Tag Archives: NEA

January Newsletter: A Review of the Month’s Culture, Arts + Trends

28 Jan



A new year rushes in bringing us change and more change. Let us strive to join together in kindness and to seek peaceful resolution. We have many possibilities. Choose hope.



Martin Luther King, Jr, in his opening address to the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1964:

“Jazz speaks for life. The blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph. This is triumphant music.” Amen, Dr. King.



Access to the arts – how can one ever measure the importance of that? The National Endowment for the Arts brings the arts to areas that don’t have big museums, symphonies, ballets, and theater. Cutting the federal budget for this agency is a shocking thought – putting in peril funding that supports literature, visual arts, dance, theater, museums, and arts education programs around the country. Their support is vital, giving all of us the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise our imaginations, and develop our creativity. Here’s what we can do. Tell the NEA why the arts and the NEA’s work are important to you. Write to chairman@arts.gov or National Endowment for the Arts, Attn: Jane Chu, Chairman, 400 7th Street SW, Washington, DC 20506. By the way, that is Ms. Chu’s artwork you see here.



During Carole King’s tribute at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, brought the house down with the King classic “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” As her voice soared, President Obama was so moved that he wiped tears from his eyes … New Yorker Editor David Remnick asked the President to provide a quote for the profile he was writing on Ms. Franklin. President Obama, who brought all corners of the American music landscape to the White House during two terms, bound together his love of music and profound faith in our country thusly:

Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock and roll, the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope. American history wells up when Aretha sings. That’s why, when she sits down at a piano and sings A Natural Woman, she can move me to tears — the same way that Ray Charles’s version of America the Beautiful will always be in my view the most patriotic piece of music ever performed because it captures the fullness of the American experience, the view from the bottom as well as the top, the good and the bad, and the possibility of synthesis, reconciliation, transcendence.”



This year’s color, as forecasted by the color institute Pantone, is a pretty yellow-green shade that evokes spring: Greenery. A symbolic choice, this life-affirming color speaks directly to the mood and attitude of our nation. “Greenery provides us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment [and] symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another, and a larger purpose,” says Pantone’s Executive Director. It is the color of hopefulness!



Scary looking? Weird? Or mouth-watering? Hmm … You are looking at a swirl of vanilla ice cream, topped by a cherry that has attracted a fly and a drone. The End is by UK artist Heather Phillipson. She is one of the four finalists for England’s most visible public art commission, the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. The organizers describe The End as exploring “the extremes of shared experience, from commemorations and celebrations to mass protests.” Well then, it certainly speaks to our times.



That’s Timmy, aka “Mr. January” and one of New York’s Finest K-9s, helping the New York City Police Foundation raise money. He’s featured in the Foundation’s 2017 NYPD K9 Calendar. By making a $20 donation, you will help support new and ongoing NYPD programs and initiatives. It’s even got an extra month so you’ll have a head start setting up all your January 2018 appointments!

Soundtrack to this Issue


Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come

Released in 1964, A Change Is Gonna Come became an anthem for the Civil Rights movement. Ever timely and relevant, it moves from bigotry and violence to a message of hope. After winning the 2008 election, President Obama referred to the song in his victory speech, “It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, change has come to America.”

C’mon, sing along, you know the words:

I was born by the river in a little tent
Oh and just like the river I’ve been running ev’r since
It’s been a long time, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come,
oh yes it will


Who rescued whom?
So grateful for Barkley coming into my life.
Thanks to Westie Rescue of New England.

Buddha, stay. Good dog. z”lIMGP2541.cr.newsltr“…live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”


NEA pic: Art Works Blog, #WisdomWednesday, NEA Chairman Jane Chu, January 18, 2017
Aretha Franklin and President Obama pics: CBS-TV
Greenery quote: Pantone’s Executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman
A Change Is Gonna Come lyrics: Sam Cooke ©Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Abkco Music, Inc.

