Cristián de la Fuente – TV’s In Plain Sight
By Kiko Martinez
San Antonio Current contributing writer
On the show, which follows a U.S. Marshal working for the witness protection program, de la Fuente, 35, plays Rafael Ramirez, the baseball-playing “on-again, off-again boyfriend” of Mary McCormack’s character Mary Shannon (above with de la Fuente).
During our interview with de la Fuente, who became a household name when he and Cheryl Burke placed third during the sixth season of Dancing with the Stars, the actor/model/Chilean Air Force Reserve pilot talked about how Latinos roles have changed over the years and whether or not he think he’d be able to handle living under an alias.
“In Plain Sight” began its second season April 19. It airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. on
With so many shows getting the ax during or after their premiere season, how did you feel when you got word that “In Plain Sight” was picked up for a second season on USA?
I was really happy. We’re used to working in a business where a show can be cancelled after two or three airings. To be able to have a second season is great. At first, the show was renewed but only with Mary [McCormack]. So, I had to wait a couple of weeks to know that my character was also coming back. In this business they can do anything. That’s why you always have to be grateful for what you have.
You’ve been on a few of shows that were cancelled after one season like “The Class” and “Threat Matrix.” Is it really fair to cancel a show that quickly?
You know, shows usually take more than one season to develop. In one season it’s really hard to make a great show. When you have two or three or four seasons to develop them, that’s when shows become really popular and successful.
The good thing about Rafael is that he’s not the typical Latino character. Many times in TV and film it’s easier to play the Latino as a stereotype. He’s not a drug dealer or a bad guy or a Latin lover having affairs with everybody. It’s easy to go to that place, but in this case Raf is a very down-to-earth guy that’s in love with his girlfriend.
It’s getting better. There was a time many years ago where if a movie needed a Latino he was going to be the drug lord from
I know you’ve worked with Eva Longoria for the ALMA Awards. What did you think when she took her name out of contention for an award so other Latino actors could get recognized?
I think it’s important that everybody does what’s in their power to try to help each other. Being Latino you’re always going to have more obstacles. We’re a lot of actors and there are not a lot of roles for us. What Eva is doing, not only by taking her name out of consideration for the
Back to the show, do you think you could personally handle a situation where you were at the wrong place at the wrong time and forced to enter the witness protection program?
It would be tough. If that ever happened, God forbid, I would do it to protect my wife and my daughter. If I had to run to the end of the world and change my identity to be able to keep them safe then I would do it. I would start all over again just as long as we could be together.
There is a character named Natasha in Season 1 that asks for breast implants in exchange for her testimony. What would you ask for?
Just the safety of my family, really. I don’t think I would look good with breasts.
Who do you think is going to win Dancing with the Stars this season? Your former partner Cheryl Burke and [actor] Gilles Marini are in the final five.
They are looking good. Hopefully they make it to the finals. But I would also like to see Tony Dovolani [partnered with The Bachelor’s Melissa Rycroft] win because he’s doing really well and he’s never won. Cheryl has two trophies. I think it’s nice if someone new gets the trophy. Tony is a really nice guy. We became good friends during the show. I wish both of them luck.
Readers, are you having trouble picking up the pieces and getting on with your lives, post-Fiesta 2009? Yo también, fo sho. For one thing, I definitely should have done a Fiesta blog post either during Fiesta (ideal) or just after (acceptable), not late Tuesday afternoon (lame). But, see, I lost my voice somewhere between the Current “Best of…” party and Sunday morning, and seeing as how I dictate all my writings into a machine … uh.
Here are some very awful phone photos of interesting Fiesta stuff. I truly hope this helps you guys work through your post-Fiesta feelings. My post-Fiesta feelings are dominated mainly by extreme confusion, which perhaps y’all can help me with.
#1 KING WILLIAM FAIR PARADE
This is the only official Fiesta event I went to, somehow.
Here’s the KWF Parade’s co-grand marshal, Annele Spector, also of Jump Start.
Look! It’s the Current’s own Mark Jones: Calendar editor, contributing writer, cycling enthusiast, recreational jockey-outfit-wearer, and stalk-ee of mysterious orange ball. It’s totally like a French movie!
I dig her, but I don’t understand her. If anybody knows why this lady was dressed as a stick of butter, do let me know.
This float is a tribute to Burma Shave ad campaigns of yore, and I get that, but I don’t get the big silver parachute or whatever up top. Again, speak up if you know what’s going on here. “Pie are round?” Is that a thing? Is it a political slogan? Whatever’s going on, Butter Woman’s interested.
Teacher/theater artist Amy Moeller, in cute Cornyation muckity-muck attire.
Now there’s a friendly gentleman! A shout-out to the non-San Antonio world! Come see this absurdity for yourselves!
Mariachis muy jovenes and que awesome!
If my house ever catches fire, I really hope this dog shows up.
I’m including this one for no other reason that people on Segways tickle me. Especially GROUPS of people on Segways. I drive up South Alamo to work, and often see tourists on rented Segways, and the sight never fails to fill me with glee. This is one hard-ass Segway security detail. Cute and authoritative!
Not entirely sure what these Wizard of Oz kids were representing. A school? Themselves? To be honest, I wasn’t so good at getting photos of what any of these people represented. I like this Wiz gang though.
I also like this Aztec Queen. It was really hot and muggy outside, yet she was very glam. That headdress rocks. She looks absolutely fantastic altogether. If you know this woman, tell her she’s a star.
Put the Aztec Queen together with this Spanish mantilla and hoopskirt wearing Doña and you’ve got puro San Anto mestizaje, only with the brutal parts of our history skipped over, and if these two ladies could produce offspring. I’d like to be that offspring. It’s like the best of all possible worlds. This señora amazed me, again, given the heat, with how smily and put-together she was, in lace guantes, even. Ay I love this town.
Pretty sure this is Thanksgiving-themed pet coffin being driven by a Wolf Man. Like, 98-99% sure. And I am 100% in favor of it, whatever it is. I wonder what the Butter Woman thinks.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I feel like the Eyewitness Newsreel music should be playing about now.
Mark “the Colonel” Schwartzman ON A SEGWAY!!! A pink, Fiesta-y one!
#2 STUFF PEOPLE LEFT AT MY HOUSE DURING FIESTA
Perhaps your friends and loved ones left stuff at your house during Fiesta, so you know how disorienting that can be. Or perhaps you left your stuff at somebody else’s house, which can happen easily during our many celebrations during this special time. Perhaps this blog post will remind you to get your stuff back.
…And maybe you left stuff at MY HOUSE! Is this your stuff? Please take a look, and if you see any of your belongings, get in touch with me, which is easy enough.
1. A BICYCLE
This bike was left at my house on Saturday night, locked to a small tree. Is it yours?
