My Year in Art & Culture (2015)

Panoramic view of Red Rock Canyon and the Mountains

Here we are again about to welcome in a new year. But as I'm wont to do, let's take a look back at this crazy year and assess where I've been in the world of arts and culture.

If you recall last year, I had an eclectic mix of activities on my social calendar, but the majority of them were focused on those fascinating gems related to the performing arts, fine arts and cultural expression. And not just in the traditional sense. While most of the world thinks museums and theater as the hallmarks of culture, I also include creative endeavors like stand-up comedy and professional wrestling. (What's more artistic than a hurricanrana into a crossface submission maneuver?)

Some might see this inclusion as unorthodox, but those people are usually the ones who care more about being viewed as "gatekeepers" of great art, insisting only the truly erudite will embrace it. But I'm not here to label what is or is not worthy of an artistic label. Here at Incandescere, I celebrate art and its many forms.

But since attention spans seem to be a tad shorter this time of year and I've dealt with quite a few life changes along the way, this list is more of a highlight reel of the amazingly adventurous, educational and fun cultural moments of my 2015.


Concert: Midwinter Russian Festival at the Indianapolis Symphony, which included Prokofiev's Russian Overture, Khachaturian's Violin Concerto featuring violin virtuoso Philippe Quint, and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, was my first cultural outing of the year. A week after the concert, I bought Philippe Quint's new CD. I'm now officially a fan.

Lecture: Colonel Roosevelt J. Lewis Jr., former member of the Tuskegee Airmen and chairman and CEO of Air Tuskegee Ltd. and Global One Jets, who guided over 300 pilots of color in obtaining their licenses, spoke as part of a celebratory program for Black History Month. I look forward to reading his autobiography soon.

Museum: Attended the "American Spirits: The Rise & Fall of Prohibition" exhibit at the Indiana State Museum and learned a great deal about how prohibition changed the landscape of American politics and American culture as it stands today.

Local Concert: Enjoyed my first concert featuring great local talent, Audiodacity, at The Mousetrap in the North Midtown neighborhood of Indianapolis.

Convention: Geeked out at Wizard World Comic Con's first sci-fi convention in Indianapolis and I had a blast! It was some of the most fun I've had among my nerd brethren in years. Also purchased 2 new comics by up-and-coming artists.

Lecture: Learned about the personal and historical hurdles overcome by George Takei at "An Evening with George Takei" as part of the Butler University Distinctive Voices Celebration of Diversity Distinguished Lecture Series.

Play/Theatre Showcase: Enjoyed Raisin' Cane: A Harlem Renaissance Odyssey at Clowes Memorial Hall featuring Jasmine Guy and the Avery Sharpe Trio.

The Picnic by Archibald Motley

Museum: "Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist" exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center was my first visit to the Loop in Chicago in over a decade. Motley's work was definitely worth the traffic jams and more. But don't take my word for it. He's easily one of my favorite artists.

Ballet: Saw the Russian National Ballet perform Sleeping Beauty at The Tarkington in Carmel and fell in love with Tchiakovsky's score all over again.

Lecture: Had the honor to hear professor and social activist Angela Davis speak at Elliott Hall on the Purdue University campus in West Lafayette.

Local Concert: Attended the Audiodacity CD Release Party at The Vogue in Broad Ripple. I can't remember the last time I've been to a CD release party.

Class: Ventured out to another art class at the Indianapolis Arts Center. This time it involved creating a self portrait that's very odd and very me in the Mixed Media Arts arena. :-)

Museum: Visited the National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement (aka The Mob Museum) while on vacation in Las Vegas. Some of the other patrons found it cheesy, but I found the historical relevance fascinating and would recommend a visit for anyone who finds truth more captivating than fiction.

Lecture: Listened to Twyla Tharp speak and cajole at the University of Indianapolis campus about the importance of developing "The Creative Habit."

Tour: Learned about the local history, geography, botany and indigenous culture of Red Rock Canyon as I toured Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area and the Spring Mountain Ranch State Park in Nevada.

Concert: Saw Rihanna at a free concert for the Final Four Festival in downtown Indianapolis and met some cool Millennials in the process.

Festival: Attended the Eiteljorg Museum's 2015 Indian Market & Festival for the first time in a decade. It was smaller than I remember, but I learned about a lot of great artists.

Stand-Up Comedy Show: Enjoyed another comedy stand-up show (with all new material) presented by the Hardcore Legend Mick Foley in Ft. Wayne's The Tiger Room.

Festival: Served as a Parade Marshal for the 4th time at the Cadillac Barbie IN Pride Parade, then went on to hang out at the Pride Festival.

Film Festival: Moved to the New York Tri-State area just in time to attend the closing night of the African Diaspora International Film Festival to see the documentaries Candombe and Tango Negro: The African Roots of Tango at Madiba Harlem.

Improv Comedy Show: Enjoyed my first UCB-W show at the Chelsea location of Upright Citizens Brigade Theater on Summerslam weekend in NYC. WWE Superstar Dolph Ziggler was in attendance and fun was had by all.

Tour: Enjoyed a lovely 2-hour walking tour of Harlem with a small group of locals wanting to learn more about the history, arts and cultural contributions of Harlem in the 20th century.

Therese Raquin playbill

Book Signing & Reading: Thanks to the lovely Natalia Sylvester for helping me discover a wonderful independent bookstore (La Casa Azul) when she came to NYC to share a reading of her book during Hispanic Heritage Month. I met 2 more talented authors and even got 1 of their books signed for my personal library.

Wrestling Event: Attended WWE Live at Madison Square Garden as my first experience at this famed arena. It was a hyper and especially electric evening.

Play: Sat enraptured every minute of my first Broadway play, Thérèse Raquin, at Studio 54. It was a glorious event that I can now cross off my bucket list.

Lecture & Book Signing: Ari Berman wrote a new book taking a look at the 50th Anniversary of the US Voting Rights Act of 1965. In October, he visited the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to share why the history of this event and the reaction to it plays an important role in our political landscape today. I was delighted that I had a chance to attend.

Movie Night: Along with thousands of fans, I had a chance to recite my favorite dialogue and songs from one of most irreverent films ever made, Blazing Saddles, in a beautiful concert hall. After the film, we were treated to an uproarious Q&A session with Mel Brooks himself.

Discussion: The Movers and Shakers: Dance Activism in NYC event allowed dance aficionados and supporters like myself hear from artists throughout the dance community and how they're reacting and reflecting in the volatile environment of police brutality and the emergence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Hate to repeat myself, but it was both educational and inspiring.


One event that can't be included in this list just yet is the upcoming Urban Bush Women's production of Walking With 'Trane, which I'm attending later this week at the Brooklyn Art Museum. From the mind of the always innovative Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and company, I'll close out my arts & culture calendar of 2015 with this greatly anticipated tribute to the music of John Coltrane. And I can't think of a more fitting exclamation point to a year characterized with more ups and downs than a yo-yo on a roller coaster.

From book readings to historical walking tours to gallery exhibitions, my tortuous professional life has certainly earned me some much appreciated relaxation in the art world this year. But let me be clear, I've not only been thankful for every opportunity to embrace the arts as magnificent expressions of human creativity, but as I discussed in my post Why Art?, it also has given me the understanding and peace I needed during a year rife with stress and change. And I have a sneaky suspicion 2016 will be just as chaotic, exciting and new.

Bring it on! :-)

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