Art Works Blog

Cultural Resolutions: NEA Staff

We've officially reached that critical point in January when all those high hopes and bright beginnings of the new year seem like a distant memory. As our resolve for self-improvement begins to lag, we thought we'd share the cultural resolutions of NEA staff members. We hope they'll serve as a source of inspiration, and will help keep your own creative fire burning during these bleak winter days.

Beth Bienvenu: After spending decades studying western classical music and choral singing, I have resolved to try something new this year. I will be swapping masses, requiems, orchestras, and western European languages for the folk music traditions of Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Poland, Romania, and the Ukraine. I have recently joined an Eastern European women’s folk choir and am looking forward to exploring the musical traditions and languages of these countries, as well as a new vocal style, a whole new set of instruments, and new scales and tonalities. My first challenge will be to break away from years of western vocal training to learn to produce a different type of sound. My second challenge will be to learn to sing in a whole new set of languages. And my third challenge will be to learn more about the cultures and regional differences in the music. I have a lot to learn but I’m looking forward to an exciting new adventure!

Jason Schupbach: I plan to go see the Yoko Ono Show at MOMA, and in preparation, try follow all of the instructions in Grapefruit.

Maryrose Flanigan: 1. Read a book a week (going great so far).
Instead of reading my backlog, read more what other people are reading so we can discuss it and I’m reading what is being discussed more in culture.
Check out “shelfie” opportunity (the bitlit app).
Donate more actively to the classical music station I listen to all the time.
Hire a babysitter and go to more readings and concerts and plays.

Denise Grail Brandenburg: I am urging my five-year-old and seven-year-old kids to join a local children’s choir. I’m a former music teacher/middle school choir director, and I sing all of the time with my three young kids at home. This year I’m looking forward to getting my girls into ensemble singing so they canhopefully!start to experience the joy of singing with a group. I’m cautious of course. Like many parents, I hope that my kids develop similar passions as mine, but like many parents, I learned early on you can’t dictate what your kids will love. Already on the cutting room floor for my oldest: ballet, gymnastics, and she won’t even try soccer (yet!). Singing is essential to who I am, and my own education and career have focused on music education, so my fingers are crossed that they will fall in love with this experience.

Jennie Terman: My cultural resolutions for 2015 are to resuscitate my foreign language skills, play more music, and make friends doing both.

Sarah Metz: 1. Resume my classic tv project at 2014 got busy, and it got away from me. 2. Finally watch the Pride and Prejudice miniseries from the 90s with Colin Firth. No, I’ve never seen this. Yes, everyone I knowfriends, family members, strangers on the streetloves it and is aghast when I admit to never seeing it. (Bridget Jones would be so disappointed in me.)
Watch the following acclaimed cable TV shoes: Fargo, True Detective, and The Americans.
Bill Haderwho gave my favorite performance of 2014 in The Skeleton Twins and in addition to being on SNL for years, is also a classic movie buff and has hosted various TCM programswrote this epic list of 200 Films Every Comedy Writer Should See for Mike Sacks’ book Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers. I started with the A’s at the end of last year, and plan to plow through a good chunk of it this year. 5. Find new podcasts. I already listen to a ton, but know there are so many other great ones out there. 6. Speaking of podcasts, I have a huge list of books to read from listening to the podcast, Literary Disco. Among them are The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, Dave Cullen’s epic Columbine, and Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson.

Laska Hurley: Finish one of the eight novels started in the past five years; Learn to tame wolverines; Lots of re-reading: Lost in Petra, Uncovered in Istanbul, The Milk of Birds, The Half Blood Prince, and Tarzan; Learn to oil paint.

Paulette Beete: My cultural resolution for 2015 is to focus more on poetry and prayer, which are sometimes the same thing.

Meg McGillivray: Paint more: I love to paint not only because I love to hang a piece of art I made myself (see the last point), but also because it is a very humbling experience. I’ve been working on a painting of a dog for months, and it still looks like a goat—studying art history, you don’t learn much about the actual craft, just the product’s significance. So on the academic side, I think about art as an extraction from its historical context, the artist’s psychology and socio-economic standing, the artist’s gender, and what he or she was like as a citizen. But, with that viewpoint, it’s easy to get into the habit of only seeing works of art as mirrors to their circumstances, and vice versa. I hope my Art Historical Research Methods professor is reading this. It’s hard to set aside that version of the artist and just think of the artist as someone who sits down and makes a work of art even though of course, for many artists, their lives (not to mention social standing) very much depended on their art. That is to say, I don’t think of art as historically a “making” process, and in that sense I’ve taken it for granted.

Get out more: My favorite spaces are mid-size estate museums where you can enjoy a priceless collection without the crowd, which lets you really hone in on the details. Dumbarton Oaks here in town and the Musée Carnavalet in Paris are just a couple that come to mind. I recently visited the Lunder Conservation Center at the American Art Museum and though the art was a little rough around the edges, the way they display it, the grandiosity of the space, and the lack of people just blew me away. Free coffee didn’t hurt. I’m hoping to visit the Haupt Garden sometime soon, as well as the Merriweather-Post collection.

Improve my own space: When masterpiece prints are available three blocks away at the National Gallery for as little as $1.50 a piece, there’s no reason to not completely fill my sad apartment wall space with them. I have a good variety right now; my newest addition, and my favorite, is the Adele Bloch Bauer. It reminds me of how precious and finite great art is, that it must be both protected and fostered. I keep my favorite books, catalogues, and a couple museum brochures at my desk for the same reason.

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