Public Art

How Fast Summertime Flies! - Art in August

Bonfire on the Beach

I have no idea where the month of August went! To be fair, I have no idea where the first week of September went either. Ha!

Like so many trying to get the most out of summer after a particularly harsh winter, it was difficult balancing a steady work schedule with a much needed vacation and a bevy of social activities last month. And if you know me, "social activities" unquestionably includes a glorious dive into the world of the arts.

As a matter of fact, I had so much fun exercising my artistic groove while busily juggling work and life commitments that I found very little time to share all the goodies I enjoyed along the way. Well, given my current work load at the 9 to 5 (read 9 to 8), it's unlikely that will change soon, so here's just a little taste of the artistic smorgasbord I enjoyed in the month of August.

Some Call It Vandalism. I Know Better: Public Art in Chinatown & Kensington Market

I had the pleasure of starting off my August with a lovely vacation week in Toronto. While there, I enjoyed as much as TO had to offer without completely collapsing from exhaustion. But one of my favorite experiences was the Multicultural Walking Tour of Toronto's Historic Chinatown and Kensington Market.

My awesome tour guide, Kit, not only shared wonderful detail after fascinating anecdote with me, he also introduced me to a lot of the great murals and graffiti art that peppers the two communities. Of course, most of the pieces are in alleyways where many tourists fear to tread, but with him as my guide, I'm happy I had the opportunity to see so many great public displays of art.

Here's just a brief look at some of my favorite murals:

Generations without Barriers in Chinatown
Stunning mural in Chinatown shows generations without barriers.
Kit introducing me to amazing art work
Kit introducing me to amazing TO graffiti art.
Even the garages can be art
Even the garages can be art here.
Journey from Chinatown to KM
Journey from Chinatown to Kensington Market through an alleyway and surround yourself with graffiti tags and art.
The Blue Lady in KM
The Blue Lady in Kensington Market.
She watches over the market
This beautiful image watches over the market 

A Decade of Fringe

The IndyFringe Theatre Festival began 10 years ago in the not-as-sleepy-as-you-think ‘burg of Indianapolis. And each year it grows bigger and better, feeding this egghead’s need to live vicariously through the inspiring artistic community that dwell’s here. Although I look forward to the festival every year since my return to Indy, I missed out on the festival last year due to my vacation in Washington D.C.

To make up for my missing out, I not only attended 7 different shows (more than I have any previous year), I also introduced my 13-year-old cousin to the festival with 2 plays on the opening weekend. I think she had a good time, but you can never really tell with teens. :-)

All in all, I think this year's festival was a success and I enjoyed a variety of performances. Some were thought-provoking (The Fat Kid Chronicles), some were inspiring (Burnt At The Steak), and some were just plain fun (Act A Foo! Improv). At the same time, some were slightly disappointing (Indiana! A Hoosiercal Musical!), a wee bit dull (Star Luck Cafe) and just a little too unpolished despite being an interesting concept with talented actors (Six Characters in Search of a Fringe).

Probably my favorite -- and I've heard, much applauded -- play of this year's festival was The Great Bike Race. It was a wonderful mix of semi-historically accurate foolishness, creative theater shenanigans and broad comedic showmanship. I recognize a few of the actors from a number of productions throughout the Circle City area this year, including three from BOBDIREX's mounting of Hair! in July.

The Great Bike Race managed to not only execute this whimsical farce with fun and flair, but it somehow managed to come in under the standard one hour-long time window that all the Fringe productions are required to fit. By the time it was over, I was sad to leave the theater. I wanted to know more about the strange happenings of the second Tour de France of 1904. I wanted to hear more of the double entrendres and snappy one-liners. I wanted to see more female actors in drag. LOL!

Kudos to the entire cast and all the IndyFringe performers, volunteers and donors! You bring a sweet spark to the cultural landscape of the Midwest. I look forward to attending next year and, who knows? Maybe I'll see 8 plays next time.