September Newsletter: A Review of the Month’s Culture, Arts + Trends

27 Sep


helloseptember-sept2016“The breezes taste of apple peel. The air is full of smells to feel. Ripe fruit, old footballs, burning brush, new books, erasers, chalk, and such. The bee, his hive, well-honeyed hum, and Mother cuts chrysanthemums. Like plates washed clean with suds, the days are polished with a morning haze.” (John Updike, September)



“We’ve got to be as clear-headed about human beings as possible, because we are still each other’s only hope,” James Baldwin said to Margaret Mead in a historic public conversation in New York City, August 25, 1970 … The twin beams of light emitted each September 11, as transcendental as any symbol of remembrance can ever be, depicts the timeless hope of which James Baldwin speaks.


freddiemercuryasteroid-sept2016-2-use“A shooting star leaping through the sky, Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity…Burnin’ through the sky yeah” … An asteroid has been named after Freddie Mercury to honor what would have been his 70th birthday. Asteroid “Freddiemercury” is “burnin’ through the sky” in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. Per Brian May, Queen’s lead guitarist as well as an astrophysicist, “It’s just a dot of light but it’s a very special dot of light and maybe one day we’ll get there.”


Former Hollywood screenwriter Craig Carlson, with no restaurant experience, recounts his dream of opening an American diner in Paris, Breakfast in America, and turning it into a popular restaurant chain in the heart of Paris.

“After a year in France, I was dying for a good ol’ American breakfast. [Back in LA] I ordered a ham steak, scrambled eggs, home-fried potatoes, and buckwheat pancakes. I stared at it wide-eyed and said, ‘Oh my God, this is the one thing I missed when I was in Paris!’ At that instant a year’s worth of eating French breakfasts replayed before my eyes. But the problem was that every breakfast was exactly the same. Croissants and pains au chocolat, croissants and pains au chocolat. I stared down at my pancakes…my heart racing as I repeated the phrase: ‘The one thing I missed in Paris’…I knew exactly what I wanted to do: open an American diner in Paris! I even knew what I was going to call it: Breakfast in America.”


dylangate-sept2016Did you know that Bob Dylan liked to sculpt enormous iron gates? Yes, it’s true. After all, he was born and raised in iron ore country in Minnesota. He just built a 26×15-foot iron gateway for the MGM National Harbor casino in Maryland. Called Portal, it incorporates found objects, farm equipment, kitchen utensils, and tools … Per Dylan: “Gates appeal to me because of the negative space they allow. They can be closed, but at the same time they allow the seasons and breezes to enter and flow. They can shut you out or shut you in. And in some ways, there is no difference.” Whoa, that is so Dylan.


wellsfargo-nea-sept2016Here’s a real head-scratcher. Seems that the Wells Fargo financial services company thought this was a good idea. Picture this. A smiling young woman with the caption: “A ballerina yesterday. An engineer today.” And the tag line: “Let’s get them ready for tomorrow.” Although they were taken to task for this tasteless ad campaign that they subsequently abandoned, how was it ever approved? The arts and those who choose to be artists are to be cherished, enjoyed, and encouraged. Hey, Wells Fargo, learn something about the arts from the National Endowment for the Arts and put aside some ad dollars for a donation. It’s the arts that fulfill promises and make life grand.


awesome-sept2016-newsWords enable us to communicate with each other. What powerful tools they are! But changes in language and in people, including interpretation, people adapting language to fit their needs, societal changes, and shifting pronunciations, affect the meaning of a word over time. Let’s look at the evolution of the word awful: In Shakespeare’s time awful had the complimentary meaning of “full of awe.With the suffix –ful, awful means having the quality of awe. Its meanings include being worthy of, commanding profound respect or reverential fear, which may have led it to mean causing dread. So over the centuries, awful took on a negative quality – frightful, ugly, monstrous. Then awful was eventually replaced with today’s positive awesome. Note that the suffix -some is basically the same as –ful in its meaning. Since awful had such a strong negative connotation, awesome was used meaning “awe-inspiring” without the negativity. By the mid-1900s awesome went from awe-inspiring to its ubiquitous use today meaning amazing. Okay, so awesome may have reached its cultural saturation point, but its history is nonetheless awesome, right?


