Music & Mirth: Contemporary Music Potluck

[DISCLAIMER: As noted here, this is an alternate, lengthier version of my report published by East Lansing Info. Consequently, this post features, in parts, a more “formal” style than is typical for this blog.]

Last Saturday 08.08.15, I attended a concert that was so geographically close and yet so environmentally far from East Lansing’s Great Lakes Folk Festival and the neighboring Lansing Jazz Fest. In the shadows of these competing annual mainstays, another day-long musical event was taking place in a quiet Hunter Park-adjacent Lansing neighborhood: the Contemporary Music Potluck.

Being an all-day event, I could only attend a few hours between childcare responsibilities and hitting the road for a Borghi | Teager gig in Rochester, MI.

The Contemporary Music Potluck was created, organized, and hosted by my friend David McCarthy, a Lansing-area native who is now a Ph.D. candidate in musicology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. (Though now dormant, his largely evergreen blog is great if you have the time.) At work on his dissertation, he’s been back in the area for about a year. Having been inspired by intimate performances he’s attended at both small venues and private homes in LA, Harlem, and Brooklyn, McCarthy decided to host a concert at his home he shares with his younger brother Colin, an undergraduate at Michigan State University.

Earlier this year, David told me of his plans to possibly start hosting occasional musical events at his home. If I remember correctly, we’d been discussing the paucity of intellectually stimulating non-canonical concerts and other events outside of the local academic systems (and to some degree within them). (I believe one anecdote we discussed was a local contemporary music concert in which the ensemble all but apologized to the audience for performing an abstract contemporary piece…) In describing his intentions, he envisioned a day of stimulating performances broken up by food and socializing, but outside of an academy or another hosting or patronizing institution. The Contemporary Music Potluck was just that. Performances and rehearsals occurred in the living room, with a couple rows of chairs and assorted seating branching out in different directions. Instruments, cases, stands, sheet music, technical equipment, food, utensils, and plates were scattered about. The kitchen, backyard, porch, and deck all acted as both lobby and green room, with performers and observers mingling throughout. Attendees came from as far as Cleveland, OH and Rochester, NY, and Minot, ND, with performers representing a variety of music programs throughout the Midwest and into the East Coast. The schedule was as follows:
9:00 AM: Breakfast for performers
10:00 AM: Open rehearsal
12:00 PM: Introduction and small ensemble recital
1:30 PM: Potluck lunch
3:00 PM: Solo recital, Dr. James Fusik
4:30 PM: Large ensemble recital

The first recital, which I unfortunately couldn’t attend, featured two duos. Violinist Dr. Isoa Chapman and double-bassist Spencer Phillips performed Krzysztof Penderecki’s Duo Concertante, and Chapman and pianist Meghan Schaut performed Arvo Pärt’s Fratres. (One performer had to back out due to illness, otherwise works by Luciano Berio and György Kurtág would’ve also been presented.) While McCarthy oversaw the event, the first recital was programmed by East Lansing resident and MSU alumnus Isoa Chapman. Chapman is an active performer and teaches for the Marshall Music Strings Program.

The featured performance was the solo recital by saxophonist Dr. James Fusik, a Muskegon, MI native who is now Assistant Professor of Woodwinds at Minot State University in Minot, ND. (Jim and I have been friends for years, having met in a high school honors orchestra and later attended CMU together with David.) He performed Ravi Kittappa’s KUBA for tenor saxophone and electronics, Marilyn Shrude’s Trope for tenor saxophone and tape, Fredrick Gifford’s MOBILE 2014 for solo soprano saxophone, and finally Giacinto Scelsi’s Tre Pezzi for solo soprano saxophone. Tre Pezzi was the oldest piece on Fusik’s program (1956) by at least a half century, and two of the works (KUBA and MOBILE 2014) were written for the performer. Fusik’s commanding performance of the difficult and varied literature was a nice representation of contemporary music, ranging from the experimental use of electronics and extended instrumental techniques in KUBA – the world premiere of which he gave in France last month – to the at times more melodic passages in Trope and Tre Pezzi.

