Tom Strini
Arts bits

Updated Friday 12/4

By - Dec 1st, 2009 09:39 pm
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Chuchito Valdes

Chuchito Valdes

Happy coincidence: Chuchito Valdes, the scion of the Latin-jazz Valdes family, is in town with his Afro-Cuban Quartet to play a couple of concerts for Latino Arts, Inc. Just yesterday, his grandfather, Bebo, and his father were nominated for Grammy Awards in the Latin Jazz Album category. The public concert is at 7:30 tonight in Latino Arts Auditorium. For tickets and further information, click here.

MSO Holiday Bonus: Patti Bringe-Blomquist and Richard Blomquist have given the Milwaukee Symphony $500,000 to fund the MSO’s next 10 Hometown Holiday Tours.

The December tours take the orchestra to hospitals and care facilities for free concerts. This year’s Hometown Holiday Tour, for example, shapes up thusly:

This season, the Patti Bringe-Blomquist and Richard Blomquist Hometown Holiday Tour will visit St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care (Dec. 16), Clement J. Zablocki V.A. Hospital (Dec. 17), Milwaukee Center for Independence (Dec. 18), Milwaukee Lutheran Home (Dec. 18), Calvary Church (Dec. 19), and Alexian Village (Dec. 20). The MSO will be led by the orchestra’s resident conductor, Stuart Chafetz, and the program includes Leontovich’s Carol of the Bells, Anderson’s The Syncopated Clock and Sleigh Ride,  and Berlin’s White Christmas.

The Assurant Health Foundation also helps to support this outreach effort.

I’m delighted that the Bradley Sculpture Garden will open its gates and start behaving more like an outdoor museum and less like a private collection, starting this spring.

But as a fan of all things UWM, particularly when it comes to the Peck School of the Arts, I’m sad that the Garden has plucked Polly Morris from Panthertown. Morris will become executive director at the Garden Jan. 1.

Polly Morris is the opposite of a self-promoter. It was hard to find a picture of her online. Here's one from the Walker's Point Center for the Arts site. She's looking at the art, not the camera. Typical.

Polly Morris is the opposite of a self-promoter. It was hard to find a picture of her online. Here’s one from the Walker’s Point Center for the Arts site. She’s looking at the art, not the camera. Typical.

She was director of marketing and external affairs at the Peck School. Morris had the thankless and impossible job of marketing the hundreds of performing and visual arts events the school puts on every year and of raising the profile of its academic pursuits. She worked incredibly hard to get the word out and was a presence at almost every Peck event. Morris made things work right.

That’s what the press and public saw of her. She is also known as a grant writing wizard and helped innumerable faculty proposals find their way to money. On top of everything else, she oversaw the PSOA box office and was lead administrator of the Nohl visual arts fellowships. Morris also generated ideas and partnerships and found ways to make them happen. I can’t imagine how UWM, especially in its present financial straits, can possibly replace her intelligence, zeal and work ethic.

Before Morris joined the UWM staff nine years ago, after working on contract for a few years, she was the force behind the founding and early growth of Danceworks, now one of Milwaukee’s most important cultural institutions.

Coincidentally, Danceworks also made an important change this week: Kim Johnson-Rockafellow, a 10-year member of the Danceworks Performance Company, has been named associate artistic director, under A.D. Dani Kuepper.

Kim Johnson-Rockafellow

Kim Johnson-Rockafellow

Johnson-Rockafellow is a fine choreographer and long, lean, beautiful dancer. She will assist Kuepper generally and be specifically in charge of ongoing training of dancers. Johnson-Rockafellow will also try to make stronger connections between DPC, the public face of Danceworks, and its burgeoning, wide-ranging studio classes, which account for the lion’s share of the non-profit’s revenue.

Johnson-Rockafellow, like most Danceworkers, is a graduate of UWM’s brilliant dance program. She earned her BFA, with high honors, in 2000. In addition to her studio classes at Danceworks, she taught for several years at the Milwaukee Ballet School and even managed the school’s branch at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center.

Also at Danceworks: Liz Hildebrandt is the new production manager and manager of DanceLab, the summer initiative for the development of new choreographers and of partnerships with artists from other fields. Hildebrant, a DPC member for six years, was recently the project manager for Mad Hot Ballroom, a raging success of an educational initiative.


Tennessee Ernie Ford

Plaid Tidings has been around since 2003 and played all over America, so you might be able to see it elsewhere. But only at the Skylight Opera Theatre, where it runs through Jan. 3, can you see and hear it with percussionist Ding Lorenz. Lorenz and music director James Valcq added percussion parts to the rental score, which is for bass and piano only. Lorenz adds immeasurably to the color and verve of the music.

And now, the greatest Christmas video of all time. Keep your eye on Tennessee Ernie’s son, to his immediate right.

0 thoughts on “Arts bits: Updated Friday 12/4”

  1. Anonymous says:

    What I love most about that video is that TEF STILL gave a flawless performance! Just great!

    We will all miss Polly so much in her current role. She’s been an unbelievable asset to UWM and an incredible advocate, both internally and externally, for the important work of PSOA. Best of luck to her at the Garden, though. I know she will do equally amazing work there as well.

  2. Anonymous says:

    WOW — ditto to everything else that Tom has said about Polly Morris. Plus all of that, she has touched and helped so many other arts and service organizations organization here. The ‘total’ arts scene in Milwaukee would not be what we are today without Polly Morris’ zeal and commitment. The Bradley Sculpture Garden has found a gem, but I know that Polly will continue many of her passions in Milwaukee. Go Polly!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing our information on Kim and Liz at the same time as the news of Polly hit TCD. Danceworks owes so much to Polly Morris–I look forward to visiting her in the garden!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Those of us in the Peck School of the Arts are devastated to lose Polly for more reasons than anyone of us even knows yet. We all wish Polly the very best, but our world won’t be the same without her.

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