Gallery: Paris Between the Wars
Filed under: Events
Darren Aronofsky's hit film, "Black Swan," may do more for the arts than earn Natalie Portman a slew of best-actress awards. It may in fact have helped to boost professional dance companies - at least the ones performing the ballet "Swan Lake," which the film is centered around.
To prepare for the film, Portman trained with former New York City Ballet dancer Mary Helen Bowers. That company performs "Swan Lake" each year and this year its two-week run (which will end on Saturday, Feb. 26) sold extremely well, according to City Ballet spokesman Rob Daniels. The company sold out tickets to all nine of its performances in the 2,500-seat David A. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center.
Sad news out of Southern California tonight. The Pasadena Playhouse, a theater which was founded back in 1917, will be closing on February 7 after it finishes its run of Camelot. It is the latest cultural institution to fall victim to economic turmoil. The LA Times reports that the theater company's lenders are looking at ways to clean up the financial mess including a possible bankruptcy filing.
The playhouse, which was designated in 1937 as the state theater of California, essentially ran out of cash and has more than $500,000 in debt due immediately with another $1.5 million in long-term debt including bank loans. A capital campaign raised $6 million to renovate the playhouse building itself but that fund remains separate. The playhouse had hoped for a miracle in the form of a donor who would be willing to donate $5 million in return for having naming rights to the 684-seat main stage.
The playhouse has gone dark before, including 16 years in the 1970s-1980s and but had enjoyed successes in the late 1990s and in recent years. Television and movie stars took to the stage but as the recession began to make Los Angeles culture lovers check their wallets ticket sales slowed.
On Monday the Pasadena Playhouse will host the Concert for Haiti. Proceeds will go to support three relief funds -- Save the Children, UNICEF and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund-- and tickets for the concert are $25, $50 and $100. The concert will be directed by Iona Morris, with Gerald Sternbach serving as musical director. Scheduled performers include Loretta Devine, James Barbour, Billy Blanks, Jr. , Dawnn Lewis, Shoshana Bean, Sharon Lawrence, Yvette Cason, Sharon Brown and others.
Filed under: Art
The company has enough money to produce Suor Angelica and Cavalleria Rusticana, a double bill planned for April 3-7. The Orlando Sentinel reports that if the organization can't raise $500,000 by the end of May it may have to find other means of survival including partnering with another arts group or shifting focus to opera training. The decision could also have an impact on the Orlando Philharmonic, which plays for the opera's full-scale productions and the plans for Orlando's performing-arts center. Orlando Opera's 2009-2010 season promises a trio of audience favorites: La Bohème, Carmen and La Traviata.
At stake here is not just opera but the message that having an opera company represents, that a city is culturally rich and cosmopolitan. It is also about keeping opera alive as an art form across the U.S. As the recession bites into people's personal budgets supporting the arts can seem almost frivolous but this is a time when arts groups are fighting for their survival.
Filed under: Art
The Las Vegas Art Museum may have closed but that's not the end of culture in Las Vegas. As the LA Times reports, Las Vegas is planning a $475-million performing arts center. The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is a cultural venue designed more for the locals than for tourists. It will offer the city's residents the benefits of a cosmopolitan city venue downtown. It is possible though that a thriving cultural center could be attractive to tourists who are interested in more of Las Vegas than the Strip. Las Vegas has seen tourism rates drop dramatically over the past year and the local real estate market has also floundered.
The Nevada Ballet and the Philharmonic, which are both still doing well but have made some cuts, will join the Smith Center when it opens in 2012. The center will have a both a 300-seat cabaret theater and a 200-seat flexible black-box space. The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is giving $150 million to the project and it has also received $170 million in public funding, much of which was generated by a two percent car rental tax.
The city is also planning a mob museum but that is planned to be more of a tourist draw.
Filed under: Art
Kate Taylor writing for the NY Sun has a provocative piece on the massive flood of museum expansions around the world. When the Frank Gehry-designed Bilbao Guggenheim opened ten years ago the world questioned whether or not people would make the trek to Bilbao, Spain for the beautiful building. It almost seems like a foolish speculation now. Since then museum projects have sprung up all around the world with bigger buildings and bigger budgets. But what will the future hold for these massive expansions, will they be seen as the monumental establishment of an arts-based culture or will they seem like just so much architectural foolishness, possibly even bankrupting the museums they tried to expand?
Taylor's article says that the answer is different for each project. The Denver Art Museum for example, which opened a new building by starchitect Daniel Libeskind last fall, thought that the expansion would bring them a million new visitors in the first year. Instead, it received just 630,000. Even the stunningly beautiful Santiago Calatrava addition at the Milwaukee Art Museum caused the museum to go into debt for a few years although now the museum does nearly double the traffic it did before the expansion. For the cities, a distinctive new building, especially one built by a name architect is also a matter of civic pride. But a large new building requires new methods of income often including restaurants, larger museum shops and special exhibition galleries. The focus on revenue rather than arts doesn't sit well with some museum leaders.
The biggest news on the museum front may just be the expansion into markets like China and the Middle East. The government of Abu Dhabi is planning a $27 billion "cultural district" on Saadiyat Island that will be home to a Gehry-designed Guggenheim, a Louvre Abu Dhabi designed by Jean Nouvel and a performing arts center designed by Zaha Hadid. In China museums funded both by the state and private organizations are booming. The branding of museums all around the world with Western names and in some cases borrowed Western collections seems to be a major trend uniting Eastern cash with Western experience. This may not be a situation that sits well with purists but culture is a commodity and even museums are not immune from the power of branding.