Here are some Don’t Miss Events
It was the mid-1980s . . . unfortunately. After spending the first part of the decade in a state of musical limbo—because the great hard rock bands that I loved in the ‘70s had either disbanded or turned cheesy and I couldn’t embrace the poseurs in the LA glam metal scene—I turned my ear backwards towards older musical forms, among these the blues. I had always been aware of the blues, but never really gave it much thought. So I began to explore the various blues genres, from the Delta to Chicago and all points between and beyond.
About this time I also picked up a harmonica left behind by my guitarist brother. I never really considered the harmonica as much more than a toy (right alongside the Fisher-Price xylophones), but as I started “playing,” something about its simplicity and soul touched a chord in me. Then I listened to as much blues harp as I could. The early players like Sonny Boy Williamson and Hammie Nixon were okay, but seemed somewhat archaic (I was, at heart, still a rock and roller). I discovered Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds years before, but that wasn’t what I was looking for either.
Then one day while rifling through an Alligator Records catalog (this was before the Internet), I saw an album “Ace of Harps” by Charlie Musselwhite. Not really knowing why, I ordered it. When it arrived I anxiously shoved it into the player and was instantly catapulted to another dimension. His phrasing, control and sheer musicality floored me. I listened to it nonstop for days, then immediately ordered all of the Musselwhite CDs in the catalog. To say I became an instant fan is an understatement.
Next came the arduous task of trying to play like Charlie. I practiced the intro and solo to “River Hip Mama” so many times one night that my lips had actually swollen. I spent the following day looking like a bee-stung Mick Jagger (I am proud to say, however, that I did eventually figure some of it out).
Over the past several years, through the wonder of YouTube, I have been able to watch my hero in action. There is so much more to him than just his harp playing. He is the total package, simple, honest vocals and a natural cool that comes from deep within.
When I learned that Charlie was coming to the Great Artists Series February 3rd along with Hot Tuna and Jim Lauderdale, I believe my very soul paused . . . after more than 20 years I’ll actually see the master play, live.
I’ll be there Thursday night sitting in awe. I hope he plays “River Hip Mama.” Of course if he does, I’ll probably bite my lips in reverence.
Mused and Confused: FAQ’s of Museum Visitors
You never know who is going to walk through the doors of Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute on any given day. Our dedicated docents guide many visitors of all ages through the museum each year and are asked a wide variety of questions both amusing and insightful. I have the good fortune to work as the docent trainer and was myself a docent at MWPAI.
Probably one of the most common questions we hear is probably repeated in any museum that displays abstract art, “Why is this art?” or “Why is this in a museum?” quickly followed by “My baby brother/sister could do that!”. These comments can be challenging to answer but one of our goals as docents is to simply get the visitors to take the time to look. You’d be surprised at the interesting conversations we’ve had with people who consider looking at abstract art to be a total waste of their time. Our docents look upon these experiences as opportunities to diplomatically ease the visitor’s anxiety and help them enjoy their visit.
“How much does that cost?” is another popular question on people’s minds. I once had a visitor notice the accession number listed on the museum label, they asked if that was the value of the art (and yes I would like to buy that Jackson Pollock for $54.38!) We can’t answer every question but we let our visitors know that similar to the stock market the value of the artwork changes every day.
The subject of the nude in art can be a little challenging for some visitors. Everything from giggles to gasps can be heard from both children and adults. On occasion we have received requests from teachers to cover up some of the artwork or to avoid certain galleries altogether. Sometimes the questions can be as direct as “Why do they have dirty pictures in the museum?” Our docents have multiple responses prepared depending on which artwork is in question. It could be as simple as the artist wanting to understand the bone and muscle structure of the human body or explaining that the artist is communicating a sense of innocence and purity in their artwork; and yes, sometimes the images are meant to be a little provocative.
Many of the questions we hear deal with the visitors wanting to make sure they are getting the most out of their tour. Maybe this gives them bragging rights when they go home. “How old is the oldest art we have in the museum?”, “Is this the most famous art you have at the museum?” and again “What is the most expensive piece you have at the museum?” or “Who is the best artist you showed us?” Visitors want to make sure they are seeing the biggest and the best we have to offer.
“How many portraits are in this museum?” The answer to this question is trickier than you might think. We have paintings in our collection such as Portrait of the Artist’s Father by Joe Jones or the Psychological Abstract Portrait of Ted Shawn, by Katherine Dreier.
One might ask how you can have a portrait of a person that does not show their face.
As you can see some of the questions are quite intriguing and the visitors keep the docents on their toes and I can speak from personal experience this is not an easy task. I admire the ease and good nature of these dedicated individuals and know that they have truly enriched their audience’s lives with their generosity.
