Tag Archives: Paul Simon

I-Spy: Guitars

As the “Six-String Masterpieces” exhibit enjoys its final week at the Mesa Art Center museum, I’m revisiting a few of my own guitar images — collected during travels near home and beyond.

Soft toy guitars from the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix

Neon guitar that hangs in the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square

Culinary fare from the MIM that could pass as a guitar or violin

Guitar case belonging to an Occupy Wall Street protester in NYC 

Sign for the guitar exhibit at Mesa Contemporary Arts

The “Six-String Masterpieces” exhibit, which is curated by Curse Mackey, runs through Dec. 4 in the South Gallery of the MAC museum. It’s described as “a charitable art exhibition featuring a impressive collection of Dean Electric Guitars that have been hand-painted, illustrated and sculpted by leading musicians and contemporary visual artists.”

With more than $200,000 raised to date, the exhibit “continues to evolve as an ongoing charitable exhibition that serves to raise awareness and support for music education and carries a message of anti-violence.” All proceeds from “Six-String Masterpieces” benefit a music education charity called “Little Kids Rock.”

Folks eager to enjoy guitars in the hands of those who play them can head to Tucson for an exhibition titled “Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present.” The exhibit, organized by the Brooklyn Museum with guest curator Gail Buckland, runs through Jan 15 at the Tucson Museum of Art — and is part of a larger experience called “Tucson Rocks.”

The University of Arizona Museum of Art presents an exhibit titled “Good Vibrations: The Guitar as Design, Craft & Function” through Jan. 15, 2012. Students from the UA school of music will perform free guitar concerts Dec. 2 and Jan. 13.

Buck Owens guitar exhibited at the House of Broadcasting museum in Scottsdale

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix has an Artist Gallery that includes guitars used by Eric Clapton, Paul Simon and the Jonas Brothers — and will soon be adding guitars played by John Denver, Toby Keith and Buck Owens. Their museum shop is full of guitar goodies from holiday ornaments to silver earrings. Fans of Buck Owens can see his “signature guitar” displayed at the House of Broadcasting in Scottsdale.

The world’s best artwork, of course, is created by students. You can enjoy an “Art Rocks!” art show featuring works by students at Marcos de Niza and Kyrene Middle School at Hoodlums Music & Movies in Tempe Dec. 10 from 6-9pm. “Art Rocks!” music will be provided by alumni bands.

— Lynn

Note: Mesa Arts Center offers classes for adults and kids in various visual and performing arts. Click here to learn about lessons in playing guitar and other musical instruments available at the MAC.

Coming up: Use your words, I-Spy: Elvis, More music education from the MAC

Musings on “The Muppets”

As the new Disney movie “The Muppets” opens with the song “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” we see two brothers as seemingly mismatched as Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. There’s big brother Gary and little brother Walter, who seem to go just about everywhere together – often sporting matching outfits like plaid flannel pajamas and powder blue suits.

While watching television one night, they see an episode of “The Muppet Show” featuring funnyman Steve Martin. Soon life changes forever. Gary and girlfriend Mary, eager to celebrate their tenth anniversary, plan a trip to Los Angeles – and Gary suffers the first of many “Walter needs me” moments.

Walter has a bit of a one track mind, so the trio soon find themselves on a tacky tenth-rate tour of the old Muppets studio, where Walter overhears a Texas oil baron talk of tearing the joint down. Walter knows what he has to do – reunite the Muppets for a telethon to save their turf. He starts by tracking down Kermit, who helps him gather more Muppets during travels from Reno to Paris.

From a dusty hall in the old Muppets studio that’s lined with photos of celebs like Florence Henderson to the offices of Miss Piggy decorated with covers of magazines from Esquire to People, the journey is a nod to nostalgia – with a character named ’80s Robot behind the wheel. Lines like “gag me with a spoon” feel a tad less subtle. So does dialogue praising the Muppets of old over contemporary pop culture – though the converted won’t mind being preached to.

The movie stays remarkably true to the Muppets’ real roots while updating the vibe with dashes of rap and recovery mantras. Fans of musical theater will appreciate the film’s multiple homages to both the genre and classic works like “The Phantom of the Opera.” And let’s face it – there’s really nowhere else to go if you favor films that mix dancing butchers with singing chickens.  

The wee ones among us think Big Bird and Elmo when they hear talk of the Muppets, which might explain why grown-ups in the theater seemed more smitten with this movie than their children. After all, we’re the ones who built the city on rock and roll – and think others need us when it’s really the other way around.

Thank goodness for gags, like Fozzie’s fart shoes, that span the generations. For songs like “Rainbow Connection.” For movies that show even failure can lead to triumph. For musical tours de force from “mimimi” to “mahna mahna.” But most of all, for movies that mix the species without anybody giving birth.

