Scholarship Interview: Amanda Kai Newman, Artist & Costume Designer

This month's article features costume designer and artist Amanda Kai Newman, a multi-year FASS scholarship recipient having earned awards in 2008, 2009 and 2010.   Amanda attended Booker High School and was also an intern in the costume department at the Asolo Repertory Theater.  She then earned her BA degree in Art and Theater from Cornell College in Iowa and her MFA in Costume Design from the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

In 2010 Amanda interned for six-time Tony Award winning costume designer William Ivey Long, 'one of the most influential Broadway Costume Designers of today'.   Amanda presently lives and works in New York City and has contributed as Costume Production Assistant, Milliner, Stitcher, Silk Painter and more.   Productions of note include the 2017 film The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum;  2016 television series Crisis in Six Scenes written/directed by and starring Woody Allen;  Wynn Las Vegas show La Reve (The Dream) voted Best Production Show for 8 consecutive years; as well as various Shakespeare Festivals.  Her most recent work has been as costume coordinator on the Fox television series 'Gotham' and shopper and receipt organizer for the upcoming Broadway Musical 'Tootsie'.  Upcoming work includes being shopper and swatcher on 'NOS4A2', a new television series on AMC network and milliner work (based in NYC) making hats for the Asolo Repertory Theater's coming production of 'The Music Man'.

To learn more about Amanda and view examples of her work, visit her website by clicking www.amandakainewman.com and read a recent profile about her by Cornell College https://news.cornellcollege.edu/2018/03/costuming-the-stars-report/.

Amanda recently expressed her appreciation to FASS stating, "Being recognized by the culturally rich and artistic community in Sarasota helped me pursue my passion in costume design."

Amanda continues to study and evolve as an artist.  She enjoys ceramics and studied in Europe with an assistantship at La Meridiana ceramics school in Certaldo, Italy.

Elizabeth Rose email: elizabeth.rose@premiersir.com

Elaine MacMahon email: elainemacmahon@gmail.com

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Salon : A Tour of Jim Craig and Randy Johnson Painting Collection

 On Wednesday, December 11, 2019, we were invited to the home of Jim Craig and Randy Johnson for a tour of their painting collection comprising mainly 18th- and 19th-century American and European portraits and landscapes. The portraits range from famous actresses to society playboys, famous musicians, and military heroes, as well as characters from Shakespeare and classical antiquity. Jim and Randy's collection of antique furniture provides an ideal setting for the paintings, many of which are in their original gilt frames. Jim's encyclopedic knowledge of American art made him an exceptionally entertaining guide.

This was no ordinary open house as it included an extravagant buffet of refreshments. The eclecticism of the collection makes it a time capsule of colonial and Civil War America. And like the National Gallery in Washington this collection has its Modern wing full of surprises. Not only was the art exceptional, but so was the warm hospitality of the hosts.

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A Conversation with Lynn Ahrens

​When you see a really successful musical theater presentation, all kinds of questions must pop into your mind. Aren't you curious about the song-writing process? What does it entail? How do the songs for musicals get created to reflect the drama happening on the stage? What is the way into a song? What are the criteria for really engaging lyrics? How do you blend the work of the playwright, the composer and the lyricist? All these topics and more will be discussed in our next captivating conversation at Speaking of the Arts…... 

Arts Advocates is embarking on a collaboration with Asolo Rep to offer an exciting Speaking of the Arts…..! For our second offering, we have the opportunity to eavesdrop on a conversation between Tony Award winning lyricist Lynn Ahrens and Celine Rosenthal, Asolo Rep's Associate Artistic Director. They will let us in on the secrets of developing the lyrics and music for a brand new musical, Knoxville, which makes its World Premiere in March at Asolo Rep

The second in the Speaking of the Arts…. series will be held on Thursday, February 27 at the Art Ovation Hotel. There will be a cash bar opening at 6 and the program begins at 7. Please check the website for ticket purchase; tickets will be $50 for members and guests, $60 for non-members and $100 for patrons, who will get a chance to sip champagne and chat with Lynn Ahrens and Celine Rosenthal after the conversation. 

