Michael Fabiano

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Arts in the News: Share art through Facebook Live, Covering Concrete Walls with Art, Effect of Music on Your Mind, MoMA Features Art from Nations Affected by Travel Restrictions, Conductor Made Kids Cry, George Lucas’ Museum

March 22nd, 2017


The National Gallery Reflects on Going ‘Facebook Live’

The National Gallery in London has been hosting live online tours via Facebook Live for just over a year. Their most popular live video was of a tour given by Director Gabriele Finaldi, which received over 200,000 views from across the globe. “In a short space of time, live video has also become a key way we communicate with our global digital audience,” explains Social Media Executive Tamara El Assawi. She continues, explaining: “Though we have seen uplifts in ticket sales during the days following broadcasts, it quickly became clear that the segment of our audience who have been most enthusiastic about the broadcasts are those who are not able to come ot the National Gallery in person.” The online tours are in no way meant to replace visiting the gallery in person, but for those too far away or without the means to get there, they provide a fascinating glimpse into the National Gallery’s amazing collection. Beyond some costs associated with filming, the project cost has been minimal. The National Gallery intends to increase the frequency of their broadcasts, and offer tours of special displays or specific artists. What a wonderful way to share art and the expertise of the National Gallery staff with people around the world!

Covering Concrete Walls with Colorful Art in Baghdad

Determined to brighten the gray concrete walls of his community in the Iraqi capital, university student Ali Abdulrahman got the support of his dean and gathered nearly 100 fellow students to paint graffiti along the walls of the campus. So impressed by the result, Abdulrahman founded “Imprint of Hope” in January 2015 and set his sights on a larger canvas: the walls all around the city of Baghdad. Imprint of Hope now boasts over 370 volunteers who work together to fill the city with beautiful paintings. The volunteers themselves come from a variety of backgrounds, including students, carpenters, ironsmiths, artists, and doctors. Before Imprint of Hope, the walls of Baghdad served primarily as canvasses for sectarian slogans and political propaganda. Locals reportedly complained about the litter along the walls, the rodents who tended to live in and among them, and the smell during some of the hotter summer months. Thanks to Abdulrahman and his colleagues, many walls now boast images of landscapes, animals, whimsical scenes, and positive messages of cooperation and community. At the moment, the group does not receive outside funding, but relies on monthly dues from members of about 8 USD each to buy paint and brushes. Truly an inspiring group of individuals who are brightening the daily lives of those in their community with art and beauty.

Seeing the Effect of Music on Your Mind

Using an electroencephalogram (EEG), Dr. Mark Doidge creates what he calls a “Portrait of Your Mind:” a dynamic, three-dimensional “movie” of brain activity. When a subject listens to music, the portraits come to life, looking like fireworks and bursting with color. Doidge credits his collaborator, biophysicist Joseph Mocanu, with the development of the software used to generate the portrait movies. It works by plotting the origins of electrical activity in differen parts of the brain, and then assigning colors to different kinds of brain waves. Doidge is particularly struck bye the effect of music on the brain (and the portraits): “when I listened to Antonin Dvorak’s Waltz No. 1 from his Op. 54 set, the music coaxes rhythmic bursts of alpha waves from my brain….The sweet, lilting melody and steady pulse of Dvorak’s waltz seemed to be working a pleasant kind of magic inside my head.” Interestingly, whether or not someone actually likes a song does not seem to affect on how the brain responds to it, according to Doige. Yet another fascinating step in linking art and science!


MoMA Features Art from Nations Affected by Travel Restrictions

In the aftermath of an executive order from President Trump barring immigrants and visa-card holders from seven Muslim-majority nations (Yemen, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Syria), the New York City Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has decided to use its own walls to make a stand, hanging work by artists from the very nations affected by the ban. Seven works, each one by an artist from a different one of the seven countries, were installed in the MoMa’s fifth floor galleries late last week, replacing work by Western artists like Picasso and Matisse. Placards next to the pieces explain their symbolism in the face of the travel ban. The MoMA’s Chief Curator of Drawings and Prints, Christophe Cherix, explains that the “clear reaction” to the ban, as he calls the MoMA’s actions, are meant to express “solidarity with artists from different countries.” Selecting the seven works to feature required a multidisciplinary team of curators across several MoMA departments, and the result is both striking and profound. A lovely way to show solidarity for fellow artists and send the message that art knows now borders.


