Tag Archives: SMOCA

One composer’s journey

Though composer Judd Greenstein recently traveled from Brooklyn to Scottsdale to premiere a new work written for violist Nadia Sirota, his journey into new and expanding musical spaces began long ago. Greenstein recalls writing hip hop and rap works while just 12 or 13 years old, and taking piano lessons too — realizing one day that he could combine the two.

Greenstein was 16 when his piano teacher asked whether he wanted to be a composer. The teen’s “yes” was met with the admonition to work a whole lot harder. Soon Greenstein was taking to the library, reading scores and such. But there’s something more, shared by several of his friends who compose — seeing the 1984 film “Amadeus.”

Suspecting that composing requires a certain sort of brain power, I asked Greenstein when we spoke on Friday about what it takes to do what he does. “I have an intuitive sense of form, where I can make a musical idea and can see how it relates to other things.” A lot of it, he says, is throwing things out. “You can’t get too attached to it.”

Composer Judd Greenstein

Greenstein’s “In Teaching Others We Teach Ourselves” premieres Saturday night at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. He describes it as “a very emotional work” reflecting “my process of trying to understand what music is to me.” Still, music isn’t the only thing on Greenstein’s mind.

“I really believe that our culture is in a pretty troubled place right now,” says Greenstein. “We’ve lost our sense of what’s important as humans.” He’s convinced we all need a closer relationship to art and art making. “Art isn’t anything but a way of communicating myself as a person,” shares Greenstein.

Even artists have fallen away from the essence of art, notes Greenstein. “Artists have allowed themselves to be a weird, sequestered community.” But art and humanity aren’t nearly as separated as they seem nowadays. And there’s much parents can do to promote art making in their children’s lives.

“Make art a part of other activities that are already enjoyable,” suggests Greenstein. Art becomes an unpleasant place when separated from everyday interests or delivered as mere “teachable moments.” Weekly piano lessons alone rarely fuel a real passion for art.

Greenstein recalls spending time at Tanglewood from a young age, sitting on a blanket with his family and looking up at the stars together. More than isolated episodes of music practice, it was art in the larger context of life that powered Greenstein’s journey from child to composer.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for “In Teaching Others We Teach Ourselves” concert and ticket information. Click here to learn about “Tanglewood for Kids.”

Coming up: Shakespeare meets musical theater, Fun finds for Father’s Day

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12


Scottsdale Arts Festival

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Scottsdale Arts Festival continues this weekend with 181 artists exhibiting diverse works made of metal, wood, fiber, glass and more. Think ceramics, photography, drawing/pastel, painting and jewelry. Also digital arts, printmaking, sculpture and mixed media.

Many are local, but plenty hail from other parts of the country — including Colorado, California, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest and beyond. Most are perfectly charming and happy to chat about both process and finished product. My favorite finds on Friday included furnishings made of metal washers and a palm fiber sculpture resembling a dress form. You can sit on the one, but you can’t wear the other. Art is funny that way.

There’s plenty to do beyond strolling down sunny paths lined with artist tents. Watch dance and music performances on the stage situated on a grassy knoll. Explore works of public art. Enjoy exhibits at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (admission is free for festival goers this weekend). Sample a few wines, wood-fired pizza or gourmet food truck fare. Play with art materials, hoola hoops and more.

Try your hand at journaling in the “Scottsdale’s 100 Journals” tent, or take your kiddos to the “Keep Scottsdale Beautiful” tent so they can create a poster to enter in the fourth annual contest for such things. Check out an online auction of works made by festival artists. Hit two gift shops. And enjoy interactive exhibits at SMoCA and the LOVE sculpture.

Photos near the sculpture are fine, by the way. But climbing it is not. A lovely sign in the grass makes that clear though few pause to read it. Don sunscreen before you head out, but don’t worry if you land without a hat. There’s a tent filled with charming hats, and festival gear includes both baseball caps and the floppy variety I came home with on Friday.

