Michael Fabiano

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Arts in the News: Ai Weiwei and his NYC Fence Project, 10-Year-Old ‘Little Picasso’ and more.

October 23rd, 2017

Ai Weiwei to Embark on NYC Fence Project
As one of the world’s most famous living artists, Ai Weiwei tends to garner a lot of attention when he embarks on a new project, and his latest is no different. His “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” project is set to come to New York City this fall; the exhibition will use the concept of a security fence as its central visual theme. An activist as well as an artist, Ai’s piece is reportedly inspired by the “international migration crisis and current global geopolitical landscape.” Commissioned by the Public Art Fund, the project will span all five boroughs and involve over 300 separate locations and hundreds of individual pieces. Wary of reducing the piece to a comment on the debate over a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, director and chief curator of Public Art Fund Nicholas Baume explains: “Ai Weiwei’s work is extraordinarily timely, but it’s not reducible to a single political gesture. The exhibition grows out of his own life and work, including his childhood experience of displacement during the Cultural Revolution, his formative years as an immigrant and student in NYC in the 1980s, and his more recent persecution as an artist-activist in China. It reflects his profound empathy with other displaced people, particularly migrants, refugees and victims of war.” Surely many New Yorkers and visitors alike will be inspired and moved by the ambitious city-wide project! “Good Fences” is set to open to the public on October 12 and run through mid-February.

10-Year-Old ‘Little Picasso’ Stuck at Refugee Center

10-year-old Farhad Nouri, a young Afghan boy living in a refugee center on the outskirts of Belgrade, has been nicknamed “Little Picasso” for his prodigious artistic ability. Farhad lives in the center with his parents and two younger brothers, alongside more than 600 fellow migrants and refugees. Thanks to the Refugees Foundation, a group based in Belgrade, Farhad had his first art exhibition in August of this year. Many see the young artist as an example of the untold potential lost among stranded migrants and refugees; the European regional director of the International Rescue Committee, Elinor Raikes, argues: “Farhad is such a striking example of all the talent and human potential that is being wasted and put on hold among these thousands of people who are stranded.” Farhad’s exhibition, held in a cafe in Belgrade, allowed him to sell photos and scanned copies of his drawings, raising about 335USD for a boy in Belgrade recovering from brain surgery. Farhad also raised 735USD by selling eleven original drawings. The young artist’s reputation has brought him in contact with with some celebrities, including Serbian pop star Ceca and American actor Mandy Patinkin. What does Farhad want to learn next? Animation. To read more about Farhad’s story and to see some of his impressive drawings, read the New York Times article about him <HERE>.

A New Sci-Fi Magazine Written & Edited by Persons with Disabilities
An upcoming magazine called “Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction” is hoping to “put disabled voices at the center of the narrative,” as writer and activist Elsa Sjunneson-Henry explains. Staffed and written entirely by persons with disabilities, the magazine has released three editions, currently raising money for a fourth on Kickstarter. Sjunneson-Henry, who works as the editor of the nonfiction works, explains: “I want to make it so that able-bodied readers can’t look away from, or explain away ableism. I hope that we can give authors hope, who felt their narratives weren’t welcome….But most importantly, I hope we give our disabled community stories they’ve longed for. To me, that’s the most important piece. That we give everyone as much of an opportunity to see themsleves as possible.” The magazine features fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and personal essays. It has already surpassed its $22K Kickstarter goal by $20K. Hopefully this incredible publication continues to thrive and bring imaginative new voices and identities to the world of science fiction writing!

How Netflix Uses Anticipation to Keep You Wanting More
Wired Magazine’s Jason Parham argues that Netflix’s most underrated power is its ability to use anticipation to keep viewers hooked. From just July and August, the streaming giant announced the following: second seasons of both “Ozark” and “Glow,” a Jerry Seinfeld special, a new young adult series “with supernatural twists,” a multiyear contract with showrunner Shonda Rhimes, an interview series hosted by David Letterman, a feature comedy with Ali Wong and Randall Park, 12 new anime series and a Godzilla movie, a biopic of Gore Vidal starring Kevin Spacey, and an adaptation of the bestselling novel “Nappily Ever After.” Netflix subscribers are constantly bombarded with announcements for new seasons and programs–and to what end? A long game, argues Parham, that plays at the streaming service constantly being at the center of conversations about the media landscape. Each new announcement serves to heighten the anticipation of what’s next. With much-anticipated releases such as the second season of the popular nostalgic series “Stranger Things” being continually lined up, the Netflix buzz is sure to continue for quite some time!

