The Texas CulturalTrust, an advocacy group, has set the dates for its next celebrity-sated Texas Medal of Arts Awardsceremony. The multi-part fandango — which is also intended to update state leaders on cultural funding — will take place Feb. 26-27 at the Blanton Museum of Art, Long Center for the Performing Arts and elsewhere in Austin.
The group has had no trouble attracting big names — from Willie Nelson and Eva Longoria to Walter Cronkite and Debbie Allen — to the event. The most recent blow-out at Bass Concert Hall in 2017 was a highlight of the social season.
The new event co-chairs are Leslie Blanton from the world of cultural philanthropy and Leslie Ward from the corporate (AT&T) halls of external and legislative affairs.
The group, now overseen by Executive Director Heidi Marquez Smith, has given out 108 medals since 2001 when the initial class of honorees was assembled at the Paramount Theatre. The evolving list of categories: music, film, dance, visual arts, arts patron (corporate, foundation and individual), media/multimedia, television, architecture, theatre, arts education, literary arts, design, and lifetime achievement.
Since 2001, the Texas Cultural Trust, an advocacy group, has been honoring our state’s luminaries through the Texas Medal of Arts. The laurels are bestowed every other year at one of the most glamorous galas in Texas. The most recent one in 2017 at Bass Concert Hall was a blow-out.
Send your nominations in by April 5, 2018 for the February 2019 edition of the honors. Categories include architecture, arts education, arts patron (corporate, foundation or individual), dance, design, film, lifetime achievement, literary arts, media/multimedia, music, television, theater and visual arts.
For a complete list of past honorees, go here. The 2017 winners included Eloise and JohnPaul DeJoria with Paul Mitchell/Patron, Kris Kristofferson, Lynn Wyatt, Lauren Anderson, Yolanda Adams, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Tobin Endowmen, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Leo Villareal, Frank Welch, John Phillip Santos, Scott Pelley and Kenny Rogers.
Shermakaye Bass is one of the best journalists in Austin. A sometime student of Indian culture, she did a swell job breaking down the big Blanton Museum of Art exhibit, “Epic Tales From Ancient India: Paintings From the San Diego Museum of Art,” which runs through Oct. 1.
Below, we share a tempting morsel from her story, which ran Aug. 24.
All great cultures have their epics and sacred texts — rife with heroes and villains, gods and demons and magical beings that manifest in the twinkling of an eye. India is no exception. The South Asian subcontinent possesses one of the most fantastical and intricate canons in the world, and right now Austin is allowed a rare glimpse into it via the multidisciplinary installation “Epic Tales From Ancient India: Paintings From the San Diego Museum of Art,” which runs at the Blanton Museum of Art on the University of Texas campus through Oct. 1.
“Epic Tales” takes visitors on a journey through some of India’s greatest works — the “Ramayana,” “Bhagavata Purana,” “Ragamala” and “Shahnama,” or Persian “Book of Kings.” It features 90 miniature watercolors from San Diego’s renowned collection (most from manuscripts dating from the 16th to 19th centuries), as well as ancient bronzes, video installations, a delightful reading section and a series of dance and storytelling performances. For many, this rich installation is an introduction to the story of India and the Hindu religion.
“I wanted this exhibition to be a multisensory experience,” curator Ray Williams says. “The paintings are all about story, and I wanted story to be a big part of the show. And while the stories can be entertaining and fun, they also have strong religious meaning, and I wanted to underscore that — that it’s all intertwined.”
Williams, who has studied in India and is director of education and academic affairs at the Blanton, designed the exhibit to be fun while also shining a spotlight on “an amazing culture and an amazing set of stories. We’re saying, ‘You’ve heard of Krishna, you’ve heard of Rama? Well, here’s the bigger story!’”
The former head of the Texas Book Festival will now lead the Texas Cultural Trust.
Heidi Marquez Smith takes over as executive director at the statewide arts advocacy group after the departure of Jennifer Ransom Rice.
“As a long-time, passionate advocate for literacy and the arts, I am thrilled to be part of an organization that promotes the vital role of the arts in education and actively supports our state’s many talented artists and educators,” Marquez Smith says. “I look forward to advancing the work of the Trust to build awareness of the quantifiable impact of art in the classroom and the Texas economy, and the important role of the arts in building a competitive workforce for the future of our state.”
