20 years: Two decades of Arts coverage 

For 20 years, NUVO has covered the arts in Indianapolis. When other media in town seemed to regard arts coverage as a kind of free advertising, NUVO stuck to the idea that the arts equal news — a vital indicator of how our city is doing.

Arts coverage, of course, is impossible without arts writers. Over that 20-year span, NUVO has enlisted an indomitable team, a chorus, really, of voices to watch, listen and share their impressions, ideas and insights.

Consider the following, then, a montage or medley of some of the writers who have brought the arts in Indianapolis to the readers of these pages...

"'One thing that makes me angry,' Leppard says with agitation, 'is when people are wasting life. That's why I hate airports — all the unnecessary waiting. I always figure that if you end up in purgatory, it's an airport.'"

- Terry Loncaric, "Conductor Raymond Leppard: he takes his music to bed," April 4-11, 1990

"A SPECIAL TRIBUTE TO A SPECIAL MAN will be given on Saturday, January 19, 7 p.m. at the American Cabaret Theatre, 401 E. Michigan St. Etheridge Knight, regarded by many as one of the nation's finest performers of poetry, will be honored in a celebration of music, poetry and good will. An active advocate of poetry as an orla art, Knight has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment For the Arts... Paying homage will be Robert Bly, Donald Hall, Galway Kinnell and Elizabeth McKim. Local poets Jared Carter and Alice Friman, among others, will also be on hand for this one-in-a-lifetime event."

- Charles Sutphin, "Culture Corner," January 16-23, 1991

"You seem to be preoccupied with the male organ. So writes local artist Keith Banner in the corner of 'Highway to Hell.' 'Highway' is one of several of Banner's works on display through March 30 at the 431 Gallery. The show is entitled, appropriately, 'Perversion.' True to his word, Banner, a 25 year-old recent IUPUI graduate, is excessively fixated with male genitalia. And, yes, 'Perversion' is perverted, which is unfortunate since some of the pieces are well-crafted and express a legitimate, albeit provocative, message."

- Charles Sutphin, "Perverted on Purpose," March 20-27, 1991

"Most everyone likes to feel a touch of ownership when a local icon is involved. Not surprisingly, everyone in Indiana and beyond wants to claim his own obtuse connection with rocker/painter John Mellencamp. Two years ago the Indianapolis Art League was barely large enough to contain its burstingly proud director, Joyce Summers (sic), as the league gave its first look at Mellencamp's paintings."

- Sharon L. Calhoon, "Dark and brooding: John Mellencamp's paintings improving but derivative," January 20-27, 1993

"It is an ironic and disappointing commentary that the most compelling art currently on view in Indianapolis is not at an art institution or gallery but rather at the Children's Museum. Regardless of the venue, Outside the Dream: Child Poverty in America and Holocaust Survivors are two moving photographic exhibits important for all people to view."

- Sharon L. Calhoon, "Art is Where You Find it," February 24-March 3, 1993

"NUVO is an alternative newspaper that covers art and advocacy in our community. Too often, the subjects are separately treated — separate in our coverage, separate in your lives."

- Editorial, March 3-10, 1993

"Part of the enjoyment in any theatergoing experience is to be able to project oneself onto the characters upon the stage. Whether the character is male or female, the actor should give the role enough emotional depth that the audience can empathize with him or her. [Priscilla] Lindsay's performance [in Shirley Valentine is a tour de force. The audience is mesmerized by her wit, strength, canny insights and inner struggles."

- Bill Elliott, "Tour de Force: Priscilla Lindsay brings power, finesse to 'Shirley Valentine,'" March 24-31, 1993

"The grounds are rarely crowded, except for special events. On my most recent visit, I was cherishing the time and space alone. There were others there, all using the grounds for their special purposes. One couple was definitely breaking up. A few minutes later, there was a happy father alone and hand-in-hand with his pre-teen daughter. Just before departing I walked into a clearing where two women were in an emotional embrace."