(Pictured above: Fusik solo recital performance)

The day’s final recital featured a performance of selected pieces from Christian Wolff’s Exercises, a series of works that Wolff has written since the 1970s that now numbers in the thirties. The Exercises may be performed by any instruments or combination thereof so long as there are at least two performers. The CMP large ensemble – including flute, clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, violin, bass, assorted percussion – performed Exercises 3, 5, 6, and 14, which were all published in ’73-4. The performers included the aforementioned Chapman, Phillips, and Fusik as well as McCarthy on clarinet and percussion, Aaron Gilbert on bassoon, Paul Jacob Mizzi on flute, and Dr. Jessica Narum on percussion. For variation, Mizzi and Gilbert performed Exercise 5 as a duet, having prepared it in advance.

I asked McCarthy why he chose Wolff for the final recital and he responded, “I wanted a piece for any instrumentation (I didn’t know in advance how many musicians I would be able to recruit or what instruments they would play), and I knew that we would need to be able to put something together with no more than a 90-minute rehearsal.” Beyond practical considerations, McCarthy felt that the piece encapsulated the event. “I realized it was perfect for what I was trying to do—in some ways, the pieces seem to have been designed with an event like the Potluck specifically in mind. They’re challenging to perform successfully. However, the challenge is not to your chops, per se, but to your musical intelligence, your ability to listen to others and to make creative decisions on the fly in a collaborative situation.”

(Pictured above: discussion before large ensemble performance)

Overall, the CMP lived up to McCarthy’s expectations. People came and went throughout the day, with a best guess of approximately 50 attendees throughout the day. (“We used up all 48 plastic forks.”) As for regrets, he said, “My biggest regret is that we weren’t able to get anyone under 18 to perform… The Saturday afternoon potluck makes the event family friendly, but you have to be more than friendly if you want to really engage people.”

McCarthy hopes to host CMP 2 in February, with another “every six to twenty-four months.” He hopes to build on the momentum of and connections made at CMP to help overcome the financial overhead. He wrote to me, “The biggest challenge will always be recruiting the musicians and, for at least as long as I’m based out of a small town like Lansing, paying for their travel. We were lucky this time to have people who were able to get here on their own dime. But I do want to have a mechanism to get the ‘local community,’ whatever that might be, paying for some plane tickets [for artists].”

I could only attend the afternoon events, unfortunately. However, what I attended was great. I was surprised and pleased to see old friends, more recent acquaintances, and strangers alike come together for a “salon” of sorts at which fellowship and ideas could be freely shared, connections could be made (though not in a sterile “networking” manner), and thought-provoking music enjoyed in a comfortable, mindful environment. As an observer/attendee, I consider that a true success. My only regret/complaint is that I couldn’t attend the whole day’s festivities.

(Photos by yours truly.)

Q&A: Below is an interview — lightly edited — that I conducted with David via email after the day after the event. Some info is included in the above report, but I found his answers to be very much worth publishing in full, particularly the final paragraph.

MT: What inspired you to create and host the Contemporary Music Potluck?
DM: A few great performances at casual events in small venues or private homes allowed me to see how well contemporary music works in that sort of space. Peter Yates of UCLA hosts an annual Summer Solstice Party in his Los Angeles home, and I was lucky enough to be invited to one of them in 2013 by my colleague, a brilliant musician in the fullest sense of the term, Alexandra Grabarchuk. I had also seen James and his Color Field Ensemble host some events in a Harlem basement as part of a series called Permutations. And the great folks at the Panoply Performance Lab in Brooklyn do most of their events in very small spaces scattered somewhere along that horizontal grey line they call the “L.”

MT: Who helped you put together and host the event, if anyone?
DM: It was a potluck, so I can say more literally than sentimentally that everyone there helped to put together the event. But I owe especially big thanks to Isoa Chapman and James Fusik who programmed the main recitals and recruited many of the musicians, to my brother Colin McCarthy, who agreed to open our home and who ran all kinds of errands for me, and to Josh and Shan Soma, who prepared the pulled pork and the baked beans and who took charge of seeing that everything went smoothly with the food service all day long.

