Feature Stories

November 29, 2008

Red State Rebels is a collection of essays about a broad cross-section of activists, malcontents and nonconformists living in what coastal liberals too often write off as “flyover country.”

As editors Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank write in their introduction, “This book offers just a few snapshots of the grassroots resistance taking place in the forgotten heartland of America. These are tales of rebellion and courage. Out here activism isn’t for the faint of heart. Be thankful someone is willing to do the dirty work.”

This resistance should inspire readers to think about how to take important stands right now, wherever they are.

September 6, 2008

A group of Brown County musicians are reaching out to their neighbors who struggle each day to put food on their tables.

The artists call themselves Brown County Musicians United to End Poverty. Their mission is "to gather musicians and other individuals interested in working together for the common cause of ending poverty in Brown County. ... Our ultimate goal is to help our impoverished neighbors unloose the shackles of poverty and experience hope."

Proceeds from the sale of their new, all-original-music CD It’s Not Just a Dream -- and from the release concert in Nashville the first weekend in October -- will benefit Mother's Cupboard Community Kitchen in Brown County (not to be confused with Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, the Bloomington food pantry).

June 14, 2008

Jimmy McGriff -- 04.03.36-05.24.08

Seminal jazz organist Jimmy McGriff died Saturday, May 24, 2008, of apparent heart failure. He was 72. He had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a few years earlier.

One of the giants of the Hammond B-3 organ, McGriff was mostly known as a jazz musician, even though he always considered himself first and foremost a bluesman. Indeed, his numerous jazz records always had a funky, bluesy edge to them. Comparing himself to another great jazz organist, Jimmy Smith, McGriff once said, "Jimmy Smith is the jazz king on the organ, but when it comes to blues, I can do things where he can't touch me."

Another strong influence on his playing was the Black church. As he stated in a biography posted on All About Jazz, www.allaboutjazz.com, "They talk about who taught me this and who taught me that, but the basic idea of what I'm doing on the organ came from the church. That's how I got it, and I just never dropped it."

May 31, 2008

April 9 was the 11th anniversary of the death of Yank Rachell, one of the true legends of the blues, who lived in Indianapolis from 1956 until his death in 1997. He was especially known as the "Blues Mandolin Man," not only because he played this little-used instrument for the blues, but also because he was one of the true masters of the blues mandolin, with masterful folk musicians such as Rich DelGrosso and Ry Cooder devoted to studying and teaching his particular way of playing.

Which was unique for two reasons: first, he was entirely self-taught, and second, he developed his own particular way of playing the mandolin that emphasized playing the along the melody line of the song and not the more common way of strumming the instrument to the chord patterns.

While playing the blues on the mandolin produces a most compelling, haunting, indeed beautiful sound, the number of significant blues players on this instrument number fewer than 10. Among those at the very, very top was Rachell.

The Fatted Calf String Band

April 12, 2008

Not a single member of The Fatted Calf String Band is "terribly thrilled" with the demo they recorded in guitarist and fiddler Brad Baute's living room last year. And they offer little more than a noncommittal yawn when asked if and when they might record again soon. That's because The Fatted Calf String Band, not unlike all the unrecorded "old-time" bands of the pre-Library of Congress folklorist explosion of the 1920s, is an adventure better experienced live, in shoes made for kicking up dirt.

Indeed, for over a year now, with evangelical ardency, the band has been moving hippies and hip, head-nodding taste makers alike to dance to the venerable tunes of their great grandmothers' songbooks. From Southern Appalachian fiddle-driven jaunts to a Lotus Dickey tune that was once a square dance staple in the hills of southern Indiana, the band has honed an expansive repertoire of old-time songs to airtight perfection.

Looking like John Boy Walton's hipster cousin from the city, Baute says the band started when he got together with fellow punk-turned traditional fiddler and guitarist Joel Lensch and porch-playing banjoist Chris Mattingly in late 2006. Bloomington's recently deceased beloved multi-instrumentalist Evan Farrell played upright bass for the outfit briefly before Alex Mann took over in January of 2007.

April 5, 2008

Downtown gallery visitors experienced all types of art, from multi media, to photography, to oil and water-color paintings during last weekend's Downtown Gallery Walk.

The nonprofit Thomas Gallery on College just north of Kirkwood, is a not-for profit gallery, where the artists put on their own shows and all proceeds go to the artists. Mary Connors and Kurt Larsen were the featured artists this weekend for Gallery Walk.

"Acrylic on canvas and water color on paper are Connors' favorite painting mediums," says Tom Gallagher, the owner of Thomas Gallery.

March 1, 2008

Unrequited love, artistic failure, death, and--comedy?

It might seem odd, given the first three themes, but comedy is undeniably present from the start of The Seagull, the IU Department of Theatre and Drama's latest production of Anton Chekhov's 1895 classic, when Masha comments, "I'm in mourning for my life" to Medvedenko, the schoolmaster who is desperately in love with her.

Chekhov's play, though centered on the depressing aspects of the human experience, also points out the humorous -- and often ridiculous -- elements to even the most painful moments in life. And the IU production, which opened this past Tuesday at the Ruth N. Halls Theatre at the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center, highlights this well, thanks to the cast and set design.

The Seagull is the final MFA thesis project for several of the students involved in its production -- including director Erik Friedman, actress Allison Moody (Arkadina), scenic designer Chris Wych and lighting designer JoJo Percy -- and all should be pleased with the result.

February 16, 2008

Betsy Stirratt feels your pain. "Parking on campus is very frustrating," she agrees. And while she's not exactly proposing that anyone break any laws, the IU School of Fine Arts (SoFA) Gallery director did recently say -- out loud -- that, "Many people find they don't get ticketed on Friday nights when they park in the main library lot, probably because a lot of events are happening on those evenings."

Opening receptions for the SoFA Gallery exhibitions, featuring works of students and faculty, as well as that of regional and national visual artists, for example, tend to be held on Friday nights. With a slew of provocative exhibitions on the horizon, Stirratt would like to see more folks from the community visiting the SoFA Gallery, for Friday receptions and otherwise, even if that means maneuvering around parking headaches and the invisible but daunting divide, that in the imaginations of many, segregates the townies from the gownies.

February 16, 2008

Cardinal Stage Company is doing it again. And this time, the star is -- a goat.

On Feb. 22, O Lovely Glowworm, or Scenes of Great Beauty, will open at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. It is sponsored by Cardinal's 2007-08 season sponsor, Irwin Union Bank, and is a part of Arts Week, an IU community winter arts festival.

According to the news release for the production, O Lovely Glowworm is "the outrageously funny and profoundly moving story of a goat desperately trying to figure out who he is, where he is and why he is."

February 16, 2008

In 1962, the view that anything could be art was at its peak in the art world. Artists would use unconventional materials -- metal scraps, buttons, cardboard -- whatever they thought would express their ideas best.

In that same year, the Indiana University Art Museum (IUAM) received four works of art that fell into this category. These works, including one other piece received in a different year, are on display as part of the IUAM's "New in the Galleries" exhibition titled The Art of Assemblage.

Ned Puchner, a graduate student in art history and the curatorial assistant for Western Art after 1800, prepared the exhibition. It was partially inspired by the New York Museum of Modern Art's 1961 Art of Assemblage exhibition. He said the works are "an excellent group, indicative of the range of works categorized under the terms 'neo-Dada' or 'assemblage'."

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