Salute the late Boyd Vance at city hall

I recall a downtown Austin leadership luncheon near the turn of the century that was populated chiefly by men and women in business suits. Out pops performer Boyd Vance — lithe, fearless, radiant, scampy — to sing an adapted version of “Hello, Dolly,” as if he were positioned at the top of a staircase dressed in red sequins and flanked by a dozen men in show tuxedos. At various points, he sat in the laps of men and women to sing directly to them.

Boyd Vance in 2004. Matt Rourke/American-Statesman

Nobody else could have done that.

Austinites remember Vance, a graduate of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School and the University of Texas, for many things. His undeniable charisma. His unforgettable performances. His leadership of the African-American arts community. And more.

Boyd Vance, then artistic director of ProArts, introduces members of the David Chenu Trio in 2004. Amber Novak for the American-Statesman

No wonder when the new Carver Museum and Cultural Center opened in East Austin, its lively little theater was named after Vance. He died in 2005 at age 47.

Around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 22, the Austin City Council will salute Vance’s memory with a proclamation. Now you know that the timing of these honors is never exact — I recently accepted one in the name of the Austin Critics Table and heard first some thoroughly fascinating speeches on plumbing regulations and flood abatement — but I imagine the scene will be something like Old Home Week in chambers. All are welcome.

Giving City toasts Austin Critics Table Awards

If you missed the short history of the Austin Critics Table Awards written by Monica Maldonado Williams of Giving City and published in Sunday’s American-Statesman, below find a snippet. The free awards ceremony returns 7 p.m. June 5 at Cap City Comedy Club.

The Austin Critics Table in in 1995. L-R: John Bustin, Barry Pineo, Michael Barnes, Jamie Smith Cantara, Belinda Acosta, David Mark Cohen, Jerry Conn and Robert Faires. (Bustin and Cohen are deceased.) Mark Fort/American-Statesman

FULL STORY:  At 25 years old, an arts awards event learns to adapt.

“While almost all Austin arts organizations operate as nonprofits, the caliber of the art has become more professional and innovative, said co-founder Robert Faires. To reflect the range of art, this year’s Critics Table judges have adjusted the categories to make them less theater-heavy.

“There’s more diversity among the artists and the art forms in Austin, but this is not just a participation award,” said David Wyatt, a long-time volunteer for the event and the owner of a public relations agency that specializes in the art organizations. “Artists have to wait years to the point where they’ve developed their craft and matured as an artists to get recognized. It’s very meaningful.”

RELATED: See this year’s nominees for the Austin Critics Table Awards.

“In addition to adjusting the categories, Faires has had to adjust the roster of judges. As the last of the founders participating, he realized that the awards should include the new breed of art writers, especially those who publish primarily online. This year’s judges include writers from websites and blogs like Broadway World Austin, Austin Entertainment Weekly, Arts & Culture Texas, and Conflict of Interest TX.”

Monica Maldonado Williams. Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman

BACKGROUND: Monica Maldonado Williams cracks the charity code.

Famed Chinese artist and activist, Ai Weiwei, sending works to Austin

The news broke early this morning that Ai Weiwei, among the world’s most influential artists, would send two monumental works to Austin.


Ai Weiwei - Forever Bicycles.jpg

We offer a snippet to Austin Arts:

“The extraordinary, long-term loans — no end dates have been announced — were arranged by the Contemporary Austin and the Waller Creek Conservancy with help from a $1.1 million grant from the Edward and Betty Marcus Foundation. Family-friendly activities are scheduled for the Waller Creek site from 10 a.m. to noon June 3.

“This project taps into one of my greatest passions — bringing art directly to the public in ways and in places that they may not expect it,” said Louis Grachos, director and CEO of the Contemporary Austin. “When I started at the Contemporary, I spoke of creating a ‘Museum Without Walls,’ and these projects with Ai Weiwei are exactly what I dreamed of bringing to Austin: works that inspire wonder while addressing important social and political issues that affect us all.”

Austin Symphony: Young composers rule!

The Austin Symphony has announced the nine young composers whose music will be performed on June 17 at the Long Center. This year, 24 pieces were submitted by composers 18 years or younger. Winners of the Sarah and Ernest Butler Texas Young Composers Competition — resulting from a $1 million Butler endowment — also earn scholarships ranging from $500 to $3,000.