- Sharon L. Calhoon, "Public places/Private spaces: A garden for everyone at the IMA, August 3-10, 1995

"'It will barely be a theater, it will be a joke,' says well- known Indianapolis architect Evans Woolen. He's the man who designed Clowes Hall and he has several decades of theater renovation and construction experience, as well as a national reputation. He agrees with critics who are opposing the renovation and says the increase in seating capacity will come at the expense of the theater's acoustical quality and historic integrity."

- Fred Ramos and Mike Lafferty, "Curtain falls on Murat funding," September 21-28, 1995

"On July 12-13, the newly named Gregory Hancock Dance theatre brought dynamic sheroes to the Pike Performing Arts Center. Both Salome and Joan of Arc join Hancock's kinetic pantheon of gutsy women severely tested by their situation; predecessors are the sacrificed Chosen Maiden in The Rite of Spring and the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Yes, Hancock has a thing for gutsy women, though he claims inspiration not by gender specifically, but by the compelling social issues these women pursue."

- Naomi Ritter, "Feisty Women Dance!, July 24-31, 1997

"So what's up with our culture? It's hard to find opportunities for multi-generational -- and multi-racial — gatherings. Has the melting pot stewed us into submission? Are we too busy watching the tube to venture forth into our community?"

- Jim Poyser, "Peace in the Park," August 28-September 4, 1997

"In the name of economy, IPS has cut its arts curriculum to the vanishing point. Forget the studies that show how children who study instrumental music excel in math. Forget that we live in a world where visual literacy is increasingly important. Forget public concerns about the influence of commercial mass media on young peoples' view of the world and loss of respect for cultural values. Forget the erosion among so many students of what are called "critical thinking skills." Although arts education addresses these issues in practical, memorable ways, IPS claims it can't afford it. As IPS trivializes the arts, it is no coincidence that the overall quality of an IPS education is trivialized to the point of indefensibility."

- David Hoppe, "The widening gap between the cultural haves and have-nots," September 11-18, 1997

"This play demands a lot on every level. Audiences must be ready to THINK and be entertained. Stage manager Claissa Dollar had to coordinate more sound and light cues than the Phoenix has ever used. Set and lighting designers Robert and Ryan Koharchik had to incorporate rolling walls, an upper-level stage, an under-the-floor elevator and a thrusting staircase. Michael Lasley had to make every surreal scene sound that way. And director Bryan Fonseca had to cushion all this movement so it wouldn't detract from the actors who are his real job — and his best treasure."

- Maureen Dobie, "Sheer poignant power: Angels in America, Part One, September 17-24, 1998

"Participation in an art is not simply one of many possible ways to make a living, an obsolescent trade as we approach the year 2000. Participation in an art, at bottom, has nothing to do with earning money. Participation in an art, although unrewarded by wealth or fame, and as the Middle West has encouraged so many of its young to discover for themselves, is a way to make one's soul grow."

-- Kurt Vonnegut, "To Be a Native Middle-Westerner," May 20-27, 1999

"Beauty and dignity walked with him in life, and remain with us in his designs as comforting reminders of a gentle presence in a world he helped make better."

- Rita Kohn, "Remembering: Walter Scott Blackburn, architect," August 31-September 7, 2000

"Greg Brown of Utrillo's Art is an intellectual social historian wild man. Two-D specimens of mundane popular "art" pieces of the 20th century — everyman's art — fill the crotchety confines of his rather unarchivally sound gallery space. Fashionable wall art of the middle classes, and then some, is staggered about. Kitsch. Campy. Bizarre and all true."

- Mary Lee Pappas, "Bizarre and all true," August 31-Sept. 7, 2000

Upon entering Ruschman Gallery the other day, I was smitten with déjà vu. The figures and landscapes surrounding me seemed vaguely familiar. There were people, mostly women, standing and sitting around, looking tired but contented, gazing at each other, a view from a window, or nothing at all."

- Julie Pratt McQuiston (Julianna Thibodeaux), "Happy sleepy people," Oct. 26-Nov. 2, 2000

"My favorite line from my favorite spiritual movie, Dogma, is when Serendipity says that it doesn't matter what you have faith in, as long as you have faith. Despite what your personal beliefs may be, you have to respect a group of people who believe so wholeheartedly that God will protect them that they're willing to handle poisonous snakes.

