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Art&Seek Jr: 5 Unexpected Summer Diversions

Art&Seek Jr. is one mom‘s quest to find activities to end the seemingly endless chorus of the “I’m Bored Blues” while having fun herself. Impossible you say? Check back on Tuesdays for kid-friendly events that are fun for adults, too.

A few weeks ago while thumbing through a magazine I got hit by a bit of Martha Stewart-like inspiration. I’m not a very exact person, nor am I especially competent in the kitchen, so this type of thing doesn’t happen to me very often. I’m one of those–canned frosting is just fine, and, so what if it’s not perfect–type of gals, if you get my drift.

Chocolate-dipped strawberries. Don't try this at home--without a recipe. (photo: Therese Powell)

Chocolate-dipped strawberries. Don’t try this at home–without a recipe. (photo: Therese Powell)

Anyway, I came across an ad for chocolate-dipped strawberries. Let me just point out here, these weren’t your everyday strawberries.  These were big,  luscious, and dipped in three different kinds of chocolate, strawberries. They were so mouth-wateringly beautiful they seemed to scream out from the page with their squeaky little strawberry voices, “Eat me! Eat me!” Rose’s grandmother’s birthday was coming up and the delectable fruit seemed like the perfect gift. Then I saw the price for the little beauties and suddenly they didn’t seem so perfect. That’s when I heard the lilting voice of Martha Stewart say, “Therese, these would be so simple to make. You and Rose could do it together, which would make the gift even that much more special.”

I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say I should have consulted a doctor about Martha’s voice in my head, because it wasn’t simple. I started over twice, but both times I ended up with a big pot of chocolate wallpaper paste. To add to my stress, I had no plan B. Rose and I started the great strawberry escapade exactly one hour before we were due at Granny’s house–and I had no back up gift.

As we sadly stared into the pot of chocolate goo, Rose looked at me and said, “Maybe we could frost the strawberries like a cake?’ I had my doubts, but since I didn’t have any better ideas, we got out the knives and started frosting.  No, they weren’t velvety smooth like the ones I saw in the ad, but a quick roll in chocolate chips, nuts and colored sprinkles helped hide their lumpy appearance. In the end, much to my amazement (and relief), they turned out better than I expected, in fact, they were pretty darn good.

I learned two things from the experience: One, always have a recipe handy when pursuing Martha Stewart-like flights of fancy. And two, my daughter is genius when dealing with the unexpected.

Discover some not-what-I-expected delight at one of these family-friendly events:

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Sharing Stories With Oral Fixation’s “Lost In Translation”

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Jean Congera, who is originally from Rwanda, was one of eight storytellers that took part in Oral Fixation's "Lost In Translation."

Jean Congera, who is originally from Rwanda, was one of eight storytellers that took part in Oral Fixation’s “Lost In Translation.”

Talking to a room full of strangers about your most private experiences can be a daunting task. But for those involved in Dallas’ Oral Fixation Show, it’s part of the process of their storytelling.

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Make Some Noise: Sound Art At Oil & Cotton

oil and cottonOil & Cotton, the Dallas-based community arts organization is showcasing experimental sound art in a new exhibition. Janeil Engelstad curated “And then I whirled to the sound of” to show the breadth and depth of the field. It features artists across the spectrum of experience – from renowned and respected experts to young children from Oil & Cotton’s arts summer camp. In fact,, arts education is much of the point here. With classes, workshops, summer camps and various exhibitions, the Oil & Cotton “creative exchange” is not strictly a gallery space. It’s more akin to an arts-focused community enrichment center.

in residence last summer at Art Mill in the Czech Republic. Photo credit: Alex Katis – See more at:
in residence last summer at Art Mill in the Czech Republic. Photo credit: Alex Katis – See more at:

“And then I whirled to the sound of” is the latest Oil & Cotton project exploring a less well-known branch of the arts, and Engelstad hopes visitors will leave with an appreciation for both sound art and the artists who make it.

Because Engelstad feels most people don’t really know much about sound art, she wants “And then I whirled” to show more than one style or approach to the medium. “There’s all these ways that people think about sound who are thinking of it as a medium,” she says, “who are thinking of it like a painting or a sculpture.” For Engelstad, this exhibition is about demonstrating what separates sound art from other kinds of contemporary art. “This is more meant to have you ask questions, to have the mind not relax, to have the mind be active, and to be noticing these sounds,” she says.


