Arts In Context Shorts: Cinematic Symphony

trumpets, trombone and tubas during Cinematic Symphony rehearsalFor over eleven years, Cinematic Symphony has shared its love for the music of film, television and video games with the Austin community. With two concerts per year, this ensemble comprised of local musicians is dedicated to promoting musical education in the form of entertainment. Visual displays and popular music of our time provide an enriching opportunity and introduction to classical music.

Cinematic Symphony has a concert on May 14th. Get more details

Arts In Context Shorts: Austin Community Steelpan Band

More than an after-school program, the Austin Community Steelband has created an expressive place to uplift local youth through learning steelpan music.  Originating in Trinidad, steelbands served as a way for poor and oppressed people to come together and express themselves through music. Executive Director Paula Beaird and Musical Director Cecil Francis continue manifest the soul of Trinidad by providing a free musical instruction where underprivileged children learn skills like memorization, focus and listening that they can take home and apply to their lives at home and in school.  With an emphasis on collaborative and enriching learning, the students have turned it into more than an after-school program.  They are now a part of a vibrant, historically-rich musical community that extends beyond the city limits of Austin, Texas.

Arts In Context Shorts: Alegria do Samba

The Austin Samba School has created a new twist on the classic western “horse opera.” Fusing Brazilian Carnaval rhythms and dancing with Texas’ musical history, the performers of Austin Samba School are truly a community who come from all walks of life and in all sizes, shapes, colors, races and nationalities.  This diversity allows them to take on creative challenges with full force and to create a performance unlike any other – cattle and cowboys, blues and rock, spangles and feathers, glitter and gold, samba and country.

Arts In Context Shorts: Nathan Felix makes his mark with 6 Pianos

Nathan Felix made his mark in the Austin music scene by composing classical-style music and putting on a show in his North Austin home. But his long term goal is something much bigger.

The idea of Felix’s at home show, Classical Music Kegger, came to him when he saw an opera performance in a train station when he lived in Los Angeles. Felix decided to compose a show with only pianos. Despite the fact that he had never composed a piano piece, nor did he know how to play piano, when Felix returned to his hometown of Austin, he somehow snagged six free pianos off of Craigslist and got to work.

However, Felix wants to give his community more than just the music itself. That’s why he donated the pianos to the youth.

“Part of my way of giving back is donating the pianos to some of the schools or community centers,” Felix said. “I want to start grooming and growing the next crop of young, talented kids.”

Nathan Felix by Ashley Bradley

Arts In Context Shorts: Curating Cosmic Vida

With “Cosmic Vida,” an exhibition at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, curator Raul Valdez gave visitors a glimpse into the cosmos.

“Cosmic Vida” is the first show Valdez curated in more than a decade. An artist himself, he curated the collection after he realized he could not produce enough work to fill up the space himself. The exhibition, which is no longer on display, juxtaposed dynamic and subdued pieces. With artworks of various mediums, colors, sizes and imagery, he explored the literal and symbolic meaning of the exhibit’s title.

Valdez hoped the audience was inspired to make their own interpretations on the universal experiences of La Raza, the human race.

“You can see the chicano in it, but you can also see the universal part,” Valdez said

Arts In Context Shorts: A Strange Pilgrimage

This week’s episode of Arts In Context Shorts features “Strange Pilgrims” at The Contemporary Austin. This experiential art exhibition, takes its name from Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez’s 1993 book of short stories, wherein Márquez characteristically loops together strange, magical, hallucinatory stories. With its newest exhibition, the Contemporary takes spectators on another kind of magical pilgrimage through time, place, imagination and perception.

Curated by senior curator Heather Pesanti, “Strange Pilgrims” is the Contemporary’s first large-scale, thematic exhibition, spanning three locations – the Jones Center, the Laguna Gloria and the Visual Arts Center in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas – and an extensive, 14-artist lineup. The exhibition is broken up into three thematic sections: Environment and Place, Performance and Process and Technology and Information.

The exhibition features a combination of newly commissioned works, site-specific refabrications, and existing works from an international lineup of artists, including Ayşe Erkmen, Sofía Táboas, Yoko Ono, the Lakes Were Rivers collective and Charles Atlas.

From giant vats that pump out large quantities of foam to indigo stained sculptures, Strange Pilgrims covers a wide variety of mediums and ideas. Sometimes challenging, often interactive, and always fascinating, The Contemporary Austin has elevated experiential art to a new level.

Strange Pilgrims is on view until January 24, 2016.

Arts In Context Shorts: Body Shift

Creating “ECHO,” an improvisational, site-specific dance, the dancers of this Body Shift Performance Workshop have honed the skill of open awareness.  Each individual explores improvisational dance by tuning into his or her own body and choosing a movement that will benefit the design of the whole dance.  This allows the dancers freedom to do the dance that only they “know how to do” with the accidental moments of improvisation shining through like hidden gems.

Body Shift is a collaboration of Forklift Danceworks and VSA Texas and offers classes and workshops which empower people of all abilities to embrace dancing in their own unique way.

Arts In Context: Bike Zoo

Take a walk – er, ride on the wild side.

Giant rattlesnakes, bats, and butterflies parade down the streets thanks to the Austin Bike Zoo. This mechanical menagerie is the brainchild of Jeremy Rosen, a UT grad with a degree in mechanical engineering. Rosen began the project with a simple goal of creating whimsical ways to play with bikes and ended up with a collection of intricately engineered animals. Part puppetry, part engineering, and all fun, the Austin Bike Zoo inspires wonder and delight everywhere they go.

“We have our own style and our own way of doing things,” Rosen said. “It really is original.”

Arts In Context Shorts: Barrio Writers

By empowering teens through creative writing, higher education, and creative arts, the Barrio Writers are reinstating the term “Barrio” to its original meaning – community – and embracing it. This writing community began with small workshops at El Centro Cultural de Mexico in Santa Ana, California and have now evolved into week-long, intensive programs on university campuses across America. At the end of the week, the Barrio Writers transform their stereotypes into a place of positivity and become empowered in their own words. Having also published several summers of writing into anthologies, they collaborate to promote diversity, cultivate creative writing, and offer a new voice in literature. Get information about events in Central Texas at barriowriters.org

Watch full performances from students who participated in the Austin program this summer.

Arts In Context Shorts: Sweet Art

AICS SWEET ART ANNIE DECORATINGEach time Annie Varghese starts a new cake, she feels like it’s her first one, and she won’t stop until she reaches perfection. She found her passion for cake sculpting from baking cakes for her children’s birthdays, and now she uses traditional flavors and ingredients to transform her cakes into a limitless, fictional world. She believes that every cake is a chance to explore her imagination, and she uses clean lines and balanced color tones to add details and create larger, more extravagant cakes. Her passion shows that cake isn’t just a sweet treat but an exciting art medium.