thank you: eddie bumbaugh.

burgIMG_6608Some debts are simply too large to repay. Sometimes, “thank you” falls impossibly short. Sometimes, a person’s influence, impact, and value are too large to accurately measure.

By now you’ve likely heard the news: our beloved Eddie Bumbaugh, the 12-year Executive Director of the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, will retire from the position as 2015 draws to a close. However, and thankfully for all of us, from the sounds of it, he’s not retiring all the way. In hopes of getting all the juicy details, Brandy and I decided to take his wife, Jane, and him out for dinner recently.

Alas, even after a belly full of delicious Food Bar Food dinner and a cocktail, he wouldn’t expound specifically on his next step, stating only that he’ll “remain involved in the Harrisonburg community.” Brandy and I, happy to simply be breathing again, decided to be satisfied with this answer and just enjoy our evening with them.

burgIMG_6595 burgIMG_6598I did come prepared with a few additional questions. When I asked Eddie what he’ll miss the most about HDR, he replied immediately with “the staff.” He delivered several heart-warming compliments about his co-workers (not his underlings or subordinates or minions, but his co-workers) and their commitment and passion and enthusiasm that have made reporting to work each day joyful. He also revealed a real fondness for the excitement of new ideas and the planning of events – indeed, his eyes twinkled a bit when he spoke of these things.

He counts the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, a 100+ mile bicycle group ride, race, and festival that runs through and around the Burg, among his favorite Harrisonburg events because it allows him to experience our community through the eyes of people who aren’t from here. The race draws cyclists from all over the United States – many have never seen, Eddie says, “Old Order Mennonites or our beautiful skyline.” He likes the event because he likes to meet new people, and he likes anything that will encourage people to visit the Friendly City. Oh, and he likes to bicycle, too.

From there, most of our dinner conversation centered around travel and nature. You may or may not have known that Eddie is an avid cyclist and runner, a lot of which he does right here in the Shenandoah Valley because of its natural eye candy. He and Jane have hiked a hefty portion of the Appalachian Trail. The four of us had a lot of fun sharing hiking and road trip stories. Jane, too, is quite adventurous.

Jane took a trip to Iceland with a bunch of seventh-graders, prompting Brandy and me to shout things like, “What?!” “Are you crazy??” “Are you OKAY??” at her. They were there about a week, which seemed to me to be a very short amount of time to visit a foreign country, given all the travel time involved. But guess what? It’s only like a five-hour flight! Anyway, what an amazing experience for those youngsters!! Thank goodness for people like Jane! So brave and generous, even though she will tell you it’s not all that hard and anyone can do it. These two seem to be a match made in heaven with their incredible kindness, their willingness to try new and even risky ventures, and their ability to listen and compromise. Even in our relatively short conversation with the couple, Brandy and I could see those traits, shining clear as the candles on the table.

burgIMG_6624So now I’m finally getting to what I’ve wanted to do since I heard the news about Eddie’s impending departure: say Thank You.

Dear Eddie,
Harrisonburg and its citizens will never be able to repay you for the transformation that occurred under your leadership. I remember Harrisonburg twelve years ago, before you took the job. I remember seeing Dokken at a downtown establishment that was trying, really trying, to get on its feet. I remember when the Dodger, Joker’s, and The Little Grill were the only nightlife downtown, and no one walked to those places, at least not leisurely. I remember it felt like a lost cause. Thank you for ignoring all those who told you that the armpit of the city would never be the heart. They told you, “Don’t bother getting involved. We’ve tried it before. It’ll just be a waste of time, a disappointment.” Thank you for being the type of person to take those comments as a challenge. Thank you for also being the kind of person to listen, to contemplate and reflect, to consider the opinions and needs of others, and to bring everyone together with open communication and constructive conversations.

The evidence of your hard work shines for all to see now, twelve years later. Today when I go downtown, the streets are lit up. Delicious aromas waft out of dozens of restaurants. I can hear live music around every corner. There’s a good beer waiting for me about every five steps. And I am perfectly comfortable letting my kids wander around on their own – watching the ducks behind Clementine and SBC, walking to the library for new books, swinging into Bella Gelato for a treat, buying blueberries at the Farmers Market, and finding old Mom reading a book at Pale Fire when they’re all done with their adventure. :) Thank you for making my city safe for my children. If it weren’t, we would have left long ago.

I haven’t even touched upon the many events and activities we all enjoy now. Beer and music festivals, art markets, First Fridays, costume bike parades, Valley Fourth… too many to name. Not to mention the local retail options we now have, so we don’t have to shop at those “big stores.”

I don’t know what’s harder when taking a new job: inheriting a mess that you have to clean up, or inheriting something beautiful that you have to maintain and somehow improve upon. We know your successor cannot replace you, and we would not expect that. I imagine we’ll all expect more good things, because that’s what you’ve shown us. But we do not expect the accomplishment of “more good things” to happen in a vacuum. Those of us who live, work, and enjoy our downtown know that community growth happens through community involvement. We’ll stay involved, we’ll support local businesses, we’ll remember all that you’ve done to get us to this place, and we won’t let you down. We might not be able to pay you back, but we’ll pay it forward. We promise.

Cheers to you! Wishing you and Jane all the best, all the time! And don’t be a stranger.

Love, 
All of Us. The Whole Dang Town. 

burgIMG_6612Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

loud & clear: MACRoCk 2013.

MACRoCk tee shirtOn Sunday, April 7, I saw this post on Facebook and laughed out loud:
macrock facebookIt was like 8pm.