It wouldn’t hurt to bring at least a mental list of folks you’ll need to shop for in coming months. I spied several items that would make amazing Father’s Day fare — including beautifully crafted desk or tabletop kaleidescopes and marble runs with true artistic flair. Also plenty of jewelry and such for Mother’s Day. It’s okay, by the way, to be a little selfish in the art department.

I nearly found myself wishing — as I encountered beautifully-crafted works of original furnishings, table and wall art — that I had a law firm, swanky restaurant or other business where I could display them. I suppose it’d be tacky to call the dentist, orthodontist and such over the weekend, but it’s more than a little tempting.

Still, I’m happy with my humble blogging gig — which’ll find me hitting “Gypsy” at Phoenix Theatre, Arizona Poetry Out Loud finals at Phoenix Center for the Arts, “The Great Gatsby” at Arizona Theatre Company, “Green Eggs & Ham” with The Phoenix Symphony (and lots more) this month. It’s all in a day’s art.

— Lynn

Note: The Scottsdale Arts Festival runs 10am-6pm Sat, March 10 and 10am-5pm Sun, March 11.

Coming up: We take care of our own, Art adventures in NYC

Two fairs, three festivals

Unplug the kids this weekend for a bit of camp fair and festival fun

I’m heading out this morning, and tomorrow, to enjoy this year’s Raising Arizona Kids Magazine Camp Fair — taking place at the Tesseract School Shea Campus in Phoenix (Feb. 25) and the Seton Catholic Preparatory High School in Chandler (Feb. 26). I’m especially eager to chat with folks from all the camps offering visual and performing arts fare.

I’ll have plenty of good choices for weekend fun, including three festivals, once I get my Camp Fair fix — a Black History Month festival in Peoria, a Matsuri festival in Phoenix and a Sunday A’Fair “mini-festival” in Scottsdale.

The Black History Month celebration in Peoria actually kicked off last night with a jazz concert featuring Dennis Rowland, but those of you who missed it will be pleased to know that he’s also part of a concert taking place at the Herberger Theater Center Mon, Feb. 27 to benefit Actors Theatre (which also stars Walt Richardson, and Bob Sorenson as master of ceremonies).

The Black History Month Festival happens today from 10am to 7pm in Osuna Park in Peoria (83rd and Grand Aves.). I’m told they’ll have live music, vendors, community and medical service stations, and a kids zone — plus lots of information and educational materials. Admission to the festival is free, and the day also includes a tribute to the late Whitney Houston.

Sunday A’Fair in Scottsdale takes place Sun, Feb. 26 from noon to 4pm on the large lawn adjacent to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Admission to this baby is free as well.

This week’s Sunday A’Fair features the Chuck Hall Band playing “a spicy Texas stew of originals and unique blues-based standards” from noon to 1:30pm and Powerdrive playing “Red-hot salsa dance numbers, R & B, classic oldies and Tex-Mex.”

Sunday A’Fairs also take place March 4 & 25 and April 1 & 8 — and each features different concert fare. All include a fine arts and crafts market, activities for children and free admission to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Arizona Matsuri, the 28th Annual Festival of Japan, hits Heritage and Science Park in downtown Phoenix both Sat, Feb. 25 and Sun, Feb. 26 from 10am-5pm. It features exhibits, demonstrations, arts and crafts, children’s activities and three stages with live entertainment. Plus Japanese food and bonsai displays.

Folks dressed in Japanese attire are invited to participate in the Matsuri parade that starts at 10:10am today (start gathering at the Plaza Stage around 9:45am).  An opening ceremony at 10:30am this morning features Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki, Japan’s ambassador to the United States.

Festival organizers note that “flowering cherry trees have seen symbols of Japan’s friendship to the people of America for 100 years.” In 1912, more than 3,000 cherry trees were gifted from the Tokyo to Washington, D.C. so 2012 has been dubbed the Japan-U.S. Cherry Blossom Centennial.

