Florence has long been recognized as an international art hub–it was, after all, the “cradle of the Renaissance.” Now, the Uffizi, one of the city’s most famous museums, is once more trying to be a trailblazer in the art world. How? By giving women artists’ their due. The Uffizi’s director, Eike Schmidt, was inspired during a stint at the Minneapolis Institute of Art by the Guerilla Girls, a group of feminist art activists, who told him that though many museums have works by women artists, they’re kept in storage. Upon arriving at the Uffizi, Schmidt discovered that the museum is actually “the museum with the largest collection of works of arts by women before the 19th century.” But most of the paintings and pieces were in storage. In 2017, the Uffizi began to change that, holding the first in what is set to be a series of annual exhibitions devoted to women artists of the past. These exhibits will open every year at the beginning of March to coincide with International Women’s Day. Hopefully, museums around the world will follow the Uffizi’s example and get art by women out of the storage rooms and onto display!
In Los Angeles, a group of professional musicians from various organizations comes together regularly for a less traditional purpose: “Street Symphony.” The organization brings together musicians from the LA Philharmonic, LA Master Chorale, and other professional musical organizations to work with the homeless, mentally ill, and incarcerated. Violinist Vijay Gupta founded Street Symphony in 2011–a man who wanted to put some real meaning behind the word “outreach,” which gets thrown around a lot in the classical music world. Gupta, the son of Indian immigrants, beat out more than 300 applicants to win a seat in the LA Philharmonic at the age of 19. In Los Angeles, he got to know a homeless musician and was soon performing at shelters, hospices, clinics, and prisons. Gupta ultimately founded Street Symphony with colleagues from the LA Philharmonic. Interactions with these vulnerable populations have changed the very way these musicians approach their art: when playing at the mental ward of a prison, a man reminded him that “Schumann…died in a place like this.” “That still gives me chills,” explains Gupta. “I’ll never play Schumann the same way again.” This year for the holidays, the Street Symphony ensemble played “We Need Darkness to See the Stars,” a choral-orchestral composition by Benjamin Shirley, who lived at a charitable institution on Skid Row for a couple years. What a truly inspiring group of musicians; it would be lovely to see more and more organizations like these in cities around the globe!
For professional singers, their lungs are their livelihood. For many, a lung transplant may mean the end of a career. Not so for opera singer Charity Tillemann-Dick, who is still singing even after two double lung transplants. Tillemann-Dick was diagnosed at age 20 with pulmonary arterial hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs); her heart was more than three times larger than normal–but she couldn’t imagine her life without singing. She had her first lung transplant at 26; three years later, her body rejected the lungs, and she had another transplant. To celebrate the donor of her second transplant, Tillemann-Dick performed at the Cleveland Clinic with her friend Esperanza Tufani, the donor’s daughter. Tilleman-Dick expressed her gratitude, saying her donor “gives [her] voice.” She details her grueling medical journey in her new book, “Encore.” What a story of persistence and passion! Thankfully modern medicine was able to help Tillemann-Dick continue to pursue her dream.
Scientist Amanda Schochet and designer Charles Philipp are the minds behind the MICRO museum — a 6-foot installation meant to educate visitors and passersby about mollusks. There are currently five MICRO museums circulating in the New York City area; the latest was unveiled just at the end of 2017 at the Ronald McDonald House on the Upper East Side. Schochet and Philipp aim to “foster equal access to fundamental knowledge” by creating these MICRO museums, which can be found outside traditional museum settings and can run for limited times, like a month or a year. They’ve also partnered with the Brooklyn Public Library to create readings lists of weird and fascinating science stories. Schochet and Philipp are hoping to become the most-visited museum in the country within five years; based on current visitor statistics, they could achieve this with fewer than 100 units in circulation. They plan to debut a new MICRO museum core module every year, starting with the core sciences and moving onto math and art. The first MICRO museum physics edition, the Museum of Perpetual Motion, is set to launch in early February. Hopefully, these museums will help inspire and educate people young and old! It will certainly be fun to see how the project progresses over the next few years.