Not surprising. God bless those folks who once again brought this two-day music conference and thousands of people to Harrisonburg. I can’t even imagine where to start putting something like that together. If I can get rice, chicken, and green beans to be ready at the same time, I’m impressed with myself.

We attended MACRoCk on Saturday, the second night. And actually, the day started early, at the Larkin Arts first-ever Art Market (read about that here). More than a dozen artists plunked their wares on tables outside the Denton building. It was sunny and bright, people were chatty and cheerful, and the burg was a-bustle with locals and visitors alike. A happy morning.

Many Nights AheadAfter a bit we made our way to the Blue Nile for the label expo, where we saw books and upcycled clothing, tee shirts, buttons and stickers, pottery and “animal-friendly taxidermy,” and, refreshingly, lots of vinyl.

Label ExpoLabel Expo Label ExpoThen Brandy had to scoot out for a bit, and Michael and I headed to the Dodger. By now it was 2:30. We’d already been downtown for four hours and had ten hours yet to go. When we arrived there, Pachangacha was on stage and the place was packed. We found a tiny sliver of space at the bar. It was funny to watch the crowd come and go. After Pachangacha finished, this massive throng of people vacated, chasing the next show, and some seats opened up. We quick planted ourselves at a table. We enjoyed a performance by Amanda X — three ladies out of Philly: Cat Park, Kat Bean, and Tiff Yoon. They released their first EP back in August. Have a listen! Then sure enough, the mass of spectators shoved through the doors, and this time we scored a booth!!

Artful DodgerNext up was a band from New York called Lvl Up whose latest album Extra Worlds had JUST been released that very day. And they were loud as ohmyfreakinears. In a good way. And with quiet segments that would build to some kind of sonic boom. They’ve got two guitars, a bass, and drums, and they took turns singing or sometimes all three of them sang. I heard a little hint of Weezer at times. They were really great, and it stands to reason that we liked the next band, too — Sirs — because the two bands share some band mates.

MACRoCk Dodger 8 MACRoCk Dodger6Seat update: After Lvl Up we snagged the coveted “circle booth” at the Dodger. We knew Brandy would be coming with Danielle and Ben, and I was right tickled to know that everyone would have a seat. So we moved ourselves and all our stuff one last time, and stayed there through two more bands.

Artful Dodger 3As I was saying, Sirs played next and then Monument, from Maryland. Both bands were awesome, freakishly loud, extraordinarily tight. Brandy (sporting her MACRoCk press pass…. eeeeeee!), Ben, and Danielle arrived and we all mouthed “hello” to each other. Then we had a conversation about where to go for dinner by passing around a spiral notebook. Yes, it was that loud. Louder even. I felt like I was stuffed with cotton. In a good way.

press passIt should come as a surprise to no one who ever reads this thing that we ended up at Beyond. I don’t remember a whole lot about our dinner conversation, probably because I couldn’t hear ANY of it. But a good portion of it was devoted to the fact that Beyond had just gotten a keg of Juju Ginger beer, and Brandy got THE FIRST GLASS OF THE SEASON. This was better than the press pass, I think.

Juju JujuWe also talked about the band descriptions in the MACRoCk program. Some of our faves:

Black Mask – If you’ve never been curb stomped, Black Mask is probably the closest you’ll come without doing the deed. Metallic hardcore from Punxsutawney, PA for fans of early Converge, Nails, and Black Breath. Makes you wanna puke blood in the best way.

Barbelith – Atmospheric depressive black metal inspired by the wrathful elder gods, soiled by the scummy streets of Baltimore.

Borrowed Beams of Light – Borrowed Beams are a soundtrack to the perfect sunny summer indie-rock barbeque that you and all of your friends want to get drunk at.

Dope Body – Noise-rock freakcore from Baltimore. Do you ever think that your punk could use a little more metal and your metal could use a little more funk and that your funk really should be garage rock and not funk? You’re on this band’s wavelength then. Noisy guitar spazzouts are cut with freak hybrids of punk and funk rhythms.

Legs Like Tree Trunks – Mellow guitars with a side of reverb-heavy twinkles and soft-sung, dreamy vocals. Sounds like taking your shoes off after a long day of work.

Shat Shorts (omg) – Very, very weird punk. Blends hardcore, noise-rock, and thrash into one ridiculously chaotic package. Rhythms jump and shift drastically, and this one guitar is just spazzing out the whole time.

Other than that, the only really notable part of the conversation was when Brandy asked, “Wait. Is Jimmy short for James?”
Beyond Restaurant Beyond sushi

fansUnlike the hordes of people who zigzagged through downtown, moving in and out of venues like kids on a scavenger hunt, we tended to stay a while. So our second and last stop of the evening was Court Square Theater, where we saw Wynter Poe, Half Circles, and Timbre. That place is so comfy, what with its cushioned rocking chair-ish seats, age-defying lighting, and beer, there’s just no good reason to leave. We got there at about 7:15 and found seats on the front row. Good for photographs, and good for leg room.

Wynter Poe was unexpectedly awesome. I mean, we really had no expectations, but she impressed the crowd. The band — four people including Wynter — played at least five instruments: a couple of guitars, a bass, drums, a dulcimer. Here and there they sounded a bit like The Sundays, and Wynter’s vocal quality reminded me of Christina Perri. Other than that, the band defies comparison.

