News and Features

Christopher Blay Wins SMU’s Moss/Chumley Artist Award

Christopher Blay refers to his images in the show as "anti-images." Photos: Christopher Blay

Photo by Christopher Blay

Christopher Blay, one of the founders of the Fort Worth photography collective Group f.8 and a curator of a Tarrant County College gallery, is the 2013 recipient of the Moss/Chumley Artist Award. The annual prize is given to an outstanding North Texas artist who has exhibited for at least ten years and is a community advocate for the visual arts.

Earlier this year, the William Campbell Contemporary Art gallery reunited the disbanded Group f.8 for a show, and Art & Seek’s Stephen Becker profiled Blay as a “curator of people.” Blay typically uses photography or installation art with a large shot of humor. In a recent solo exhibition at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, his Machine Time featured antique salon hair dryers, clocks and photo projections. An excerpt from Time Machine was displayed at SMU’s Meadows Museum during the awards presentation on December 12.

A graduate of Texas Christian University, Blay began a community oral history project with the Fort Worth Public Library in 2006 and has created a series of tongue-in-cheek “Frank Artsmarter” videos spoofing critical theory and the “cult of celebrity” around artists. Earlier this year, he won an NEA grant for “Activating Vacancy” with the bc workshop.

Previous recipients of the Moss/Chumley Award include Noah Simblist, Bob Nunn, Tracy Hicks and Stephen Lapthisophon. The full press release:

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Should Arts Groups Create Their Own Arts Coverage?

shutterstock_96120926It’s happening in Chicago. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra just launched its own “online multimedia magazine,” called CSO Sounds & Stories. According to Philip Koester, the CSO’s vice president of marketing, “the CSO becomes the first major American orchestra to have a dedicated music journalism site.”

Why would it launch such a venture when journalism in general is in a state of upheaval and classical music itself is not exactly singing hallelujah?

Not surprisingly, self-interest: “Since publications now have fewer resources to devote to the arts,” writes Koester, “it is more difficult for the CSO to obtain media coverage, especially previews of coming programs.” Yet the CSO isn’t just pasting together puff pieces and some canned bios of performers and composers. They’ve actually hired several experienced journalists, notably the former classical music critic of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Even so, this new venture has prompted a serious appraisal from Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones — who concludes, also not too surprisingly, that CSO Sounds & Stories is not music journalism, period. But his is not a simple, blunt dismissal.

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The High Five: Hundreds Gathered In Richardson To Remember Country Crooner Ray Price

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Five stories that have North Texas talking: Ted Cruz says “No, Canada;” Harold Simmons has died; the Chinese Lantern Festival wraps up soon, and more:

  • Hundreds gathered in Richardson over the weekend to remember Ray Price, the country singer and bandleader who died earlier this month. Price, who had more than 100 country hits in his decades-long career, was 87. He had pancreatic cancer. He died at his ranch outside Mount Pleasant in northeast Texas. Price had big hits like “Crazy Arms” and “City Lights.” NPR’s All Things Considered aired this remembrance. WFAA-TV reported from the memorial service: “Fort Worth country radio personality Bill Mack read a statement from Willie Nelson, who used to be a bassist in Price’s band. ‘Without a Ray Price, there wouldn’t have been a Willie Nelson,’ he wrote.” Mack said that Price had finished a record just before his death – and that he had never sounded better, WFAA reported.
  • The Chinese Lantern Festival ends Sunday. The Fair Park show, which has been open since the State Fair of Texas this fall, features 25 scenes. They include a royal dragon boat and a 52-foot-tall porcelain pagoda made from 68,000 plates, bowls, spoons and wine cups. A team of more than 100 artisans put together the lanterns. The festival describes the scene: “Brilliant, glowing, artworks comprise 25 stunning displays in a kaleidoscope of color. Like stained glass in 3D, each lantern set is made of hundreds and thousands of individual pieces.”
  • Texas Senator Ted Cruz has announced he’ll be renouncing his Canadian citizenship. The Dallas Morning News reports that he has retained counsel, which is preparing the proper paperwork. He expects to complete the process in 2014, the newspaper reported. Cruz, who was born in Calgary, has dual citizenship. The News reported: “Under U.S. law, a child born with even one American parent is automatically entitled to citizenship, even if the birth takes place outside the country. Canada, like the United States, also confers automatic citizenship to anyone born on its soil, regardless of the parents’ nationalities.” In October, Cruz returned to Texas – catch up on his visit. Earlier this month, Cruz was featured in a children’s coloring book that was selling quickly in time for the holiday season. Catch up on his 21-hour talk on the Senate floor from the fall, when he read “Green Eggs and Ham.”
  • Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons died over the weekend. He was 82. The Texas Tribune reports: “His support of conservative causes and candidates is decades deep, though he sprinkled in donations to Democrats from time to time. The Center for Public Integrity ranked him as the second-biggest overall political donor during the 2011-12 election cycle, giving $31 million by that organization’s count.” Simmons was born in 1931 in Golden, a small town in northeast Texas. The Tribune reports: “He worked as a bank examiner, then bought a pharmacy across the street from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, expanded that into 100 stores and sold it all to Eckerd Corp. That launched his career as a highly successful and often controversial investor. One of his companies, Waste Control Specialists, has been a frequent subject of legislative and state agency debates; it operates a low-level radioactive waste facility in Andrews, a West Texas town near the New Mexico border.”
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Saturday Spotlight – Architecture Walking Tour

