Spencer Beckwith On The Arts

Twice A Month During KUNM's Broadcast Of NPR's "Weekend Edition Saturday"

The Big Room at Carlsbad Caverns in southeastern New Mexico is 4,000 feet long, 600 feet wide and, at its highest point, 255 feet high; it comprises 8 acres of natural formations and is located 750 feet beneath the surface of the earth.  On November 4, and for the first time since 1933, the National Park Service will welcome the public into the Big Room for an evening of music.  A string quartet from the New Mexico Philharmonic will perform works by Haydn, Grieg, Bach and Dvorak.


A group of anxious young people gather in a bar.  They're about to take part in a whirlwind game of romantic connection -- a sort of high-stakes musical chairs.  Speed Dating is a contemporary opera by the popular American composer Michael Ching.  The New Mexico premiere will be performed by students in the University of New Mexico's Opera Theatre program October 21-23 at Keller Hall in Albuquerque.


"It's a rage right now, a new American pastime."  Local ukulele enthusiast, and professional percussionist, John Bartlit thinks that "in our jet set, apartment-moving society, it's a perfect fit."  The unassuming four-string instrument, which emerged in Hawaii in the late 19th Century, will be the center of attention in Albuquerque on September 23-25 when national and local musicians convene for the 3rd annual Ukekopelli Festival.


On display this month at Albuquerque's National Hispanic Cultural Center is a series of ten murals -- all made entirely out of seeds.  The murals were created in towns and schools and at community events all around New Mexico, as part of an artistic effort to promote healthy environments.


Almost 70 dealers from around the country will converge on the Santa Fe Railyard in mid-August for the 3rd annual Antique American Indian Art Show.  They will display, and offer for sale, a range of historical material made by Native American artisans in the years leading up to, and through, World War II.

The Art Show's co-producer, collector Kim Martindale, explains how this new, dealer-based show differs from the artist-based shows, such as Indian Market, that have long defined summer in Santa Fe.


Maria Tallchief was America's first major prima ballerina; her sister Marjorie was also a successful ballerina; together they inspired a love of ballet in their homeland, the Osage Nation of Oklahoma.  Carrying on this tradition today in Osage country is Randy Tinker Smith.  Randy and her daughter Jenna Smith have received national attention for Wahzhazhe, The Osage BalletThe production comes to Santa Fe on August 6.


Her head is over six feet tall, made up of 104 bead-like ceramic objects.  Her hair is woven fabric, long enough to attach to the surrounding walls.  And she speaks.  She is entitled Everything Anywhere and she is installed this summer at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe.  Her creator is the busy young New Mexico-based ceramic artist Cannupa Hanska Luger.

On view this summer at the Albuquerque Museum is Drawing Into Architecture: Sketches and Models of Antoine Predock.  Included are almost 300 works on paper, along with clay architectural models, representing, in a small way, the 50-year career of the internationally-known New Mexico-based architect.


Revered as a deity by native peoples, then marked for extermination by the federal government.  Derided as a "living, breathing allegory of want" by Mark Twain, then crowned a king of cool by the Beat Generation.  New Mexico writer Dan Flores tracks the range of reactions the coyote has inspired over the years in Coyote America, just published by Basic Books.


Through 20 years of performances and classes, an award-winning Albuquerque band has brought the distinctive sound of Scottish music to the Southwest.  The High Desert Pipes and Drums will be joined by guest musicians and dancers for a fundraising concert on June 25 and 26 at the Hiland Theatre.


Each summer, the Broadway League, the national theater industry association, brings to New York talented young performers from around the country.  They compete for scholarships, recognition and possibly a pathway to the Broadway stage in the National High School Musical Theater Awards.  This year, two teenagers from New Mexico will be taking part.  They will be selected in a public performance on May 8 at Albuquerque's Popejoy Hall.

Photo courtesy of George Ancona

This month, the Jazz Journalists Association named Tom Guralnick one of its 2016 Jazz Heroes, individuals of positive influence on their musical communities.  Since he arrived here in 1976, Tom has created, or helped to create, three thriving local organizations, the New Mexico Jazz Workshop, the New Mexico Jazz Festival, and Albuquerque's Outpost Performance Space.

Courtesy Janire Najera and Embassy of Spain

In 2014, Spanish artist Janire Nájera set out on a journey from New Mexico to California, following the 19th Century trade route known as the Old Spanish Trail.  Traveling in an SUV through six states, Najera documented the descendants of the Trail's first Spanish settlers.  The result is Moving Forward, Looking Back, an exhibition that has been seen around the world and is on view now through September at Albuquerque's National Hispanic Cultural Center.


Kids, probably from the start of civilization, have been plagued by that irritating question. And so is Samuel, a young boy who takes a day off from school to find the answer. Samuel's Story is a new multimedia book for kids by New Mexico performance poet Hakim Bellamy.


How do we bring Native American composers into the conversation about new music?  The University of New Mexico's 45th annual John Donald Robb Composers' Symposium, being held on the UNM Albuquerque campus from March 28 to April 1, will look at indigenous contributions to contemporary art music.  All events are free and open to the public.


