parking lot to a Waddell piece titled “That Which Might Have Been, Birmingham, 1963” — created in reaction to a Sunday school bombing in Alahama that killed four young girls.

That Which Might Have Been, Birmingham, 1963 by John Waddell

The UUCP has a long tradition of promoting social justice, and is active in several areas — including immigration, health care, the environment, education, homelessness and gender equality.

John Waddell sculpture at the Burton Barr Central Library

Still, it’s the Waddell work exhibited at the Burton Barr Central Library that I walk by most often, as I make my way from their @ Central art gallery back to my car with an armload of books or goodies from the Friends’ Place shop.

Folks who’ve enjoyed similar walks with Waddell can join fellow appreciators of his work Friday evening as Waddell becomes the 2011 inductee into the Herberger Performing Arts and Broadcast Arts Hall of Fame.

The Nov. 18 ceremony includes an hors d’oeuvres and cocktails reception, a performance by the Phoenix Boys Choir and screening of a Marlo Bendau work titled “Rising: The Art and Life of John Waddell.” Also coffee and desserts, a silent auction and the unveiling of Waddell’s “The Gathering.”

Photograph of sculptor John Waddell taken by Michel Sarda

Recently I enjoyed a photograph of Waddell exhibited in the Herberger Art Gallery titled “Retrospective Exhibition of the Art Photography of Michel Sarda.” Sarda has authored several books, including “John Henry Waddell: The Art and the Artist” — which features more than 400 illustrations.

Sarda is chairing Friday’s event, which benefits the Herberger Theater’s arts education and outreach initiatives. These include the Arizona Young Artists competition, the Wolf Trap program serving preschool and Head Start students, and a multicultural theater camp for homeless, abused and neglected teens.

— Lynn

Note: Other weekend events at the Herberger Theater Center include the iTheatre Collaborative production of Mamet’s “Race” and the Arizona Theatre Company production of “God of Carnage.” Center Dance Ensemble opens “Frances Smith Cohen’s Snow Queen” Dec. 3. Also note that the Herberger Theater Festival of the Arts takes place Oct. 6, 2012.

Coming up: Bella does bridal, ThesCon tales

The power of the page

A copy of Anne Frank's diary on exhibit in Amsterdam (Photo: Heather on her travels)

I hit the newly-relocated Anne Frank Center during my most recent trip to New York City, where director of education Maureen McNeil was kind enough to take a break from settling in so we could talk a bit about the center’s work.

Something McNeil said that morning struck me as especially profound. She spoke of the power of the blank page, describing it as “the great equalizer.” Nazis thought they had all the power during WWII, but Anne Frank had a pen.

Frank was powerful too, as are young people today who wield the pen to explore and express their feelings – about themselves and the world around them. I shared her observation with a 3rd grader named Sofia after we met during an Occupy Wall Street march from Zuccotti Park to Wall Street.

I try, at every opportunity, to encourage young people to write – partly because I’ve witnessed my own children wrestle with thinking their writing isn’t good enough when nothing could be farther from the truth.

After seeing “Billy Elliot The Musical” on Broadway with Lizabeth one night, we headed across the street to join folks who’d attended opening night of “The Mountaintop” – a play that imagines events of the last night of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life.

There we met a mother and son, and got to chatting about the show. I asked the boy, just 12 years old, whether he enjoyed writing – and got a mixed reply. I meet a lot of children that age who love creative writing but find their passion for the pen dampened by the rigors of academic writing.

I invited him to write a review of “The Mountaintop” for our readers, and hope he’ll decide to follow up with me before too long. Children and teens so often see things we adults overlook – so I’m eager to know what he thought, and felt, about the work by playwright Katori Hall.

Theater students at Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix are actually learning to write reviews of theater productions, something too few theater students ever have the opportunity to explore. Still, I don’t expect perfect theater criticism from the youth. Sometimes their raw reflections are every bit as insightful.

Resources for young writers in Arizona include the Young Writers Program at the Virgina G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University in Tempe. A national organization called the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, where a young actor named Nick Cartell known to Valley theater buffs now works, also offers plenty of writing opportunities for youth.

Watch for a future post detailing more of the Anne Frank Center’s work, which blends writing, theater, visual art and more with themes of social justice inspired by the life of a little girl whose diary has become a gateway to hope and healing.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to view about an online video clip of Anne Frank. Click here for details on the newly-extended deadline for Arizona Theatre Company’s 2012 Arizona Playwriting Award.  Click here for information about an open call for submissions to the “Scholastic Art & Writing Awards” competition for 7th-12th grade students.

Coming up: A visit to the New York Public Library

Photo from www.heatheronhertravels.com

Words of Art

View of the ASU Art Museum from inside the ASU campus

While strolling the campus of ASU Saturday afternoon, I decided to pop into the ASU Art Museum, where I promptly explored a table of $2 offerings (from posters to books) outside the museum’s gift shop.

Then, with just 20 minutes left on my parking meter, I took a left turn so I could take in an exhibit that ends Sept 3 — the 12th annual family exhibition titled “Words of Art: Selections from the ASU Art Museum Collection.”

It’s housed in a single room, making it the perfect taste of art when you’re pressed for time or eager to introduce your children to works of art without overwhelming them.

As I entered the exhibit, I spied a square work on the floor. It’s about the size of a card table and comprised of red painted objects, many looking like lacquered stones or pine cones. Some are carved with words like “pollute.”

The exhibit includes a piece of clothing, a page of historical text and other items that make for an eclectic mix. There’s even a low bright blue table with three chairs. On top sits a silver laptop with a screensaver featuring colors in motion.

Double Column Ring Triangle by Fletcher Benton (1994) is located near the ASU Art Museum

“Words of Art” is plenty fun to simply look at. But older kids will enjoy reading short descriptions of works, themes or genres found on wall-mounted plaques highlighted by a yellow star. My favorite dealt with art and social justice.

Many of the items are exhibited at the height of a young child, making them feel more whimsical to adults and more accessible to kids. Time with such exhibits makes kids look at, and think about, objects differently.

If I had my way, we’d assign fewer worksheets and more art outings. The “Words of Art” exhibit is free, as is admission to the museum — which has lots of other areas featuring art that’s intriguing to young and old alike.

Two exhibitions end their run on Aug 27, giving you less than a week to enjoy them. They’re “Self-Referential: Art Looking at Art” and “By myself and with my friends….” The latter, which includes video, features six artists exploring things humans and animals have in common.

The ASU Art Museum is open Tues-Sat, though hours vary by day — so check details online before you go. No need to thank me when your child comes home and paints a pile of rocks red. But do give yourself a pat on the back.

— Lynn

Coming up: Review: “Oedipus for Kids”