— Lynn

Coming up: “Being Elmo,” Fixing what’s broken

Arts in Education Week

During a recent episode of “Jeopardy,” the final question required knowledge of both children’s literature and opera. Think Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” meets Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.” Only one contestant seemed to know much about either — and he walked away with the cash. I’m guessing there’s an art teacher he ought to be thanking back home.

It’s been heartening to see arts and culture play such a pivotal role in 9/11 anniversary ceremonies. Sunday’s event at the newly opened 9/11 Memorial in NYC featured Yo-Yo Ma, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Emi Ferguson, Paul Simon and James Taylor. Opening remarks by Michael Bloomberg quoted Shakespeare, and poetry was prevalent throughout.

The Pushcart Players perform one of five school shows offered by Mesa Arts Center this season

Too often our nation forgets all that has been forged by arts and culture, and fails to appreciate the role they can play in moving us forward. So I’m delighted that Congress passed a bill last year designating the second week of September “National Arts in Education Week.”

For those who love the arts, no explanation of their impact or importance is needed. Art is an instinct, in impulse. An adventure of imagination as necessary as air. For others, they seem a mere nicety at best — perhaps because the joys of art never touched their lives as children.

But those unmoved by art’s aesthetic power should recognize its more tangible benefits. Art creates jobs. Creates cities where people want to live. Creates schools full of innovators and imaginators. Maybe even the “creative class” touted by a presidential candidate in his stump speeches.

Ninety percent of Arizonans believe that arts education is either important or very important, according to results of a public opinion poll conducted by ASU in May 2009 — a poll cited in the background report for this year’s Arizona Town Hall, the first of 98 Arizona Town Halls to focus on Arizona arts and culture. www.aztownhall.org.

The Arizona Arts Education section of the report was authored by Mandy Buscas (then director of arts learning for the Arizona Commission on the Arts, now the arts education outreach coordinator for Mesa Arts Center) and Lynn Tuttle (director of arts education for the Arizona Department of Education).

MAC presents Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters for grades K-6

Their work considers results of the 2009 Arts Education Census. It also looks at federal, state and local educational policies — noting that state support for arts in education has suffered significant losses of late due to “efforts to close significant stage budget shortfalls.”

Their reporting on the arts census notes that “20% of schools offered no courses in any arts discipline” and that “79% of schools spend less than $1 per year per student for arts instruction.” This despite the fact that U.S. employers rank creativity/innovation among the top five skills growing in importance.

So what can be done to move Arizona forward? A report issued after the Arizona Town Hall on arts and culture says that “Arizona residents need to speak up, stand for what we support, and make that support known at the ballot box at all levels, from the legislature, to the superintendent of public instruction, and to local school boards.”

It sounds rather daunting if you’re not accustomed to advocating for issues with local and stage officials, but there are plenty of resources to help you get started — including Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts. www.azcitizensforthearts.org.

The report also urges the arts and culture community to partner with the business community to “lobby for improved arts education” — and calls on nonprofit organizations and arts professionals in our communities to “continue augmenting arts education in the schools.” Think artist residencies, school field trips and such.

There’s plenty we can do as parents. Volunteer to help with art projects in the classroom. Coordinate field trips to places like libraries, performing arts venues, museums and exhibit spaces. Donate art-related supplies to local schools. Urge schools to integrate arts learning into other subjects. Vote art at every opportunity.

MAC presents Native American Song & Dance for grades K-12

Folks who separate art from the other disciplines, orchestrating false dichotomies that pit science and math against music and theater should learn more about artists like Emi Ferguson, a distinguished student of both music and epidemiology. Or scientists like Oliver Sacks.

To learn more about arts and education in Arizona, sign up for the free arts learning newsletter from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. www.azarts.gov.

The latest issue features details on the Poetry Out Loud program, a student art competition, an opportunity to participate in the Kennedy Center Partners in Education program, Target field trip grants, teacher workshops and more.

As for the “Jeopardy” answer that won the big bucks, it was “Pooh-bah.”

— Lynn

Note: Additional arts in education resources include the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities (www.pcah.gov), Americans for the Arts (www.artsusa.org) and the Arts Education Partnership (www.aep-arts.org). Learn more about Mesa Arts Center arts education programs at www.mesaartscenter.com.

Coming up: Country music meets arts and culture, Art meets airport, Who let the cats out?, Shakespeare meets Sweeney Todd

Cupcakes for peace?

Photo: Getty Images

I was in great company Saturday as I commemorated the 70th birthday of musician, artist and peace activist John Lennon at the MIM — the majestic Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.

I was lucky to get there after my car died, apparently to show me who was boss as it slowed to a crawl on the freeway and I begged it to give me just one more round of 100,000 miles.