Arts in the News: Leonardo da Vinci’s Invention Comes to Life, Theater Bathroom Concerns and more

October 16th, 2017

Leonardo da Vinci viola organista

The Viola Organista: Leonardo da Vinci’s Invention Comes to Life
Leonardo da Vinci dreamt up an instrument called the viola organista, never built in his lifetime. Then, in 2013, Polish instrument-maker Slawomir Zubrzycki decided to build the first example. The instrument is a hybrid of elements from a harpsichord, an organ, and a viola da gamba. When built, it looks like a harpsichord and has a set of strings. Those strings are not plucked, however: instead, they press against rotating wheels covered in horse hair, using the same mechanism that creates sound in string instruments. Zubrzycki spent more than five thousand hours bringing the instrument to life, using Da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus, a twelve-volume collection of manuscripts and designs, as his guide. Though Zubrzycki will never know what Da Vinci thinks of the instrument once built, he explained at the instrument’s unveiling at a concert in Krakow: “I’d hope he’d be pleased.” The instrument, when played, produces a unique sound somewhere between an organ and a string instrument. Interested in hearing this one-of-a-kind instrument for yourself? Check out Classic FM’s story about Zubrzycki’s endeavor <HERE>.

Nationwide Survey in Britain to Address Theater Bathroom Concerns

The Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT) is running a survey in the hopes of helping to address “issues of accessibility and inclusivity” when it comes to bathrooms in British theaters. The results of the nationwide survey will be used to provide guidance on venues’ bathroom provision. The survey asks theaters of all sizes to provide the number of bathrooms in each building, the capacity of each bathroom, the methods for hand-drying available, as well as other design details. It also inquires about the gender balance of available bathrooms and wheelchair accessibility. The survey has been launched by the standing committee for Technical Standards for Places of Entertainment, responsible for helping to ensure the safety and comfort of the public, staff, and performers in performance venues. Chief executive of ABTT Robin Townley explains: “We hope the survey will help address issues of access and inclusivity. It’s about seeing if and what amendments to the guidance are required.” Hopefully, the survey will help British theaters provide comfortable facilities for all patrons and ensure that their trips to the theater allow them to focus on the show, not bathroom logistics.

Golden Age of TV Proves Double-Edged Sword for Writers

The increased prestige of writing for television, as the medium enters the era of “Peak TV,” has resulted in writers flocking to Southern California in the hopes of making a name for themselves. As streaming services like Netflix continue to expand the television landscape, more and more writing opportunities present themselves: a record 455 original scripted series aired last year (the number for 2017 is expected to top 500). John Landgraf, the chief executive of FX Networks and the man responsible for coining the term “Peak TV” in 2015, explains: “I never would have thought there would be enough talent to cover the number of shows currently being made–and yet there is.” The opportunities, however, may come at a steep price: a recent New York Times article features stories from three writers who have dealt with long hours, substance use, and unstable returns in their attempt to make it in the industry. One writer reports how working two jobs left him getting by on three hours of sleep a night, relying on sugar, alcohol, and caffeine to keep him going. To read more about the incredible toll the instability and intensity of writing jobs take on the writers for many hit shows, check out the New York Times article <HERE>.

Trump Declines Invitation to Kennedy Center Honors
A statement from the White House in late August announced that the U.S. President and First Lady “decided not to participate” in this year’s Kennedy Center Honors, traditionally attended by both figures. The statement explains that the decision was made “to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction.” The Kennedy Center responded, thanking the presidential administration and saying: “We are grateful for the gesture.” The honorees for 2017 are set to be Carmen de Lavallade (actress, dancer, and choreographer), Gloria Estefan (singer-songwriter and actress), LL Cool J (hip-hop artist), Norman Lear (television writer and producer), and Lionel Richie (musician and record producer). They are set to be recognized during the 40th Annual Kennedy Center Honors on December 26th of this year, though de Lavallade, Lear, and Richie have declined the invitation. LL Cool J and Estefan have yet to confirm their attendance. Though this year’s event will certainly be different than those of previous years, it will hopefully nonetheless prove to be a lovely night of celebrating amazing talents in the art world.

