Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Uptown museums announce hours during DNC

Uptown Charlotte's cultural institutions have settled when they're going to be open during the Democratic National Convention and the days leading up to it. 

Many of them will have free or reduced-price admission during the CarolinaFest on Labor Day. On other days, some will be closed at times because they're booked for convention-related events. When they are open to the public, they're hoping arts lovers will come uptown, taste the convention excitement, and see exhibitions that in many cases tie in with the topics of politics or American life. 

Here are the day-by-day schedules, with special-price occasions noted: 

Friday, Aug. 31 
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 
Discovery Place: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 
Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 
Levine Museum of the New South: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 
Mint Museum Uptown: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
NASCAR Hall of Fame: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 1 
Bechtler Museum: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 
Discovery Place: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. 
Gantt Center: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 
Levine Museum: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 
Mint Uptown: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. 
NASCAR Hall of Fame: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 2
Bechtler Museum: Closed. 
Discovery Place: Closed. 
Gantt Center: Closed. 
Levine Museum: 11 a.m.-3 p.m., free admission. 
Mint Uptown: Closed, but shop open 4-9 p.m. 
NASCAR Hall of Fame: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. 

Monday, Sept.3 (CarolinaFest)
Bechtler Museum: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., free admission. 
Discovery Place: Noon-5 p.m., half-price admission. 
Gantt Center: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., free admission with timed tickets given out on the hour until 4 p.m.  
Levine Museum: 10 a.m.-3 p.m., admission $5. 
Mint Uptown: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., free admission; shop open 9 a.m.-10 p.m. 
NASCAR Hall of Fame: 10 a.m.-3 p.m., $10 admission. 

Tuesday, Sept. 4
Bechtler Museum: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Discovery Place: Closed.
Gantt Center: Closed. 
Levine Museum: Closed. 
Mint Uptown: Closed, but shop open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. 
NASCAR Hall of Fame: Closed. 

Wednesday, Sept. 5
Bechtler Museum: Closed. 
Discovery Place: Closed. 
Gantt Center: Closed. 
Levine Museum: Closed. 
Mint Uptown: Closed, but shop open 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. 
NASCAR Hall of Fame: Closed. 

Thursday, Sept. 6
Bechtler Museum: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 
Discovery Place: Closed. 
Gantt Center: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Levine Museum: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 
Mint Uptown: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., shop open 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
NASCAR Hall of Fame: Closed.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

You can be the artistic type

Want to help create art? If you can type, here's your chance. 

Sheryl Oring, an artist who's on the faculty of UNC Greensboro, needs 8 to 10 typists to join her in a public performance called "I Wish To Say."

It will be part of the CarolinaFest, the Labor Day street party that will usher in the you-know-what. From 1 to 4 p.m., Oring and her  recruits, armed with manual typewriters, will set up in the lobby of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. They'll ask passersby: "If I were the President, what would you wish to say to me?" 

The typists will take down the comments verbatim on small sheets of white paper, which Oring will build into an exhibition and artist book. Since launching "I Wish to Say" in 2004, Oring has collected more than 2,000 comments. ABC News has featured her as a "Person of the Week." 

"I think it's important for people to voice their concerns," Oring said in a statement, "and this project has a unique way of giving people a voice." The Arts & Science Council and the convention host committee are helping support her project's Charlotte installment. 

If you want to pitch in with the typing, contact Oring  --  oring@iwishtosay.org -- and limber up your fingers. I suspect that some people will have a lot they wish to say. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Your gateway to Italian opera: Hickory

Hickory is handier for some of us than others, but it's definitely easier to reach than Italy. If you're a devoted enough opera buff, than may suffice to get you into the car. 

Hickory's Carmike 14 multiplex will show two European opera performances in the coming week. Sunday, Aug. 19, at 2 p.m.,  audiences will go to the La Scala theater in Milan for the tune-filled double bill of Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" and Leoncavallo's "Pagliacci." The best-known cast member is Argentine tenor Jose Cura, who plays the murderously jealous clown Canio. Here's Cura singing Canio's famous aria in a 2011 concert in Germany: 

Given the familiarity of Cav and Pag, some opera lovers might be more tempted Tuesday night, Aug. 21, when the Opera in Cinema series offers Bellini's "Norma" -- a bel canto classic that we're unlikely to see onstage around here anytime soon. For the saga of a Druid priestess gripped by illicit love for a Roman soldier, the performance's setting could hardly be more fitting: a Roman-era  amphitheater in Taormina, Sicily.

Chiara Taigi, a soprano whose name is new to me, will play the heroic title role, a onetime specialty of such larger-than-life performers as Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland. American tenor Gregory Kunde will play Norma's Roman paramour, Pollione. In a recording that I think comes from the same run of performances, you can sample Kunde -- in an audio recording with still photos -- in Pollione's aria. 