She spent her life in the place she was born, Acoma Pueblo.  As a very young girl there, under the guidance of her great-aunt, Lucy Lewis began to learn the traditional art of Acoma pottery.  Over the next 80-plus years, she not only mastered that art but changed it, and in the process helped to bring a new appreciation to Native Art.  On March 12, Albuquerque's Indian Pueblo Cultural Center looks at the artistic legacy of the late Luc


University of New Mexico graduate Javier José Mendoza is the founder and director of the Chicago Arts Orchestra.  In 2011, the CAO started performing music that hadn't been heard since the 18th Century -- works retrieved from the archives of churches and cathedrals in Mexico, Ecuador and other regions of Colonial New Spain.


Mexico, which counts him among its most prominent living artists, is honoring Federico Ibarra's 70th birthday in 2016 with a yearlong series of concerts and performances.  The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque is taking part in that celebration by welcoming Ibarra for a three-day musical residency in early March.


Faces Santa Fe is comprised of 65 portraits, all of Santa Fe residents, all the same size, and all painted with the same palette and in the same time frame.  On view at SITE Santa Fe through February 13, the exhibit was conceived by artist Ben Haggard as an experiment in social networking.  Ben started with friends and family, they were then asked to invite friends and family, and the project blossomed


Without it, we would not today have Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, The Tempest, Twelfth Night and fourteen other plays by Shakespeare.  Published in 1623, Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories and Tragedies, known today as the First Folio, is one of the most influential works in publishing history.  An exhibit from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. brings the First Folio to the New Mexico Museum of Art in February.


Now in its 15th year, Northern New Mexico's non-profit circus troupe Wise Fool is part of a growing movement across the country.  The concept of "social circus," says Wise Fool Co-Founder and Artistic Director Amy Christian, uses the circus arts as a way to "offer experiences of empowerment and engagement" to underserved communities, through both public performances and classes for kids and adults.


During last year's holiday season, almost 100,000 people made their way after dark through fifty acres of the ABQ BioPark, viewing more than 500 hand-made, custom-made light sculptures.  The River of Lights, a fundraiser for the BioPark Society and open to the public through January 2, is put together by a small crew of the Botanic Garden's employees, led by Joey Trujillo.

Pie Town Revisited

Nov 27, 2015

During the Depression, photographer Russell Lee made a famous series of color images of Pie Town in remote southwestern New Mexico.  Lee was there for the FSA, the Farm Security Administration, documenting homesteaders and their families who had been uprooted by the Dust Bowl.  70 years later, photographer Arthur Drooker retraced Lee's footsteps.  The result is Pie Town Revisited, published this month by UNM Press.

González + Sisneros Studio

The walls of its two 15-foot-tall steel sentinels are patterned with lace-like cutouts that hold images of flora and fauna, and its structure is inspired by an ancient Mayan temple in Chichen Itza.  New Mexico artists Cristina González and Jacob Sisneros created Warriors Repose for Albuquerque's National Hispanic Cultural Center, located in the historic Barelas neighborhood.


She made her first visit to Taos out of curiosity in 1917.  The morning after her arrival, Mabel Dodge Luhan signed a six-month lease on an apartment.  From that day onward, she worked tirelessly on her new mission -- bringing the world's attention to the magic of Northern New Mexico and particularly to its Pueblo culture.  A new documentary, Awakening in Taos: The Mabel Dodge Luhan Story, premieres on November 18 at the Lensic Center

Musicians from around the country will travel to New Mexico this month for workshops and performances celebrating an instrument that was popular with Americans on the move in the 18th and 19th centuries.  That instrument acquired a lot of nicknames over the years -- the hog fiddle, harmony box and lumberjack's piano -- but it's known today as the dulcimer, and it comes in a variety of shapes and produces a variety of sounds.


In his most recent book, Falling Upwards: How We Took To The Air, biographer Richard Holmes tells the stories of the "first aeronauts," the men and women in Europe and America who pioneered the science and art of ballooning in the 18th and 19th centuries.  The paperback edition of his "unconventional history of ballooning" was published last year by Vintage Books.


A new exhibit in Santa Fe is attempting to tease out the qualities that make Georgia O'Keeffe's work instantly recognizable.  "O'Keeffe in Process," on view through January 17, 2016 at the New Mexico Museum of Art, looks at the artist's emphasis on color, line and form, and the techniques she used to achieve those elements. 


With financial assistance from the state government, small cities and towns across New Mexico are putting their historic movie theaters, many of which were abandoned for years, back into operation.  Since 2013, New Mexico MainStreet's Historic Movie Houses Initiative has supplied funds to renovate the theaters' unique architectural details and to install updated projection and sound equipment. 


A disillusioned soldier in the Civil War deserts from the Confederate army and journeys home on foot to the mountains of North Carolina.  A new opera based on Charles Frazier's 1997 bestseller Cold Mountain  is having its world premiere this month at the Santa Fe Opera.