Příliš hlučná samota: Production crew raises funds for film about Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal’s novel “Too Loud A Solitude”

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“My education has been so unwitting I can’t quite tell which of my thoughts come from me and which from my books, but that’s how I’ve stayed attuned to myself and the world around me for the past thirty-five years. Because when I read, I don’t really read; I pop a beautiful sentence into my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or I sip it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart and coursing on through the veins to the root of each blood vessel.” – Bohumil Hrabal

An imaginative production crew seeks to fundraise resources to launch a full-length feature film about Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal’s novel, Too Loud a Solitude.  Directed by Genevieve Anderson and starring Paul Giamatti as the voice of Hanta, Too Loud A Solitude (Příliš hlučná samota) is a feature adaptation of Bohumil Hrabal’s beloved book made with live action puppets, animated sequences and visual effects.

This globally famous novel is about a book crusher, Hanta. Watching the trailer of Too Loud A Solitude is like entering a magic portal to another dimension where Bohumil Hrabal’s book takes place in a world of puppetry.  An intimate, sneak peek to Hanta’s daily life and his private love affair with the books and their stories. A mirror reflection of Hrabal’s writing voice and how each book he created almost seems to be a personal letter written to each individual reader as opposed to the masses. As the camera soars in over the skyline of the town and we see gears grinding, scraps of papers tossed about and a city that seems to be very cold and quiet. Characters bundled up in many layers, speaking to each other without speaking as they go about daily life. The music is hypnotic and dreamy with its romantic yet haunting tune of a melancholy violin. 

Too Loud a Solitude is the story of a waste compactor, Hanta, who was charged with destroying his country’s great literature in his humble press, and who fell so in love with the beautiful ideas contained within the books that he began secretly rescuing them – hiding them whole inside the bales, taking them home in his briefcase, and lining the walls of his basement with them. It became one of the defining books in Czechoslovakia’s history for its unsentimental, humorous, painfully relevant portrayal of humankind’s resilience. The story of Hanta’s quest to save the world of books and literature from destruction is often cited as the most beloved of Hrabal’s books. Too Loud a Solitude has a global fan base and an active community of support has emerged for our feature film project. The book has been translated into 37 languages and sold over 70,000 copies of Michael Henry Heim’s English translation alone. Bohumil Hrabal wrote the novella as an unsentimental account of what happened to him during the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia during the 40’s and 50’s. Many of Hrabal’s books were banned by the Russian regime and other great books by many authors were physically destroyed, an act Hrabal characterizes in Too Loud a Solitude as ‘crimes against humanity’… Our team has been committed to bringing Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal’s beloved novella Too Loud a Solitude to the screen since 2004. With the assistance of The Rockefeller Media Arts Foundation (now the Tribeca Film Institute), Heather Henson and Handmade Puppet Dreams, and The Jim Henson Foundation, we completed a 17 minute sample of the film in 2007. The film has been playing nationally and internationally in the Handmade Puppet Dreams program, and in 2009 was awarded an UNIMA-USA citation of excellence. We are currently working on financing the feature project, first through a Kickstarter start-up funds campaign and then through partnership with other financing and production entities. Our intention is to enlist the support of the book’s global fan base and expand its already impressive audience. We’re down to two weeks left in our Kickstarter fundraising campaign and are continuing to do outreach work to drum up more support for our project. We seek to raise $35,000 to cover the costs of puppet design, armature creation, motion exploration, character development, costume design, and visual effects.”

For more information about the film, please visit www.tooloudasolitude.com.screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-8-16-58-pm “For thirty-five years now I’ve been in wastepaper, and it’s my love story…I am a jug filled with water both magic and plain; I have only to lean over and a stream of beautiful thoughts flows out of me.”screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-8-16-25-pm

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“I felt beautiful and holy for having the courage to hold on to my sanity after all I’d seen and had been through, body and soul, in too loud a solitude.”