Conductor in Hot Water After Making Kids Cry

At the end of an orchestral performance of Disney’s Frozen in Rome, conductor Giacomo Loprieno asked for the microphone to speak to the audience. He then announced–to a room of parents and their children–that Santa Claus isn’t real, and immediately exited the stage. “Father Christmas doesn’t exist” he said, after apparently becoming increasingly frustrated by families who left the performance early to escape the crowds on the way out. The outburst left parents furious and their children in tears. Mr. Loprieno was promptly replaced by another director for the next show, which took place a week later. The organizers of the concerts also went so far as to post pictures of the new conductor, Marco Dallara, embracing a man dressed as Santa Claus. Tickets for each concert cost between 30 and 48 euros; the show itself, “Disney in Concert: Frozen,” was billed as “a fantastic surprise.” It’s probably safe to say patrons were indeed surprised…

Suspense around George Lucas’ Museum Plans

Sometime this month, George Lucas, the legendary filmmaker most famous for the Star Wars franchise, is expected to announce whether he will put a museum for his extensive personal art collection in San Francisco or Los Angeles. Lucas has tried for nearly a decade to build a museum for his personal collection of 40,000 paintings, illustrations and film-related items, but legal entanglements and other complications have arisen. Now, both LA and San Francisco are vying to be host of the proposed museum. “This is the largest civic gift in American history,” explains LA Mayor Eric Garcetti. The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, as the museum will be called, will provide hundreds of jobs and significant tourist attraction, and is essentially free for the host city. Lucas will be financing the project himself, planning to spend more than $1 billion to build the museum, endow it, and provide over $400 million in initial artworks. Lucas joined forces with Chinese architect Ma Yansong to develop a futurisic design for the museum–appropriate for the man who created Star Wars. It will be interesting to see where the museum ends up and a delight to see the final product!

FabFive Travel Hacks

March 12th, 2017

travel bags and airplane in sky

Many people have asked me about my favorite travel hacks.  Here are five that I’ve been utilizing lately:

TSA PreCheck.  I’m surprised more people haven’t taken the time to apply to TSA PreCheck.  It costs $85 and is good for five years.  You can enroll online here (takes about 20 minutes) and then you have to appear in person with proper identification (takes about 15-20 minutes).  There are many non-airport locations, which means there’s a high likelihood you’ll be able to find a place that conducts onsite screening close to your home.  In 2016, over 44% enrollees reported that TSA PreCheck significantly reduced their security wait.  Anecdotally, many of my colleagues swear by it and one of my friends who frequently consults onsite across the country claims it has saved her an average of 45 minutes of waiting per trip she’s taken in 2017.  Enrollment for the program is still down, which means it behooves travelers to enroll now and take advantage of the benefits.

Bundle Your Travel Costs.  You’ve probably heard that credit cards with miles and benefits are all the rage right now.  Have you considered using that card to pay for flights on a site like Expedia?  Expedia will let you plug in your frequent flier number for whatever airline you choose while giving you access to deals if you bundle a flight and a hotel or a flight and a car rental.  Therefore, you’ve gained points on your credit card through the purchase, miles for the airline, and probably received 10-20% off the cost by bundling.  One other trick if you are using Expedia is that Expedia almost always generates a link after you purchase a flight to save on a hotel.  So long as you click on that link within 30 days, you can save 10% or more on a hotel – even if it’s in a different location than the flight you previously booked.  Sites like Expedia also reward loyalty, so you’ll accumulate more benefits the more frequently you use the site.

