This fall, East Tennessee State University’s Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, now in its eighth year, will throw open windows to far-flung cultures, American roots and regional, national and international social and political issues.
The school’s fall 2017 season begins with a whisper of winds wafting from India, crescendos with the jubilant melodies of the Gullah culture of coastal Carolina and J.S. Bach’s inventive polyphony, and wanes with the poignant breezes of Appalachian music and a stroll through William Blake’s “Garden of Love.”
“In the fall, we are bringing international artists and regional artists from our own country, particularly the South,” says Anita DeAngelis, director of Mary B. Martin School of the Arts. “This is an opportunity to celebrate our region and to learn more about international cultures that we may not know much about. It’s not just educational. It’s also inspiring and entertaining.”
On Sunday, Sept. 10, at 6 p.m. in the D.P. Culp University Center’s Martha Street Culp Auditorium, North and South India will come together in a Wind Whisperers of India concert. The event features Pundit Ronu Majumbar from North India on bansuri, or bamboo flute, and Vidwan Rajhesh Vaidhya from South India on saraswati veena, the multi-stringed chordophone.
The virtuoso duo performs the ancient art of jugalbandi, a duet of two solo musicians in a “musical meeting of the minds.” In the second portion of the performance, they will be joined by other “whisperers” on Indian percussion instruments.
On Sunday, Oct. 1, the quintet of Ranky Tanky — which is Gullah for “work it” or “get funky” — will perform timeless songs, spirituals and lullabies of the sea islands of Georgia and South Carolina blended with jazz, funk and R&B. The ensemble is comprised of South Carolina native musicians Quentin Baxter, Kevin Hamilton, Charlton Singleton and Clay Ross, along with Lowcountry singer Quiana Parler.
Social and political commentary will also come to the fore when the fifth annual “FL3TCH3R Exhibit: Socially and Politically Engaged Art” goes on display from Oct. 9-Dec. 15 at ETSU’s Reece Museum. The international juried exhibition — in memory of Fletcher Dyer, a B.F.A. senior at ETSU who died in 2009 in a motorcycle accident — features work that reflects current issues affecting contemporary culture and investigates societal and political concerns.
Entries for the exhibit will be selected by illustrator/painter Anita Kunz, a visual artist whose work — including magazine covers for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Time, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Vanity Fair and Fortune — has made her one of The National Post’s “50 most influential women in Canada.” Kunz will give an artist’s/juror’s talk on Thursday, Oct. 26, at 5 p.m. in Reece Museum, to be followed by a reception from 6-8 p.m. The exhibit, talk and reception are free and open to the public.
Cellist Matt Haimovitz, who has established himself as one of classical music’s most adventurous artists since making his solo debut with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic, will bring his “Moveable Feast” of Bach Suites and contemporary overtures to four different locations in upper East Tennessee on Nov. 1 and 2.
On Nov. 1, he will perform Bach Suite I at noon at ETSU’s Sherrod Library; Bach Suite III at 2:30 p.m. at Johnson City’s Memorial Park Community Center; and Bach Suite V at 5 p.m. at Eastman’s Corporate Business Center in Kingsport. At all these public venues, the 35-minute mini-concerts will be free and open to all. Then at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 2, Haimovitz will conclude this two-day musical repast with a ticketed event, performing Suites II and VI at the Culp Auditorium at 7:30 p.m.
“A New Subjectivity: Figurative Painting after 2000,” which will be on display at the Reece Museum from Oct. 15-Dec. 15, will look at Expressionism in new terms, through the lens of exclusively women painters and their work in the new millennium. The exhibition, which originated at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery, references cartoons, fashion spreads and personal narratives as the artists address the “fragmentation of individual subjectivity in a technological world.”
New York painter and writer Jason Stopa, exhibition curator, will give a lecture Thursday, Nov. 9, at 5 p.m., followed by a reception at 6 p.m. Both the exhibit and lecture/reception are free and open to the public.
The fall season will conclude Thursday, Nov. 30, with a trip to “The Garden of Love” and the poetry of 18th century English writer William Blake, from the perspective of singer/songwriter Martha Redbone and the Martha Redbone Roots Project.
Her performance of “The Garden of Love: Songs of William Blake” fuses the mystical, humanistic words of the poet with the melodies, drones and rhythms of Appalachian string-band music. Redbone’s concert will start at 7:30 p.m. in Culp Auditorium.
In addition, throughout the fall, cultural and political issues will be addressed on the big screen in three films from the South Arts Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers – a series that the ETSU School of the Arts has brought to the campus for eight years.
On Sept. 25, the audience will see “behind the veil” of an Iranian fatwa, or death sentence edict, against Iranian musician Shahin Najafi in the rap-punk-rock documentary, “When God Sleeps.” This view of Shahin's frantic escape and exile is set against a modern-day “Romeo and Juliet” story.
The next film, “Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four,” to be screened Oct. 23, is a documentary focused on the American justice system and LGBT persecution. It depicts the stories of Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh and Anna Vasquez, four Latina lesbians wrongfully convicted of gang-raping two little girls in San Antonio.
The final independent film this fall, “Jackson,” to be screened on Nov. 6, focuses on dwindling abortion access in the Deep South and the debate over reproductive health care in America as it delves into the lives of three women caught up in these complex issues in Jackson, Mississippi.
All three Southern Circuit films are on Mondays at 7 p.m. in the Culp Auditorium, followed by receptions with the filmmakers, who will also provide “talkbacks” after each screening. Admission is free.
For tickets or more information, visit www.etsu.edu/martin or call 423-439-TKTS (8587). For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346.