Arts and Humanities Local News

Art Education to Have New Assessment Policy

Art education policies are a major topic at this weekend’s annual conference Kentucky Art Education Association in Lexington.. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

Last spring, the state legislature passed Senate Bill 1, which changed reforms enacted with the Kentucky Education Reform Act; it scrapped the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System or CATS.

Now, arts teachers are looking to the state for new policies that assure the arts a place in the K-12 curriculum. So says Judy Haynes, president of the Kentucky Art Education Association.

Haynes says educators will hear from Kentucky Department of Education officials Saturday about a program review it’s constructing to make sure art is taught and student performance is evaluated.

“I think the program review will help ensure our place in the educational system,” she says. “I think we have made some strides here, but I think we have some more to make.”

Haynes says many arts educators were not satisfied with the CATS test.

“We were assessing how well they understood vocabulary, how well they could write and address open-response questions,” she says. “And now, I think that performance will factor in as a key role in music, theater and dance —  and in the visual arts.”

Haynes says arts education was fairly strong in Kentucky already, but this new program review promises to improve it.

“In Kentucky, we are a leader in this area in the nation, and many of the states and national organizations are looking to us to see how this works,” she says.

Haynes says the DOE is expected to complete the review in November and pilot it in several schools beginning in January.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Congressman Complains about Art in San Francisco

Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield recently signed a letter to the National Endowment for the Arts complaining about the work of arts groups it had funded. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

Whitfield of Hopkinsville signed the letter along with 49 other Republican congressman that objected to funding staff salaries of three San Francisco arts groups they accuse of producing obscene art.

Whitfield says his signature on the letter doesn’t mean he disapproves of the NEA’s work.

“Most of the funding that has come to my district has been quite productive,” Whitfield says. “And it’s been a program that’s been well received in the schools and [for] the local performing arts groups.”

Art critic Michel Brenson wrote a book about the culture wars of the 1990s that caused a significant funding reduction for the NEA. He says it’s not clear this letter signals a rerun to those debates.

“I think the arts have become more embedded, more populist in some way then they were 20 years ago,” Brenson says.

Whitfield signed the complaint sent just before last week’s confirmation of Rocco Landesman as the NEA’s new chairman.

Whitfield says he signed the letter on the basis of the works produced by the California groups and not because of anti-NEA sentiments in his district.

“In my district, I get a mixed bag,” he says. “A lot of people oppose any funding for the NEA and other people are quite support it. And I’ve generally always voted for funding for the NEA because I think their programs are very important.”

Last year, the advocacy group Americans for the Arts gave Whitfield a B + for his voting record on arts legislation.
Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield was among 50 Capitol Hill lawmakers who signed a letter of complaint to to the

Whitfield says he signed the letter after hearing from some San Francisco citizens who were upset that the groups were getting taxpayer money. He says he favors most the agency’s work, but thinks it should be cautious about the use of funds.

“I think that just use more common sense and I would just try to stay away from things that are obviously hot buttons that upset particular groups of people,” he says. “I mean there are so many wonderful artistic opportunities [the agency offers].”

State of Affairs

The Interplay of Art and Spirituality

WEDNESDAY, May 20, 2009
The Interplay of Art and Spirituality
Art has the ability to move us to tears, laughter, anger, joy. For many people experiencing art, as an artist or a patron, is a spiritual experience. And as anyone who has visited a place of worship knows, art is everywhere in the observance of faith. What is it about art that touches our spirit? And how do the more formal religions use and view art?

Listen to the Show

View Art Quilts by Penny Sisto:
Living Waters
Walks on Water
Reading with Zeyde
Prophet Meats Jibrail

Related Links:

Arts and Humanities In-Depth News Local News WFPL News Department Podcast

Artists and Art Fairs Adjust to the Economy

Art fairs signify the change of seasons for some in this region. The St. James Court Art Fair heralds the arrival of fall, and the Cherokee Triangle Art Fair signifies spring. But the recession is affecting those who run these fairs and the artists who participate. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

Stevie Finn is working on the curb on Cherokee Road, where cars are rolling by. Finn is with the Cherokee Triangle Association, the neighborhood group that holds an art fair here every April. She’s got a measuring pole in one and a can of spray paint she is useing to mark boarders for the artists’ booths.

