Monday, February 23, 2009

Smithsonian Makes U.S. A Deal

When all our friends in D.C. (Reps, Sens and Obama, oh my!) were laying out the $800 billion Stimulus a few weeks ago, one of the Amendments proposed by Oklahoma Republican Senator, Tom Coburn, sent the art world up in arms. Mr. Coburn wanted to eliminate the $50 million appropriation for the National Endowment for the Arts, prohibiting stimulus funds going to any museum or cultural center. His amendment lumped us museums and art people in with casinos, golf courses, zoos and aquariums. Now, no offense to casinos, I love a good penny machine every so often, but I don't think I've ever put an art museums on the same level as Caesar's Palace in terms of offerings.
50 Million isn't even a penny when it's split throughout the entire country. We're talking 800 Billion here total. But fortunately, it's better than nothing. On Jan 28th, the House passed the bill, that included the grant to the National Endowment of the Arts.

This march to Washington by members of the art world a few weeks ago (my inbox was flooded with please so sign petitions) has brought up a question that seems to be looming during this time of economic hardship. Are the arts necessary? Why do we need them? The Smithsonian thought, well why not see where the arts were during the Great Depression? Did they help us along? Did they inspire us? Did they contribute to the economic vitality of our country?

Beginning Friday and through January 2010, the Smithsonian will host, 1934: A Deal for Artists, an exhibition featuring a selection of 56 paintings funded by the Public Works of Art Program in the dark days following the great depression. After a year at the Smithsonian, the exhibition will tour the US for three years, giving many the opportunity to see the show. The Public Works of Art Program was established by Franklin Roosevelt and was the first federal government program to support the arts nationally. Federal officials in the 1930s understood how essential art was to sustaining America’s spirit and assisted financially strained artists by commissioning them to create works depicting the "American Scene" for public use and view in schools, libraries and post offices. The artists pained subjects that were recognizable, of landscapes and rural life, that reminded Americans in 1934 the country's beauty and values we cherish this country for.

A New Deal for Artists most certainly underlines how arts can help restore confidence in the country. The Coburn Ammendment doubted the argument that arts and culture can play a positive role in the government's recovery efforts in an economic downturn. Hey, Coburn, we're in a bad state, but nowhere near where we were in 1934...and good ole' Roosevelt still threw us a few bones.

Ok, as Linda Danko, Biggs Museum Director, would say, "I'm getting off my podium now."

But.....go see this exhibition!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Art Right Outside Your Door

My office and my Safeway grocery store are about the same distance from my home, and I think I spend as much time walking Safeway's aisles as I do typing at my desk. But I had to think twice the other day as to which place I was when I stumbled upon this beautiful work of art.

OK, ok, I know, it's not exactly Schoonover, but if you've just grumbled in the produce section about $6 strawberries, wouldn't this brighten up your day?

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

U.S. Mint Calling....

Delaware Governor Jack Markell got a phone call not too long ago asking him to select one favorite and three alternate Delaware national sites to be the bottom face of the new State quarter. In 2010, the Mind will begin releasing five new quarter designs annually based on the order in which the states gained federal that makes us first!

So how kind of Jack to ask us, Delaware citizens, "what should be on the quarter?" From now until February 26th, anyone can vote on a site for the quarter. This is an interesting question to ponder, and an important one....we definitely want to put our best asset on there to impress that man in Arkansas who just got change back for his cup of coffee.....he might just consider a trip to Rehoboth one day. Personally, the Charcoal Pit on 202 would be my first pick (kidding!), but your vote must be a national landmark (meaning it must appear on the National Register of Historic Places and National and Wildlife Refuges)

If you are scratching your head and might not want to look up the sites, the Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs has given us a list of possibilities based on their local and national significance. However, you can still nominate a different one of your choice. See below.

Old State House
John Dickinson Mansion
Fort Christina
Howard High School
Holy Trinity (Old Swedes) Church
New Castle Court House
New Castle Historic District
Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Bombay Hook Wildlife Refuge

I'm torn between Old State House and Bombay Hook. The Old State House is so significant to our history, but Bombay hook makes for a pretty quarter doesn't it?
Vote here today. You can vote until 5:00 p.m. on February 26th and can as often as you like!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

No bobby pictures, please.

Don't be a "stupid American" the next time you visit London. One of our favorite photos to take when visiting the home of Queen E, Will, Harry and Charles other than Big Ben is of the British bobby (police) and the guards. However, a new British anti-terrorism law might leave you with buying a printed postcard as your only option. The new law, that went into effect last week, makes it a crime to “elicit, publish or communicate information” about British police or military personnel, ie. taking photos. You might not even want to sneak one in, because if you're caught, you could face up to 10 years in prison or a hefty fine.

Why would London do such a thing? The act is aimed to preventing terrorist groups from taking reconnaissance shots and protect the police. But photographers say it could be misused and prevent police abuse from being documented. Photogs were so upset about the new act, about 200 of them protested outside of Scotland Yard's headquarters.