Enjoy all these fabulous fairs and festivals while you can. In another couple of months the only things we’ll be celebrating are ice cubes and air conditioning.

— Lynn

Note: Ice cube meets art at the corner of First St. and Brown Ave. in Scottsdale, where you’ll find a 2006 work created with concrete, forged iron and pavers that also includes a rose, cowboy boot, boxing glove and more. It’s “Hidden Histories for Old Town Scottsdale” by Elizabeth Conner with Benson Shaw, Duke Grenier, and Tawn Endres.

Coming up: Starry, starry playwright

Writer, writer on the wall…

Want to be the fairest writer of them all? Read often. Write daily. And learn from the masters.

Amy Silverman and Deborah Sussman Susser just announced that registration is now open for the next “Mothers Who Write” workshop, a 10-week series that starts Feb. 23 at Scottsdale Center for the Arts. It meets Thursday evenings from 6-8pm and costs $200 (Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arts members pay just $175).

A teen writing workshop called “Fems with Pens,” for girls in grades 7-12, begins Jan. 23 at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe. The six-week series also include 5-6pm sessions on Jan. 30, Feb. 6, Feb. 13, Feb. 27 and March 5. Participants write fiction and non-fiction using various exercises, then discuss and edit their work in a “creative, supportive environment.” The series costs $60.

Phoenix Public Library and Changing Hands Bookstore present a “Young Adult Writing Conference” featuring writing classes and a writing panel on Sat, Jan. 28 at the Burton Barr Central Library. Presenters and panelists include authors Adam Rex, Bree Despain, James Owen, Anna Carey, Kiersten White, Aprilynne Pike, Amy Fellner Dominy, C J Hill (Janette Rallison), Robin Brande, Cecil Castellucci and Tom Leveen. The event runs 9am-3pm and costs $85 ($75 through Jan. 19).

A “Yallapalooza” event for teens and tweens takes place at the library that same day at 4pm. The 11 authors noted above will attend, and the event also features free pizza — plus games, prizes and book signing opportunities. Admission is free.

ASU’s Virgina G. Piper Center for Creative Writing holds its 2012 “Desert Nights, Rising Stars” conference Feb. 23-26 at the center, located on ASU’s Tempe Campus. Conference faculty include Sally Ball, Robert Boswell, Bernard Cooper, Denise Dumahel, Carolyn Forche, Pam Houston, Adam Johnson, Mat Johnson, A. Van Jordan, Antonya Nelson, Alix Ohlin, Jem Poster, Melissa Pritchard, Jeannine Savard, Eleanor Wilner and Xu Xi. Writers of all levels are welcome, and general registration is $375 (master class tuition is an additional $125).

The UA Poetry Center in Tucson is presenting several classes and workshops in coming months, including “Poetry in the 21st Century” with Joel Arthur. The eight week literature class, which begins Feb. 6, will explore trends including conceptual poetry, Gurlesque, flarf, virtual poetics, Vispo and more. Participants will read, discuss and listen to American poetry from 2000 to the present. The class costs $200 (plus a $10 materials fee).

The Poetry Center also offers “Possibilities of Short Plays” with Laura Owen, an eight-week writing workshop on writing short form theatrical pieces — monologues and ten-minute plays. Participants will explore voice and dialogue, as well as the intersection of poetry and other forms. Students can expect to complete several dialogues and at least one complete ten-minute play. The workshop, which starts Feb. 8, costs $200 (plus a $5 materials fee).

Scottsdale Public Library and the Scottsdale Society of Women Writers present a “Local Writers Workshop” at the Mustang Library at 1:15pm on Feb. 19. The free workshop covers writing, publishing, an online author toolkit and networking. It’s one of many free writing-related events offered by Scottsdale Public Libraries. (Check your local library for additional options.)

If your organization offers writing classes for youth or adults, feel free to comment below to let our readers know.

