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.

Zilker Theatre’s ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is fun for parents and their munchkins

It’s hard to think of a movie musical more classic or family-friendly than 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz.” The movie, based on writer L. Frank Baum’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” has proven so popular over the decades that it was adapted into a stage production by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1987.

Andrew Cannata, Hannah Roberts and Jordan Barron perform in “The Wizard of Oz,” the 59th annual Zilker summer musical presented by Zilker Theatre Productions. (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The resulting show, with a book by John Kane (adapted from Baum as well as the screenplay by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf), music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, and background music by Herbert Stothart, has since become a standard across the UK and the United States.

PHOTOS: ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at Zilker Hillside Theater

Zilker Theatre Productions’ latest free summer musical, running through Aug. 12 at the Zilker Hillside Theater, is a new production of this version of “The Wizard of Oz.” This is the 59th annual Zilker Summer Musical, and the most expensive show to date, with a great deal of that money clearly going toward creating the magic of Oz as experienced by naïve young Dorothy Gale, a Kansas farm girl transported to the other-dimensional realm via a convenient tornado. Through liberal doses of both theatrical innovation and beautiful carpentry and design, director J. Robert Moore and scenic designer Paul Davis effectively evoke both the plainness of Kansas (pun intended) and the splendor of Oz.

Much like the movie it is based on, Bilker’s “The Wizard of Oz” is long on broad, entertaining character types and short on actual character development. However, the zany antics of Dorothy and her companions (the “brainless” Scarecrow, “heartless” Tin Man, and “courageless” Cowardly Lion) play well in the open-air atmosphere of the Zilker Hillside Theater, with its huge, all-ages audience.

The main cast of the show all give big, broad performances that would be over-the-top in a small theater, but work nicely in this context. Andrew Cannata, Jordan Barron and Kirk Kelso, as the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion, respectively, are vaudevillian in their physical comedy and banter, while Emily Perzan’s Wicked Witch delights more in being comedic than overtly scary.

MORE PHOTOS: The Zilker Summer Musical through the years

The production’s Dorothy, Hannah Roberts, is a star on the rise. She embodies the character’s youth and naivety in a charming, guileless manner, a complete turn-around from her delightfully dour portrayal of Wednesday Addams in last year’s Summer Stock Austin production of “The Addams Family.” She only manages to get upstaged by the exuberant full-cast numbers, which inventively feature children as the Munchkins of Oz performing the whimsical choreography of Adam Roberts (who is also the show’s musical director).

Zilker’s production of “The Wizard of Oz goes” beyond the show, itself, in order to create a full night of family entertainment. There are booths and amusements for kids to enjoy before the show, as well as refreshments that can be purchased both ahead of time and at intermission. Remember to bring a blanket and pillows along with some bug spray, and be sure to arrive early to pick out a good spot on the hillside.

MORE SUMMER FUN:

Where to get frozen drinks in Austin

5 hotel pools with passes for free hours for locals

Summer music: All the sounds under the sun, through September

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

Scope out UT’s fabulous ‘Collections’ as it goes free and digital

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.

Wonder of wonders: It’s now available for free digitally.

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If you prefer the hard copy, the list price is $125.

RELATED: ‘Collections’ highlights unusual and historic objets held at UT.

“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 warm, loving, slightly boozy embrace of the Austin Critics Table Awards

The Austin Critics Table Awards ceremony was long. Very long. A record four hours at Cap City Comedy Club.

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Yet the 25th anniversary celebration of all things arts might have been the best one ever. Because every minute was a warm, loving, slightly boozy embrace between artists and the writers who cover them.

I loved every tribute from the critics and (almost) every enthusiastic and authentic acceptance speech. (Why do some people choose a moment of honor to be mean?) Bonus: a witty proclamation from Austin Mayor Steve Adler for the occasion

RELATED: Behold: The Austin Critics Table Awards nominees

Some people — well, a lot of people — left early. But then they missed the best acceptance speech of the evening, given by Christine Hoang, who shared the David Mark Cohen New Play Award with Lisa Thompson, and who talked about how each word from her reviews reduced her “imposter anxiety,” and whose bilingual play, “A Girl Named Sue,” represented a social and cultural leap for the descendants of Vietnamese refugees and their families.

