Yearly Archives: 2009

Hunting the American Experience

{Opening Day 1938, 2009, Mixed media, oil on canvas, by Donnie Molls}

Donnie Molls has a series of paintings based on hunting photos currently on display at Carl Berg in LA. I caught the opening of this and despite the overly crowded room, I found these quite captivating.

Culled from his family’s photo collection, they reflect his upbringing and say something about us, the animals we choose to hunt and the role images play in constructing our personal and collective history.

Here’s a bit from the gallery website:

By choosing not to contemporize the image and reinterpret them with current social and moral values he creates works that force the viewer to acknowledge a shared human history of man’s relationship to nature. 

{Fred’s Elk, 2009, Mixed media, oil on canvas, by Donnie Molls}

Also worth checking out if you head to Carl Berg are the time-lapse photos of John Mullin.

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Repent! Repent!

{An installation view of Moniqe Prieto at ACME, Los Angeles, 2009}

Moniqe Prieto’s show A Boatfull of Spaniards Sing opened this past Saturday at ACME in Los Angeles. I thought it was a great show, especially the Repent! Repent! diptych in the above image.

For the past few years, I’ve looked at and thought about Prieto’s wonky block-letter paintings. Maybe I just enjoy reading some words in paintings, but the colors, words and oblique imagery do it for me. So I was surprised in talking with a few friends making the gallery rounds that night who said they aren’t into it. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree—I’m a fan.

Oh and if you do go, don’t miss the canvas/acrylic rock (or is it an iceberg?) by Lisa Williamson in the sort-of project room at ACME.

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Carthage College Aims for Green with New Performing Arts Center

Excerpted from Lighting & Sound America Online, November 13, 2007:

HGA Architects and Engineers has completed schematic designs for a new environmentally-friendly performing arts center for Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The subject of theatre arts is central to Carthage’s liberal arts curriculum. In recent years, growth in theatre, theatre production, musical theatre, and technical theatre classes has increased the need for updated and expanded theatreand theatre-support spaces at the college.


The 62,000-sq.-ft. complex will include two performance spaces. An intimate 400-seat proscenium theatre will include a full fly loft, orchestra pit, and trap space. This theatre will support all the theatre department’s drama, theatre dance, and musical productions. The expanded capabilities also will improve the quality of visiting productions. These will include professional touring groups, guest speakers and simulcasts events.

Complementing the main theatre, a 150-seat black-box space will provide students with flexible space for experimental work. Technical theatre training will be accomplished in separate shops for set design and production, custom design and construction, make-up art, and lighting design.

All of these spaces are open to the main circulation “spine,” giving the casual passersby a view into the artistry of theatre production. A third-level rehearsal hall is sized for blocking out a main stage production. With a view of Lake Michigan, the rehearsal hall will double as a campus-wide special events space. Front-of-house spaces will provide the audience, students and visitors a welcome lobby, reception area, box office, and concession area.

Located on a pivotal site, the Performing Arts Center will become a gateway at the main campus entry. The selected site is covered with mature oak trees and slopes down toward the Pike River nature preserve. Reinforcing both Carthage College and HGA’s commitment to the environment, no trees will be removed. The building is being designed as a truly green theatre, with sustainable materials, high-efficiency mechanicalsystems, and alternative energy sources.

The project is scheduled to open for the 2011 academic year.



Go to the Green Theater Initiative

Green is the New Peach: Atlanta’s Theatrical Outfit

The green economy is ready for take-off, and most Americans are jumping aboard Obama’s sustainable bandwagon. Will theaters join in the movement?  Imagine that you’re a non-profit arts organization competing for funding in a sector where financial resources are quickly dwindling. And that you’re based in a major American city plagued by drought and situated within a community that has just begun to realize its role in our growing environmental movement.

When Theatrical Outfit in Atlanta, GA embarked on a search for a new home in 2003, the company settled on the building right next door.  Its new facility was formerly one of Atlanta’s most cherished restaurants, Herren’s. Theatrical Outfit’s use of the space is inherently green, in that it utilizes an existing space for the new building; but the restaurant-turned-theatre also carries rich historical and social meaning.  Herren’s was the first restaurant in Atlanta to voluntarily desegregate, and in fact, the first African-American couple to dine at Herren’s are now Theatrical Outfit subscribers. The building’s rich history matches Theatrical Outfit’s mission to present work indigenous to the culture of the American South. I can’t think of a better setting to tell stories of Atlanta’s past, present, and future than in a space that was once a leader in progressive social interaction among Atlanta’s important cultural groups.