— Lynn

Note: An organization called Friends of the Phoenix Public Library needs donations of children’s books to help economically-challenged schools stock their libraries and classrooms. Click here for donation details, and to learn about the Friends’ annual “Winter Book Sale” taking place later this month.

Coming up: Celebrating black history on stage and screen

Artists and their children

Several young artists were joined by family and friends at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts last Thursday evening for the public opening reception of “Artists and their Children,” which runs through Jan. 23, 2012.

It’s housed in the young@art gallery operated by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, which sits adjacent to the the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts in a complex that also includes two museum gift shops, several restaurants, lovely garden paths and many works of public art.

“Artists and their Children” features works by the following artists and their family members — Carrie Bloomston & Kris Keul, Jeremy Bridell & Cyndi Coon, David Dauncey, Jon Haddock, Angela Cazel Jahn, Nissa Kubly, Becky McDonah, Ken Rosenthal, Aaron & Rebecca Rothman, Randy Slack and Robert You. 

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Cindi Coon & Jeremy Bridell, along with James Hajicek & Carol Panaro-Smith and Anne & Jerry Schutte, will participate this Thurs, Dec. 8, in a SMoCA event titled “Dynamic Duos” — which features Valley artist couples discussing ways they create “both collaboratively and in proximity to one another.” It’s free, and taking place at 7pm in the SMoCA Lounge.

If you’re more into wearing art than creating it, check out the “Holiday Jewelry Trunk Show” at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts — where “innovative jewelry artists working in all media will showcase and be present to discuss their work.” It’s happening Dec. 9 from 5-8pm and Dec. 10 from noon to 8pm.

Remember local artists, and their families, as you’re choosing gifts for your own family members and friends this time of year. Their individual works make precious holiday gifts, and their collective works do much to enrich our communities every day of the year.

— Lynn

Coming up: From book to stage, Authors tackle name-calling through the ages

From Vietnam to the Valley

Speak Peace,” a touring exhibit currently being presented by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, was created in partnership with Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center and School of Art Galleries with Soldier’s Heart, War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City and the Young Writers Program at Arizona State University.

Though the “Speak Peace” exhibit opened only recently in the young@art Gallery housed inside the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, folks from ASU’s Young Writers Program say they’re proud to have been involved for some time.

Sean Nevin, director of the ASU Young Writers Program, recalls meeting the director of a Kent State writing program at a conference about two years ago when both sat on a panel about teaching writing to kids. Nevin returned to Tempe and got to work writing a curriculum focused on teaching students in grades 9-12 how to write in response to experiencing art.

Several MFA in writing students and alumni worked with Nevin on taking the curriculum to Valley high schools as part of something called “Poetry Central.” Nevin is thrilled that “Speak Peace” includes “poetry written by Valley teenagers who participated in Young Writers Program workshops.”

He notes that participating students came from Carson Jr., Alhambra, Bostrom, Camelback, Carl Hayden, Central, Cesar Chavez, Maryvale, Metro Tech, North, South Mountain, and Combs high schools.

Jess Burnquist, ASU MFA graduate and YWP teaching assistant, leading a Speak Peace session with TUHSD students during Poetry Central 2010 (Photo courtesy of ASU YWP)

“Speak Peace” continues to use the curriculum on their website, and you can click here to explore it for yourself.

Nevin notes that those who visit the “Speak Peace” exhibit presented by SMoCA can enjoy several of the written pieces created as part of the ASU/Valley schools collaboration. 

A work created by Valley students working with the YWP is featured below:  

Who Knows

Who knows if peace will come or not?

People are afraid of touching peace,

Hands folding so if won’t fly away.

All that we know is all that we give.


We work together to reach the swan.

Peace tastes like the victuals of Eden.

Peace is the color of fire

And the burning motion of time.

With fingertips like irons,

Peace brands the unborn.

