July - August 2002
Volume 8 Number 5
Table of Contents
Art therapy practitioners and advocates hold the belief that creative expression has the power to heal.
Artists' Coaalition of Austin teams up with Opening Closed Doors to better educate the community, serve artists and reach those in need.
She leads me to the back, to her studio. The door opens and I feel as though I've stepped through a physical texture as I cross the threshold. Colors explode with salon style work, framed and un-hung like a puzzle being formed on a chessboard. And in the center rests a battered easel and well-worn stool.
Jazz is a service industry. If you averaged it out, I'm sure over 90% of jazz musicians make a lifetime income of less than $1 per hour. So we're obviously not in it for the money. We work in service to the music.
The good book spoke of the hell we happened to create. A better look gave us opportunities for redemption for our actions.
Taking care of the Live Music Capital of the World
It's about money. And my immediate thoughts center on DiverseArts, but my concern is with larger issues that involve how Austin goes about funding nonprofit arts groups.
Music as Medicine is the autobiography of music therapist Deforia Lane.
The Creative Prescription by Rebecca Murphy
Three women-all brain injury patients-greet me with smiles and warm hellos as I enter the art therapy classroom at The Mary Lee Foundation. Cindy, Olachi and Kathy are here for their weekly two-hour instruction taught by volunteer therapist Theresa Mosely and her two assistants, Marcella Rease and Mary Solanik. Mosely has spent a total of twenty years helping patients express themselves through art, and fifteen of those have been with The Mary Lee Foundation. Along with brain injury patients, Mosely also practices art therapy with those suffering from mental disorders, autism and Alzheimer's. Certified in Therapeutic Recreation, she is currently working towards a BA in Art at St. Edward's University.
Founded in 1963, The Mary Lee Foundation is a rehabilitation center located at 1339 Lamar Square Boulevard. It provides services to help individuals with disabilities become more mobile and independent. The center's Daybreak program, which meets every weekday from 9:30am-3:30pm, offers therapeutic activities, including art therapy.
Art therapy practitioners and advocates hold the belief that creative expression has the power to heal. They contend it can provide treatment for illnesses ranging from stress to mental retardation through facilitating an individual's communication, exploration, creation and healing.
Mosely's class uses oil and acrylic landscape painting as an outlet for creative expression. The students select landscape pictures, either from magazines or photographs, paint the basic images in the pictures and add a few touches of their own. Because landscape painting does not require the same exactitude as figure painting, the students have more freedom for personal expression and growth.
To compensate for their disabilities, Mosely and her assistants promote adaptive learning concepts while guiding students' brush strokes and aiding them in their choices of color and value. For example, because acrylic paint dries faster and enables students to paint over mistakes during the same class session, Mosely prefers it over oil paint for impulsive individuals who paint at a faster speed. In addition, Mosely teaches students who are still developing their drawing skills to fold their photographs into four separate quads to simplify the process, taking it one block at a time.
For students with physical disabilities, other compensations must be made. Kathy, for example, is unable to use the left side of her body; thus, she often tapes her work to the table to catch all of its angles while maneuvering herself around in her wheelchair. Her current painting depicts a rainbow in an open field. Mosely directs Kathy's progress, instructing her to touch the canvas to determine where the rainbow belongs in relation to her picture.
Brain injury often is coupled with short-term memory loss, a strong determinant of Mosely's teaching style. She teaches students to attach their pictures to the back of the canvas so that they do not forget their location. However, because students tend to misplace them, they often have to find a new image and start over. Olachi, who has multiple sclerosis, has dedicated an immense amount of time and effort to an aesthetic landscape painting. But today she cannot locate her photograph. Thus, she has no other choice but to start anew, using a different picture as her guide. Observing her reaction, I am struck by her calm response.
Upon my first glance at their completed works, the fact that the students suffer from brain disorders or injuries seems unlikely. These artists are the closest personifications of Monet and Degas that I have ever encountered! Their works encompass an impressionistic style, rich in color, value, texture and detail. Because the students derive their sole income from Social Security disability benefits, the selling of their work provides a desperately needed bonus. Olachi, who is not an American citizen and lives at home with her mother, does not qualify for Social Security. Thus, her only income lies in the selling of her paintings. An even more crucial issue, however, is that the students have no place to display their work because they lack the finances necessary to access public spaces. Plus, the students are lacking art supplies. Purchased by The Mary Lee Foundation with community donations, these supplies are necessary for the program to continue.
Some light, however, is being shone in their direction: The Brain Injury Association of Texas Conference will be featuring works from these artists at the Omni, South Park, on August 23rd-24th. Art Masters, an Austin framing company, is generously providing free frames for the event.
To learn more about The Mary Lee Foundation, the Brain Injury Class of Central Texas or the foundation's art therapy program, contact John McPhail at 512-443-5777 or Theresa Mosely at 512-894-0183.
An Idea is Worth... by Erin Steele
A turtle named Timmy, his large body fashioned out of bronze and limestone, sits perched atop a pedestal, one of many meticulously crafted pieces on display in the Artists' Coalition of Austin's (ACA's) gallery. You could say his stone face almost looks happy there, residing within the walls of the cozy brick structure, and he's not the only one; the gallery, a staple of the arts-friendly downtown atmosphere, has served as both a home and a classroom to local artists for half a decade.
But Timmy shouldn't get too comfortable. After all, he's part of the Texas Society of Sculptors showcase, the last exhibit that will ever take place at ACA's current location. The organization is vacating the increasingly high rent space it occupies in the Guadalupe Arts Center and setting up residence in The Bread Factory at 107 Tillery Street.
The relocation is largely due to financial reasons; when ACA moved from its original Baylor Street space into its current location five years ago, the initial contract with the building owner set the gallery rent at $1, plus the office, print room and darkroom at regular square foot price. But when the contract expired early this year, the rent skyrocketed to $2,500 -- a figure that would inevitably escalate -- and ACA realized they were not financially prepared to pay for the space.