Wynter Poe Wynter PoeWynter Poe Wynter PoeIt was fun to see Half Circles, an eclectic Harrisonburg band who played far more instruments than they collectively had hands for. The guitar at times smacked of The Cure; another description that comes to mind is “bluesy Smashing Pumpkins,” but neither of those comparisons can pin down their multi-dimensional sound because suddenly there’d be a melodica or a xylophone or a flute to change my mind. Honey-laced vocals by Dan Baker and the unassuming, hands-in-pockets Amanda Styer led each tune and provided a solid foundation for their instrumental concoctions.

Half Circles Half CirclesWe fell in love with Timbre last year and couldn’t wait to see her again. And hear her, too, of course. But part of a live show is the visual aspect. And when one band member is seated behind a cello, one is seated behind a harp, and one behind a drum kit, you might not expect much in terms of a visual experience. BUT, that cellist was amazing to watch, Timbre looked beautiful in her gown behind that gleaming harp, and the drummer (who played a gorgeous wooden Whitney kit) actually danced while he played. They were all obviously quite happy on stage and love what they do. So they looked great. Add to that their incredible, crystal clear sound. They are made for live performance because their hypnotic music fills the space so well.

Timbre TimbreAdd to THAT their lyrics. Lines like “No one will know you long enough to sing your song back to you when you’ve lost the tune” juxtaposed with “Pain can be beautiful, my dear.” And a song inspired by the George MacDonald story “The Day Boy and the Night Girl” about light and dark and how they came to discover each other. The song centers around her perspective, from her dark cave. Her lamp, and the only light she’s ever known, breaks. She finds a way out of the cave and sees the moon for the first time. Then she meets Day Boy, and he shows her the sun. She wants the light, even if it hurts or kills her. He wants to be unafraid of the dark. They need each other’s strength. As the song says, “If I have seen only the night, can I imagine the day?” We see what we know; we know what we see. Sometimes we must step out blindly, even when it’s scary.

And on that “note,” (oh, ha!), we stepped out into the dark night with the moon shining and music playing in the distance and people laughing and our minds buzzing and our ears ringing. In a good way.

See you next year, MACRoCK!!

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

who’s in your cup? art lotto 2013.

Hard to believe it’s time to get lucky again. Has it really been eight months since dozens of couples put their (art) tools together in the spirit of creation?

Yep. Art Lotto!! Put simply, this brain child of Brandy Somers and Denise Allen is an art show comprised of portraits of artists by artists. More specifically, artists randomly select other artists by way of a lotto system, resulting in a cosmic explosion of incredible talent and vision that will completely knock your socks off.

art lotto ballsbwwebLast year, Brandy and Denise used an old-timey lotto cage for the drawing. At this year’s Luck of the Draw event (on March 20 at The Blue Nile), participants selected their subjects by choosing a cup that concealed a ball. Written on the ball was another artist’s name. The cups were all hand drawn — I repeat, hand drawn — by Denise… beautiful, detailed drawings of birds and bees, bears and fish, hot air balloons and airplanes, an octopus, a cat, a peacock feather, and 46 more! That’s a total of 55 artists, compared to last year’s 43.

art lotto cups denise with cupsA bar full of artists is quieter than you might expect, each one carefully choosing a cup and shyly making eye contact with their selected artist. And I guess it’s not so strange… I mean, when you have to produce a piece of work depicting another artist, you might feel a new type of pressure. But really, the event is about bringing together artists who might not usually collaborate to share their ideas, their insights, and their lives with each other. After all the artists had made their selections, Brandy reminded them of important guidelines and deadlines and encouraged everyone to put something in the comment box “for nice words or questions,” lol. Then everyone seemed settle down and mingle, trading contact information and reminiscing about last year’s Art Lotto. Last year the finished products were ridickers good, and with even more people participating this year (and some interesting new media, too!), I really can’t wait to see the walls of The Dodger filled with all those beautiful faces again.
art lotto rhoda miller

green jacket art lotto jay herr art lotto jess herr art lotto misti grimes yoder Here’s the lowdown; mark your calendars:
• July 17 — each artist must finish his or her portrait AND submit a photograph of it to  Brandy for inclusion in the Art Lotto Yearbooklet.
•  By the end of July, judges will select winners in various categories.
•  August 1 — private opening for artists, judges, and sponsors
•  August 2 — First Friday in Harrisonburg and public opening at The Artful Dodger

art lotto namesbrandy and deniseFor more information and updates, please visit the Art Lotto website and Facebook page frequently. Then join the rest of Harrisonburg in celebrating home grown art on August 2!

*Most of these photos were taken by Rachel Herr, as Brandy was busy hosting :) thanks, Rachel!

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

MISStaken identity: women in focus at court square theater.

Part Two of Four

future woman, in focus.

future woman, in focus.

The previous post, “Girl Talk,” summarizes my experience talking to women about issues facing women. It also underscores how totally confused I can get when faced with a complex topic. The remaining posts in this series — this one and two more — will explore the statistics presented in the documentary Miss Representation, the complexity of gender stereotypes, the mixed messages conveyed by the “media,” and ways of sorting it all out and moving forward. Maybe. ha ha.

I should re-iterate that this type of post is a slight departure from what we usually do, and everything you read here is what I see through my personal lens. That’s really all anyone can offer. So, I take full credit or blame for the ideas contained herein (official disclaimer).