 –Collaborative poem by students from the Phoenix Union High School District (written at a YWP “Poetry Central” workshop)

Renee Simms, ASU MFA graduate and YWP teaching artist, leading a writing exercise with students from the Tolleson Union High School District during Poetry Central 2010 (Photo courtesy of ASU YWP)

“Art works to unite kids across the country and the world,” shares Nevin, who describes the response of youth to art as “a pure one.” Art, says Nevin, allows youth to “share a common language.”

Nevin recalls that the ASU/”Speak Peace” collaboration started near the 40th anniversary of the Kent State shootings, and that many of the students who wrote in response to the artwork created by Vietnamese youth had a parent or sibling deployed in a current conflict.

“It’s sad,” reflects Nevin, “that so little has changed.”

— Lynn

Note: Poet Bruce Weigl, who was awarded a Bronze Star for his service during the Vietnam War, will read his work and sign books at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art at 7:45pm on Thurs, Oct. 13. SMoCA will present a guided tour of the “Speak Peace” exhibit at 7pm.

Coming up: A tale of family and forgiveness, Dance meets the diary of Anne Frank

Voices from Vietnam

I headed out Monday morning with my son Christopher to explore a recently opened exhibit presented by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Christopher has a great eye for detail and always spots elements in artwork I might overlook.

SMoCA’s young@art Gallery is actually housed inside the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, one of my favorite haunts for mother/daughter dance outings and other fare from film screenings and opera broadcasts to performances by Broadway greats.

The current exhibit, titled “Speak Peace” is simpler, yet more powerful, than most. It consists of a level line of children’s paintings that wraps around the gallery’s walls.

Works from the Speak Peace exhibit in Scottsdale

Each work was created during the past ten years by a child or teen in Vietnam as part of an international collaboration, and each is exhibited along with an original poem written by an American child, veteran or established poet.

As we explored the exhibit, we noted that several images appear over and over again in various works — flowers, the sun, animals and doves. Also fire, desolation and bombs falling from the sky.

One particularly moving image features children from Iraq and America looking at a globe. Across one continent there’s a bandage. Paintings address the themes of peace and war, and you can explore them in the young@art Gallery through Nov. 9.

Heal the World for Peace by Phan Nguyen Bao Tran, age 14

While there, we stopped to chat with another woman enjoying the exhibit. Turns out she’s an artist and author named Ellen Palestrant who hails from South Africa but has lived in Scottsdale for 24 years.

Palestrant’s works are currently exhibited at Gallery Andrea on E. Main St. in Old Town Scottsdale. The gallery is owned by Andrea de Kerpely-Zak, a Hungarian-born artist whose impressionist-style flowers are so renowned that Pope John Paul II commissioned two works.

When I asked Palestrant why she’d decided to view this particular exhibit, she mentioned spending time in Vietnam — and shared her delight that Vietnamese art is reflecting a growing feeling of freedom. It’s more colorful now than in the past, she says, and combines influences from both East and West.

Peaceful Country by Huynh Vu Thuy Duong, age 15

I also asked her thoughts about the state of arts and culture in Arizona. Palestrant praised what she calls “lots of experimentation and seredipity.” Perhaps because of all the bright sunshine, she says, “there’s a certain freedom here that you don’t get elsewhere.”

Palestrant’s grandaughter, just 4 years old, was also enjoying the exhibit — stopping at each work to really take it in. Seems she’s already drawing up a storm, to Palestrant’s delight.

“Art is your companion for life,” reflects Palestrant. She notes art’s power for steering youth through their sometimes turbulent teens, and says that exposing young children to art by other children sends a powerful message: You can do it too.

Together Protect Peace by Ta Thank Khue, age 15

“Children need to create and do things,” says Palestrant, “instead of always buying things.”

— Lynn

Note: To explore the work of Scottsdale artists, attend a Scottsdale Artwalk. They’re held each Thursday from 7-9pm. Click here for details.

Coming up: Fun with photos — from New York Comic Con