Invest in “Open Space” Luggage.  While luggage with many compartments may seem attractive at the onset, it’s limiting.  Not only does it take time to allocate items into the compartments, you might not be able to bring home purchases you make on your trip because they won’t fit.  Although there is much debate about the most efficient way to pack, a suitcase with fewer compartments on the inside that has more open space will give you more flexibility and will be less time consuming to pack at the last minute.

Research specials for local transportation.  During the holiday season, Uber and American Express ran this incredible special on the East Coast and other select airports where you got up to a $65 credit per ride for using an AmEx if your travel originated from the airport.  Many tourists, for example, also don’t know that it is substantially cheaper to purchase a ticket for Metro North from a kiosk than on the train.  A quick Google search can save you substantial money for local transportation costs – something a lot of people don’t figure into the initial cost of a trip.

Only Bring Items You Love.  Similar to the advice I give about what clothes to keep in your closet, you should only travel with items that you love.  Instead of hauling three pairs of so-so pants, find a pair of jeans or lightweight khakis that you love and bring those. This is an obvious space saver, but will also ensure you are confident while traveling.  No one feels great about walking around in a pair of pants they feel are “just ok.”  Apply the same rule to the rest of the clothes, cosmetics, and shoes.  Do you need two pairs of sneakers?  Probably not – pick your favorite.  Bring travel packets of Tide so that you can wash a pair of pants or a shirt overnight in the shower of your hotel.  This is going to ultimately save you time (less decision making each day about what to wear), space (lighter suitcase), and give you more flexibility to purchase items or put other items you need in your suitcase.

Housing for Teachers: A Solution or a Band-Aid?

March 5th, 2017


Housing for Teachers: A Solution or a Band-Aid?

As the housing market continues to grow, teachers’ salaries are largely remaining stagnant.   According to Redfin, only 7% of homes in Seattle, 6.5% of homes in Miami, and 1% of homes in Denver are within the realm of affordability for teachers to purchase.  Rental prices are also high.  As a result, many districts are having trouble recruiting and retaining teachers.  A recent survey of 211 school districts in California found that 75% of the districts had trouble finding enough teachers for the year, 40% of science and math teachers are inadequately prepared for classroom instruction, and 64% of special education teachers hired lack the proper qualifications.

One of the solutions that many districts are proposing is to provide housing or some type of subsidy for teachers.  The San Mateo District in California is exploring building housing onsite.  Miami Beach is discussing whether to turn parking garages into affordable housing for teachers.  Eagle County School District in Colorado is even considering building tiny homes for teachers located near the school. Hundreds of other districts are considering similar proposals.

While this may seem like a good idea, critics argue that instead of providing housing, districts should pay teachers competitive pay.  Others criticize the lack of implementation by many districts because the costs as simply too high to provide housing.  While San Francisco is investigating options, the city already has a housing crisis and schools in the city employ over 9,500 people making it unlikely that they would be able to provide housing for everyone.

One innovative plan is currently underway in Newark, New Jersey called the Teacher’s Village.  The 65,000 square foot retail development includes 3 charter schools, 204 apartments with a preference for educators all within a cluster and a block from Prudential Arena.  The 150-million project has helped revitalize the area as evidenced by retail that is emerging around the development.  Thus, instead of viewing housing for teachers as a isolated issue, cities and districts should approach the problem collaboratively like Newark has.

Arts in the News: Women in the arts, Ballet schools, 41$ for culture, Oscar-nominated documentary, Brushstrokes

March 3rd, 2017


National Museum of Women in the Arts Breaks Attendance Record
The same weekend that Washington, D.C. welcomed roughly half a million women for the Women’s March on Washington the weekend after President Trump’s Inauguration, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) reported its largest weekend attendance ever. The museum offered free admission to visitors the weekend of January 21st, even offering additionally programming geared toward marchers. Amy Mannarino, Director of Communications and Marketing for the NMWA, reported that the museum doubled its previous record for weekend attendance with free admission. She explained that “The crowd’s positive energy was palpable, and visitors filled all corners of the museum–enjoying art by women, chatting with friends, and enjoying free refreshments.” What an amazing celebration of women in the arts!

