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HomeNewsArchivesSCENE & HERD - JAN. 26, 2000

SCENE & HERD – JAN. 26, 2000

SCENE & HERD – JAN. 26, 2000
Jean Etsinger
Forget Soul Fest 2000: It appears that Cause Effective Arts Program presenters Steven Bornn and Bill Grogan will have Memorial Day 2000 all to themselves for their planned World Jam. Word came Wednesday from Sinbad via his web site that there will be no Soul Music Festival VI on St. Thomas — or anywhere else.
"The massive amount of support (sponsors, television exposure, etc.) that is needed to make this event possible is not available this year," Sinbad said in a "Dear Familee" letter. "Now, that does not mean there will be no more soul festivals; it just means there will not be one this year." For the faithful funk fans who've followed him to St. Martin, Jamaica, Aruba (twice) and St. Thomas for any or all of the first five fests, he added that he's "working on finding some other cool music festival somewhere that we all can go to."
Okay, Steve, get on the e-mail. Tell 'em about the World Jam. Magens Bay beach can accommodate 7,000 people for a day (or more) of music. It happened back in 1987 at the finale of the Premier Virgin Islands Jazz Festival, and last January's Beach Jam turnout wasn't too shabby, either. Those were locals, but a few thousand coming in from the mainland — as was the case for last year's Soul Fest — won't take up any more room. Except in the hotels and at the restaurants and in the taxis. Of course, CEAP is looking at the same obstacles as Sinbad's organization — the need for a lot more corporate sponsorship to underwrite costs if it's gonna happen.
Sinbad also said efforts are under way to get last year's festival — that would be the one at Lionel Roberts Stadium, folks — aired again on national television during Black History Month, but "not Pay-per-View." It they're successful, there's a million bucks more of free promotion for the American Paradise. And we've still got most of the stadium sod.
Soon to be seen:After some major 11th-hour restructuring, the schedule and the format appear to be almost firmed up now for the premiere Virgin Islands International Film and Video Festival at the Reichhold Center for the Arts. The week-long event is to open on Sunday, Feb. 6, and run through Saturday, Feb. 12.
According to the most recent schedule, which is still described as "tentative," the line-up looks like this, with the programs beginning at 7 p.m. most evenings:
Sunday, Feb. 6 — address by David Edgecombe, Reichhold director and founding force behind the festival; gala opening festivities; showing of the video feature "Natural Forces" by Eric Zucker.
Monday, Feb. 7– comments by Jamaican comic Oliver Samuels; world premiere screening of the feature film "Oliver & Pinocchio," produced by Samuel, who twice brought live versions of this Caribbean-spiced fairy tale to the Reichhold stage; viewing of the video documentary "Who's Gonna Take the Weight" by Alonzo Rico Speight.
Tuesday, Feb. 8 — comments by filmmakers Yvette Smalls and Edward LaBorde Jr.; showing of five video shorts, "Hair Stories" by Miyoshi Smith and Yvette Smalls, "Crystal" by Thomas Dreijer, "She Smokes" by Christa Collins, "Gumbo" by Edward LaBorde Jr., and "Street Choice" by George Cox.
Wednesday, Feb. 9 — comments by writer/director Charles Koppelman; screening of the feature films "Dunbarton Bridge," directed by Koppelman, and "Fawns," by Still Bros. Pictures.
Thursday, Feb. 10 — comments by Black Filmmaker Hall of Fame publicist Dorothy Karvi; showing of the video documentaries "Ninth Street" by Rick Cowen and "The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun" by Djibril Djop Mambety.
Friday, Feb. 11 — comments by producer/director Lilibet Foster; screening of two film documentaries by Foster, "Soul in the Hole" and "Speaking in Strings."
Saturday, Feb. 12 — comments by writer/director Jon Gold; screening of the feature film "A Day in Black & White" by Gold and Desmond Hall; festival finale party.
The Reichhold web site includes a festival call for entries, with a deadline of last Dec. 31 for submitting them. It outlines judging categories — best feature-length film, film documentary, short film, video feature, video short, video documentary and experimental/animation film or video. A schedule circulated earlier this month identified the films and videos to be shown as "best" or "honorable mention" entries. However, as of now, "the festival is no longer a contest," Reichhold box office manager Pamela Toussaint said, and all such designations have been deleted.
The center is without the services of a key player in the development of the film fest, technical director Tony Caparelli, who departed last week for a job in San Francisco. Caparelli had also assumed many of the duties of former production and grants coordinator Renee Heider, after she left to take a position in Oakland, Calif., last June.
The festival was designed "to promote films and videos which foster better understanding among different peoples and cultures" and "to give audiences an opportunity to experience the best in cinema over as wide a range of themes and styles as possible," a publicity statement says. The focus will be on exhibiting "new, undiscovered filmmakers alongside more established directors and producers," it further states, showcasing works "that have their origins in Africa, the Americas or the Caribbean."
