Tag Archives: greeting cards

Big Bird or Elmo?

Some say Elmo has got to go. At the very least, he’s got to get off the public dole. And what about Cookie Monster? Isn’t he eating up valuable taxpayer dollars?

I got to chatting with Tom Tiding, writer of all sorts of things he proudly dubs “twisted,” about moves by some politicians to end federal funding for things like NPR and PBS.

Tiding will be in Phoenix this weekend to perform an original work in the “Phoenix Fringe Festival” — but was gracious enough to chat with me about other matters when we spoke by phone the other night.

Elmo, world-famous artist, teacher and Sesame Street character--putting my taxes to good use

I wanted to get his take on the controversy surrounding federal funding for public broadcasting — but erred in leading with “Elmo,” the one thing on PBS Tiding says he could definitely live without.

Tiding is more of a “Big Bird” kind of a guy, but we still managed to enjoy a civil conversation. Because truth be told, the “Sesame Street” gang will rise or fall together whatever their fate.

Some suppose that an end to federal funding won’t hinder our furry little friends in any way, since most of public television is funded through corporate and individual contributions. But Tiding disagrees, in his usual “twisted” fashion.

“If you lost twenty percent of your body,” he muses, “it wouldn’t just grow right back.” Even folks who are terribly fond of public broadcasting won’t be in a position to make up the difference when they’re struggling to meet their own basic needs.

I asked Tiding why some folks are making so much noise about needing to defund public broadcasting. He suspects it’s a bit of a ruse. The more attention supporters of PBS and NPR pay to its naysayers, the more distracted we’ll be as other perilous policies move forward.

Seems “Elmo” and “Big Bird” are mere pawns in that old political strategy called “bait and switch.” I see where they may be going with this, but public broadcasting opponents seem to be forgetting that we’ve got “Miss Piggy” in our corner of the ring.

I chose the sports analogy because, oddly enough, it was sports-related content that Tiding most enjoyed as a boy growing up in Minnesota and East Texas. Seems public broadcasting was his only real lifeline to the soccer he loved as a boy.

He’s also keen on shows like the “PBS News Hour,” describing it as “one of the few places you can go and get really intelligent people from both sides.”

Those who live in large urban areas with thriving cultural resources might see NPR or PBS as mere niceties, but they’re necessities for Americans living in outlying areas that don’t have access to many of the things they offer.

Think live theater, music and dance. History and literature. Science and medicine. Health and fitness. Civics and education. Think easy, affordable and equitable access to elements that form the very foundation of a free and democratic society.

There’s plenty of noise out there about all sorts of budget-related issues. For today, it appears, public broadcasting has been spared the ax. But policy and budget discussions involving NPR and PBS will no doubt resurface. So I’m keeping my eye on the prize — preserving federal funding for both.

Trust me, you don’t want to get between me and my “Elmo” — or Tiding and his “Big Bird.”

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about this weekend’s “Phoenix Fringe Festival” (which features mature content fare) and the schedule for Tiding’s performances. Click here for details about “Sesame Street Live” coming to the Comerica Theatre April 29-May 1.

Coming up: Conversations with “Cosette”


Chicago envy?

I spent an evening in Chicago once — if a trip to and from the airport and a concert venue counts. It was many years ago, and I made the journey with my youngest daughter after a foiled attempt to meet the Jonas Brothers during a Phoenix meet and greet.

The Phoenix concert venue erred in getting us the wristbands and details needed to attend the Phoenix meet and greet, an opportunity Lizabeth won through a contest sponsored by one of her favorite stores. So we tried again in Chicago, but fared no better.

I’ll spare you the details, although I have Chicago on the brain this weekend because Lizabeth, now a 17-year-old high school senior, is there visiting one of her top three college/conservatory choices — and seeing the play “God of Carnage.”

This poster (from All Posters) features a Richard Cummins photograph of the Chicago Theatre

When I think Chicago, I think museums. I think deep-dish pizza. I think Barack Obama. I think cutting-edge theater, and plenty of it. And sometimes I even get “Chicago envy” — wishing Phoenix had the same wealth of diverse theater options.

But I enjoyed a bit of an attitude adjustment Friday when I read some thoughts sent via e-mail by Tom Tiding, writer and sole performer in the 2011 Phoenix Fringe Festival piece titled “Twisted: Greeting Card Moments Gone Bad.”