I was on the way downtown to drop Lizabeth off for a QSpeak Theatre event before heading to the MIM when my car started shifting itself into lower and lower gears.

This has become a rather unwelcome tradition for our family.

The last one to go was a white Volvo station wagon that never made it through the day long ago when I had three “stage mom” gigs — getting the kids to their annual piano recital, getting Lizabeth to something “Nutcracker” related and something else that has slipped my mind over time.

My husband James came to our rescue soon after we’d coasted to a local gas station, so I was able to get to the MIM in time for the 2:30pm performance by Tetra String Quartet playing works by John Lennon.

This gracious fellow was ever so patient as museum patrons made that all important decision -- chocolate or vanilla (Photo: The MIM)

I stopped first by the MIM Cafe, where elegant black and white cupcakes decorated with various musical symbols (what, no peace signs?) were being given out for free — and had to check a mirror soon after to assure I wasn’t making my way through the MIM with a cupcake moustache a la those lovely “Got Milk?” commercials.

The cupcakes were from the newly renovated Fry’s Marketplace at Tatum & Shea, which seems to have become a sort of museum of menu items and more in its own right. They’re especially yummy for those of us who enjoy a bit of cake with our frosting.

Soon the musical performance began, as well over 100 museum patrons looked on — sometimes humming, singing and clapping along while others the world over were similarly engaged in communal birthday celebrations for the legendary John Lennon.

Everywhere I turned there was an homage to Lennon. Greeters at the ticket counter donned eyeglasses with round rose- or blue-colored lenses. Middle age music lovers sported endless variations of Lennon t-shirts. I even ran into a young couple who told me of another museum guest whose arm is tatooted with Lennon’s self-portrait.

I never found the man with the inked homage, but I did locate the exhibit featuring the upright Steinway Lennon used to compose “Imagine” — and something called the “Peace Piano” nearby.

Displayed on the wall were guitars from various artists including Eric Clapton and Paul Simon. The MIM is a vast treasure trove of instruments from around the world — but you feel after seeing just this one space, dubbed the “Artist Gallery,” that you’ve died and gone to music nutopia.

The Tetra String Quartet performed for MIM patrons

Just next door on the first of two floors there’s a room where you can try your hand at all kinds of instruments from around the globe — drums, stringed-instruments, a giant gong and more. Kids find the “Experience Gallery” in a heartbeat and know instinctively what they need to do: Play!

At the other end of the first floor, there’s an open performance space for “museum encounters” featuring diverse musical styles, plus a gift shop full of things you just won’t find elsewhere — exquisite jewelry (much of it with tasteful musical themes), CDs and books featuring the music and people of dozens of countries and nations, and percussion pieces as essential as books to developing young imaginations.

I came home with black “MIM” guitar picks, bookmarks and postcards (including one depicting “Strawberry Fields” in NYC’s Central Park). I’m also the proud new owner of a children’s book titled “M is for Music” (written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Stacy Innerst).

The book opens with music-related quotes from Friedrich Nietzsche, Charlie Parker, Helen Keller and Frank Zappa. “B” is for Beatles. “K” is for Klezmer. “M” is for music, music teachers, mistakes and Mozart. And “W” is for whistling. What’s not to love?

My other favorite finds of the day included the books “Do Re Mi: If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido d’Arezzo” and “Opera Cat” — plus a long list of CDs featuring everything from Persian classical music and traditional Navajo songs to Sufi music for whirling meditation and live performance by “Playing for Change.”

Jennifer and I first heard “Playing for Change” perform at the Mesa Arts Center, and hope to see them again when they perform at the MIM on Oct 26. While at the MIM on Saturday, I picked up the brochure for their 2010-2011 Concert & Film Season.

Upcoming performers include Lakota Sioux Indian Dance Theatre, Harlem Gospel Choir, ASU African Drum Ensemble, Young Sounds of Arizona and many more. I’ll profile the MIM’s film line-up in a future post.

One of many snappy dressers who embraced the spirit of the day (Photo: The MIM)

Before leaving the museum on Saturday, I headed to the MIM Music Theater — where a self-playing piano sat center stage, bathed in multic-color lights, playing Lennon’s music for those who’d made the musical pilgrimage that day.

One floor above sat a baby grand piano with an empty bench, available for anyone to play. A nearby sign beckoned folks to play their own variations of “Imagine.” No one heeded the invitation while I was there, but I suspect they were simply mindful of not getting all that cupcake icing on those glistening ivories.

Somehow I don’t think Lennon would mind.

–Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about an upcoming ASU event featuring Bill DeWalt, director and president of the MIM (which I learned about from my husband James).

Coming up: “Fences” and family foibles, Mesa meets Denmark?