Mexico’s Artistic Embrace

What defines Mexican art? Are the murals of Diego Rivera and the art carved on the pyramids of Teotihuacan equally vital? Do the crafts native to indigenous villages throughout the country influence contemporary visual artists? The colors of the homes in every city, architecture that features volcanic rock, archaeological sites that provide examples of ancient creativity for the 21st century – all of this provides inspiration for Mexico’s artistic environment.

I was fortunate to visit Mexico recently, experiencing for the first time the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) in Oaxaca. This important holiday showcases Mexican artistic expression through food, flowers, music, rituals and costumes

Leaders and Their Hats

In the Los Angeles Times recently, art critic Christopher Knight writes “For art museums, is there a director’s gene? A distinctive bit of DNA material that distinguishes between a successful museum director and a successful curator?”

As someone who developed that director’s gene during side-by-side careers as a founder of a non-profit arts institution, executive director, musician and educator, I am encouraged by the questions posed in this insightful article. MOCA, and many other arts institutions, have histories of revolving leadership doors. Once again at MOCA, we are watching another detrimental exit of their managing director which ultimately erodes public support and trust.

Looking for Models

The legendary Kolisch Quartet had the singular distinction of playing its entire repertoire from memory, including the impossibly complex modern works of Schoenberg, Webern, Bartok, and Berg. Eugene Lehner was the violist for the quartet in the 1930’s. Lehner’s stories about their remarkable performances often included a hair-raising moment when one player or another had a memory slip. Although he relished the rapport that developed between them without the encumbrance of a music stand, he admits there was hardly a concert in which some mistake did not mar the performance. The alertness, presence, and attention required of the players in every performance is hard to fathom, but in one concert an event occurred that surpassed their ordinary brinkmanship.

No Boundaries

I have recently returned to Vietnam to begin the fourth season of the Hanoi New Music Ensemble. My husband Jeff von der Schmidt and I are the first American Artistic Advisors to Vietnam, helping to shape the first professional new music ensemble in the country. The group is moving forward quickly, reflecting our former Ambassador Ted Osius’ observation that “one year in Vietnam is equal to ten years elsewhere.”

Jeff conducts the ensemble and I coach the strings as well as guide administrative development. This is our ninth trip to the country since 2006, and we feel that we have a second home here, with dear friends, familiar audiences, and endless stimulation provided by a different culture evidenced through food, music, architecture, and attitudes.

1 2 3 5