MT: How did you decide the lineup and selection of pieces (including Wolff’s Exercises)? How did you get in touch with the various performers?
DM: First I contacted James and got him to agree to program a recital for himself. Then I sent out a Call For Performers and asked people to propose recitals or portions of recitals. I retained veto power, but didn’t have to use it. In one case, I nudged a performer away from a piece I didn’t think would make the best addition to the day, but that felt to me more like a critical discussion than like me doing the programming.

The Wolff Exercises were programmed by me, and it took a little bit of work to settle on them. I knew that I wanted a piece for any instrumentation (I didn’t know in advance how many musicians I would be able to recruit or what instruments they would play), and I knew that we would need to be able to put something together with no more than a 90-minute rehearsal. Initially I proposed a performance of Terry Riley’s In C, which is still something I would like to do someday. But it really seemed as though we needed at least fifteen performers for that piece, and for this first event, we weren’t quite able to reach that number. I had been listening to a great recording of the Exercises called Ten Exercises put out by New World Records, and the more I listened to it, the more I realized it was perfect for what I was trying to do—in some ways, the pieces seem to have been designed with an event like the Potluck specifically in mind. They’re challenging to perform successfully. However, the challenge is not to your chops, per se, but to your musical intelligence, your ability to listen to others and to make creative decisions on the fly in a collaborative situation. My brother helped me get my hands on a score in a timely fashion, I selected seven for consideration—they’re extremely varied, and I tried to give people a sense of that—and in rehearsal, we whittled them down to four (3, 5, 6, and 14). They reward precisely the sort of sensibility I’d like people to cultivate, and I hope to revisit them before too long.

MT: What were your expectations going in, and how did yesterday’s CMP live up to those? Approximately how many attendees were there throughout the day?
DM: I’d say the event pretty much lived up to my expectations. I wanted to have a group of people from very different walks of life, which we did, and I wanted to see at least a few people I didn’t know, which I did. Hopefully people will spread the word so that in the future we can have even more diversity.

It would be nice to find some better ways to engage children, especially children in my neighborhood. My biggest regret is that we weren’t able to get anyone under 18 to perform. I need to think about how to deal with that challenge. I don’t necessarily want to do a “children’s concert,” but there are probably some strategies I haven’t considered. The Saturday afternoon potluck makes the event family friendly, but you have to be more than friendly if you want to really engage people.

I’d say that at any given point, we probably never had much more than about 30-40 people on the premises. But there was a fair amount of coming and going, which I was glad for: it gave the event a festive atmosphere, and I had tried to facilitate that sort of movement by posting a schedule in advance. In total, there were probably something like 50 people who dropped in over the course of the day (we used up all 48 plastic forks). We have room in the house for more than that, but it was a good number to start out with.

MT: Where did the attendees and performers come from?
DM: Some of the musicians were recruited through a network of personal acquaintances. I knew Isoa, and he recruited Meghan Schaut and Spencer Phillips. Others responded to a Call For Performers I emailed to representatives of the major music departments within about a 150-mile radius: Aaron Gilbert and Paul Jacob Mizzi are BGSU undergrads who responded to the CFP. Colin is an undergraduate at MSU. Isoa and Meghan are working musicians based out of East Lansing and Grand Rapids respectively. Spencer is doing graduate work at the Eastman School of Music.
[MT: NOTE: He didn’t mention James because the three of us are personal friends. That needn’t have been “researched.”]

MT: What are your future plans for CMP, if any? Do you hope to host another? Do you envision it becoming a series of sorts, even if only occasionally?
DM: I’m already testing the waters for a Contemporary Music Potluck 2 in February. I’m hoping to raise some funds to buy paper supplies to program Benjamin Patterson’s Paper Piece, and a few people have already expressed interest in programming a recital. I’ll send out another Call For Performers sometime in the early fall (I’m hoping to reach people filled with optimism at the start of an academic year). In the long term, I’d like to try to do at least one Potluck every six to twenty-four months, and I’d be excited if people who liked the model would adapt it to their own purposes. It could be done anywhere there was a little space, a few chairs, and a kitchen. I like the idea of numbering them (CMP, CMP2, etc.). It appeals to the acquisitive spirit in me.

