Mountain Stage Comes to ETSU

Long-running public radio music program Mountain Stage with Larry Groce is coming to Johnson City this weekend.

Mountain Stage has been distributed weekly across the country by NPR for more than 30 years. The two hour show is recorded live and features established and emerging artists from across genres. This Sunday, the program comes to ETSU’s D.P. Culp University Center.

Set to perform are Band of Ruhks, Claire Lynch Band, Bumper Jacksons, Otis Gibbs, and the ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band. The show is at 7 p.m., with doors at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $25, $20 for seniors or $10 with an ETSU student I.D. For more information on the bands and ticket purchases, go here.

Just think: if you cheer loud enough, it could be considered your public radio debut!

The Carousel Waltz

I’ll admit that several years ago, when I first heard that Kingsport was building a carousel downtown, I had one question: Why?

I rode a lot of carousels as a child. The one at Dollywood, the one at the Knoxville Zoo, the one at the mall where I lived in Alabama (a full-size size one, smack in the middle of the food court). But I didn’t understand why Kingsport of all places needed a carousel attached to the farmers’ market.

The project started in 2008 with an idea from Gale Joh. Where he grew up in New York, carousels abounded, and he felt that the children of Kingsport deserved the everyday delight he’d experienced as a kid. Through years of work by many local artists, support by the government and help from its citizens, Joh’s dream came to fruition. Though he did not live to see the carousel’s completion in 2015, it is finished.

Open Wednesday through Sunday, rides are just $1.  I went for the first time this past Saturday.

My family and I went to the Fine Crafts Show at the farmers’ market. A ride on the carousel came with admission to the show. My mother was excited, but I felt neutral about the whole thing.

When we walked into the roundhouse, I changed my mind. Here was this massive structure: hand-carved and hand-painted, 32 animals and two chariots, the contributing artists listed on the walls. The music isn’t played over loud speakers; it’s done by a pipe organ, loud and brassy.

We picked out mounts, and I climbed up onto the wooden horse. I used to ride real horses, too, so my body knew what to do: heels down, legs tight, tuck your tail bone. It was familiar.

“Oh, look!” my mom said, pointing. Above us, around us, there was more to see: little animals perched on the metal framing, murals of local flora and fauna, each thing rendered in exquisite detail. For the three and a half minutes of the ride, you’re never bored because there’s always something else to turn your eye to.

Soon enough, the ride lurched to a halt. My horse stopped at the top of its rotation.

“Do you need help getting down?” my dad asked.

“Do you know how many times I’ve dismounted a horse in my life?” I countered, swinging down in one smooth arc–muscle memory.

“Oh, right. I forget about that.”

We forget about a lot of things–things that used to be an integral part of us, cast aside unwittingly or unconsciously. That’s the nature of being alive; you experience too much to remember all of it.

But we can decide to pick those things back up, once we’re reminded of them. Even if it’s only for a moment, just three minutes on a carousel, we can remember what it’s like to be children with wonder in our eyes.

That’s why the carousel. It’s a massive artistic undertaking. It’s for the kids to have fun. It’s for the adults to remember how they used to–and maybe remember how to do it again.

Craft Show by the Carousel

Craving some new decor for your home? Always wanted to learn about Bonsai trees? Just want to get out of the house?

This weekend, Engage Kingsport presents the National Carousel Fine Craft Show, where you’ll be able to do all those things and more. The show is open this Saturday and Sunday at the Kingsport Farmers Market downtown. A special preview party will be held Friday night from 6-9 p.m.

There will be all kinds of crafts on display and for sale throughout the weekend — pottery, quilts, jewelry and more. The show will also feature craft demonstrations, workshops and lectures. Food trucks will be available for lunch.

Whether you want a new photograph to hang on the wall or hope to learn something new, the Fine Craft Show is sure to have what you’re looking for.

Saturday and Sunday tickets are $5. Friday night’s preview party is $35 and includes weekend admission.

For more information, visit engagekingsport.com or call (423)392-8414.

Why We Fight

Last Thursday, President Trump released his proposed budget, which asks for an increase in military spending and decreases in a lot of other places — including the arts. This isn’t a political blog, and up till now I’ve kept myself out of it for the most part, but there is a person writing these words. That person (me) cares about the arts.

The proposed budget would cut federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts entirely, as well as that for the National Endowment for the Humanities. There would be funding decreases for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which funds many local radio and TV stations. (NPR has more information here.)

