ICYMI: New $6 million portal for Laguna Gloria

The Contemporary Austin has raised $6 million to make the entrance to Laguna Gloria more welcoming.

The entrance to Laguna Gloria will be transformed by a $6 million welcoming project. Contributed by Reed Hilderbrand

READ MORE about the plans at our premium site MyStatesman.com.

The beloved 14-acre site, home to b’s 1916 villa and, now, the sprawling b, is set to undergo a multiphase face-lift. The first step is to break ground March 21 on a new $6 million guest-friendly entrance complex and improvements to the verges of West 35th Street.

The effort was made possible by a $3 million grant from the Moody Foundation, which recently gave $15 million to the Waller Creek Conservancy to build a performance venue in Waterloo Park and $9.7 million to the Pease Park Conservancy to improve the green space alongside Shoal Creek, considered the city’s oldest park and site for a new Stickwork sculpture off Parkway.

Get ready for Ellsworth Kelly at the Blanton Museum of Art

Top arts news of the week: UT opens Ellsworth Kelly masterpiece at the Blanton Museum of Art. Although museum members, directors and backers have peeked inside the chapel-like building on campus, everyone can see it during regular museum hours beginning Feb. 18. Check into the Visitors Services desk in the east wing of the museum first. And go on a sunny morning for the best light show.

READ a description of the place on our premium site MyStatesman.com.

The tumbling square windows fill one vault with pale light. Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman

“Patches of color drip ever so slowly down the walls, then pool onto the smooth black granite floor. On sunny days, the tall white barrel vaults swim with jewel-toned iridescence.

“Not only do the intense hues migrate minute by minute, they alter from day to day according to the position of the sun above “Austin,” a phenomenal new building that doubles as a monumental work of art on the University of Texas campus.”

Get a sneak peek inside Ellsworth Kelly’s stunning ‘Austin’ at UT

The much-anticipated opening of Ellsworth Kelly‘s’ “Austin,” a phenomenal new building that doubles as a monumental work of art on the University of Texas campus, is not until Feb. 18. But now we can give you a look inside.

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Designed by late American modern artist Kelly, the $23 million project created by the Blanton Museum of Art instantly takes its place as a crown jewel of Austin art.

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Scroll down to see more photos, read what some people are saying about the work and to find out how you can see “Austin” for yourself once it opens.

“It will be a bold new landmark for the university and the city,” predicts Blanton director Simone Wicha, who spent years putting together “Austin,” colloquially known as the “Ellsworth Kelly Building” or just “The Ellsworth” or sometimes “The Kelly.” “Inevitably, it will change the way the world sees Austin.”

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“Ellsworth Kelly’s ‘Austin’ culminates the career of one of the greatest of modern artists,” says Richard Shiff, an art professor who directs UT’s Center for the Study of Modernism. “Kelly conceived of (it) as a single aesthetic experience. ‘Austin’ is culture in a pure form. Its appeal is universal.”

“‘Austin’ not only showcases Kelly’s early appreciation of historical European art and architecture,” curator Carter Foster says, “it also marries this passion with the transformative themes that he would discover over the course of his life. I hope that, with the help of this exhibition, everyone who visits the work will come away with the same sense of awe that I do.”

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“The opening of ‘Austin’ further cements the Blanton as an international cultural destination,” Wicha says. “The broad geographic support we received for this project is reflective of the audience we anticipate visiting Kelly’s monumental achievement.”

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

HOW TO SEE ‘AUSTIN’

Starting Feb. 18, Ellsworth Kelly’s ‘Austin’ will be open during regular Blanton hours; entry is included with museum admission. Go to the Visitors Services desk inside the museum’s east wing to obtain tickets. Find out more at blantonmuseum.org.

rbz Ellsworth Kelly 29.JPG

Richard Buckley fired as artistic director of Austin Opera for alleged inappropriate behavior

Austin Opera has terminated the contract of artistic director and principal conductor Richard Buckley, effective immediately.

Austin Lyric Opera artistic director Richard Buckley (left) in 2014.

Buckley, who conducts on the international operatic circuit, had held that position since 2004.

In a short statement, the opera said an investigation conducted with outside counsel determined that “inappropriate behavior in violation of the company’s policy on harassment had occurred that was not consistent with the values and standards of Austin Opera.”

In respect for those affected by his conduct, Austin Opera trustees said “staff will not disclose further details about the incidents that occurred.”

Buckley, the son of a famous conductor, was known for conducting symphonies and operas far afield and had been part of at least 40 Austin Opera productions.

