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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

ETSU School of the Arts peers into cultures, issues

Vidwan Rajhesh Vaidhya
Vidwan Rajhesh Vaidhya

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | September 30, 2017

"Maturity," said writer Henry David Thoreau, "is when all your mirrors turn into windows."

Fall 2017 at Mary B. Martin School of the Arts throws open windows to far-flung cultures, American roots and regional, national and international social and political issues.

The program's fall season of events 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."

Sunday, Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. in East Tennessee State University's Martha Street Culp Auditorium, North and South India come together in the Wind Whisperers of India concert. The fall's first ticketed event features Pundit Ronu Majumdar 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 are joined by other "whisperers" on Indian percussion instruments.

More music is in the sights Sunday, Oct. 1, when the quintet of Ranky Tanky which is Gullah for "work it" or "get funky" blends timeless songs, spirituals and lullabies of the sea islands of Georgia and South Carolina with joyous doses of jazz, funk and R&B creating a "heartland of American music" that is "the best of both worlds," says Paste Magazine.

Social and political commentary come to the fore in early October, as the fifth annual "FL3TCH3R Exhibit: Socially and Politically Engaged Art" goes on display Oct. 9-Dec. 15 at ETSU's Reece Museum. The international juried exhibition focuses on work that reflects "current issues that affect contemporary culture and investigate societal and political concerns," the exhibit website says.

Cellist Matt Haimovitz is "a musician who positively thrives on challenge," says The New York Times. Since making his solo debut with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic, Haimovitz has established himself as one of classical music's most adventurous artists. Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 1 and 2, the cellist brings his "Moveable Feast" of Bach Suites and contemporary overtures to four different locations in upper East Tennessee.

On Nov. 1, he performs 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 at 5 p.m. takes the feast to Eastman's Corporate Business Center in Kingsport where he plays Bach Suite V. These 35-minute mini-concerts are free and open to all. Then at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 2, Haimovitz concludes with a ticketed event, performing Suites II and VI at Culp Auditorium at 7:30 p.m.

"A New Subjectivity: Figurative Painting after 2000," at Reece Museum Oct. 15-Dec. 15, looks at expressionism in new terms, through the lens of exclusively women painters and their work in the new millennium. The exhibition references cartoons, fashion spreads and personal narratives as artists address the fragmentation of individual subjectivity in a technological world.

New York painter and writer Jason Stopa, exhibition, curator, provides a lecture Thursday, Nov. 9 at 5 p.m. A reception follows at 6 p.m. Both events are free of charge and open to the public.

November concludes 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 "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 starts at 7:30 p.m. in Culp Auditorium.

Cultural and political issues are addressed on the big screen in the three films from 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.

Sept. 25, the audience sees 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 camera turns to Texas and issues regarding the American justice system and LGBT persecution with the documentary film "Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four," which screens Oct. 23. The film depicts the stories of four Latina lesbians wrongfully convicted of gang-raping two little girls in San Antonio, Texas.

The final independent film this fall focuses on dwindling abortion access in the Deep South and the debate over reproductive health care in America. "Jackson," screening at ETSU Nov. 6, is an intimate look at the lives of three women caught up in these complex issues in Jackson, Miss.

Southern Circuit films are free of charge and are followed by a catered light reception with the filmmakers, who provide a talkback after each screening.

For more information about ETSU's Mary B. Martin School of the Arts or to purchase tickets, visit or call 423-439-8587.

Topics: Art, Exhibits