In response, ACA began plans to move into its own space -- in essence, become its own boss. An artist-led group, the Coalition realized that it would be advantageous to unite with an organization that had a stronger background in the more practical side of the art business, such as grant writing. In addition, ACA recently began to notice its membership drop dramatically and saw the integration as a way to more effectively reach out to the artistic community, as well as the community at large.
The Coalition contacted nearly 15 arts groups before encountering its perfect match in Opening Closed Doors, an organization whose objective is providing opportunities to artists, as well as addressing social issues that impact the lives of women and girls. Founded by Austin artist and ACA member Benné Rockett in 1998, Opening Closed Doors has hosted educationally focused exhibitions on topics ranging from anorexia nervosa to domestic violence. The organization has worked in conjunction with agencies such as the Lone Star Girl Scout Council, Hospice Austin, Project Spotlight and the Dove Springs Recreation Center, as well as collaborating with ACA in Spring 2001 on Post Generation X, a teen outreach show. The melding of ACA and Opening Closed Doors has resulted in IDEA, an alliance that will strive to incorporate the strengths of both organizations.
"We pursued the idea that other arts organizations might want to share the gallery space, but the financial situation just scared them off," ACA Vice President Jan Roset, who helped found the organization in October of 1992, said. "But then I jokingly said to a friend of Benné's, 'We and Benné should work together.' And then I said it to him again. And I kept saying it. And finally it worked.
"I said, 'Hey, we've got to do something, we just can't go on.' The Coalition's future looked rather bleak. We had enough funds to go through the end of the year, but that would have been it. Hence the idea of merging with Benné. And once she got over the initial shock, I think she was very excited about it. We're all very excited about it. The new organization really is going to be the best of both worlds."
Of course, the worlds of ACA and Opening Closed Doors are slightly different, at least when it comes to scope; ACA mostly focuses on Austin and the occasional statewide show; in fact, its motto is "Empowering Local Artists." But Opening Closed Doors works on a more national and international level.
The mission of IDEA is to combine the local, national and international, allowing doors to be opened among artists, disciplines and organizations. IDEA is maintaining many of ACA's main draws, including the black-and-white darkroom and the Life Drawing and Printmaking workshops. One change it is planning to implement, however, is in ACA's current membership policy, which affords members and volunteers the opportunity to show their work in the organization's exhibitions.
"Current ACA members maintain their membership status. However, all the shows are curated. There are no special privileges given to members who volunteer or volunteers period, whether they're members or not," Rockett said. "The reason we're doing that is we have three staffs, so we don't need as many volunteers. Also, when you're looking at professional development, it's more advantageous to say you participated in a curated show. And members have opportunities to submit proposals for exhibitions or special projects, just like they did through Opening Closed Doors. And organizations themselves can also become members. So in a way, we've become an association for individual artists as well as organizations."
Although specific membership fees have not yet been set, Rockett said the new policy will be beneficial to smaller organizations who often times find themselves financially incapable of covering membership costs. Instead of one set dollar amount for each organization, IDEA will base membership fees on the number of members in an organization. If a group has 30 members, the fee is lower; if it has 200 members, it's higher. In addition, the member organizations will be able to submit proposals for exhibitions, which IDEA can write into its grant proposals as events that it would like to sponsor for the year.
Another benefit of the new organization is an additional classroom, something ACA tried to establish in the past but was unable to finance. Roset said she is pleased that IDEA is retaining many of ACA's most popular properties while also establishing its own unique identity.
"I'm stepping back. I've been with ACA for 10 years, so I'm happy to see that a new group is coming in to work with us," Roset said. "The idea that I'm getting is that through the new organization, the focus will be local artists and expanding those artists into the nationwide and maybe even international realm. They'll have more interplay with the rest of the world as opposed to just Austin. So we're going broader to introduce artists to new ideas and have them mix with artists. It's going to be a new group, one that's very exciting and dynamic, and people seem ready to take that step -- move to a different city with their art and have more exposure to the nation."
By keeping programs like the Coalition's professional development workshop, IDEA promises to help artists develop not only nationally and internationally but also personally, giving them insight into the practicalities of the art trade they may not have received in a university atmosphere.
"A lot of people don't know about the art world, especially the art students who come out of UT," Roset said. "I graduated from there, and they don't really teach you anything about the art world; you don't necessarily know how to write a good resume, you don't know how to hang a show, you don't know how to promote yourself. There are things you need to know if you're developing yourself as a professional artist. Very few universities touch on that at all, or anything related."
Rachel Koper, the gallery director for Gallery Lombardi, said ACA not only provided her with an artist family but also allowed her to learn and try new things.
"As a volunteer, I worked with the COA (Coalition of Austin) Cultural Contracts and with many local teachers and classes," Koper said. "I organized exhibits and really learned the ropes, both commercially and with granted funds and non-profit status. The ACA gave me the support and venue to experiment with my artistic skills on a professional level. ACA provides real world experience for artists, which is hard to come by."
Rockett said ACA proved beneficial to her in those ways as well, teaching her how to market herself and enabling her to understand her works in relationship to a specific space. She said Opening Closed Doors is based upon many models, one of those being ACA.
"My affiliation with ACA led to me becoming the art director of Gallery Lombardi for four years. So I was completely immersed in that, and that opened up opportunities to engage with other galleries in town," Rockett said. "That's how ACA was beneficial to me, and that's the kind of benefit we want to provide the artists who participate in IDEA. Whether they take full advantage of that, we don't have any control over. But if those opportunities are put into place and that is the focus, it's not just come, show your art and get stuck here. It's come, show your art and network, you know, move beyond. That means you're going to have to find a home, and we're going to help you find one."
IDEA has found its new home at 107 Tillery Street, in what used to be a Mrs. Baird's Bread Factory. The members are excited about the new space, although Roset says there is one major difference.
"It's not in the downtown area, which was a good thing for this space. They always say location, location, location. But we're just going to have to make sure people come to the new location. We're going to have to make a draw there," Roset said. "The parking won't be a problem, which I see as a plus; it's really difficult around here, especially with some of the programs we've been doing. People doing Life Drawing and using the darkroom have to run out and feed the meters, so that will be solved. And the new area is great. The Blue Theatre and other theater groups are there. So I think it will be like a little Mecca."
