Austin Music Summit – The FeedBak

Two months ago I attended one of the  Austin Music Summit meetings at Strange Brew and met Bak Zoumanigui, an Austin podcaster and blogger. A veteran of Austin’s nightlife, his website The FeedBak features videos and podcasts from 2 am interviews, stories in the night and most recently, three excellent shows highlighting the City of Austin’s process of soliciting feedback from citizens at art and music summits. The recommendations for stabilizing the Austin creative ecosystem can be found here.

I’ve been here since the 1970’s, going to school, working at UT, the Austin Public Libraries, as a waitress, gallery assistant and unpaid artist and writer.  Artists and musicians created what is a now storied entertainment scene during a time in which housing and the cost of living was kind to creatives.  The same two bedroom cottage I rented in Travis Heights for $125 a month in 1976 would sell for at least $500,000 now.  Affordability is one of the biggest challenges working artists and musicians face in 21st Century Austin.

This is an ongoing conversation, in the meantime check FeedBak podcasts to catch up:

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FDBK Ep. 098 – Save Austin Music Part 1 – Work With The City. Do Not Rely On It

Interviews with Rebecca Farrell, an attorney at Austin Music Law and Tee Double, the founder of Urban Artist Alliance, helping urban artists learn about the business side of the music industry.

FDBK Ep. 099 – Save Austin Music Part 2 – Bet On Music Tech

Bak talks with Chris Bush, the CEO of TipCow, and Dan Redman, founder of Mosaic Sound Collective about how their ventures fit in Mayor Adler’s Omnibus Resolution to preserve the Austin music scene.

Yesterday, Bak talked with Music Summit organizers at City Hall in his 100th podcast for the Feedbak.  If you were not able to attend the meetings, these conversations are the next best thing.  Please give them a listen and use the link in the photo below for the last in the series.  Austin is striving to find ways to keep the city livable for artists and musicians. Thanks Bak, for getting the word out and please consider joining the fight and donating to the FeedBak!

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J. Charles Jones & the Soul of Charlotte

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Charlotta Janssen’s portrait of J. Charles Jones

Last week I had the great good fortune to meet the Hon. J. Charles Jones, a civil rights legend living in the Biddleville neighborhood of Charlotte, North Carolina.  Bordered by historically black  Johnson C. Smith University, Biddleville struggles to keep its character while integrating young families seeking a perch close to downtown. My daughter and son-in-law are among them and were warmly welcomed by Mr. Jones on their first day in the neighborhood.  Charles lives across the street, tending to koi ponds, both indoor and in his gardens and was one of the first people in Charlotte to install a solar energy system, which provides most of his energy needs. C-Span interviewed him in 2011 about his contribution to the civil rights movement,  part of their Historic Charlotte series ( linked to the photo below).

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Click on photo for interview

When Mr. Jones welcomed me, he told me a little about his history with the movement, his marriage of 38 years and his love of the earth and of people.  His storytelling style is poetry in motion, conducting the conversation with orchestral flair.  My imagination was already piqued by his lush garden and the mysterious greenhouse structure than runs the length of his family home.  Charles’ openness, spiritual presence and charm are a powerful reminder that there are many humane beings in the world and that a heart to heart connection will always bring a tear to my eye.  He is a wonderful goodwill ambassador, helping to build Dr. King’s “beloved community,” with  love.   The Historic West End Partners, neighbors and the city of Charlotte are working together to mitigate some of the side effects of increasing property taxes and keep the character of this historically rich black neighborhood alive. Support of long-time residents is important to both old and new neighbors.

This week, Representative Charles Lewis, a Civil Rights icon, led the sit in to protest obstruction to gun control legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.freedom_11944cjonesprofile_med  The struggle for justice and equality is real, just as hard as it was in the 1960’s.  When someone who has faced the blindness and the hatred of prejudice holds out his hand in friendship, it is both humbling and hopeful.  The relentless media focus on hatred and violence undermines opportunities for trust and mutuality.  It seems, lately, that we have taken several steps backward: in women’s rights, voting rights, civil rights, LGBT and labor rights.  Perhaps there will come a time when we can move forward again, together.  Charles Jones and John Lewis make me believe that time is now.

A summer saunter around Charlotte, Cornelius and Davidson, NC

 

Thornton Road – West Austin Studio Tour

ThorntonWestAustinThe collective at the Thornton Road Studios, located by ABGB at Oltorf and Thornton Road boasts an important victory for artists trying to live and work in Austin.  In February, the Austin City Council decided 10 -1 in favor of denying a request for a zoning change, which would have razed the studio complex in favor of a mixed use development (read more condos).  It seems that every available parcel of land in South Austin is being gobbled up, transforming lush, green tracts on  Del Curto Drive and Clawson Lane into crowded, condo tunnels. Mayor Steve Adler has launched  the Austin Music and  Creative Omnibus Resolution which seeks input from the creative sector on keeping Austin artist friendly, stemming the tide of increasingly unaffordable housing and venue loss. In short, a battle for the soul-y of our city and I don’t just mean our “brand.”  This is one of a series of posts about the summits, which The Austin Chronicle reported on in April.

