On Friday October 18th the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art held their opening reception for the exhibit titled Tales of the Conjure Woman by the artist Renee Stout. The pieces in the show were all based around the folk stories that originated through slavery among African Americans. The pieces established a story of a root worker and fortune teller named Fatima Mayfield, an alter ego that Renee Stout has had for a while that acts as a source of inspiration for her artwork. The opening reception was prefaced by a dialogue from Renee Stout so that before viewing the show the audience members could get to know the artist better. Renee Stout being present at the reception gave an interesting and exciting experience to the exhibit by being able to look at her art and read about her inspiration and experiences, but then see her in person and hear her speak or have a conversation with. An interesting portion of the exhibit was that on the back of each piece she wrote the title, her name, and the perfumes she wore during the creation of that piece. She then included those perfume bottles in her exhibit to allow the audience to smell them, so that they could get a better sense of the inspiration that went into the art.
The amount of people that showed up for both the lecture and the exhibit was vast as a result of great promotional efforts. The large crowd added excitement to the atmosphere making it not just a quiet walk through the exhibit and encouraged discussion and bolder enjoyment of the show. The event was free and catered food and wine companies were present for the enjoyment of the audience. The no-cost admittance allowed many college students to attend the event which they may not have otherwise if there was a cost. Before the reception I received E-mails and had seen the posters and pamphlets around campus advertising the exhibit. With the Halsey location being on campus they planned their event with their audience in mind. There were also many African Americans there that were interested in the subject of the folk stories created in slavery, and inspired the artwork in the show. I would definitely encourage others to visit the exhibit, especially college students interested in a free art experience that is conveniently located for those with a busy schedule.
On Wednesday night I decided to visit Theatre 99 on Meeting St. for their 8pm Laugh for a Lincoln show. Last night, the popular improv theatre featured three separate groups each presenting about 45 minute long shows in their own way. Each group started with some sort of inspiration for their skits that would then be performed afterward, connecting back to the inspiration they received from the audience at the beginning. Two of the groups simply asked for a word or phrase from the audience, and one group brought an actual audience member up on stage, asked her questions about her life, and then performed a series of mini scenes based off of her answers. A couple of the groups were a little slow to get people laughing because they were speaking quietly and for those of us in the back, we had a hard time hearing their jokes. I was excited to discover that in the second act, the group Full Love Throttle brought out a special guest, Frank Caeti, visiting from Los Angeles. It definitely kept the show exciting and he was hilarious and clearly experienced in the realm of improv.
I was pleased to find that almost every single seat in the house was filled by the beginning of the show despite their lack of intense advertising. The show cost only five dollars, explained by the title, Laugh for a Lincoln, however they only accepted cash. I tried to go to the show once before, but I was unaware of the cash-only policy, and their ATM located in the lobby was out of service so I decided to go back another day. The nearest ATM is about a ten minute walk away and for some that might mean missing the beginning of the show, or deciding against going completely. Understandably, credit card machines and fees can be costly but I would suggest at least advertising on their website the cash-only policy. I would suggest that others should visit Theatre 99 because they have smooth transitions and are professional in the sense that they know what they’re doing and how to get their target audience.
In the quaint, soundproof room of 237 in the Cato Center for the Arts, I listened and watched as the New Music Collective presented an experimental music show. Earth People is made up of two brilliant musicians, Jessie Marino, and Eric Wubbels, who were performing their Modernist Love Tour as they make the trek from New York City to California. Before the commencement of the show, I met and chatted with the artists and the co-artistic director of NMC, Ron Wiltrout. Immediately I noticed how personable each of them were and no longer felt nervous about attending my first experimental music show. When first experiencing a new genre of music you may fear that you will not understand it. However, Earth People began their show by giving a brief description for each of the pieces that they were going to perform. By explaining what you would see, what you should hear, and why the composer wrote a certain piece, every one in the audience immediately had the same chance of appreciating and enjoying the pieces no matter what their prior expertise was. The pieces acted as experiments to see how certain sound waves would react with their surroundings, other objects, and with other sounds.
I enjoyed listening to the experiments take place but what was more exciting to me was that I understood what they were trying to do, because I had been given this prior knowledge. I thought they picked a space that perfectly matched their show because there were only about twenty chairs set up in the room and about that many people showed up. Also, because we were in a small soundproof room, the music filled every space and was impossible to ignore. On each chair there was an optional evaluation sheet to be filled out during or after the show which was a great way for them to get immediate feedback from an informational source, their audience. Almost everyone wrote down feedback and handed it to Ron on their way out. The show was free admittance but they were accepting donations, something that not many people took part in simply because they did not have cash. With NMC being a non-profit organization they should be thinking of different ways to get donations, possibly electronically through the internet, or even stating on their flyers that donations are welcome, so people could come prepared. I recommend going to an NMC event to anyone because of the extremely personable artists and staff, and the free admittance and location on campus is convenient to students. Also, the quaint space and small audience made the experience so much more personal and enjoyable.