Rockett believes that the vibrant neighborhood in which the new building is situated will enable artists to really reach out to the community, to make both their public and private dreams come true.
"There are lots of churches, elementary and middle schools, several recreation centers and all kinds of interesting businesses we're hoping we can work with," Rockett said. "We can say, 'Okay, you've got these other organizations that are doing things for you. What's missing? What would you really like to see?'
"So the idea is, 'What's your dream and how can we make it come true? Is it a private dream or a public dream?' Public, in that I mean is it a community dream? Do you want to create an event that highlights your community? Do you want to get funding to go out and photograph and interview someone for a year who has just found out they have cancer and are going to have to go through chemotherapy? So whatever your dream is -- whether it's your private dream that you want to put in a public venue, or a broader dream that impacts the community -- we want to help people do that."
Both Roset and Rockett have plenty of experience in not only helping artists develop professionally but also impacting people's lives through programs such as Scarecrows: Confronting Anorexia Nervosa and Wish House, an exhibit that dealt with homelessness. Opening Closed Doors' next exhibits are Wounded Boys, Courageous Men (featuring photographs and statements made by the men who were part of a class action suit against the Christian Brothers in Canada) and Resilient Souls (a presentation documenting the lives of girls through early womanhood) in August.
IDEA is creating a prospectus for its first three shows, the first of which will be held in October and deal with mixed media. Both ACA and Opening Closed Doors hope IDEA continues to positively impact the community in the same way the separate organizations have. Koper said she has no doubt the new organization will do just that.
"One of the most talented and giving art directors in Austin is Benné Rockett. I have been attending her exhibits and programs for years and look forward to many more. I was thrilled to hear of the merger."
[Erin Steele is a senior majoring in English at the University of Texas at Austin. She has worked for the past three years as a film critic, entertainment editor and designer in the dank, dark basement otherwise known as The Daily Texan.]
An Interview with Jean Hospod by Ricardo Acevedo
In the parking lot of Jeanne's apartment complex, a worn, nondescript, overtly dittoed '70s era environment, with the prerequisite mixture of banda music and hip-hop percolating amongst tired trees, I wiped my brow and upper lip and redialed the number.
"Ah, hey Jeanne, it's Ricardo again. Half these doors are missing numbers. So once again, you're where?"
"Down the hallway just off the court yard, number 16. I'll watch for you."
I find it. It's a dark hallway, shaft like. And at the very end, the door.
Jeanne pulls the door wide, my knock never reaching it. The spartan living room is cave-like dark with a hazily lit kitchen. Everything smells of oils and turpentine.
I'm led through a land mine of shed-off "things." She smiles and offers me water. Her copper wired tresses appear to glow in the dark. I rub my eyes and she leads me to the back, to her studio.
The door opens and I feel as though I've stepped through a physical texture as I cross the threshold. Colors explode with salon style work, framed and un-hung like a puzzle being formed on a chessboard. And in the center rests a battered easel and well-worn stool. Jeanne sits. My eyes adjust.
"Wow," I finally comment, sitting and drinking my water. "May I take a better look?" I point at the work. Her cat jumps on her lap and they smile.
ADA: I noticed that in your work there appears to be distinct and quite diverse personalities.
JH: Yeah, there's a few up on those walls.
ADA: Do they have names?
JH: Well, ya know...let's see. There's the Bag Lady. There's Mulva. She's the extrovert that might go to an erotic art show, me when I get all dressed quite fancy. And then there's Quirky Bimbo, when I'm goofing around with my friends. But since I've moved here I don't really socialize as much. So she doesn't really surface often. Or let's see. There's Sylvia Pathos who lives in a world where everything is very heavy and dreary. All these different selves come from reading Julia Cameron's books in which she writes about unblocking your creative self by naming those different selves and discovering how they work together.
ADA: Which is the most comfortable?
JH: Well, then there's Natural Woman, who I guess is who you're talking to now.
ADA: I've noted that a lot of people misconstrue your art as primarily sexual.
JH: Well, yes and no. It's all perceptual. Yes, that is a part of my work, an energy that comes through with who you are. A beautiful thing about creativity and/or the appreciation of it is that it all comes from some sort of sublimated sexuality. It's not just all hormones. It is a driving force in life but there is so much more to everything.
ADA: OK, let's talk influences.
JH: Well there's Balthus, the way he moves between two worlds. From decorative dreamscapes to colorful paint on paint...Yeah, the richness of color. I also love Van Gogh's exploding landscapes and Hopper's sense of mystery. That I really love.
ADA: Well, do you go through modes in which you say, "OK, now I'm going to paint abstract, now I'm going to do self portraits"? How do you approach your process?
JH: Sometimes just the act of picking up a brush or pen brings out its own direction. Like take my Dreamscape series. They appear safe in their size. I can get intimate and close to them because of their size. But by being so intimate, deeper things come out in their pen, ink, wash and sometimes oil medium. I don't always know where I'm going in these works. It's a lot like automatic writing. I'll be working on a little piece and be shocked when I discover the hours that have passed.
ADA: And do these Dreamscapes sell?
JH: Yeah, well my work over all is just beginning to sell.
ADA: What type of person is drawn to your work?
JH: People are more drawn to the oils, the vibrancy of the colors.
ADA: The vibrancy in the people?
JH: I guess. I still haven't found a market for the Dreamscapes though.
ADA: And yet you seem to do more of those than even the self-portraits.
JH: Oils take more time, and you know, I think all art is self-portraits, in one way or another.
ADA: We all walk around in a dream-state?
JH: Well, I certainly walk around a lot.
Jeanne Hospod's work can be viewed at the 503 Coffee Bar and Gallery Lombardi in August and at the F8 Gallery in October.
Notes from the Woodshed by Paul Klemperer
Jazz is a service industry. I've come to this conclusion after years and years of playing low-paying jazz gigs with incredible musicians, men and women who have invested thousands of hours into practicing their instruments, learning songs, learning the history of the music and becoming part of that history. If you averaged it out, I'm sure over 90% of jazz musicians make a lifetime income of less than $1 per hour. So we're obviously not in it for the money. We work in service to the music. The question then is, what service does this music provide? Is it just a magnificent obsession, like those artists in America's heartland struggling to create the world's largest ball of twine? Or does the music play a vital part in today's world?