It's silver, and has a light on the front. I sort of covet that lock, as I keep my bike in my house.
I read this at first as “Stump Dumper.” I guess it’s “Stump Jumper?” Is that a bike term? Also, apparently it’s SPECIALIZED for stump-jumping. Is this poular?
It’s a boy’s bicycle.
2. A SOMBRERO
This handsome sombrero was also left at my house on Saturday night, on my porch. It's well-made and practical, and I would keep it, but I already have one. It’s a blue charreada-style sombrero with white and gold trim!
Hecho en Mexico, y marqueado "Sahuayo." Also the number 50. It's not all that big though. I don't really know from hat sizes. ES TUYO, PUES??
Another view of it.
3. AN UMBRELLA
Also, I seem to have this umbrella.
Detail of umbrella handle. A chess horse.
"Aramis." Isn't that a cologne from the 70s? Did this umbrella get to my house through a time warp?
Here's the umbrella, open (but on the porch, not in the house). It would appear to be chess themed. There's little whatever-the-fucks all on it.
You may think you want this umbrella just for a free semi-jazzy umbrella, but be advised: it's semi-broken. Note sticking-out spoke.
4. A FIESTA COIN
I also found this plastic coin on my porch, but I am TOTALLY KEEPING IT, BITCHES! I am only posting this photo IN ORDER TO BRAG!
Yes, these are the same cascarones as above. Yes, it's the same damn jpeg. Anyhow, somebody left this thingy containing a FULL DOZEN CASCARONES at my house! Y'all can't have them, either. I'm gonna dole 'em out, one by precious one, over the next year. I shall cascarone the hell out of random folk in, like, November, and blow all y'all's minds. Don't say I didn't warn you.
I hope you enjoyed this post Fiesta post, y'all. See you next year.
Greg M. Schwartz email@example.com
East LA’s legendary rockers Los Lobos tore it up at Gruene Hall last night, tipping their collective cap several times to San Antonio. It was a pleasure indeed to see one of the country’s finest bands at one of the nation’s most historic venues. The venue bills itself as Texas’ oldest dance hall, having operated since 1878.
The room can’t hold more than 300 people, making it one of the most intimate venues in which to see such a world-class act. With it’s screen walls, you don’t necessarily even need a ticket to sort of see the show from outside, where the music can be heard loud and clear. A number of folks watched the early part of the show in just such a manner.
Guitarist David Hidalgo introduced an early Richie Valens highlight by saying the band had recently played the 50th anniversary of the fateful Winter Dance Party that turned out to be Valens’ last gig, before the untimely plane crash that took the lives of Valens, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper (take the bus young musicians!) The band rocked out on “Ooh My Head” with a bluesy stomp that got the room shaking.
“How’s that Fiesta?” asked guitarist Cesar Rosas shortly thereafter. “This goes out to all you people of San Antone. Everyone, Cumbia!” The band then launched into “Chuco’s Cumbia,” a decidedly Latin flavored rocker with Rosas singing in Spanish. The dance party was in full motion at this point.
Rosas continued to star on “I Can’t Understand,” a lament for being broken up with that featured a segue into “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” with a psychedelic jam filled with wah-wah infused guitar. Hidalgo took the vocal lead on “Last Night,” a swinging rocker about getting loaded that was a clear fan favorite.
Saxophonist Steve Berlin was a force throughout the evening, with his jazzy notes spicing up both the rockers and the more Latin-oriented material to help give the band its rich sound.
A sentimental Mexican folk song was another highlight, with most of the room singing along on and waving hands back and forth. The tune also featured a tease of the Bobby “Blue” Bland/Grateful Dead classic, “Turn On Your Lovelight.” After a hot 90 minute set, the encore section featured some guests who weren’t clearly identified but were alluded to as San Antonio locals, with Rosas dedicating the tune to “San Antone, Austin and Doug Sahm.”
He went on to note that back when the band was first getting their act together in East Los Angeles, there was a light bulb moment when they realized that most of the music they were into originated in South Texas. Rosas also informed the audience that Bob Dylan had once told him that the best time he ever had was hanging out with Doug Sahm in San Antone! Look for the Current to conduct further research on this matter soon. Dylan fans take note – Los Lobos’ Hidalgo is all over the new Dylan album that comes out on Tuesday. Hidalgo is a superb guitarist, but his accordion work has also made him an in-demand session player.
The band ended the show with the obligatory “La Bamba,” getting the room dancing once more on the high energy Richie Valens cover that helped launch the band into national prominence in the late ‘80s.
Fans who missed out on tix for the intimate Gruene show still have options, as Los Lobos heads to Austin’s One World Theater tonight and to the Houston International Festival tomorrow. Viva Los Lobos!
Paulina Gaitan – Sin Nombre
By Kiko Martinez
By Kiko Martinez
San Antonio Current contributing writer
San Antonio Current contributing writer
In her most recently work, Sin Nombre, Gaitan, 17, plays a young Honduran girl named Sayra, who attempts to travel the length of
During an interview with the Current, Gaitan talked about her experience riding the train and how exactly she got first-time director Cary Fukunaga to cast her in the powerful lead role.
Did you feel like a veteran on the set since you had the most experience of everyone?
No, I think everyone supported each other mutually even though everyone had their different experiences.
Other than concentrating on your character, what other things were running through your mind when you rode the train?
One thing that crossed my mind was how dangerous it was to sit on top of the train. It’s extremely dangerous. We were actually tied down to the train so we wouldn’t fall off. Those were extremely difficult scenes.
Did you get to meet any of the real immigrants who ride the trains?
The majority of the immigrants were Salvadorians. I had an opportunity to listen to immigrants’ conversations but I didn’t ask any questions because I didn’t want to be disrespectful.
Did anything exciting or dangerous happen during production?
We had a lot of experiences on top of the train. The [electric] cables would pass across our bodies. One day we were up on the train riding on the back and people started screaming, “the branches, the branches!” People had to start bending down because we were getting hit by all the branches.
I read that [director] Cary [Fukunaga] wasn’t sure about casting you for the role of Sayra. How did you manage to talk him into it?
It was very difficult. Really, the problem was only in the accent and nothing else. (Fukunaga wanted a Honduran actress to play the part at first). So, I asked him to lend me a CD so I could study the accent. Then I asked him for another audition and he gave it to me. I did the accent and he gave me the role.
What is the biggest difference between American and Mexican film productions?
The money! (Laughs) No, I think it’s the same. It’s important to feel like you have a family on the set. In both Mexican and American productions, it feels that way.
Many of the films you've done have serious themes. Are you naturally attracted to movies with messages?
I do like them a lot. It’s like a goal of mine even though some of these stories are very sad. But I wouldn’t mind doing other roles.
Is Sin Nombre the proudest you’ve been of your work as an actress?