Once Theatrical Outfit decided upon their new space at Herren’s, they were approached by a local donor who had been funding various green building projects throughout Atlanta. Theatrical Outfit voiced their commitment to explore green building to the anonymous funder, who was donating through the Kendeda Fund. Along with the anonymous donor’s $1 million dollar pledge, a gift of $1.4 million from two board members enabled the company to purchase the old restaurant. A three-year capital campaign raised the additional funds toward the $5 million required to build green. When the Balzar Theatre at Herren’s opened in December 2004 it was America’s first LEED-certified theatre. The building has earned a LEED Silver rating and the company’s management staff was able to keep their promise to the anonymous donor.

Locally supplied materials and recycled content constitute approximately 33% of the total material cost of the building. Additionally, all adhesives, sealants, paints, coating and carpets emit low or no volatile organic compounds. For example, the building’s carpeting was made from recycled glass. More than 75% of the demolition and construction waste, by weight, was diverted from the landfill.

The theatre utilizes a HVAC system that provides clean (and quiet) air to the facility by measuring the amount of carbon dioxide expelled by the audience, bringing in more fresh air as required, so the audience does not become oxygen-deprived and stays comfortable. Patrons using Theatrical Outfit’s restroom facilities will find light sensors, low-flow toilets and waterless urinals (with signage educating patrons about the purpose of the devices). Rainwater collected on the roof in a 7500-gallon tank is used in place of fresh water for toilet and sewage systems.

When purchasing concessions, patrons do not receive a plastic bottle or aluminum can. Instead, Theatrical Outfit serves soft drinks out of 2-liter bottles which are then recycled when empty. The City of Atlanta doesn’t pick up materials for recycling, so the company has developed an on-site recycling center where items are separated and transported to a local recycling conversion center. Additionally, patrons are encouraged to recycle their programs at the end of each performance.

Located in between two nearby public rail stations and with two county bus systems dropping off patrons directly in front of the facility, Theatrical Outfit was able to thrive in a time when rising fuel prices kept many Atlanta citizens from attending cultural programming. With a staggering person-to-car ratio, many in metropolitan Atlanta still view the act of driving into the city as part of the greater theatrical experience. The staff at Theatrical Outfit is exploring ways to increase patrons’ use of public transit, especially with the nearby downtown revitalization that enables safe, convenient mass transit options. Staff at the Balzar are already working toward reducing their own car travel, thanks to bicycle storage and shower and changing facilities for bicycle commuters.

The management team has further helped their employees reduce car transit by instituting a monthly “Green Day”, when staff are encouraged to work from home and save the round trip drive into downtown Atlanta. The Green Days are planned around holidays and breaks in the organization’s programming. On each Green Day, the building’s heating and cooling are turned off to further increase energy savings. The organization’s Green Days have been a cost-saving hit with management and staff. When they are working on-site, the administrative office space is built with massive windows to utilize daylight, with personal lighting at work stations to decrease energy normally utilized for overhead lighting.

Theatrical Outfit’s artists have commented on the positive benefits of working in a green theatre. For example, skylights in the company’s rehearsal hall, which help save on energy costs, provide actors a much-needed connection to the natural world outside. Accounting for efficient lighting when building the new space has led to a 25% reduction in energy use compared to comparable structures.

Building green enabled the marketing team to pursue additional public relations opportunities beyond the simple arts feature stories and production reviews. The increased exposure the theatre has received from local newspapers, national arts organizations, green building websites, and curious eco-artists has helped quadruple their subscriber base in a period of only three years. Thanks to local colleges and universities, as well as a successful $10 student ticket program, the company is seeing its audience trend younger each season. With a majority of young Americans identifying themselves with green living, arts organizations who present works in green spaces may beat out the competition. With 118 theatre companies in Atlanta, any edge (green or otherwise) is crucial. 

The majority of Theatrical Outfit’s programming deals with issues of civil and social rights. While the company doesn’t necessarily seek out plays and musicals that explore green living, they certainly look for opportunities to educate patrons about local ecological issues. During the company’s fall production of “Big River”, the company provided information about Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, a local non-profit dedicated to preserving the most heavily used water resource in Georgia. Theatrical Outfit is a shining example of a forward-thinking theatre positioned ahead of the curve to ride out this current wave of fiscal and ecological uncertainty.


“Green News” at Theatrical Outfit’s website’s overview of the Balzer Theater

The Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Building Technologies Program overview of the Balzer

“Visions of vibrancy come to life downtown” in the Atlanta Business Chronicle


Go to the Green Theater Initiative

ETC Gives the Green Light

From the ETC website, 11/21/08:

ETC (Electronic Theatre Controls, Inc.) has not only led the entertainment- and architectural-lighting industry in technical innovation but is leading in green practices as well.

The company’s environmental policy is ‘committed to fostering a healthy, safe and sustainable global environment.’ ETC meets and exceeds compliance with the European Union’s WEEE (Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment) directive — practicing proper recycling of all products, including the disposal of electrical equipment. Within the ETC factory, reusable containers are used instead of disposable ones that produce further waste. ETC also adheres to the European Union environmental-safety directive RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances), which regulates chemicals used in electrical and electronic equipment.