The biggest challenge will always be recruiting the musicians and, for at least as long as I’m based out of a small town like Lansing, paying for their travel. We were lucky this time to have people who were able to get here on their own dime. I have no interest in making this a “profitable venture” for either myself or the musicians. That’s not how the economics of contemporary music works, I don’t really think that’s how it should work, and if it ever does work that way, it will be because we’re living in a completely different society from the one we currently inhabit. As far as our current society goes, we have institutions which are supposed to be patronizing contemporary music—whether they’re doing a very good job is something to debate, but that’s what they’re supposed to be doing—and I’m extremely skeptical of the whole “start-up” ethos among certain members of our generation. But I do want to have a mechanism to get the “local community,” whatever that might be, paying for some plane tickets. It’s the twenty-first century. Local scenes need to be enriching themselves using the marvels of jet travel.

FYI: Branching Out

A quick heads-up on some future posts. I’ve recently started writing for East Lansing Info (ELi for short), a “non-profit citizen-run local news cooperative” that provides “free, local, non-partisan, accurate news and information about East Lansing.” It’s a highly valuable news source in town, as our city is often overlooked by Lansing State Journal and State News except for MSU matters and municipal elections. I’m a daily reader, a financial supporter, and now a contributor.

I’ll likely be writing one or two articles per month, particularly when the school year is in full swing, though August will exceed that. I’ll be covering arts and government, though not evenly. I’m sure arts & music will be more my domain, but I’ll be assisting with city government reporting when asked and when there’s no conflict of interest. For example, to be perfectly clear, I won’t be writing stories on (SCENE) for ELi, as I’m too deep in the weeds. Between my various posts and public remarks and my serving on the city’s Arts Commission, one could even say I’m part of the story (however tangential). I’m sure my name would taint whatever article I wrote, even without any editorializing. (I’ve stuck to the available facts in my posts on this blog, but I clearly have a point of view.)

Now, I know that most of my readers aren’t local. But, occasionally, local nuggets have made it onto the blog when appropriate for various reasons, be it a concert I attended, a gig I played, or the Sturm und Drang of (SCENE) (which offers a case study of the shuttering of venues throughout the country).

As has been the practice (or non-practice, depending on how you look at it) on the blog for the past six years, I won’t turn my MT-Headed Blog posts into simple click-throughs to ELi. For ELi posts that have nothing to do with this blog’s usual content, both sites and worlds will continue to exist independently. However, if I’m reporting for ELi on something that’d work well here (or vice-versa), then I’ll engage in some cross-promotion. As an example, the next post after this will be an overly lengthy article I wrote for ELi. It needs truncating before publishing to their site, so my editor and I agreed to have me post the “tl;dr” & more musically weedy version here and the leaner “general” version there. (I imagine future cross-posts being analogous to this scenario.) Such posts will include disclaimers at the top.

Curation | 200

Curation. It’s one of today’s many buzzwords, though the practice has been with us for a long time. In the days of old, Medieval monks curated ancient texts in the early universities and eighteenth-century Englishmen curated canonical musical works for so-called “Antient Music” concerts. Nowadays we’re curating everything: social narratives on Facebook et al., playlists on Spotify and Apple Music, photos on Instagram, listicles on Buzzfeed, and so on and so forth. Andrew Sullivan even tried, with the help of his editorial team, to curate the entire web for a decade and a half.

I at least hinted at curation with my thoughts on the early stages of Apple Music and Beats 1 Radio. My hope was that live radio and DJs would lead to some compelling listening. Save a few times I’ve tuned in to hear St. Vincent, Josh Homme, Q-Tip, and Elton John (of course), I for the most part tune out within 5 minutes. The three DJs who’ve been given prime focus just seem married to Top 40 fare, and I suppose that’s to be expected.