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Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library brings the magic of reading to preschool children worldwide

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The High Road on Dawson has launched the first branch in Austin to support Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Bringing the magic of reading to local preschool children, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has distributed over 117,920,187 million books to four countries around the world: United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. Dolly’s beloved organization is present within other Texas cities—but there wasn’t a branch in Austin until now. Thankfully, The High Road on Dawson and its committee raised enough funds to bring the Imagination Library to another city in The Lone Star State. 

The Imagination Library is a non-profit organization based in Sevier County, TennesseeThe High Road on Dawson (THROD) is a member based non-profit charity in ATX. For two years The High Road on Dawson committee strived to open an account. Finally their dream became a reality for the local community and the Imagination Library will make its debut in the 78721 zip code

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The history, mission and vision of Dolly’s Imagination Library is quite interesting. “In 1995, Dolly Parton launched an exciting new effort, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, to benefit the children of her home county in East Tennessee, USA. Her father, Robert Lee Parton, was the inspiration of Dolly’s Imagination Library. Dolly’s vision was to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month. By mailing high quality, age-appropriate books directly to their homes, she wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create. Moreover, she could insure that every child would have books, regardless of their family’s income. Dolly’s Imagination Library became so popular that in the year 2000 she announced that she would make the program available for replication to any community that was willing to partner with her to support it locally. Already statistics and independent reports have shown Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library drastically improves early childhood literacy for children enrolled in the program. Further studies have shown improved scores during early literacy testing.”

The Board of Directors at The High Road on Dawson are immensely proud of their two team leaders that brought the Imagination Library into fruition within Austin: Monica Keller and Jen Philhower. Recently, Keller and Philhower spoke with local writer and fellow THROD member, Nicolette Mallow, to further discuss Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the new branch in Austin and their passion for childhood education. A recording of the entire interview can be found online. 

Nicolette Mallow: Will you tell me how The High Road on Dawson came to be involved with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library?

The High Road on Dawson: So, we are both members of the lodge at The High Road on Dawson. We were Elks members prior to that and we both participated in a committee that was put together just to create charitable events. One of the purposes behind the lodge, besides community, is to do charitable things. In the committee, we kind of discovered that there were a bunch of us that are fans of Dolly (Parton) and we just think she’s a spectacular human, a great entertainer and just this awesome, cool person. An entity that deserved recognition. We really like her… Then one of our committee members, I think it was Heather, she asked if we had seen or heard about the Imagination Library. So then we got to talking about Dolly a lot more. And since we knew her birthday (January 19), the lodge at THROD decided to throw a birthday party in honor of Dolly Parton every year. Forever. There are a lot of events where we pay homage in Austin to different musicians. We have a Buck Owens birthday party, a Loretta Lynn pie social and the HAAM fundraiser. Suddenly we had the realization that there was no Dolly event and that she deserved her own special party. That was like a light bulb and we began hosting a Dolly’s Birthday Party and soon after it was suggested we should open our own branch of the Imagination Library. And we decided that the birthday party would be the fundraiser. We didn’t realize at the time the party would be a sellout and so successful! It was entirely conceivable that it would’ve just been us sitting upstairs with friends and musicians singing songs. 

NM: What is the goal for the next year between THROD and the Imagination Library?

THROD: They have a set series of goals for membership. Their 5 year plan is that within the first year, your branch gets 20% of eligible kids to sign up. And by year five the goal is to have 100% of the eligible kids signed up. Their goals are 20% every year and they give you the costs that would be associated with sending out all the books each year. Our personal goal is to have that done in four years and by the fifth year add an additional zip code. That is our hope and our goal. 

NM: My understanding is that each month for five years, preschool children receive books in the mail from the Imagination Library. Sent directly to their home so the little ones can begin their own book collection. However, are the monthly books preselected or are the books selected at random?