“I chose to debut ‘Twisted’ in Phoenix,” wrote Tiding, “partly because there’s such a can-do attitude in Arizona.” Then he added the following:

“Phoenix has this fantastic growing arts scene where it just feels like anything is possible. When I began researching the arts scene in Phoenix, I was blown away by the diversity of people’s experiences– I started reading your posts, and it’s just like a breath of fresh air. It’s so inclusive and positive.”

“I’ve got long-time friends in Arizona,” wrote Tiding, “so I know the past few years have been tough, but I think that can-do attitude is what will get everyone through the tough economic times and some of the divisions that go with that.”

I think I’d like this fellow even if he didn’t have such fine taste in blog posts. Seems he grew up in a family that always made homemade greeting cards for each other. “Mine,” he quips, “tended to be on the more sarcastic side.”

After seeing his cards displayed at an art exhibit, Tiding got requests from folks who wanted to buy them. Once retailers got ahold of the cards, they started asking Tiding how he ‘got so twisted.’ Tiding began sharing “snippets on the true stories behind the cards” — and the play “Twisted” was born.

There’s nothing like uncovering evidence to support one’s own convictions. So when Tiding shared the following, I felt vindicated in my advocacy for a crayon in every corner: “My family always made sure we had something we could draw or write with,” he wrote. “Mostly because it was cheaper and they didn’t have any money.”

Tiding, who nowadays works with a D.C.-based group called “Speakeasy,” includes plenty of family anecdotes during his “Twisted” piece. So those of you not whizzing off to Chicago for a show next weekend needn’t worry that you’re missing cutting-edge performance art.

Trust me when I tell you that his family is anything but typical. And that the only thing Chicago has on Phoenix when the Phoenix Fringe Festival comes around each year is the perfect pie.

— Lynn

Note: Twisted Tidings is “a greeting card company for people who want to throw up when they read greeting cards.” You can enjoy Tiding’s twisted theatrical performance April 8-10 at Modified Arts (as part of the 2011 Phoenix Fringe Festival).

Coming up: Another cool artist who crafts poetic e-mails

Make an art teacher’s day!

Small gifts of time, talent or financial resources can make a big difference in school arts programs — especially when we all pitch in. Enjoy supporting  arts learning at your child’s school in one or more of the following ways:

Research, plan and/or chaperone for arts-related field trips

"Kate's Flower" by Kate M., Age 5

Volunteer to create/install bulletin boards or other exhibit spaces

Donate arts-related books or other media materials to the school library

Attend school arts performances — even when your child is not performing

Pay (or offer to simply do the shopping) for arts-related supplies

Invite friends, family and neighbors to school art exhibits and performances

Share information on arts events and organizations happening in the community with school art teachers

Volunteer to assist with art projects in the classroom (and school clubs)

Donate funds dedicated to professional development for arts teachers

"Lion's Heart" by Gabriel C., Age 7

Volunteer to plan, coordinate and/or execute art exhibits and other events

Suggest community partnerships that might benefit schools and businesses/other organizations

Donate arts-related items you’re no longer using at home (such as musical instruments)

Offer to fund an arts-related field tip to visit a museum or see a theater, dance or music performance

Talk to art students about your own arts-related interests, hobbies or career

"Shy Bear" by Isaiah G., Age 7

Donate art storage items such as cabinets, shelves and crates

Volunteer time to sew costumes, paint sets and more

Stay informed about arts education issues and let legislators know the arts matter in our schools

Support creative play at home with time, space and materials for making visual art, theater and more

Give arts-related gifts such as subscriptions to arts magazines dealing with teacher areas of interest

Help arts teachers develop and share their wish lists of needed materials

Photograph student art to display on the school website

"Happy Flower" by Eilene, Age 12

Volunteer to read arts-related books during storytimes

Share interesting articles you come across about arts news, education, policy and more

Donate gift cards teachers can use at art supply stores

Collect supplies arts teachers are looking for (such as newspapers for paper mache)

Volunteer to arrange guest speakers/guest performers in the arts

Let administrators and board members know you value arts education

"Cutout Snowflake" by Toby M., Age 7

When in doubt, just ask. And remember to thank and compliment your child’s art teachers when you admire their work. Encouragement and appreciation can be the finest gifts of all.


Note: If you’re an arts teacher or parent with other ideas and suggestions on supporting school arts programs, please share them with fellow readers in the comment section below

Coming up: Arts camps for fall/winter break

Artwork featured in this post is from the PCH Kids Art collection, available through Phoenix Children’s Hospital at www.pchkidsart.com. The collection includes art prints, all occasion cards, holiday cards and more — with proceeds benefiting the PCH Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.