There's no doubt that jazz was the most influential music of the 20th century.
But through decades of stylistic branching, the term "jazz" has become less and less specific, so that now we have many musical styles that are "jazz-influenced," from salsa to klezmer, from rap to top-40. The musical innovations and creative vitality of countless anonymous jazz practitioners have become embedded in most contemporary musical styles. Sometimes it's obvious, as in the jazz harmonies of salsa horn sections. Sometimes you have to dig to find it, as in the watered-down polyrhythms of the latest teen dance hit. But the jazz is in there.
Most jazz musicians face a professional choice. If they want to make a living through performance, they generally have to find a niche in one of those jazz-influenced commercial genres, playing horn parts, obsequious fills and the occasional 8-bar solo. They take $30-$50 jazz gigs when they have time in order to play all those cool licks they've been practicing in their monastic music rooms for hours on end. The most proficient among the army of jazzers get lucrative concert gigs and recording sessions. But the employment pyramid is mighty steep, and most jazz players are grunts, not generals.
The common alternative paycheck is through teaching: private lessons, jazz combos, middle and high school bands and university jazz programs for those with Doctorates. Sometimes they get to teach a jazz history class. Sometimes they get to write educational articles. And there are many, many players who become full-time teachers. Their playing gets a little rusty. They are not as lean and hungry as the jazz cats stalking the paying gig circuit. But in some ways they provide a more real service to the public and to jazz in general: they show the way to the next generation of players.
Which brings me to my main point: what kind of service does jazz provide? If art is a lofty goal that needs no justification, then the pursuit of musical perfection is its own reward. But is that really the ultimate purpose of jazz? It's true that those dedicated artists who perfect their technique, who master the voluminous lexicon of jazz scales, patterns, substitute harmonies and so on, raise the bar for all of us and show us the deeper possibilities of the music.
But it's also true that the dogmatic pursuit of musical perfection has served to isolate jazz more and more from mainstream audiences, to intimidate musicians from other genres and to reinforce social stratification through musical elitism. This is a glaring contradiction in contemporary jazz, which seems to work against the widely accepted belief that jazz is about democracy, freedom, discovery and collective expression. When these tenets become apologies for snobbery and showiness, something's amiss; jazz ceases to serve the greater good. For a music that traces its origins to the African American struggle for cultural survival, this is a heavy irony indeed.
I don't think there's a simple explanation or solution to this contradiction. Generally, I believe that jazz is a mirror of the human psyche, which itself has contradictions in abundance. But I do think it helps to look at the service jazz provides in a wider context than just musical performance. Look at the classrooms, at the lessons being taught, at how instruction in jazz helps expand the way students think about life as well as music. Look at the global networking that jazz fosters, through academic institutions, jazz societies, festivals, workshops and multi-media events. Look at the biographical and social history encapsulated in the music, the legendary players who came from diverse geographical, class and racial backgrounds to create, over time, a collective musical voice.
Ultimately, the strongest participants in jazz culture are not necessarily the flashiest players, but the most inclusive and culturally creative people. Jazz tradition is not just about the sounds, but about the lives of real people and the communities they create. That's where the music comes from, and that is who and what the music serves.
Section Eight by Daniel Davis Clayton
But first let us pray. Dear Lord, we were all born with tears in our eyes and no one ever thought to preserve them for evidence of the insurrections against us. Trepidation soothed with either Jesus or drugs, we moved into the realm of poetic thugs where no hugs equated into brands and scars and jars of formaldehyde to sell. The good book spoke of the hell we happened to create. A better look gave us opportunities for redemption for our actions. There was nothing left to destroy so we began to rebuild. And that began with a baptism summarized of the tears collected from our eyes.
My dad said it resembled the mark of a slave. The raised flesh of sinsubordanition. Akin to whim coordination to accurately place our daily decisions in collisions of sacred visions divined and divided into pie slices as defined as hind-site-ist to be offered more often to those coffined than to those still confined to this earthly realm. In other words, he disproved of my carpe-diemesque enacted actions. I regretted that momentarily, but sparingly it was not to be fretted, for those days of uncaring came.
After months and years of being told, as my aspirations to be an artist, I would become famous only after my demise. I came to despise his imperfect encouragement. My morning mournings of middle school preparations resembled jostled joinings like a marriage which was never truly consummated. Only concentrated dichotomies of orchestrated colostomies swang from bowel differed hips in succession. My confessions to Jesus fell on the def ears of all others and on scattered leaflets.
For a moment I thought my sacred momentous and literatured tempos written in iambic pentameter crescendos reflected the world which encircled me. In all actuality those psalms reflected the understanding of eros through mine eyes only. Of course all seen and experienced was not of physical love. The herald of my home harbored quizzical thugs yet administered menial hugs which healed as quickly as her inaction allowed disturbing interactions and engagements to reign. You see it disturbed me deeply to sleepily drift with steak knives placed under my childhood pillows. One hand under the cushion which transcended into my pushing barber razors into my belt clips to carry. Post mortem depressive states of manipulated murder thoughts and their many mannerisms. I fingered the razor quite often to ensure it was still there. It was my security blanket, my over-stuffed teddy with the big glassy eyes not unlike my own at the time, my imaginary friend, and then my crutch. Deadly shallow weapons clutched in the hands of a 13-year-old pseudo-man. I had become wise in the ways of in-house gorilla warfare survival tactics. Abjected to hoarding sharpened objects under my mattress. And, in fact, I too regretted that.
My dad said it resembled the mark of a slave. The darkened flesh of healing places left after marred wounds of war. Scars loomed of lore; the stories I would tell at the age of twenty-five to the imperfect strangers which surrounded my essence. And the presence of more than simply one attested to adverse growing environments. The requirements of my manhood which I bested indeed. Razor bladed beatings. Razor blades and beatings. Razor blades my seeds. Perhaps I shouldn't recall it all. I wouldn't have killed them.
