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Photo: fractalx via VisualHunt.com
Street art outside Nottingham Playhouse. The city has a plan to integrate arts and culture into all aspects of life.

What do we know about the city of Nottingham? We know about the sheriff, I guess, and his adversarial relationship with Robin Hood. But did we know that modern-day Nottingham is really into the arts? A website called Arts Professional wants to enlighten us.

Christy Romer writes, “Nottingham has committed to embedding culture in education and healthcare as part of an ambitious ten-year vision for the city.

“By 2027, the city aims to make ‘culturally-inspired lifelong learning’ available for every person in Nottingham, and establish cultural programmes, research and partnerships that enhance health and wellbeing.

“The vision … aims to achieve national and international acclaim for the quality and diversity of locally-produced artistic work.

“ ‘Culture will unlock potential in our city. The next ten years will continue to see a transition that takes the city from its industrial, manufacturing past, paving the way to reimagine the city for generations to come,’ the [Cultural Statement’s] foreword reads. …

“Plans include supporting schools to develop a world-class cultural learning offer and giving every person opportunities to access creative skills and careers. …

“The City Council also aims to work in partnership with public health professionals and local commissioning groups to understand and enhance the health and wellbeing of the city’s residents. …

“The city announced its bid for the European Capital of Culture 2023 title in August.” More.

Alas, the Brexit vote to leave the European Union means that UK cities will not be eligible. Here’s hoping that Nottingham’s worthy ambitions are not derailed by Brexit and that the UK government will help the city find the resources to carry out its plans. (One has to wonder if the ramifications of leaving the EU was ever fully thought out.)

AmeliainHull, it sounds like Nottingham wants to give Hull a run for its money!

Art: Louis Rhead, “Bold Robin Hood and His Outlaw Band,” New York: Blue Ribbon Books, 1912.

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Photo: Jason Rosewell
No one’s singing is hopeless, says a Toronto voice teacher.

I know many people who say they can’t sing, but a teacher in Toronto begs to differ. Anyone can sing, she says. People just need a little help.

Anya Wassenberg writes at Ludwig van Toronto, ” ‘I’m tone deaf. I can’t sing.’ It’s usually accompanied by a smile or laugh, but the message is both clear and absolute. And wrong.

“Lorna MacDonald is Professor of Voice Studies and Vocal Pedagogy at the University of Toronto, and she puts it even more strongly. ‘That’s a blatant lie.’

“Of all creative endeavours, singing is perhaps the most poorly understood. To the chagrin of vocal teachers everywhere, singing is the one pursuit where you will be told, you can’t sing, so don’t bother. Parents will readily pony up the resources for acting lessons, or soccer, but when it comes to the ability to sing, many people are still under the impression that it’s something magical – you either have it, or you don’t. …

“Sean Hutchins is the Director of Research at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music. His lab looks into how music affects the mind, and how the mind affects music, in essence. …

“He points out that in older generations, in particular, the sole emphasis was on performance. When school children who couldn’t naturally hit the right notes, rather than training them, they would simply be told to mouth the words, and not sing at all. ‘There’s no better way to make sure someone is bad at something than to tell them they can’t do it.’ …

“Lorna MacDonald cites breath, posture, and vowels as the essential elements that are integral to vocal training for anyone. ‘It’s very much a physical process,’ she explains. ‘Our larynx isn’t necessarily made to create those beautiful sounds, any more than our legs were designed to kick soccer balls.’ …

“[MacDonald] suggests that thinking about what styles and genres you’d like to sing, and your ultimate goals as a singer are a good place to start. ‘It’s so important that it comes from a place of communication — not to be famous.’ …

“In reality, people with congenital amusia, or the innate inability to hear pitch properly, form a very small percentage of the population. The study of amusia is still quite recent, but estimates put it at no more than 1.5 to 4 percent. …

“In essence, amusia testing looks for evidence of faulty pitch perception. That’s the difference. Someone with clinical amusia actually can’t hear variations in pitch. …

“In extreme cases, a little delusional thinking can help. Florence Foster Jenkins was a Manhattan heiress in the early 1920s to 1940s who dreamed of being an opera singer, and was somehow entirely convinced of her talent. There are a smattering of Youtube videos that attest to the fact that she was, let’s say, entirely lacking in training. Still, she went on to become a cult favourite of the NYC music scene. …

“So why sing, in the end? Professor MacDonald puts it best. ‘You contribute beauty to the world,’ she says.” And pleasure to yourself, I’d add.

More here, at Ludwig van Toronto.

