(August 21, 2013) - The Mary B. Martin School of the Arts (MBMSOTA) at East Tennessee State University will celebrate its fifth season – its wooden anniversary – this fall with a public art project by environmental artist ‘Stick Man’ Patrick Dougherty that will involve scores of students and local residents. This sculpture project is only one element of a season that includes four films, including one about Dougherty, three musical events, comedic theater, a culture-rich visual exhibition and an evening combining health and the arts.
“It’s remarkable to me that we are already at our fifth year of events,” program Director Anita DeAngelis says. “One of the fun things about our fall season is we are playing into the traditional fifth anniversary with the wooden theme. It was serendipitous that we happened to have an environmental artist coming to ETSU this year.”
While many of Mary B. Martin School’s events are free, a few activities each season are ticketed, and those events this fall kick off with a mix of musical styles and community collaborations. “The community interaction, interest and support have grown significantly and I anticipate we will see a lot more growth this year,” DeAngelis says. “The types of artists we have chosen are addressing some community needs and interests. We are now getting a lot of feedback from the community on what they would like to see and that is influencing our choices much more. Community partnerships have been an interest for us from the beginning – and this is growing.”
The first ticketed event of the fall will be offered as a result of a partnership between Mary B. Martin School and the Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts. The Blind Boys of Alabama will be in concert on Thursday, Sept. 26, at 7:30 p.m. in Toy F. Reid Eastman Employee Center in Kingsport. Formed in 1939, the ensemble has earned five Grammys and four Dove awards, been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and performed for three presidents. The New York Times praised the gospel legends’ “close harmonies” that “leap heavenward.”
The musical language will shift from vocal to instrumental on Friday, Oct. 4, when Turtle Island Quartet will bring a program of almost every genre of music, including new age, rock, hip-hop, be-bop, swing, bluegrass and rhythm and blues. Calling itself a “string quartet for the next century,” Turtle Island has impressed even cellist Yo-Yo Ma for “some of the most creative music-making today.” The TIQ performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. in ETSU’s Martha Street Culp Auditorium and will be only one facet of the group’s visit, which will also include master classes with the Academy of Strings and local school music programs.
Then on Sunday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. Mountain Stage with Larry Groce will present an array of diverse bands live from ETSU’s Culp Auditorium to be broadcast on National Public Radio at a later date. Singer-songwriters Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott will headline the show, co-sponsored by the Birthplace of Country Music in Bristol, with additional performances by Sarah Jarosz, Old Man Luedecke, The Deadly Gentlemen and the ETSU Old Time Pride Band. “The reason they wanted to come to Johnson City this year is that this is the 85th anniversary of the Johnson City recording sessions, so there are some other activities, receptions, lectures and an event at the Down Home the night before. If you’ve never seen a Mountain Stage show, they’re a lot of fun. You’ll see a lot of artists all at once.”
Mary B. Martin School has more fun in store during Homecoming, with comedian Robert Post’s Post Comedy Theatre, Saturday, Nov. 2, at 7:30 p.m. in ETSU’s Bud Frank Theatre in Gilbreath Hall. Post’s physical comedy show is family friendly, DeAngelis notes.
Also in November, the final ticketed event of fall will feature Elizabeth Ellis, telling stories of heroic American and Appalachian women on Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 7:30 p.m. in Brown Hall Auditorium. Ellis has been called “one of America’s finest storytellers” by the School Library Journal and will be recounting more edgy stories for this performance, DeAngelis says.
Highlighting the free Mary B. Martin School events are a three-week residency in November by Dougherty, a film in September previewing the outdoor art project and a lecture in November by the artist. On Monday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. in Culp Auditorium, MBMSOTA will screen Bending Sticks: the Sculpture of Patrick Dougherty, a new documentary on the environmental artist’s vision, process and work. A regional panel will afterward discuss public art, DeAngelis says.
Starting the first week of November, Dougherty will spearhead the creation of a temporary sculpture of woven saplings designed especially for the grounds of ETSU and using volunteers from the campus and the wider community. ETSU’s Sustainability program, art classes and science disciplines will be participating, DeAngelis explains. “One of the great things is that Dougherty really engages the community with all the volunteers needed. The project really is public.”
Then on Monday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. in Culp Auditorium, the artist will discuss his “stickwork,” as he calls it, that has taken him to college and university campuses, botanical gardens, museums, businesses and private homes worldwide, in locales as distant as Australia, Serbia and Scotland and as proximate as Nashville, Richmond and Chapel Hill, N.C., his home. A reception will follow the lecture.
A second art endeavor will dovetail with the ETSU stickwork as “The Endangered Alphabets Project” by artist Tim Brookes and exhibited in Slocumb Galleries on Monday, Oct. 28-Friday, Nov. 1, with a reception in the galleries at 5 p.m. on Nov. 28 and a lecture by Brookes at 6 p.m. in Ball Hall Auditorium. The exhibition illustrates “the issue of disappearing languages and the global loss of cultural diversity,” the project website says. A community activity with Brookes is also planned at the Johnson City Public Library.
Mary B. Martin School of the Arts will also collaborate on the third annual Evening of Health, Wellness and the Arts with the College of Public Health and the Public Health Student Association. Former HBO executive John Hoffman – best known for his documentaries The Weight of the Nation, The Alzheimer’s Project, AIDS: changing the rules and the HBO series Addiction – will present a lecture on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. in Culp Auditorium.
Another partnership being renewed in fall 2013 is with the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers. All films are free of charge and start at 7 p.m. in Culp Auditorium with talkback with the filmmaker and reception to follow.
The three fall films in the six-part series begin Monday, Sept. 9, with How to Make Films at Home, about a group of young filmmakers facing off with the Hollywood machine. On Monday, Oct. 21, close to Halloween, the School of the Arts will screen Birth of the Living Dead, a new documentary depicting how college-dropout George Romero gathered an unlikely team to shoot his seminal film and create an entirely new and horribly chilling monster – one that was undead and feasted upon human flesh. Then on Monday, Nov. 11, GMO OMG, through the lives of one family, will explore the effects of genetic modification of foods by agrochemical companies such as Monsanto and Dow and the global movement to reclaim seed purity and protect biodiversity. “Following on the heels of Eating Alabama last year, I’m really hoping we’ll have a good audience and some good conversation,” DeAngelis says. “It’s pretty thought-provoking.”
For information about the ETSU Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, call 423-439-TKTS (8587) or visit www.etsu.edu/martin. “Like” ETSU Mary B. Martin School of the Arts on Facebook and follow it on Twitter at TheArtsAtETSU.