Three Exhibits! No Waiting - The Art Gallery of Ontario

It seemed fitting to begin and end my trip to Canada with artistic bookends. My first day in Toronto was spent walking the streets of Kensington Market and Chinatown adoring public art. So taking the time to breathe in the beauty of three wonderful art exhibits at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on my last day in town was a great goodbye hug from TO's diverse art scene.

Portrait of the Artist as Jesus Christ (1966) by Norval Morriseau

What originally drew me to the AGO was a fascinating new exhibit that had just opened shortly before I arrived called Before and After the Horizon: Anishinaabe Artists of the Great Lakes. It's a collection showcasing the varied landscape of artists of First Nations and American Indian descent from the Great Lakes region of North America.

What I loved most about the exhibit -- sorry, no pictures were allowed save one -- was how all of the art was in a Modern or Contemporary style. Sure, many of the indigenous artists called upon techniques of their cultural heritage and invoked historical references in their subjects, but none of it felt like yet another display of Indian art relegating indigenous people to the past with no context anchoring the present or vision of the future.

Now there's an exhibit waiting to happen: Native Futurism!

But I digress. While walking around the massive AGO building, I discovered so many wonderful native artists throughout this exhibit to explore on my own. Some of the work that grabbed me the most were pieces by Norval Morriseau, Andrea Carlson and Ron Noganosh.

After I finished taking in the Before and After the Horizon exhibit, I made my way over to two more sections in the same wing. There I discovered Fan the Flames: Queer Positions in Photography (sadly, closing this Sunday, September 7th) and Scott McFarland: Snow Shacks Streets Shrubs (which was closing that week at AGO). Both exhibits I highly recommend you keep an eye out for if they travel your way anytime over the next year or so.

But just in case you don't make it to either of these two compelling and original showcases, here are a few photos I snapped of my tour through the halls (click on the images to get a closer look):

Fan the Flames Opening Statement
Fan The Flames' Opening Statement
Playing with notions of masculinity
This set of images plays with public notions of masculinity. One acceptable, white collar and heteronormative; the other, implying possible violence, vulgarity and machismo.
Hiding in Plain Sight - Male Magazines
Hiding in plain sight. Not long ago, gay men mastered the unspoken language of seeking out erotica in magazines claiming to focus on men's health and fitness, often to escape morals' charges.
The rich history of drag queen culture
The rich history of drag queen culture has been covered in many films (Paris Is Burning is the most famous), but images of queens laughing and preparing for a show captures a powerful, yet more subtle beauty.
Scott McFarland Opening Statement
Scott McFarland's Opening Statement
Side by Side - Front of House staff v Back of House Staff
McFarland's exhibit included a fascinating display of images that were taken months apart, capturing life as usual for different people and different moments in time.
Staff Meal - Galatoire - Bourbon St NOLA (2013)
Back of house staff taking a break at Galatoire's restaurant on Bourbon St. in NOLA.
Staff Meal - Galatoire - Bourbon St NOLA (2014)
Front of house staff taking a break at Galatoire's restaurant on Bourbon St. in NOLA.
One Element Stays the Same Everything Else Changes
One element stays the same (the man on the center ladder) while everything else around him changes. Notice the couple kissing on the right and the women crossing the street in the ball gown.
My fav of Scott McFarland exhibit

If you look closely, you can some of the people are the same (a homeless woman sitting in the shadows on the far left), but note how most of the elements have changed and are in flux.


These were a host of other arts & entertainment events that filled my calendar in August, including enjoying Jim Gaffigan's special brand of stand-up at the Indiana State Fair, a one-day road trip to Chicago's Wizard World Con to see the 20-year reunion Q&A panel with the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and taking in my first Second City improv revue show in Toronto (it was awesome!). So it's no wonder I spent last month fighting sleep deprivation and fatigue. But it was a wonderous, art-filled fatigue. :-)

Until next time, ladies and gents. And hopefully, with less overtime. 

Next up on the art scene: Chita: A Legendary Celebration at the Carmel Palladium

All images credit: Candace Nicholson

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