Back in December, the group was worried about the economy’s effects on the fair and that many artists would decide not to come. That didn’t happen. The fair will have more than 200 artists and had to turn down more than a hundred who applied. But feedback from some artists did hint at the recession. Stevie Finn.

“We do have a couple from out of state who wrote us and called us and said they were also accepted in an art fair closer to home,” Finn says. “And they chose the closer-to-home over us.”

brad-and-lamps-in-booth1About 20 miles east of here, artist Brad Devlin is hammering away in his studio making more items for his booth at this weekend’s fair.

“Right here, I’m making fish,” he says.

These fish, made of wood, are covered with found materials. They sport electrical cord, bottle caps, aluminum flashing, old flooring and nails to create whimsical designs. Devlin says these are popular and he’s making more of these kinds of small pieces, rather than big ones, because they are more affordable and they sell. It’s just one of many decisions he’s making now due to the economy. And like some of the artists who declined to participate in the Cherokee Art Triangle fair, he’s being choosy about the ones he’s going to this year.

“It’s like Nashville, Columbus, Atlanta, Indianapolis,” Devlin says. “I’ll go to Ann Arbor this year for the monster.”

Most fairs are close to home, and the monster is The Ann Arbor Art Fairs* in Michigan. They are four fairs in the city that take place each July. They have about a thousand artists and attracts about a half a million attendees. That fairs’ administrators say they’ve received fewer applications from artists this year, and some of the sponsorship dollars have dropped off.

Many other fairs are having similar experiences, says Cameron Meier, editor of the magazine Sunshine Artist, which covers art and craft fairs. He says fairs in regions harder hit by the recession are offering discounts on artists’ fees and finding other ways to reduce costs for artists to attend.

But right now, Meier says artists, like Devlin, are doing the most by adjusting their marketing strategies and revising what they sell.

“Artists are learning to have a larger variety of price points with their art,” Meier says. “They’re learning to market themselves more aggressively, combine their traditional marketing with maybe some Internet marketing.”

Meier says they’re making smaller items that are more affordable and even items that function, like bowls or even lamps, which Devlin makes.

And Margue Esrock is taking note of these trends. She’s the executive director of the St. James Court Art Fair, which is one of the largest in the country. So far, she hasn’t seen sponsorship dollars drop, but she has extended the deadline for artists to apply. She says there are still many unanswered questions about how to handle the show in light of what is happening with the economy.

“The uncertainty. Is the show going to be worth it?,” she asks. “You know, St. James is lucky in that we do draw crowds and we have in the past and I don’t see that dropping. Whether they’re going to buy or not: that’s the key.”

Back in Brad Devlin’s studio, he says there are a few things he does know.

“There’s always somebody out there doing well, and there’s always somebody out there doing worse than you,” Devlin says. “So, I have no idea what to expect this year past Cherokee Triangle.”

And throughout the summer, artists and art fair administrators will be monitoring what happens this weekend and at other fairs to refine their coping mechanisms.

The Ann Arbor Art Fairs*
Ann Arbor Street Art Fair
Ann Arbor State Street Art Fair
Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair
Ann Arbor South University Art Fair

Arts and Humanities Local News WFPL News Department Podcast

Green Design Topic of Exhibit, Forum

The Speed Art Museum has opened a new exhibit that coincides with a public forum about ecology and design. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

“4 Salvaged Boxes” is the exhibit that was designed by wHY Architecture. The firm designed the Grand Rapids Art Museum, which was the world’s first new art museum building certified as energy efficient and environmentally sustainable. The firm is also designing a renovation of the Speed Museum.

Kulapat Yantrasast of wHY Architecture says Louisville is only the second American city to host the exhibit.

“It travels as traveling crates by themselves but opens up — just like cabinets of curiosities — that display the models, drawing, videos and all the materials of green architecture,” Yantrasast says.

The exhibit focuses on ideas in construction and architecture that work to lessen negative impact to the environment. Yantrasast says designing an art museum renovation demands attention to some distinctive factors.

“It’s not just that the building needs to perform to the highest efficiency,” he says. “You have to make people recognize and understand the importance of nature as well as art.”

Yantrasast will speak on a panel Friday with leaders of several Louisville projects that aim to be environmentally sound. They include Dan Jones of 21st Century Parks, Inc. and Shirley Willihnganz of the University of Louisville.

Yantrasast says “green architecture” shouldn’t be reduced to a marketing term.

