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.
Here at KLRU, we love our planet and proudly celebrate Earth Day. With it coming up on April 22nd, what better way to pay tribute to our big blue planet than to air programs that embrace nature and shed light on problems the Earth currently faces?
On April 21, Arts In Context Thirst explores an art installation that takes on the pressing issue of water shortages and challenges the community to action at 7:30 p.m. Presented by the Center For Women & Their Work, Thirst memorializes the loss of over 300 million trees that died in the Texas in the drought of 2011.
From April 25-30 at 8 p.m., the miniseries, National Parks: America’s Best Idea, will chronologically work its way through the history of the creation of our national parks.
On April 25, National Parks: America’s Best Idea The Scripture Of Nature (1851-1890) tells how the astonishing beauty of Yosemite Valley and the geyser wonderland of Yellowstone give birth to the radical idea of creating national parks for the enjoyment of everyone; John Muir becomes their eloquent defender. In addition, Symphony of the Soil artistically explores the miraculous substance soil at 10 p.m.
April 26 brings National Parks: America’s Best Idea The Last Refuge (1890-1915), which discusses how a young president, Theodore Roosevelt, becomes one of the national parks’ greatest champions; in Yellowstone, a magnificent species is rescued from extinction; and in Yosemite, John Muir fights the battle of his life to save a beautiful valley. But before that, at 7 p.m. National Parks of Texas: In Contact With Beauty shares how these parks were created and reveals the secrets they hold.
National Parks: America’s Best Idea The Empire Of Grandeur (1915-1919) airs April 27. In John Muir’s absence, a new leader steps forward on behalf of America’s remaining pristine places; a new federal agency is created to protect the parks; and in Arizona, a fight breaks out over the fate of the grandest canyon on earth.
On April 28, National Parks: America’s Best Idea Going Home (1920-1933) tells the story of a Nebraska housewife who searches for peace and inspiration in park after park, while a honeymoon couple seeks fame and adventure in the Grand Canyon; and the future of the Great Smoky Mountains becomes caught in a race with the lumbermen’s saws.
National Parks: America’s Best Idea Great Nature (1933-1945) explains that in the midst of an economic catastrophe and then a world war, the national parks provide a source of much-needed jobs and then much-needed peace on April 29; the park idea changes to include new places and new ways of thinking; and in Wyoming, battle lines are drawn along the front of the Teton Range.
A stubborn iconoclast fights a lonely battle on behalf of a species nearly everyone hates on National Parks: America’s Best Idea The Morning Of Creation (1946-1980) on April 30. America’s “Last Frontier” becomes a testing ground for the future of the park idea; and in unprecedented numbers, American families create unforgettable memories, passing on a love of the parks to the next generation.
KLRU Q also crafted some of their April programming in honor of our planet.
On April 15, Q starts the night off with Big Burn: American Experience at 8 p.m. This one-hour special highlights the hundreds of wildfires that raged across the Northern Rockies during the summer of 1910. Then at 9 p.m., America’s First Forest: Carl Schenck And The Ashtev examines the pivotal role played by pioneering forestry educator Carl Schenck and his founding of America’s first school of forestry-the Biltmore Forest School. To finish the night off, Jens Jensen The Living Green profiles the unsung pioneering landscape architect who became one of America’s most influential urban designers and early conservationists at 10 p.m.
Then on Earth Day itself, April 22, experience the battle for a living planet in the first big-picture exploration of the environmental movement, spanning 50 years of grassroots and global activism on American Masters A Fierce Green Fire at 8 p.m. After that, Green Fire: Aldo Leopold And A Land Ethic For Our Time highlights Aldo Leopold’s extraordinary career as an environmentalist, tracing how he shaped and influenced the modern environmental movement. Finally, Symphony of the Soil artistically explores the miraculous substance soil at 10 p.m.
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: Studio Life tells the story of how Beto Martinez balances his career as a working musician and his family life.
“There’s always been a struggle to find that balance,” Martinez said. He went on to say it’s easier to handle now because he has a studio at home.
Martinez still works with Grupo Fantasma, a Grammy Award-winning funk orchestra from Austin, but he is also venturing into letting fellow local musicians use his studio to record their music.
The flexibility of being able to record from home and play local shows has allowed Martinez to lead a more balanced life.
“It could have been three hours before that I was out there, and I felt like a rockstar,” Martinez said. “But then I gotta come home and wake up and see what the kids want for breakfast.”
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
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.
Austin-based singer-songwriter Darden Smith had never had a real conversation with a U.S. military service member until he met Lt. Col. Fred Cale. He quickly realized that they had much in common – both were music lovers. Through this meeting, Smith, the founder of SongwritingWith:Soldiers, realized that the divide between soldier and civilian was not what he thought it was. He saw the potential for music and songwriting to help soldiers transition back into civilian life.
“SongwritingWith:Soldiers to me is an incredibly beautiful kind of evolution, you might say, of what I’ve always wanted to do, which is tell stories and write songs,” Smith said.
The free program pairs professional songwriters with veterans to craft original songs based on their experiences. For many of the 120 military members who have participated, songwriting begins the healing process.
“I guarantee you they’ve saved lives with this program,” said Major Chuck Hawthorne, a retired Marine.
Equal parts cathartic release and creative endeavor, SongwritingWith:Soldiers offers a chance at healing to the people who need it most.
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.
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.”
Evan Voyles builds signs to last generations. Voyles is the sovereign sign-maker of South Congress – he hand-created and repurposed vintage signs for Magnolia Cafe, Homeslice, Soul, Stag, Creatures, Turquoise Door, Lucy’s Fried Chicken, Perla’s, Wahoo’s Fish Taco, Yard Dog and Uncommon Objects, the last two going on 20 years of age. Voyles started on his craft as a vintage neon sign collector and began to build signs when clients asked for specialized styles. Most recently, Voyles faced one of his biggest challenges yet: a 50-foot-tall replica of a 1952 Fender Telecaster for Austin Vintage Guitars. His personal artistry is on full display as he creates a new iconic masterpiece.
“I get to change the way my hometown looks,” Voyles said. “Who really gets to say that?”