I believe my mother knew that her incessant instigations and her critical evaluations which swiftly replaced those hugs I'd come to depend upon caused as much fear as love. Just as we should do with God but this was no holy place.
My sanctuary fell into numerous notebooks using metaphored glyphics of which only I could decipher. A diary protected by the manner of its creation. I placed it before my parents and bade them to read. Each day I would ask and they would defy, denying their one chance at daily redemption. Not quite Christian philosophy. Their chance was conceded and I retrieved my writings some months later; their revival ended early. If, in fact, it had ever begun. If they attempted to understand their son would not be so hesitant with his hugs to this day. For so long I have too regretted that.
I seem to have gotten it mixed up along the way. Knowing little affection and thinking love was to be shown in bounty, I came to care for many women. That's what happens when men are not taught to show affection properly by parents. They become infected with various diseases which invade their mental state. That of which no amount of penicillin can cure. If only I had received my hugs I would not have received adorned glances by those scorned. A kind of hateful admiration of my innocence.
Seeking change I pledged the fraternal order of self-initiated manhood. Hazing myself with abstinence and painful reflections. I was the Ace, the Rock, my own DP and line brother. No other could have possibly endured those burning sands at my side. And so I walked alone. Healing wounds and tempering my skin and spirit. No weapon formed against me should prosper unless I allowed. My sisters were sadly the same sometimes. Yearning for daughters but I settled for giving birth to new diary chapters with Greek letters to define them. Walking those burning sands with myself at my side, I emerged with my head heavy and released those thoughts emerging into a fraternity of one.
I showed my parents my brand. My mother said that thou should not defile thine own temple. My dad said it resembled the mark of a slave. I soon questioned the mark quite harshly but no weapon formed against me should prosper unless allowed. And I've too regretted that. Of course, I never thought to preserve the tear as evidence against it. Bearing only scars etched onto a marrable surface.
Besides, what kind of fool tells another to cherish children? Could someone please, could someone please, could someonepleasepray?
SIMScity by Evan Johnson
It is easy to neglect the positive effect of the arts scene on a city like Austin. It is easy to overlook how artists in a community contribute to the quality of life and to the character of the population. Hence, it is easy to underestimate the value of their services -- even in a city that boasts on its artist community as a major part of its international public image. Austin may or may not be "The Live Music Capital of the World," but the city and its people and businesses deem music and the "hipness" it breeds as valuable and marketable facets of our economy and culture.
Comments Austin Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, "We have many very visible and valuable assets in Austin. We have one of the highest resident artist populations in the country, both performing and fine, and it's part of the reason for at least two of the names we call ourselves, 'The City of Ideas' and 'The Live Music Capital of the World.'"
Many bars feature live music every night of the week. So, in theory, a good musician can pick up work here up to seven nights a week, for fifty-two weeks, all 365 days of a year. I mean, if you are going to live in a city that promises music every single night of the year, someone out there is going to have to play it, which means that a lot of people out there are devoting much of their livelihood to "The Live Music Capital" reputation.
And it would seem that with so many opportunities for work, a good musician here could probably make an adequate living. Playing 365 days a year for, say $100 a night, provides an annual income of $36,500. But, again, that is an extreme scenario that calls for working every single night of the year, and not just on stage, but off-stage as well, hauling heavy equipment, promoting yourself around town, practicing, writing songs, etc. It means late hours, smoky bars, lots of cigarettes, binge drinking, irregular sleeping patterns and irregular family time.
And yet, according to Luniece Obst, a consultant with the SIMS Foundation (Services Invested in Musician Support), "Artists are not valued in the same way that some of us are in other professions."
What Obst is referring to is how easy it is for music patrons to underestimate the challenges and sacrifices of that high-stress lifestyle musicians often have to keep up to be a musician and make a living. Most Austin musicians keep day jobs in addition to working nights. These day jobs often do not offer benefits like health insurance or retirement or paid vacation. Meanwhile, the stresses on the body and mind can lead to depression, family problems, alcoholism, drug abuse, etc., etc., etc. It is a hard lifestyle and it takes its toll.
A good example would be Austin's own music city martyr Sims Ellison. Ellison's Austin metal band Pariah had a promising future. They had a huge (some estimate their mailing list at around 25,000 members) fan base and consistently packed Austin venues. When they signed with Geffen Records in the early '90s, many thought the band had effectively "made it." But the future was murky for metal bands at the time, and their bright shining star faded. Pariah's first album To Mock a Killingbird tanked just as the grunge movement emerged from Seattle. Geffen dropped them to concentrate on the other "next big things" (Nirvana, etc). Meanwhile, Sims Ellison was fighting an extensive battle with depression. After working the daily grind for a while at a clothing store on the drag, the youthful Sims committed suicide in 1995. For many who valued the Austin scene at the time, it was a wake-up call.
"The fact is the life that led up to his inability to cope had to do with his being in a band that was supposed to be the next big thing," says Don Harvey, an Austin drummer and co-founder and consultant for SIMS. He helped found SIMS shortly after Ellison's death. Located on Lake Austin Blvd., the organization was created to assist uninsured musicians with affordable mental health care services.
"Just like a religious group or an ethnic group," Harvey says, "the music community is a clear community. This organization was founded because of the tragic death of a member of that community. So it is a grass-roots way for musicians to help themselves. Record companies had no organization helping musicians with the problems of depression. SIMS is known as a conduit for these people to get the help they need."
Harvey's co-consultant Obst adds, "15% of the general population deals with alcohol and depression already. In this (musician) subculture the numbers are much higher just because of the stress issues and the lifestyle. One of the most wonderful things this organization does is provide access specifically for those musicians who have those stressors in mind and need support."
The ways SIMS works is fairly simple. Musicians can call their number, and within 36 to 48 hours someone will call them back to make sure they meet the criteria for assistance. If the musicians reside or work in Austin and lack mental health insurance, they are scheduled for an intake appointment.