blackmuseum-baldwinquote-crA new major museum is always worth celebrating! Just opened is the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in the heart of Washington DC. Its very design is crucial to the story it tells. From its lowest floor depicting the history of slavery, each ascending floor follows the journey to the civil rights movement and up to “A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond” and President Obama’s inauguration.


eightdaysaweek-sept2016In the new documentary, Eight Days a Week, director Ron Howard examines the Beatles’ touring years. Of note, we learn that in 1964 when they reached the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, FL, seats were segregated. They refused to perform until the venue was integrated, gaining a victory for civil rights. “We played to people. We didn’t play to those people or that people – we just played to people,” so said Ringo.


maxskcauction-bruce-sept2016Cool pic of The Boss, right? Unless you’ve read Yvonne Sewall-Ruskin’s High On Rebellion: Inside the Underground at Max’s Kansas City (see May 2016 Newsletter), you’ve never seen it. Taken upstairs at Max’s Kansas City backstage by Lily Hou in 1973, it was one of many great items up for auction to benefit Yvonne’s arts non-profit, Max’s Kansas City Project, which provides artists grants of emergency relief for housing, medical, and legal aid.


dognews-911dogs-sept2016Barkley’s incredible veterinarian Dr. Amy Attas (as well as Buddha’s and Skeffington’s!) volunteered to care for the heroic rescue dogs at ground zero. Dr. Attas and her colleagues listened to the handlers while their dogs were being treated for cuts, burns, and dehydration, prompting the vets to ask psychologists to sit with them. “A lot of the handlers told us that their dogs were really depressed, because they were search and rescue dogs and they weren’t finding anybody,” Dr. Attas told NBC News.


9-11stairs-sept2016The Vesey Street stairs, on site at the 911 Memorial Museum and now known as Survivors’ Stairway, is the sole remainder above ground of the World Trade Center. Gazing at it, one visualizes all those people running down them seeking safety and escape with fervent hope that they make it out. The 9/11 Memorial Museum documents the impact of 9/11 and explores its continuing significance. There we bear witness to a collection of artifacts that remind us of the people we lost and the brave souls that heroically went in to help, to save, to do their job. It is a place of commemoration.  Make a monetary donation or you can make a contribution to the collection such as pics, videos, voice messages, personal effects, workplace objects, and diaries.

wecanhelp2-doghope-aacr-sept-2016Fact: Animals have a positive effect in helping people cope with traumatic events. HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response teams have been responding to crises and disasters since 2001, when they sent specially trained handlers and their dogs to provide comfort at ground zero in NYC. They calmed survivors and helped first responders and other workers relax and talk about their experiences, just as you see Tikva here at work. HOPE has since responded to major hurricanes, wildfires, train derailments, and school shootings. An all-volunteer organization, your donation helps them continue training and certifying new crisis teams.

Soundtrack to this Issuesoundtrack-highhopes-teleBruce Springsteen’s High Hopes

Happy Birthday to the Boss. And what a way to celebrate. Four hour concerts! A book! A book tour! A new album! … Along with his captivating, candid, and poignant memoir, Born to Run, is a compilation album Chapter and Verse which features 18 songs that reflect the themes and sections of the book and includes five unreleased songs … High hopes is surely what we are feeling, so here’s the title track from the High Hopes album:

C’mon, sing along, you know the words:

Give me help, give me strength
Give a soul a night of fearless sleep
Give me love, give me peace
Don’t you know these days you pay for everything 

Got high hopes
I got high hopes
Got high hopes
I got high hopes

Who rescued whom?
At the New York Tartan Day Parade.
So grateful for Barkley coming into my life.
Thanks to Westie Rescue of New England.