Tickets for individual nights are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. Tentative information on pre-purchase packages had them discounted to $35 for five nights and $45 for all seven. For more information, call the Reichhold box office at 693-1559.
Steel and stained glass: Mango Tango is hosting an opening reception on Sunday, Jan. 30, for one of the "biggest" shows ever held at the Raphune Hill gallery. The featured artists are Joel Amstell, who creates sculptures from industrial steel remnants, and Lenyse and H.R. Shomo, who craft hanging and free-standing works of art with stained glass, mirrors, shells and wood.
The Miami-based Amstell will be showing nine sculptures, most of them 4 to 5 feet in height. He works with an arc welder, a chop-saw and a grinder to transform his junkyard findings into art objects. His procedure is to choose cast-off pieces in junkyards first, then, sometimes over a period of weeks, decide what to do with them, "arranging and rearranging the forms until I achieve a harmony of the pieces." His pieces "communicate a powerful presence," gallery owner Jane Coombes says.
St. Thomas artists Shomo, as he is known, and Lenyse Shomo collaborate on many endeavors. Self-taught, they are recognized masters of stained-glass sculpture. The Ingersoll Rand Corp. commissioned them to create a series of glass boxes representing excellence in American design and craftsmanship to be presented to Chinese officials. They have created hanging panels up to 4 feet square.
Amstell's pieces "deliver the raw edge of metal," Coombes says, "while the Shomos' works convey the magic of color and light."
The reception is from 2 to 6 p.m. It's open to the public without charge. To learn more, call 777-3060.

Artwork in Mind: The Frames of Mind Gallery in Cruz Bay has a new show of multimedia works by Frances Rutnik opening Friday with a reception from 5:30 to 8 p.m.
This will be the first solo showing on St. John in 20 years for Rutnik, who lives on St. Thomas and teaches art at the Eudora Kean High School. She'll be showing acrylic and gouache paintings, monotypes, collages and other mixed-media works, as well as recent prints and stone coasters.
The show will hang for two weeks in the gallery, located in the St. John Lumberyard complex. After Friday's reception, the work will be a
vailable for viewing during regular gallery hours — Tuesday througn Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to noon.
Out of Cuba: It's been 40 years since a local gallery has been able to promote an exhibition of artwork by Cuban artists still living and working in Cuba. Such a show is about to be held on St. Thomas, at the Tillett Art Gallery.
The works to be displayed will consist of paintings by five "leading artists emerging in modern Cuba" who have all shown in exhibitions in Latin America and Europe, as well as in major shows in Cuba itself. Gallery owner Rhoda Tillett describes the artists: Jose Montebravo, a self-taught painter who interprets spiritist orisha figures in portrait form with a style similar to that of Velasquez; Jose Fuster, a leading painter and ceramist who recently had a major show in Chile and whose works convey intimations of Picasso; Pablo Hernandez, whose contemporary style depicts social, historical and political themes; Jose Sinfiel, who paints in a naif style with a surrealistic approach; and Santiago, about whom no information was immediately available.
Tillett wants to make it clear that this artwork was acquired and is being offered for sale with the blessings of the U.S. government powers that be. Gloria Frank, a New York Latin American art dealer who winters on St. Croix, has a U.S. Treasury license to bring artwork and educational materials out of Cuba "to acquaint the American people with the state of its art," Tillett explains.
For such an auspicious artistic unveiling, Tillett decided that one opening reception would not be enough. So she's having three. The first, technically a preview of the show, will take place in connection with the Tillett Garden appearance by the Charlie Musselwhite Blues Band on Friday, Feb. 18. Of course, only concert attendees will get in. The other, official, receptions are open to the public: on Saturday, Feb. 19, from 5 to 8 p.m., and on Sunday, Feb. 20, from 4 to 7 p.m. Frank will be present on all three occasions to talk about the artists, their work and her buying trips to Cuba that have included many visits to artists' studios. For details, call 775-1929.
One more time: Pianist Awadagin Pratt plays on St. John Thursday night. The classical recital is a season presentation of the St. John School of the Arts, but the performance will take place in Nazareth Lutheran Church. That's because there's only a well-used upright piano at the school, while there's a nice, new baby grand in the church, donated last year by Doris Jadan, widow of famed Russian tenor and St. John environmentalist Ivan Jadan.
Unfortunately, the church seats no more people than the school, and Pratt is promising to be a big draw. (The St. Thomas audience at Tillett Gardens Wednesday night would not let him off without an encore.) A larger venue, such as the ballroom at the Westin Resort that is being utilized for several other concerts this year, was not an option because of acoustical concerns, school director Ruth "Sis" Frank said. So, if you want to hear the impressive piano man play, don't just show up at the door hoping they'll be able to squeeze you in. Call 779-4322 or 776- 6777 for reservations — if there are any left.