Art and Yoga: Celebrating Five Years in January 2011
It’s a bit difficult to believe but the Saturday morning Art & Yoga class celebrates its fifth anniversary this month. The class has a faithful following thanks to the talent of our instructor, Barbara Hays-Klein, who trained at Kripalu and owns the Universal Yoga Center. Each week she inspires us towards the joyful and peaceful.
This episode of Voices includes the voices of class participants who share their enthusiasm for this unusual mix of engaging the body, mind and spirit.
I have been a participant of the Art & Yoga class for two years now, and it has broadened my mind to the world of art, and beyond. Being a “left brain” thinker, I welcome the exposure to the art pieces that we view and discuss before the yoga class. We also get a dose of poetry thrown in for good measure. Our yoga instructor, Barbara Hayes-Klein, is warm and inviting, and takes us through the asanas with grace and ease. The class affords me the chance to take a breather from life, and open my mind to other possibilities. It is a wonderful experience, with a wonderful group of people.
Thank you for offering the class at the Institute.
Pam Bart “Serendipity, Art and Yoga:” For me, our yoga class being held at MWPAI is like kismet-a marriage made in heaven. Both try to elevate our hearts and minds. As we need to slow ourselves down to practise yoga mindfully, we need to slow down our bodies to see the beauty of art. As someone who has never studied art, this class is the perfect way to “see” a painting, a sculpture, a table. Throughout class, I think of the art piece and the poem we read each week. The beauty of the piece, the architecture of the building, the sun coming in through the skylights –I use all throughout the yoga flow. The beauty of yoga+the beauty of art=kismet.
Sharon Brown Burns: I love this yoga class at MWPAI. The first 15 minutes of the class is held in a different gallery each week with a curator (usually Mary) leading a discussion of a particular piece or painting in the museum. The curator also provides a poem for the class to read together after the artistic discussion – this poem complements the theme of discussion of this artwork. Our class then moves to a different gallery in the museum where Barb conducts our comfortable yoga class. Barb leads the yoga poses with an emphasis on relaxation, acceptance, and love. This class is unique in that the multiple ocmponents of a wonderful yoga class coupled with the introduction to art in the museum leaves one feeling educated, refreshed, and blessed all during the same visit!
Ellen Cramer: When I have to miss a yoga class, I feel badly about it. It’s really become an important part of my life, and I always feel much better when I’m doing yoga because it’s very relaxing and “de-clutters” my mind.
Sue Dailey: “It’s my favorite part of the week and I look forward to every yoga class. It’s the one hour of the week that my mind gets completely quiet. I leave the class with a sense of peaceful calm that I wish would last all week! The instructor, Barbara Hays Klein, is a wonderful teacher who offers a great class even though all of us have different levels of ability. She is an inspiration and a joy to learn from. The art lesson is always an eye-opener for me. Not only is it interesting to learn about the history of a piece of art but it’s fascinating to me to hear other people’s opinions on the piece and how different the opinions can sometimes be. With thanks to Facebook, I’ve been attending Art & Yoga for just over a year now. Wish I’d known about it four years ago! “
Carol Dinger: “The MWP Art and Yoga class is a gem. Surrounded by artwork certainly adds to the peace and tranquility that yoga instills in one’s being. Our instructor, Barb Klein, is highly skilled and this class is adaptable to all ages and levels. I would certainly recommend it.”
Patti Elko: “What I can tell you is that I’ve learned more about art in the two years since I started the class than I have in my entire life up to that point. I have an appreciation for art that I never had before. I look forward to the class each week for the art, the yoga and the wonderful people who participate. I feel like I’ve grown personally from being a part of the group.”
Mary Finkle: I began taking the Art & Yoga class in 2008 to stretch and relax. I did accomplish this, and gained SO MUCH MORE! The class is truly transformative! The informational art session is delightful. From the simple to the complex, [curator] Mary presents the piece in a way that draws you in, and makes one feel the essence of the art and the time. The poetry readings are peaceful and impactful. While I began yoga to heal my body, it also changed my life. Yoga is a way of life. Taking the class has increased my mindfulness, and has given new meaning to the world around me. Kudos to MWP for creating this unique & inspiring class – I can’t wait to come back!”
Judy Gorman: Art and Yoga classes in 2010 were my introduction to yoga and I feel so lucky for the combined experience of art, poetry, and exercise in such a spectacular setting. With Barbara Klein’s encouraging and supportive teaching style I feel as if I change from an individual trying to focus on my breathing at the beginning of class to a very relaxed practitioner of a peaceful group as we finish. The funny thing is I usually find myself thinking about the art on the way home … (not good for my driving)… but able to focus on it in a new way. In short, the classes are a great gift for me!”
