Right now, Kristan Kennedy – our lovely Visual Arts Program Coordinator – is off in New York City, visiting galleries, studios, and festivals to soak up the New Year in art. Read on for the second part of a photogenic insight into the mind of one of our curators:
Oh my aching feet!
I can’t see much, my peripheral vision has been cut off by the giant parka hood that I must keep zipped up at all times. It is bone-chillingly cold out here. Even with my blinders on I have noticed people here seem to be proclaiming their inner desires on the street. The other day I saw a giant scrawl that said, “Anthony I need your love now.” And then there was this gem.
Speaking of trends… Most of the artists I have been visiting this trip are women. This comes right on the heels of the news that, for the first time ever, there are equal percentages of male and female artists selected for this year’s Whitney Biennial. I did not seek out women artists in particular, they are just everywhere! My visits have taken me to DUMBO and Bushwick and LES and Long Island City and Chinatown and Chelsea. My new years resolution to keep studio visits to thirty minutes has quickly been tossed out. How do other curators do it? I hear stories of visits where stone faced curators enter, zip their lips, make the artist sweat, and turn on their heels without so much as a “thank you.” Or others who visit seven artists in one afternoon. Do they have a magic flying carpet? Have you ever tried to get from one side of Brooklyn to the other. JEESH!
My mornings are spent in studios and my nights are spent meeting up Erin, Vic, Cathy, and Jessica who are all here for APAP and UTR. On one such evening, Erin convinces Jessica and I to brave the cold for a few more blocks for Keste Pizza in the West Village. Despite the atrocious restaurant logo that looks like the bastard child of the Panera Bread Co. or Chipolte, this narrow little joint makes one killer pie.
We devour the panchetta and parm and arugula and then the waiter alerts us to the presence of these lovelies…
Flown in from Italy six hours before, this Burrata is about to be in my belly.
When we get back to the Public the lobby is packed. Unlike TBA, which takes you on a cross-city scavenger hunt for venues, most of the performances happen right here in one of the Public’s five theaters. Mark Russell has even converted one of them into a late night hang out, based on THE WORKS: the LuEster Lounge is where audiences and artists meet up at night.
All of us were scheduled for different shows, but, we decide to try to do standby for Chautauqua! by the cheekily named National Theater of the United States of America. Jessica’s face says it all. It is not looking good, the lines are super long.
We get in! Like magic, Mark walks us past the guards and gets us and some other presenters in at the last minute. We climb into the last few rows and hunker down for what Erin promises will be an hour show. I have heard of this fabled 60 minute show, but I have yet to experience one. Like any good festival the energy is so fierce it takes a long while for the audience to settle down and then the fun begins. Over what feels like two and a half hours (in a good way?), we are lead through a long ramble about the history of “chautauquas” – turn-of-the-century traveling shows that stayed away from carnival tricks and “leg shows” and promoted cultural literacy. The company achieves a smart old-timey mockery of the format and somehow integrates the illustrious history of the Public Theater into the mix. It turns out Chautauqua is tailored to each venue, and therefore wherever it goes it digs up the local lore.
Chautauqua! Photo: Justin Bernhaut
During the performance, guest lecturer and writer Zoe Rosenfeld delivered a sweet and sour monologue made up of various quotes about NY. My favorite?
“New York is a sucked orange.”- Emerson
That seems to say it all. Puppet shows, a mock duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, and an unfortunate but exhaustive medley of every musical ever presented on that very stage (performed by thirty or fifty musical theater majors from NYU and PACE). It all culminated in one final sweet song sung by the whole rag tag cast, with the narrator stripped down to only a guitar covering his last shred of dignity. Now that’s entertainment!
Chautauqua! Photo: Justin Bernhaut
Too late for the LuEsther, we made our way down a cobblestone street to Swift where we met up with Lane Czaplinski, the Artistic Director of On the Boards, in Seattle. We hash out our thoughts about the shows and enjoy some curry fries. We swear, it might not look like it, but this is where the magic happens. No conference or festival would be complete without late night debates. This is when the programming happens, when the touring agreements and commitments to artists are made.
Erin Boberg Doughton, PICA’s Performing Arts Program Director, and Lane Czaplinski of On the Boards, curating and cogitating.