THROD: Yes, there is a series of books and everything is pre-selected and planned out by the Imagination Library month-to-month each year. The series actually starts with “The Little Engine That Could” We also looked briefly into the books and they’re gender neutral, they don’t have any sort of political and religious message. They’re just classic children’s books to introduce kids to the magic of reading and imagination. 

For more information about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library please visit the website at www.imaginationlibrary.com. Parents or guardians that wish to enroll their children may Register Online. To contact members and volunteers at The High Road on Dawson to become involved with this local project, please call 512-442-8535. 

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Top Drawer opens a second thrift shop in the heart of Austin

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Photography provided by Top Drawer and Project Transitions.

A welcome party was held in honor of Top Drawer’s second thrift shop located in the Crestview neighborhood within the heart of Austin, Texas. This newly released thrift shop operated by Top Drawer opened its doors earlier this spring. However the official party was hosted at 7101B Woodrow Avenue on May 15, 2016, the exact date as the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial. Top Drawer Thrift is the social enterprise arm of Project Transitions. “Since 1988, Project Transitions is a non-profit dedicated to serving people with HIV and AIDS by providing supportive living, housing and hospice in compassionate and caring environments.” Top Drawer’s original location on Burnet Road has been open since 1993, always sustaining a focus to sell items in support of Project Transitions. To this day, all proceeds directly benefit the programs of this nonprofit and volunteers mostly run the shops.

Arts and Entertainment Writer, Nicolette Mallow, interviewed the Manager of Top Drawer thrift shop, Karin Kokinda. The two spoke of donations, the history of the shop and how the employees often get sentimentally attached to the pieces. (An audio recording can be found on YouTube.)

“I can’t begin to tell you how excited Project Transitions is to dive into this new experiment. For over 20 years we’ve had the Top Drawer location at 49th and Burnet and it has been amazingly successful and popular,” said Karin Kokinda, Top Drawer’s manager. “The new store gives us the opportunity to showcase some of the more special and unusual items that are generously donated.”

The welcome party at Top Drawer’s second shop in Crestview featured complimentary wine, fruits, cheeses and crackers. All items were 20% off during the party. Entering the thrift shop, guests will notice it’s like an infusion of a high-end fashion boutique, antique library, art gallery and a retro thrift shop with vinyl records and other goodies of the past. Inside the store there is something to be desired for purchase by anyone and everyone. Top Drawer is beautifully decorated and arranged to where the space is filled top-to-bottom with inventory, and yet it does not feel crowded or scattered. The room is neatly organized and the eyes can never get bored. Boots, dresses, books, tables, lamps, giant mirrors, old cameras, artwork, imported goods and other miscellany are available for purchase.

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Arts and Entertainment Writer for Examiner, Nicolette Mallow, attended this special event and purchased a lovely, handmade Italian brown leather notebook as a keepsake and a literary diary. After the purchase, Mallow interviewed the Manager of Top Drawer, Karin Kokinda. The two spoke of donations, the history of the shop and how the employees often get sentimentally attached to the pieces. To hear the interview, please click on the video above.

To contact Top Drawer Crestview about acceptable items or more information, please call 512-454-5161. The store hours of operation are 11 A.M. to 7 P.M. every Monday through Saturday. Donations will continue to only be accepted at the Burnet location. For more information about Project Transitions, please visit www.projecttransitions.org or call 512-454-8646.

“It’s a collaboration between the community and Project Transitions. It starts with our donors who provide our inventory, then our loyal customers that come shop in our store, and finally, our clients who directly benefit from 100% of the proceeds,” said Madge Whistler, Project Transitions Financial Administrator.

 Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in June 2016.  

The Mexic-Arte Museum hosts Taste of Mexico 2016 in honor of Cinco de Mayo

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Taste of Mexico 2016: A Culinary Arts Festival celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Photography by The Mexic-Arte Museum.

