After it was announced that Theatre Memphis would not be renewing the contract of executive producer Ted Strickland, Dan Conaway, president of TM's board, told the Flyer that he had one main requirement for Strickland's successor. That person had to be "visible." He also said he was looking for someone who knew the Memphis market and who could walk into any door in town. It was clear that the board had a plan and a national search was not in the works.
TM recently selected one of its own to take over the reins: board member Debbie Litch. Litch served a successful term as development director for the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art since 1999. Before that, she worked for the Memphis Symphony in a similar capacity. Her charm, dedication, ability to knock on the right doors, and develop the right profile-raising events is not in question. Her ability to manage the nuts and bolts of a theater as large, ambitious, and needy as Theatre Memphis is another story.
"I'll be the first to admit it. I wasn't a theater major," Litch says confidently. "I won't be directing. But I know from being an audience member what I like and what I don't like. I want to know every inch of that theater. I want to know everything from the physical to the fiscal. I want to make sure the staff is empowered to do what they need to do. And I can ask people I trust to maintain and control artistic quality."
According to Litch, her long-term goals include a facelift for the aging building that has fallen into a bit of disrepair. She also hopes to "add to the menu."
"Maybe there are other dimensions [we can add]," Litch says, specifically referencing the theater's school-related programs.
With subscriptions falling and sponsors hard to come by, Litch says she's ready to use every resource available to her to turn things around.
"And if I need to, I'll pick up the phone and start cold-calling," she says. "It's hard, but if that's what it takes "
"Our goal is still the same," says Malcolm Aste, managing director of the Jack Robinson Gallery on Huling between South Main and Front. "We want to make Jack Robinson famous." But raising the posthumous profile of the overlooked Vogue photographer is no longer the gallery's sole aim. It hopes to become the premiere venue for Memphis photographers.
"We would also like to start bringing photographers in to lecture and do master classes," Aste says. "And we've been talking about putting in a couple of darkrooms that people could rent."
The first phase of this transformation begins with "PhotoMemphis 2004," a group show largely devoted to the usual suspects: Jack Kenner, Murray Riss, Larry McPherson, Lawrence Jasud, and Hallie Charney. But don't expect the same old stuff. Jack Kenner's nudes are witty and surprising. Charney (the only artist who really falls outside the "usual suspects" category) has presented some outstanding works that many may not recognize right away as photographs. Her process involves placing objects over photographic paper, exposing it to light, and adding paint.
Aste says that "PhotoMemphis" may become an annual or biannual event and that the gallery now hopes to show local photographers other than Jack Robinson on a regular basis.
It's not uncommon for art majors to never make another piece of art after graduation. That's why most schools don't track the careers of their art majors. Amy Hendren Silcox was well on her way to becoming just such a statistic. After graduating from MCA in the mid-1990s, the sculptor spent far too much time working her day job to make ends meet. But after some significant life-changes, she's ready to step up. Nearly a decade after graduation, Silcox's first show opens on Friday, January 23rd, at the Midtown Gallery.
"This was just something I had to get out of me so I could move on," says Silcox of her current [and huge] body of work. "I have a friend who thinks that whether I know it or not, [the art] must mean something." She shrugs as if to say, "Maybe."
Silcox's unglazed-clay wall hangings are nearly uniform in their rectangular shape. Many of the pieces have been treated with multiple layers of colored clay and change color depending on the light. Earthy tones dominate. Blacks are almost never "black" but rather a co-mingling of colors that reveal themselves over time. Some pieces are rather plain and official-looking, like heavy antique books, while others are given minimal abstract treatment evocative of modern dÇcor circa 1967. Many display deep red gashes like lava flows or fresh scars, but the most impressive work contains elegant doodles that call to mind Picasso's barroom scrawls.