Well, in the theater I’ve done really great things but I feel that all the movies have their own qualities. I don’t think I’d be able to select any of them as my best work. All of them are different.
By Gilbert Garcia
Last night offered a glimpse of the kind of vibrant gathering place that Main Plaza could become, with a little luck and the right coaxing. In celebration of the first anniversary of Main Plaza Conservancy, accordion titans Esteban Jordan and Flaco Jimenez played back-to-back sets in front of the largest crowd I've ever seen at Main Plaza.
Watching the brilliant Jordan in strong form after battling liver cancer was a particular thrill, and his enthusiastically received set reminded us that, like most of the greats, he exists in a parallel universe where no musical boundaries exist. He delivered "Georgia On My Mind" as a bilingual, Tejano ballad, turned Blood Sweat & Tears' "Spinning Wheel" into a conjunto dance number, and consistently hit the Chicano-soul spot, with lush doo-wop harmonies and his jazzy, unpredictable squeezebox runs.
If Main Plaza can build on that kind of momentum, the next year could be much livelier than the first.
Here’s the write-up I did for this year’s San Antonio Owners Manual issue about one of my very favorite Beuysian underground (non-) movements, Keep San Antonio Lame:
Keep San Antonio Lame: A rose by any other lame would smell as sweet
San Antonio visual artist Aaron Forland, contributing writer to emvergeoning.com (billed as “America’s most difficult art blog”) and co-conspirator with Justin Parr at emerging-artist hotspot Fl¡ght Gallery, originated “Keep San Antonio Lame” as a catchphrase in 2004, partially in satiric response to Austin’s “Keep Austin Weird” sub-culti PR blitz. It’s a pretty telling comment on San Antonio’s self-image: We think of ourselves as significantly less, well, cool than Austin. Austin’s middle-class, educated, indie, hip, self-aware. SATX is much poorer and way more old-fashioned. We love metal and the accordion, and could largely give a shit about trends if we even know about them. You know: “lame.”
But Forland and co., who went on to emblazon T-shirts and bumper stickers with the credo, mean it as more than just a great yawp of self-deprecation. What makes us lame — our off-the-mass-media radar status, our chaotic sprawl, our unapologetic socio-ethnic brownness, love of tradición, and lack of suburban-bred hipsterism — is exactly what makes us special. Keep San Antonio Lame is a rebuttal to those who would wish our city a target market for Urban Outfitters. And as KSAL’s MySpace page says, “remember lameness, like all else, is just an illusion.”
Since the Owner’s Manual isn’t online, I thought it’d be good to post this. It also gives me an excuse to share the following unstoppably awesome images with y’all — in which the now-iconic sticker’s been spotted in crazy places.
There’s an incredible Facebook page for KSAL, too, look it up if you’re on there. Tons of wonderful images and anecdotes about underground San Antonio.
…There was an underground San Antonio?
Keep San Antonio Lame!
Note: All photos by Aaron Forland. Photo titles and captions by him too.
Lame Before You Pump
“the Lame Supper by Franco Mondini-Ruiz.”
“the historic Kaiser Wilhelm district.”
“DJ Jester believes he can fly.”
Alamo City Harlame Davidson
“Alamo City Harley-Davidson represents.”
Keep San Antonio Llama
Efren Ramirez – Crank: High Voltage
By Kiko Martinez
Best known for his role as the Mexican, wig-wearing, cake-building, class-presidential-nominee Pedro Sanchez from the surprise 2004 comedy hit Napoleon Dynamite, actor Efren Ramirez has slowly but surely made it a point over the last five years to stray away from being typecast as a loveable albeit dorky minority sidekick.
In Crank: High Voltage, Ramirez, 35, plays Venus, the twin brother of the cross-dressing Kaylo, the character he plays in the original Crank, who is killed off before the end credits. During my interview with Ramirez, who ironically has a twin brother in real life, the actor talked about bulking up for his role opposite Jason Statham and explained why he didn’t end up running around with gangs while growing up in
Did you ever think after dying in Crank you would be getting a call to do the sequel?
I was really surprised that I was offered the script to do the second one. I didn’t think it was going to be as intense as it was when I started reading it. I was like, “Oh my God! They’ve taken it to the next level!”
So, in Crank: High Voltage you play Venus, the twin brother of your character in the original. I’m guessing Venus isn’t a drag queen like Kaylo.
(Laughs) Nah, Venus is very aggressive and dark. Once I got the script, I had three months to learn everything I needed for this character. I started studying kung fu, gymnastics, weapons, and I learned how to ride a motorcycle. I started doing 1,000 push-ups and sit-ups every single day. Ironically enough, I have a twin brother in real life.
What did your twin brother say when you told him about this role?
He was like, “Hey, so if he’s a twin and I’m your twin…” (Laughs). My brother is working towards being an actor as well, which is great. But as an actor you have to work hard to create characters and take chances. My brother is barely starting his career so I tell him to do a lot more theater and stay in school and keep studying and his time will come. There are a couple of scenes we do together in [Crank: High Voltage]. It’s going to shock the audience.
I saw that the Mara Salvatrucha gang is represented in the film. Did you ever run into any of those gang members since you’re originally from
(Laughs) Are you kidding? I’ve bumped into MS [Mara Salvatrucha]. I’ve bumped into V13 [
Post-Napoleon Dynamite, what kind of roles do you seek out?
I want to play memorable characters. I want to take on roles that are challenging. It always depends on how deep the character is. The characters are what make the story happen. I had a film come out a couple of years ago called Ratko and I played a Russian character in that. People are going, “He’s Latino, but he can also play this? Oh my god!” Actors like Ricardo Montalban, Edward James Olmos, and Raul Julia, they were the pioneers who broke these rules and played different roles. I take on these roles that are different because they are different. They’re different worlds that I would never enter in real life. I would never assassinate somebody. Maybe I’d build a cake.
Speaking of Pedro, I read you chose to play that character instead of taking a smaller role in The Alamo. How do you think Pedro Sanchez would have fared fighting at the
(Laughs) I think we would have won the war. [As Pedro Sanchez] Hello. I’m going to blow you away or something.
Tuesday's event at SAC:
LET'S HAVE BODIES THERE!
6 pm at the San Antonio College RTF Hall, room 101, on Courtland Place off of Main Street. Free parking in lots 5, 7, and 9 on Courtland.
Or tune in online atsa4mayor.com and sacurrent.com, and text or emailing questions. Gilbert Garcia of the Current, and Patricio Espinoza of SA4Mayor will be moderating, and the meeting will be broadcast live on the net, and archived on both sites.
Ask the candidates about arts funding, the Parade Ordinance, digital billboards, economic development, public transportation, the citizen-input process, conflicts of interest -- anything that's on your mind that you haven't heard asked yet.
