So we have a handful of people anxiously engaged in attempting something that has not been done before, an extensive consideration of the arts from many points of view, by an unofficial group of Mormons. Surely this is a path-breaking, history-making, significant event the pattern of which will be studied and replicated into the future. Therefore, “a record must be kept.” So that’s my job. I copy the emails. I collect the hand-outs. I write the minutes. We generate paper even as we generate ideas. It will all go to the church historical department for the future use of scholars or to serve as an encouragement or warning for those who come after us.
And we hold meetings. We generate groups within groups. Last week there were three serious meetings of slightly different groups on three succeeding days. When we do things for the first time we have to try to keep up, inform, and agree. Sometimes the whole thing seems like too much. As Dave Barry noted in his list of “Nineteen things he did not learn until he was 50,” “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’”
But we persevere. There is a goal in sight, a climax: four days of presenting, performing, and thinking about the artistic tradition and the creation of arts in a community rich with thinkers, creators, and performers. We feel fortunate and entitled to be part of it. Don’t miss it.
The arts have a way of tickling people’s emotions. Twelve years ago we lived in Europe as a family. My husband and I, feeling adventurous, decided to facilitate a European performance opportunity for our three musician daughters (ages 8, 11 and 14). We convinced our daughters that the Paris metro station would be the perfect gig and would help them bring in a little extra pocket change.
Our violinist, flautist and pianist (on the keyboard) set up in the corner of a crowded corridor and began playing their repertoire. People bustled past and paid little notice of the music. Then, they began to play an arrangement of “I Am a Child of God.” A crowd began to form. People stopped and listened and were touched by the music they heard. My observation was this: music has a powerful transcending influence on people. The influence of art, music, poetry, theater and literature carry their own spirit that seeps into people’s souls. That’s why I’m so excited about working on the Arts Center Festival.
Our three daughters also elicited their first patrons; they walked away with 40 euros. Not bad for a metro gig.
As we conceptualize what it will be like to attend the Festival, it’s apparent to us that we want to include everybody, whether they can be in New York City for the four days or not. But how?
I guess that’s the reason you have friends who work at Facebook and in marketing and PR firms, right? This is not an area that I feel completely comfortable in, but as we talk to people on our committees, they are capturing the vision of world-wide interaction with the Festival. In addition to recording every event and presentation, we hope to generate lots of original content with specialists doing interviews onsite, moderators posting during live streams of concerts, and curators providing tours of exhibitions. Wouldn’t it be great for people in China, Nigeria, Brazil, Germany, and even New Jersey to be able to chime in about what they’re experiencing from the Festival broadcasts, live?
Many of these logistics are still to come—how can all of this be translated into multiple languages, what are the best technologies to use, what makes the most sense?—but the great thing for me is to see the enthusiasm of others regarding social media possibilities. Without exception, as I talk with artists and interested audience members around the country, the first they say is, “Wow, this could be amazing” and second, “How can I help?”
The venue for the Arts Festival will be Riverside Church, a magnificent Gothic Cathedral on Riverside Drive constructed by John D. Rockefeller, originally for a Baptist congregation. It looks out over the Grant’s Tomb and Riverside Park to the majestic Hudson making its way to the sea.
The Festival will not take place in the nave where services are held but in a large hall to the South where last year LDSSA held its annual banquet featuring talks by Elder Jeffrey Holland and Cardinal Timothy Dolan. We are introducing temporary panels where the the art will hang, and there is still room for place to seat 300 for the Symposium and keynote address.
Allyson Chard looked all over the city for possible spaces to rent, and we finally selected Riverside because of its ambiance and generous space. This is also the building that houses the three Heinrich Hofmann paintings, familiar to all of us, that the Church borrowed for an exhibition a few years ago, and in return conserved. To get to Riverside you walk by Columbia University, Barnard College, and Union Theological Seminary. So many cultural institutions are housed in this neighborhood, it is called “The Acropolis of the Metropolis.”
Every year when the New York Film Festival launches into their celebration of new film, they present an art poster to the public. The Film Festival commissions a work from a famous artist—sometimes on the theme of cinema and sometimes not—and that becomes a poster for the year’s event they use in their publicity. I think they sell them for $20 or so, too. It’s a tradition that they’ve had from the beginning, or nearly so, and I love how over the years these posters have become a time capsule of their own.
So Richard went to a friend, Brian Kershisnik, and asked him about the possibility of taking one of his delightful paintings and turning it into our Festival poster. Brian is a wonderful guy (not just because he said yes to this), and kindly gave permission. The painting for the poster is “Dog with Paintings of Women.” It’s a studio image, as you’d suspect, of a dog sitting in front of several of Kershisnik’s works, all in his hallmark style.
A kind donor to the Mormon Arts Center Festival is underwriting the production of the poster, so it will be free of charge to everyone who attends.
Hello everybody. In the months leading up to the Mormon Arts Center Festival, some of the people working on it will jot down some behind-the-scenes action. I’m up first.
One of the events that I’m most excited about is a concert in Riverside Church’s exquisite space, Christ Chapel. The chamber music concert is being curated by Ethan Wickman, the executive director of the Barlow Foundation for Music Composition at BYU. We’re very happy to announce that the performers of the concert will be the illustrious Deseret String Quartet (Alex Woods, Monte Belknap, Claudine Bigelow, and Michelle Kesler).
The Quartet is working up a program of Mormon composers’ works. I sat down with Ethan when he was in New York in November for a concert of his own music downtown, and I gave him a listing of 147 works for string quartet by Mormon composers. (I’m sure there are more; but that’s what I could find.) These works date from 1905 to, well, yesterday. It’s gonna be great to see what the Deseret String Quartet and Ethan come up with. But frankly, in that gorgeous space, anything will sound heavenly.