It’s just a theoretical spending outline. Congress will write and pass the actual budget. What Trump put out on Thursday is essentially a wishlist, and it reflects his campaign promises.

Every week — sometimes every day — I am shocked that our president continues to try to make good on those promises. Maybe that’s naive, and it’s not like I took the things he said on the campaign trail lightly; a lot of them legitimately scared me. However, some part of me hoped they were hollow promises, empty threats. Sure he says he’ll build the wall, but he won’t really. He wouldn’t dare! Turns out, he would.

The NEA, NEH, and CPD support billion dollar industries and provide millions of jobs to Americans. It’s about more than that, though. If we cut funding to the arts, then what are we doing? What are we working toward? Where are we trying to go? What are we fighting for?

Snopes recently confirmed that that last question is not in fact a Winston Churchill quote, but the sentiment remains strong. Churchill did have something to say about the arts, however, and that’s what I’ll leave with you.

“The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.”

One Step for Man, 39 Steps for Comedy

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The banner for the play The 39 Steps from the production’s Facebook page.

Kingsport’s State Theatre Company opens its second production this weekend with The 39 Steps, a play adapted from the 1915 novel by John Buchan and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film.

The production opened last night at Taylored Venue & Events located in downtown Kingsport. It runs March 16 – April 2, with $15 tickets available at the door or at STC’s website here. The show is family friendly, and a cash bar will be open every night serving classic cocktails to fit with the show’s 1930s feel.

The play itself is a spy thriller played for laughs. Only four actors–three men, one woman–play over 100 characters over its course, with lightning-quick changes between them and oftentimes playing more than one character per scene. An uproarious comedy that has been performed and adored the world over, this is not a show to miss.

Check out the trailer below or visit the production’s Facebook page here for more details.

Putting the Art Back in Kingsport’s Heart

image1Kingsport, Tennessee, is and always has been an industry town. Eastman, Domtar, an abundance of hospitals–it’s easy to forget that this town has more to offer.

Engage Kingsport, working with the Office of Cultural Arts, sought to change that starting several years back. One project it spearheaded was the Kingsport Carousel, a massive undertaking that took years of work by many artists that now rests, completed, downtown for the public to enjoy.

The Art in the Heart Gallery originally opened as a volunteer-led art gallery to help support the Carousel Project. After the project’s completion, Engage Kingsport had every intention of shutting the gallery down. However, Faye Boushley believed that the gallery still had purpose in the town.

Three years after its initial opening, the Art in the Heart Gallery continues to flourish. The number of artists on display has grown from 20 to 75. Each week, local artists teach a variety of classes for children and adults (the schedule for which can be found on the gallery’s website here).

With its mission to support local artistry, Boushley keeps a 100-mile range on the artists showcased in the gallery. The first Thursday of every month, the gallery spotlights a featured artists during downtown’s Sip and Stroll event.

As a nonprofit, all the proceeds from the gallery now go directly to its overhead. Artists are juried into the gallery do not pay a fee to have their work shown. They receive a percentage of the proceeds from the sales.

“The ultimate goal of the gallery is just to continue on,” Boushley said, “and to grow and to support more of the local artists. Also to let Kingsport and the surrounding areas know we’re here.”

The gallery certainly is here and is worth a visit. Located at 246 Broad St. in the heart of downtown Kingsport, it is open Wednesday-Saturday.

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Public Art Committee meeting

The Johnson City Public Art Committee will have its monthly meeting tonight at 5 p.m. Meetings are regularly held on the second Wednesday of each month at City Hall in the administrative conference room.

According to their page on Johnson City’s website, the “Public Art Committee is responsible for establishing policies of the public art program, setting goals, consulting with staff on an annual work plan, developing project ideas, overseeing the selection of artworks and their locations, securing funding, ensuring proper maintenance of the public art collection, and advocating for public art.” It is comprised of 12 members appointed by the City Commission for staggered three-year terms.

With the dissolution of the Johnson City Arts Council, the PAC is trying to build a higher profile in the community. The PAC is in the beginning stages of organizing an arts festival for this fall to garner community interest and support for public art.

Tonight, PAC will  discuss active public art projects such as the Quote Walk fundraiser and the Veterans Park sculpture. They will review marketing and long-term planning goals.

For more information on the PAC as part of the Public Works Administration, visit their webpage or contact its director Phil Pindzola at ppindzola@johnsoncitytn.org.