On a product level, ETC strives to develop greener, more energy-conscious lighting solutions. The new ETC architectural line, the Unison® Paradigm™ lighting control system, was engineered to regulate energy: detecting occupancy in rooms and automatically lowering light levels in vacant spaces, operating on a programmable timed-event schedule, and through ‘daylight harvesting’ — a light-detection capability that lowers electric lighting levels in response to incoming natural light.

ETC’s Source Four® fixtures are known globally for their high energy-efficiency. The Source Four spotlight has become the most efficient tungsten fixture for entertainment lighting — given its patented high-performance lamp (HPL) and dichroic ellipsoidal technology. ETC’s 575-watt Source Four fixtures shine as brightly as competitors’ 1000-watt fixtures — using 40% less energy. ETC also produces a full range of Source Four HID fixtures with high-intensity-discharge lamps that last up to 10,000 hours longer than other lamps, while maintaining over 90% efficiency.

ETC’s products and systems are helping customers and their buildings achieve the distinguished Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating. The largest LEED building, the silver-certified new Palazzo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, is equipped with ETC’s Unison system as well as over 100 Source Four fixtures. The Grand Rapids Art Museum, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the first art museum to achieve Gold LEED certification, also benefits from green-minded Unison control.

ETC has gone greener on the homefront too: the recent 78,000-square-foot addition at ETC’s Wisconsin headquarters was designed with minimal environmental impact in mind.  ETC’s Unison Paradigm system is used throughout the headquarters to maximize energy efficiencies. In the new construction, thick, heavy-duty metal panels were chosen to reduce excess material consumption. Software connected to the factory’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system was deployed to regulate energy use during peak hours to minimize overall energy consumption. ETC also installed a receiving dock equipped with an air lock to prevent temperature-regulated air loss. Doors, windows, and even asphalt materials were recycled during the construction process. The new addition uses electricity-frugal fluorescent lighting and contains eight huge skylights for optimal natural lighting — reducing need for electric light.

ETC’s property too is greener than ever, recently re-landscaped with almost 170 newly planted trees that will surround the headquarters with a canopy of natural dimming. In addition to tree planting, ETC is reducing future paper waste internally. The company has started a huge effort toward a ‘paperless office,’ in which all paper records will be transferred into electronically-archived copies. The project will take over a year to complete and will convert over three million pages of data into electronic format. All existing paper will be recycled.

Even ETC’s 2009 product catalog too is eco-friendly. The new cover is made from 100% recovered cotton, from textile-factory waste, and the catalog’s pages are made of FSC-certified paper — 30% recycled fiber and chlorine-free pulp from timber-managed forests.

Other links:

ETC products help Las Vegas’ Palazzo achieve LEED status

ETC to expand Middleton factory


Go to the Green Theater Initiative

ProTech Announces GreenScene

Reprinted from Lighting & Sound America Online, October 2, 2008:

Protech Theatrical Services Las Vegas announces its plans to re-direct its product lines to manufacture “green” products. “We will be making every effort to use recycled, organic, and natural materials and methods to create a new line of products that will be made of raw and recycled materials that will reduce our carbon footprint and make a difference to our planet,” said Will Brants, president of Protech and now GreenScene. “It has been too long that we have taken part in the wasteful use of our planet’s precious resources,” he added.

Revealing his first new GreenScene products at LDI in Las Vegas, Brants reports that virtually all stage equipment is manufactured from steel, castings, aluminum, plastics, and nylon, a high percentage of which are recyclable. Protech’s challenge was to implement a higher percentage of recycled raw materials that could be manufactured and performance-tested to conform to stringent industry standards. Brants and his R & D team worked for the last 16 months to find new manufacturing methods and new sources and expertise.

Brants took his mission to his own manufacturing plant in North Las Vegas, which reduced their landfill output by 90%, by placing recycling bins on site and training employees. The plant also switched to all recycled paper products, energy-efficient lighting, and more efficient air conditioning.

One challenge faced was to find recycled materials that were certifiable, at a reasonable cost. “I even contacted DuPont and, to my surprise, they responded to me and were very cooperative and willing to support my efforts to find sources for recycled nylon right here in my own country,” Brant says, adding that he is issuing a challenge to the industry: “What are you doing for your planet?” He calls for an open forum to solicit ideas from anyone who knows of new sources for raw and recycled materials and new technology to continue to reduce our collective carbon footprint.





Go to the Green Theater Initiative

Staging Concepts Goes Green

Reprinted from Lighting & Sound America, October 3, 2008:

Staging Concepts, the maker of stage risers and modular staging pieces, reports that it has begun offering products that can be built using eco-friendly materials. The benefits of the materials range from wood certified by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) to steel with a recycled content value as high as 100%. These products can contribute towards satisfying several LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credits.