Arts in The News: Van Gogh Film Released, Opinions of Non-Theatergoers and more

October 9th, 2017

Full Trailer for Hand-Painted Van Gogh Film Released

In anticipation of the long-awaited the hand-painted film, “Loving Vincent,” about post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh, a trailer for stunning biopic has been released. Set to be the first entirely hand-painted feature film ever made, “Loving Vincent” has already been seven years in the making, a collaboration of 125 artists who worked to transform 120 of van Gogh’s paintings into 65,000 painted frames based on live action sequences. Notable stars in the film include Chris O’Dowd, Saoirse Ronan, and Aidan Turner, among others. The film itself is a mystery, revolving around the sudden death of the famous painter in 1890; viewers follow a detective who traces van Gogh’s steps, revisiting his paintings in the hopes of uncovering an explanation for the artist’s supposed suicide. The film reportedly does not come to a definite conclusion, leaving the reasons for van Gogh’s sudden demise up for debate. Interested in seeing a film that is truly the first of its kind? “Loving Vincent” hits theaters on September 22nd!

Award-Winning Show Closes Amid Casting Controversy

Despite being nominated for twelve Tony Awards, Broadway’s “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” is set to close in the wake of a casting controversy around diversity concerns, less than one year since its premiere. The musical is based on a section of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” about 70 pages in length. While Josh Groban originally led the cast, he was eventually replaced with “Hamilton” actor Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan, who was in turn set to be replaced by Mandy Patinkin only three weeks later. Theater fans and many in the Broadway community expressed outrage at Patinkin’s casting, arguing that the move was racially motivated. Patinkin subsequently dropped out, explaining on Twitter that he was not aware of the circumstances around his being hired. Soon after Onaodowan announced his final performance would be in mid-August, producers announced the show’s final performance the first week of September. The musical’s short-lived run certainly demonstrates the power of audience and industry opinion and how controversy can be deadly for even critically-acclaimed shows.

Theater Seeks Opinions of Non-Theatergoers

The York Theatre Royal in the UK has launched a rather nontraditional initiative: a new program, the “Visionari scheme,” seeks the opinions of not only frequent theater-goers but also “non-theatre attendees.” The resulting advisory group will spend a year learning about theater through workshops led by the venue’s staff; subsequently, they will advise on programming decisions at the theater. Associate producer John Tomlinson explains the unorthodox decision to include non-theater-goers: “One of the exciting challenges with this is for us to engage with those who don’t necessarily go to the theatre to have an influence. We want to widely and openly invite non-theatergoers to take part….Over the coming years, the group will be expanded to ensure that we genuinely reflect the wider community.” Those applying to become part of the advisory group must commit for a minimum of two years and will receive a free membership to the theater for the first year. It will certainly be interesting to see how the initiative progresses and what sort of changes result from this unique advisory group!

Museum Exhibit Stepped On and Restored in Same Day

The staff at the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels had quite a long day one Wednesday in mid-August: a museum visitor unknowingly walked into and damaged a work in the Yves Klein exhibition while approaching another work in the gallery space. The visitor walked on “Pigment bleu sec” (“Dry Blue Pigment”), a shallow wooden basin covered with sand and the artist’s signature matte blue pigment, “International Klein Blue,” leaving white footprints on the work, and blue footprints on the floor. The museum reportedly has multiple safety measures, including warning signs, a partial barrier, and a guard, to protect against such accidental damage. A museum spokeswoman explains that somehow “the man was too fascinated [with the other work] to notice all of that.” The nature of the work made the damage fixable: “Pigment bleu sec,” first conceived sixty years ago, is assembled with new sand and pigment each time it is shown. In this case, that meant the damage was “not the same as damage to a ‘unique piece,'” explains the same museum spokeswoman. The museum staff was able to re-assemble the work the same day, barely missing a beat. Earlier this year, a visitor to a museum in Nice accidentally walked on a similar Klein piece. The incident in Brussels certainly highlights the amazingly efficient response of museum staff; hopefully, it also reminds museum-goers to be aware of their surroundings, even among the most breathtaking exhibits!

