The short list of architects being considered to build a new Tacoma Art Museum is pretty impressive—both for the sheer quality of the firms indicating interest in the $25 million project and the broad net cast by TAM's search committee.
From a total of 60 firms contacted (and about 50 responding), 33 indicated an interest in Tacoma's approach, emphasizing a commitment to and experience with the display of art rather than with museum design per se. That didn't stop some very big fish in the museum-design line from taking the bait: among them Richard Meier, whose museum at the new Getty Center in Los Angeles is drawing arena-size crowds, and Switzerland's austere Mario Botta, whose chopped-and-channeled brand of modernism has earned him the title of "uplifter of cathedraloid museums." But smaller and less celebrated firms like Seattle's own Olson Sundberg (remodeler/re-creator of the Frye) and George Suyama also made the cut. Best known for his work in desert environments, Antoine Predock of Albuquerque is something of a surprise choice, but he's done a lot of work in the museum field, as has Portland-based Zimmer Gunsul Frasca (which has a nice Tacoma connection as supervisor of development for the waterfront Thea Foss Esplanade). Richard Gluckman has earned more acclaim with remodels and conversions than many architects do with "original" work: His credits include work on the Georgia O'Keeffe facility in Santa Fe, the Andy Warhol in Pittsburgh, and the Marcel Breuerdesigned home of the Whitney Museum of New York.
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The TAM committee has a little time to consider its diverse and attractive options: Groundbreaking on the site north of Union Station isn't due before mid-1999.
Talking heads? Uhhh... not exactly
One show's a show, two's a duo, three are a festival, and four make a series. Art Town's just learned that A Contemporary Theater's indefatigable (and publicity-savvy) artistic director Gordon Edelstein has added the ultimate hot-button show of 1998 to a "Women in Theater" lineup already boasting a reprise of Sara Felder's lesbian-nuptials monologue June Bride (opening March 27), Claire Bloom's chronicle of women's takeover of the English-speaking stage Enter the Actress (mid-April), and a round of readings of new work by women playwrights (mid-May). The newcomer is The Vagina Monologues, a performance piece by writer/filmmaker Eve Ensler based on her book of interviews with women about their... well, getting right down to it, so to speak.
Ensler won an Obie from our sister rag The Village Voice performing the material herself off-Broadway in 1996, but it was the all-star Valentine's Day benefit at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom that put extax lawyer Ensler on America's front pages. When the likes of Whoopi Goldberg, Gloria Steinem, Winona Ryder, and Glenn Close line up to sing the praises and problems of the female sexual organ, attention had to be paid.
You can't help wonder what staid Seattle's going to make of a show entirely devoted to yoniphilia when Ensler unveils it April 23 in ACT's Bullitt Cabaret space. Art Town can't help wondering how long it will be before there's a show celebrating ol' man lingam, too. Let's start imagining a dream cast, beginning with...
One for the books
The Paul G. Allen Charitable Foundation has a rep for targeting its gifts shrewdly and efficiently, and last week's donation of $2.5 million to the Seattle Public Library is a case in point. A full half-million of the gift will go immediately to buying new materials for the 23-facility system's battered, tattered, loved-to-death children's-lit collections, with the rest serving as a challenge match toward a five-year program to get library patrons to contribute to the branch library of their choice. Brochures plugging the program are now available in all library branches, but the program's running full steam ahead, with $90,000 already donated, including $10K from philanthropist Nancy Alvord to buy materials for the Northeast (Laurelhurst/Wedgwood) branch, where Allen Foundation director Jody Allen Patton did her own childhood reading.
A sum of $2.5 million may not seem a lot of money; in fact it's enough to nearly double the system's materials budget over the next five years. To prevent the bulk of the Allens' benefaction from enriching only areas (like Northeast) with a plethora of well-off borrowers, SPL development director Terry Collings says the library is making special efforts to score corporate contributions to match needs in less wealthy areas.
Phase two of the program, planned for next year, will encourage donors to match the Allen challenge with gifts to beef up the Central Library's collection in particular subject areas. All in all, the plan is beautifully crafted to leverage maximum effect where it counts: where book (or CD or video) meets borrower. And who knows? With private citizens buying books for it, and if the current economic boom continues, maybe even the city of Seattle can be shamed into donating some spare change for the once-proud collections it's neglected for so long.
Be afraid. Be very afraid...
We here at Art Town glumly take note that this year's Bathhouse Theater summer show is not the usual amiable update of a play by house author William Shakespeare. This time the Green Lakeside company is presenting a revue based on writings of local author Robert Fulghum and named after his first and most successful foray into best-selling feel-good kitsch Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Does this represent a change of artistic policy? If so: Please, Arne Zaslove, please—it doesn't have to be the Bard. Just bring back The Big Broadcast!
WOMAD for Seattle
Since it was founded nearly 20 years ago by rock singer and world-music maven Peter Gabriel, WOMAD (World, Music, Arts & Dance) has produced and hosted more than a hundred festivals of high-pop culture in 18 countries around the world. This summer, WOMAD touches down at last in the US at Marymoor Park in Redmond. Co-sponsored by Seattle's One Reel, the three-day celebration July 21 through August 2 features 30 of the most admired artists on the world music scene, including South Africa's Abdullah Ibrahim, Hungarian folkie Márta Sebestyen, and Zimbabwe's Thomas Mapfumo. The English-estate-style setting at Marymoor will allow visitors a full-bore exposure to the WOMAD experience, says One Reel's Norman Langill, with demos, classes, and workshops offered alongside more formal concerts. "This gives us a chance to present acts that either don't fit or get lost in events like Folklife and Bumbershoot," he says. "I've wanted to present WOMAD ever since I ran into one of their festivals at the Barcelona Olympics. I think it's great they're doing their first US festival here."
Showbiz notes from all over
A friend of Art Town back from four days at US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado, found little to laugh about there. "The only funny thing I heard was one man at the closing-night party telling another, 'You can't get laid in this town if you don't have your own TV series.' Based on my own experience, he's right."
Tacoma Art Museum
Examples of Mario Botta's architectural work
Examples of Richard Glucksman's work
Examples of Antoine Predock's work
Examples of Richard Meier's work
Examples of Olson Sundberg's work
Examples of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca's work
Eve Ensler bio
Paul Allen's homepage
Seattle Public Library's homepage