Obst explains, "We do a very comprehensive intake. We sit down with folks for about an hour. We have a body of providers in the community who have agreed to come on board and work with us for a minimal amount of their normal hourly wage. With those providers, we have an understanding of their competency and can effectively and efficiently match them up with our clients. We give our clients a couple of names on our referral list, and the clients are able to call these people to see if this person is right for them. Then, they move into therapy and have twelve sessions with a provider through SIMS. They have a very minimal co-pay of $10 and then we pay the provider the agreed amount."
And, Obst emphasizes that participation in SIMS is completely anonymous.
SIMS has taken some public scrutiny and bad press over the last year, perhaps the result of growing pains in the organization. Complaints about imprompt callbacks, disorganization and a lack of adequate services have forced the organization into a restructuring process. But the organization has responded to its criticism. They have brought on new board members. They brought on both Harvey, a long-time Austin musician, and Obst, an experienced nonprofits consultant, fundraiser and mental health practitioner, as interim leaders.
Under Harvey and Obst, SIMS has a new program in the works called "A Day in the life." Through this program, SIMS is trying to recruit all businesses that make revenue from the music industry to adopt a day of the year from which to donate proceeds to the organization.
Says Obst, "We are trying to work with companies where musicians add value to their store."
SIMS is also in the process of building up its referral list to more adequately match its musicians with its providers. It is developing an annual signature fundraising event, and a newsletter is currently in the works as well. The SIMS website is up and running and is being developed as a cost-effective way of publicizing the organization and its upcoming events to provide information on mental health problems for artists and to stay in touch with its community of musicians, families, donors and providers.
"We are also stepping up to a lot more sophisticated ways to collaborate with the community for fundraising and to bring in better community partnerships," says Obst.
SIMS's most generous community partner has been Austin radio station KGSR 107.1, which has donated the proceeds from its popular live broadcasts CDs to SIMS for the last five years.
KGSR's Jody Denberg, who produces the CDs, says, "We had donated the proceeds to various organizations before, like Austin Child Advocacy and MusicCares, which is a national organization that also offers health care to musicians. But when SIMS arose it seemed like the perfect opportunity to keep the money in Austin and focus on local musicians instead."
Another regular supporter has been the new Austin Hard Rock Cafe on Sixth Street. The Hard Rock holds a SIMS Jam every Wednesday at 9:30. The event is hosted by David Holt and the Violet Crown Jewels and features a different guest star every week.
Says Hard Rock manager Steve Quiroz, "We got familiar with SIMS when we came in and started looking to support local music. Local musicians brought up SIMS and explained to us what it was for. We figured, being the Hard Rock, we always want to help support music."
Quiroz estimates the jams bring in about $500 in proceeds weekly for SIMS.
Says Harvey, "Hard Rock has really stepped up to the plate. It's the heart of the people that work there. They realize that this is a value to the community."
But perhaps the most effective -- and necessary -- community support has come from mental health care providers.
"There are a lot of dedicated providers with loyalties to the organization," Obst explains. "And I don't think they get the credit they deserve. Every provider is working for a fourth of what the normally make. They are very loyal to their clients.
"I am just hoping the community realizes how vicariously these musicians touch their lives on a regular basis. We believe these musicians bring a certain quality of life to Austin, and the value they bring means that as a community we need to support them."
Harvey adds, "It's really important to get the message out to those in the community who enjoy it, the fans, the Convention and Visitors Bureau that tags this as "The Live Music Capital of the World," all organizations that invite attendees to come to the Convention Center, people who are hiring from out of state and telling prospective employees about the great music scene here."
That brings us back around to "The Live Music Capital" thing. The City of Austin uses its musician population to advance its image and that is just what those musicians inevitably do. The music business and music-related businesses, such as bars and restaurants and hotels, bring in a surprisingly large amount of tax revenue each year that can be directly attributed to Austin's musical character and attractions, like SXSW.
Kevin Conner, chairman of the Austin Music Commission, explains how the music industry plays into the Austin's economy. "The city takes an interest in promoting businesses that provide jobs and tax revenue. With the economic feasibility study we recommended last year, it said that music industry and related businesses contributed over $600 million in the last fiscal year to the Austin economy. The same study pointed out that other businesses, especially in the tech industry, have said that music is the reason they moved here. The unfortunate by-product is that when we have had the boom years and tech people were moving in and rents were going up, it was kind of forcing our starving artists, so to speak, out of the central part of the city."
Harvey agrees. "I spent twenty-something years as a touring drummer. Fourteen of those year in Austin. It is more difficult today than it was 15 years ago. It is more expensive to live here, so the stress of being a musician is higher now."
So what is the city's responsibility to the musician population of "The Live Music Capital of the World," to those who work the front line for that $600 million dollars in revenue?
Says Conner, "The city has a responsibility here to give every consideration to the industry that it uses to boast itself as 'The Live Music Capital of the World.' A lot of people think that's a buzz phrase the city doesn't need to have anymore, but as long as they do they are going to have to live up to it."
Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman agrees. "I think our responsibility to musicians is very important and should be as tangible for them as we're able to make it. The artistic element we have in Austin goes hand in hand with the intellectual richness that is visible in technology. So to acknowledge one and not the other is, to me, ignoring the same characteristics for one that you celebrate in the other.
"I think if we're interested in the sustainability of this city and in attracting and retaining the type of thinkers, artists and inventors that serve us...we need to strategically support them for an expanded and enhanced future that should include the diversity of large and potentially lucrative industries like film and music and whatever new frontiers and opportunities for art and technology we'll reach for in this century.
"We are a high tech and international contact center. We are 'The River City.' We are 'The City of Ideas.' And we are 'The Live Music Capital of the World.' We're very lucky to be all that and more, and we need to work to keep it all and stay this lucky."
It is impossible to pinpoint exactly what state of mind or mental health Austin's musicians are in at any given moment. It is also hard to estimate just how much SIMS has helped Austin's musicians. Harvey and Obst estimate SIMS has provided services valued at over a million dollars and has helped "thousands" of musicians since it started in the mid-90's, just before the Internet boom, just before the high tech companies and the droves of their employees started coming in.