“It’s good that ‘green’ has become such a topic,” he says,  “but I think we have to see beyond that — that it should be a way of life; it should not be a trend.”

He says wHY Architecture and the Speed Museum will have a design for the museum by the end of the year.

State of Affairs

The Role of Art in Healing

Thursday, April 9, 2009
The Role of Art in Healing
The idea that art can play a role healing shouldn’t be all that surprising. Any caregiver who’s ever put crayons in front a sad or hurt kid understands there’s something soothing about creativity. For some, it’s easier to express frightening thoughts about illness or injury through art than in words. For others, art becomes a refuge – something to immerse yourself in so you forget your physical problems. This Thursday we’ll meet art therapists who work with patients experiencing illness, and a woman who is currently exhibiting art she created during her treatment for cancer, in a conversation about the role art can play in healing.

Listen to the Show

Related Links:

Arts and Humanities Local News

Arts and Healing Program Presents Speaker

The Kentucky Center has launched a new arts and healing program that’s bringing a leader in arts and health care to speak there tomorrow. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

Jill Sonkee is the co-founder and director of a center for the arts in healthcare at the University of Florida. And she’ll speak about her experiences and research on how art improves healing.

The presentation is part of the Kentucky Center’s new program, which is aimed at encouraging more arts activities and performances at regional health care facilities.

Robin Hicks is managing the new program. She says the Kentucky Center plans to work with health professionals and artists in the community in a variety of ways.

“One way is an artists-in-residence program, and that is where we will train a professional corps of artists to work in health care settings and hospitals,” Hicks says.

Hicks says the Kentucky Center will arrange for national artists work at local heath facilities.

“When we have national performing artists come in, whether it’s the Soweto Gospel Choir or the Mark Morris Dance Group, we can either have workshops or even mini-performances in health care facilities,” she says.

Last month, the Center arranged for the Mark Morris Dance Group to hold a dance class at the Frazier Rehab Institute for patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
¦lt;br /> Hicks has been tracking research about the arts into health care.
¦lt;br /> “Research demonstrates that the arts not only improve the quality of patient care and bring comfort to patients and families, but it helps staff retention and satisfaction, ” she says.
21247   SPOT 02: Arts in Healing :12
“…or even mini-performances in health care facilities.”

 Hicks says research demonstrates the art improve the quality of patient care and bring comfort to patients.

Arts and Humanities In-Depth News

'Wild Blessings': Wendell Berry's Passions Reframed

humana-wild-blessings-04LISTEN TO THE STORY

Wendell Berry, the Kentucky-based agrarian philosopher, has been described as our era’s heir to Emerson and Thoreau — a writer concerned with the importance of community, and with the lessons we can learn from the natural world.

Now, the Actors Theatre of Louisville is putting his ideas on stage.

There were plenty of ideas to choose from: Since the 1960s, Berry has published eight novels, dozens of short stories, and numerous essays with environmental themes.

But Wild Blessings, the theater piece premiering this weekend at the Humana Festival of New American Plays, is drawn exclusively from Berry’s poems.

Plenty of playwrights write in verse — but not every poem would work on a stage. Even Berry himself had his doubts when the Actors Theater came calling.

“I didn’t know what to think,” he says. “I still don’t know what to think. … After I see it I guess I’ll have an idea.”

Not to worry, says Adrien-Alice Hansel, who helped put “Wild Blessings” together. She says Berry’s poems worked perfectly as fodder for a play.

“He actually writes in a lot of different voices,” Hansel says. “He has poems that are invocations of the natural world. He has poems that are funny. He has poems that are angry. And some of his poems have a really strong sense of voice and sense of character.”

One such character is the “Mad Farmer,” a man Berry describes as “a little extravagant” in his willingness to go against the grain. Thumbing through the script, he reads one of the adapted poems — one that, to him, sums up how he and the Mad Farmer both see the world.

To be sane in a mad time,
is bad for the brain, worse
for the heart. The world
is a holy vision had we clarity
to see it; a clarity that men
depend on men to make.

“Wild Blessings” weaves Berry’s poems together with original music by composer Malcom Dalglish, who speaks and plays instruments onstage. Four actors, who also play instruments, present Berry’s characters and life.