Janeil Engelstad

In curating the exhibition, Engelstad says, “I was looking for a variety of pieces, and I was looking for pieces that conveyed a certain emotion but with no preconceived idea of what those emotions were.” She listened for  pieces that inspired an authentic emotional reaction. “I was either wondering what that sound was, it was pleasing, or it was challenging. Some of the things I actually didn’t care for but I found them to be really well-composed, thoughtful pieces. I could recognize their strength and their depth.”

The pieces run the gamut from field recordings of a thunderstorm to a mash-up of hundreds of movie sound clips. “Some of the things are much more industrial, technical or intellectual, and some are much more romantic and softer and more melodic,” says Engelstad. The diversity emphasizes that sound art is broader and more complex than it might seem.

For the artists, the exhibition was a chance to explore the genre, even if they lacked experience in the field. “This was the first time I had thought about doing sound art,” says Dallas-based artist Carolyn Sortor, whose piece “Monument Valley” was made out of an assemblage of over 100 audio clips from Western movies. “It’s definitely not narrative,” she says, “there is an arc, but I would not call it narrative. It’s more conceptual, or thematic.”

Because of the lack of cohesion between the phrases and disconnected sounds, the audience for “Monument Valley” is made to pay attention to the patterns that emerge, the similarity in lines from across dozens of movies that Sortor says were just there. Instead of looking at the piece as a disjointed arrangement of sounds, the audience, she hopes, will be able to appreciate the unity and cohesion in the piece. In her words, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

“That’s what makes anything great actually. It does tap into concerns that are eternal, archetypal, something in that vein; they come up in anybody’s life no matter what time or location you live in.” Originally, the piece was made to accompany a video of these clips strung together for a previous exhibition, but she worried that the audience’s dependency on the visual element of the piece did not allow people to grasp what was happening on the sonic level. She hopes that, with the video removed, the audience will be able to understand the ideas being explored in the piece more thoroughly.

For other artists like Jeff Gibbons, working in sound was not a new and unusual field. Gibbons talks about how his work has been informed by his early love of music. “Any installation I’ve ever done is usually something to do with the senses, either all of them or a couple. But I actually made music before I ever did anything else in visual art. I started playing guitar when I was about 12, then I tried to be a serious musician for a while.”

Having his work featured in galleries is somewhat new. For his piece, “___ Just Too Good to Be True” Gibbons edited the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons song “You’re Just Too Good to Be True” with a loud and jarring beep covering the word “you” throughout the entire song.

Carolyn Sortor

Carolyn Sortor

According to Gibbons, the piece is heavily influenced by the themes he tries to explore in his work, as well as his romantic life. “A love song is a fantasy land, you listen to it over and over again and it’s always the same,” he explains. “And that was the idea behind bleeping it. The bleep itself is kind of violent, but then when you bleep something out it’s usually a swear word, it’s usually something that alludes to violence, so there’s this kind of aggravation to that.”

“__ Just Too Good to Be True” examines the emotions that are tied up in our musical tastes, and Gibbons manipulates those expectations by making the song a commentary on the conventions of a love song. He notes that music has a special way of making people think back to a particular emotion or sensation, and that his piece attempts to make that sensation not so pleasant or nostalgic but more uncomfortable, even painful: “It’s kind of taking this reverent song and killing that in a way, so as to say that life is everything but a movie, everything but a reverent situation.”

For her part, Iris Bechtol looks to her frustrations over digital photography as a source of inspiration for her work. The element of the manufactured or heavily edited in that medium pushed her to pursue work in other fields, like sound. She focuses on making art that has little alteration, and becomes more immediate and present for the audience. “Much of my work that I’ve done in the past, whether it be installation, or sound, or any kind of sculptural work, it’s very minimal,” Bechtol said. “It’s not very gaudy, there’s not a lot of different materials involved, I don’t do a lot of manipulation. So the piece entitled “Everyday Wanting” is a piece where I’m exploring this idea of vulnerability… in a way of being minimal, not having a façade, not putting on all these fronts.”