After the Women In Focus social at the Dodger, I headed to Court Square Theater for the documentary. I must’ve gotten there earlier than I intended, because there were just a handful of people seated around me. But sure enough, just two minutes before the film was to start, a long line formed in the corridor. Now, ladies, do we have to be late for everything? And did we have to perpetuate a female stereotype at a film that explores the perpetuation of female stereotypes? So Michael Weaver politely took the stage and assured us that the film would start just as soon as they could get everyone through the ticket booth. And several women, ahem, just talked right over him. Eventually, the theater filled up: eleven men and a zillion women.

I’d like to share this synopsis from the Miss Representation web site in case you didn’t see the film:

“Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, Miss Representation uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself. In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader.”

Writer and director Newsom, a former actress turned activist and documentary filmmaker who herself experienced debilitating body image problems, narrates the film. The film relays lots of disturbing statistics, some of which I’ll try to summarize and tie together here.

First, as a nation (according to the film), we spend more on beauty than on education. However, the film does not fully substantiate this claim. Does it mean that a lifetime of beauty products and procedures costs more than four years of college? And what if the student gets a scholarship or grant? There aren’t grants for beauty products, so I can see how those numbers might be unclear.

STILL, the statement implies that women value beauty over education, which IS a sad idea, no matter what you believe. If you believe it, then it stands to reason that, according to the film, sixty-five percent of women and girls will experience some form of eating disorder. If females value beauty so highly, then they’ll go to extreme lengths to achieve it. Newsom also implies that the MEDIA forces/conditions/brainwashes women (starting at a very young age) into valuing beauty over education. This is the part I struggle with. I think it’s safe to say that our upbringing and social/economic environments do shape our values as kids. But once we’re adults, we can choose our values, and if I value beauty over education as a grown-up, that’s my choice, not necessarily the media’s fault. What the film strives to do is make everyone aware that the media is manipulative (in many ways) and therefore, what the media “tells someone” about him or herself is not necessarily true. For many of us, this awareness occurs naturally as we age, but not for all of us. And even if we DO become aware, it’s hard to reverse the damage.

The documentary also gives statistics about females in the film industry. Only seventeen percent of protagonists in movies are female, and these roles typically “revolve around the pursuit of a man.” That IS a sad statistic, yes, but I can think of a few films where the female protagonist had an agenda other than something romantic: Jackie Brown (my all-time favorite); Million Dollar Baby; and The Silence of the Lambs, to start.

womeninfocus7The film purports that “women appear to be empowered” but any female protagonist is “very much objectified and exists for the male viewer.” Further, the film states that objectification leads to violence, like rape. I believe this to be true, but not purely in a man-objectifying-woman sense. As a culture we’ve become object-oriented and materialistic, and many times we mistreat others because of our view that they’re somehow disposable. We’re all collectively guilty of that. However, just because a man sees a sexy or scantily clad woman in a movie does not mean he’ll commit a violent crime. Plus, that would suggest that by wearing provocative clothing, women are “asking for it.” I don’t think Beyoncé was promoting rape during her half time show.

So, how is all this objectification occurring? Well, according to Miss Representation, women comprise only three percent of people in “positions of clout” in telecom professions. Essentially, men are the “puppeteers” and women are the “puppets.” But let’s not forget — women are accepting the Hollywood roles that they themselves are objecting to… right? I mean, women are PAID money to portray certain characters, who might then have a negative effect on a female audience. We can’t talk out of both sides of our mouths. A woman can’t rail against the chauvinism of a Hollywood film AND be its leading lady. I’m not an actress, but I do wear makeup. If makeup is a problem (and if you’ve seen a mascara commercial recently, you’ll probably agree that it IS a problem), then I am part of that problem. I am contributing to it by purchasing the product. The film, and the web site, asks us — all of us — to stop purchasing products that contribute to objectification in this way, very much like the way we’ve evolved to avoid products that harm animals or the environment. I can’t disagree with that philosophy.

But, I like makeup. I like feeling pretty. I like getting compliments. That doesn’t happen when I leave the house without my face on. Clearly, I am contributing to my own objectification and that of others. Uuuuuuugh. Like I need more to feel guilty about.

To me, all this data adds up to a bunch of mixed messages, which the film also explores, and which I’ll delve into next time. Thanks for reading. Please offer your comments! We are lucky to live in a nation where we can openly discuss topics like this, and we are doubly lucky to inhabit a city that encourages social debate, awareness, and progress. Thanks again to our Court Square Theater for unearthing the discussion.

artfuldodger2Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

girl talk: women in focus at the court square theater.

Part One of Four (yes, I’m serious.)

Well, what a night this was. One that dredged up all sorts of psycho-emotional sludge I try to pretend no longer exists… stuff that, at age forty, I should be beyond, I guess. And so what started as a pleasurable outing with several ladies of the ‘burg, our conversations meandering innocently enough, turned quickly and unexpectedly to doubt about my ability to “successfully raise” two children, anger and shock, dismay at my evolution as a human being, and sadness that as a woman, maybe I haven’t “come a long way, baby,” and really, I have no one to blame but myself. As I work through my notes about the Women In Focus social at the Artful Dodger and the documentary Miss Representation hosted by Court Square Theater, I see they reveal a disappointing truth. Warning: this is the first ever potentially offensive ilovemyburg.com post, lol. And, the views expressed in this post are solely mine… unless you agree with me, which would reeaally make me less nervous right about now.

