Tag Archives: Independent Lens

Origami & beyond

I was struck by a series of hanging paper cranes during a recent visit to Poets House in New York City. Origami is the one form of art I simply can’t pass by without pausing — perhaps because it seems the perfect blend of purposeful and playful.

There’s a similar exhibit as you enter the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa, inside a foyer that also houses a giant hanging paper crane. Recently I visited the museum with my adult son Christopher, who’s been enjoying the museum with me since he was just knee-high.

We explored the museum’s ArtZone — which currently features an exhibit titled “One Thousand Paper Cranes.” Exhibit materials note that in Japan it’s believed that a wish comes true for the person who folds 1,000 paper origami cranes. 

A sign at the museum invites visitors to fold paper cranes in an effort to secure their wish for world peace — collecting them for shipment to Hiroshima, Japan — where they’ll hang in the Children’s Peace Monument.

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Admirers of Japanese and other Asian art can always find it in the Phoenix Art Museum’s permanent Asian Collection. Its offerings, which can be viewed online, include several Japanese prints and screens.

Phoenix Art Museum holds its next “First Wednesday Asian Gallery Talk” at noon on August 3. It’s free with museum admission or membership.

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix presents a “Museum Encounter” with Bobby Seigetsu Avstreih and the Japanese Shakuhachi Flute at 11:30am and 2:30pm on Aug 6. It’s free with museum admission.

Through Each Others Eyes, an organization that uses photography to promote international understanding, has a photographic exchange exhibit with Japanese photographers. It’s the 17th such exchange between photographers in sister cities Phoenix and Himeji.

The Japanese Friendship Garden (Ro Ho En) in Phoenix, which closes for the summer months, is holding an “Opening Day Celebration” on Oct 1. Their annual “Moonviewing Festival” (Ot sukimi) takes place Oct. 15.

Musical theater fans are keeping an eye on the development of “Allegiance — A New American Musical,” which follows a family touched by the internment of Japanese Americans in parts of the U.S. following the attack on Pearl Harbor. “Allegiance” is described as a work about “love, loss and heroism.”

Cast members include Lea Salonga as Gloria Suzuki, George Takei as Old Sam Omura and Telly Leung as Young Sam Omura. A private workshop was held last week in New York, and the musical will enjoy a world premiere next year at the Old Globe theatre in San Diego.

If you share my love for origami, or you have yet to appreciate its wonder, check out the PBS “Independent Lens” film titled “Between the Folds.” It features the art and science of origami by exploring the work of ten powerful paper-folders.

You can learn more about the history of origami and all sorts of paper-folding resources from PBS “Independent Lens” online. But your best bet is still buying a bunch of origami paper so you and your children can learn by doing.

— Lynn

Note: Start today if your family celebrates Christmas and you’d like to decorate your tree this year with paper cranes like those shown in one of the images above. Paper cranes and other origami or kirigami (paper cutting) art also make beautiful garlands and table decorations.

Coming up: Valley studios offering acting classes


Two spirits

I stumbled on the film “Two Spirits” while searching Valley venues for upcoming events. It’s being shown Thurs, June 16, at 6:30pm at the Mesa Arts Center — a free presentation of City of Mesa Community Cinema.

The film explores the life and death of Fred Martinez, “a boy who was also a girl,” and considers the spiritual nature of sexuality within American Indian culture. Martinez was murdered, the victim of a hate crime, when he as just 16 years old.

The film is also being shown on PBS starting this week, as part of the “Independent Lens” series — though I suspect that seeing it screened in a community setting makes for a much more powerful experience.

The “Two Spirits” website links to all sorts of resources related to gender identity, sexuality and spirituality — suggesting ways people needing help can find it, and connecting people who want to help with ways of doing so. It’s also got a great reading list.

It includes “The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Other Identities” — an anthology of original essays, poems and true stories written by young adults in their teens and early 20s. It’s edited by David Levinthal and Billy Merrell.

Judy Shepard, president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation created to honor her 21-year old son after his 1998 murder, describes “Two Spirits” as “a beautiful film.”

“Fred Martinez was murdered,” says Shepard, “simply because he dared to be himself, and the violence against young people like him must stop. We will never be the society we hope to be until we replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance.”