In addition, Staging Concepts, Inc. has become a member of the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council). The USGBC is a 501(c)(3) non profit composed of leaders from every sector of the building industry working to promote buildings and communities that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy place to live and work.




Go to the Green Theater Initiative

Class war

In the hospitality room last night before the Chico Mendes Legacy event. Matthew Taylor buttonholed guest speaker Charlie Kronick about the new Greenpeace Heathrow strategy. Kronick is Director of Climate Strategy for the organisation.

“Yes, today I’ve just become a beneficial landowner,” Kronick announced, offering to sell on a chunk of his newly acquired Heathrow plot.  It’s a strategy to try and at least delay the bulldozers, giving a little more breathing space to build on the growing public disquiet about the way the whole planning process has itself been bulldozered through.

Matthew Taylor told Kronick  his was a much more effective protest than the Heathrow disruption by Climate Rush the night before, or the even more disruptive Plane Stupid protest earlier this month at Stansted which some believe is bound to alienate everyone who is delayed, particularly the hard pressed holidaymakers who’d saved all year for their break. Kronick disagreed, as you’d expect.

After Kingsnorth and Stanstead the debate about what the most effective way to galvanise public action is taking shape – although it’s not a very pretty shape. Very typically, Brendan O’Neill of Spiked picked furiously at this scab last week by accusing the airport protestors of  “class hatred”.

These posh activisits, descended from baronets, lords, inventors and
aristocrats, are keeping up a long tradition in which ‘mass
tourism’ has attracted the ‘class-contempt of killjoys who conceived
themselves superior by reason of intellect, education, curiosity and
spirit’. What we saw at Stansted yesterday was not remotely
radical or edgy – it was unabashed, undiluted, unattractive class

Class war! Suddenly it’s not just the economy which is making us feel like we’re back in the 1930s. Rising to the bait a little too eagerly, George Monbiot ripped into O’Neill yesterday in a column This is indeed a class war in The Guardian, possibly giving O’Neill precisely the kind of response he was after:

At the core of the campaign against a third Heathrow runway are the
blue-collar workers and working-class mums of the village of Sipson,
whose homes are due to be flattened so that the rich can fly more. If
wealthy people don’t like living under a flight path, they can move;
the poor just have to lump it. Through climate breakdown, the richest
people on earth trash the lives of the poorest.

Yes, this is a
class war; and Brendan O’Neill and his fellow travellers have sided
with the toffs. These Marxist proletarian firebrands are defending the
class they profess to hate. Bosses of the world unite, you have nothing
to lose but your planes.

So there you have, both eco-campaigner and eco-cynic eagerly rolling up sleeves and claiming to be on the side of the proletariat.

It would be a little too pat to say that both could probably take a tip from Chico Mendes, who really did have the workers on his side.

Photo: Elenira Mendes talking at the Chico Mendes Legacy last night.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology Blog

Elenira Mendes: it’s not just about trees

Tonight we’re hosting the Chico Mendes Legacy discussion at the RSA. Before he was murdered, Chico told Elenira that if he were killed, she was to take on his work. Which is quite a burden to carry, because as a girl, she witnessed her father’s death at the hands of thugs hired by local landowners. But she did go on to found the Instituto Chico Mendes to keep her father’s ideas alive, and she’ll be here tonight to talk about her father’s legacy.

I interviewed her last week for the main RSA Arts & Ecology website. The great thing about Chico Mendes’ work is that it wasn’t principally about saving the rainforest at all. It was about creating a decent existence for the forest dwellers of the Amazon, the rubber tappers like Mendes and his family, who were being pushed off their land by agribusiness, and murdered if they objected.  It was about people. Mendes was visionary enough to know that preserving the rainforest was crucial to preserve the local economy. 

One of the reasons why most people don’t give two hoots about environmentalism is that a lot of people in the environmental movment don’t get this. They see people as the problem, not the solution. It’s one of the reasons why so little environmentalism has much traction. Yet.

Elenira Mendes made a point along these lines.

 Unfortunately not
all who defend the environment today are focussed on these populations
[the forest dwellers].
There is much talk about saving the forest, but people forget that
there is human life in it. There are communities and human populations
living in the forest that need support, need better living conditions.
Environmental organizations need to remember it is not a big only a big
forest with many trees and animals. It is populated. It has traditional
populations, such as indigenous people, those who live and work on the
river banks, and the rubber tappers and small producers that need
support, incentives and investment. If we create the conditions for
these populations to continue in there areas, automatically, the forest
will be preserved. 

Read more here.

(For that matter, enviroment doesn’t just mean the rainforest either.)

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology Blog