In addition to the creation of a Cultural District downtown on Red River and the thinkEAST living and working development, I would encourage cultivating creative corridors that are already developing organically in South Austin (SOCO, SOLA and SOCHACA)  and in North Austin (BURO).  Rather than building new units, it might be wise for the city to reclaim and upgrade apartments and offer grants to venues (like Strange Brew) that share an intention to grow collaboratively with other vendors or partners like ACC.

The West and East Austin Studio Tours are a great way to get an impression of just how many artists are meeting the affordability challenge in pursuit of their passion.  I offer a few in the gallery below who have made Thornton Road Studios their creative home. Featured artists include: Creative Side Metal Works, Wyss Bronko – Drugparty Collaborative, Cindy Corkill, Rita Marie Ross, Jacob Colburn, Mindy Graber, Sandy Muckleroy, Christine Gilbert and Greg Davis.

West Austin Studio Tour – South

Took a short tour of a couple South venues on the West Austin Studio tour. I’ve been curious about the Space music rehearsal studio on Manchaca Road for awhile.  The Sound : Vision show featured work from the Austin Art Refugees, a roving band of artists I will be following, shown in the gallery below: Hannah Lee, Ann Wieding, Dave McClinton, Patrick Moran and Bart Kibbe.  I had to stop in at David Amdur’s studio to see his new stone and wood carvings and check out the latest addition to the Manchaca Road corridor, Articulture, making art out of life.  More to come next week, when we’ll have another chance to explore more Westside art.

In gratitude to Prince

13076853_10153381960676822_778285282396388391_nFollowing Maceo with Prince, transcendent even in death.  Dionysus will return in another form, but Prince will remain the Master of Funk. David Bowie might have loosed the bonds of gender, but Prince made it so very sexy. And he wasn’t stingy, sharing that sexiness with his crew, mostly women, much like Dionysus.  Tearing it up on the dance floor instead of in the forest, roving bands of high heeled men and women partook of the sacrament of sex, offered by his highness. Prince confronted the issues of the day, operating as a cultural icon, an oracle for a generation straddling Boomers and GenX.

Turning out the joint in Detroit with dance, sex, music, romance. From the Musicology Tour. School’s in people!

Prince’s managed his public persona like his stagecraft.  His reserve, the dignity and lack of pretense made him one of the locals in Minneapolis and gave him a measure of privacy few icons retain. Enigmatic, seductive, ageless and generous, not seeking anyone’s approval.

Deeply religious, Prince lived his faith rather than proselytizing, despite becoming a Jehovah’s witness.

UnknownOne of his hardest fought (and won) battles was for the rights to his music. Struggling over decades, he took back control of his catalogue and his image.  His decision to release his new album HitNRun on Tidal, Jay Z’s streaming service was a fresh start, one that other artists are pursuing.

 “Prince has always been a visionary, a free-thinker. We’re honored to offer his breadth of work, 1999, Purple Rain, etc., music that has inspired so many, on Tidal. We’re also excited to be the home for his new upcoming album, HitNRun. Both Prince and Tidal share the belief that all creatives should have the opportunity to speak directly to those that love and support them. This partnership with Prince represents Tidal’s philosophy in its truest form, a 1 to 1 connection and direct delivery of artistry to the world.” Jay Z

The artist, the lover, the soul of funk: Prince’s music will continue providing inspiration to musicians across genres – Don’t believe me just watch.

His funkiness Maceo Parker @Antone’s

Hornplayer My first trip to the new Antone’s was also my first live Maceo Parker experience. I’ve been a fan since his James Brown days, then ParliamentLife on Planet Groove and beyond.  He’s still 2% jazz and 98% funky.
Soul PowerThe band  featured in the video below  includes: Maceo Parker (sax/flute/vocals), Dennis Rollins (trombone), Will Boulware (keys), Bruno Speight (guitar), Rodney “Skeet” Curtis (bass), Marcus Parker (drums), Martha High (vocals) and Corey Parker (vocals).

Hard to keep the camera still when you gotta shake everything you got.  Happy music for him and all the fans getting their groove on.  I liked the new Antone’s location, next to Eddie V’s and the Russian House, which long since replaced Amdur gallery on 5th.  What’s old is new on a block where I worked and played for many years.

Community First – Creating a village in East Austin

Mobile Loaves and Fishes and a consortium of private partners and foundations have created a community for homeless residents that could serve as a template for many who are interested in sustainable co-housing .  The village consists of tiny homes, tent and teepee dwellings with a section for RVs with hook ups. Residents pay rent, ranging from $225 to $400 (all bills paid) depending on whether they opt for a tent, RV or house.

The collaboration of non-profits, architects and Austin residents has come together in ways that highlight their talents and commitment. As you walk the grounds, the feeling of being in a village built to encourage community, while still allowing for privacy and uniqueness is reflected in the diversity of homes and styles, obviously crafted with pride and creativity.  It is a very human  community on 27 acres designed to be partially self-sustaining.