P.S. — He'll be hard pressed to top his sartorial splendor of Wednesday night: a killer lavender open-collar shirt printed front and back with bold keyboards and colorful tropical cocktails.
Visual impact of funding crunch: Parents of students at the School of Visual Arts and Careers in the Fort Christian Museum got a shock at the organization's annual meeting recently. SVAC treasurer Edney Freeman, who teaches art at Charlotte Amalie High School, reported that for the current year, funding for the school from the Law Enforcement Planning Commission is zip.
That was shocking news because for a number of years the LEPC has provided drug- prevention funding to the tune of about $15,000 for the after-school and summer enrichment program — whose enrollment, typically about 17 students, remains half male in this era of female dominance. According to SVAC director Phebe Schwartz, it wasn't that the school had failed to live up to expectations in any way; indeed, she noted, two students won awards in last year's Caribbean Colour exhibition, and all four of the 1999 graduates have gone on to art school or college. It was simply that there was a new political appointee in charge. Without seeking any further information, Wayne Chinnery apparently took the view that "they've had grants before; let's give the money to someone else," she said.
One immediate effect, Schwartz said, is that there will be no paid field trips to museums in Puerto Rico and no scholarships for students. But that will barely make dent. Art supplies and the staff — the director and a faculty of one — are the major budget items. If no alternative funding is identified, their prospects are in peril.
Museum curator Dolores Jowers, who makes space in the fort available to the school for classroom instruction and exhibitions at no cost, said it was time for the not-for-profit school to "get political." Parents willingly affixed their signatures to a sheet passed around to accompany a letter protesting the total cut-off of funds.
Meantime, the students' latest art projects are on exhibit in the two former jail cells that have been serving as the fort's "temporary gallery space" for most of the last decade. Most eye- catching are the poster-size renditions of small everyday objects, from paper clips to french fries to a gray-toned calico cat. The show is open to viewing weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Book notes: Last week's column wrongly referred to "Friday, Jan. 27," for this month's meeting of the St. Thomas Book Club. Clearly couldn't be. The club meets on the fourth Thursday of each month. The tome to be discussed this time is Tom Wolfe's "A Man in Full." It happens at the Frenchtown Deli coffeshop, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Taking aim at innocence: This weekend's "Cinema Sunday" film at the Reichhold Center is a 1998 American release called Men with Guns or "Hombres Armados." It was written, directed and edited by John Sayles, who made his directorial debut in 1980 with Return of the Secaucus Seven and won critical acclaim more recently for Lone Star. Set in a fictitious Latin American country, the film unfolds through the eyes of an aging physician who over the years had trained a number of young doctors and sent them off to work with impoverished Indians in remote jungle villages.
The physician sets out on an odyssey to see what has become of his students and finds himself in an unfamiliar world of revolution without reason, trust or relationships, in the midst of a conflict whose origins and justifications are long forgotten. Army soldiers and rebel guerrillas are equally the enemy of the populace, and "all that matters is who has the guns, and how to avoid them," NashvilleScene reviewer Donna Bowman summarizes.
Along his journey, the doctor is joined by four fellow-travelers, a world-weary orphan boy, an army deserter, a disillusioned priest and an emotionally wounded woman. Reviewer James Berardinelli credits Sayles with creating in this entourage "five vivid, three-dimensional characters in two hours" while exploring the fine line between innocence and ignorance.
Sayles himself says his story has a universal setting — incorporating incidents that actually happened not only in Latin countries but in Bosnia, the former Soviet Union, Africa, even the American South. "The common factor is that there are people who are just stuck in the middle" of meaningless conflicts, he says, people for whom the Western concept of free will signifies next to nothing.
To Boston Phoenix reviewer Peter Keough, the film founders in the "pompous political correctness that's the
downfall of liberal sensibilities in cinema." He finds that "Guns is loaded with blanks." Berardinelli, on the other hand, gives it three and a half out of a possible four stars, and Bowman is impressed that Sayles "constructs and extracts art from life, rather than exhibiting a mirror reflection of it."
Even though it's an American film, you'll still have to rely on subtitles if you're multilinguistically challenged; it's mainly in Spanish with some indigenous dialogue and English subtitles. Showtime Sunday is 7:30 p.m. Gates open at 7. Admission is $5.
To be seen by the herd: Scene & Herd is posted in the Source each Wednesday night with previews of arts and entertainment events open to the public on St. Thomas and St. John. To have material considered for inclusion, submit it in written form by Monday of the week preceding desired publication date. Fax to 776-4812, e-mail to jetsinger@viaccess.net, or leave a telephone message at 776-4812 for a callback.

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