Shelburne Museum shifting focus
to art and design
IT IS nearly impossible to see all the 150,000 pieces of folk art,
artifacts and Americana at Shelburne Museum in Vermont in one visit.
Visitors can wander through the old New England homes, barns and buildings
and view American folk art, decoys, impressionist paintings, quilts and furniture. They can inspect a 4,000-piece miniature
circus parade carved out of wood that winds through one building or 225 carriages and horse-drawn vehicles on display in other
This summer there's even more to see.
A show of American painter Georgia O'Keeffe's work is on view through
Oct. 31. It's the first of its kind for the museum. ''It's a major loan exhibit,'' said museum spokesman Sam Ankerson.
The works of Vermont children's book illustrator, Tasha Tudor, whose
life and art resembles life in rural New England in the 1830s, are on display. And the museum's latest departure - a modern
furniture show - features Knoll furniture designed by Frank Gehry and other masters.
The furniture show marks the beginning of a transformation for the
''We're shifting from a historic tourist site to a museum of art and
design,'' said Stephan Jost, the museum's new director.
The museum was founded by Electra Havemeyer Webb, daughter of art
collectors, in 1947. She not only acquired 19th-century folk art, quilts and decoys, but she moved historic buildings from
Vermont and New York - a one-room school house, homes, a round barn, a covered bridge and a steamship - to the site to house
An unexpected gem is the impressionist collection - paintings by Claude
Monet, Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas - hanging on the walls of a replica building of the Webbs' 1930s Park Avenue apartment in
New York City.
The 150,000 pieces in the exhibits still have a place. How they are
displayed may change. ''We will reinterpret them,'' Jost said.
He wants visitors to make connections between early America and today,
and between New England and the world.
''People like to make these associations between the patterns of a
quilt and some mechanized thing,'' he said.
Jost wants to prevent visitors from feeling overwhelmed by so much
to see. He has suggested putting in cafes with food and coffee where people can rest and take in some caffeine.
The museum is open from May to October and draws between 100,000 and
120,000 visitors a year.
Former museum director Hope Alswang, who left to become director of
the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, was the first to include contemporary art and design in the museum's collection.
A modern house by Adam Kalkin made of shipping containers and other industrial materials was installed in 2001, for example.
The house with center walls that open like garage doors is now home to the modern furniture show.
Jost, 37, who was director of Mills College Art Museum in Oakland,
California, before coming to Vermont, envisions the building serving as a gallery for future art and design shows. Board members
support his vision.
''He has a great deal of judgment about the museum,'' Peter Martin,
board vice chairman, said of Jost. ''He's an indefatigable worker who has absorbed very rapidly the nuances of a complex institution,
small but complex.''
A museum has to stay true to its mission and ''it has to expand and
diversify given the diversifying population we have,'' Martin said.
The idea for the O'Keeffe show was hatched before Jost arrived. Some
of the 26 paintings are from private collections.
Other shows this summer include quilts with kaleidoscope patterns,
a show celebrating the 100th birthday of the Steamboat Ticonderoga that once plied Lake Champlain, and New England weather
vanes, including an 1822 wrought iron angel that was stolen from a Crown Point, New York, church and later recovered by a
Connecticut antique dealer.
The HOT Festival: Celebrating New York's
edgiest performance art
NEW YORK (AP)
When the Broadway theatre season dies down in the summer, cabaret
stars in see-through negligees and hot pink thongs take the stage at Dixon Place in downtown Manhattan.
The non-profit theatre company's annual HOT! Festival, which runs
through August, also features gender-bending dancers and dramatists, a lesbian exploring the life of a cross-dressing Harlem
Renaissance blues singer, a radical comic spewing invective against the Bush administration and a gay man in a blue bunny
suit prophesying the end of the world.
Now in its 15th year, the festival has become the place to catch New
York's edgiest performance art by mostly gay and lesbian actors, writers and dancers who are far from household names even
among the most die-hard theatre fans - but could very well be someday.
''When it started, there was really nothing else like it in New York,''
says Earl Dax, who is curating this year's festival. ''Now it plays such an important role in the cultural life of the city.
There's a real commitment to supporting new work, works in progress and emerging artists. You can send in a script and if
they like it, they'll give you a night.''
Unlike what happens on New York's more traditional stages, there are
no restrictions at the festival, as in much performance art ''downtown'' - the name given to the amorphous region below Manhattan's
14th Street where young artists in the city work and perform.
