Remember the New Year characterized as a diapered baby and his wizened predecessor with the hourglass? Too bad it’s not real, because I have a size 11 desert boot for 2016’s craggy keister.
It’s become a popular meme to hate on this outgoing year but the Artifice distaste is well earned. While every year has its share of ups and downs, the sour notes this go-round felt relentless.
Shortly after the world was shocked by the early January demise of multidisciplinarian David Bowie, the shocks grew closer to home. Alabama artist Thornton Dial passed away. Likened to Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, his works reside in the nation’s most prestigious collections and he was a featured part of an Alabama Contemporary Art Center exhibit at the time he died.
A month later, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Harper Lee passed away in Monroeville. She’d recently moved back into the spotlight with the publication of a rediscovered manuscript in 2015.
A stalwart patron and energizer for Mobile arts for a half century, Yvonne Kalen died the day after Dial. She had her hands in everything from literary publications, to Joe Jefferson Players, to personally backing several noted Mobile artists, and won a Greater Mobile Arts Award in 2008.
Artist/singer/actor/musician/writer/composer Fred Baldwin passed away in February. Baldwin was omnipresent for decades, serving as a radio host and voiceover expert as well as being Lagniappe’s first arts editor.
Multidisciplinarian Fred Marchman died in April. A writer, illustrator and multimedia visual artist, Marchman had a truly unique vision, perspective and voice that brought him acclaim beyond the Mobile area.
Nearly simultaneously, Ron Smith passed. Along with his partner, Timothy Guy, Smith was an active and integral component of community theater throughout the area.
Danielle Juzan also died unexpectedly that week. The writer, singer, actor and patron was relatively young, well liked and respected throughout the area’s cultural ranks.
In May, longtime theatrical stalwart Melanie Petithory was killed when an auto barreled through the front of a west Mobile dance studio.
Washington, D.C., sculptor and Mobile native Joanna Campbell Blake died in a motor vehicle accident in Italy at only 39 years old.
Koch Gallery owner Lars Britt passed away in August after a battle with ALS. He was active in several arenas of Mobile life as a reporter and an advocate for chess competition.
Other endings were less corporeal. Regretfully, the GulfQuest Maritime Museum closed under budget strain.
Mobile Ballet Artistic Director Winthrop Corey suddenly tendered his resignation in December. No successor has been named.
Not all was gloom. The Mobile Museum of Art hosted artist Janet Cardiff’s sound installation “The Forty Part Motet” for roughly six months. The illustrious exhibit spurred an ancillary series entitled “Reverberations,” which explored the interaction of Cardiff’s piece with other mediums and genres.
The Alabama Museum Association held a March conference in town and left an outstanding impression on the visiting professionals.
Visiting performance artist Kimi Maeda enthralled onlookers with her emotionally robust work “BEND” at ACAC in late May.
Local filmmaker Gideon Kennedy’s feature-length film “Limo Ride” made a grassroots tour of breweries and screening venues. Utilizing momentum from positive reviews plus its new availability on iTunes, Amazon and Vimeo, the comedy seems to be building a cult following.
Mobile’s new Mardi Gras Trail was unveiled in the autumn. It leads participants on a tour of sites vital to the history of the pre-Lenten festival in the Azalea City.
Joe Jefferson Playhouse staged two of the best community theater works of the year with its versions of “Sweeney Todd” and “The Producers.” Meanwhile, Mobile Theatre Guild produced a pair of plays tuned in to the African-American experience with “The Colored Museum” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”
The new Mobile Literary Festival premiered in October. Brought to life by the Mobile Writers Guild and the Mobile Public Library, it holds promise.
Speaking of which, the written words of some locals gained exposure far beyond the immediate area. Only one of the following has been mentioned in these pages.
A Lagniappe column received international distribution. When 370 delegates from 43 countries met for the International Planetarium Society’s June conference in Warsaw, Poland, the May 5 Artifice lobbying for a permanent planetarium in Mobile’s museum constellation was included in the distributed periodical, The Planetarian.
More importantly than my self-indulgence, Mobile author Angela Quarles’ 2015 work “Must Love Chainmail” won an American RITA Award in the Paranormal Romance category during a star-studded July 15 ceremony in San Diego, California. It’s one of the most highly sought awards in the genre.
Sure, it wasn’t all bad but there’s got to be an upswing in 2017. We paid dues the last dozen months to earn it.
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