Want to know more about the upcoming Knoxville? The collaborative effort between Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Frank Galati, who worked in partnership with this team on Ragtime, will once again be the force behind Knoxville, with Galati writing the libretto and directing the show and Flaherty serving as the composer. But you will learn much more in this fascinating evening discussing the birth of a musical. 

Lynn Ahrens is a native New Yorker. She began her musical career fresh out of college on the renowned television series, "Schoolhouse Rock." Since then, she has written extensively for theater, film and television, winning theater's triple crown – the 1998 Tony Award, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for the lyrics of the acclaimed Broadway musical, Ragtime. In the same year she received two Academy Award nominations and two Golden Globe nominations for Best Song and Best Score for the animated feature film Anastasia

With her longtime collaborator, composer Stephen Flaherty, her many Broadway, off-Broadway and Lincoln Center Theatre credits include Once On This Island, Chita Rivera: the Dancer's Life, My Favorite Year, Lucky Stiff, A Man of No Importance, Dessa Rose, The Glorious Ones and Broadway's Seussical. Ragtime was revived on Broadway in 2010. For the recording of Songs from Ragtime and for the original Broadway Cast Recordings of Ragtime and Seussical, she has received three Grammy nominations. For her extensive work in children's television, she had received the Emmy Award and four Emmy nominations

Clearly, this much honored woman is a skilled lyricist and writer, and she will share the special talents of her craft with the Speaking of the Arts….. audience in conversation with Celine Rosenthal. Rosenthal is an NYU Tisch alum, Tony-nominated producer who is the Associate Artistic Director at Asolo Rep. Rosenthal is the recipient of directing fellowships at Manhattan Theatre Club and Asolo Rep, as well as an SDCF Observership. To register: www.artsadvocates.org/activities/activitieslist-view/events-members/70-speaking-of-the-arts-aconversation-with-lynn-ahrens

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Elling Eide Center Tour

Arts Advocates members discovered a Sarasota hidden gem on the November 6, educational tour to the Elling Eide Center.  Located at the end of a barely noticeable one-lane road off S. Tamiami Trail in a seventy-two-acre nature preserve on Little Sarasota Bay, the Elling Eide Center is a private research library dedicated to the study of classical Chinese literature and art. 

​Containing over 60,000 volumes and 300 scholarly journal articles, the library is a leading resource for Asian Studies in the southeastern United State.  Asian Collections Curator and Research Specialist, Ann Roddy, delighted the group with her knowledge and passion for the library and its collections.

Ann's demonstration and history of the collection of traditional 19th Century shadow puppets was a highlight of the tour.  The puppets will be on display in a special exhibition at the Ringling Museum beginning August 2020.

Interesting examples of decorative art from the Chinese and Japanese medieval period were displayed throughout the Guy Peterson-designed center.  The tawny band across the top of the piece below shows 100 ways to write longevity.

Sarasota is fortunate to be home to the Elling Eide Center and Arts Advocates members were fortunate to experience this local treasure.  For more information about Elling Eide, the fascinating man responsible for the creation of the center, see the New York Times article published in 2017 about Elling Eide, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/08/us/elling-eide-library-sarasota-florida-chinese-literature.html.  For more information on the Elling Eide Center, https://www.ellingoeide.org/

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A Standing Ovation

On Wednesday, November 13 at the ART Ovation Hotel, Arts Advocates launched the new "Speaking of The Arts …" series.  Gayle Williams, Music Critic for the Herald Tribune called this series "a Town Hall for the arts."  The  overwhelming success of this event is a tribute to Suzanne Weitz, chair, and committee members Barbara Blackburn and Bo Galford.  The Committee is grateful to our leading sponsor, The Maryann and James Armour Family Foundation and also support from the Art Ovation Hotel and Cumberland Advisors.  There were over 160 guests in attendance and among these were many leaders from local art and educational organizations: Bruce Rogers from the Hermitage, Lee Dougherty Ross from Artist Series and Miriam Wallace representing the Humanities Department at New College. 

