Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Get ready for the biggest party in the Santa Cruz arts community since the demise of the old Hearts for the Arts. That would be the Gail Rich Awards, celebrating its 15th anniversary this Wednesday, January 26, at the Rio Theater, where six new inductees will be initiated into the tribe and presented to a grateful public.

Don't expect suspense. Recipients are announced in advance; Price-Waterhouse is not involved. There are no winners or losers, because it's not a contest, just a chance for the community to come together and celebrate some of the folks who make this the kind of place we all want to live in.

Under the auspices of the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County Associates, the idea behind "the Gailies" was hatched at the Sentinel by arts reporter Wallace Baine and photographer Shmuel Thaler. They were looking for a way to honor the abundance of creative artists—dancers, craftspeople, musicians, writers, artists, actors, entrepreneurs, teachers, clowns, exhibitors, purveyors—who make our home town so culturally rich. The award, "recognizing people in the arts who inspire our community," is named for the late and still beloved Gail Rich, onetime Sentinel arts correspondent and member of CCSCC Associates, who was a tireless champion of the local arts scene.

The original plan was to recognize each year's new honorees with a lavish photo spread in the Sentinel, featuring Shmuel's dynamic black-and-white portraits and Wallace's adroit commentary. Then someone got the idea to stage an awards ceremony in the beckoning intimacy of the Kuumbwa, an event that quickly took on a life of its own. These annual Kuumbwa events (always in January, when it's usually pouring outside) became the place to schmooze and be schmoozed with all strata of our thriving arts community. Wine was poured by the ever-gracious Robert Kelley of Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre (who went on to receive his own Gailie with co-founder Diane Cypher), and there was always a spread of fabulous local treats after the ceremony. Peter McGettigan (also a future Gailie recipient) started filming the event for rebroadcast on Community TV. After a few years, there were so many folks lined up outside in the rain, hoping to get in, that last year they switched to a new venue at the Rio.

While we all miss the intimacy of Kuumbwa, the sheer capacity of the Rio ensures that no one has to resort to Machiavellian ploys just to get a seat. Master of ceremonies Wallace's jokes are just as funny and the montage of Shmuel's photos just as impressive in a larger auditorium. Of course, the Rio is an alcohol-free venue, but that didn't dampen the spirit one iota at last year's event.

We're even looking forward to clear skies this year. So come in a party mood to celebrate this year's honorees: photographer Bob Barber, singer Lori Rivera, musician Bryn Loosley, artist Rose Sellery, Rick "Ukelele Dick" McKee, and artist/writer T. Mike Walker. Doors open at 7:10 pm sharp; showtime is 7:30 pm. Admission is free. Read all about it at the CCSCC website. And to really get in the groove, check out this cool slideshow of all 84 of Shmuel's fabulous photos of Gailie honorees.

Speaking of people who are an asset to our community, did you see the exhibit, "Transfigurations" by local photographer Jana Marcus? Begun as a thesis project at San Jose State University, this important show documents a handful of transgendering men and women who allowed Jana to photograph the stages of their progress and record their unique stories. From the initial showing at SJSU in 2004, various reinventions and updates of the exhibit have been seen in New York, Seattle, Illinois State University, Stanford University and San Francisco, as well as local showings at the Attic in 2006 and at Cabrillo College last fall.

As a pioneering work in the still marginalized field of LGBT studies, the exhibit has garnered many awards and citations. For years, fans have been pestering Jana to bring it out as a book, but no such luck in today's belt-tightening, play-it-safe publishing environment. So this month, Jana decided to get a grip on her destiny and posted the "Transfigurations" book project on Kickstarter.com, the website that functions as a kind of creativity matchmaker, presenting artistic projects in need of funding to a cyber-pool of potential donors. Response so far has been tremendous. Donations accepted until February 23, but the project looks like a go. Click here to see how she's doing and cheer her on.

(Above: Jana hangs her exhibit at the Attic, May, 2006.)

No comments:

Post a Comment