On Culture's Front Lines
The 2005 class of the Austin Arts Hall of Fame
Whether you know him as Kerry Awn, Ronnie Velveeta, Buck Husky, a Uranium Savage, W., or just plain Kerry Fitzgerald the man has more aliases than a refugee on Cops! you know this comedian/artist/musician knows Austin as well as anybody, and he can capture it in a joke, character, image, or song that, likely as not, will split your sides even as it rings true. Awn has been chronicling Austin since the days of the 'Dillo (World Headquarters, that is), when he was an all-star in the Armadillo Art Squad, whipping up dazzling music posters and, with fellow artists Rick Turner and Tommy Bee, the Austintatious mural at the 23rd Street Renaissance Market, a psychedelic portrait of the capital city that includes everything from Dirty's to Drag worms to founding father Stephen F. sporting a violet crown. Awn is a longtime member of the Uranium Savages and Esther's Follies, and his early win of the Funniest Person in Austin contest and perennial win of the Best Comic category in the Chronicle's Best of Austin Readers Poll are further testimony to his ability to get this city cracking up.
For 50 years, the Austin arts and entertainment scene had a rare friend in John Bustin. This writer and critic, who filed his first story as a journeyman reporter at The Daily Texan in 1947, didn't just let people know what was happening in the performing arts and movies, he shared the news with an unflagging enthusiasm and even-handedness that spurred them to see it for themselves. His reporting, criticism, and advocacy not to mention his ever-present conviviality contributed directly to the development of Austin's cultural scene into the vibrant scene we enjoy today and earned him the fondly bestowed title of "Dean of Austin Entertainment." He was most closely identified with the Austin American-Statesman, for which he wrote articles and reviews and, in the days before it became a TV listings guide, a column in the Sunday Show World supplement, but he eventually wrote for just about every publication in the area Austin Citizen, Round Rock Leader, Third Coast Magazine, and the West Austin News, among others and even broadcast his thoughts and opinions on KLBJ radio, where his slow, intoxicating drawl was used to great effect. His interest in and generosity toward his fellow ink-stained wretches inspired the founding of the Austin Theatre Critics Table in the early 1990s and continues to be the source of the collegiality of that group and its members, who named an award in his honor following his passing in 1998.
When Sam Coronado paid a visit to Self-Help Graphics in Los Angeles in 1990, it was a life-changing experience. The Austin-based artist, who had focused on painting up to that time, discovered printmaking and was inspired to direct his energies toward that form. It was a change that rippled through the Austin visual arts scene, because Coronado also wanted to give other artists the opportunity to make prints and to give them the studio space, materials, and guidance to do so. He launched the Serie Project in 1993, and in the dozen years since, more than 150 artists from across from the United States and Latin America have taken part in the program at no charge. They work through the artist's studio, one of only three Latino-based print studios in the country. Coronado's contributions to the arts community extend far beyond this project, however. He and Sylvia Orozco and Pio Pulido were the three artists who founded Mexic-Arte Museum, and he has long been a respected educator, teaching design and painting at Austin Community College, Laguna Gloria Art School, and the Dougherty Art Center. His artwork has appeared in group exhibitions throughout the U.S., Mexico, and Europe.
We have seen the future of dance, thanks to Yacov Sharir. This visionary choreographer was one of the first people in the field of dance to explore the possibilities of technology and virtual reality in the creation of dance. His work has made him an internationally recognized pioneer in this area and earned him prestigious fellowships from the Banff Centre for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others, and a place as featured speaker at conferences as far-flung as Lisbon, London, and Stockholm. At UT-Austin, he has furthered his studies and shared his findings by teaching courses in computer-aided art and virtual reality/cyberspace in the arts. A native of Israel, Sharir moved to Austin in the 1970s and founded the American Deaf Dance Company, which helped pave the way for deaf artists to dance professionally, and, later, Sharir Dance Company, which has evolved into Sharir + Bustamante Danceworks. Through the latter troupe, Sharir brought numerous important national and international choreographers to Austin: Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Margaret Jenkins, Doug Varone, David Dorfman, Bella Lewitzky.
At a time when many symphonies around the country are struggling, the Austin Symphony Orchestra is hale and hearty, both financially and creatively, and Jane Sibley is one of the reasons why. This local arts patron and philanthropist has been an ardent, even fierce supporter of the symphony for decades, tirelessly taking on leadership positions she currently chairs the board of directors and creating new homes for the organization. In the Seventies, she was instrumental in the creation of Symphony Square, the complex of historic limestone buildings and an amphitheatre, and 20 years later she was among the first voices to call for the renovation of Palmer Auditorium into a performing arts center. Her generous donations to and participation in Arts Center Stage/Long Center, as well as ASO, have ensured that generations of Austinites to come will find their city to be a live music capital for symphonic works as well as every other kind of music.
Rose Taylor possesses one of this city's most compelling voices, in art and education. A respected mezzo soprano, Taylor has performed with opera companies in Dallas, Chicago, St. Louis, Ft. Worth, Cincinnati, Des Moines, Kansas City, and Peoria, as well as with our own Austin Lyric Opera, and sung with symphony orchestras in Boston, Chicago, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Austin. Her performance of Gyorgy Ligeti's Aventures/Nouvelles aventures was recorded in London with the Philharmonia and the finished work earned a Grammy nomination. Taylor has an especially strong interest in new work and has appeared in several operatic premieres, in works by Dominick Argento, Robert Xavier Rodriguez, and Peter Schat. But that interest is matched by Taylor's interest in new artists, and as a longtime professor of voice in the UT School of Music, she has trained dozens of young singers and sent many on to successful professional careers. And when she finds the time, she'll treat herself and us to a little lighthearted fun with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Austin, which is a roundabout way of saying that she'll be in its production of The Mikado that opens June 13.
The induction of the 2005 class of the Austin Arts Hall of Fame will take place at the 2004-05 Austin Critics Table Awards ceremony on Monday, June 6, 7pm, at the Cap City Comedy Club, 8120 Research.