COMMENTS FROM OUR MEMBERS 

"Donna and Suzanne, the evening was beyond my expectations. I don't think I've ever been to a better lecture. (Marin) did not have to raise her baton to impress beyond words. What an extraordinary woman!"  Karen Mathis "What a wonderful talk last evening at Art Ovation.  It bodes well for this series and I want to thank you and all who worked to get Marin to speak in Sarasota.  I loved that she mentioned Paul Wolfe who was so influential in starting the music scene in Sarasota,"  Judy Levine.  "It was a flawless evening."  Jay Wilson, new member.

COMMENTS FROM THE COMMUNITY 

"What a fabulous program--Marin Alsop was just terrific, engaging, informative, and delightful to hear!  We are so glad we attended this educational and frankly charming event.  Kudos to you all for presenting such a quality program.  Please keep me posted about all of your upcoming events/activities."  Sharon Prizant, Director of Community Engagement, Cumberland Advisors.

PURPOSE

"Speaking of The Arts…" events give Arts Advocates an opportunity to collaborate with other arts organizations such as the Sarasota Orchestra, theSarasota Concert Association, Choral Artists of Sarasota and The Perlman Music Program. In addition, the series is a wonderful way to fulfill our mission: to Inspire creativity, advance education and connect the community to the arts. 

GOING FORWARD

"The Speaking of the Arts…" Committee (Suzanne Weitz, Barbara Blackburn, Bo Galford and advisors Waddy Thompson and Mary Ann Armour) are currently collaborating with Asolo Repertory Theatre to bring a 'high profile' personality from Broadway to spend an evening with us in Sarasota.  For this event, the format will be an interview and there will be an increased opportunity to interact with the audience.  A late March or early April date is planned 

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Computer Art Pioneer Ken Knowlton

Ken Knowlton speaking at Arts Advocates meeting

"It's a long story", Ken Knowlton began. Indeed it is. It's been more than 50 years since Knowlton and fellow Bell Labs engineer Leon Harmon created what is thought to be the first computer produced nude. It started as a prank.

Knowlton and Harmon decided to see if they could create a portrait of choreographer Deborah Hay by scanning her picture, keeping the outlines, and using numbers and symbols in place of the colors. (Needless to say, this is a wholly untechnical description of the groundbreaking process.) In addition to the challenge, they thought it would be funny to hang the 12' long image in their boss' office to surprise him when he came in the next morning. Their boss was not pleased. In his view, the image--now titled "Studies in Perception #1"-- was pornographic and had no place on the walls of the venerable Bell Labs. But that's not the end of the story.

"Studies in Perception #1" by Knowlton and Harmon (with an assist from Bell Labs)

While Knowlton's boss wasn't enamored of the portrait, the art community was. To the dismay of the Bell Labs' PR department, the image began to get some press coverage. Knowlton and Harmon were told to keep Bell Labs' name out of it, thank you very much. Then "Studies in Perception #1" found its way into the New York Times after Robert Rauschenberg heralded the portrait at a press conference held at his loft. Knowlton and Harmon asked that the image be attributed only to the two of them. Alas, Bell Labs got credit as well when it was published. When "Studies in Perception #1" received a positive reception, Bell Labs decided it was art after all and was happy to be associated with the work. The lab's name was prominently listed thereafter, including when a smaller version of "Studies in Perception" appeared in an exhibit at MOMA entitled "The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age." 