"Or, they are completely insane."

- Lisa Gauthier, "Handling a Crisis of Faith," July 30-August 6, 2003

"The United States of Mind is the only place of its kind in Indianapolis. Whether it's a Saturday afternoon drum class, a Friday night poetry and music open mic, or a Sunday night drum circle, this colorful space pulsates with creative energy. Even the sidewalk outside along 40th St. radiates upbeat attitude. From drummers to poets to down-on-their-luck drunks who sometimes visit, everyone gets happier the closer they come to the front door."

- Jim Walker and Nick Adamski, "Poetry readings, raps and drums," August 27-September 3, 2003

"Like Chopin's piano writing, and quite unlike much of Liszt's, Edvard Grieg's most challenging keyboard constructions serve up much more than mere empty display: They are inseparably linked with those arrestingly hummable melodies pervading the work's three movements. Weiss pounded them out with ease, not so much like cascades of pearls but more resembling little ingots of steel — to offer my only c.c.c. (critic's curmudgeonly caveat)."

- Tom Aldridge, "Grieg gets crowds," Nov. 10-17. 2004

"David Hochoy's choreography is particularly splendid for 'Magical Mystery Tour' and 'Yellow Submarine,' whimsy coupling with tongue-in-cheek. Subtext surfaces in the choreography to all the songs and there are indeed both subtle and outright gleanings of the personal and communal changes that forced the innocence of the early songs — and of the generation — into the sense of decadence that pervades the '60s generation even today."

- Rita Kohn, "Dance Kaleidoscope: 'Magical Mystery Tour,'" April 4-11, 2007

" As a middle-aged member of the generation that fought and protested that war, I found myself feeling uncomfortable at first. This sketch seemed to cross a line, not just of good taste, but of a way we've come to regard our history. The Cool Table sketch used a brutal kind of shorthand to make serious fun of our consoling predilection for turning the people who survive the history we create into heroes or victims. I doubt an older person would have struck this unforgiving tone; I'm sure many people would, to put it mildly, consider it insensitive. But I found it liberating. We've spent years talking about "the lessons" the Vietnam War supposedly taught us. As current events have demonstrated — from the bitter candidacy of John Kerry to our self-aggrandizing willingness to destroy Iraq in order to save it — we've flunked the class."

- David Hoppe, "Comedy for a new generation," Sept. 6-13, 2006

"You might not expect to see world class art when you go somewhere to get your hair done. But this is indeed possible in Fountain Square: Alchemy Art & Aesthetics co-owner Robert Meko is displaying five of his large canvases during the moth of December. These realistic portraits in oil depict human subjects in motion. The subjects, all in their 20s, look like the kind of people who might themselves be starting businesses in Fountain Square or trying to earn a living as artists in a souring economy."

- Dan Grossman, "Robert Aurel Meko," December 10-December 17, 2008

"But even though she passed at 85, Bettie Page will be forever young — even though she lived to see the sexual revolution that she played so crucial a part in bringing about. She'll always be that sultry, alluring young lady with the jet black bangs, letting us in on the joke even as she reminds us that it's all going to be OK."

- Paul F.P. Pogue, "The sensational Bettie Page," December 17-24, 2008

"'Octolove' stands out as an altar-like triptych with a central, mystic face of a bearded man with multiple outstretched tentacles. Lip-like suckers cover arms that reach across a rich, red background. Iconic and groovy, this could have been a piece George Harrison might have hung on his livingroom wall."

- Susan Watt Grade, "Hi-Pop: New work by William Denton Ray and James Ratliff, March 18-25, 2009

"Saturday night's memories included laying out a corpse, seeing a nun up close and driving down a winding country road with a snake on the dashboard. His mother's reaction when the snake leapt at her? Davis says, 'She lost her punctuation. It was a long sentence for the rest of the night.' If Davis strays into territory unfamiliar to you, he will eventually bring it back to the basics: the urge to explore freely, the fear of the unknown and, if you are lucky, a kind hand to guide you when not knowing becomes too much."

- Josefa Beyer, "Donald Davis: Homeplace Stories," March 18-25, 2009

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