Austin is still a cool place to be, but it carries a responsibility, for all of us, to decide what Austin will be like now and in the future, what the scene will be like, who is tolerated and tolerable and how well the arts and scene builders/city builders are supported as opposed to, say, the Intels.
SIMS is a part of Austin that not only supports those musicians but also takes care of them as well. It is a preservation society and should be noted for its efforts to service Austin's arts population. You can support SIMS and Austin music by coming out on Wednesday nights to the Hard Rock Cafe at 9:30 or by just going anywhere live music breathes to drink a beer or put a dollar in the tip jar. Keep Austin Weird.
Tired by Will Kier
There are times when I screw up my sleep.
Usually not by choice.
Work or some state of affairs leaving me with four hours a night, five tops.
It adds up, and on about the sixth day my energy surrenders.
With it go willpower, patience, and kindness.
At about the same time I'll start staying up even later, doing nothing.
I don't know why, because my mind is so tired by then that it is useless.
I can't write, draw, walk the dogs, cook, clean, or talk to friends.
It is time usually spent in front of TV, reading magazines, or playing solitaire on the computer.
In the morning I can't even shave.
Finding it easier to convince myself that the stubble doesn't look too bad.
It is then that I pass into a new level of tiredness.
A level where my internal filters break down.
My senses so dull that I blend into my surroundings.
External filters providing all the substance I need.
TV and magazines doing it beautifully.
They practically digest themselves.
They're simply absorbed.
And with their help I can persist to function without sleep for quite some time.
And it's not that bad.
My voice vanishes.
My heart beats miles away.
My skin is a jacket that I remove.
My legs curl up becoming pillows I can sit on.
My genitals invert.
And once a day, I'll walk to the bathroom
on my hands
dragging my pillow legs under me.
And as I un-tuck my penis and relieve myself
I'll curse the monumental effort this bothersome task requires.
Up All Night by Harold McMillan
I enjoy writing this column. It gives me a monthly writing assignment. The word count is equal to the space available at the back of the magazine. And since most of my pieces are autobiographical, I pretty much write about whatever I want, whatever is going on in my life or in my head at the time. There is much to ponder.
I'm the 40-something single dad of my best friend, 4-year-old Hayes McMillan. I am listed as the publisher of this little magazine. DiverseArts, which I founded some years ago, is an active player in Austin's art and culture community. And, I'm lucky enough to play music (bass) on occasion with some of Austin's best musicians (all of whom are much better musicians than I am). I know Austin and understand the pervasive sensibilities of those folks who call themselves "real Austinites; 'been here over 20 years now. And, I also happen to be a thinking person with strong views.
Therein lies the blessing...and the curse. In a lot of my pieces I try to keep it light, even funny on occasion. There are times when I have to work hard to do that, though. When one writes autobiographically, there are also those times when life just ain't funny.
What to do when that is really the case, but I still have the writing assignment, a deadline, and a full head of worry and concern? Where do I draw the line to separate my legitimate "thoughtful musings" from inappropriate self-indulgent ranting, bitching, moaning, or sappy journal entries?
I think this is one of the times that I end up testing that limit. I'll try not to cross the line and I'll keep it brief (not much room at the back of the book this month anyway). I won't, however, bother you with my personal life drama. That is a whole 'nother can of worms. The drama at Austin Downtown Arts and DiverseArts is what currently makes my headache. And I don't think four Advil or an Aleve will make this headache just go away. It's about money. And my immediate thoughts center on DiverseArts, but my concern is with larger issues that involve how Austin goes about funding nonprofit arts groups.
Oh, yeah. And then there is this nasty economy.
My reasons for focusing on DiverseArts and this little magazine should be obvious. I am responsible for making sure there are sufficient funds to operate my organization. Concerns about money for operating a nonprofit arts enterprise in an economy such as this is a constant, a given.
It's a lousy economy for most everyone in Austin. For DiverseArts, ad revenue is down. Individual contributions are down. Art sales and admissions are down. Pledges for contributions, sponsorships, and programming made in previous months, have now been withdrawn without a promise of later re-instatement. To say the least, this is one of the toughest seasons we've endured.
The icing on this ugly cake: DiverseArts' City of Austin funding recommendation for FY2002-2003 is currently at about $5000. That's $5000 for 12 months of cultural programming and associated expenses, rent, salaries, artists fees. That's $30,000 less than our funding for the current season. That's about $45,000 less than our City funding two years ago. That's a huge enough reduction to force me to consider going out of the public arts business. That's about enough to make my head ache real bad.
It's probably obvious to most of you that, given the political nature of government money and this nasty economy, there are a number of factors involved here. I'd guess, however, that most of you assume that I'm speaking of grant money. I am not. City of Austin Cultural Contracts funds are just that: Cultural Services Contracts. Decidedly and definitely not grants.
It works like this. DiverseArts proposes to provide a slate of art and culture services to the City of Austin, for the benefit of Austin citizens. Our services have remained fairly consistent for the last several years. We promote and publicize the arts community and provide training and experience to writers, graphic artists, photographers and editors through Austin Downtown Arts Magazine.
We provide performance opportunities, experience, exposure, and employment to non-commercial musical artists, poets and spoken word performers, dancers and others by producing concerts, club dates, and series such as Word/Jazz and the Clarksville Jazz Sessions.
We produce Austin's longest running multidisciplinary jazz festival, along with its associated exhibitions, publications, and educational components.
We operate what is perhaps the only nonprofit visual arts gallery west of IH35 that has a stated mission of showcasing the best of emerging and established artists of color -- especially African American artists.
We founded, house, and maintain what is probably Austin's most extensive multimedia archive dedicated to preserving the legacy of the city's African American music community.
We provide free and /or inexpensive support and technical services to other arts groups and individual artists. And, we provide experience and training each season to interns and students in fields as varied as desktop publishing, arts management, and technical production for live music events.
Most, if not all, of what we do as an organization is in the service of providing access for Austin's arts community to the public at large, and vice versa. It's about service; it's about helping the City of Austin meet some of its stated cultural goals. We've had a contract with the City to support these activities for approximately 10 years. Some companies have contracts with the City to provide laundry services. We provide cultural services. Pretty simple.