This is quite an interesting news bit as we, the Biggs, are coming up on the opening of the Biggs Shot exhibition next month. Although photography is a form of art and interpretation, it is a clear documentation of an event, place, or person. It is unfortunate that photography has been used in ways that have caused many of us to be unable to photograph that world, including those cute bobbys. Does this align with the constant celebrity paparazzi problem? I think absolutely. What do we really have the right to it only what it ours? or what we're told we can? Either way.... to me, and any other Euro traveler, there's plenty of other fantastic things to snap with my digi around London town, so I think i'll be fine (especially if it's helping me be safer on the transatlantic flight back to the U.S. of A.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Artfully Dining on a Friday Evening

From the great company down to the last bite of my slice of carrot cake, Friday evening at the Biggs was delightful! Each February, the Biggs hosts good friends (which includes anyone who wants to be our friend) for dinner and a side of art education in the Museum's galleries. As we began to plan out this year's program in August (we work with a bit of lead time) we were worried we wouldn't be able to top last year's Artful Dining, which was a first look/preview of the Delaware Silver Study Center. So when we were approached by the Schoonover gang to host their book launch, we jumped at the opportunity. Why wouldn't we want to celebrate the The Frank E. Schoonover Catalogue Raisonne, (a two-volume comprehensive catalogue of the works of American artist and illustrator Frank E. Schoonover (1877-1972), written by John Schoonover and Louise Schoonover Smith) when we hold one of the largest collections of his work on display to the public?

So fast track a few months later with some catering calls and an invitation and you've got yourself a sold-out event on a cold winter's night. Nearly 90 guests sat down for a family style dinner of Beef Bourguignon with Shiitake Mushrooms and Carmelized Pearl Onions and more. And believe me, when I say it was scrumptious.

Although many could have called it a night due to food coma, guests piled into the downstairs media room for a special viewing of Frank E. Schoonover: A Long Life in Art, a film produced by Sharon Baker of Wilmington’s own Teleductions. Sorry you missed out? I've got two suggestions for you: pre-order the catalogue and save the date for the next one!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Lexicon of the Day: Urban Gallery

There's just something about murals. I don't know if it's their size, the detailing, the underlying message or the image but I'm drawn to them.
Last Saturday, I took an impromptu trip to Philadelphia to the Auto Show to see if I could trade my 100,000 + miles logged PT Cruiser for something new and shiny. Before I spent my early evening with Honda and Mercedes Benz (just looking!), I made a pit stop at the 9th Street Italian Market. My dad considers his run-through shopping spree every time he visits Philadelphia, cannolis at Termini, tomato pie from Sarcone's, and butter cookies from Isgro's... just as important as it would be riding Splash Mountain at Disney World. As much as I enjoyed the 2.5 million grams of sugar I consumed on Saturday, it was frigid cold walking down the city streets.
However, I was able to regain a positive view of the city of brotherly love whenever I walked by one of their fantastic murals. Although most of the murals I saw were historical, paying homage to great Philadelphian leaders, after a bit of research I discovered there is an organization dedicated to creating over 100 community murals each year to provide free, quality art education programs to youth at risk. The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program works to create murals to reflect the culture of the neighborhoods they are created in.

Across the pond in London, international real estate firm Hines and the Royal Academy Schools are shaking it up when trying to "showcase the close relationship that continues to exist between art, community, and architecture in developments that reshape the city skyline." They have launched an on-line competition, One Spirit Showcase, and have invited the public to vote for their favorite artwork from a slew of talented Royal Academy School students.

The winning artwork will be exhibited on London's largest urban gallery in the form of a super-sized canvas stretched across the southern side of a street in Central London. The winning artist's work will be displayed on the building, viewable from Piccadilly.
I won't tell you who I voted for, but I'll tell you to visit and cast your vote. Between canvases and murals, urban galleries are everywhere, giving sometimes a much-needed face lift to cityscapes. As for me, it put a bit more skip in my steps down those cold city streets.

Monday, February 2, 2009

You can walk the walk, but can you paint the walk?

I've never really thought too much about the way my dog, Giulianova, walks. She actually sort of prances, on her tip-toes, tail wagging whenever she is called. But when it comes to left or right leg first, you've got me.

But apparently, we've known the way our four-legged friends have been walking since the 1880s, when Eadweard Muybridge's motion-captured photographs revealed the sequence of leg movements.....left hind leg moves forward, followed by the left foreleg, right hind leg, and right foreleg, in that particular order.

What does this have to do with art you ask? Alot, according to the New York Times in an article on January 26th. A study by Gabor Horvath of Eotvos University in Hungary and colleagues shows that artists, taxidermists, toy designers and others responsible for depicting animals have not gotten it right. 300 depictions of animals walking were analyzed. "Walking" is when two or more legs are touching the ground, as opposed to galloping, when all legs are lifted.

The finding, found in Current Biology, reported that almost half are wrong! We should be ashamed!

The researchers found it in their hearts to forgive the toy makers, but not so much to those in natural history museums and science publications. I think this is a pure example of "paying attention to detail", don't you agree? Wouldn't want to see an oil painting of you walking on your hands would you?