Knowlton's "Statue of Liberty"

Over time, Knowlton began to create his own pointillist portraits with his computer. Cleverly, many of his images use words and symbols related to the subjects. Helen Keller was captured using visual Braille; Samuel Morse out of Morse Code; and the Statue of Liberty from key phrases from the Statue of Liberty poem. (I'm sure you know the one about the United States taking in "the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.") In this picture, you can see how the image becomes more distinct the further away the viewer stands.

Knowlton eventually began to explore the use of other mediums (for lack of a better word) to create mosaic portraits. His trusty computer still plays an important role in his process.

Tom Magliozzi (aka Click) by Ken Knowlton

 With a computer assist, he "draws" the contour lines of the image. The canvas is then placed on the floor and the work of creating the image with his objects begins. Mirrors are positioned above and to the side to enable Knowlton to determine the positioning of the pieces before gluing them onto the canvas.

In a nod to Magritte's painting "This is not a pipe," Knowlton used pieces of a teapot to devise his work "This is NOT not a Teapot." Two companion portraits portraying Click and Clack from the famed NPR radio show "Car Talk" were created using toy cars. His Julia Child emerges from an assortment of fruits and vegetables. The smaller the item used to create the work, the higher the difficulty of the puzzle.

Today, Knowlton uses seashells as his material. He does, after all, live in Florida. (In case you're wondering, he orders the seashells online rather than scouring our local beaches for them.)

"American Gothic (Version 2) after Grant Wood" by Ken Knowlton

Initially, he arranged the shells in straight lines in the manner of his other portraits. But the curvature of the shells has enabled him to ratchet up the complexity of his creative process a notch. Now when he's in the thick of things he searches his bins for shells with both the desired reflectivity and shape. It's a labor of love -- and a far cry from the seashell art featured in the gift shops of the Panama City Beach of my youth.

Thanks to Arts Advocates for the introduction to the work of Ken Knowlton. For more information about Ken Knowlton, click here. And to learn more about Arts Advocates and its programs, click here.


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Speaking of the Arts... Marin Alsop Video

Speaking of the Arts... Marin Alsop, Conductor of the Baltimore Symphony and Sao Paulo Symphony Music Director, will speak 11/13/19 at the Art Ovation Hotel on "Adventures On and Off the Podium".  Tickets available here:  https://www.artsadvocates.org/alsop. Gain insight into Ms. Alsop in this video where she answers a quick 20 questions.

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Fine Arts Society rebrands as Arts Advocates

For 50 years, the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota has been working to preserve and support a variety of art forms and their creators. It will continue doing that under

a new name.  The organization announced Monday a rebranding program that ......

Read the full article >  

https://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20190916/fine-arts-society-rebrands-as-arts-advocates

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Art Ovation Hotel presents Robert Doyon: Walkabout

Lisa DiFranzo, cultural curator of Art Ovation Hotel with two Doyon paintings

I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's the rare hotel that has its own cultural curator. I'm not talking a concierge who can secure tickets for a show or suggest a local restaurant. The job of a cultural curator is to ensure cultural experiences within the hotel for its guests and the public. Enter Lisa DiFranzo and Art Ovation Hotel.

On my inaugural outing with the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota (FASS), we met DiFranzo for a tour of the Robert Doyon: Walkabout exhibit. First, however, she gave us some background on Art Ovation. 

"Connect the Dots"

The goal of the Marriott "Autograph Collection" hotels is to provide guests with opportunities to engage in activities reflective of the local community. In Sarasota, that means the arts.

At any given time, Art Ovation has multiple art exhibits on display. Guided tours are offered weekly for a small fee (with glass of wine in hand if you choose). There's a studio in the lobby with an artist at her easel--or the equivalent--during the cocktail hour. Each room is stocked with a sketch book and colored pencils for guests inspired to create their own art. The first page of every book contains a drawing by a student at Ringling College of Art & Design.

Musical entertainment can also frequently be enjoyed in the lobby. And if you want to make your own music, every room has its own ukulele, with free lessons given on Friday afternoons. Other instruments from the cello to drums will be delivered upon request. (Headsets are provided so as not to disturb other guests.)