“Everyday Wanting” follows this minimal approach. It features just the sounds of her dancing, with her feet hitting the floor in a large, echoing space. Bechtol explained that the piece was heavily informed on her shyness, and the work is meant to explore that feeling and make people actively listen and be aware of the sounds they’re hearing. However, as she says, the piece is more than just about her insecurities. While an audience might think that there is only one artistic intention in a piece, she says that’s not always true. “I just really want them to explore the idea of sound and listen to it. Sound is a powerful thing. And even if you don’t know what it is you’re listening to, it can have a profound, sublime effect on you.”

While Bechtol is focused on creating an intimate relationship between herself and the audience, artist Martin Back works on delivering pieces that make the audience more aware of their ambient soundscape. His piece is simple but succinctly demonstrates Back’s aesthetic priorities. He says he heard the sounds of rain hitting a small metal watering can outside his home, and these stood out so much, he rushed to grab his recording equipment to capture the moment.

Unlike some of the other more consciously organized pieces, Back’s is more spontaneous and organic. His recording of rainwater exemplifies the artist’s ideas and thoughts when he makes art. It’s satisfying, he says, “to have that moment that the piece came out of. That’s part of an ongoing process and is sound-specific, and it’s bound up in how I think about the world as connected systems of sound.” He went on, saying that his work is focused on “thinking about the world as if it is performing itself, and you just have to turn your attention to it to have an aesthetic experience, and to me that’s much more valuable, personally and aesthetically, than trying to create it with an object or a mechanized sculpture.”

“And then I whirled to the sound of” will run until July 27.

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What’s It Take To Be An Arts Leader? Here’s One Way To Find Out.



Looking to take your interest and involvement in the arts to the next level? Want to learn more about what it takes to be on the board of an arts group?  Curious about how your business skills might be useful to a North Texas non-profit?

You might be a good candidate for the 2014-2015 Leadership Arts Institute, and now’s the time to apply. Business Council for the Arts is accepting applications until Aug. 1.

The Leadership Arts program was started by Ray Nasher to help business professionals spark their passions for the arts.  The Leadership Arts class meets every month for 10 sessions to learn from professionals from a variety of arts organizations. Each class also plans and executes a significant project to benefit the arts. (We at Art&Seek are extremely grateful to 2011 Leadership Arts for helping us create and pay for the Art&Seek calendar app.) And BCA links its  graduates directly to opportunities to serve on the boards of a variety of arts and culture non-profits.

Sound good? Read more after the jump and on the BCA website or  contact Juliana Rogers at, or call Business Council for the Arts at 972-991-8300 ext. 602.


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The High Five: A Breakout Musical From A Recent Musical Theater Convert

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Five stories that have North Texas talking: A local musical gets some New York love, one of the top art collectors in Texas has died, and more. 

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The High Five: The Golden Question For Opera Houses

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Five stories that have North Texas talking: opera houses are questioning the role of simulcasts drawing younger audiences to opera, get fashion tips at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, and more.<--break->

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Saturday Spotlight – 11th Annual Modern Dance Festival at The Modern

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TAP-TAP-TAP_250w For this week’s Art & Seek Spotlight, we’re headed to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth for the 11th Annual Modern Dance Festival. The festival is in its second weekend, and you can expect local premieres of short films and a presentation exploring the philosophies and traditions of modern dance. The film “One Day Pina Asked…” which documents the life and work of German choreographer Pina Bausch screens in the auditorium to wrap up the festivities.

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Opening for Elusive Neil Young in Istanbul, Killing It In Sydney: Midlake’s Summer Sounds More Fun Than Ours

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Categorized Under: Culture, KXT, Local Events, Music

Midlake’s Eric Pulido. Photo: Jason D. Jones

Denton’s Midlake has been touring non-stop since the November release of Antiphon. On Tuesday, the band wrapped up a lengthy tour abroad, opening for Neil Young in Istanbul. Success may feel fleeting at home, but guitarist Eric Pulido says the band’s been feeling the love from Australia to Italy. A few hours before the show on Tuesday, Pulido sat down with Jason D. Jones to talk about the tour and what it feels like to open for some of the band’s biggest musical heroes.

Jones is a freelance journalist and media consultant. For the last six years, he’s been based in Istanbul. But he’s from Wichita Falls and spent most of his adult life living and working in and around Dallas, including four years here at KERA.

Art and Seek: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today. First, let’s talk about your tour and what you guys have been up to lately. You were just in England, right?