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modern-world-caricature-illustrations-steve-cutts-5

Art: Steve Cutts
A short animation about the rat race you are sure to recognize.

Slippery Edge has the most amazing blog. It’s full of original works by artists, photographers, animators, musicians. I have long wondered how s/he gets permission, but the posts do send readers to the originators’ websites.

I’m especially enamored of the short animations Slippery Edge posts and just had to share this one by Steve Cutts about the rat race. I thought it was so on-the-money, having squeezed myself into subways like that for many years. All that’s missing are treadmills, which always look to me like something you put in a rat’s cage.

The poor rat in the video thinks he’s on the track of happiness and keeps pursuing whatever contemporary voices — media, advertising, the world at large — suggest is the road to happiness. The message I take away is that I better figure that out for myself and not get distracted by unknown entities’ self-serving promises.

Watch the short animation and see what Slippery Edge has to say about the artist, here.

See also:
http://www.stevecutts.com/
https://stevecutts.wordpress.com/
https://www.facebook.com/SteveCuttsArt

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Today’s Bonus Tidbit

Suzanne will be showing Luna & Stella antique lockets Fridays at noon (Eastern Standard Time) through December 22 on Instagram Live. Go to @Lunaandstella .

You can also see these one-of-a-kind lockets on her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/lunaandstella/. Suzanne will size and place a photo of your loved one in the locket of your choice. A few of the antique lockets are shown below.

Suzanne’s Mom

Luna-and-Stella-antique-lockets

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Photo: Getty
Auckland Libraries in New Zealand figured out why their books were going missing and came up with a win-win solution.

If you know how to read, you want to read, and librarians want you to read. But not everyone has easy access to books. That is why some readers in New Zealand were sneaking books.

Mark Molloy writes at the UK’s Telegraph, “A New Zealand library has finally solved the mystery of why some books were going missing from its shelves.

“Auckland Libraries staff were bewildered after finding some books were being hidden in random places. They initially thought kids playing pranks were to blame, but later discovered it was the city’s rough sleepers who were actually stashing the books so they could return the next day to continue reading.

“ ‘A lot of our street community were wanting to put them underneath the couches or underneath book shelves and kind of hiding them in various places,’ librarian Sean Taylor told TV NZ. … Without a permanent address they were unable to sign up for a library card that would allow them to take the literature away.

“As a solution, Auckland Library created a new section where books can now be left overnight and picked back up again the next morning. …

“ ‘They are really well read. We’ve got a guy who I’ve had a discussion about the meanings of words and we’ll talk about the reference section and it’s the kind of intellectual conversation you’d expect from an academic.’ …

“Auckland Library says it sees itself as a ‘home for the homeless’ and holds regular cinema screenings and a book club for those sleeping rough. …

“ ‘One guy told me he moved to the city several years ago, and that none of his family back home knew he was homeless,” [said Rachel Rivera, manager of Auckland Libraries]. He used our computers to keep in touch with them. It was his lifeline to his family,’ she said.

“ ‘They value our service, like many of our communities do, for different reasons. But they don’t always feel safe and welcome, and that is something we can and should take steps to address.’ ”

More at the Telegraph, here. And look: Everything at the Auckland libraries website is in both English and Maori.

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Photo: Matt Nemeth for WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR station
Former football player Baron Batch reinvented himself as a street artist.

I enjoyed this story from the sports radio show Only a Game about a former football player who became an accomplished street artist. Sarah Kovash reported.

“It wasn’t until after Baron Batch left the NFL that he attracted the attention of the Pittsburgh police department. … It was while riding his bike along one of Pittsburgh’s riverfront trails that he stopped to spray paint a message.

” ‘You know, I just got so comfortable with painting on things outside,’ Batch says. ‘Like, I just was riding my bike and just tagged the trail.’ He didn’t stop there.

” ‘I had this tag that said “all your scars are lovely” down by the wharf. That’s where I like ride my bike, and I always get off my bike there and stretch my ankle. I have no cartilage in my ankle. It’s just grinding bones. I deal with chronic pain every single day. So, at that spot, you know, I was riding one day and stretching. And that hit me. Like, all your scars are lovely.’ …

“Batch started his company, Studio AM, about a year after leaving the Steelers. Young Pittsburgh residents took notice and began sharing his work on social media. Batch relished the attention.

“He started doing what he calls ‘art drops,’ where he would leave one of his paintings in a public area and post its location on social media — free to the first person who could find it. …

“He turned his studio — located in the Pittsburgh-adjacent, Rust-Belt town of Homestead — into a brunch venue and gallery. On Sundays, visitors eat fruit-covered french toast and savory rice dishes while chatting with the artist. It’s not the same crowd you’d find at a Steelers tailgate.

