Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Symphony in the Snow

The snow falls courtesy of Currier & Ives at the Springfield Symphony Hall in Massachusetts this weekend! The orchestra is performing a Holiday Pops concert and it's using a fabulous selection of Currier & Ives lithographs as a giant slide show behind the performers. It's all part of the educational collaboration surrounding the Museum's Currier & Ives collection and WGBY's series about the "Printmakers to the American People". Concertgoers will be treated to a dramatic show of the prints so often associated with Christmas cards and cookie tins, images like "Winter in the Country-A Cold Morning" from the painting by New Haven artist George Durrie. We've had weirdly warm weather lately...but inside Symphony Hall, it'll be winter!

Editing begins on Episode 1 next week and so all video, digitized images (so many!), music and more are being loaded onto the computer. NPR's Scott Simon will be recording his narration on December 17 and so we will begin the edit without his voice. Putting it on during the last week of the edit will be like adding the magic!

The air date has been changed to Monday, February 25 at 9pm. All 3 episodes will air back-to-back, although they may be repeated in separate installments.

I just got word that there may be a Berkshires premiere at Hancock Shaker Village on January 11, which thrills me. I lived in the Berkshires for nearly 4 years and love the area's appreciation for the arts and for the work of local artists and producers like WGBY.

Episodes 2 & 3 are being polished and I'm preparing a detailed narrative report so that the grantmakers can see what we've been up to. Busy week! I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Marketing the Marketers

The holiday season grabs us from behind, doesn't it? One minute you're handing out candy to mini-goblins and the next you're behind in your Christmas shopping! For Currier & Ives: Perspectives on America, the holiday season is key. Most people associate the work of Currier & Ives with the holidays because the publishing firm's cozy winter images have been used so often on holiday cards and other products. For programming reasons, the series doesn't air until later in the winter, but we will be using the festive season to make folks aware of the good things coming. That means promotion, promotion, promotion! A plan is in the works and it's central to the whole project schedule right now. And so we find ourselves in the position of marketing the Kings of Marketing, Mr. Currier & Mr. Ives. I'm pretty certain they might have chosen a more sensational path than the one PBS will take!

For me, that means several speaking engagements and showing the short video you can watch on our website. It also means a really exciting premiere of Part 1 of the 3-part series at the Academy of Music in Northampton in mid-January.

One of the collaborations I love best is between the Springfield Symphony, the Springfield Museums and WGBY. All of us are coming together during the first weekend in December for a "Currier & Ives Holiday Pops" concert! We had a meeting recently that served as one of those reminders of why I love what I do. It was just pure creative fun to think about the music and what prints might fit best as a backdrop and then to just throw around ideas about how to give it a festive, 19th century feel. Don't be surprised if you see a sleigh in front of Symphony Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts that weekend!

On the production front, scriptwriting continues and we've had a couple of really interesting shoots. I wanted to get a feel for whether children today make any connection with these supposedly timeless images. We went to the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts to catch up with some 5th graders touring the permanent Currier & Ives Gallery there. I will admit that I was astounded by how interested these kids were in the pictures! Granted, some of it may have been playing to the camera...but that does not account for all of the enthusiasm and interest we witnessed. I asked the kids (who are largely minority, urban, lower income) if the people in the prints look like them and they were very firm in their answer: "No!". But they went on to tell me that these could be their ancestors and that's why it was important to look at the pictures and try to figure out what the heck is going on in them. Now, they probably know those white, Protestant, 19th century folks are not blood kin...but I got the sense that the children were identifying on a different level with the figures in the lithographs, identifying with place and therefore, experience. Fascinating morning.

Yesterday, I told that story to the couple to whom it matters most: Sid and Lennee Alpert. Sidney and Lenore Alpert are the collectors who gifted about 800 Currier & Ives prints and related items to the Springfield Museums - and inspired this entire educational effort. Now, they could've made much, much, much more money by selling the items but they wanted everyone to have the chance to see them for as long as possible. They chose Springfield because the Museums made the promise of a permanent gallery (no filing the prints away in drawers!), they liked the people there and they loved the idea of Currier's work coming to his home state of Massachusetts. The Alperts made the trip up from Maryland to let me get some shots of Sid with his collection and to talk to both of them. We talked to Sid in his home office over the summer but I have to say, he seemed a lot more relaxed among his beloved Currier & Ives collection! This terrific couple have been together so long they finish AND start each other's sentences! They're a joy to be around and the pride they feel in the collection is palpable. Lennee said she didn't want to talk on camera but looking at the old prints got her to reminiscing and the next thing you know, we had a spontaneous interview! She also revealed a lot of fun secrets behind Sid's collecting 'habit'.

Finally, it looks like the air dates will be February 3 & 24, 2008...but that's not set in stone.

I'm looking forward to two presentations on the documentary series this weekend, including one at our third Teacher Workshop.

I'll keep you posted.