Women In Focus was a celebration of women’s stories hosted by the Court Square Theater, featuring presentations of Miss Representation, a documentary about women and the media; North Country, a film starring Charlize Theron as a mine worker; and The Vagina Monologues. The series kicked off with a social at the Artful Dodger. Lots of ladies, and men who love and admire them, attended – including several strong female members of our community, like Sara Christensen, owner of The Lady Jane, Lara Mack (she’s back!), Alice Wheeler, Ashley Hunter, Laurie Benade, Suzi Carter, and several others.

womeninfocus3

event organizer, Laurie Benade! Bravo!

womeninfocus4 Brandy, Sara, and I got on the topic of Condoleezza Rice, and how some magazine called her a dominatrix because of her outfit – forget the fact that this highly educated woman was at one time the US Secretary of State and that she could smoke your butt on Jeopardy. Somehow her outfit that day smacked of sexual power (not intellectual or political power)… even though she was not at all dressed in a manner one might call “provocative.” Then we talked about what THAT means – dressing in a provocative or promiscuous way… and then the question was posed: can a man dress promiscuously?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
What would that look like? Low-slung pants? Tight pants? No pants? No shirt? And would a man look at another man’s outfit and say, “Look at that slut!”? Then again, when did “we” (whoever that is) decide that any type of attire is bad or inappropriate? I know I am uncomfortable showing a lot of skin, but I don’t know WHY I am. Gosh, this is confusing. But somehow, in terms of women’s fashion, most people equate conservative dress with frigidity/prudishness, and revealing dress with promiscuity/porn stardom.

This led to a discussion of Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime show. My kids and I watched the Superbowl. My daughter watched the game with great interest, and when Beyoncé performed at halftime, she made no mention of Beyoncé’s outfit, but rather remarked about the TV screen dance floor and “cool special effects.” My son, who for the entire first half of the game ran in circles around the family room, wearing a cape and underpants and wildly waving a foam sword, had a different reaction. He sat down and watched her performance, every second of it, mouth open, eyes fixed on the TV. He dreamily said, “Mom, she’s shaking her body” and “Why is she only wearing her underwear? Isn’t she cold?” Now, these are children, and I didn’t coach either of their responses –these were their natural reactions to Beyoncé’s show. Interesting. And I really don’t know what conclusions can be drawn from it. My son seems to admire the female form.

Okay.

My daughter complimented her singing and did notice that Beyoncé’s entire band was female. But neither of them criticized her. What were the adult viewers thinking? Did the men ignore her talent and dedication and only see her thighs? Did the women also ignore those things and secretly hate her thighs? Geez. Now I sound like some kind of feminist. Or chauvinist. Or alarmist. Or extremist. Or maybe just a polite receptionist. I don’t even know.

Later, as the effects of this evening sank in, I wondered… should I have told my six-year-old son not to have stared at Beyoncé? Would that have shone a light on something beyond the scope of his kindergarten mind? Am I a bad mom for letting him – or both kids – see it? By doing so, have I created in my daughter a self-destructive habit of comparing herself to others? Egads. Beyoncé is a beautiful woman – yes – she’s also talented and successful, whether you like her music or don’t. Can we praise her and condemn her in the same breath?

And so I think about what I want to impart to my children. My kids see what many people don’t see – they see me in the morning, with my pale face and crow’s feet, my rumpled, frizzy hair, no makeup, frumpy bathrobe – they see me in the raw. But they also see me prepare to leave the house, in full hair and makeup and appropriate under- and outer garments. Am I silently teaching them something I don’t want to – that I am ashamed to leave the house without my mask?

womeninfocus6As I reread this post now, I see how confused I am. Or was on that night. Or still am, because I’m not done thinking about it. I even noticed the “lol” I typed earlier, like I’m apologizing for having an opinion someone might disagree with. If I were a man, would I have typed that “lol” ?

Lol.

A thousand words, and I haven’t even GOTTEN to the documentary yet. Also, the word “Beyoncé” starts to sound weird when you’ve read it/written it 27 times. Okay, I’m taking a break to watch something with Will Ferrell in it. I’ll be back with more heavy stuff soon. Stay tuned for part two.

PS–a big thank you to Court Square Theater for bringing these issues to the forefront, as uncomfortable as they might be sometimes. And to the Artful Dodger for letting us hang out.

Copyright © 2012 – 13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

going to gr8 lengths: super gr8 film festival.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge came up with it… what he defined as “awakening the mind’s attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us.” It’s one effect that art—music, poetry, film—has on us: transportation to another time and space, whether comfortingly familiar or refreshingly foreign. It doesn’t matter which—we just like to go there. And that’s why we love to read a good book or watch a riveting film. As my daughter simply put it, “It feels good to sit in the recliner and forget my own ideas for a while.”

Yes.

The term Coleridge coined for this phenomenon is the “suspension of disbelief.” And although he was originally talking about poetry, it applies to any art form and has evolved in movies since Thespis and the origin of acting itself, to the cinematic pioneering of Antonioni, to the funny/grotesque stylings of Tarantino. It’s that moment when, in the viewer’s mind, Marlon Brando stops being Marlon Brando and simply IS Don Corleone. Sylvester Stallone IS Rocky Balboa. Daniel Day-Lewis IS Abraham Lincoln. Will Ferrell IS Ricky Bobby. You get the picture. Ha.

Sometimes the “suspension” is caused by a filmmaker who’s soooo good that his or her film carries the viewer to another realm entirely; other times it results from the willingness of the viewer to ignore low-budget special effects and narrative hiccups and just go with it. The Super Gr8 Film Festival showcased both methods, in full force, forty-seven times over.