Eric: We’ve been all over on this run, it’s you know, the festival season. So, we’ve been doing festivals in and around Europe and the UK and the mixing in shows to kind of connect the dots.

A&S: So, Istanbul wasn’t one of your original tour stops?

EP: No, we were originally going to end with Hyde Park, which we just did, which Neil Young headlined. Then we got the call to actually open for him in Istanbul and we’re like, “OK… I guess we could extend it a couple of days!” (laughs).

A&S: How did that come about?

EP: Well, to be quite honest, I’m not 100% sure. I know that the same promoter (of the Hyde Park show) had talked about us coming to Istanbul to play just another club date and we were having difficulty trying to figure it out, how it could work, when it could work, for I guess this whole year and then this came up. I don’t know if Neil’s folks had anything to do with it, I’m not sure.

A&S: Did you get to meet him when you were playing at Hyde Park?

EP: No…no. I’ve heard he’s quite elusive. (laughs)

A&S: So, you don’t know if he’s a fan or not.

EP: I have no clue.

A&S: How does it feel to open for a legend like that? I know you guys also opened for Pearl Jam in Dallas…

EP: Oh, it’s great. Obviously, when an icon like that, you know, an artist, a musician that you see play or open up for, or collaborate with, it’s like a dream. It’s like when you’re a kid you look up to these bands and you’re a fan and it’s really cool to kind of be a part of something that they’re doing in a bigger way, whether that be opening or collaborating or whatever. It’s always fun (during) festival season because it’s kind of like that, on steroids. Because there’s all of these bands and I’m a fan at heart, so I just love to play our set and hang out and be another punter at the festival, you know, have a beer, some food and watch some bands that I love. So, something like this with someone not only who is an icon but also a big influence to us with our music, it’s magical. It’s just really cool. It’s something special.

A&S: You’ve had quite a bit more success in Europe than back home. Is that correct?

EP: Yeah.

A&S: I know that there are bands from the States who have experienced a similar phenomenon; they might get some minor attention at home but have great success in Europe and other places. Do you have any insight on why that might be the case?
EP: It’s a good question. We’ve been asked that a lot over the years. I do feel like there is a difference in media exposure and the forums that exist to some degree and how eclectic they are. and how well they do. Something like BBC 6 music or just BBC overall. You know, it’s spanning the whole country, for sure, and a huge demographic and exposing a lot of different eclectic music, different styles, different types. That’s a pretty popular avenue for people to not only be exposed to bands and that they receive their news and their music and everything. The closest to that for us in America would be NPR, but I think that’s much more specific to a (particular) demographic than something like BBC. And, I feel like, I know everybody’s publications are struggling to some degree, but it seems that they (BBC) are sticking around. They’re doing ok. And the festival scene has been huge for much longer and thriving, covering a lot of different bands. You put a bunch of people in a festival and you feature a lot of different bands and they get a lot of exposure in front of a lot of folks. It seems like now the US is growing in those ways, but it’s been more specific and narrow to where that exposure goes. I think there’s much more focus on the mainstream in America; it’s very polar and when you tour it’s very polar. You can play in L.A. And it’s like, “Oh, yeah! It’s great!”. Then you go one state over and it’s like you just entered another country. I’m sure a lot of bands feel that way and America is big, it’s a difficult country to tour. The internet was a huge thing for indie bands who were able to use social media to expose people to their music. Now, it’s just overexposed. It’s saturated and not like it used to be.


Midlake rocks Istanbul. Photo: Jason D. Jones

A&S: Yeah, it’s not like the early MySpace days when indie bands could create a buzz almost overnight. Now there’s a lot more noise out there.

EP: Yeah, exactly.

A&S: What about other countries besides the UK? Are there some hot spots, places that are working well for you?

EP: Yeah, Europe as a whole has been great to us. You equate it [popularity] now more by attendance at a show than just by record sales. So, if we play a big, beautiful room in Sweden and it gets sold out, we’re like, “Oh! Well I guess we’re doing alright in Sweden!” [laughs]. We did think one show there went really well recently. We also went to Italy on this run and a lot of people came out and we had struggled in Italy early on. We thought, “Well maybe this record’s doing better!” [laughs]. I mean, I don’t know! You’d think these things are easier to equate but it’s not. Because, like I said, I don’t think record sales for a band like us is always the best gauge. Australia is a great example where, I don’t know if anybody sells a ton of records in Australia but we went there and played the Sydney Opera House on this last run and it was beautiful. It was amazing and for us flying over from Texas, we’re like, “Well, I hope people show up.” [laughs]. We’re just always very thankful and very curious to see, with each record, how [the audience] grows or stays the same or even falls in certain areas.