Rising Numbers for Ballet School for Boys
The London Boys Ballet School (LBBS) has reported a huge rise in pupil numbers–an encouraging trend considering that ballet is often stereotyped as a ‘feminine’ form of dance. James Cunliffe, the founder and director of LBBS, believes that prominent male dancers and television shows about ballet have played a significant role in helping to encourage boys to dance and not be embarrassed. He describes how things have changed in the past decades: “There have always been boys that have wanted to dance…There was a stigma attached to it, that ballet was all pink and tutus and just for girls. It was also embarrassing to go to a dance class and be the only boy. That has changed now. Boys are no longer embarrassed to like dance.” The LBBS had only 15 students when it opened in 2014–it now boasts more than 170. Cunliffe hopes that his own school will help further the snowball effect, encouraging even more boys to begin dancing. Hopefully we will continue to see the stigma around men who dance disappear, allowing children of any gender to pursue their passion for this art form.

$41 Million for Cultural and Arts Groups in NY
Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced $41 million in grants for cultural and arts organizations in the state of New York. The awards will support programs ranging from in-school arts education to famous cultural centers like Carnegie Hall. These New York State Council on the Arts grants are awarded in 16 different programs across all 62 counties in the state. This year, grant awardees include the Rochester Fringe Festival, the Just Buffalo Literary Center, and the Sculpture Space in Utica. It will be exciting to see the amazing things these arts and cultural groups are able to do with this money!

Celebrating the Outside in New Oscar-Nominated Documentary
Oscar-nominated film “Life, Animated,” directed by Roger Ross Williams, celebrates the inspiring story about a young man with autism. The film is a documentary, based on the life of Owen Suskind, who was diagnosed with autism at age 3 when he stopped speaking. Using what they called “affinity therapy,” Suskind’s parents were able to connect with their son by using the common language of Disney films. Owen’s father, Ron Suskind, wrote and published a book about their family’s journey, providing the jumping-off point for the new documentary. Director Williams explains that “This film was really about giving people like Owen–people that have been left behind, people that don’t have a voice–a voice.” He expounds on the importance of the documentary, admitting: “What I learned is that there’s a whole population of people–a growing population of people–living with autism, who have so much to offer the world, and we can learn so much from them.” Williams has said that he connected with Owen as he himself has always felt like an outsider as a black gay man. He is one of five black directors nominated for an Oscar in the Best Documentary Feature category this year.

Brushstrokes May Reveal Brain Disorder
A new study from the University of Liverpool claims that paintings can help detect neurodegenerative disorders before they’ve been medically diagnosed. Alex Forsythe, the leading researcher, set out to determine whether changes in an artist’s brushstrokes over time could help signal dementia or other neurodegenerative disorders. After analyzing 2,092 paintings using fractal analysis (a technique that examines the complexity of repeating geometric patterns in a painting), she was able to see changes in the fractal complexity for artists like Salvador Dali and Norval Morrisseau (both believed to have had Parkinson’s) and de Kooning and James Brooks (both of whom had Alzheimer’s) over the course of their careers. Importantly, Forsythe claims to detect the change in fractal complexity in de Kooning’s paintings around when he was 40 years old–over 40 years before he was diagnosed by doctors. “The information seems to be like a footprint that artists leave in their art,” Forsythe explains. Some scientists take issue with the sample size in the study, as it encompasses works by only 7 artists; others believe fractal analysis itself is a problematic technique. Forsythe’s research has no doubt opened up an interesting direction for future research and, if she’s onto something, it certainly has major implications for spotting and diagnosing neurodegenerative disorders before any other symptoms appear. Art may say even more about the artist than previously thought!


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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