Arts in 2008
It was a year on the move for theater and art
By Heidi Masek email@example.com
While there were many notable performances and exhibitions in 2008 that showed more diversification, and use of more unique or contemporary work, many changes actually had to do with arts facilities.
A major change was that after $21.4 million and a year and nine months of being closed, the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester reopened 33,000 square feet bigger March 30. The new wing’s contemporary exterior’s contrast with the 1929 Italianate-inspired building and 1982 gallery wings put off a few people, as did the new acquisition “Origins,” by American sculptor Mark di Suvero, which stands about 35 feet tall outside the entrance.
The Museum, which includes some respectable names in its collection of American and European art, can now show about 50 percent more of the 5 to 7 percent of their 11,000-object collection that they had been able to show. It also branched out with a focus on Pop art, in its “Andy Warhol: Pop Politics” special exhibit (closing Jan. 4), and filled a new gallery with a contemporary site-specific installation by New Hampshire artist Kirsten Reynolds (closes in February).
Two New Hampshire natives hit Broadway. Hannah Cabell of Tamworth performed with Frank Langella in A Man for All Seasons. Nashua’s Alexandra Socha took over the lead in Spring Awakening. Spring Awakening and other popular Broadway shows, including Spamalot and Gypsy, close their runs early in January because of economic woes.
The Acting Loft in Manchester provided the production offices and a few filming locations for Mystery Team, a movie that premieres at Sundance in January, directed by Manchester native Dan Eckman. It’s a project of the Derrick Comedy troupe of New York. Producer and Manchester native Meggie McFadden is also a member.
Sarah and Laura Silverman performed at the Palace Theatre in Manchester to help raise money for the summer park performances produced by the company their mother Beth Ann O’Hara founded, New Thalian Players.
A conclusion finally came for the Kimball-Jenkins Estate mess, albeit a mysterious one. The drama began about a year before the Oct. 2 probate court appearance where it was announced that an agreement had been reached: the estate trustees are to leave by Dec. 31 and a whole new board be appointed; and nobody talks. Carolyn Jenkins died of cancer in 1981 and left her family’s late-1800s mansion for charitable purposes. Last year, a probate judge called in the trustees at a time when a former employee faced fraud allegations, and estate users were protesting a proposal to let the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen use it for their headquarters.
The Kimball-Jenkins School of Art and art classes from NHTI are main occupants.
In more positive news, the Palace Theatre expanded to offer a community repertory series during the summer, a time when their professional season doesn’t run.
Mary Selvoski finally got an affordable home in Manchester for the thousands of costumes she makes and rents to theater companies after Mary’s Closet spent time in temporary basement space for a year.
The Monastery Artists Collective disbanded from their space in 21 West Auburn St. in Manchester, but some former members helped open the Underground M.A.P. (music, art, poetry) Project, in a storefront across from Red Arrow Diner on Lowell Street.
The Acting Loft also acquired, through support from William L. Ritchie Jr., the former church building where they were leasing basement space and have plans to turn it into a performing arts center.
The Concord Community Players had to put off a performance of The Full Monty when snow collapsed the roof of their studio.
In Nashua, the professional Yellow Taxi Productions found a home finally, opening up a black box stage inside 5 Pine St. Extension between Gallery One and the Nashua Community Music School. Previously, they spent a lot of time lining up temporary rehearsal and performance space.
Nashua held its first International Sculpture Symposium with much urging from arts patron Meri Goyette and support from the city, local artists and other patrons. It was modeled after symposia at, and received assistance from, the Andres Institute of Art in Brookline. Four of five sculptures are now installed outdoors in downtown.
While the Nashua Art Walk open studio series dropped from a quarterly to an annual event, people in Concord and Manchester tried their luck with markets. Katy Brown previewed the outdoor Concord Arts Market during the fall with the intention of running it in the warmer months of 2009. The Franco-American Centre has been trying a monthly arts and local food and products indoor market in Manchester.
All Access Productions in Nashua turned into Phoenix Academy over the summer, when the young theater group held concerts in Second Life to raise money to keep the place going.