“Last year, Batch was commissioned for a mural project. He created 20 pieces throughout the city, mostly on the sides of buildings. …

“As Batch spent more time on outdoor murals, he moved from the surfaces he had permission to paint to … some he didn’t. …

“He painted other colorful messages — some on a bridge and a parking lot. It never occurred to him that he was breaking the law. …

“Batch was creating some of the most inspired art of his career, but his project was quickly halted when the police showed up. …

“In all, police said Batch caused more than $16,000 worth of damage. They charged him with 30 counts of criminal mischief. …

“Batch had to pay $30,000 in fines and legal fees. But he says his arrest also led to a much needed discussion about public art.

“Part of that conversation was with the Friends of the Riverfront. That’s the group that manages the trail Batch graffitied. The group gave Batch permission to paint a section of the trail that’s lined with concrete barriers.”

And it turned out that the arresting officer, Detective Alphonso Sloan of the Pittsburgh police graffiti squad, had empathy for Batch. He told the ex-football player, ” ‘Hey, I admire your artwork. Even though some of it’s, you know, it’s illegal.’

” ‘[He] said “OK, I’m an artist, and you’re an artist. How about we get together sometime?” We worked on several projects.’ …

“Detective Sloan hopes Batch doesn’t test the city’s graffiti laws again.

” ‘[I’m] hoping it’s just a one-time thing because I hate to arrest someone … you get to work with them and you actually like them.’ ”

More at Only a Game, here.

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Photo: NJ Advance Media
Rodin sculpture of Napoleon turns up in a New Jersey town hall. Drew University grad student Mallory Mortillaro did the legwork to authenticate it. She is pictured here with Rodin expert Jérôme Le Blay.

Sometimes lost treasures actually get found. In this story, a bust by famed sculptor Auguste Rodin turned up in a New Jersey town hall, thanks to a determined grad student.

Justin Zaremba wrote about the discovery at NJ Advance Media.

“The art world lost track of acclaimed sculptor Auguste Rodin’s bust of Napoleon in the 1930s, but it’s apparently been on display for the past 85 years in the most unlikely of places — the council chambers in Madison [New Jersey] Borough Hall. …

” ‘Napoléon Enveloppé Dans Son Rêve’ (‘Napoleon Wrapped in his Dream’) was ‘long rumored’ to be Rodin’s work but the borough and the Hartley Dodge Foundation, which owns the sculpture, didn’t know for certain until about two years ago … [when] Drew University graduate student Mallory Mortillaro was hired by the foundation to go through the various art pieces at the Hartley Dodge Memorial Building.

“The bust was able to hide for so long, he said, because it weighs 700 pounds and requires about five people to move it and its attached pedestal. Rodin’s signature had been hidden from view for decades because that side of the sculpture was pushed against the wall. …

“The building and the artworks inside it were deeded over to Madison by Ethel Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge in the 1930s as a memorial to her son, Marcellus Hartley Dodge Jr., who died in a car accident at the age of 22. The foundation’s sole focus is on preserving the art and architecture of the building. …

“Mortillaro began her detective work by researching every book on Rodin she could find, doing online searches, visiting the Rockefeller archives and contacting officials in the art world.

“Mortillaro, now a teacher at Lawton C. Johnson Middle School in Summit, pursued the case despite receiving the brush off from various art experts.

” ‘No one was being very receptive,’ she said.

Nevertheless, she persisted.

“Mortillaro got in touch with the world’s leading Rodin expert, Jérôme Le Blay, formerly of the Rodin Museum in Paris. …

“According to Mortillaro, when Le Blay walked into the council chambers he turned and said ‘Hello my friend, so is this where you have been hiding?’ …

“The bust had originally been conceived and begun in 1904 at the behest of New York collector John W. Simpson in 1904, but the commission wasn’t completed. Four years later, Thomas Fortune Ryan saw the unfinished piece in Rodin’s studio and acquired it. Rodin completed the piece in 1910. …

“[Hartley Dodge Foundation trustee Nicholas] Platt said the borough and the foundation kept the bust’s identity hidden until now because the insurance company wouldn’t insure the piece for its value and allow them to have the bust open to the public. That’s why for a limited time, it’ll be open to the public — though protected by security — before it leaves the Garden State.

“Platt estimated the piece was worth anywhere from ‘the mid-millions to the 10 million’ range depending on the market.”

The bust will go out on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a year.

More here.

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