The Mexic-Arte Museum celebrated Cinco de Mayo early this year by hosting a decadent and heartfelt party, Taste of Mexico 2016, at Brazos Hall in Austin, Texas. Cinco de Mayo is an annual celebration on May 5th and Taste of Mexico 2016 was a culinary arts festival in honor of this holiday. Brazos Hall was decorated top to bottom, upstairs and downstairs, filled with brightly colored red and violet spotlights. Dozens  of food and beverage vendors were carefully placed about the space. Tacos & tequila, a mariachi band, a DJ, a photo booth and artwork also adorned the venue. Piñatas in the form of painted dolls, calaveras (skulls) and flowers dangled from the ceiling, too. The party was so full that at one point guests had to wait outside in line to get in as to not overfill maximum occupancy. Brazos Hall is a fairly large turn-of-the-century warehouse venue. Therefore the fact Taste of Mexico 2016 reached maximum occupancy not even one hour into the party on a Wednesday night is a testament that The Mexic-Arte Museum knows how to throw a fun-filled celebration for the community.

Taste of Mexico is a festival of Mexican and Mexican-inspired cuisine and beverages from over 30 of Austin’s most eclectic restaurants, food trucks, and flavorful purveyors featuring fine tequilas, mezcals, wines, beers, and other refreshing beverages. Taste of Mexico also featured the Bazaar del Arte, including Mexican folk arts and crafts, unique gifts, one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces, selections from the Museum Store, and the Pop-up Print Shop hosted by our very own Screen It! students and the Education Department. In collaboration with the Consulate General of Mexico, Mexic-Arte Museum was pleased to present Chef Ángel Vázquez as their Chef of Honor for Taste of Mexico 2016. Vázquez is known for his international palette and sophisticated dishes that represent a Poblana-Mexican kitchen. His critically acclaimed restaurant Intro (Cholula, Puebla) boasts cuisine that takes inspiration from countries such as Morocco, Thailand, Greece, Spain, France, and more. His latest projects include Salome Antojeria Del Mar y Mezcal, Carbon Central de Hamburguesas, and Augurio Comedor Poblano. All ticket sales supported the Mexic-Arte Museum in its mission to offer enriching educational programs and provide the community with outstanding exhibitions.”

Writer and Austin Examiner, Nicolette Mallow, attended Taste of Mexico 2016. Mallow has previously covered celebrations hosted by The Mexic-Arte Museum such as Viva la Vida, a Día de los Muertos event. A local A&E writer and Latina from Tejas, Mallow has experienced many of the museum’s sponsored events. The time and thoughtfulness put into each party is so evident just by regarding the immaculate detail and intricate decorations. The Mexic-Arte Museum always hosts events that flow smoothly for guests. Even the pamphlet for Taste of Mexico 2016 included a guided map to all 30 vendors and their menu. Most of all, the staff and vendors are friendly and hospitable, making the party all the more delightful. Whether you’re a member of the Latino/Hispanic/Mexican community or not—everyone is welcomed with open arms and there is a sense of family, continuity and love at every celebration the museum hosts. Mexico and Texas are known for their hospitality and fiery personalities, so this infusion of a Mexican holiday celebrated in downtown ATX is a strong and vibrant combination. Anyone that attends a celebration hosted by The Mexic-Arte Museum is guaranteed to have a good time. Simply put, The Mexic-Arte Museum organizes genuine and unforgettable parties with memories that last a lifetime. Once you enter the doors, attendees feel a vivacious, playful and radiant energy that is bound to put a smile on anyone’s face. And you will want the party to last throughout the night.

To view photographs from Taste of Mexico 2016 and to view a list of the sponsors that helped facilitate the event, please visit their website at www.mexic-artemuseum.org.

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 Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in May 2016.  

Joan Lunden empowers others by sharing her stories of survival and life purpose

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Joan Lunden at Prevention Magazine’s 3rd annual R3 Summit at ACL Live at The Moody Theater on January 16, 2016. Photo Credit: Jack Plunkett.