Opera in Cinema and its sibling, Ballet in Cinema, have a string of other performances in store this fall, including Rossini's "Italian Girl in Algiers" from Bologna, Italy, and "La Sylphide" and "Swan Lake" from the Bolshoi ballet. The schedule on the Carmike 14's website doesn't reach that far ahead at the moment, though. So check it periodically if you're interested.     

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bechtler film offers a trip to Gehry's world

"I don't just whip up a meringue, you know," Frank Gehry told the audience. He was being good-natured about the fact that a single aspect of his decades of work as an architect -- the swirly contours of some of his buildings -- was getting all the attention. 

That was around 10 years ago. Sheer accident had put me in the right place to hear a talk by Gehry in connection with his then-new -- and only partly swirly -- business-school building at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. After Gehry's quip about whipping the meringue, the interviewer onstage with him changed the subject, darn it, rather than ask Gehry how he did operate.  

"Sketches of Frank Gehry," a documentary by Oscar-winning director Sydney Pollack, may supply the answer. The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art will screen it Friday, Aug. 17,  as this month's installment of the Architecture + Film series. 

"Sketches" came out in 2006, soon after Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall, above, clinched his status as a starchitect. The building is becoming as much a symbol of Los Angeles as the Sydney Opera House is of its hometown in Australia. Not only has  Disney Hall lent big-city glamor as a backdrop for movies, television shows and commercials, but it even is immortalized via spoof in "The Simpsons." Its alter ego in Springfield gets turned into a prison.  

Yet one of Disney Hall's main attractions never gets any mass-media attention. I never knew about it until attending a couple of concerts there a few years ago. On the opposite side of the hall from where the cameras always focus, there's a little park atop the building. 

It's called the Blue Ribbon Garden. It's dominated by full-grown trees that were plucked from around Los Angeles and transplanted atop the building, flanking Gehry's curvaceous steel panels. (The last few items in this Los Angeles Times slideshow offer a glimpse.) 

When I was there, concertgoers stepped out of the upstairs lobby during intermission and strolled through the garden, where the  tropical blooms made a lush counterpoint to Gehry's steel. I hope the little hideaway has a cameo in the movie.   

Friday, August 10, 2012

Knight Theater will await Diva a little longer

The Knight Theater will wait a few more months before it finally gets its finishing touch, but maybe a glimpse of what's in store will help tide us over.

When the theater opened in 2009, it was missing a big and important piece of equipment: an acoustical shell that could surround the stage during concerts, helping aim the sound toward the audience. The specifications for the building had called for one, but it fell victim to cost-cutting. That was a particular loss for the Charlotte Symphony, which forged ahead with concerts there even though it ended up sounding tinny.

Blumenthal Performing Arts, which runs the theater, decided a few months ago to shell out for a shell. It made a deal with the Wenger Corp., a Minnesota company that has specialized in them for decades. (If you've ever sung in your school choir or played in the band, a Wenger shell was probably around you.) 

The plan was to install the shell this summer. But Wenger needs more time, Blumenthal president Tom Gabbard said this week. The Knight is getting Wenger's Diva model, but with special touches: an all-wood finish and architectural elements to tie in with the railings on the theater's balconies. The customization is what's taking time. The new target is November. 

That will unfortunately be too late for the Charlotte Symphony's first KnightSounds program of the season, "The Power of Song."  The orchestra will really have something to sing about when the Diva finally debuts. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ex-BofA exec to step in with Charlotte Symphony

Former Bank of America executive Robert Stickler will be the Charlotte Symphony's interim executive director as the orchestra seeks a replacement for Jonathan Martin. 

Stickler, who has served on the orchestra's board of directors since 2008, will get to work Thursday, board chair Emily Smith said. That will give him a little more than a week to look over Martin's shoulder before Martin leaves to become chief executive of the Dallas Symphony. 

Stickler's experience as a board member -- and as a former president of the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte, a subsidiary of the orchestra -- "makes him perfect for this position," Smith said. Stickler, whose appointment was approved by the orchestra's board Tuesday morning, was not available for comment. 

Another board member, Richard Osborne, will chair the search committee for Martin's replacement. He may know better than anyone what the job requires. Osborne, a former Duke Energy executive, was the orchestra's interim leader for nearly a year until  Martin arrived in May 2008.  

Stickler was a communications executive for BofA from 1998 until his retirement this year, acting as a spokesman for the chief executive's office and other bank operations. Before coming to the bank, he was communications manager for Barnett Bank -- a Florida lender that BofA acquired -- and business editor of the Miami Herald. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

PBS profile shows what made Vidal so provocative

No matter what you think of Gore Vidal, whose gleefully provocative life ended last week, you can't lose by watching a public-TV profile that's as handy as the computer before you.  

As a sendoff for him, PBS has made "The Education of Gore Vidal," a 2003 documentary, available free on its website for streaming until 11:59 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9. 

As someone who has read only his "Vidal in Venice," rather than his more famous or notorious writings, I won't presume to weigh in on his eternal standing. Well, only this much:  If the once-imperial city of Venice interests you, "Vidal in Venice" will enable you to relish its crumbling glories and tumultuous  history as richly as if you were sitting across him at a cafe table at St. Mark's square. 