As recently as March of last year, Buckley’s conducting earned a $1 million commitment  from backers Ernest and Sarah Butler, namesakes for the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas, to support the position of artistic director.

Performances of Austin Opera’s “Ariadne auf Naxos” will continue today and Feb. 4 with conductor Robert Mollicone.

Read the full story on our premium website, Mystatesman.com

Austin still talking about monumental José Parlá mural

Over the weekend, we posted about “Amistad América,” the extraordinarily ambitious abstract mural by José Parlá at UT’s Rowling Hall, commissioned by the 10-year-old Landmarks program.

Hundreds gathered for the unveiling of José Parlá’s “Amistad América,” a huge abstract mural at UT’s new Rowling Hall. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

READ FULL STORY HERE.

That got folks talking on social media. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Carla McDonald: “Love these pix!”

Mary Margaret Quadlander: “Isn’t it stunning?!”

Alice Illian-Masquelette: “Wow!”

Julio Lozano: “Por La Raza!”

Evelina Rodrigue Warren: “Heard an interview with him on KUT. Can’t wait to see it.”

Phyllis Jackson Stegall: “Magnificent!”

Deborah Hamilton Lynne: “I must see it just because you clearly love it.”

Rick Smitherman: “Not as impressive when you discover it is paint by numbers.”

Me: “That would be a whole lot of numbers.”

Rick Smitherman: “It is indeed.”

 

SXSW puts a premium on art in 2018

At some point, South by Southwest will encompass all human activity.

Austin’s vast March spree started with music in the 1980s, then added movies and technology, before taking on education, philanthropy, the environment and allied fields.

Art came next.

“Feast” by Caitlin Pickall

Today, SXSW announced six art projects for its second annual  program scheduled for the conference and festivals March 9-18, 2018. Combined with the UNESCO Media Arts Exhibition at SXSW, the installations are meant to expand the discussion on visual and digital and media arts during the confab.

We’ll share some artists and titles. Find more information at SXSW Art Program.

SXSW ART PROGRAM INCLUDES:

“Conductors of the Resistance” by Ronen Sharabani

“Feast” by Caitlin Pickall

“Future of Secrets” by Sarah Newman, Jessica Yurkofsky and Rachel Kalmar

“Life Underground” by Hervé Cohen

“MTA: Floating Destiny” with music performed by GuQin

“A Colossal Wave!” by Marshmallow Laser Feast

UNESCO MEDIA ARTS EXHIBITION INCLUDES:

“Forgotten Landscapes” by James Hughes and Ha Na Lee

“Gathering”by Lisa Woods

“Herstory” by Yuliya Lanina

“Passage (Variation)” by Luke Savinsky

Meow Wolf

The Living Museum

“Against a Civic Death” by Rodney McMillian:

“Forever Bicycles” by Ai Weiwei

 

Step inside the enchanted stick village at Pease Park

Kids rush into the doors and hang out the windows. Adults step gingerly over the mulch floors and step back to view the five, tall, curved, leaning structures that look like something from “Where the Wild Things Are” or “The Hobbit.”

“We let the kids in early,” says StickWork artist Patrick Dougherty. “They weren’t sure they were allowed to come in the gate.”

Sam Dougherty works on a stick work sculpture with his artist father Patrick Dougherty, from Chapel Hill, N.C.  RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The fences come down today. The public unveiling is 1 p.m.-3 p.m. Feb. 10, courtesy of the Pease Park Conservancy.

“We wanted to make a cathedral,” Dougherty says. “We got five corners instead.”

The $106,000 project made from 10 tons of locally harvested then bent, woven and fastened Texas ash, elm, ligustrum and depression willow were built in three weeks by Dougherty and his son, Sam, along with volunteers and staff from Houston’s Weingarten Art Group. The site off Parkway not far from Windsor Road was picked because of accessibility and parking, but it’s also a little sheltered and not clearly visible from North Lamar Boulevard.

Volunteer Carol Burton helps to intertwine tree saplings into an inner wall of a the sculpture is made entirely out of tree saplings and is made possible by the Pease Park Conservancy which is committed to enhancing the cultural environment of the park. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Dougherty, who has built 288 of these StickWork projects around the world after working on a family cabin, had always wanted to work in Austin. He says the still-unnamed group of five structures should last two years before they begin to deteriorate seriously.

The Conservancy will maintain the art, then, with the help mulch the remains to spread around the park.

READ EXPANDED STORY ON OUR PREMIUM PAGE.

Update: An earlier version of this post said the project cost more.