Two of the nine winners are from Austin and two from San Antonio. One each is from Dallas, Houston, Plano, Cedar Park and Kennedale (which I had to look up; it’s in southern Tarrant County). Their schools are suitably scattered as well: Seven go to college, one is in high school and the young man from Kennedale is home-schooled.


Paul Novak won First Prize in the Sarah and Ernest Butler Texas Young Composers Competition. Contributed by the Society of Composers.

FIRST PRIZE: Paul Novak. “On Buoyancy.” Houston. Rice University.

SECOND PRIZE: Isaac Villaroya. “Aegis.” San Antonio. Baylor University.

Maximilien Hein won Third Prize in the Sarah and Ernest Butler Texas Young Composers Competition. Contributed

THIRD PRIZE: Maximilien Hein. “Impressions of a Hero’s Journey.” Cedar Park. Texas State University.

FOURTH PRIZE: Amy Gravell. “Prelude to Eternity.” Austin. McNeil High School.

FIFTH PRIZE: Dara Li. “Gaia.” Plano. Harvard University.


Austin Ali. “Ostinato.” Dallas. University of Texas.

Zach Berry. “Reflection and March to War.” Kennedale. Home Schooled.

Sophie Mathieu’s “The Columbia River in June” will be performed by the Austin Symphony. Contributed

Sophie Mathieu. “The Columbia River in June.” Austin. University of Southern California.

Angelo Salgado. “Unity.” San Antonio. University of Texas San Antonio.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this post listed the wrong date for the concert.

Austin Symphony Orchestra to perform “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” music

Listen up, Austin Muggles: We’re about to get the biggest musical treat thanks to the Austin Symphony Orchestra, which is performing the score from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” this fall at Bass Concert Hall.

Tickets for the Sept. 23 concert  will go on sale at noon May 12 on the website and will range from $36.50 to $91.50.

The symphony plans to perform every note from the score of “The Sorcerer’s Stone,” the first film based off J.K. Rowling’s magical series about a boy wizard, while the movie plays in high definition on a 40-foot screen. Composer John Williams created the score for the first three films, and his “Hedwig’s Theme” is the song perhaps most associated with the overall series, even after other composers took over writing the score for the remaining movies.

This year is the 20th anniversary of the “Harry Potter” books. “The Sorcerer’s Stone” was first published in June 1997.

Austin names Rehab El Sadek artist in residence

A native of Egypt now based in Austin will spend nine months embedded within the city’s Watershed Protection Department.

Artist Rehab Al Sadek, the city of Austin’s new artist-in-residence. Contributed

A painter, photographer, printmaker and all-around creative sparkplug, Rehab El Sadek is also a social connector who has initiated workshops around women’s rights and children with disabilities among other causes. She has created art in Africa and Pakistan and has been exhibited in multiple European cities.

‘HomeNightTopography’ by Rehab El Sadek. Contributed

She will not be required to make art, but rather to help city staff “resolve problems, provide innovative or new improvements, and help engage residents around community issues in creative ways,” according to a statement.

The University of Texas College of Fine Arts has put together a somewhat similar program with the Design Institute for Health at the Dell Medical School.

RELATED: After 135 years, a medical school is about to open its doors at UT.

Also, artists have already been embedded successfully with city workers, as witnessed recently at the Lift a Fork benefit for Forklift Danceworks at Springdale Station. Allison Orr and her company have famously created unique dance projects for sanitation workers, firefighters, electrical linemen and technicians and urban foresters.

Lift a Fort for Forklife Danceworks. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Along the way, Danceworks has attracted international attention to Austin. They recently returned from Europe where they collaborated with sanitation workers and revisited gondoliers. The testimonials flowed as easily as the craft cocktails at the magical evening event and a half dozen of the diners engaged me in strikingly memorable conversations.

Leslie Briggs and Kassandra Hendrix at Lift a Fork for Forklift Danceworks. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

RELATED: “Dance explores art of everyday movement.”

Coming up from Danceworks: “My Park, My Pool, My City.” The Parks and Recreation Department actually approached Danceworks to help find out more about what could be done with three East Austin pools.

See how artists will light up Waller Creek this year

The Waller Creek Conservancy has announced its 2017 line-up for the light-based  “Creek Show.” Now in its fourth year, the jam of artworks employs the spacey spaces of the creek bed and banks to illuminate its potential as a destination park. The family-friendly sequence will run Nov. 10-18.