Joan Lunden delivered a vivacious and heartfelt keynote speech for Prevention Magazine’s third annual R3 Summit held at ACL Live at The Moody Theater within the Warehouse District of Austin, Texas on January 16, 2016. As she stood on the main stage under bright lights and gold curtains: Lunden’s words filled the room like fresh oxygen, purifying the air. Her message and its delivery focused on the vitality of self-care and self-love. Why all women need to discover their life purpose and how to follow our dreams. Lunden also emphasized the utmost importance of sustaining a positive attitude whenever life is feeling dark, dreary or defeating. Her message encouraged all women to take care of their health as if it were a second job in order to avoid a collapse or a burn out.

Ultimately, Lunden speaks out to pass on her life story in order to educate and empower all womankind. Joan Lunden speaks out in hopes of seeing the light within every woman shine bigger and brighter than ever before. To see the stars in every woman take flight. And to help other cancer survivors make it through the hardest of times. Many moments throughout the keynote speech, she addressed all the women in the audience as ‘us’ and ‘we’, unifying women of all age, nationality and ethnicity.

A survivor of breast cancer, Joan Lunden is also an award-winning journalist, bestselling author, health & wellness advocate, motivational speaker, successful entrepreneur and mom of seven children. Listening to Lunden’s life stories of survival, television, journalism, family, men, health, sex, life and death—listening to how she succeeded despite any or all challenges or tragedies—was a deeply inspiring message to hear. Prior to Lunden’s keynote, The Master of Ceremonies for R3 Summit, Dr. Jennifer Ashton (a Board-certified Ob-Gyn, author and co-host of the award-winning talk show The Doctors) introduced her colleague to the audience as “The Queen of Good Morning America” and it’s a most befitting, honorary title.

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To much delight, after the keynote address Joan Lunden sat down for a brief interview with local A&E Austin Examiner, Nicolette Mallow, to briefly discuss motherhood and her own inner-light.

Nicolette Mallow: Motherhood was a big focus throughout your presentation. And while I do value, honor and respect family traditions. Do you have any advice for women (of any age) that are unable to bear children? Or do you have any words of encouragement for women that choose to not have children in a society where motherhood almost seems to be expected of us?

Joan Lunden: When I first became a mother, I bore three beautiful children the natural way. Later on in time when I wanted to have more children in my 50’s, it was not as easy to get pregnant. I began using fertility methods like in vitro. Eventually it became too complicated. One day my husband lovingly reminded me that it’s not a competition. And I quit in vitro. At that point we sought out a surrogate mother. Our surrogate mother has become like family to us. I now have two sets of twins in addition to my other three kids. And it’s wonderful. I love all seven of my children equally. So, no woman should think just because their body cannot facilitate childbirth that there is anything inadequate with them… On the other hand, I have many female friends that do not have children and are successful and happy individuals. Motherhood does not define a woman even if it can be an all-encompassing trait of what it means to be a woman.

NM: Your career is so impressive and I know you have even more to offer the world in the years to come. However, when was the time in your career that you knew you’d made it?… Your life is so magical on so many levels that it reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor’s line in the Hollywood film based on Tennessee William’s play Suddenly Last Summer. The line when she speaks of ‘the sunshine days’. The days everything was in perfect sync and harmony… When was it that you knew in your heart that it was only going upward in your career from then on?

JL: (she smiled) During my 30’s when I began co-hosting Good Morning America with Charlie Gibson. That was when I knew. He and I used to describe the feeling as “the best seat from which to view the world”. It was an amazing time of my life with such happiness that I will always cherish… Suddenly I was going to The White House, interviewing politicians, rock stars, celebrities and all sorts of prominent figures. I was traveling worldwide covering global news… The happiness we felt on the show is something I will always treasure. Charlie Gibson and I made a strong team and we co-existed together. Which really caught everyone’s attention: seeing a man and woman work together so wonderfully on national television. Having said this, I am sort of a Master of Reinvention, and so I look forward to new journeys and new thrills as I began new media campaigns.