For this week’s Art & Seek Spotlight, we’re headed to downtown Dallas for the Main Street District Architecture Walking Tour.  Starting at Main Street Garden, we’ll see and discuss the most important buildings in Dallas’ downtown including the Adolphus Hotel and the Magnolia Building.  We’ll learn more about the architectural styles used in these buildings and hear about the people who made it all happen.

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This Week In Texas Music History: T.D. Bell Is Born

Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet a bluesman who played in corner bars and at Carnegie Hall.

You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.

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T.D. Bell was born on Dec. 26, 1892, in Lee County, Texas. He began his blues career in the 1940s, performing with piano player Roosevelt Williams, also known as the Grey Ghost. In 1950, Bell moved to Austin. With his band the Cadillacs, Bell helped build a thriving blues scene at the Victory Grill, one of Austin’s most popular nightclubs on the so-called “Chitlin’ Circuit.”

During the 1970s, T.D. Bell took time off from music to run a trucking business. In 1987, he formed the Blues Specialists with Erbie Bowser, a local piano player. Together Bell and Bowser played venues throughout the Southwest, including Austin’s Continental Club. They also toured nationally and performed at Carnegie Hall in 1994.

Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll go home with the Armadillo, one last time.

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Female Country Musicians Impressed Critics In 2013

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Five stories that have North Texas talking: Texas women impressed country music critics in 2013, the Lone Star Circus and the Dallas Children’s Theatre unleash “Charivari” this weekend, and more.

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Flickr Photo of the Week

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Congratulations to Allen Sheffield of Grand Prairie, the winner of the Flickr Photo of the Week contest! Allen has won our contest before; his last victory came in July of 2011. He follows last week’s winner, Revlimiter.

If you would like to participate in the Flickr Photo of the Week contest, all you need to do is upload your photo to our Flickr group page. It’s fine to submit a photo you took earlier than the current week, but we are hoping that the contest will inspire you to go out and shoot something fantastic this week to share with Art&Seek users. If the picture you take involves a facet of the arts, even better. The contest week will run from Monday to Sunday, and the Art&Seek staff will pick a winner on Monday afternoon. We’ll notify the winner through FlickrMail (so be sure to check those inboxes) and ask you to fill out a short survey to tell us a little more about yourself and the photo you took. We’ll post the winners’ photo on Wednesday.

Allen Square

“My wife, Christine Lites, took this picture of me during our retirement trip to France in 2012″

Now, here’s more from Allen:

Title of photo: Spiderweb with Dew 1

Equipment: Nikon D5100 with a Sigma 70-300 mm macro lens and a monopod

Tell us more about your photo: My wife and I were staying in our little travel trailer at an RV Park on the beach in Galveston. This morning was foggy with no wind, so the 100% humidity made everything wet. It formed water droplets on the webs that were perhaps 100 feet from the surf.

Exif data:
F/8 at 1/250 sec
Focal Length 240 mm (equivalent to 35 mm focal length 360 mm)

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‘Queen of Dallas Historic Preservation’ Has New Book, Makes NYTimes

978-1-4000-4359-0.JPGShe’s Virginia Savage McAlester, her family’s lived in the same Swiss Avenue home since 1921, her mother rescued other homes on Swiss and the daughter is now the author of what the NYTimes calls the ‘magisterial’ A Field Guide to American Houses. But you knew all that, surely, because McAlester is the founder and past president of Preservation Dallas.