Doyon with his work -- Don't miss the continuation of the exhibit in the restaurant!

This is a long-winded intro to the work of Robert Doyon, which is now on display at Art Ovation. Doyon was on hand to share his work with our group. While I'm sure DiFranzo would have done a terrific job, it was great to hear from the artist firsthand.

Doyon refers to himself as a "Swiss artist's knife" due to the variety of his artistic endeavors. In his earlier life, he worked in design and fabrication at Disneyworld and other Orlando area theme parks. But the time came when he wanted to focus on his own work. He went back to school at Ringling and graduated at the age of 48. For the past 25 years, he's been creating his own style of abstract and conceptual work.

When discussing his work, Doyon repeatedly returned to the idea of balance. It's a concept particularly important to him because he suffers from PTSD from his time in Viet Nam. And while the works do have specific meanings to him, he referred to them as "colorful Rorschach tests" that will evoke different moods and interpretations in each person. (For me, his "Connecting My Dots" called to mind an Easter egg. In my defense, lunchtime was approaching.)

"Mirror Twins"

I particularly enjoyed hearing about his inspiration for "Mirror Twins." Doyon's father and uncle were what he referred to as "opposite twins." When the brothers faced one another, they appeared to be mirror images. Their personalities were equally opposite, with his left-brained father working as an engineer and his right-brained uncle as an art professor.

Doyon also shared the backstory to how he came to call this exhibit "Walkabout." The term refers to the Australian aboriginal practice of sending young men out into the wilderness where they live on their own for several months. The 1971 movie of the same name captured Doyon's imagination. In it, two citified kids find themselves lost in the Australian outback and are befriended by an aboriginal boy off on his walkabout. The concept of the trio figuring out how to make their way together spoke to him.

Thanks to FASS for organizing this interesting tour. Robert Doyon's "Walkabout" will be on display at Art Ovation through October 2. To check out the hotel's schedule of events, click here. It's a great addition to our cultural community.

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Art at the Van Wezel

The World Within by Humberto Calzada

I suspect I'm not the only person guilty of rushing into a theater without taking the time to enjoy my surroundings. Sure, I'll notice the architectural elements of the performance space, but it's unlikely I'll walk the building to check out the art. And when it comes to the Van Wezel, there's definitely some art worth enjoying. Happily, the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota conducts free monthly tours during the season. It was an hour well-spent.

The Van Wezel was built in 1969, the same year the Fine Arts Society was founded. From the beginning, the Society has used the Van Wezel as gallery space to showcase its Florida-inspired art collection. Our tour guide was quick to note that despite the Florida theme, the artwork is not created by "sell your art on the beach" artists. Instead, the collection includes paintings--and a few sculptures-- by accomplished artists who either have a strong Florida connection or whose work features water.

Humberto Calzada is known for his paintings inspired by the architecture of his hometown of Havana. It's hard to turn down the invitation to enter Calzada's The World Within. The light is handled so beautifully, and the Caribbean awaits you. Calzada signed each portal into his dream-like world, a detail our guide helpfully noted. 

Thunder on the Beach by Ben Stahl (1976)

I would put money on the fact that most Van Wezel patrons haven't noticed Ben Stahl's Thunder on the Beach. Although it's located only two paintings down from The World Within, the lighting is so poor that our docent had to use a flashlight to illuminate it for our group. And that's a shame, because it's an interesting painting depicting America's sudden foreboding about the coming of WWII. "Wait," you can almost hear people say. "Is that a storm on the horizon?" Stahl's portrayal of the beachgoers in various states of undress represents the country's lack of preparedness for the war. And then there's the one fat cat sitting happily on the beach smoking a cigar. Is he a profiteer?