We got to the Court Square Theater lobby just before six on the first night (Black and White night), expecting a long line. Thanks to advanced ticket sales, there was none! Yay! That meant we had enough time to grab a beer at Capital Ale House. Once again confronted with that giant beer menu, I decided to just let the bartender recommend something. I raised my hand and waited to be called on. Michael and Brandy chided me mildly for it, and even snickered, but the bartender came right over and took our order. I chose the first beer the bartender suggested. Unfortunately for him, that variety was upstairs. So was the beer Brandy chose. That’s when Brandy came up with the best freakin’ idea since 8mm film, a device she calls… ready? The Alevator <insert trademark symbol here>. Yes, that’s right, an elevator for beer, so those poor chaps don’t have to scurry up and down the stairs all night.

Before long we heard some activity in the corridor so we drank up and headed out. I’ve never seen so much smiling and hugging, people laughing over their many mishaps during filming, others curiously predicting the slate of films that evening. The line moved swiftly and in just a few short minutes we’d gotten our tickets from Danielle, our programs from April, and beers from John. Beer at a theater is a really nice feature, and so… European or sophisticated or something. But they might consider serving shots next year because, oh my–the nerves. Several people needed a stiff drink :) Anticipation was reaching critical mass. And the place was packed solid.

The films began, and my disbelief immediately ceased. So many films to get lost in, like El Viajera, where a cornfield is the saddest place in the universe, and love is expressed in feet. Or Onward, a solitary soul’s journey to the peak. Jump, with the best slow-motion jumping I’ve ever seen, and Funny Dancing in the City, which had the best message–“So Much Fun!”

One that particularly touched me was Ode, in which an older couple gets ice cream cones together. Old hearts, new love. Something so simple… a film haiku, if you will. I want that. Clean, Classic, Safe 2 also spoke to me. It asks, “What is the meaning of age in the context of eternity?” Seconds later, he sticks her in the freezer.

The rotating shotgun scene in Take One impressed me in a craftsmanship kind of way… yet the couple, whose love endures no matter the circumstances, impressed me emotionally. While all the films were funny/touching/weird/random/sad/nostalgic, the one that elicited the strongest reaction in me was The Alamo. The young man’s voice reading the letter to children… his difficult experience in a war zone getting sanded down to something palatable… “The work we do here is very important.”  How does one explain war to a child? I wish we never had to. To me, that film felt SO real that for three minutes, everything else fell away.

The conclusion of that night’s films brought cheers and applause and hoots and shouts, and then we all slowly returned to reality and started to file out. I heard many beautiful comments and compliments among the filmmakers, the actors and participants, and the fans. Everyone warmly celebrating all the achievements of the night, large and small–from the perfect way Barbie rolls across the floor in her car, to how a piece of music fit its film perfectly, to the seemingly effortless way Paul and Tim made it all come together. This buzz of happiness and relief followed us all to the Nile for the after party.

Even though there were awards up for grabs, no one seemed nervous at the Nile. The hard part was over–seeing the film for the first time.. having all those nerve-wracking questions finally answered–did my film turn out at all? Did the music match up with it? Did the ending get cut off? Aaaaaggghhh! All that was over now, and the rest of the night was about being with fellow artists and art lovers, curing one’s lethargy with the loveliness and wonders of friendship.

I’m sad to say that I was unable to attend the Color Night, so I can’t relate that experience. However, if you missed either of the two nights of films like I did, they’re ALL being shown again November 29 and 30 at 7pm. All 47 films on each night!! Visit this link at the Theater web site to get tickets and information.

And finally, here’s a list of the winners of this year’s Festival. Congratulations to all, and thank you so so much for suspending my disbelief for three minutes at a time.

Black & White Film Awards
Best Visuals – Jaguardini’s Electric Jesus
film by Ivan Christo

Best Actor / Actress – Take One
film by Brandy Somers
actor Luke Wilson

Best Soundtrack – El Viajera
film by Ben Fraits
music by Don Townsend

Best B&W Film – Jaguardini’s Electric Jesus
film by Ivan Christo

Audience Choice – Chris Happens
film by Jeff & Emily Guinn

Color Film Awards
Best Visuals – The Other Side of the Record
film by Jay Zehr

Best Actor / Actress – Storm in the Heartland
film by Joseph Huffman
Actor Joseph Huffman

Best Soundtrack – Super Gr8 Heroes
film by Teale Davies
music by Bran Flakes

Best Color Film – The Birds and Lady Justice
film by Aaron Cook

Audience Choice – Herbivore’s Revenge
film by April Sedeen & Tim Estep

Paul & Tim Award – Paper Plane Pilot
film by Elwood Madison III

Tim & Paul Award – The Alamo / La Corrida
films by Jeremiah Knupp & Holly Marcus

Stay tuned for more super photos of the festival this week! And see you at the encore presentation!!

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

face value: art lotto 2012.

I’ve known Brandy Somers a long time, and I know that when she decides to do something, she does it. She doesn’t make promises she can’t keep, and she doesn’t like the feeling of letting anyone down, including herself. I admire her so much for that. So when she hatched this Art Lotto idea, I knew it would be a huge endeavor. I knew it would take countless hours of planning, hard work, late nights, pots of coffee. And, I knew she’d do it. I wasn’t sure how… but then along came Denise Allen. Could you possibly ever ask for a nicer, more pleasant, more positive person to work with? No. Even when it looks like nothing’s going to work out, Denise smiles and laughs and makes it fun again.

