POSTED ON JULY 25, 2012:
Short Ride at a Cool Conclave
Art event reflects and affects real-life creativity in the city
Imagine a young woman "parachuting in" from Tulsa's still emerging modern dance scene -- the artist/athlete does a deft, on-the-spot illustration of the kinetics, rhymed dynamics and artistry that typifies modern dance;
Visualize the passion, the moxie of the principal of, in her own words, a "volunteer, Tulsa bicycling syndicate" who, thru her savvy coalition building skills, eye for alliances and sheer chutzpa has fashioned a Tulsa "village" for liberating carless Tulsans and connecting a universe of T-Town children to the "bicycle adventure";
Picture an intimate look at the personal chotsky collection of a T-Town veteran politico/retiring state senator, turned "art" curator. We see a sample of her racially tinged, weirdly distorted Tulsa "utensils": remnants of a vanishing world where black people were simultaneous objects of strange awe and intense derision.
Tulsa is increasing its densely packed "matrix" of art, cultural, performance and design heavy crafts shows, gallery/museum events and installations. And I'm not even thinking about the humongous array of music/concert offerings that manifest at the BOK arena, at the Brady and at a bevy of smaller venues in downtown and elsewhere. And on top of all this we have a fragile, still developing theatrical and modern dance/performance art ecology.
What we don't have are a lot of "peek/experience" events for people who might want to sample new art forms and offerings. Nationally this ground is covered well via regular offerings like the science/tech/new idea offerings from the California based Technology, Entertainment & Design (TED) operation.
Tulsa biz guru Sean Griffin and others have done yeoman's work in staging a similar local show last year for T-Town business/tech folks, as have the "Ignite" Tulsa organizers for the last couple of years. And we've had some art slanted short presentation "shows" from time to time in the last year -- but nothing that has been aggressively marketed.
A recent analysis of the impacts of the arts on cities, from the SIAP project at the University of Pennsylvania, strongly suggests that shows of just this kind, together with regular film festivals, are very strong economic drivers. The SIAP researchers say they engage and encourage local artists, improve future regular show traffic and even draw regional visitors -- arguably these efforts are very strategic pump priming events.
Last week, Living Arts of Tulsa bellied up to the bar. Steve Liggett and his Living Arts crew served as host/staging ground for a T-Town rendition of the Pecha Kucha event -- a planet wide/local site outlet for creative people & their collaborators.
Forged in Tokyo in February 2003, Pecha Kucha -- now with over 500 annual event sites -- was conceived as a view portal for creatives to meet, network, and show their work in public. Drawing its name from the Japanese term for the sound of conversation ("chit chat"), Pecha Kucha uses a direct "dog and pony" regime: 20 images x 20 seconds (around seven minutes per presenter). Artist/designer/curator presentations at the Tulsa event were short, intensely focused, and staged one after another.
Judy Eason McIntyre/"Distorted Images"
Judy Eason McIntyre's is a long time Tulsa member of the state and a huge contributor to social policy legislation in Oklahoma. Eason McIntyre's striking show was like a tiny slice of the intriguing, but difficult to view Tulsa/Sherwin Miller collection of Nazi era detention camp artifacts, "management tools," prisoner uniforms and other pieces. Her presentation featured a range of repellant artifacts all of which are odious examples of how Tulsa black people were once regarded, by some whites, as very strange, if monumentally amusing, creatures.
McIntyre's piece also evoked images of Berlin's Holocaust Museum: the haunting shoe exhibition comes to mind -- an installation consisting wholly of thousands of shoes -- all removed from Jewish folks bound for Nazi execution chambers. McIntyre displayed a series of images, including a set of ashtrays festooned with the bloated lips of feverishly imagined black people: another piece featured a clay alligator pencil holder. The "matching" pencils for this item sported the highly caricatured heads of African-American children.
Ren Barger/Tulsa Hub
Ren Barger with her Tulsa Hub is a passionate, even fevered advocate for using biking as a multi tiered gambit for improving the lives of car-less folks in Tulsa. The Hub is also a wonderful mechanical systems/crafts shop. The Hub is giving children and adults insight and a real understanding of the world of bikes and their repair and maintenance.
What Barger and an influential, dedicated posse of Tulsa supporters are trying to do is obvious: provide an avenue for Tulsans without a car with the means to get around in a city that doesn't make a full effort to provide decent public transit. But creating a "village" designed to create empowerment and real mechanical skills for people who have, in too many cases, lost any conception of these things is electrifying.
One of my favorite recent books is a piece by a Ph.D philosopher who has decided to become a full time motorcycle repair guru: Matthew Crawford's Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work is a tough look at the nature of work in America and the need to make prep for life/work head and hand savvy. Barger's Tulsa Bike Hub, together with Tulsa's Fab Lab (The Fab's director, Nathan Pritchett, was also a Pecha Kucha presenter last week) is a great T-Town response to this imperative.
Ari Christopher/Tulsa Modern Movement(TuMM)
Christopher gave an agile, physically energetic performance at the close of her wide scope look at the work of TuMM and their coming engagements. Her dance act contrasted strongly with the other, ernest but otherwise static, talks. I'm not a student of traditional or contemporary dance, but Christopher's mini performance conveyed the precision, pain and power of the Natalie Portman character in Darren Aronofsky's painful, provocative Black Swan movie, my favorite portal into the world of dance.
She is a cofounder and key participant at TuMM with my UTW writer colleague, Alicia Chesser. The group puts fevered "pan-art" collaborations, with visual/interactive artists, special effects people and musicians at the center of their work. And Christopher is a senior associate at the Tulsa's Barthelmus Music Conservatory -- a project that is transforming the musical sagacity and life prospects of a small army of poor kids in T-Town.
Balance of Show
Other presenters included Nathan Pritchett, Fab Lab; Christine Sharp-Crowe and Thom Crowe, Indie Emporium; Erin Turner, installation/performance artist; Nealay Patel, jeweler, graphic designer, Walsh Branding; Brian Freese, architect and Chris Rowe, Red Neck Ghost Hunters.
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A51076