Nudity is de rigueur, as are topics that blur the line between gender
and sexuality. Many artists don't identify themselves specifically as gay or straight, rather as part of a larger omni-sexual
culture. Many pieces tend to be autobiographically based, though some also verge on the political, the sociological and the
On one billing at the festival, former Whitney biennial dancer and
choreographer Julie Atlas Muz performs a piece exploring the mentality of a female suicide bomber in which she straps sticks
of dynamite to her nude torso while wearing cherry-red pumps. She's followed by dancer and video artist Michael Cross Burke,
who uses three different forms of media to mock contradictions in the gay community, and Cary Curran, who tells a gyrating,
raucous story of transforming from Catholic school girl to New York burlesque dancer.
The festival also includes less risque pieces, such as Kate Rigg's
play about Asian-American stereotypes that was drawn from nearly 100 oral histories and interviews she conducted across the
country, and Michelle Matlock's piece on blues singer Gladys Bentley.
Veteran downtown performing artist Penny Arcade performs a monologue
about losing friends to AIDS, while lesbian humorist Reno workshops her latest act - part-comedy, part-diatribe - on the country's
political situation. Gay writer and performance artist Jeffrey Essmann also returns to New York after 10 years in Chicago
to present his newest one-man show, ''Skin Deep.''
''There's a mix of veteran performers and people who have perhaps
never stepped foot on a stage,'' Dax says. ''It speaks to the mission of Dixon Place to be a laboratory for performers.''
The theater hasn't strayed far from this ideal in its 20 years. But
the HOT! Festival was initially met with some resistance. Ellie Covan, the theater's founder and executive director, says
there were those in the gay community who feared it would marginalize homosexual performers at a time when the community was
trying to overcome the scourge of the AIDS epidemic.
''There were some people who didn't want to participate because they
didn't want to be identified only with a special festival. It was a statement. I do understand and empathise with that thinking,
but it really isn't about that,'' she says.
''The festival called attention to a lot of artists who weren't getting
Dax says many such artists still struggle to make it, performing in
bars and nightclubs in the East Village and Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighbourhood for little to no money. Dixon Place is one
of the few theatre spaces in the city - the East Village's P.S. 122 is another - that gives non-traditional artists a place
to perform without the din of the Friday night bar crowd.
Dixon Place's current abode is testament to this dedication. Located
on the Bowery, which used to be one of lower Manhattan's grittiest areas, the theatre is little more than a large living room
with an assortment of weathered sofas and chairs and a small space for performing. Beer and sodas are sold out of a beat-up
white refrigerator, and the landing at the top of the stairs serves as a rehearsal space.
Lately, however, the theatre has been enjoying a slightly higher profile.
One of its commissions, Lisa Kron's play, ''Well,'' made it to Broadway this spring and earned the actress a Tony nomination
- a major accomplishment for a theatre that literally seats about 30 people.
Dixon Place has also received $1m in funding from the city over the
past two years and a $500,000 grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which will help it finish construction
on a new theatre space in the Lower East Side. Scheduled to open next spring, it will feature a theatre that can seat up to
100, as well as a smaller, secondary stage, a community centre and a rehearsal space.
Despite the successes, Covan doesn't anticipate major changes at Dixon
Place. It will still focus on experimental theatre and reach out to the entire community and continue to help artists develop
''It's very important to make the audience understand they are participating
in the process by being there and that it's appreciated,'' she says. ''Their presence is going to influence the development
of the work and that's a priority for us.
''It's a special environment. You have permission to take risks.''
Metropolitan Museum of Art raises
admission to fee $20
NEW YORK (AP)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is raising its admission fee to $20
matching what another venerable New York art institution, the Museum of Modern Art, already charges. The fees make the two
museums among the most expensive to visit in the world.
The difference between the two museums' fees is that the Met's is
only recommended, while MoMa's is compulsory. The Met's new admission, up from its current $15 goes into effect on August
The Met's price increase will not affect students or seniors, whose
suggested donation will remain at $10. Children under 12 and members pay no fee.
The Met said ongoing deficits made the increase necessary. For the
fiscal year ending June 30, the deficit was $3.5m.
MoMa's $12 fee went to $20 in 2004 after the museum reopened following
a $425m expansion. Admission to MoMa is free on Fridays from 4pm to 8pm and visitors 16 and under are always fee.
The Brooklyn Museum, which charges only $8, remains one of the best
bargains among the city's large museums. The Solomon R. Guggenheim charges $18 and the Whitney Museum of American Art, $15.
Elsewhere in the country, the Art Institute of Chicago charges $12
and the Smithsonian Institutions museums in Washington, D.C., and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles are free.