How Austin Opera got its groove back

Austin Opera unveiled its most inspired and innovative season in a long, long time on Jan. 25 at the Long Center.

Start with the Opera ATX project, which reaches out to new audiences with fresh material in unexpected venues. The first effort will be “Soldier Songs” by David T. Little. This multi-media experience mixes video, rock, opera and theater to tell the stories of veterans of five wars. It is produced by Beth Morrison Projects, a leader in contemporary opera and will appear at the Paramount Theatre.

Not content with this edgy endeavor, General Manager and CEO Annie Burridge also announced that the Austin company would produce the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Silent Night,” based on the 2005 film “Joyeux Noël,” which reimagines the famous Christmas Eve truce during World War I. Hometown hero Kevin Puts wrote the music, Mark Campbell the libretto; they’re the same team that created “The Manchurian Candidate,” which won multiple prizes from the Austin Critics Table last season.

RELATED: Austin Opera stages three masterworks

In addition to these two new pieces, Austin Opera has committed ever more resources to the more traditional repertoire. First up is Giuseppe Verdi‘s tumultuous Shakespearean tragedy, “Otello,” which hasn’t been seen in Austin in decades. The sets come from Cincinnati Opera and the costumes from Portland Opera, while the lead roles will be taken by Issachah Savage, Marina Costa-Jackson and Michael Chliodi.

Late in the season, we’ll be treated to Giacomo Puccini‘s “La Boheme” in a lavish production from San Francisco Opera by way of Michigan Opera Theatre, starring Kang WangElizabeth CaballeroNoel Bouley and Susannah Biller.

This is how Austin opera got its groove back.

UPDATE: Another way that Austin Opera has regained momentum is by staging magnificent, rarely produced material such as “Ariadne auf Naxos.” Seen Saturday at the Long Center, it borrows from a Glimmerglass Festival version that puts the opera-within-an-opera on a Texas ranch.

Ariadne-Glimmerglass-2014
Austin Opera’s sets and costumes for “Ariadne auf Naxos,” set on a Texas ranch, came from the Glimmerlass Festival.

Suddenly, the whole chaotic first act, set backstage while two performance companies, one operatic, the other comic, square off, all makes perfect sense, especially with Austin Chronicle critic Robert Faires in the role of the Texan event manager.

The second act blends the two styles, but clearly Richard Strauss was not going to spoof serious post-Wagnerian opera for too long. “Ariadne” ends in waves of celestial music dedicated to the power of love. Singers Alexandria LoBianco, Jonathan Burton, Aleks Romano and the slightly under-projected Jeni Houser accentuated conductor Richard Buckley‘s sublime sound.

 

Austin choreographer Allison Orr awarded $50,000 grant

Forklift Danceworks co-founder and artistic director Allison Orr — known for her creative productions that use everyday performers in unexpected spaces — is one of 45 artists and creators from across the country to be named 2018 fellows by the Chicago-based United States Artists. Orr is the only 2018 fellow from Texas; the honor comes with an unrestricted $50,000 grant.

Orr takes dance beyond the typical stage: 2009’s “Trash Project” involved city sanitation workers, trucks, trash bins, cranes and leaf blowers, and the three-year “My Park, My Pool, My City” project launched last year with “Bartholomew Swims.”

RELATED
Listen to Forklift Danceworks’ founder Allison Orr on the “I Love You So Much” podcast

Ice cancels ‘Finding Neverland’ opener; how to get refund or exchange ticket

The show will not go on Tuesday night at Bass: The opening night of “Finding Neverland” has been canceled because of winter weather and the closing of the University of Texas at Austin campus. More weather coverage on statesman.com.

Billy Harrigan Tighe and John Davidson in “Finding Neverland.” Contributed by Jeremy Daniel

Texas Performing Arts issued this statement about ticket refunds or exchanges:

Tickets purchased through Texas Performing Arts at the Bass Concert Hall or Frank Erwin Center Ticket Offices, online at texasperformingarts.org or by phone at 512-477-6060, may be exchanged for a future performance of “Finding Neverland.” To request a refund or exchange, please call the Bass Concert Hall Ticket Office at 512-471-1444 or email tickets@texasperformingarts.org. Exchanges must be processed at least four hours in advance of the new performance.

Subscribers should call the Subscriber Hotline at 800-731-7469 (Mon – Fri, 9AM to 5PM) to complete refund or exchange requests.

ALL single ticket purchase and subscriber requests for exchanges or refunds must be completed by Friday, January 19 at 5PM. Seat locations and ticket prices vary by performance.

RELATED: Our preview of ‘Finding Neverland’