Part of my disappointment is personal, though, as a few radio DJs left quite an impression on an adolescent me. (Then of course there’s Howard Stern, but he transcended “disc jockey” decades ago…) Two immediately spring to mind (in chronological order):
• Andy O’Riley — A DJ formerly on the Grand Rapids rock station 94.5 WKLQ. I tuned into Outta Control Saturday Night every Saturday night at (I think) 10:00 PM, and the program ran until about 2:00 AM. It really was appointment listening for me. O’Riley played hard and heavy deep cuts — rarely were singles featured — loud and uncensored. (At that late hour, it was safe harbor on the airwaves.) Before the ubiquity of the internet, it was a great way for me to sample bands that were both new and new to me, everything from Slayer to Pantera to Cannibal Corpse to Type O Negative and everything in between. The show ended when I was nearing the end of high school. I remember O’Riley’s last show, as he announced it as such and played the heaviest, most aggressive songs as a result.
Lazaro Vega — A DJ and jazz director at Blue Lake Public Radio (at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp), 90.3 WBLV, a position he’s held for decades and continues through today. (In fact, I’m listening via web stream as I type this.) His show Jazz from Blue Lake airs 10:00 PM – 3:00 AM Monday through Friday, with each night’s show featuring a different artist or composer. (Despite this spotlight, other artists were also played to break up and branch off from the feature.) And late nights featured the “Out on Blue Lake” segment, featuring more avant-garde territory. This offered a crash course in jazz history, styles, and artists throughout high school. In fact, the first jazz CD I ever got as a result of hearing it on the radio was in response to something Mr. Vega played on the air: Thelonious Monk’s Monk’s Blues, a rare disc with Monk + big band. (Yet another early Tom Scott seed planted in my brain.) Another (immediate) radio-inspired purchase was James Carter‘s Chasin’ The Gypsy, an album that remains a desert island disc for me.

Without getting too far afield, I mention all this because O’Riley’s and Vega’s curating of bands and artists during their evening shows informed and shaped my adolescent listening habits (and by extension my adult ones too). Vega is on public radio and therefore more safe, but O’Riley and his ilk are an endangered species these days thanks to the national Clear Channel takeover of yore. Local and regional tastes and curation supplanted by a national, one-automated-playlist-fits-all approach. And now we’re relying on algorithms online. (Yeah, Apple Music features human curation, but Apple Music itself is to “meh” for me to really burn the calories to dig through it.)

And then there’s this blog. This is my 200th official post (not counting various drafts, abandoned or otherwise). While I won’t turn this into a sentimental retrospective, the milestone is worth highlighting, if for no other reason that it’ll make it the third “200-centric” post after those on Wagner and the saxophone. When I first started this over six years ago, it was more or less a repository of musical screeds. I expected few people would see it, and I had no plan. After a year or two and some fits and starts and receiving some unexpected links, I put more time and effort into it. All these posts and years later, I’m still without the time I’d truly like to dedicate to it, but I’m glad that it’s still going. I have many notions all the time (e.g., starting a podcast, but I’d thought about it for 5 years and not done it), but the blog is one of those things that actually persists. And now there’s a body of posts to point to for…I don’t know what. But there they are. And along the way I’ve done some curating of my own.

For starters, I’ll go out on a limb and say that this is the only site in which you can find in-depth posts by the same author on (in no particular order) Wagner, Dave Matthews Band, Einstein on the Beach, and Dave Liebman. And the two longest posts are about local politics and the DMB fan base, respectively. So that’s something. Of course, many other topics are covered, and ECM is likely the other big through-line. But, again, some folks don’t like the diversity of posts. It’s why this blog isn’t really linked to from any niche or topic directory (e.g., The Big List of Classical Music Blogs), and that’s just fine. Styles and topics change, but the one constant is me, and I’ve curated my own little corner of the web in a sense. My pet causes and pet peeves, favorite artists and album and concerts, and brainstorms are all in one place. And, as a bonus, folks read the posts (some more than others, of course).

