Arts & Culture
Television shows are reruns. Most of the college population fled Bloomington for the summer. The Comedy Attic isn't having open mic nights every Wednesday. But Bloomington's downtown comedy club has found a way to provide entertainment, laughter and good popcorn.
Formerly the Funny Bone, located on Fourth and Walnut Streets, the Comedy Attic this summer features the 2nd Annual Bloomington Comedy Festival every Wednesday night from June 2 through July 28.
"There's good popcorn," Tom Brady, the 2009 Comedy Festival winner, says. "It's not much different from the rest of the year, but I think they add a little bit of extra salt. I could be wrong, but it's good popcorn. And they give you a little extra soda. It's a good combo."
Just outside the door of the Wandering Turtle Art Gallery & Gifts sits a table with refreshments and a smiling young woman to make sure patrons get what they need. Mellow, groovy, jazzlike music greets customers as they walk through the door. Their eyes instantly flood with colorful paintings, pottery, jewelry and more.
Outside, limited parking, crowded sidewalks and people of all ages are signs it's First Friday again in downtown Bloomington.
First Friday is a version of GalleryWalk, which started around 2002, according to Miah Michaelsen, the city of Bloomington's assistant economic and sustainable development director for the arts, when nine downtown galleries came together to coordinate events and exhibit openings to help each other out.
"I think it's a great example of what appear to be competing businesses coming together and promoting each other," Michaelsen says.
Use as many low-energy lightbulbs as you like, turn down the thermostat and drive a hybrid car, but whatever you do as an individual -- indeed, the sum of what we all do for the environment --does almost nothing to alleviate the U.S. military's destruction of the earth.
In The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism, Barry Sanders writes that like other capitalist institutions, "each military branch ... must grow larger and fatter each year; expansion is the life blood of imperialism." Further, Sanders asserts, "The military can brook limits of no kind whatsoever. ... The Pentagon conducts its business behind very thick and very closed doors. It writes its own rules and either follows them or violates them, depending on the situation."
Almost all "military numbers remain off of official reports, secret and out of sight." Sanders obtained the information he cites in the book by gleaning what he could from "arcane reports" and obscure Web sites belonging to the Department of Defense and Government Accounting Office, plus books and articles.
Joanne Shank doesn't remember the moment she realized that she wanted to create environmentally conscious art. A life-long lover of both nature and art, she can't imagine one without the other.
"I've always just enjoyed looking at nature as my resource for expression and inspiration," she says. "I've always enjoyed art, and I've always enjoyed nature, so I don't think there's a beginning point to either of those things in my life."
Shank is one of a number of Bloomington artists who have decided to work in environmentally sustainable ways. Whether artists choose to use recycled or organic materials or to create pieces that focus on environmental issues, the recent surge in interest in the green movement is a natural fit within the local arts community.
We live in an age of attacks on human and civil rights -- for instance, jailing people indefinitely without charging them with a crime and combating protestors violently, such as at the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh a few months ago. People who dissent or engage in left-wing activism are right to worry about being charged with a crime despite not doing anything the Constitution doesn't allow.
To prepare activists for visits by federal law-enforcement agents, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) has republished If an Agent Knocks, a 47-page booklet that it's distributing to the public free of charge. Originally published in 1989, the booklet was revised and updated this past September.
CCR describes its mission as follows. "The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration for Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization [and public interest law firm] committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change."
Editor's note: The following guest column was submitted by Ashley Fisher from the Bloomington Area Arts Council in response to criticisms leveled by local artists in The Bloomington Alternative and other local media.
Fallout from the past
The new (Bloomington Area Arts Council) Board's 10-month story starts with the realization at the beginning of 2009 that the organization was failing -- again. Sensing this, both Ashley Fisher and Rob Hanrahan, who had recently joined the BAAC -- Fisher as a new Board member in October 2008 and Hanrahan November 2008 as a fundraising consultant -- took up the challenge as President of the Board of Trustees and Executive Director respectively in March 2009 to address the long-term sustainability of the arts council, despite its weakened state at that time. Both believed that the organization could be transformed -- and still do.
Editor's note:A group of area artists have banded together to resist management changes and fee increases at the John Waldron Arts Center. On Nov. 23, they sent the following letter to Bloomington Area Arts Council Board President Ashley Fisher and Executive Director Rob Hanrahan.
Dear Ashley and Rob,
We the undersigned represent 21 performing arts organizations in Bloomington who have come together to form the Bloomington Performing Arts Coalition (B-PAC). The primary concern of our organization is the recent increase in the rental rates and fees of the Waldron Arts Center, a building donated to the BAAC by the City of Bloomington for use as a "community arts center."
Small Box, a new opera set in a death row visiting room, will have its world premiere in Bloomington next month. The opera will be performed for one night only on Saturday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.
With music by Herman Whitfield III and a libretto by Bruce L. Pearson, the one-act, hour-long opera takes a serious look at the death penalty without arguing either for or against.
"The opera," Pearson said in a phone interview, "offers a fairly typical cross-section of those who find their way to death row." With Small Box he hopes to "make people think by presenting a realistic view of prison life." The raw material, Pearson said, "is from getting to know the guys on the row."
Music and culture critic Jessica Hopper -- consultant for the revered public radio show, This American Life and whose work is regularly featured in publications such as SPIN and LA Weekly -- indulged a diverse Boxcar Books audience on Aug. 28 with readings from her new book The Girls' Guide to Rocking.
A meaty manual on creating, recording and performing music, The Girls' Guide to Rocking is garnering across-the-board praise for its painstaking nuts-and-bolts approach to music and for its expediency to anyone -- not just the adolescent girls it targets -- interested in making it.
Though written in direct, accessible language, the book is impressive in its breadth and scope, and Hopper, a musician herself since age 15, explained that in writing it she drew from her own experiences. "I wrote this book on how to start a band and play and pursue your own interest in music, and a lot of it is culled from my own experiences from being a teenager in a band and growing up as a girl in a band."
The most insightful observation I've ever heard about the artist's life came from Alice Weaver, the legendary creator/proprietor of the Ferguson House in Nashville and one of the great characters I've known. The catalyst for her proclamation was my wife Judy's reaction to tourists viewing her artwork.
Among many other talents, Judy was an abstract painter. And in the fall of 1977, we opened a shop called Creations in Alice's Antique Alley, where we sold Judy's paintings, weavings and assorted creations, my photographs, our hand-made Colombian imports and a variety of other arts and crafts. Our next-door neighbor was The Paint Box, where saw blades painted with rural scenes sold all day long, day after day after day. The common refrain heard outside our adjoining doors: "Oh hon, look'it the saws!" Inside our shop: "Anybody could do that."
Nashville tourists were a little more accepting of photography as art in the late 1970s, but only marginally so. And despite our grasp of the culture we were involved with, reality was difficult to accept, even if we did get our share of positive reinforcement. Alice swept our bruised egos aside with a wave of her hand. "It doesn't matter whether people love or hate your work," she advised. "It's when they respond to it like it was skimmed milk that you're in trouble."