For more information pertaining to Joan Lunden’s life story of survival and success. Or to find health, beauty and lifestyle tips, please visit her website Joan Lunden: Creating a healthy lifestyle for a better tomorrow at www.joanlunden.com.

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in January 2016.

The Driskill Hotel hosts holiday traditions in Texas for more than a century

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Floral arrangements in December at The Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas.

On the first of December at six in the evening, The Driskill Hotel initiated their annual holiday celebrations beginning with the lighting of the tree and a double quartet of singers from Austin Opera. Positioned in the center of the marble floors and steep columns within the main lobby closest to the grand stairwell, a decorated tree is illuminated and glowing the entire month of December. The holiday tree is so substantial in size that the gold star on top nearly touches the stained glass dome of the ceiling.

Throughout the month of December, for nearly 130 years since it was built in 1886, The Driskill Hotel hosts annual time-honored traditions to celebrate the holiday season. Notably, The Driskill is the oldest operating hotel in Austin, Texas and the architecture is Romanesque in design. When you enter the hotel it’s like going back in time, or finding a magical hiding place in town, because there is something other worldly about the energy of the building. Yet you know you’re in Texas by all the lone stars, leather, cowhides and southern hospitality. Even horse carriages still wait outside to take guests and locals for a stroll through downtown. An artistic infusion of different time periods; there is no other structure in Austin quite like it. Blocks away from the Texas State Capitol, The Driskill is a Historic Landmark and its European structure carries a prominent, unique presence amongst modern day architecture in the downtown vicinity. This refined hotel is aesthetically beautiful and elegant, inside and out. However, every December as the holiday season arrives: The Driskill shines brighter than ever with its festive, colorful decorum and sparkling tealights. Even before entering the hotel, dozens of homemade gingerbread men can be seen dangling happily in the windows of 1886 Cafe & Bakery. The gingerbread men are fairly large in size, decorated with smiles of white icing, red candied buttons, green checkered stockings and eyes that seem to be made of chocolate.

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 In addition to the lovely holiday decorum on display the month of December, The Driskill will also feature holiday events on selected days and nights: seasonal music from a live string quartet, Afternoon Tea, an Afternoon with Santa, and Christmas Day in The Driskill Grill. Prices per event do vary. The Driskill Bar upstairs, which was recently named the best cocktail bar by The Austin Chronicle, hosts live music as well. Guests can escape the cold and warm up with snacks and a libation, or an apple cider, within the lounge area whilst enjoying the lyrics and melodies of various singers and songwriters. Don’t forget to try the mejdool dates wrapped in bacon!

Furthermore, on December 13th at 2:00 PM, Cookies for Caring is another holiday-related, charity event at The Driskill. “In collaboration with the Austin American-Statesman’s Season for Caring, The Driskill is hosting a holiday cookie swap. Guests can create their own holiday cookie collection and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Austin American-Statesman’s Season for Caring charity drive.” Cookie tins cost $25 per person and will be waiting for guests upon arrival to the event.

Seasonally decorated gourmet cookies can also be purchased at 1886 Cafe & Bakery, a premier restaurant within the hotel named after the year The Driskill came to life. “The Driskill Hotel opened on December 20, 1886 to great fanfare and applause from Austin’s 20,000 residents. Since that time, the ‘grande dame’ of Texas hotels has remained a magnificent gathering place for locals, Texans and others to celebrate the holidays and other special moments of their lives in Colonel Jesse Driskill’s splendid Romanesque masterpiece. We invite you to recapture a nostalgic memory from a holiday season long past and to create new memories for your family and friends during our holiday celebrations.”

The Driskill Hotel holds 189 guest rooms and suites. Guests may also admire The Maximilian Room, the Governor’s Boardroom, the Mezzanine and the Victorian Room. For more information about holiday events, hotel reservations, catering or The Driskill Bar and Grill: please visit their website at www.driskillhotel.com or call 512-439-1234.