Laz Alonso – Fast and Furious
It’s no easy task when you’re going up against someone as physically intimidating as Vin Diesel in a movie. That’s where Cuban American actor Laz Alonso found himself when he was cast as car racing bad boy Fenix Rise in Fast and Furious, the fourth installment of the series.
During our interview, Alonso (second from left in photo), who has starred in such films as This Christmas, Stomp the Yard, and Jarhead, talked about his own car expertise and whether he receives more calls for African American or Latino roles.
You’re a pretty scary dude in Fast and Furious. Is there anything intimidating about you in real life?
I think everyone has that switch they can turn on and off when they need to, but I don’t try to live my life intimidating people. I try to use love not war. That’s not me.
But it still must be fun to play a bad guy on screen.
It was fun, especially playing opposite Vin Diesel. I remember when the first Fast and the Furious came out and the guys that went head to head with him. For me it was a challenge because when you see the guy up front he is very physically intimidating. He doesn’t have to do much to do a lot. He reminded me a lot of bouncers in
What do you think of a reunion like this – Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and the rest of the original cast? Why go back to this setup?
I thought it was really classic. They are the ones that built the franchise. They are the ones that made the franchise hot. To bring them all back for this, it’s almost like a part two as opposed to part of a series. They are the ones that make Fast and the Furious what it really is all about. They’re just as important to the movies as the cars in my opinion.
How knowledgeable are you under the hood of a car? Do you know what you are doing?
Yeah, I love working on vehicles. For me, what I primarily do is more cosmetic. At the same time, I used to do all the oil changes for my family. I was the only man in the house. I grew up with a house full of women so that was my job. Anything that had to do with changing tires, changing oil, tune-ups, I would do it. My uncle was a transmission mechanic. The more I wanted to learn about cars, the more he would kick me out of the garage because he didn’t want me falling in love with cars and end up a mechanic. He wanted me to go to school instead.
What kind of car do you drive?
A Chevy Tahoe. I like to sit up real high. I like to see over traffic. Especially in
You sound more like an offensive than defensive driver.
I’m totally offensive. A great defense is a good offense. If you can more or less read traffic, I think that’s what separates good drivers from mediocre drivers. If you can read what’s going on five cars ahead of you, you’re not going to be one of those people rear-ending other people.
You really change your physical appearance in Fast and Furious. Had you ever done that before for a role?
You know, had just finished Miracle at St. Anna and I gained 20 lbs. to play the old man in that movie. They were a little worried about me at first when I went to audition for Fast and Furious. When I was cast for the movie I was still clean-shaven and everything. But when I showed up on set, everyone just stopped and was like, “Whoa! Who the fuck are you?” I had come along physically. I worked with this trainer who made me hike up mountains, which I had never done before. I was on cardio twice a day and lifting heavy weight. Vin [Diesel] is just a lot bigger than me, so in order to look like I was a physical threat in the movie I had to at least look dangerous standing next to him. It was a lot of hard work.
Are you at the point in your career where you can pass on projects?
Yeah, I’m at the point where my work is being watched and scrutinized. At one point, I could do anything and no one would really care. Now, people are watching and writing articles about whether or not I had a good performance. I have to be careful that whatever I bite I can actually chew. I’m at that point where what I do can either define me or destroy me.
Can you tell me a bit about your ethnic background?
I’m Cuban by nationality. I’m the first American in my family. But you know in our Latin culture, we have black, whites, people of indigenous backgrounds. We are the entire rainbow of colors. So, I consider myself black-Cuban, which I am. At the end of the day I consider it different branches of the same tree.
Do you find more roles come your way for black characters or Latino characters and why do you think that is?
I still get more roles coming to me as a black character. I mean, look at me, I’m black. There’s no doubt about it. But in order for me to start getting more Latin roles, I have to start educating the marketplace about black Latinos. That’s a significant portion of
I know you’ve presented at the BET Awards a few times, so I guess next up is the
That’s right man. I’m still waiting for my invitation. Tell Edward James Olmos to hook me up.
I have to ask you about Avatar. What was your experience like working with James Cameron since this is his first feature film since Titanic?
Let me tell you something, working with James Cameron was amazing. It didn’t feel like we were doing a movie. It felt like we were inventing the lightbulb. That’s really the type of environment you’re in. He’s an innovator. It’s like being in the laboratory with Thomas Edison.
Welcome to SA. We always secretly wanted you the way you always secretly wanted us. Just as America rejoiced at the news that the special fat-burning-fat we had as babies does not entirely abandon us when we grow up, we celebrate evidence that it is possible to develop a sense of humor as a mid-life-crisis adult.
Good to have you (and just in time for Fiesta!). See you on a dinner barge soon, we hope. Frozen margaritas are on us.
the San Antonio Current
p.s. We added you to our CurBlog blogroll. You're welcome.
“Nobody Said Anything (Outside Totem)”
fiberglass and plastic planters (Made in China, India and USA), steel and wood
approximately 12 feet high x 3 feet diameter
I saw Jeffrey Gibson’s Sala Diaz show, “Totems,” on the same night as the Alameda opening of “Caras Vemos, Corazones no Sabemos” and “Phantom Sightings” which I wrote about here). “Totems” proved a thought-provoking counterpart to those shows, particularly “Phantom Sightings,” which expands the genre of Chicano art from the traditional themes and media into a futurist stratosphere.
Jeffrey Gibson has some things in common with the “Phantom Sightings” artists; he’s young, of color, and his multimedia work is informed by Postmodernism, Queer Theory, postcolonialism, post-consumerism; all those –isms that go rattling around the contemporary arts. And like many of the “Phantom Sightings” artists, he exemplifies a strong sexual hankering combined with a deep vein of humor.
Jeffrey Gibson is Native American; more specifically, he’s Mississippi Choctaw and Cherokee. Born in Colorado, Gibson studied sculpture with New Mexico artist Ernest Mirabal, earned a BA from the Art Institute of Chicago and went on to garner a Master of Arts degree from the Royal College of Art, London. He’s now based in Brooklyn. Gibson’s exhibited widely, from The Bronx Museum of the Arts, to the National Museum of the American Indian, to the Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo, Norway, and at the Hockney Gallery in London.
I’d be fascinated to see a collaboration or two-man show of Jeffrey Gibson and “Phantom Sightings” artist Jason Villegas. Villegas described, in the post-opening artists’ roundtable discussion at the Alameda, how while growing up in Houston, he felt he didn’t fit in anywhere; more Mexican than his white friends, more “white” in speech and interests than other Chicano kids, and with an acute awareness of his being gay, fashion-forward, and voraciously imaginative, an awareness and a set of preoccupations that he felt trumped the narrow confines of “traditional” Chicano art. In response to this perhaps-painful, but certainly-fruitful alienation, Villegas has developed an exuberant, liberated cosmology involving absurdist creatures from outer space cultures, a meta-narrative of limitless imagination and uninhibited sexuality that touches on fashion, body image, and the lawless and fantastic realms of desire.