The new volume is actually an expanded updating of McAlester’s 1984 book of the same name — because that volume ended with homes built in 1940, and it so happens, some “80 percent of American homes have been built since then.” So the new edition is a big deal. Yet the 70-year-old McAlester managed to complete it while recovering from leukemia. (Entertainment Weekly gave it an A and called it the “photo-packed bible” of American home design.)

When she started her work as a preservationist in the 1960s, development-crazy Dallas, needless to say, was not a welcoming city. But neither was Texas or even America in general.

The local Lakewood Bank would not lend against [Swiss-Munger] properties (and her father had been chairman of the board). They were, apparently, worthless, she said: “I guess one of the reasons that I wrote the first book is we needed to have a survey.”

She would go on to establish a fund that expanded on her mother’s isolated interventions, buying and improving 27 houses on an adjacent street, Munger Place. “It was the first place in the country Fannie Mae had loaned on old houses in the inner city,” she said.

Peter Brink was working to save the 19th-century cast-iron commercial buildings in Galveston when he met Ms. McAlester. He later became the senior vice president for programs at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. But at the time, he was a lawyer without any useful architectural training.

“A lot of preservationists in these early decades reacted intuitively,” Mr. Brink said. “I could see these magnificent structures. I don’t know what style it is, but I don’t think it should be torn down.”

“A Field Guide” became a briefing book for making that case. “I use it, and I think many others do,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything that comes close to what it does.”

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North Texas Locals Make The Yearly YouTube Roundup

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Five stories that have North Texas talking: North Texas locals make the yearly YouTube roundup, Rockwall musician sneaks into Top 40 Pitbull track, UPS has a less-than-stellar Christmas and more:

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Sal Favia’s Musical Obsession


Sal Favia with some of his favorites. Photo: Bill Zeeble

Like a lot of folks, Sal Favia, who’s 75,  has his favorite films. But unlike most, he also has favorite soundtracks and composers few recognize like Max Steiner, Erich Korngold and Bernard Herrmann. He doesn’t just like popular themes that became commercial hits. Favia loves that big, classical orchestral sound. Bill Zeeble reports on a true fan.

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“I consider Miklos Rozsa the best composer of the 20th century.  I have all of his recordings. If I had to say, what is his best score? Those who love Miklos Rozsa would say Ben Hur.”

Favia moved to Fort Worth from New Jersey four years ago. He picked the Lone Star State thanks in part to movies and music by Russian-born composer Dmitri Tiomkin.

“Because the scores he wrote for Giant, a great story about Texas, The Alamo, another great story about Texas, that’s inspiring. That’s the kind of music that stirred me, that made be decide I want to go to Texas some day and live there.”

At a recent Hitchcock soundtrack concert in Dallas, Favia could not hold back his film fanaticism.  As the on-stage speaker just mentioned a movie composer, Favia spontaneously clapped and cheered on his own.

In his crowded apartment stand shelves here, shelves there, stacked with CD’s and mostly Lp’s. Favia’s not sure he’ll ever make the jump to collecting soundtracks digitally, which might save space. He’s been collecting since 1960.

“When I would leave a theater as a kid, the music would stay in my head. And I knew I loved that kind of music.”

A few years ago, Favia donated thousands of his recordings to a British university, then kept on collecting what he estimates are an additional 2,000 to 3,000 recordings. On occasion, he drives to soundtrack heaven, Hollywood, for fan conventions featuring forgotten stars and films. He could fly.

“But with a plane you can’t come back with cartons of records. Then I go to Goodwills and whatever, secondhand stores, and they do have a place that sells records that’s considered a first-hand store on Sunset Boulevard.”

Recently, Favia hired a local helper, Mary Tucker, to catalogue the collection.

“I’m labeling most albums,” says Tucker, “as to where they were purchased, when and where.”

Labelling’s important to Favia, a retired New York Public School history teacher. Documentation matters and that includes everything.

Zeeble: “And why is that important to you?

Favia: “Let me get my tape recorder. We don’t just do your interview. ‘Hello I’m with Bill Zeeble again.’ You were asking me a question about the collection, please, go on.”

Zeeble: “First, why are you taping me taping you?”

Favia: “For the collection and the history of the collection. That’s why I would tape you. This recording would go into the museum as well.”

The Library of Congress holds all commercially issued recordings. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is currently raising funds for its own comprehensive museum, to include soundtracks. But Favia says there isn’t such a movie music museum in north Texas. That’s his magnificent obsession.

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