So, you might ask, if we're essentially talking about renewal of a contract, does that mean that DiverseArts defaulted on or failed to meet the conditions set out in the prior contract?
The answer is: "No, that apparently has nothing to do with it!" We met the conditions of last season's contract just fine, yet we are being recommended to receive 1/7 of our last years contract amount.
So, I ask you now, if we are just barely squeaking through this season, in this nasty economy, with seed moneys from the City of only $35,000 to get through the entire year, what are we supposed to do when our allocation gets cut to a mere tenth of where we were two years ago? If this amount won't even cover our rent for 12 months, how do we stay in business, do programming, hire artists, pay wages, and keep the lights turned on?
Some of the possible answers are ugly, but simple: We find other funding and/or we cut programs and services. After all, in this economy almost everyone has to make adjustments to get through this bad year (or two). Or, we just go out of business.
I am trying not to over dramatize this. We actually are doing what we can, and have been attempting this for years, to diversify our funding base. And we are having some success with this effort. It just so happens that a good number of the corporate foundations, firms and individuals from whom we solicit funds are also having a bad year (or two). The crucial piece to understand here is that DiverseArts historically has matched, from a variety of sources, each dollar of Cultural Contract funds we've received. Our Cultural Contracts funding is traditionally the largest single-source income in our budget. It is the seed money that allows us to present our programs while we secure funds to provide our match. And, in that way it is not a bad system.
Problems do arise, however. When organizations such as DiverseArts successfully complete the terms of their contracts, and it's time to renew for the next season, they may have their allocations fluctuate tens of thousands of dollars from one year to the next. And this happens, even if the organizations propose to do much of the same work in the coming season. It happened this year and last to long-established organizations such as the Children's Museum, Austin Museum of Art, Texas Folklife, Women and Their Work, Women in Jazz, Sally Jacques, and on and on.
Oh yeah, the economy. It does play a role here, but most of what I'm talking about here has everything to do with the panel system rather than the current economy. Belt tightening is a necessary fact of life for organizations right now. No one blaming the "system" for that reality.
The City's bed-tax fund (hotel taxes used to support arts funding) for the coming year is down. Tourism and stays in downtown hotels are down, so the tax-base slipped significantly. The projections for this year's bed-tax might be more than 30% off target. That's bad for all players in the game.
What I am talking about here, though, is not about a 30% slip in funding from this year to the next, an across the board, equally distributed reduction for all of us. I'm talking about folks like the Austin Museum of Art getting a recommendation for the coming year that was off some 70% from their last contract amount. How long have they been the "official" art museum of the City? And this happens to them? Non-mainstream, smaller organizations who have only been around (and funded) for the last ten or twelve years might get totally wiped out of the allocations. Or, as is our case, receive an allocation that is about 1/10 of our allocation from two seasons past.
How are we to plan for coming seasons with this kind of thing going on, other than assume support from the City just might not be there in any consistent form? That is not a bad posture to take, especially when you are dealing with grant money.
Oooppps! I said grant money. I mean City of Austin Cultural Contracts. But if it's a contract renewal, and the terms of current and past contracts have been and are being met, what is the justification for such inconsistency from the issuer of the contracts.
I'll let you know as soon as someone tells me.
And, in a season with a 30% shortfall in projected funds, does it make sense to -- at the same time -- almost wipe out programming of some "long-established, in good standing" contractors, but award new contracts to first-time applicants with little or no investment to lose if they are not funded this time?
Perhaps the United Way has a good idea here. In the midst of this tight-money financial climate, they froze contracts and amounts for current contractors and decided this year not to accept new applications, hoping for more tangible signs of recovery next fall.
Now that makes sense, huh?
Verities by Meredith Wende
Music as Medicine is the autobiography of music therapist Deforia Lane. Through anecdotal storytelling, Lane traces her life from a child growing up in a musical family, to her experiences using music with hospitalized children, to her own battle with cancer.
In her career as a music therapist, Lane visits patients hospitalized with anything from cancer to third degree burns. Only armed with her voice and an easy-to-play instrument called an Omnichord, she caters her therapy to the individual needs of each patient. While physical pain and emotional scarring have left some patients paralyzed and unwilling to speak, many actually begin to play the Omnichord or even vocally interact during their first session with Lane. In addition, she helps other patients express themselves and gain a semblance of control through song composition.
Lane wisely chooses to illustrate a wide array of her therapeutic experiences, not just the ones that end happily. Sometimes she witnesses people coming out of comas or speaking for the first time in months at the sound of a favorite song; other times her music can do little more than provide patients a few moments of peace before they die. In one story she tells of Brad, a cancer patient who has been unresponsive for five months when Lane meets him. She hands her Omnichord to his son and tells the boy to play Brad's favorite song. Before the song ends, Brad has lifted his head and soon begins to play the instrument himself. Although he never fully recovers, Brad becomes responsive enough to say goodbye to his wife and children before he dies.
Therapists first began using music therapy in U. S. hospitals after WWI and WWII when they noticed patients' favorable emotional and physical responses to volunteer musicians. Research suggests that such therapy works with brain damaged patients in particular because music centers exist in both hemispheres of the brain. Language, by contrast, is usually concentrated in the left hemisphere. In fact, some research has even suggested that music can begin to reintegrate damaged parts of the brain. Although a scientific foundation is evident in Lane's book, she concentrates more on the emotional responses of her patients, their families and their doctors. In addition, because she is a practicing Christian, Lane frequently offers a spiritual lesson with each story she tells.
Parts of Music as Medicine are so convincing that I have switched my car radio station from alternative to classical. However, because the book was written by a music therapist rather than a writer, Lane's unnecessary rambling can be a bit hard to wade through. While some sections draw us into Lane's world, others send us searching for the next interesting story.
Music as Medicine gives an informative view of the variety of patients and problems therapists have to deal with, while describing both the rewards and disappointments in detail. It has many emotionally moving stories and is an interesting read for anyone curious about the field of music therapy.
Deforia Lane's Music as Medicine (Zondervan Publishing House, 1994) is available at the Austin Public Library and various bookstores.