So the two of them teamed up, and over the course of ten months (ten months!!), they solicited artists, secured sponsors and donors, made a commercial with the help of Lurid Pictures, collected and catalogued the work, created a yearbooklet with color photos and artist bios, hung the work at their host location, The Artful Dodger, and threw a big party. And I’m sure I left something out of that list. I got the fun task of watching and judging and writing about an art show featuring forty-three (forty-three!!) local artists who created portraits of each other. So, this is my chronicle of a three-day odyssey into the local art scene. Here goes.

DAY ONE: Wednesday, August 1st. Judging.

I made my way to the Dodger at about 12:30 Wednesday to serve as a judge for Art Lotto. Ballot and freshly sharpened pencil in hand, glasses on, I browsed the forty-three portraits hanging starkly on the wall. The simple and well-organized ballot employed a numerical scoring system… easy enough. But as I stood there gazing at those portraits, I felt a paralysis come over me.  I heard other customers, who were also visibly impressed by the display, make comments like, “This is unbelievable.” “I can’t believe how great these are.” “What an amazing idea–who came up with this?” and “So powerful–all these faces…”

Moved by Teale Davies’ portrait of Lynda Bostrom, one young man even said he felt inspired to finish his own piece he’s been struggling with.

I tried so hard not to be, but I was moved to slight, restrained tears. There’s something about seeing all those faces together, a silent crowd, the solidarity of all of them–captured and hanging on a wall… stuck together. I hope we’re all stuck together for a very long time.

Of course the collective talent is also overwhelming. Each piece a testament to natural-born skills and years of practice, refinement, frustration, and dedication. But for me it’s how each artist “saw” the other. Because we never see ourselves the way others do. And this might be the first time one of these people looked at himself or herself with tenderness. It’s the wish we all have for our fellow souls–that they might see their own beauty the way others do.

So I regained my composure and started to put my feelings into single digits that fit into tiny boxes. Alas, it had to be done. Thank goodness for math. It decides things for us when we’re too warm and fuzzy to do it ourselves.

DAY TWO: Thursday, August 2nd. Artist/Sponsor/Judge Party!

Finally, after months and months of work and planning and outright panic + nightmares, the evening Brandy and Denise envisioned had arrived. Brandy was a little nervous beforehand that people wouldn’t show up. Puh-lease! Not only had she and Denise planned an event that no one would want to miss, but also, what better way to get a bunch of artists to show up to something than to promise them their own face would be on display? Hee hee :)

Writers can be vain, too. <sigh>

The opening, hosted once again by the Artful Dodger, was quite lively. Nearly all the artists, judges, and sponsors were there, plus their dates, so the crowd easily exceeded a hundred people. All the artists were super-excited to see how the portraits of themselves turned out and to see how their own work was received. To the sounds of DJ Fayo, people mingled and chatted about their experiences and processes, nibbled on light snacks, sipped beverages, laughed and cast their votes for best portrait for an hour or so. Then Brandy and Denise began their presentation, starting with a list of excuses some of the participants gave her for being late with their work:

Ahem, “My work is late because…
“the economy is bad.”
“it took me several days to remember how to paint again.”
“I have caveman Internet.”
“my piece exploded.”
“my cat seriously won’t leave it alone.”
“… of sparklies.” ???

Then they moved on to Art Lotto Superlatives, like Best Hair, Oh Snap!, Smallest Piece (I was glad, because the smallest piece always goes unnoticed), and Herr-ay!, which you automatically got if you were a Herr. Seems like that one’s rigged, but maybe that’s just me.

Next came the awards. These came from judges’ scores, kid judges’ scores, and votes from the artists themselves. This year’s judges include Suzi Carter, Kai Degner, Martin Rees, Vada Kelly, moi, Sherrie Hurt Gordon, Blake Somers, Paul Somers, Ragan McManus, Aaron Ludwig, Valerie Smith, Abigail Kate Garber, and Andy Conner. Pictured below are the award-winning portraits:

Portrait of Anne E. Hogan by Ben Fraits
Winner: Out of Box-ness
______________________________

Portrait of Ben Fraits by Rhoda Miller
Winner: Seeing Double
_________________________________

Portrait of Teale Davies by Denise Allen
Winner: You Got Skillz (tie)
________________________________

Portrait of Cora Cloud by Bruce Rosenwasser
Winner: Show Stopper
________________________________

Portrait of Raechel Hurd by Chris Whitmore
Winner: You Got Skillz (tie)
Winner: Artists’ Choice Award
_____________________________

Portrait of Denise Allen by Lynda Bostrom
Winner: Kids’ Choice Award, female
Winner: Best MediYUM
______________________________

Portrait of Brandy Somers by Luke Watson
Winner: Kids’ Choice Award, male
*Note: this is not the finished product. Updated photo forthcoming.

Check back this week for more photos of additional portraits!!

DAY THREE: Friday, August 3rd. Public Opening!!

In the blink of an eye, Thursday’s party was over and done and First Friday was at bat. I’d had a frenzied day by the time the kids and I got back to the Dodger, but I was nowhere near as pooped as Denise and Brandy. I don’t think those two girls had yet sighed a single molecule of relief or satisfaction. To make matters slightly worse, it looked like it was going to rain any second, and they’d gone to great lengths to set up some kids’ activities on the patio. Still, they pressed on, the rain passed, and the people came in droves.