— Lynn

Note: While surfing the “Two Spirits” website, I learned of another film — titled “Blessing.” It’s described as “a Gay Mormon film in conjunction with Affirmation Gay and Lesbian Mormons.” To learn more about the early history of the American gay rights movement, watch the PBS “American Experience” piece titled “Stonewall Uprising.” Also check out this book recommended by Project Q in Atlanta: “A Scout is Brave” by Greg Novak–in which “A Native American is bullied at a Boy Scout summer camp as he faces his own sexuality and the traditions of his family.”

Coming up: New season announcements

Films that matter

I suppose all films matter to the people who make them. But as a parent, I’m fonder of films that focus on child-related themes than films full of chase scenes. So I’m thrilled that Arizona parents will have two opportunities this week to enjoy films that raise important issues for families.

First. a film titled “Pushing the Elephant.” It’s being broadcast on Eight, Arizona PBS this Tuesday, March 29, at 1opm — as part of the PBS “Independent Lens” series. The film profiles a mother of 10 named Rose Mapendo, who some of you may know from a 2007 piece Vicki Louk Balint wrote for Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

PBS says the film “follows the life of Congolese refugee Rose Mapendo and her family, and their story of love and survival. Now an Arizona resident, Mapendo emerged from the harrowing experience advocating forgiveness and reconciliation.”

I first learned of the film after attending “The Many Faces of Film Series” presented at Scottsdale Community College in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League. The film shown that evening was “Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case that Made History.”

During a Q & A session following the film, one of Mapendo’s sons stood to share ways parents can teach and model anti-bullying attitudes and behaviors. I enjoyed chatting with the young man, who towered over me much like my own son, with kind eyes and a genuine beaming smile.

Mapendo’s story holds important lessons for all parents — and those who’d like to experience the film in a community setting can see it Thursday, March 31, at the Mesa Arts Center. It’s being shown in the Dobson Lecture Hall at Mesa Contemporary Arts (part of the MAC) at 6:30pm.

Admission is free, but those planning to attend must first RSVP to katie.brown@mesaaz.gov. The film is being presented as part of a City of Mesa “Community Cinema” series, and Mapendo — named the 2009 United Nations Humanitarian of the Year — will present a lecture following the film.

Second, a film titled “Race to Nowhere.” It’s being shown at Yavapai College in Prescott on Friday, April 1, at 7pm. The film is part of a grassroots movement sparked by a mother named Sara Bennett, founder of an organization called “Stop Homework.”

Race to Nowhere” features several experts concerned that American schools may be missing important opportunities to help children “become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens” — including educators, clinical psychologists and an adolescent medicine specialist.

Tickets for the Yavapai College screening are $15 at the door or $10 when purchased in advance. Valley residents may enjoy a screening closer to home at some point, but those eager to join the discussion — or perhaps the “End the Race” movement — will enjoy getting a jump on the issue by attending this event.

I’m eager to learn more about the “End the Race” movement — having long witnessed with my own three children the ways standardized testing and mountains of homework have been counterproductive to their development as active, engaged citizens seeking knowledge with joyous curiosity.

Considering that bullying and education are two of the hottest topics in parenting and political circles these days, I hope you’ll make time to experience one or both of these films this week. Then join the discussion, engaging your children, peers, educators and policy makers in moving the conversation forward.

— Lynn

Note: Rose Mapendo will be a guest on “Horizon” on Eight, Arizona PBS on Tuesday, March 29 — which airs at 7pm.

Coming up: An argument for more art and less homework

“The violin chose me…”

Daniel Bernard Roumain - Photo by Leslie Lyons

Charles Darwin. Lady Gaga. Starbucks. Sydney Opera House. Homeless Basketball. Abraham Lincoln. Children of Haiti.

A quick scan of his bio only served to increase my intrigue with the work and play of Haitian-American composer, performer, violinist and band leader Daniel Bernard Roumain — also dubbed DBR.

My daughter Lizabeth and I met Roumain a few years back when Roumain served as an artist-in-residence at Arizona State University.

She was nearing a decade of violin study and performance, and he was graciously working with several students from Arizona School for the Arts.

Recently we chatted about his own foray into the world — he might say “worlds” — of music. I began by asking Roumain when and why he started playing. Was violin his choice, or something his parents chose for him?