On Jason Villegas’ website, you can see some of the creature models he’s crafted from fabric, Flickr pages devoted to past shows (2008’s “Cosmic Slut” is particularly funny, and gorgeous), and even his YouTube channel of multimedia performances.
In the roundtable, Villegas (who’s in his twenties, I think) spoke of being strongly apolitical, and of constructing this alternate universe to supplant the mundane one of here and now. I see some of the same impulse in Gibson’s work; there’s an another-galaxy feel to it. Here’s his Sala Diaz print, containing elements from each of the other artworks on view:
“Nobody Said Anything”
Digital Pigment Print
29 x 19 inches
These photographed sculptures exist in our dimension, and in fact sit in Sala Diaz as I type this (well, the spray-painted plastic totem pole sits outside, actually; drive by and see!). But in this print, Gibson playfully locates them in a dreamy meta-universe, a cast of characters in some personal mythology that’s at once unsettling, erotic, and, well, totemic. They’re everywhere and nowhere, haunting the subconscious while participating in the material world.
This construction of an alternate universe, though, this peering into the cosmic as a foil to current reality, has been undertaken before—which observation is not intended to dilute or undercut the originality of neither Villegas nor Gibson originality as artmakers; in terms of each man’s handling of his materials, sly storytelling, and sheer visual poetry, they’re both inimitable. But in Villegas’ and Gibson’s gleeful and longing-infused appropriation of the future as where they belong, they remind me of the Afro-Futurists, a strain of arts which includes the speculative fiction of Octavia Butler and Nalo Hopkinson, the music of Afrika Bambaataa, Sun Ra and Janelle Monáe, and the visual and performance arts of Rammellzee and, arguably, John Sayles’ film The Brother From Another Planet.
Here’s a good website with Afrofuturist resources, from bibliographies to manifestoes.
Anyway, back to Gibson’s “Totems.”
“This is Not a Plastic Bag” (installation view)
Found and purchased objects, steel, mannequin, plaster, oil and spray paint
approximately 8 feet tall x 7 feet x 3 feet
Jeffrey Gibson built his “Totem” sculptures out of materials found in San Antonio. Here
is his blog of that process. Who knew such figures were lurking in these ordinary, throwaway things? Gibson did, and set about bringing to eerie life these fantasy mannequins, meditations on the ideals and limitations of the body, and investigations into the human body on another plane, somehow. Post-gender, post-plausible. I got to talk to Gibson at the opening at Sala Diaz; he suggested, mischeviously, that these figures are fantasy sex partners, objects of desire. This is sex freed of all its common features; there are no genitals, no faces per se, so poses of easily-recognizable titillation, and yet there they are, oozing a sort of shamanic erotic menace.
This one, in its narrow-hipped scale and ambiguous power, reminds me of one of Prince’s stage costumes I once saw. I think it’s those teeny hips and butt:
“Mushroom Head” installation view
Found and purchased objects, steel, mannequin, human hair (from China), plaster, oil and spray paint
approximately 8 feet tall x 2.5 feet x 2.5 feet
I love that Gibson specifies that the human hair came from China.
Here’s a passage from Gibson’s artist statement from a 2006 show, “Off the Map: landscape in the Native Imagination” , which I think is illustrative in “Totems,” too:
“Utopia was important for me to envision and relates to my being Native American and having grown up solely in a Western consumer culture. My desire to act out the role of an explorer depicting an inviting landscape, via painting and specimen retrieval, was a reaction to Native tribes’ being consistently described as part of a nostalgic and romantic vision of pre-colonized Indian life. The aesthetic of these paintings and sculptures came from turn-of-the-century Iroquois whimsies, contemporary and historic powwow regalia, cultural adornment of non-Western cultures, techno rave and club culture, and earlier utopian models.”
In “Totems,” Gibson’s “inviting landscape” is centered on the body, his “specimen retrieval” took place in thrift shops and .99 stores, and his nostalgia is for some fantasy of a utopian future.
You can check it out by calling (210) 852-4492 before the 12th, and asking Hills Snyder to let you in.
Greg M. Schwartz
It was a bitterly disheartening evening for the Spur Nation last night, as fans watched their team slide across the spectrum from the best of times to the worst of times. When the Spurs jumped out to an early 19-point lead over the Portland Trailblazers, it looked as if the silver and black were getting their mojo back. Roger Mason was dropping threes, Tony Parker was taking the Blazers apart and visions of a strong playoff run seemed reasonable.
But the way the young Blazers stormed back to cut that lead to two by halftime put a damper on those visions. The second half even more so, as the Spurs wound up getting buried 95-83. When the Blazers opened up a seven-point fourth quarter lead behind the electrifying play of LaMarcus Aldridge and the sharp shooting of Brandon Roy and Tony Fernandez, Spurs fans were wondering how Tony Parker and Tim Duncan could both be allowed to sit on the bench during this critical stretch. But the painfully inconvenient truth became crystal clear shortly after Duncan and Parker were reinserted, when Duncan was removed again just thirty seconds later. Coach Gregg Popovich saw that Duncan’s ailing knees would prevent him from being effective after he failed to come close to grabbing a loose ball, and the future Hall of Famer was promptly removed.
You could feel the air sucking out of the AT&T Center and probably the Spurs’ season at that point. This was the type of loss that has a devastating impact on the collective psyche as fans are suddenly gripped with The Fear.
“Considered a contender just a week ago, the Spurs are now fighting just for homecourt advantage in the first round,” said the talking heads on ESPN after the game. Life can turn on a dime sometimes, and so too the fortunes of a professional basketball team. In some circles, sports fans refer to a game like this as the day the season ended. The angst is even more palpable for the Spur Nation today though, as Duncan’s knee problems could signal the end of the dynasty that brought four titles over the past ten years.
Some fans were quick to say they wished Manu Ginobli’s season-ending ankle injury had occurred sooner, so that the team could have tanked the season to get into the draft lottery. This was a ridiculous notion. Teams that still have the core of a championship roster do not tank games to try and get into the lottery, especially when they’ve held on to the two-seed in the conference for most of the season. Other fans are lamenting the fact that the Spurs didn’t seize an opportunity to trade for Vince Carter at the deadline, but such hindsight is 20/20 — who knew Ginobli would go down again for the season?
Most fans seemed resigned to the fact that this is probably it, though a few die-hards still hold out hope for a miracle. But unless that miracle comes in the form of a miraculous healing to Tim Duncan’s ailing knees, it looks like this playoff run will be a short one. The fact that there are no back-to-back games in the playoffs could help Duncan, but he seems to have reached a point where you never know what you’re going to get from him on a given night, which does not bode well. The mileage seems to finally be catching up to the Big Fundamental.