Fab Five Tips to Lease a Car

September 30th, 2017

Whenever people find out that in many cases I recommend leasing a car (instead of purchasing one) they are surprised.  As a result, I thought for this blog I would walk people through my reasoning and provide some insider tips for the leasing process.


Leasing a car has several benefits.  First, car payments through a lease are often lower than a monthly payment for financing and ultimately trying to purchase a car.  This is because with a lease you are paying for the depreciation of the car during your lease term instead of the cost of the whole vehicle.  Second, you can drive something newer with more features.  Third, you have none of the hassle and headache about maintenance and repair.  Most leases include all the maintenance and come with some type of roadside assistance.  Unless you cause an accident, you will most likely not be responsible for any defects or parts that break down and need repair.  Four, leasing gives you the opportunity to efficiently switch brands and models every couple of years.  Here are five tips to help you through the process:


Tip 1: Familiarize yourself with the proper vocabulary.

  • Dealer’s Price / Capitalized Cost / InvoicePrice / “Sticker” Price is how much for which the dealership would sell the car.
  • Residual Value / Residual Price is how much the car will be worth at the end of your lease.
  • Estimated Depreciation is how much the car will decrease in value from the time you drive it off the lot to when you turn the car back in at the end of your lease.  This is the number that is going to determine your base monthly payment prior to interest.
  • Lease Factor / Money Factor is the interest rate for your lease.


Tip 2: Know the Residual Value prior to negotiation.  For any car you might be interested in leasing, know what the residual value for that car will be in 2 or 3 years so that you can provide support for your number at the dealership.  You can find a lot of calculators online like here or consult the Kelley Bluebook.  You will most likely have to estimate the number of miles (most leases assume you’ll drive 10,000 to 12,000 miles a year) to make this calculation.  Ask yourself honestly how many miles you drive on average a month and make sure you use this number in the estimate.  You don’t want to overestimate because that will increase your lease payments.  Knowing the residual value in either percentage or total value will give you a leg up and give you an advantage.


Tip 3: Set a favorable Dealer’s Price.  Never say the words, “I’m here to lease a car” before you negotiate the dealer’s price.  Like determining the residual price, there are websites online where you can research this figure.  You want the lowest possible dealer’s selling price because this is going to determine how much you’ll pay per month (and a lower dealer price, higher residual value means the lowest possible payments for you).  The dealer wants to establish the highest selling price as possible, so having figures for your negotiation will only help support your argument.  Establish the most favorable number for the dealer’s price.  Then, indicate you are interested in leasing and start negotiating the residual price.


Tip 4: Needs, Wants, and Expectations.  Prior to a trip to the dealership, you should figure out your needs vs. wants.  Needs are your “musts” or “deal breakers” whereas wants are your “preferences” or “wish list.”  This creates your expectations.  Do you need an SUV or do you want an SUV?  If you need to be able to fit two car seats in the back, then an SUV might be easier than a car.  Do you need all-wheel drive or do you want it (perhaps you live in an area where it often snows and rains)?  Do you and your partner constantly bicker about the temperature in the car?  If so, then dual climate control might be more of a need than a want.  How important is the sound system?  This might dictate whether you add a car with a technology package to your lease.  Don’t rely on the dealership to create this list because it’s to their advantage to convince you everything is a need.  Create your expectations before you set foot on the lot.


Tip 5: Interest Rates are Flexible and Negotiable.  This is where it is going to pay to shop your competition.  Don’t accept the first interest rate the dealership gives you, instead call the finance managers at competing dealerships to find the best interest rate available.


Bonus Tip – Don’t forget to add all the one-time fees into your calculation.  There will most likely be a security deposit, acquisition fee, and disposition fee possibly a registration and other miscellaneous costs.  Always ask to see if these can be waived or reduced and compare leasing companies.  Some companies charge $300 in fees, but others may charge more than $650.


Interview: Michael Fabiano on Faust

Limelight Magazine's Editor, Clive Paget, heads backstage to meet American tenor Michael Fabiano ahead of his appearance in David McVicar's production of Gounod's Faust, for Opera Australia.

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