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The Next Great California Bridge Should Span the High Desert

By | July 10, 2017

What’s the fastest way to change California?
Assuming you don’t have the power to set off a major earthquake, your best bet would be to connect the two small desert cities of Palmdale and Victorville.
These two working-class places aren’t often associated with political power; but building world-class infrastructure to bridge the 50 miles between the two cities might be the most powerful current idea in …

Featured, Nexus »

What Do You Get When You Make Literary Space an Open Book?

By | July 7, 2017

When it comes to music or theater, community-building happens right in front of your eyes. Crowds surge forward to see a band, or settle together into rows of seats as the lights go down and the curtain comes up. What does community look like, though, in the literary world? The logo for the Kindle app says it all about the classic image of a reader: …

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The Happy Accidents That Allowed San Jose Jazz to Grow up with Its Community

By | July 7, 2017

San Jose is the tenth largest city by population in the country, but its downtown became sleepy after retail moved to the malls in the 1970s. In 1991, a group of community members decided to help bring some life to the downtown.
We formed a board and thought that we would run a jazz festival. The city encouraged us to use the newly-minted convention center. …

Headline, Poetry »

the meadow (that swallowed feet/ & hands) has stilled itself #poem

By | July 7, 2017

Ahwahnee means deep grassy valley & I’d heard
that, just over one hundred years before this one,
miners had pushed the Miwok down into the tall
reeds. Today, the meadow (that swallowed feet
& hands) has stilled itself near a row of dry riparian
arrows aimed up
from that once green bed that eroded the edge
of the baseball diamond & rusted legs of monkey bars.
I drive past what …

Featured, Nexus »

Staging a Life-Changing Project in El Salvador with Canada’s Stratford Festival

This piece was adapted from an interview with Antoni Cimolino, Edward Daranyi, and Mark Smith of Canada’s Stratford Festival.
The Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario, is a 64-year-old Canadian repertory theater company known for its productions of Shakespeare and other classic plays, Broadway musicals, and new work. We are, by most measures, pretty far from Suchitoto, El Salvador, an ancient town of 25,000 on a hillside, …

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The Great Thing About Art? It Isn’t Just About You

By | July 6, 2017

This essay was originally published by The Chronicle of Higher Education on September 15, 2014.
A decade ago, arts leaders faced a crisis in America. National data indicated significant declines in attendance at venues for virtually every art form—classical music, dance, theater, opera, jazz, museums. Bill Ivey, a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, and I offered a counternarrative in 2006: We saw a renaissance …

Headline, What It Means to Be American »

Was Wounded Knee a Battle for Religious Freedom?

By | July 6, 2017

The Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 appears in many history textbooks as the “end of the Indian Wars” and a signal moment in the closing of the Western frontier. The atrocity had many causes, but its immediate one was the U.S. government’s effort to ban a religion: the Ghost Dance, a new Indian faith that had swept Western reservations over the previous year.
The history …

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Turning Low-Income Housing into Art in Houston’s Third Ward

By | July 5, 2017

Project Row Houses is an art space in Houston’s historically black Third Ward. Its success, going on a quarter of a century, is a powerful argument for committing first to your neighborhood and community, and then to art lovers at large—rather than the vice-versa approach in which many large institutions find themselves rooted.
 
Artist Rick Lowe founded Project Row Houses in 1993 with several other local …

Featured, Nexus »

Rescuing the Vanishing Music of Belize’s Garifuna People

By | July 5, 2017

What reggae is to Jamaica and samba is to Brazil, Garifuna music is to my country of Belize, a small Central American nation wedged between Guatemala and Mexico.
 
This vibrant music was brought to Belize by the Garifuna, or Garinagu, people, descendants of shipwrecked African slaves and Carib and Arawak Indians who were uprooted from their homeland in the Caribbean island of St. Vincent in 1796 …

Headline, Nexus »

Why Arts Organizations Need to Teach Their Audiences Self-Defense

By | July 5, 2017

The engagement that arts institutions need most right now is about their own survival.
I’m glad to see that the many worthy examples of how arts organizations engage the public are receiving attention. But at this very difficult moment, we need to pay even more attention to a straightforward assault on the arts at the federal level, which is in turn an attack on the arts …

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