Almost any NBA team would be down and out if you subtract two of the team’s top three players, so there’s no shame involved, but certainly some bad luck to lament. Some fans call out Popovich for not playing certain players as much as they think he should, but the guy has won four titles — he hasn’t suddenly become a bad coach overnight. Even the greatest generals can’t win a war if they don’t have the troops, as the old maxim goes.
The Spurs are now tied for third place in the conference with Portland and Houston. But even holding on to that seed could prove perilous, as it would currently land a matchup with the sixth seeded New Orleans Hornets, a team the Spurs really do not want to see in the first round, after being pushed to seven games in their playoff series last year. But after last night’s debacle, it’s hard to figure which team would present a better matchup for the Spurs at this point.
Get out your prayer wheels/beads/candles or whatever you use to make contact with the higher power Spurs fans, because that miraculous healing to Duncan’s knees would seem to be the only thing that can save the Spurs now…
By Gilbert Garcia
Things have been quiet on the Girl in a Coma front since the March 22 arrest of band members Nina Diaz and Jenn Alva at the Houston club Chances. This afternoon, the band, via its publicists, released the following statement on the incident:
"As has been reported in the media, two of the members of the San Antonio-based band Girl In A Coma were involved in an altercation at a bar in the Montrose area of Houston on the evening of March 22nd, 2009.
"After being briefly detained and processed at a Harris County jail, singer/guitarist Nina Diaz and bassist Jennifer Alva were subsequently charged with felony assault on a public servant.
"While they are unable to comment on the specifics of the incident at this time, Nina and Jenn expect to be fully exonerated in due course as the full details of the matter come to light and ask for your patience as they deal with this legal matter.
"The girls would like to express their gratitude to all who have sent messages of concern and support. 'We are loving, positive individuals and are not ones to cause or wish harm to anyone. We have always had and continue to have the utmost respect for those men and women in law enforcement who honor their oaths to protect and to serve. Once the facts are fully aired, we are confident that we will be fully exonerated,' state Jenn Alva and Nina Diaz. This is their first encounter with the criminal justice system."
Artpace Travel Journal: 2008 Travel Grant Recipient Lecture
Join 2008 Travel Grant recipients for an evening of recollection. The artists give a short presentation on their experience, made possible by Artpace’s annual Travel Grant. A short information session on how to apply for the 2009 Travel Grant follows. Travel Grant recipients include Ricky Armendariz, Justin Boyd, and Julia Barbosa Landois, and Jessica Halonen.
In an effort to foster the growth and vision of an artist's career and
encourage an ongoing dialogue between local and international art
communities, Artpace San Antonio is pleased to announce a call for
Travel Grant applications through online submissions.
Please note that this Travel Grant opportunity is only available to those currently working and living in Bexar County . Applicants from other states/counties will not be considered. Full-time staff members and current students are not eligible to apply.
There may be more than one grant recipient per year; however, the total amount dispersed will not exceed $5,000. The award will assist an artist with travel related to his or her creative growth. Proposals may include research or project-specific travel to visit an exhibition, collection, institution, or geographic location.
To download the Travel Grant application, visit www.artpace.org beginning April 1, 2009. All applications will be accepted through www.artpace.org. FAX, e-mail, mail, or other delivery methods are not allowed. Deadline is Wednesday, April 29 at 5:00pm.
(Note: this is a pretty dry and informational CurBlog post, I know. I have a cold. I will do more interesting ones, starting tomorrow. BUT SERIOUSLY, ARTISTS, YOU SHOULD GO FOR THIS TRAVEL GRANT. --Fisch)
Pretend it's the future!
This Saturday the 4th, to be exact, in between 11 am and 5 pm.
Are you bored, art-likey (have gotten some positive feedback on this new term, so I intend to forge ahead with it), community minded AND HUNGRY!
Then you should totally be going to this thing like I am:
Chicken, beans, and supporting art resources, for a measly $6. You can't beat that with a stick.
Then, after a nap, go to this show, the flyer for which I blogged yesterday, also:
Holy shit! Do you see that up there? Tonight we're heading out to the Warhol to see Bisön, who are celebrating the release of their debut album, Sans Sensation. (Read more about the band here.) They also appear to've mastered Johnny Cage's Shadow Kick and modified it for the purpose of rocking out. Considering the band also has a song called "M." for M. Bison from Street Fighter, I'm going to be mildly disappointed if nobody onstage throws a fireball tonight. Locals Solid Gold Eagle are also on the bill. All ages admited; admission is $5.
Mario Lopez – Extra
By Kiko Martinez
Whether he will forever be remembered as A.C. Slater on Saved by the Bell, hunky Dr. Christian Ramirez on The Bold and the Beautiful, or the runner up in Season 3 of Dancing with the Stars, Mario Lopez can always say he’s tried everything at least once.
Currently, the San Diego-born actor co-hosts the entertainment news show Extra on NBC. Last year he made his Broadway debut in the revival of A Chorus Line. Lopez, 35, is also promoting Mud Tacos, a new book he and his sister Marisa wrote about their childhood experiences.
I read that you were recently given Cosmo’s Fun Fearless Award, which is described as an award for “bold career choices.” Do you consider what you’ve done in the last year or so on Broadway and with Extra “bold moves?”
Yes. I mean I’ve always wanted to just kind of be as diverse as possible and want to make bold choices, so whether it’s being on Broadway or hosting a show or acting on Nip/Tuck or writing a book, I’ve always wanted to just kind of do it all, have fun and be fearless. That was really nice that Cosmo gave me that honor. It was a great group of guys that I was lumped in with. I felt very privileged.
The way people want their news and information seems to be changing with the fall out of a lot of newspapers around the country. Do you think we’re going to see more news organizations go the way of shows like Extra and liven up their programs to get the public interested again in what’s going on in the world?
I don’t know if it’s ironic or not, but it seems like the tougher the times are and with the economic climate being what it is people want some sort of escapism. They turn to shows like ours to give them that, even if it helps them not think of their problems for a little bit. We try to provide a little entertainment and maybe they can focus on the celebrities’ problems. That always makes you feel better. It’s not [always] about problems. We showcase a lot of people doing great things. We want to have a lot of fun and entertain you. I also think because of the internet and blogging and what have you, the newspaper, unfortunately, is not as strong as it once was and is sort of dying out.
Other than the show itself, how does Extra reach out to the masses?
We try to combine a lot of stuff, as far as like creating our social network presence with ExtraTV.com and we’re big on our MySpace page, but even more than that right now, I’ve been doing a lot of Twittering. We’ve got a big Twitter deal going on. I personally got involved and I’m like Fred Flinstone. I’m not a very active guy with computers, but I’m having fun. I’m about to Twitter that I’m talking to you. I’ll Twitter that right now as I’m talking to you.
