Colors of Oaxaca

Oaxaca state in southern Mexico has a unique spirituality that is expressed in its colors and crafts. Possibly the most authentic part of Mexico, numerous indigenous people gather in the city of Oaxaca, located where three mountain ranges meet. The native cuisine, embroidered clothing, colonial architecture, pre-columbian archeological sites and artisanal crafts reflect this melding of ancient cultures.

On a recent visit, the city’s energy and culture grab you immediately. You hear languages that go back millennia, eat foods that are grown in hundreds of surrounding villages, and see everyday clothing that expresses its heritage through colorful embroidery.

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.

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