Daniel Bernard Roumain - Photo by Leslie Lyons

“The violin chose me,” he quipped — leaving me to wonder how exactly such a thing might be possible. Seems he was in kindergarten when he walked by a room in which the 6th grade orchestra was practicing.

Hearing the violin was all it took. “It called to me,” recalls Roumain. He asked the music teacher if he could play, but the teacher explained that students didn’t start playing at school until first grade.

The teacher suggested he come back the following day. Roumain suspects the teacher never expected him to return. But he did — and he got the okay to play.

Because his earliest violin lessons were at school, there was no charge. But eventually Roumain progressed to weekly private lessons, getting his first violin during 5th grade.

At first Roumain practiced just an hour or so a day — but admits he eventually hit six to eight hours a day. It hardly seems possible until you read reports that put teen technology use at nine hours a day.

Still, practice should never be a chore. “Music should always be fun,” shares Roumain. Who can really say what we will be when we grow up? There’s no reason to pressure young children when it comes to making music.

“When I grew up in Florida,” recalls Roumain, “music was everywhere.” Now music is scarce in American schools. “What’s becoming,” wonders Roumain, “of all the musicians, all the music, the world will never know?”

A violin certainly can’t speak to a child who never hears it.

Still, Roumain feels it would be “presumptuous” to offer a single “magic bullet” sort of solution to declining arts programs in our schools. It’s something parents, educators and community members have to work out in the context of a larger question.

What really comprises the ideal education — the perfectly balanced school day?

Daniel Bernard Roumain - Photo by John Walder

Roumain, age 40, is the father of 18-month-old Zachary. He’ll be faced soon enough with evaluating arts offerings from a parent perspective.

The composer likens music to a “medicine” or “anecdote” in a world where “there are so many ills.” Music, he reflects, is like exercise. “It can never hurt or harm you.”

While he’d like to see every child exposed to music, Roumain says parents need to give children the freedom to forge their own relationships to it. Some will want to play night and day. Others will want to play casually. Others will want to attend concerts. And some are perfectly happy to listen to CDs.

And while schools can choose to reduce art offerings, Roumain is convinced that they lose something in the process — believing that decreased art programs in recent years are related to increased school violence.

“Music,” says Roumain, “is as vital as a school lunch.”

Roumain, who was born in 1970, recalls growing up with a diverse record collection — including music by ABBA, Al Stewart, Bach, Beethoven, The Jackson 5 and Stravinsky (the alphabetizing was his own).

As he got older and went to more concerts, Roumain listened to everything from Prince to Dizzy Gillespie. MTV was in its early days, and a lot of music contained political themes.

Roumain is a fan of the many technologies that make it possible for kids to hear more music, and more types of music, today. He speaks of watching a Lang Lang performance on television with his wife and son over a meal, of listening to the radio during long driving jaunts.

Today his personal favorites include Rhianna and Jay-Z. To get the Lady Gaga reference, you’ll have to read his bio. At home, he says, the family listens to “everything from Bieber to Bach.”

Roumain brings his own passionate blend of music, art and movement to ASU Gammage in Tempe on Sat, Feb 5. There’s a 7pm show for the kids, and a 9pm show for adults.

Daniel Bernard Roumain - Photo by Julieta Cervantes

He’ll be presenting a world premiere titled “Symphony for the Dance Floor,” featuring “the raw uncompromising photography of Jonathan Mannion” and DBR music “inspired by hip-hop, electronica and symphonic sound.”

The work is choreographed by Millicent Johnnie with lighting design by Miriam Crowe and direction by D.J. Mendel. Roumain describes it as “an ecstatic journey” traveled with “a soundtrack of our time.”

“I have hope,” reflects Roumain. “And hope is America’s greatest national resource.”

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about “Symphony for the Dance Floor” and other “Gammage Beyond” events presented by ASU Gammage in Tempe. And check your local PBS listings for days/times you can see “Children of Haiti” — a film for which DBR wrote the soundtrack — which will help you learn more about Haiti as we all remember the 2010 Haiti earthquake one year later.

Coming up: A touring production of “A Chorus Line” comes to Mesa and Phoenix this week

Photos from www.dbrmusic.com