Orange is the color we associate with autumn. Pumpkins and turning leaves are the most obvious causes but for Mobile cultural denizens, the complementary blues can be the norm.
In the feast or famine world of Mobile arts we swing through drastic differences. All summer we abide through a sparse calendar. The opera is done, the symphony finishes, too. With the languid heat and humidity, it’s easy to see why things feel so sparse or even measured.
But as soon as October hits the calendar, the opposite takes hold. Suddenly there’s far too much to do and not nearly enough time.
It’s easy to understand as the change from summer’s oppression literally lifts the mood, the body’s vigorous reaction a combination of relief and surging biochemicals. We want to go, go, go and do, do, do.
But there’s just not enough time. Every group, every organization it seems is grabbed by the same seasonal fervor and apparently compelled to ignore wisdom by bunching up the slate of possibilities.
Prime example: I’ve heard lamentations from those involved with South of the Salt Line’s latest offering “Ambushed by the Tea Party” about the lackluster attendance over their three-week run leading to Election Day. I was there on opening night, an event dedicated to raising money to keep inclusion in the Joe Cain Parade open.
Despite Mobilians’ oft-touted love of all thing Mardi Gras, the house was half-empty. Understandable, considering Greek Fest was going full blazes a few blocks over and besides it was only a Thursday night.
Then come Friday night, high school football was the culprit. On Saturday, college football played that role. On it went through all three weekends. It wasn’t just football either as there were concerts and album premieres and plays all around the bay.
It was a shame as the rousing show – written by a Mobilian, about our area and produced by locals – was the strongest they’ve staged to date. Those absent lost most.
Reasons are self-evident. The summer saps the energy from you. The winter is wildly erratic with cold, then fog, then heat, then rain, then cold, then fog … and that’s just on Christmas Day.
While beautiful weather can be stimulus to get up and get moving, al fresco engagement isn’t a necessity. Yet it’s the social calendar too, that makes cultural engagement tricky.
As soon as Halloween passes, we’re dealing with Thanksgiving gatherings and travel plans, then the Christmas onslaught. After that is Moonpie madness between New Year’s and Mardi Gras. Next thing you know, spring is here again.
October and April have a reputation for motivating climes here so as a result they’ve become the default spots for happenings. They are also vexing months that make you feel as if you’re being pulled in a multitude of directions.
I have to believe that in the last couple of centuries, or at least for the better part of one, we’ve seen what happens if we try to spread the cultural wealth out to other seasons. Or have we?
Would it be possible to move more events and opportunities to somewhere in our six months of summer and see if it can help optimize things? One room in my house gets the best view in the mornings but that doesn’t mean I have to move all the furniture in there.
It’s a great puzzle to have and I wish it were always so but it’s not necessarily best for the long-term success of arts endeavors. We’re guilty of seeing our town through azalea-colored glasses and not realizing just how few slices of the attendance pie exist here. If you frequent cultural events, you’ve become used to the same few hundred faces you see at most of them and you know who will and will not show.
Other events have shuffled. I heard Greek Fest used to be held in an earlier part of the year. Arts Alive was once in the fall and early May, now it’s one event in April. Let’s just try spreading some things around, spice it up.
This isn’t a complaint so much as a question on how to best marshal forces. We always need more – not less – but I would also like to know that attendance was being maximized to give these things a prime chance for survival and to enrich the life experiences of us all.