Where I’m going with this, aside from simply mentioning this is post #200, is that this blog shall persist. Blogs in general are dying more than they’re growing. (Even The Dish, my go-to site each morning, rode off into the digital sunset earlier this year.) Old and new media seem ever more hesitant to feature longform writing (even though people prove time and again that if it’s compelling it’ll be read). And while I don’t think of this site as the bastion of longform writing or journalism, I have done a good job (I think) of avoiding simply having a post be just a link to another site as a way of piggybacking traffic as a middle man. Social media is good for that, but not here. I hesitate to call the blog a “body of work,” but it’s a body of something. There’s probably 200-300 pages of disparate material here. What that means is anyone’s guess, but I shall happily continue to add to it, continuing my curation post by post.

[For those that do read all of the posts, I hope you’ve enjoyed the break from the local (SCENE)metrospace coverage. You’re welcome. That was intentional; I didn’t want this “milestone post” to be yet another in that saga. (Though I do have some more to post, I’ve intentionally held off the last couple weeks for various reasons. The last thing I want is for my municipal obsessions to take over this site.) But, more importantly, thank you for continuing to visit.]


A very quick update. Since my last post, the (SCENE)metrospace online accounts have, I believe, officially been transferred to AAHD hands. I mention this because, on July 17, it was finally announced that the space is closed for renovations until September. That, and the contact information has been updated on the main website. And yesterday – possibly earlier, but I saw it via social media then – the call for submissions for the gallery’s next/first exhibition was posted. A couple thoughts:

For “hitting the ground running” (the phrase I heard used in meetings this spring), I’m a little surprised that the call for submissions for the first show is now, in the latter half of July, two months out. Although, I’m guessing that’s partially why the opening’s date has been pushed back a week to September 18.

Second, there’s a financial concern. I’ll admit that I was a bit surprised to see an entry fee for submissions. However, I’ll concede that that’s the way it often goes for applications for exhibitions, conference, college and grad school admissions, and the like. So, while I’m a bit surprised by this, it doesn’t bother me as much as it does some others. AAHD’s reasoning, when pressed via Facebook: “Project-related expenses range from the professionally designed full-color catalogs created for our open call juried exhibitions to the recently upgraded lighting and flooring in the gallery.” My immediate thought upon reading this was that in-house printing of promotional materials was touted as one of the cost-saving virtues of having MSU’s AAHD run the space instead of the City. This was highlighted more than once. I wonder if the City charged submission fees? If not, it’s just one more financial avenue not explored before claiming financial stress…

Although, that’s not what really caught my attention. What did is a new facet of the lease agreement slipped into the submission call (emphasis mine):

“(SCENE) Metrospace is free and open to the public, with the exception of some special programing [sic].”

Now that’s a surprise. All discussions and debate centered around the venue remaining free and open to the public with no mention of “special programming.” Rereading the operating agreement last night, the relevant part is even highlighted:

“MSU is operating the gallery independently and in its sole discretion. MSU intends to continue to offer opportunities, at not cost, for the general public to attend the exhibits and events on average of approximately 20 hours per week.”

Does “we [MSU] will not charge” now mean “free opportunities will be available”? Does this mean that “special programming” is anything outside of those standard 20 weekly hours? So, for instance, a special talk or presentation on a dark day or after hours can come with an admission fee? Does a musical or visual performance count as such? If so, that’s curious, considering such performances will be done by students and/or faculty.

We’ll see…

My intention was to stop posting about (SCENE)metrospace after the recent lengthy write-up, however there continue to be curious turns. Considering where things stand, I do hope that this new arrangement works out and benefits the community — it’s certainly better than the space becoming another tanning salon. But things are off to a rocky start…

UPDATED 07.25.15: I’d like to follow up on a couple items and offer some clarification. Since originally posting this article, I’ve been in touch with a number of folks and thought it’d be worth adding to the “public record.”

1. Charging admission for “special programming.” It’s been suggested by a few that by charging admission the artists/performers will then be paid. This of course is 100% fine by me, and something I fully support. I have a long, consistent record of supporting paying for music/art and compensating artists. This is not at all my gripe when considering “special programming.”