In his books, essays and mass-media sorties, Vidal relished dissecting the crumbling glories -- as he saw the situation -- and tumultuous history of the United States. "The Education of Gore Vidal" zeroes in on that. 

If you agree with him that the country's greatness has been derailed by corporate money and politicians' hunger for powers, you'll find plenty of opportunities here to say, Amen. If you want no part of such notions, you can savor watching William F. Buckley Jr. and Norman Mailer face off against Vidal in famous TV footage from the 1960s. 

Either way, it should be eye-opening to discover how Vidal was set up right from childhood to take up such sweeping topics. 

He grew up in Washington. Before he was even a teenager, he was serving his grandfather -- an Oklahoma senator who was blind -- as a seeing-eye escort around the Senate chamber and cloakroom. The wheeling and dealing played out right in front of him. He made acquaintance with the media as a boy, too. Vidal's father was an airline executive, and when an airplane came along that was allegedly simple enough for a 10-year-old to fly, young Vidal was put at the controls as the newsreel cameras whirred. 

With a youth like that, it would've been un-American for Vidal not to make a mark in life. One last tidbit from "The Education": Standing outside the site of the Democratic convention in Los Angeles in 2000, Vidal recalls attending his first national  convention at his grandfather's side in 1940. Today, he says, the quadrennial exercises have little to do with big choices or important issues. 

"Conventions aren't conventions any more," Vidal says. "It's just sort of a commercial." 

(Gore Vidal photo: Photofest) 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Pop go the museums, thanks to BofA

Bank of America is sponsoring an important exhibition of a major American artist, so start making plans -- if you're headed to  Chicago, Washington, London or Paris. 

Museums in the four cities have hooked a big one in "Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective." It's the first major show to spotlight the Father of Pop Art since his death in 1997, and it includes more than 130 of his paintings and sculptures -- including "Look Mickey," which is sometimes dubbed the first Pop painting. (Image from the National Gallery of Art)  

Lichtenstein's cheery primary colors are lighting up the Art Institute of Chicago through Sept. 3. The show will be at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the closest it comes to BofA's hometown, from Oct. 14 to Jan. 13. It then moves on the Tate Modern in London and the Pompidou Center in Paris -- hence the bank's billing as global sponsor. 

With the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art spurring interest in Lichtenstein's fellow Pop star, Andy Warhol, and that era, I imagine there are plenty of Charlotte art lovers who'd like to see the show. For those who can't, the Bechtler at least offers a  consolation prize in the form of  Lichtenstein tapestry on display on its third floor. 

Obviously, BofA is making its name in the big-city arts world. Last winter, it was the main sponsor of "Picasso to Warhol" at the High Museum of Art, which brought Atlanta a host of works from New York's Museum of Modern Art. It's the global sponsor of the Chicago Symphony and the season sponsor of the Boston Symphony's summer festival, Tanglewood. 

Here in Charlotte, BofA provided one of the shows that opened the Mint Museum Uptown: "New Visions: Contemporary Masterworks from the Bank of America Collection." It ran from October 2010 to April 2011. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Arts venues lead into DNC with free Labor Day

The Mint Museum Uptown, Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture and Bechtler Museum of Modern Art will open for free on Labor Day in conjunction with the CarolinaFest that precedes the Democratic National Convention. 

The Mint and other uptown cultural institutions hope to share the limelight when the political lollapalooza brings battalions of out-of-towners to uptown Charlotte. Many of them have exhibitions that tie in with U.S. politics and culture, from Madeleine Albright's patriotic jewelry at the Mint to centuries' worth of historic American artifacts at the Gantt Center. The Bechtler Museum, taking a more international tack, will spotlight the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti. (Photo of Albright's flag pin: Mint Museum.) 

While the Democrats are swarming around uptown, locals who want to visit uptown for some culture will need to be on alert. The museums' hours of operation are likely to be off-kilter.

Eighteen special events are booked at the Mint during the week of Sept. 1-7, the museum says, and more may land on the schedule. When a big shindig takes over the entire museum, the doors will be closed to the general public. The Mint hopes to keep its Randolph Road location open during its normal times, but that could change if bookings proliferate. The Labor Day hours for the Mint Uptown will be announced as the date approaches.  

So the Mint urges Charlotteans to check its website before planning visits during the convention week. That will probably be wise with other uptown venues, too. The Bechtler Museum's schedule changes are likely to include closing Sept. 2, 5 and 6 and reduced hours Sept. 4 and 7. Because streets and parking may be out of whack, the Mint also recommends taking public transportation.  

Surely the convention throng will include James Carville, the Democratic strategist and ragin' Cajun. If he lands at any of the get-togethers at museums and looks around, maybe that'll make him rethink a comment he once made about Charlotte. 

It was before my time here, but Carville reportedly described Charlotte as: "Mayberry with a really big airport." At the time, he may have been right.