Win two tickets to the Nasher Museum of Art's fifth-anniversary gala event after-party

Great-hall Duke's Nasher Museum of Art is celebrating five years as part of the arts community in Durham and the Triangle. And they've been a part of the cultural elevation in the region, from the El Greco to Velázquez exhibition to hosting showings of works and writings by artists like Picasso and Warhol, to a far broader range of exhibits from emerging artists, modernists and more.

That celebration comes to focus on Nov. 13 with the Nasher's 2010 Benefit Gala, an annual event that raises funds for the museum in West Durham; proceeds support the Nasher's free K-12 and adult education and exhibition programs.

And thanks to the generosity of the Nasher, BCR readers have a chance to win a pair of tickets to the Gala's after-party. (Value of the tickets: $150 per.)

This year's benefit gala will honor Larry Wheeler, the director of Raleigh's North Carolina Museum of Art -- whose cultivation of friendship with the widow of securities firm Cantor Fitzgerald's founder led to the NCMA putting together one of the largest Rodin castings collections in the country, as the N&O noted earlier this year. Governor Perdue will also be in attendance.

A Gala-specific art installation by artist Jennifer Rubell (who'll be in attendance), interactive iShadow lighting from New York, and the after-party -- featuring DJ and music writer Dave Tompkins -- will be highlights of the night.

The pre-reception starts at 6:30pm on Saturday, Nov. 13, with the gala underway at 7:30 and the after-party kicking off at 9:30pm. Tickets to the full gala run $250-$500+ per person.

To enter to win BCR's pair of tickets in the contest, email to express your interest; a winner will be selected at random on Nov. 8. To find out more about the gala or to buy tickets, visit

DPAC ranks #12 on Pollstar ranking of worldwide theater venues by ticket sales

Almost all of the reports coming out of the Durham Performing Arts Center in its first two years -- from feedback from performers and touring companies, to the municipality's relationship with management and pleasure with the bottom line, to customer experiences -- have tended to draw strong reviews, even raves for a facility designed on a budget that's exceeded many's expectations.

Now it's clear that the theater's ticket sales continue to surpass what might have been the expectations of many, too.

Concert reporting publication Pollstar has released its list of the top 100 theater venues worldwide, calculated based on ticket sales in the third quarter.

And DPAC ranks #12 on the list, a movement up from #46 last year -- and putting the downtown venue in the company, a press release notes, of venues like the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles (#7) and Radio City Music Hall in New York City (#3).

It's a nice honor for DPAC, which is just shy of two years in operation and figures to welcome its 500,000th guest during the premiere performance of Billy Elliott.

We do wonder whether it's a mark that's helped by the presence of Wicked, which accounted for one-quarter of all ticket sales at the facility in the past year. Much of that seems to depend on how Pollstar accounts for the timing of recognition of ticket sales; Wicked played in the fiscal fourth quarter of DPAC, whose year end is June 30, but sales would have largely come in the DPAC's third quarter leading up to the performance, unless Pollstar goes on a calendar year basis -- which is all by way of saying we really just don't know.

Still -- it's a feather in the cap that Durhamites likely won't turn down.

"Main Street" gets its world premiere Thu. in ... Austin?

Mainst Google Alerts all over town went dinging this weekend with the news that the Austin Film Festival would this week feature a 'World Premiere' of the movie "Main Street," which was filmed here in the Bull City back in 2009.

Main Street was previously promoted as being at Cannes, though we (who are in no ways down with how the film biz work) suspect that's because past showings have been off-festival screenings at markets to try to find distributors.

Assuming that's the case, this Thursday night marks the first chance for mere mortals to see the film in person, assuming of course you don't mind traveling south by southwest to do so.

Still, a premiere in Texas instead of here in North Carolina, where it was filmed?

Here's what one site has to say about the film in what sounds suspiciously like a press release:

When Gus Leroy promises that the city of Durham, NC, could become the future site of a larger waste depository that, while enriching the town, would place all of it inhabitants in peril, every citizen of MAIN STREET will have to make this decision: "Do I do what is right, or what is needed?"

MAIN STREET, Horton Foote's final screenplay prior to his death in March 2009, is a legacy to all small towns, focusing on the dreams and aspirations of everyday people and reflecting his upbringing in the small town of Wharton, Texas. It makes its world premiere at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21 at the Austin (Texas) Film Festival in the Paramount Theatre in downtown Austin. [...]