The six planned light shows for 2017. Contributed by Waller Creek Conservancy

Here go the artists and their planned art:

“No Lifeguard on Duty” by Asakura Robinson

“Fotan Fable” by HA Architecture

“Night Garden” by dwg

“Ephemeral Suspension” by Pathos + TouchTo

“Blind Spot” by Two+ Collaborative

“Submerge” by Davey McEarthron Architecture + Studio Lumina + Drophouse

RELATED: Creek Show preview 2016.

Flashback to Farrah Fawcett at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum

Lots going on over at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum these days. Right around the corner is the glorious Umlauf Garden Party on April 27.

Charles Umlauf Farrah Fawcett Umlauf Studio Austin c. 1970
Charles Umlauf and Farrah Fawcett working in studio, Austin, 1971. Contributed

Before that, the Tailwaggers neo-gala will be held at the museum to benefit Austin Pets Alive.

RELATED: Revolt against the traditional Austin gala at Tailwaggers.

Farrah Fawcett Charles Umlauf The Kiss Sept 1971
Charles Umlauf and Farrah Fawcett with Umlauf’s ‘The Kiss,’ Austin, 1971. Contributed

Now through Aug. 20, the main gallery is populated with “Mentoring a Muse: Charles Umlauf and Farrah Fawcett,” a closer look at the bond between the eponymous sculptor and a prized and loyal student, who went on to Hollywood fame.

Fawcett, Standing Nude, n.d., photo by Maryhelen Murray
‘Farrah Fawcett, Standing Female Figure,’ n.d., bronze, photographed by Maryhelen Murray. Contributed by Blanton Museum of Art

Some of the objects come from the Blanton Museum of Art as part of the Bequest of Farrah Fawcett.

Yet another event on tap: Tuesday, April 4 on the Umlauf Terrace, four panelists will share their memories of Fawcett for a museum event called “Friends of Farrah.”

COVER - Cropped CU head study FF 1966 detail BEST copy
Charles Umlauf, ‘Untitled [Farrah, looking right]’, c. 1966, detail, charcoal on paper. Contributed

They include Sylvia Dorsey, Fawcett friend since UT days. She lives in Austin.

Andy Warhol (attr.), ‘F.F. Eye,’ n.d., ink on folded cloth napkin, photographed by Maryhelen Murray. Contributed by Blanton Museum of Art.

Also expected: Gray Hawn, also a friend of Farrah since the late star’s Austin days.

Fig. 24 alt - Umlauf Charles Farrah Fawcett head
Charles Umlauf, ‘Head Study of Farrah,’ 1977, bronze. Contributed

As well as Karen Spelling, childhood friend of Farrah from Corpus Christi and UT/Austin.

Umlauf, Female Head Bookend (open eyes), n.d., photo by Maryhelen Murray
Charles Umlauf, [sculptural head attached to bookend I], n.d., terra cotta, acrylic, photographed by Maryhelen Murray. Contributed by Blanton Museum of Art.
And finally, Greg Walls, Fawcett’s nephew and caretaker of Farrah’s personal archives, who lives in Houston.

Watch new Austin Symphony and Ballet Austin videos

Austin arts groups are getting better at promoting their fare through videos. We not only approve, we hope to spread the good news.

Ballet Austin’s “The Magic Flute” plays the Long Center March 31-April 2.

Ballet Austin’s “The Magic Flute.” Contributed by Tony Spielberg

Here’s Austin Symphony’s video on Mahler’s Sixth Symphony.

Peter Bay and the orchestra play the long, tragic Sixth March 24-26. Watch this space for an interview we conducted with the maestro.

The Austrian composer Gustav Mahler. Photograph by Moriz Nähr. 1907.

See ‘La La Land’ set to live music in Austin

What could be better than watching — or re-watching — Oscar runner-up “La La Land” on the big screen? Watching the musical on the big screen set to live music performed by the Austin Symphony Orchestra.


The tuner won six Academy Awards, including Best Original Score and Best Original Song. On June 30, composer Justin Horowitz‘s music will provide the fodder for the symphony’s grand screening.

RELATED: Oscars 2017: ‘Moonlight’ wins Best Picture after ‘La La Land’ mistakenly announced.

Ticks go on sale March 10. They will be available online at or by calling 512-474-5664.

For groups of 10 and more, call 512-457-5150 or email