Our Angel by Craig Rubadoux

Stahl himself was quite an interesting character. He won a scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago at age 12. In addition to being a painter, Stahl was an illustrator whose work graced the pages of The Saturday Evening Post. He created the poster for Ben-Hur and the illustrations for the 25th anniversary edition of Gone with the Wind. He had his own TV series entitled Journey into Art with Ben Stahl. And he was an artist in the Air Force, which brings us full circle to Thunder on the Beach.

From across the room, Craig Rubadoux' Our Angel has the look of an Art Nouveau painting. But as you approach, you realize the work is much more free flowing. The angel seems to float in a sea of color. How else could her golden hair mimic the shape her budding wings will eventually take? "Exuberant" is the adjective most typically used to describe Rubadoux' work.

Rubadoux is Sarasota born and bred and now works from his home on Englewood beach. His artwork can frequently be seen at Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art Gallery. Click here to read an article from The Observer about this charming artist.

Pressing Leaves by Lynn Davison (1996)

Lynn Davison is another Florida-based artist whose work can be found at Allyn Gallup. Davison also shares her alma mater of Ringling College of Art + Design with many artists whose work is in the collection.

Davison's interest lies in the human figure. Davison's depiction of her subject's bodies is impressively realistic, from the tension in the woman's knee and calf to the toes of her companion's feet. She said in an interview in Gulfshore Life, "I want my figures to provoke introspection. While they're essentially revelations of self, I hope they also portray universal truths about what it means to be exposed, disconnected, vulnerable and human."

Pressing Leaves was painted at a time when Davison took a somewhat surrealistic approach to her work. The figures and setting are classical, but what are this doorframe, Japanese style screens and spotlight doing out in the middle of nowhere? Not to mention the obvious question -- why is this naked guy sitting on these books? Today her work is more personal. To read the Gulfshore Life article and see more of Davison's work, click here.

Stravinksy by Syd Solomon (1971)

And what would a collection of work featuring Florida artists be without a painting by Syd Solomon? Solomon is probably the most acclaimed artist to have come out of Southwest Florida. He and his wife moved to Sarasota when he was still a budding artist in his late 20s. He had found his home. The Ringling Museum was the first of many museums to display Solomon's work. Solomon was a first for Ringling as well, as he was the first contemporary artist to have a painting displayed there.

Stravinsky is the perfect choice of Solomon's artwork to be on display at the Van Wezel. It is, after all, the home of the Sarasota Orchestra. Solomon began this painting while listening to one of the composer's works on the day of his death. The loss was more than that of a fellow creative soul. He was friends with Stravinsky's son Soulima, who also lived in Sarasota.

I learned from our docent that Solomon served during WWI in the First Camouflage Battalion, where he worked to conceal potential enemy targets located on the California coast and London. (To see pictures of the camouflage of California, click here.) But Solomon's primary job during the war was conducting aerial reconnaissance, a job that inspired his abstract art. Knowing this background does put a new spin on his work.

If you want to see more of Solomon's painting, the timing couldn't be better. Allyn Gallup has an exhibit on now through January 28. To read more about Solomon and the exhibit, click here and here.

The next time you're in the Van Wezel, take a few extra minutes to enjoy the art. There will no doubt be works that leave you cold. Art is personal after all. But there will likely be a few that draw you in. Thanks to the Fine Arts Society for sharing its collection with the public. For information on upcoming tours, click here.

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Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, Inc.
PO Box 1432
Sarasota, FL 34230-1432


The Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, Inc. is a “501(c)(3) Nonprofit Tax-Exempt Organization licensed in 1969 – a charity for Education/School Systems services.”
The organization promotes, encourages, supports and generally furthers the best interests of the arts in Florida and in particular, recognizes, honors and perpetuates the fine arts, creative products and works of Florida artists.

A copy of the official registration and financial information may be obtained from the division of consumer services at www.800helpfla.com or by calling toll-free 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) within the state. Registration does not imply endorsement, approval or recommendation by the state.