MAIN STREET is typical of Foote's past film work (Tender Mercies, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Trip to Bountiful), exemplifying his love of simple folk and their beloved hometowns that led him to focus on the plight of Durham five years before filming took place. Foote was the inaugural recipient of the Austin Film Festival's Distinguished Screenwriter Award in 1995.

World premieres, naturally, being better choices for big cities than small towns and simple folk. (And how much "plight" was there in Durham in 2004, anyway?)

CenterFest annual fall arts festival returns downtown today

Centerfest-logo This weekend marks the 37th annual CenterFest arts festival, sponsored by the Durham Arts Council.

Billed as Durham's "largest cultural and community event," CenterFest has been in a range of places around downtown over the decades, and has seen downtown's downs and ups, too. And this year, it's back again at the municipal parking lot off Foster St. near Durham Central Park, the YMCA and the Piedmont Restaurant.

This year's festival features 124 juried visual artists from eleven different states, who'll be showing off their original work in media including clay, drawing, glass, painting, photography, printmaking, wood, jewelry, and sculpture. Besides getting a chance to see which works will win best-of-show awards, the works are in almost every case for sale if you're looking to pick up something.

Besides the arts tents, CenterFest will feature more than two-dozen performing arts groups on three stages with music, dance and entertainment; there'll also be a kids zone with hands-on arts activities. 

Admission's free, though the DAC asks for a donation of $4.00 per person at entry ($12 suggested donation for families of 4 or more), with proceeds supporting arts programs, artists, and arts organizations in the community.

Hopscotch an attendance, financial success -- and a win for the Indy's Raleigh branding?

HopscotchThe Independent Weekly's first try at a grand music festival came off spectacularly this weekend by all accounts, with local Twitter feeds and blogs and news articles raving about great shows in great venues. 

One hundred and twenty bands in all, from the very local to national names like Public Enemy and Broken Social Scene.

And for the festival's first year, it didn't do too badly financially, with the Independent Weekly's president Steve Schewel noting in a column in this week's paper that the festival lost $50,000 or so, out of what the N&O had previously reported was a $350,000 budget.

But that's to be expected with the launch of a new event, after all, given the challenges and learning curve that comes with doing something of an unprecedented scale.

Reading Schewel's column, though, it's not hard to speculate that the festival was likely very successful in meeting one of its admitted goals: bolstering the Durham-based alt-weekly's profile in the City of Oaks.

Continue reading "Hopscotch an attendance, financial success -- and a win for the Indy's Raleigh branding?" »

Somerhill Gallery to liquidate under bankruptcy court trusteeship

The Indy's has had -- far and away -- the best reporting on the closure of troubled Somerhill Gallery on Roxboro St., noting the breathtaking bankruptcy filing that revealed some artists who'd consigned works to the gallery were owed more than $270,000 for works sold over the past eight years.

According to the Indy's latest update, the gallery is now in the hands of a trustee appointed by the bankruptcy court, who is continuing to operate the store as it winds down business. A going out of business sale is set for Sat. 9/17 and Sun. 9/18, followed by an auctioning of whatever's left on Sun. 9/19 at 4pm -- followed by the gallery's closure.

But much of the unsold artwork you'd seen until recent weeks at Somerhill won't be there, as the artists who've consigned works to the gallery have the right to reclaim them; creditors don't have claim to them, though presumably if they choose to allow them to be sold or auctioned, Somerhill's share of the sale would support the gallery's overall debts.

Read more of what's happening over at the Indy's web site.

TBJ: Somerhill liquidation auction on Sept. 11?

Another turn in the Somerhill mess: this little tidbit in today's Triangle Business Journal:

A court-appointed trustee is seeking permission to conduct a public auction of Somerhill’s remaining inventory and belongings at 3 p.m. on Sept. 11 at the gallery’s space in the Venable Center complex on Roxboro Street.

Well, that's interesting. Not to profit on misery or anything, but hey -- if you're in the market for art, it might be a good deal. And one has to hope that the monies would go towards retiring more than $1 million in debt, including a substantial amount owed to artists who consigned work to the longtime dealer.

Note the "seeking permission" part of the paragraph. More on anything here when we know it.

