As the lights dim, I settle down into my seat and close my eyes. The first clear notes emerge from the instruments held in the hands of the musicians positioned on stage. The sounds blend and expand as the composition guides the players through a maze of rich tones, quiet passages, several variations and shifting rhythms.
Am I seeing the music visually? Possibly, as images and colors race through my mind and my consciousness sways with the emotions I envision in the fluid sound. The wandering strains move toward closure as the sound from each instrument finds a common end. My eyes open and hands gather with others in appreciation.
What brings me to the Whitney Center for the Arts on a warm spring evening with lingering light? Have I opted that easily for a seat in a darkened room over what many crave after a long Wyoming winter? Sometimes it’s a tough choice in the evening to forget about a walk outdoors, time to prepare the garden and ogle the mountains in the distance. My hands in dirt and a stroll with friends around the neighborhood are satisfying in a way similar to spending time in a darkened room transformed in time and place. My spirit is lightened. My mind energized. Days later familiar melodies inspire my humming in the garden and on my walks. Once again I smile as I recall the phrase coined by William Congreve, in “The Mourning Bride,” 1697: “Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast, to soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.”
Friend the Whitney Center for the Arts Facebook page or sign up for emails for attractive announcements about the many events in the concert hall and art gallery. Many activities are free and open to the public. Others carry a modest fee with discounts for seniors and Sheridan College students. A number of events are geared to children and families. In a city with a long standing and excellent music education program, elementary and high school musicians would be awed by performances in an acoustically brilliant concert hall. Make it a family evening or bring your strolling buddies along with you.
Likewise, on the first Tuesday of the month, I find myself once again choosing the darkened room for Jentel Presents in the lower level of the exciting new home of SAGE Community Arts. Maybe I can stroll over after work or hope the weeds will ignore my patient assault for one evening. Eleven months of the year, the four visual artists and two writers, who scored a residency award at Jentel, share insight into their creative work. The six are varied in age, hometown, education, point in the career and most assuredly in their art and writing. A 10-minute presentation from each may be a reading from a work in progress, a few images to reveal an idea developed over a decade or actual art work to pass around the audience for closer examination. Each artist talks about what is unique in the process of creative expression.
The audience, with eyes wide open, ask questions and often make comments. The room accommodates local artists and writers, students from Sheridan College or the many folks curious about contemporary art and writing. Whatever the composition of the audience, all are treated to an experience of a wide range of personal, self expression and creative development by the residents.
For the diehard repeaters in the audience, who seem to come time after time, the engagement with makers and wordsmiths nourishes both the mind and spirit. It relieves the “I don’t know anything about art, but I know what I like” syndrome. The following days while they are working in the garden or walking around the block, audience members may take time to reflect on an image, or a line of a poem, or how one of the residents described their working process. The time in the darkened room merges with the glorious expanding evening light and warmer temperatures of spring.
Don’t wait until January to make a New Year’s resolution. Haul out your calendar and reserve the first Tuesday of the month for Jentel Presents at SAGE, 5:30-7 p.m. Sign up for a monthly email reminder with details about the month’s presentation. Continue scanning the SCENE for a photo of the group and their areas of interest and expression. The program is free and open to the public. The residents would enjoy meeting you and sharing their work.
Come join us!
Mary Jane Edwards | The Sheridan Press