Give it up for ArtPower!'s eclectic new season at UCSD

Steve Martin plays the banjo with the Steep Canyon Rangers bluegrass quintet. Photo: Courtesy
Steve Martin plays the banjo with the Steep Canyon Rangers bluegrass quintet. Photo: Courtesy

By John Lydon

Contributor

Summer may be drawing to an end, but there are consolations: UCSD's ArtPower! is about to begin a new season filled with music, dance, film, food for thought and for the taste buds.

On Wednesday, the first day of autumn, the multi-art series' 2010-11 season will get underway with a free screening at 8 p.m. on the East Lawn of UCSD's Price Center. The Fresh Air Film event will present a "vintage vignette" followed by District 9, a science fiction thriller with political connotations about extraterrestrial refugees stranded in South Africa.

Before the film, a "snack-pack dinner" is available while local band Chairs Missing performs its blend of psychedelic, pop and folk music at 7 p.m. At 7:30, sci-fi writer David Brin and Kelle Anzalone of ArtPower! will talk briefly.

The blend of food, music and discussion setting the stage for a thought-provoking film wednesday is an apt introduction to the ArtPower! 2020-11 season, a veritable cornucopia of music, dance, film, food, special events, comedy and readings, parties, discussions, meetings with artists, and more.

Martin Wollesen, the artistic director of Artpower! since it began seven years ago, and the event coordinator at UCSD, agrees that there's a lot going on.

"One of the common refrains I've gotten after people got the brochure is, 'Wow, it's so much stuff'" he said.

With the wide range of events planned, ArtPower! seems to have something for everyone. Take music, for instance. On the program for October alone is the opening concert of the chamber series with the world-class Emerson String Quartet, Saturday Night Live veteran Steve Martin playing the banjo with the Steep Canyon Rangers bluegrass quintet, Ethiopian-American jazz singer Meklit Hadero, and the Faure Piano Quartet. That's not counting an assortment of seven or eight bands and groups playing in The Loft performance lounge.

Wollesen said that he had various themes in mind when putting together the programs for this season. One, he said, was that art is not separate from the world around us.

"It's part of daily life. So we wanted to provide a conversation with artists about how they engaged their art in other areas of their lives."

One outcome of this is the Arts and Activism series which will present conversations with performers whose art takes a stand on social issues in an effort to stimulate discussion and provoke thought.

On Oct 13, the all-male Senegalese dance troupe Compagnie Jant-Bi will present Waxtaan, a production that places traditional African dances in a new context, thus creating a commentary on the politics of the continent. The performance will be followed by an After Party.

ArtPower! has other plans involving dance this season. A dance festival is planned for the spring.

"Our goal is that for three days in the spring quarter we'll have eight to ten companies performing on a three day weekend, as well as an opportunity for artists to connect and interact together," Wollesen said.

An unusual feature of the ArtPower! is the fundamental role given to food.

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