Somerhill files for Chapter 7; gallery future unknown

Update: The Indy has a short but spectacular piece of research on this, noting that Somerhill owes almost $200,000 in back rent -- and over $275,000 to artists that sent the gallery work on consignment, to be paid upon sale. Rowand, meanwhile, has continued to draw his monthly salary during bankruptcy, to the tune of nearly $180,000 per year. Read more over at the Indy's web site.

A BCR commenter noted this on Friday, but it bears repeating: downtown art destination Somerhill Gallery has changed its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing to a Chapter 7 liquidation, the Herald-Sun reported last week.

Somerhill_2008 Such a filing would seem to imply the closure of the gallery's Roxboro St. location near the Hendrick car dealership and the new courthouse site, though we don't have that on record or confirmed in any way. 

BCR attempted to contact gallery owner Joe Rowand on Friday for comment but a message to speak with the founder hasn't been returned as of this writing.

(We didn't hear back on a message left after the business' Chapter 11 filing, so we're not exactly waiting by the phone this time, either.)

The Herald-Sun notes debts in the initial filing of $1 million to $10 million, much of which presumably is due to their landlord, Scientific Properties.

Scientific had apparently long hoped to open a restaurant in the bay next to Somerhill in their home in the Venable complex's Prizery building -- something Rowand crowed about in a video recorded at the gallery's grand opening a couple of years back.

Has the gallery been challenged by the worst recession in generations? By the lack of the retail draw in the absence of a restaurant? By the relative inaccessibility of the Roxboro St. site, which is isolated by the jail, a railroad overpass and two car dealership sites from the "heart" of the city center and American Tobacco districts? By a customer base in Chapel Hill and Raleigh that wasn't ready to get hip with a central Durham site?

No idea. Our guess here at BCR is, probably some or all of the above.

But will this be the end of Somerhill, after nearly four decades -- or will Rowand, as at least one of the (perhaps hopeful) rumors we've heard suggests, look for a site back closer to his historical location in Chapel Hill?

We don't know. If Rowand calls us back, we'll share what we hear.

Casbah aims for mid-September bow, adds music vet for bookings

Casbah -- which, along with Motorco Music Hall (the rechristened name for The Geer), is one of two new music clubs on the horizon in Durham -- is getting closer to its big debut.

Casbah_mural Owner Jana Bradley announced recently that the club, which will have a capacity of over 300 and looks to book everything from rock to Americana, is targeting a mid-September opening.

And the club's hired a talent buyer to plan bookings and shows at the space. Steve Gardner, a two-decade veteran of the music scene with experience at Yep Roc Records and the onetime Durham legend Sugar Hill, will take the reins for finding and scheduling performances.

Gardner -- who's also a familiar voice on WXDU, the Duke-affiliated college radio station -- promises to look for unfilled musical niches and to try to bring sounds and performances not available elsewhere in the Triangle.

Meanwhile, construction crews continue to wrap up work at Casbah, whose mural art on the western wall of the onetime Wells-Lloyd Florist building has been a concrete sign of new sounds on the horizon for the Brightleaf Square area.

Casbah (featured here in this March BCR story) is located at 1007 W. Main St., across from The Federal and James Joyce, two popular establishments owned by Jana Bradley's spouse and longtime Durham restauranteur Fergus.

The club's Facebook page notes that final plumbing and electrical inspections were completed yesterday, opening the door to a rise in intensity in booking action, we'd surmise.

Photo courtesy of BCR reader DB.

Cupholders, curtains for venue downsizing on DPAC capital wishlist

DpacncBrowsing through the City Council agenda documents, your correspondent was intrigued to find among the documents the 2010 report of the City's Durham Performing Arts Center oversight committee, formed to provide a steering committee for the high-profile, high-cost DPAC facility.

Among the more interesting items is a list of capital requests that the DPAC's third-party operator PFM/Nederlander have made to the oversight committee, and prioritized by that committee for ongoing capital investment in the facility.

The list includes a number of thoughtful improvements, including a proposal to add a balcony curtaining system to be able to down-size the venue's capacity for smaller shows, making it competitive for attracting mid-size performances to the DPAC.

And one of the nearly dozen items on that list is sure to raise some interest from DPAC attendees: cupholders for the performing arts center's seats.

Continue reading "Cupholders, curtains for venue downsizing on DPAC capital wishlist" »