Turtle Gets a New Shell

Well, the voters have spoken, and what they've said is, "Okay, Arts*Center Stage, you want the Great Turtle of Auditorium Shores for an arts center, you can have the Great Turtle of Auditorium Shores for an arts center." Judging from the almost two-to-one approval of Propositions 11 and 12 in Tuesday's city elections, Austinites are overwhelmingly keen on the idea of transforming Palmer Auditorium into a state-of-the-arts performance hall. Of course, given the interlocking relationships of the propositions, they may have been just as or even more keen on the idea of, say, that proposed new public events facility to replace City Coliseum (and provide a new home for for the current users of Palmer) or the idea of reclaiming acres of asphalt for genuine parkland by building multi-story parking facilities around the auditorium. But since we culture vulture types rarely find ourselves in the thick of any mainstream political decision or on the receiving end of any mass endorsement of our activities and interests, let's take the day to believe that the people of this city really were casting a vote for art and their neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens who create it. Heaven knows, the road to that transformed Turtle will be long and winding, with that $50 million price tag for renovation providing a sizable challenge to the proponents of the effort. It may help us keep trudging forward if we believe that this is indeed a project that the majority of Austinites want to see happen.

Whither Cultural Affairs?

Curiously enough, just as the voters of the city are expressing support for cultural affairs, the caretakers of the city are expressing, um ... indifference to same? So it appears. According to a rather feisty e-mail this week from Ann Ciccolella, executive director of the Austin Circle of Theatres (who can do feisty very well), the city is currently without a Director of Cultural Affairs and is taking no immediate action to fill the position. Previous director Jack Anderson gave several weeks' notice before leaving the job on October 23, but in the month or more since the notification of his departure, not only has no search for a successor been conducted, no job opening has been posted. Ciccolella has been unable to obtain info from City Manager Jesus Garza but has learned from other sources that a hold has been placed on the position. This has fired her up to start an e-mail campaign to city councilmembers, asking not only for answers as to what's happening with the job but making a case for conducting a national search for the new director. "Austin audiences are growing. Austin arts groups are working extremely hard," she writes. "With $4 million of city funding, we need strong, fair leadership in the Director of Cultural Affairs." It will be interesting to see whether the passage of Props 11 and 12 do anything to inspire more arts advocacy on the part of the council. To talk to Ciccolella about the issue, call 499-8388.

A Blessing for You

Playwright Lee Blessing will be in Austin next week to perform one of his own works, the solo piece Chesapeake. The author of A Walk in the Woods, Eleemosynary, and Two Rooms, among others, will perform in the fourth floor auditorium of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center on Thursday, November 12, 7:30pm. The event is sponsored by the Michener Center for Writers. Admission is free. For info, call 471-1601.

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More Articulations
The Harry Ransom Center has acquired all the professional and personal materials of profoundly influential acting teacher Stella Adler

Robert Faires, April 30, 2004

It's the end of an era for the city of Austin's Art in Public Places Program as Martha Peters, administrator of the program for 11 of its 18 years, departs to direct a public art program in Fort Worth.

Robert Faires, July 18, 2003


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