When I first sat down at the d’Art Center in downtown NFK to talk about the upcoming Wearable Arts Fest grand finale, I had one burning question at the top of my list:
How do you pronounce “d’Art”?
“Dart, Dee-art, Duh-art… they’re all acceptable.” So says Pamela Winslow, who along with fellow d’Art Center resident artist Peggy Beardslee has assembled an intriguing capstone to d’Art’s fourth annual Wearable Arts Fest. What grabbed my attention about this month-long celebration presented by d’Art’s Mixed Media and Fiber Center was the sheer number of collaborations it embraced, crossing over just about every art form that can be found in the 757. T
hroughout March, the Wearable Arts Fest has presented a dizzyingly diverse array of audience-engaging events in partnership with the Governor’s School for the Arts, Todd Rosenlieb Dance, the Chrysler Museum, Slover Library, VA Symphony, VA Opera, and – most interesting to me – the Little Theatre of Virginia Beach, who have partnered with d’Art for a second time to present the festival’s Grand Finale Costume Parade.
“That’s the very essence of what we’ve been trying to do the past four years with the Wearable Arts Festival,” says Winslow. “To get different community organizations and groups to collaborate, to get friendly, to get to know each other. We’ve got this wealth of artistic talent in the Tidewater area, not just Norfolk, and it would just be wonderful to get those connections happening more.”
The theme of 2017’s Wearable Arts Fest pays tribute to the great era of modern art produced by the impressionistic artists, writers, and composers on the cusp of the 20th century. It all fell into place effortlessly, says Winslow.
“We were already making plans for it, and I started checking the schedules of our brethren organizations, and lo and behold the Chrysler Museum is doing a Toulouse Lautrec exhibit the same month, and to honor that, the Virginia Symphony did their Pictures at a French Exhibition concert. And then the Opera is doing Puccini’s Turandot. Our juried exhibit [which opened on the 16th and runs through April 29] honors H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. And then the Grand Finale will honor Jules Verne.”
The Wearable Arts Fest’s Grand Finale on April 1 will be a costume parade and reading of selections from Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. The descriptive passages will be represented by a series of tableaux enacted by costumed performers (a theatrical tradition which itself harkens back to the boisterous and bawdy turn of the twentieth century.) We’ll see Egypt, Hong Kong, Yokohama, San Francisco, a speeding train through the American west… all of the exotic locales familiar to fans of Verne’s classic novel, narrated by the mellifluous voice of longtime local theatre cynosure Shirley Hurd Anderson.
The original text has been adapted and abridged by Winslow and company. But, she’s careful to point out, “there’s no paraphrasing. It’s the absolute true words of Jules Verne. It’s only about a half hour long, but it’s jam packed. And we’ve got a dynamite soundtrack featuring composers contemporary to Jules Verne’s nineteenth century: Debussy, Luigini, Rimsky-Korsakov, and several others.”
This year’s costume parade is the second time d’Art has collaborated on the project with Little Theatre of VB. Winslow tells me how the two groups first found each other: “We were looking for people to participate in the costume parade last year, and [LTVB Board member Mary Lou Mahlman] connected with us. She said they would be delighted to provide not only models and costumes from the show they were producing at the time, but from the rest of their fabulous costume collection as well.” (For those who haven’t beheld its glory, LTVB boasts perhaps THE most extensive costume collection in the area, rivaling even some professional theatres’ stocks.)
Winslow and Beardslee agree that everything between the two organizations has been handled “absolutely professionally. They delivered exactly what we asked for and then some. They were so enthusiastic! And so this year, when we decided to really stretch and go for Around the World, we didn’t hesitate to get in touch with them again.”
Good to hear. I for one am excited to see the results of this fascinating collaboration come to fruition this weekend. Cross-media collaboration is how artists keep each other sharp and their art inventive. And of course, as the “theatre guy,” I’m thrilled to see one involved. So kudos to Pamela Winslow, Peggy Beardslee, their compatriots at d’Art, and the Little Theatre of VB for undertaking this unique event! See you there!
D’Art Center’s Wearable Arts Fest Grand Finale Costume Parade: Around the World in 80 Days, is this Saturday April 1 @ 1:00pm in the Chrysler Museum’s Kaufman Theater. All ages. Admission: FREE.