Asian-American Creatives Start Hashtag Movement
In order to amplify one another’s voices, Asian-American creatives are coming together for a hashtag campaign for the new year. The campaign involves actors, writers, filmmakers, and other artists all using the hashtag #AsAmCreatorRollCall. The social media campaign was launched by comics writer Greg Pak as a way for Asian-American creators to learn about and support one another. Pak posted a tweet on Twitter, asking all Asian-American creators: “What are you working on? Let’s all talk it up and support the hell out of each other in 2018! #AsAmCreatorRollCall.” The hashtag has a wealth of artists sharing their upcoming work or pieces in the process. Some bigger names, like blogger “Angry Asian Man,” writer Melissa Hung, and actor Yoshi Sudarso, have all chimed in with their own contributions. What a wonderful way for Asian-American artists to show solidarity and amplify one another’s talent and hard work!
Most people don’t go to basketball games for the half-time shows or side acts. But as Gia Kourlas of The New York Times points out, the NBA is host to some of the best dancers around. She argues that dance troupes like the Brooklynettes and the Knicks City Dancers, who perform during the breaks between quarters of professional basketball games, are worth going to see in their own right. The Brooklynettes were established in 2012 and perform at Barclays Center in NYC; the Knicks City Dancers were established in 1991 and perform at Madison Square Garden. Each troupe has 20 dancers and performs at home games. Alyssa Quezada, the coach of the Knicks City Dancers, says the group’s goal is “to create a production–a show–in the middle of a basketball game.” These dancers face a unique challenge–unlike those performing on a traditional stage, they dance in an arena with 360-degree views. These dance troupes are beginning to attract higher-profile choreographers, like those who have worked on movies and “So You Think You Can Dance.” So next time you find yourself at a game, think twice before you use the quarter breaks as bathroom or snack breaks–you might be missing out on some incredible performances!
Service Dog Disrupts ‘Cats’ Performance
Sleeping Woman Screams When Awoken by Drum at Orchestra Performance
When a Woman Translates Homer
A City-Wide Dance Festival
Ancient Papyrus Reveals the Secret of the Pyramids
For centuries, people have puzzled over the mystery of how the ancient Egyptians built the Great Pyramid of Giza. The oldest and only survivor of the original Seven Wonders of the World, the pyramid was built over a 20-year-old period using locally-sourced limestone and granite and was used as a tomb for Pharaoh Khufu. Now, an ancient papyrus seems to have revealed the complex infrastructure created by builders to complete the architectural marvel. Written on ancient papyrus, the scroll was authored by an overseer and provides the only first-hand account on record of the building of the pyramids. It indicates that the Egyptians used a system of wooden boats, ropes, and canals, along with thousands of workers, to transport the 170,000 tonnes of limestone along the Nile. A fascinating insight into an age-old mystery, illuminating how some of the most stunning architecture of the ancient world was brought to life.
Mental Health Toll on Musicians
A new report being called a “game changing” study, published by the charity Help Musicians UK, explores how the working conditions within the music community can impact individuals’ well-being. Drawing from in-depth interviews with 26 musicians working in various musical genres, including opera, dance, and musical theater, the study emphasizes how the “precariousness and insecurity” of a career in music can be psychologically damaging, resulting in “constant stress” around finding work and financial stability. Additionally, the reality that many musicians are self-employed can result in feelings of isolation, especially when dealing with mental health problems. The report also points to the pressure put on relationships with family, friends, and partners, as well as problems with bullying, discrimination, and abuse in the profession. In the wake of the report, Help Musicians UK has made three specific policy recommendations to help address the factors impacting musicians’ mental health: first, to embed discussions of mental health awareness into music education; second, to create a code of best practice to demonstrate organizational awareness of these issues in the industry; and third, to ensure mental health support services for musicians are affordable and accessible. Hopefully, this report and the recommendations of Help Musicians UK can lead to positive change and increased wellness in the music community.
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