The big news, however, was the expansion of the Critics Table to 20 members including web-based writers, a move I’ve strongly supported for years. The Table began with just five of us newspapermen, sole survivor Robert Faires reminded us — I no longer vote — and over the years has included more than 50 writers.

AUSTIN CRITCS TABLE AWARDS 2016-2017

W.H. “Deacon” Crain Award for Student Work: Madison Williams, Emily Ott

Lighting Design: Jason Amato (“Atlantis: A Puppet Opera”), Patrick Anthony (“A Perfect Robot,” “Old Times”)

Group Gallery Exhibition: “The First Horizons of Juno: Christina Coleman, Jane Hugentober, Candice Lin, Karen Lofgren, Christine Rebet, Alice Wang and Chantal Wnuk,” Mass Gallery

Museum Exhibition: “Nina Katchadourian: Curiouser,” Blanton Museum of Art

Singer: Donnie Ray Albert (“The Manchurian Candidate,” “I Too: The Voices of Langston Hughes”), Liz Cass (“Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance”), David Adam Moore (“The Manchurian Candidate”), Paul Sanchez (“Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance,” “A Christmas Carol”)

Chamber Performance: “I, Too: The Voices of Langston Hughes,” Living Paper Song Project

Original Composition/Score: “Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance,” Graham Reynolds & Lagartijas Tirades al Sol

Scenic Design: Chris Conard (“Totalitarians,” “The Drowning Girls”), Desiderio Roybal (“Clybourn Park,” “The Price,” “The Herd”)

Short Work, Dance: “Camille: A Story of Art and Love,” Jennifer Hart

Solo Gallery Exhibition: “Tammie Rubin: Before I Knew You, I Missed You,” De Stijl Podium for Art

Artist: Deborah Roberts

Costume Design: Susan Branch Towne (“One Man, Two Guv’nors,” “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”)

Dancer: Alexa Caparedo (“Tikling(bird),” “Loose Gravel”), Amy Morrow (“Hiraeth,” “We’ve Been Here Before”)

Ensemble Dance: Dance Repertory Theatre (“Momentum”)

Gallery, Body of Work: “Museum of Human Achievement”

Independent Project: “Workout with Erica Nix,” Erica Nix

Ensemble, Classical: Schumann Chamber Players

Classical Concert/Opera: “The Manchurian Candidate,” Austin Opera

Sound Design: Lowell Bartholomee, “Clybourne Park,” “Fahrenheit 451”

Direction: Jenny Lavery (“The Drowning Girls”), Lily Wolff (“Lungs”)

Dance Concert: “Las Cuatro Estaciones: A Story of Human Trees,” Sharon Marroquin, produced by Latino Art Residency Project, Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center

Choreographer: Lisa Nicks, “Dear Johnny, in Response to Your Last Letter”

Digital Design: Greg Emetaz, “The Manchurian Candidate”

David Mark Cohen New Play Award: “A Girl Named Sue” (Christine Hoang), “Underground” (Lisa Thompson)

Ensemble, Theater: “Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe,” Doctuh Mistah Productions

Actor: Liz Beckham (“Lungs,” Neva,” “Clybourne Park), Chase Brewer (“Hand to God”), Michael Joplin (“Lungs”), Amber Quick (“One Man, Two Guv’nors,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “The Herd”)

Production, Theater: Clybourne Park (Penfold Theatre), “The Drowning Girls” (Theatre en Bloc), “The Great Society (Zach Theatre)

Special Citations: Luis Armando Ortiz Gutierrez, Jeanne Claire van Ryzin, Andrea Ariel, Babs George, “Rambunctious,” Jennifer Sherburn for “11:11,” Theatre Synesthesia, Sandy Yamamoto, Thr3e Zisters,” Amy Downing.