When it comes to charging admission, my concern is that AAHD will receive money for their curating the gallery on the City’s (i.e., our property taxes, etc.) dime. In meetings earlier this year, I even suggested, more than once, that, had (SCENE) considered charging more consistently and more often, we may have avoided this current boondoggle. (Unlikely, considering the very weak financial argument from the City — CofEL just wants to “get out of the curating business.”) What’s more, I asked multiple times on the public record whether AAHD had the financial stability and infrastructure to run the gallery with its current budget/funding. I certainly hope “special programming” is unrelated to that point.

Furthermore, regarding “special programming” – a term that right now is vague at best and only really means “not a weeks-long visual exhibition” – all of those will be in-house (AAHD itself or other MSU departments), somewhat academic in nature (i.e., student performances, etc.), and limited to 6-8 per year. If there are different plans now in the works, then that’s a whole different story, but right now I’m suspicious of language from which I infer that MSU will be reaping the financial rewards while CofEL essentially foots the bill. Now, if AAHD brings in a guest artist to speak or present, etc., and charges an admission which then fully goes to the guest presenter, that’s one thing. But if AAHD is going to be skimming off the top for student groups and the like, then that’s quite another.

I know that it seems odd for me to be suspicious of something I theoretically agree with, but right now I’m just seeing the agreement/plan substantially amended in the first month.

2. Submission fees. It looks like (SCENE) didn’t charge submission fees for open calls in the past (h/t to David MacDonald). Again, very curious. And, again, it’s related to AAHD’s financial infrastructure. I know that toner and other print materials can be pricey, but are the number of catalogues and other promotional materials contingent upon the amount of submission monies received? Ditto physical and cosmetic maintenance.


(SCENE) Postmortem, In Brief

And now a couple items to briefly follow up on (SCENE)metrospace. (For my own 4,000-word take as well as a comprehensive collection of links to local news stories, click here.)

First, (SCENE)metrospace officially became the curatorial domain of MSU’s Dept. of Art, Art History, and Design this past Monday (07.06.15). Just see the following stories for more info (all with highly positive spin from the City of East Lansing and MSU, of course):
City of East Lansing press release (curiously released — and buried — on a Friday afternoon that itself was an historic news day, particularly in this city)
WILX (local NBC affiliate, complete with spelling errors in the title…)

Beyond those articles, how else would you know that AAHD officially took control of the space this week? Good question. I mean, for all intents and purposes, the gallery has been shuttered since mid-April. No “closed for renovation” signs or anything. Just occasional articles and press releases. And locked doors and darkness. So I walked by the space today just to see what was going on, since the most recent round of press releases made it seem that MSU would be in there, guns blazing, getting ready for its debut show that is still two months away (09.11.15). (That’s almost five months from the end of the last show, also an MSU exhibition. So much for keeping the space open during the summer…) I saw no signs detailing the upcoming September show or mention of a renovation. In fact, I saw no MSU presence whatsoever. Instead I saw a City of East Lansing van and some folks inside gathering chairs that I assume belong to EL:
scene1(The posters in the window aren’t related.)

If nothing else, East Lansing now has a matching set of dark, empty, (SCENE)metrospace venues, as the original, long-blighted (SCENE) is a mere blocks away:


With much of this now in the past, I can say that there is one “consolation prize” in all of this. As an example, at this past Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the (SCENE) divestiture was referenced once each by three separate people (one public commenter and two Councilmembers, one of which being the Mayor) in three different parts of the meeting. The Mayor, who championed the divestiture, referenced it as an example of the City tightening its belt (while continuing to subsidize the space). Although, he coyly only mentioned the dollar amount and not the space itself. The other two references, however, were more explicit and done in a context of the City having lost something of value. In that regard, I can say that those of us who aggressively questioned and criticized this deal throughout raised public awareness at least a little bit, at least to the level of it now being a potential talking point and a form of shorthand when referencing the City’s recent fiscal decisions (and not always positively so). It’s a drop in the bucket, but a drop more than what we had.

(Photos by yours truly.)