A&S: Do you guys listen to any specific radio stations in DFW?

EP: Yeah, yeah. I love KXT and have even gotten to guest DJ a couple of times and that was just great.

A&S: Has Midlake been getting some play there?

EP: Yeah, they’ve been great to us and to a lot of local artists. I think it’s sad that there aren’t more stations like [KXT] that have broader programming. I mean, if you listen to the radio when you go on a road trip and you’re listening to a popular radio station, you’re probably going to hear the same song over and over and over again on that road trip. Then you’re like, “Man, they are really shoving this down my throat.” So, it’s cool to hear a station like KXT that’s playing a mix of music but it’s also paying attention to some local artists that might not otherwise be heard at all on the radio. And it kind of gives them a springboard to get exposure but also to let people know that, “Hey, there’s more music out there than just that mainstream format. There’s more out there!” I think it’s good for a radio station to do it because it’s such an easy thing to turn on your radio. It’s hard to go searching, like you said, amongst the noise on the internet. Yeah, I could find a lot of new bands but, I don’t know, when I go to Pitchfork or type ‘cool bands’ into Google, it’s too much. I think it’s cool that the guys and gals at KXT have a very caring and responsible ear to what’s going on in the area and they’ve shown us a lot of support and a lot of love and I couldn’t say enough good things about them.

A&S: Do you have some favorite DFW bands?

EP: I’ve loved Centro-matic for years. I’ve always been a fan and I think people should take notes when they watch them play live because I think they’re just amazing. Boxcar Bandits is a local Denton bluegrass band that’s just great. Sarah Jaffe, obviously, is a local DFW queen. She’s great, we got to play with her a bunch. Robert Gomez, who is a label mate of ours, who also lives in Denton. Baptist Generals, they’re a Sub Pop band but they’ve been around for years; great guys, great music. In Denton, you can throw a rock and hit three good bands! [laughs]

A&S: You mentioned earlier that Istanbul was your final show on this tour. What’s next for Midlake?

EP: We head back home and a few of us are doing an acoustic tour, just a stripped down thing, opening for Band of Horses. We’re looking forward to that. We love those guys and have played with them before and we’re fans. Logistically, it just worked out better for us to kind of strip it down a little, it’s just, like, 30-minute sets and we’re just doing acoustic. So, there’s like 2 weeks of that and then we have one more festival in Monterrey, it’s called First City. And then we’ll actually get some sleep and take a rest. I mean we’ve been going non-stop for a year now.

A&S: Do you have any plans for recording a follow up to Antiphon?

EP: We don’t really have anything on the books right now. I mean, we always kind of reconvene and figure out what’s next. I think a few of us have some other things we want to get into before coming back to anything Midlake. Some of the guys produce (other records). I’m excited about a project called Banquet, which is a collaborative with other artists, so I’m sourcing that out right now. But, I’m sure we’ll always play in some capacity or another. Some of the guys are a part of (Banquet), as well. I think we just want to put the ship in the dock for this year and just get into some other things before returning to it.



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The Dallas Opera Vs. The Met Opera Over The Future of Opera

Cernyhead_24bPeter-GelbSo, who you liking in the odds for tonight’s match? Dallas Opera’s Keith ‘Kid Opry’ Cerny, left, or the Met’s Peter ‘Punchy’ Gelb, right?

As was noted earlier this year, some serious doubts have been raised about whether opera simulcasts — like the ones Dallas Opera has done at AT&T Stadium and the Met Opera live simulcasts in cinemas (or the ones that Booker T. Washington Arts Magnet holds) — are truly reaching a younger, new audience. Happy claims have been made for them, claims that sound a little desperate when it comes to ensuring opera’s future: i.e., if this doesn’t bring in the kids, what in the world will?

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The High Five: The Old Becomes New With Sarah Jaffe’s Latest Release

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Five stories that have North Texas talking: Sarah Jaffe premieres an old song as a new one from her upcoming album, Thrillist has 99 problems with Dallas, and more. 

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