Wednesday, January 2, 2008

"When Ads Were Art" at Botanic Garden

Posted on Wed, Jan 2, 2008 at 4:00 AM

While most of Irene Miller Rodkin's art is unsigned, chances are, if you lived in Memphis in the 1970s and much of the '80s, you know her work well. That's when Rodkin was the main staff fashion artist for the Goldsmith's in-house advertising department. Back then, Goldsmith's used illustrations, rather than photographs, to show off their goods in advertisements, and Rodkin would, on average, create an illustration a day for that purpose. A collection of her illustrations, along with portraits and other work, will be on display in the exhibit "When Ads Were Art" at the Memphis Botanic Garden.

"Buyers within the store would be responsible for choosing the things they wanted featured in the ad," Rodkin says. "They would bring [the clothes] up to my office, and I would first sketch them on hangers, and then I would put them on figures." The figures were copied from tearsheets from other newspapers collected by the layout department and chosen to best highlight the clothes. "I liked high fashion the best," Rodkin says. "A large volume of ads were sale ads, where they'd feature a really good sale price, and the illustrations would be of dresses or house garments or lingerie. They would be kind of generic. But once in a while, I would get really nice fashion ads."

The illustrations featured in the exhibit are originals given to Rodkin over the years by the production department. "The production person would return some of the originals to me because they would store them, and they wouldn't always have room," she says. "Some things they thought were too nice to pitch."

"When Ads Were Art" at the Memphis Botanic Garden from January 5th-31st. The opening reception is Sunday, January 6th, from 2 to 4 p.m.

Herenton on State of the City

Posted By on Wed, Jan 2, 2008 at 4:00 AM

As promised, Mayor Willie Herenton reopened his civic hymnal on Wednesday to the verse marked "consolidation" and suggested that this time others might join him.

"I favor metropolitan consolidation inclusive of schools," said Herenton, making his annual "state of the city" address to the Kiwanis Club meeting at The Peabody.

The venue was fairly small and so was the crowd, probably under 200 people. They gave the fifth-term mayor a couple of warm standing ovations. Whether that indicated the spirit of the season or support for consolidation remains to be seen.

Herenton said he sees promise in the new membership of the Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission along with Gov. Phil Bredesen and county mayor A C Wharton.

"Thank God for the new county commission," he said. "We've got some people over there with some new energy and some courage." He did not name names.

He said he will ask state legislators to, in effect, change the rules on consolidation so that approval from both city and county voters in separate elections is not a prerequisite. Several years before Herenton became mayor in 1991, consolidation votes passed in the city but failed in the county, where signs that say "county schools" and "no city taxes" are still a staple of new subdivisions just outside the borders of Memphis.

As he has on many occasions, Herenton said consolidated government would be more efficient and cost taxpayers less money.

"It pains me to see the waste in schools," said the former superintendent.

It apparently pains Bredesen too. The governor has shown impatience with Memphis "reform" programs and indicated that a state takeover is possible if Memphis doesn't do better. Herenton mentioned changing the governing structure of the school system but did not specifically call for abolishing the school board or appointing a new one, as he has on other occasions.

Meeting with reporters after his speech, Herenton said consolidation can only happen with support from key business leaders and other politicians. He said the "economics of government will become so tight" that such supporters will eventually come around.

The sticking points are that Memphis has a higher tax rate than suburbs and unincorporated areas in Shelby County and the Shelby County schools, with more affluent students and fewer poor students, outperform city schools on standardized tests. But Memphis accounts for about 70 percent of the population of Shelby County. By Herenton's lights, a suburban minority is dictating the rules of the game to the urban majority.

On other subjects, Herenton said Memphis is "financially strong" with a reserve fund of more than $60 million. Memphis, he said, is "on the national radar screen" because of FedEx Forum, AutoZone Park, and other attractions. And he said crime "trend lines" are going "in the right direction" but 500 more police officers are still needed. He will announce new anti-blight measures next week.

Responding to a question from the audience about the lack of a "wow" factor on the riverfront, Herenton said he is open to the possibility of razing The Pyramid if a deal with Bass Pro falls through.

"We could get the wow," he said. "I still want the wow."

Herenton seemed to be in a good mood, and there were no real zingers for the press or anyone else with the exception of, "For those of you who want to sit on the sidelines and be critical, we're not going to be mad at you, we’re just going to pray for you."

Reaction to the consolidation proposal among Kiwanis members was guarded. Businessman Sam Cantor said he is unconditionally for it but does not expect it to happen in the next four years.

Businessman Calvin Anderson is also for it and says it "can happen" if Herenton can take himself out of the equation, recruit allies, and present a reasonably united Shelby County legislative delegation in Nashville. Greg Duckett, former city chief administrative officer under Dick Hackett, said consolidation needs to happen but he stopped short of saying it will.

"Significant strides to making it happen can occur in the next four years," he said.

Jim Strickland, sworn in Tuesday as a new member of the City Council, said he supports full consolidation but is willing to compromise on schools if necessary.

He said he is "not sure" if Herenton can muster enough support among suburban mayors and state lawmakers to make any headway.

Consolidation by charter surrender does not appear to be an option, which doesn't mean it won't keep coming up for discussion. In 2002, the state attorney general's office issued an opinion that said "the General Assembly may not revoke the charter, the Memphis City Council is not authorized to surrender the city charter, and no statute authorizes the Memphis city charter to be revoked by a referendum election of the voters."

Herenton, who was reelected with just 42 percent of the vote, made his speech against a backdrop of glum economic news, locally and nationally. Oil hit the $100-a-barrel mark, the stock of local economic bastions FedEx and First Horizon and others plunged with the Dow Jones Average, the Memphis Grizzlies and Memphis Redbirds are struggling at the gate, and foreclosures are expected to soar this year.

"In order to do all these things our economy must remain strong," the mayor said.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Giselle at GPAC Sunday

Posted on Tue, Jan 1, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Now that Tim Burton, the cinematic master of all things macabre, has brought Stephen Sondheim's gore-soaked musical Sweeney Todd to the screen, perhaps he should turn his attention to classical dance. He'd be hard-pressed to find subject matter more suited to his dark, comic-book romanticism than Giselle, which the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre is bringing to the Germantown Performing Arts Centre on Sunday, January 6th.

By the end of Act 1, the ballet's title character, a poor seamstress cut to the quick by a wealthy, duplicitous lover, already has gone mad and committed suicide. Giselle returns as a lovesick ghost in Act 2, however, to save her bad-boy boyfriend from a bunch of female vampires who were betrayed by their lovers in life and have chosen to spend eternity in a frenzy of bloody revenge.

Violent death? Supernatural evil? Transcendent love reaching out from beyond the grave? Who could ask for anything more?

If your curiosity has been pricked by any of this, GPAC, in conjunction with the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre, is offering a free class on the history and meaning of Giselle on Thursday, January 3rd.

Giselle, 3 p.m., Sunday, January 6th, at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre. $30-$50. The Giselle Dance Education Class is 7-9 p.m., Thursday, January 3rd, at GPAC. The class is free.

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