I know that celebrities are kind of their own brand. Whatever they star in gives the public a representation of the person they are. Have you ever turned down any work because you felt like it would hinder the Mario Lopez image?
Yes, all of the time. Stuff that’s just either kind of shady or racy or a little too provocative. That’s definitely not what I’m about, but maybe it’s not in good taste or I was questioning whether there was going to be good taste on either shows or events and what have you. I’m very aware of what I want to represent and who I am. I’m not at the point where I have to take everything just to survive. Nevertheless, even when I was at that point I still was very conscious of who I am and what I wanted to put out there as my brand, per se.
Tell us about your new book Mud Tacos.
Yes, my sister Marisa and I [wrote it]. It’s a children’s book. It’s going to be coming out hopefully by September. It’s focusing on a [bond between a] brother and sister. It’s in the Dora the Explorer-type of vein. Basically, when [my sister and I] were growing up, [both] my parents worked, so we were dropped off at my nana’s house. She took care of us and she didn’t let us play in the house. We always could smell when she was cooking and so we pretended like we were cooking outside. We had little games and we’d make little mud tacos. The tortillas were leaves and the mud was the meat and worms were the cheese. The flower petals were tomatoes. We basically want to…encourage kids to use their imagination.
Are you both bored, and art-likey?
You are in luck, reader! It's First Thursday.
Here are two whole things to do tonight which are arty and free!
I mean, in addition to this thing and these here things.
I. BLUE STAR: OPENING RECEPTION FOR DANVILLE CHADBOURNE, RETROSPECTIVE PART I: ARTIST'S COLLECTION 1980-1999
A career retrospective of paintings and sculpture spanning 29 years. Chadbourne focuses on the totemic, the iconic, and the primacy of the object, with a timeless feeling echoing tribal monumental preoccupations, using materials such as clay and bone and stone, weathered surfaces, nature-found colors and serious structure. Be sure to check out the titles.
See more info and images here
II. ED SAAVEDRA, "ALL BY MYSELF" CLOSING RECEPTION AT FL¡GHT
2 installation views of that painting show, which I saw on St. Patrick's day and absolutely loved. Ed's talent as a painter is to imbue every stroke with some mysterious good humor, in addition to being a beautifully exact technician. Painting that's at once accpmlished, and doesn't take itself too seriously. Check it the hell out!
That portrait of Harvey Milk is terrific.
So's that one of Ramsey Lewis as Ramses.
Oh, and here's a flyer for something happening Saturday, as a bonus;
THAT'S SATURDAY, MIND YOU, NOT TONIGHT. I really enjoyed the last graffiti-related show Wendi Kimura and Shek put together, so I'm looking forward to this.
See y'all out there.
(photo of "Self Image opening, by Troy Wise)
In the current Current issue, online and in print today, my story appears about “Self Image” at Stella Haus, the show by students in the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center’s MOSAIC after-school arts program for high schoolers. You can read the shorter version here.
As noted there, I got to go to the closing party for “Self Image,” a group exhibition of portraits (mostly self-portraits, though Michelle Moreno executed two graphite drawings of her mother and grandmother, as well), and talked to the student artists about their work. I left the party uplifted and inspired by their work and what they had to say— about the program, the process of artmaking, their instructors, their future plans, and each other.
As excited and encouraged as I was by the talent and enthusiasm of these artists, I was also moved by the dedication and commitment shown by the grownups involved with the show. Dayna De Hoyos opened her gallery to their art, and has taken on the smart, talented, and amazingly talkative Trevor Miranda as Stella Haus’s gallery intern for upcoming First Thursday and Friday openings!
Kim Bishop, the art and art history teacher at Brackenridge High, also deserves mucho respect from her community and her students for her involvement with MOSAIC and for her teaching; the students were grateful to her, many affectionately name-dropping her as an instructor and as an artist. Kim Bishop makes artmaking, art history, and the local contemporary art scene real and accessible to her student artists, every day.
And Alex Rubio, as many know, in addition to being an amazing painter, has spent years doing community arts organizing and mentoring young artists from San Anto— most famously, perhaps, Vincent Valdez, whose “El Chavez Ravine” show is up at SAMA (see Elaine Wolff’s review here), and who gave a brilliant lecture there last week. Alex Rubio (who, by the way, is immortalized several times in Valdez’s art) took 30 MOSAIC students to hear Valdez speak, and also to see the show and to meet Valdez. Several of the MOSAIC-istas talked to me about drawing deep inspiration from Valdez as an artist, and from Alex Rubio as an artist, as an instructor, and as a mentor.
Here are the words of Rubio and these students, along with images of them and their work.
“[These students] have all been part of my class since last September. They go to class every day, Monday through Saturday, so they’re very disciplined. We always talk about careers in art, creative jobs, and continuing their education. They’re reaching out to the community through their art as well. The first step [for the students to participate nin the contemporary art scene] is to attend First Friday events at Blue Star…now they’re actually part of the contemporary art scene, by exhibiting in Dayna De Hoyos’ gallery, Stella Haus. …I started [painting] when I was 14, I was part of the mural project at the Mirasol Housing Project…that started my career off. And Vincent Valdez started out as a teenager, doing murals, too. So I tell my students, you’re part of a city with a great tradition. I’ve been amazed by the level of talent and creativity in these students, and when you combine that with a high degree of discipline and dedication, you have an incredible art worker, in a city that fosters these young workers. I’m excited to see their futures.”
10th grade, Brackenridge
“At first I wasn’t interested in art. But after making this (tiled mosaic) piece—we did all this at Blue Star—I’m thinking of pursuing art after graduation. Of majoring in criminal justice and art. I’m influenced by the old artists, such as Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh. But art just came out of nowhere for me, and seeing my work on a gallery wall, I felt really proud of myself for doing something I didn’t think I could do.”
(A John F. Kennedy graduate, now a student at SAC)
“I was a fan of Alex Rubio and of Vincent Valdez as well, before I studied with them. I’m a fan of Roberta Buckles at SAC, too. I’m a classically trained clarinetist and with sheet music, I play what’s in front of me. With art, you’re free to do whatever you want. I’m a music major, but I can’t imagine my life without i[visual art], it’s a part of me now.”
11th grade, Brackenridge
“I’ve been doing art since I was ten, just drawing, doodling. I’m taking Art History with (Kim) Bishop, so I like Early Renaissance artists, like Donatello and Verocchio. Alex is really helpful, he’s amazing. Like Trevor, I’m interested to do graffiti and body art, though I’m still learning. I’m interested in studying at either the Rhode Island School of Design and the San Francisco Art Institute.”