Most recently a consultant with her own firm, Marquez Smith is actively involved in the leadership of the Texas Lyceum, St. David’s Foundation, Dell Children’s Trust and Texas Book Festival. She also volunteers at Eanes Elementary School, Hill Country Middle School, Eanes Education Foundation, Pop-Up Birthday, LBJ Presidential Library and the city of Rollingwood.
Perhaps most impressively, she served as Special Assistant to the President for Cabinet Liaison under President George W. Bush.
It takes quite a diplomat to run the Trust, which hands out the Texas Medal of Arts in a grand biennial ceremony; directly promotes arts education; and meanwhile attempts to convince Texas legislators to support dollars for the arts. Recently, that august body reduced funding by 28 percent, which means that soon only $6 million will be spent by the state each year on the arts. By way of contrast, the city of Austin alone spends $12 million.
With some exceptions, arts and other cultural groups — we include major literary and historical outlets — don’t return to full form until September.
Yet now’s the time for all arts groups to confirm their seasonal slates and for all readers to consider purchasing season tickets.
In fact, for some high-demand groups, if you haven’t secured your 2017-2018 subscriptions already, you’re stuck with angling for single slots.
For instance, galvanized by the chance to secure tickets for the matchless musical, “Hamilton,” in the 2018-2019 season, more than 3,000 new subscribers have signed on for Broadway in Austin’s 2017-2018 offerings.
Now, some groups don’t operate on the traditional season system, rolling out one show at a time. Others split up their seasons. For instance, the Long Center for the Performing Arts won’t announce its Winter/Spring slate until September.
We respect that. What will follow soon in these pages is a list of shows that we could discover with relative ease in July. We’ll add others to digital extensions on the Austin Arts blog when they arrive.
One of the most beautiful and compelling books to come out of Austin in many a year is “The Collections,” an encyclopedic account of the 170 million artifacts preserved by the University of Texas.
It’s a big one. The doorstop, released in January 2016, comes in at 720 oversized pages. I’ve browsed through it incessantly and have cooked up some tasty stories from its contents, derived from more than 80 collections of art and artifacts over a wide range of subjects.
“This is the first time a publication of this kind has been produced by a public university,” said Andrée Bober, the book’s editor and director of the university’s public art program, Landmarks. “By making it available for free and online, we are putting the collection before a greater public. It’s our hope that this digital edition will increase awareness of these materials and inspire other universities to make their collections known.”
Bober conceived this survey and organized more than 350 individuals to lend their expertise. She’s an enormous asset to the university, to say the least.
The arts have grown into a $5.5 billion industry in Texas, according to a 2017 State of the Arts Report released recently by the Texas Cultural Trust, an advocacy group. The industry generates, too, nearly $343.7 million in state sales tax revenue annually.
Additionally, you know by now how the arts affect education, tourism and the economy, especially in this town, where all varieties of creative efforts thrive from the grassroots up.
Those kinds of arguments make reasonably persuasive cases when lobbying the Texas Legislature for support. Yet much more can be said directly — from one Texan to another — about the value of the arts.
Before the Texas Medal of Arts awards — given to Texans by the Texas Cultural Trust — arrive with parties and grand ceremonies Tuesday and Wednesday, we asked the honorees what the arts have meant to them personally.
We’re updating the Austin Arts blog with recent and relevant material from other Statesman and Austin360 pages. See the rest of this story on Texas Medal of Arts here.
Steve Vinovich as LBJ in Robert Schenkkan’s “All the Way” at Zach Theatre. Vinovich also plays the late president in the second outing, “The Great Society.” Contributed by Kirk Tuck
It is clear that no couple has made a greater impact on Central Texas over the long run than Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson.
From his role in taming in the Colorado River to his scores of national triumphs and tragedies — that reverberated back home — LBJ looms large in local memory. From her environmentalism to her wide-ranging philanthropy, Lady Bird also helped shape this city and its ways of thinking.
With that in mind, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan, who grew up in LBJ’s long Austin shadow, wrote a two-part stage epic about the president. The first installment, “All the Way,” won Tony Awards on Broadway for Schenkkan and for star Bryan Cranston before receiving lauded treatment on HBO.
In 2015, Zach Theatre produced a critically acclaimed version of “All the Way” with actor Steve Vinovich, Cranston’s Broadway understudy, in the lead role. He returns under the direction of Dave Steakley in the second part, “The Great Society,” which begins previews on Jan. 25.
We sat down with Steakley at a South Austin coffee shop to discuss the great, flawed man and his permanent influence on Austin. …
We’re starting to bring the Austin Arts blog up to date by teasing recent and still relevant arts stories on other American-Statesman and Austin360 pages.