Mary Hillick: We moved to the Utica area in 2005 and I signed up for the Art & Yoga class at MWPAI to try something new and get to know the area a little better. I look forward to each class as an opportunity to learn something new about the wonderful collections at the museum. We’ve had some interesting discussions, as each person brings a new perspective to the work being presented.
The yoga class is much more than a form of exercise. It is a stress reliever and helps me to “let go” of some of life’s baggage. Our group has a great dynamic and we truly appreciate Barbara’s dedication to the practice of yoga.
Ron Kamp: Yoga and art may appear to be disconnected at first impression. In fact, they are truly quite complimentary and each seeks to bring harmony to the soul. Both are easily dismissed at face value with little thought given to the germination or spark of their respective creation.
Art is the physical embodiment of the artist’s feelings or interpretation of a subject. The MWPAI docents have the capacity of placing the observer in the shoes of the artists. It is through this intercourse or exchange of ideas and comments that one begins to gain an appreciation of the thought process and development which brings an abstract idea into an original piece of art. You do not always have to like the art to appreciate the beauty and elegance it reflects. Most importantly, art does not mean the same thing to everyone. The inner beauty of art is subject to interpretation of the beholder and there lies the true gift of the artist’s creation.
Yoga is a lifelong adventure much like art and has similar characteristics. It is about developing one’s inner self, finding calm in a rough sea and thereby building a quiet inner strength to guide you throughout life. Everyone comes to yoga for different reasons. . Finding one’s center and acceptance with oneself provides a quiet confidence in life that is the gift of yoga. Our forms and movements, like art, are no two alike. Yet, we can find peace and resolve from the inner peace we have each created just like the artist when he/she completes their masterpiece.
The beauty and gift of art and yoga are all about self discovery.
Learn more about Art & Yoga at the Institute’s website or by contacting the Museum of Art Education Department, 315-797-0000 x2158.
Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Book Group has been meeting since autumn 2008. Have you ever attended? This spring there are some provocative titles to pique your interest.
This month we are reading The Glass Room by Simon Mawer. It’s a sweeping novel about several lives lived over several decades in a Modernist house in the Republic of Czechoslovakia. Though the story is fictional, the house in fact is not. Mawer based his book on the Villa Tugendhat in Brno, Czech Republic, built in 1930 and designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the architect who was mentor to Philip Johnson (that’s the tie-in to our current exhibition, Look for Beauty: Philip Johnson and Art Museum Architecture).
Join us on Thursday, January 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Museum of Art for what promises to be a lively conversation about the importance of art, love, loyalty, and the devastating effects of war, among other things.
But wait! There’s more! In March, the Book Group reads Mona Lisa in Camelot: How Jacqueline Kennedy and Da Vinci’s Masterpiece Charmed and Captivated a Nation, by Margaret Leslie Davis. In May, we will be reading An Object of Beauty, a new novel by comedian and art collector Steve Martin.
And in June, we have a book for the Museum of Art’s glamorous summer exhibition, Wedded Perfection: Two Centuries of Wedding Gowns (more about this in the near future), and the book has a great title, too: Target Underwear and a Vera Wang Gown: Notes from a Single Girl’s Closet, by Adena Halpern.
Please join the discussion. Book group meetings are free and open to the public. Advanced registration is appreciated but not required. Register by contacting the Museum Education Department at 315-797-0000 ext. 2158 or online at mwpai.org.
It’s our 75th Anniversary, a Diamond Jubilee, and the staff at Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute wish you a happy, creative new year. These are some of the things we are anticipating:
Nancy Coté Baber, Executive Administrative Assistant: “I am looking forward to the Tierney Sutton Band’s performance on January 22. I was privileged to hear their rendition of “Caravan” while driving the other day and I truly lost sight of the road for a time. Also, my husband and I will celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary with a trip to the wilds of Quebec in June, and I look forward to making more precious memories with my Mom, who turns 90 this coming year. So much anticipation…!”
Francy Caprino, Director of Enrollment Management PrattMWP: “I’m looking forward to making a lot of artwork in Utica this spring and going to Italy in August!”
Meg Gianetti, Educator for School Programs: “I’m always excited about finding new connections between our permanent collection and the traveling exhibitions that come here. I think the Ansel Adams exhibition coming next fall will work very nicely with our collection and I think school groups will really enjoy it.”
Cindy Koren, Associate Professor of Communications Design, PrattMWP: “I’m looking forward to planning the 2011-2012 Easton Pribble Lecture series. AND I was surprised and thrilled to find out that MWPAI is bringing Ellen Lupton in this February.”
Mary Murray, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art: “I am full of anticipation for both the Tierney Sutton Concerts in the Court performance and the Hot Tuna Great Artists Series performance. Also I am hoping to spend a week in Florida with my sister.”
What are YOU looking forward to this year? We invite you to put the Institute’s varied, colorful programs on your calendar.