12th grade, Brackenridge
“I grew up on the Eastside of San Antonio, there was no art around there when I was coming up. I’m always glad to tell that, because coming to Brack really switched my life around. I got into sports, and when I graduate, I wanna become an artist in any form. Any opportunity I come across, I try to take it. What can I do to help my community, and at the same time, do what I know how to do? I’m trying to be a voice for graffiti artists, and mix fine art with graffiti art.”
11th grade, Brackenridge
“Movies, books, music all help me make art. I love older vintage stuff, from the 70s and 8-s, like Pink Floyd and the Cranberries. I think I was born in the wrong time! I love thrift stores, too, and I’m interested in fashion design. I’d never done a color portrait of myself. I’m basically a shy person, and doing this self portrait in stronger colors helped me see myself in a new way.”
12th grade, Kennedy
“I like a lot of contemporary and Chicano art, especially Alex [Rubio] and Vincent [Valdez]. I’m inspired by music, too a lot of old punk, like Dead Kennedys. My favorite singer is Richie Valens, though, and Queen! Freddie Mercury. I have a tattoo of him. Ten years from now I see myself painting, tattooing, and teaching, probably high school.”
Here, by the way, is Richard’s Freddie Mercury tattoo:
along with an eyeball, and SATX’s area code.
BONUS INTERNET MATERIAL!
MEET THE VERY TALENTED MYRA QUIROZ!:
10th grade, Brackenridge
“That was my first drawing, and I’m happy, but I was nervous. It felt good to see my drawing on the wall, but weird, too. It’s my first time! I like art, but also music — I like reggaeton a lot, cumbias. I’m from Mexico, but I’m from San Antonio, now.”
Michelle with her color piece.
Michelle with self portrait and portraits of her mother and gandmother.
11th grade, Highlands
“My Mom says I always drew, since I was little. These are portraits of my grandma, my mom, and me. I was gonna do one of my great-grandmother, but I couldn’t find a picture. In my family, it’s the women who are the strongest. Alex makes me wanna get a scholarship so I can do art in college.”
Lauren with her tile mosaic piece
Lauren with her color pencil piece (taken from the same photograph)
11th grade, Brackenridge
“At first [my family] was surprised [I went into art], because my sister is an artist, and I thought I had no talent….I remember in 2nd grade, we had to draw an Indian, and after I did mine, everyone [said] ‘do mine! Do mine!’ The other kids’ were stick figures, but mine had a body, a costume, braids. I won a nationwide contest in 7th grade, a mestiza lady making maiz in a pueblo-type house. The prize was a trip to Mexico, I got to meet the President at that time…I took my grandma, since that’s her homeland, she’s from Coahuila. My next piece is a portrait of my Dad.”
11th grade, Brackenridge
(Lead Artist of upcoming First MOSAIC commissioned mosaic tile mural at San Juan Square Apartments on South Zarzamora St.)
“I want either of two things—to be an artist or a psychologist…a lot of teachers say I should go for art therapy. Color pencil was really difficult for me for a while, technically. I wanna try oils. My family’s happy, they’re like ‘it’s good you get paid for doing something you wanna do.’ Before [the MOSAIC program] I didn’t know much about contemporary art, I just knew I loved to draw.”
(Note: I don’t have any images for Michelle R.: Michelle, if you read this, I’m sorry! Also, please send me upcoming images of your San Juan Square Apartments commission, and of yourself, and I will feature the project in an upcoming post, Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
After an exhaustive search, the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio have hired a new musical director in Troy Peters, currently the music director of the Vermont Youth Orchestra and conductor of the Middlebury College Orchestra. Present YOSA musical director Marlon Chen is retiring at the end of the season.
Peters, who’s also won acclaim in popular music circles as an orchestral collaborator with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, will relocate to San Antonio in August. While moving from the Vermont Youth Orchestra to YOSA might appear to be a lateral move, Peters says San Antonio’s diversity and larger size are significant factors.
“The big thing that was on my mind is that San Antonio is a city with a real diverse, kind of vibrant scene, it seems to me. And as a musician, the fact that it’s also close to Austin is of interest to me. So between the two, I felt like there was a lot of musical opportunities,” said Peters by phone today. “I’m really interested in, not only opportunities in classical music, but also in the way that different styles of music relate to each other and it seemed like a place where there was some receptiveness to that.”
Peters says Vermont has been great, but that it’s a small population with an inherently smaller music scene that can't match South Texas.
“The level of skill and the number of student musicians is not as high as it seems to be in San Antonio, so I think there’s more potential, musically, for the program at YOSA to grow a lot,” said Peters. He noted that YOSA has a great administrative staff and a national reputation, with executive director Steve Payne being someone people from other youth orchestras turn to when they have questions about how to put together projects.
Peters says he grew up playing rock, jazz and classical without putting a lot of walls between the styles and that he thinks a lot of young musicians now have that same attitude.
“I think it’s about not focusing on what the distinctions are, but focusing on what are the shared elements? Some of the work I’ve done has been built around that idea, especially of course the work I did with Trey Anastasio, has been about how the skills and perspectives that somebody has in one style of music can transfer and be explored in another style of music,” said Peters.
Peters says he and Anastasio shared some friends in the same circles in Vermont and that one day he heard Anastasio had an interest in classical music, particularly Ravel and Stravinsky, whom Peters also had an affinity for. So Peters sent him a letter saying that if he ever wanted to think about writing for orchestra, there was a great local group he could work with.
“Literally, I mailed that letter, and he called me the next day,” said Peters of the beginning of collaborations that have included several youth orchestra projects and recordings with Anastasio’s solo band. Peters says the first piece they did was purely orchestra, by Anastasio’s choice, as the guitarist wanted to focus on writing for orchestra.
“He was the composer and I was kind of collaborating with him on how to arrange for orchestra, how to deal with the notation and the number of instruments involved,” said Peters. “But I’ve done some of that work where somebody gives you something really simple and you do all the work for them, but with Trey it was a real collaboration, where he sat down and would present something… and we would refer to, there’s this spot in Bernstein or Ravel or Stravinksy, where this happens, and I want to have a similar kind of orchestration. He had a real knowledge of how the orchestra works, and I was just the guy helping him to find the details to get that in front of the orchestra and have it make sense.”
Peters says the stylistic table for YOSA is wide open, but that in the long term he’s very interested in how students collaborating with different styles can help them to explore new musical frontiers.
“I certainly wouldn’t rule out some of the people I’ve worked with in the past potentially being people we’re reaching out to, and I’ll be interested in looking at… artists who are in the region and what kind of relationships might make sense,” said Peters.
Will Peters’ presence here perhaps lure Anastasio to town to deliver one of his orchestral performances, such as the one happening May 21 in Baltimore?
“I would say that’s a conversation I might be having,” said Peters. “There’s certainly no firm plans at this point, but I wouldn’t rule it out as a possibility.”