Buddha, stay. Good dog. z”l
“…live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”


James Baldwin quote: A Rap on Race (J. B. Lippincott; 1st edition, 1971)
Freddy Mercury lyrics: Don’t Stop Me Now by Freddie Mercury ©Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Brian May quote: The Guardian, September 5, 2016
Book quote: Pancakes in Paris by Craig Carlson Page 42 ©2016 Sourcebooks
Dylan’s gate pic and quote: Forbes, September 7, 2016
Dr. Amy Attas, DVM quote: NBC News/New York, September 11, 2016
Tikva at Ground Zero, NYC, 2001 pic: HOPEaacr.org
Soundtrack High Hopes lyrics: Timothy Scott McConnell ©Universal Music Publishing Group

It’s Friday. Here’s What Happened This Week

12 Jul

Happy Friday and here are 5 articles to ponder. Enjoy!

Dustin Hoffman makes a deeply emotional declaration on our perception of beauty.
FF.dustin-hoffman-tootsie-epiphany.7.12.13“If I met myself at a party I would never talk to that character.” Playing Dorothy in Tootsie made him realize that he had been brainwashed into only engaging with attractive women. This great and peerless actor sheds a few tears at this epiphany and we love him even more.


The Academy Awards will present a concert of Oscar-nominated songs.
FF.Oscar.7.12.13Three days before the next Oscar show, a special concert on February 27, 2014 at UCLA will feature the songs and film scores that will be up for an Oscar. The Academy stated, “A symphony orchestra of L.A. studio musicians will perform a suite from each score … it is our hope that either the original artists or the songwriters will perform their own songs live.” This Oscar first could become an annual event. More music? Sounds great!


Two movies with the same name. Oh, and they’re practically a century apart. So why is there a problem?
FF.the-butler.7.12.13A new film coming out next month, The Butler, based on a true story, stars Forest Whitaker as a butler who served in the White House from Eisenhower to Reagan. And what a cast. It includes Liev Schreiber, Terrence Howard, Mariah Carey, James Marsden, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Robin Williams, Melissa Leo, John Cusack, and Vanessa Redgrave. Wow. So what’s the problem? There was an old, very old, short silent film from 1916 that was also called The Butler. And now there’s a battle over the use of that title. Although it seems crazy, it’s also complicated. And probably has to do with … yep, money.


White House presented the National Medal of Arts this week to some pretty terrific artists.
FF.TonyKushner.7.12.13.bPresenting the award to George Lucas, Tony Kushner, Renee Fleming, Herb Alpert, Allen Toussaint, the Washington Performing Arts Society, and the other recipients, President Obama said, “We celebrate people like our honorees here today not just because of their talent, but because they create something new. They create a new space and that becomes a lasting contribution to American life.” The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which manages the award, recognized Tony Kushner (see pic) for his “contributions to American theater and film … his scripts have moved audiences worldwide, marrying humor to fury, history to fantasy, and the philosophical to the personal.”  Musician and record label founder, Herb Alpert, “is also a philanthropist who shares the power of arts education with young people across our country.” And George Lucas, “by combining the art of storytelling with boundless imagination and cutting-edge techniques, Mr. Lucas has transported us to new worlds and created some of the most beloved and iconic films of all time.”


There’s a new American orchestra of student musicians. Their mission? To brave different parts of the world each year and boldly be America’s youth ambassador.
FF.NYO-USA.7.12.13The new National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (NYO-USA) is made up of 120 musicians 16 to 19 years old. Founded by Carnegie Hall and its Weill Music Institute, NYO played its first concert this week at Purchase with Joshua Bell and Maestro Valery Gergiev. Next stops are the Kennedy Center, the Proms in London, the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory and the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg. Sure sounds like mission possible.


Dustin Hoffman pic: Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty
Oscar heads pic: Premiumhollywood.com
The Butler pic: The Harvey Weinstein Company
White House pic: Ralph Alswang
NSO-USA pic: Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute

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