The event welcomed folks of all ages. Kids could draw with sidewalk chalk, blow bubbles, get their faces painted, or join the coloring contest. Brandy and Denise had made special coloring pages of the Art Lotto sponsors and donors–like one of Miranda Lancaster from The Yellow Button, and one of Chris Clark, and one of Brent Levy and Amanda Garber from Rise. But, sorry–and this is not a comment about Amanda’s appearance, we all know she’s gorgeous–on the coloring page, she looked like Moe Doodle. Just sayin’. <cringe>

Inside, scores of curious pedestrians viewed the portraits, commenting on how different they are from each other, how cool all the portraits look hanging together, and the ridiculous amount of talent in that modest space. My daughter strolled through with her notebook (hello, mini-me), taking notes about her favorite portraits. When we got home that night, she said “Mom, I loved that. I felt like a grownup.” My son said, “I feel like I was at college!” (He’s 5.) I asked him what he meant, and he said, “I just feel a whole lot smarter.” Many of the artists were on hand, too, and the public seemed to enjoy seeing the work of forty-three artists–not just one–in one place. Several of the pieces have sold. If you haven’t been in yet to see these works, go now. The portraits will be up for the month of August, but it’s not something you want to put off. Trust me.

One last note: I would like to personally apologize to anyone who got swindled by pirates at the door. Blake decided to be the “door man” for “tips,” and then Bree and Cal crashed his gig. And with their faces painted like pirates, the three of them hung off the railing and “demanded” money (well, Cal was the one who demanded) from anyone entering or exiting, like some kind of Clockwork Orange-esque gang.

They didn’t get much loot. And I promise, if you ever meet my son in a dark alley, just threaten to tickle him and he’ll back off.

Brandy and Denise have created something fantastic that I hope will become a Harrisonburg tradition. They worked extremely hard, but if you ask them, they will tell you they could not have done it without the support of local businesses and patrons. So, Art Lotto would like to extend special thanks to these Sponsors and Donors for providing food, prizes, and yearbooklets, and for being consistent community supporters:

The Artful DodgerMintThe Yellow ButtonDietrich DentalJames McHone Antique JewelryEstland DesignVBS MortgageTiller Strings, Rocktown RollersLurid PicturesFamily Talk MagazineRiseHappy Dogs Unleashed, B & L Glass and Mirror, Midtowne MarketWonderMajomi BagsLarkin ArtsArts Council of the Valley, Court Square Coffee, DJ FayoDoodle Du JourWonder RecordsLast Light PhotographyMetamurphosis Design and PhotographyHerr JewelsThe Lady JaneCampbell Copy CenterPolished, Inc.Brandy Somers PhotographySuperGr8, and Wine on Water.

See ya next year!!

**NOTE: Some photos by Danielle Campbell, Rachel Herr, and the artists themselves.

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Photos by Brandy Somers. Written content by Katie Mitchell. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

 

come rain and come shine no. 25: first friday.


‘Twas the First Friday in June and all through the city
the stores and establishments were decorated all pretty
with artwork created by talented locals.
So I grabbed my umbrella and put on my bifocals.

The clouds rolling in at us taunted and frowned,
but they didn’t keep people from walking around.
I parked in the deck and briskly headed for one
of my favorite stores, The Yellow Button.

A rumble here, a sprinkle there would never prevent
us from hosting our first I Love My Burg/Brandy Somers Photography event.
Seeing all the photos finally printed was such a delight,
and really, for me, the best part of the night.

Brandy’s photos were hung by the stockings and dresses,
each one a testament to her camera successes.
My attention meandered for a sec, I admit…
when I saw this green frock and said, “I’ve GOT to have it.”

Sweet truffles from Zest! sat on a tray
next to iced tea, pretzel chips, and guacamol-ay.
And just as we’d hoped, just a bit after five,
the first of our customers began to arrive.

First was Sarah Murphy, who swept into the shop
carrying three naked baguettes–a strange photo op
for three modest girls in poses of debauchery…
then I ripped the bread in pieces: my kids were hungry!

Distracted by what sounded like a serious scuffle,
I had to diffuse my kids’ fight over a dropped truffle.
While Sarah and Brandy were fencing with bread,
in strolled Amy from Many Nights Ahead
with her friend Bailey, who’s a photographer, too.
I was thankful the fight scenes were finally through.

People came, people ate, people drank and got stickers.
They dressed up in outfits that were truly ridickers.
And then Brandy quickly took all of their pictures.

We saw Ellie from Zest! and Brent Levy from RISE,
with his playful wife Natalie in a crazy disguise.
Valeri managed to traverse the treacherous three feet
between Ten Thousand Villages and Miranda’s retreat…
She just really, really wanted something sweet.

Oh, and Seth Crissman–the knight in soggy armor
who retrieved wife Theresa from the front of Explore More.
He gallantly showed that chivalry exists,
sheltering from the rain his wife and two guests
and still dressing up silly with very few protests.

At seven p.m., the rain had not at all abated,
so the kids sat out back and silently waited
for me to dart through the flooded downtown
and get to the car, and drive it around
which I did, so we could see Elliott Downs.

We were wet, we were cold, and we were dog tired,
but, by golly, we were also truly inspired
by the number of dripping wet fans that we saw
Still walking through town to gaze in quiet awe,

Not caring that their wet jeans felt like wool,
or that their hair looked really uncool…
Seeing them participate no matter what
reminded us what a cool town we’ve got.

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Photos by Brandy Somers. Written content by Katie Mitchell. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.