Austin Arts Hall of Fame: Katherine Brimberry and Mark L. Smith, Zell Miller III, Kate Warren

UPDATE: Thanks to Robert Faires for correcting some embarrassing typos in names banged out quickly this morning.

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.

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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.”

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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.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE.

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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.”

Step right up to the Fusebox Festival

The Fusebox Festival tackles big ideas like the border and health care through the arts. And it starts April 12.

RELATED: Lighting a creative fire through the Fusebox Festival.

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San Antonio art collective House of Kenzo will perform at Al Volta’s Midnight Bar on April 12 as part of the Fusebox Festival. Contributed

To get you started, here’s a teaser from our preview of the fest.

“There really isn’t anything else quite like the Fusebox Festival.

First, admission is free. You could stop right there. How do they do that?

(Answer: A combination of gifts, grants and elbow grease.)

Further, the hybrid Austin gathering, which returns April 12-16 to multiple locations, doesn’t just present vanguard artists from here and around the world. It urges them to engage with their audiences around the big ideas of the day.

For instance, this year multiple acts will dig into border concerns, and others will explore the state of community health. That’s the kind of thoughtful strategy you would expect from something like the Texas Tribune Festival, but it might surprise some to see it at an offbeat arts fest.

PHOTOS: Hybrid Austin event Fusebox Festival tackles big ideas through art

“We’re very aware that other organizations are much better equipped in this moment to tackle different parts of the border issue,” says Fusebox founder and captain Ron Berry. “This is true of any issue. We do think the arts are uniquely positioned to foster cultural exchange and collaboration; to engage our imaginations and create out-of-the-box thinking and possibilities; and to hold multiple viewpoints simultaneously.”

It should be noted that Fusebox is not just about big-brain ideas.

“For me, one of the things I’ve always loved about festivals is that they are — or can be — places for discovery,” Berry says. “Sometimes that’s simply hearing a new band that you didn’t know anything about. … I get such a jolt when I learn about a new artist that excites me.”

Revealed: Free Fusebox Festival events

Austin can make many claims to singularity. But there really isn’t anything anywhere else like the Fusebox Festival.

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‘Pancho Villa from a Safe Distance’ is one of the marquee shows in the 2017 Fusebox Festival.

Each year, more than 100 events are presented at 19 venues in Central and East Austin. More than 40 artists and companies from six continents participate.

It’s a little bit like FronteraFest, only global.

And it’s all free. This year, the carnival runs April 12-16. Advance reservations are now available online. Tickets will be offered at the door as well.

Before the festival proper, one can attend a fundraising party known as Fusebox Eve on April 11.

There’s lots to relish this year, but at the top of our list is the Austin premiere of a chamber opera, “Pancho Villa from a Safe Distance,” from composer Graham Reynolds, Rude Mechs’ Shawn Sides and Mexico-based artists Lagartijas Tiradas del Sol.

The Met releases 350K digital images for free

NBCNEWS handled the recent and vast digitizing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection with a handy and explanatory gallery. Smart move.

Here’s a sample of the free images:

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NBC: “Wheat Field with Cypresses, oil on canvas by Vincent van Gogh, 1889. Cypresses gained ground in Van Gogh’s work by late June 1889 when he resolved to devote one of his first series in Saint-Rémy to the towering trees.” Contributed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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NBC: “Christ Healing the Blind, oil on canvas by El Greco, circa 1570. El Greco painted this masterpiece of dramatic storytelling either in Venice or in Rome, where he worked after leaving Crete in 1567 and before moving to Spain in 1576. It illustrates the Gospel account of Christ healing a blind man by anointing his eyes. The two figures in the foreground may be the blind man’s parents.” Contributed by Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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NBC: “The Harvesters, oil on wood by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565. This panel belongs to a series and the cycle originally included six paintings showing the times of the year. Bruegel’s series is a watershed in the history of western art, the religious pretext for landscape painting has been suppressed in favor of a new humanism.” Contributed by Metropolitan Museum of Art.