Bath houses with private shower and toilet facilities and a community kitchen, gardens, a chicken coop and a small herd of dairy goats provide work, sustenance and healthy social opportunities. Bee hives are planned and an art house, a forge and onsite wi-fi will support  micro-enterprise development and job seekers who wish to reenter or join the workforce. Onsite health services and a new bus stop en route to Austin help residents take care of their basic needs and participate in the care and support their evolving community provides. Members of the Mobile Loaves and Fishes mission are in residence to assist and counsel those with questions or concerns.  As Sociology doctoral student, Brandon Robinson said, “This is a dissertation waiting to happen.” The data from this project will be invaluable in funding future villages and in keeping this one viable. From Invisible in Austin to Community First, there is plenty for our ethnographers to research.

Mobile Loaves and Fishes has been a source of sustainment and support for hungry people in Austin for many years.  Their model of community first is an inspiration to many who have partnered to turn this idea into an exciting reality, founded on love and respect. They = we.

MFAH celebrates Art Deco with vintage rides

The  Sculpted in Steel: Art Deco Automobiles and Motorcycles, 1929–1940 exhibit at the Houston Museum of Fine Art shines with an extraordinary collection of elegant vehicles. As a Norman bel Geddes devotee, I was one of many ogling fans. The exhibit will be on display until May 30, 2016 and is a must see for classic car fans.

Sculpted in Steel showcases 14 cars and three motorcycles, alongside historical images and videos. The classic grace and modern luxury of Art Deco design dazzles in vehicles from the United States and around the world. The innovative, machine-inspired Art Deco style began in France in the early 20th century, but the movement was interrupted by World War I. The style reemerged across Europe after the war, and the 1920s to 1930s proved to be one of the most creative eras for international design in all mediums. Art Deco influenced everything from fashion and fine art to architecture and transportation.

Barton Creek and Blunn Creek – January 2016

It’s always nice to enjoy the trails along Barton Creek in January, when the weather is so very fine. Kids of all ages and their dogs swarm the greenbelt like happy bees with spring almost in the air, sun shining down like honey .

There were fewer people on the trail at the Blunn Creek Nature Preserve, an urban oasis in South Austin and one of several ancient volcanoes that dot the area from St. Edward’s University to Stacy Park in Travis Heights. My favorite oak, probably 500 years old, is queen of the forest and was too big to fit into my camera’s frame.

Water Meditation – Flowing

Shamans of the Avant Garde – Miro and the Crazy World of Arthur Brown

woman_bird_star_AS03162Art is never more obscure than when it invokes the language of the unconscious. Thankfully, we have guides – shamans who venture into the unknown and return, inviting us to join them . Avant garde artist Joan Miro is a shaman of symbolic art.  I saw his “Experience of Seeing” exhibit at the McNay Museum in San Antonio and entered the realm of the body/mind in order to see it.  Joan Miro acknowledges:

It is difficult for me to talk about my painting, since it is always born in a state of hallucination, brought on by some jolt or another – whether objective or subjective-which I am not in the least responsible for.

Joan Miro - BirdArt critic Waldemar George described it in 1929 “as the painting of a physical vacuousness that easily balances out its interior magic, with ties to cosmic sentiment and the intuition of mystery seen in the ancestors, like those who painted the caves of Altimara, whom he specifically mentions on one hand and to “congruent paintings, brought to life by strange homunculi and fantastical plants on the other. In this defining moment there came to be an encounter between the escape from speres and the attraction to the abyss.”
Miro, Joan-Head in the NightJacques Dupin elaborated, “There remains a space where things and beings can abide and encounter one another through a series of exchanges and metamorphoses, and this passing site is none other than the earth: neither sheltered from the risk from below, or the beckoning from above.”

Arthur Brown knows something of above and below, exhorting us to hold a vision in our heart, to face our fears and join him in the formless depths of Zim Zam Zim.

Miro’s paintings and found object sculptures beckon us to see space as a psychological landscape – to respond without preconception to what comes our way, as children do.

I will make my work emerge naturally, like the song of a bird or the music of Mozart, with no apparent effort, but thought out at length and worked out from within . . everything becomes strange, shifting, clear and confused at the same time. Forms give birth to other forms, constantly changing into something else.

ShamanArthur Brown invites us with many of the same numinous symbols as Miro: the spirit bird of our imagination, woman, sex and the fire of fear, rage and ultimate annihilation.  An existential burlesque that finally asks, “Who the fuck am I?” in this montage from his Strange Brew show in Austin (without his full band).

As we traipse from day to dreams, through all the stages of our lives and our imagination, it’s a good idea to keep a healthy dose of humor amidst the drama. So why do we even enter into the shape shifting realm of the unconscious?

Quoting Miro, ” As Kant said, it is the irruption of the infinite into the finite. A pebble, which is a finite and immobile object, suggests not only movement to me but movement that has no end. In my paintings, this translates into the spar-like forms that leap out of the frame, as though from a volcano.

That volcano is the fire of creation  in the heart of Zim Zam Zim.

what beauty goes unnoticed

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