The arc of the play mirrors Berry’s own migration: Born in 1934, he moved away from Kentucky in the late ’50s to live in California and New York. Ultimately, though, he returned to his home state, where since the ’60s he’s been living the kind of agrarian life he writes about.

For playgoers, “the journey of the evening is [about] being a young person in the city and struggling against urban life, and then falling in love and moving back to home, which happens to be Kentucky,” says Marc Masterson, artistic director at the Actor’s Theatre.

Masterson, who collaborated with Hansel on Wild Blessings, says they organized the poems by themes like work, politics and economics. And though some were published decades ago, the poems feel surprisingly current. One in particular — about a stock market crash — feels particularly timely:

When I hear the stock market has fallen,
I say, “Long live gravity! Long live
stupidity, error and greed in the palaces
of fantasy capitalism!” I think
an economy should be based on thrift,
on taking care of things, not on theft,
usury, seduction, waste, and ruin.
My purpose is a language that can make us whole,
Though mortal, ignorant, and small.
The world is whole beyond human knowing.

When Berry considers the current state of affairs against the work he’s produced over nearly half a century, he seems reflective.

“I have hope,” Berry says. “I’ve devoted a lot of time in my life to discovering the grounds for having hope. But that doesn’t mean that I’m optimistic.”

Actors Theatre may have reason to be, though: The company has already fielded calls about Wild Blessings from other theaters, both in the U.S. and abroad.¼/p>

Arts and Humanities Local News WFPL News Department Podcast

Sign Design Important to Cities, Says Designer

More cities are investing in directional signage and some companies are refining how they label products. An expert on the subject speaks Thursday in Louisville. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

Joel Katz is a designer speaking at U of L’s Cressman Center for Visual Art, and consults cities and companies on information design and direction or way-finding systems.

Since 1999, Louisville’s Downtown Development Corporation and the city have spent tens of thousands of dollars on signage aimed at helping people navigate downtown by vehicle and on foot.

Katz says while it’s an important investment, signage in many cities is of poor quality and ineffective.

“People think that they’re clarifying themselves and developing a program and a brand that will help people find their way around, when, in fact, a lot of it is just very, very superficial,” he says.

Katz says sign and way-finding systems can affect people’s attitudes about a city or even a building.

“It’s a relatively new phenomenon,” he says. “And the good way-finding design projects can have a significant impact in reducing frustration and saving people’s time and reducing anxiety.”

He says bold and understandable signs and directions along roadways and on products are increasingly important in an ever more complicated and diverse world.

“Cities are getting bigger and more complex,” he says. “Travel is accessible to more and more people. But language barriers put a limit and a cap on it.”

Katz has worked on projects for Center City Philadelphia; Central City Portland, Oregon; Downtown Omaha, Nebraska; and  for the MIT Master Plan, which won an Honor Award from the Society for Environmental Graphic Design.

Katz has taught at Yale University, Rhode Island School of Design, University of the Arts, Philadelphia University, and the Moore College of Art & Design.

Arts and Humanities Local News WFPL News Department Podcast

Visual Art Association Celebrates Centennial

One hundred years ago, a group of Louisvillians launched what has become the city’s oldest arts organization. Now, it’s celebrating its founding. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

The Louisville Visual Art Association started out with an exhibition in 1909. On Tuesday it kicks off a year-long celebration.

It includes an exhibit from the association’s Children’s Free Art Classes program, which for more than 85 years has involved thousands of youngsters throughout the Louisville area. In the summer, there will be an outdoor landscape painting event at sites throughout the city.

Shannon Westerman is the association’s executive director. He says although the organization recently laid off some staff, it’s not curtailing programs.

“We will always have our core programs and we will be a much more focused organization because it’s a tough, economic challenging time for everyone,” Says Westerman.

The event on Tuesday will recognize people who have cultivated visual art in Louisville.

One hundred years ago a group of Louisvillians launched what was to become the city’s oldest arts organization. Now, the Louisville Visual Art Association launches a year-long celebration of its centennial.

Some things about the organization haven’t changed — even over a century.

“The goal in the beginning is still the goal today: to nurture the creative culture of Louisville,” Westerman says. “And the tactics have been different in 100 years; it’s evolved in many ways. But it is still the same.”

The association’s long-running programs also include Open Doors, which works with disadvantaged groups to create art.

Throughout its history, the association has offered adult art classes and will have special classes this summer as part of its celebrations.