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in December 2015. 

Viva la Vida: Mexic-Arte Museum honors Día de los Muertos festival for 32 years in Tejas

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La Catrina drawn by unknown artist at The Mexic-Arte Museum. Photography by Nicolette Mallow.

Since the doors first opened in 1984, the Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin has celebrated thirty-two years of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festivities. This October the museum presents two seasonal exhibitions alongside its annual Viva la Vida festival featuring a grand procession, artist vendors, live music, and a grand sugar skull piñata float by local piñata artisans Monica and Sergio Lejarazu. The museum will also host a black-tie masquerade event known as the Catrina Ball that will debut at The Four Seasons Hotel.

The highlighted Día de los Muertos exhibition at the Mexic-Arte Museum, Community Altars: Ofrendas Inspired from the States of Mexico, is located within the main gallery and contains nearly a dozen altars to honor the lives of loved ones who are deceased. Adorning the altars are flowers, crosses, candles, angels, framed photographs, flags, hand-cut paper, skulls and catrinas. Echoes of a film directed by Jim Hill, Llamar a los Muertos a Casa (Calling Home The Dead), are heard as guests walk about the rooms. In the very back of the exhibition there is a bench to sit and watch the movie about the villagers of Lake Pátzcuaro. And viewers can learn why it’s believed this land is a doorway to heaven.

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Nicolette Mallow in La Catrina face paint at the Viva la Vida festival in October 2015.

Each altar represents the regional and cultural differences within diverse areas of Mexico, including the following states: Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Veracruz, Mexico D.F. and Coahuila. Admiring the similarities and dissimilarities between the altars is part of the appeal. Not a single altar is identical to another, and yet the holiday spirit Día de los Muertos is strong within every altar, unifying the exhibition at the Mexic-Arte museum.

In 2003, the 78th Legislature of the State of Texas awarded the Mexic-Arte Museum as the Official Mexican and Mexican American Art Museum of Texas. Also according to their website, “Día de los Muertos is an ancient, Mexican and Mexican American religious holiday with a historically rich tradition that integrates both pre-Columbian and Catholic customs. It is often celebrated in connection with the Catholic Holy Days of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (dates and length of the celebration vary by state or region). In the celebrants’ minds, the holiday is a time to honor and greet their deceased relatives and friends, who make the journey back from Mictlan (the underworld in Aztec culture) to be with the living each year. These days are a time for families and friends to gather in celebration of life and death, embracing the circle of life rather than loss and sorrow.

Standing in a room of altars that pay homage and respect to the dead, it might not seem like a place of love and light to those unfamiliar with Día de los Muertos. However, there is an undeniable force of love and life flowing throughout the rooms. An intense and evocative kind of love that can be seen and felt like standing next to a bonfire on a frigid moonless night. Looking at the altars one-by-one, imagining the time it took to make it all by hand. Thinking about the fact that massive quantities of people from all over the country designate the time and energy each year to create memorials. Memorials that signify and represent their memories towards family members or loved ones no longer living is indicative of their selflessness, loyalty and respect. It’s indicative of their devout love. It’s very moving to the heart and mind as guests walk from altar-to-altar; absorbing a sense of each person, or persons, revered at every altar by those still living. Unlike a tombstone that only states a name and dates of life, these large altars are unique to each family member and give viewers are stronger sense of personality. Books, jewelry, baskets of black beans, blankets, pottery, Marlboro cigarettes, bottles of tequila, and guitars; various items are placed throughout the altars, humanizing and personalizing the interests and pleasures of each person’s life.

Additionally, bright lights and vivacious colors illuminate the altars. Color and light are key elements in this exhibition at the Mexic-Arte Museum. Blue, red, pink, yellow, green and violet are prominent colors seen throughout the altars in the main gallery. Marigold flowers are one particular item of deeper significance seen at every altar. “Marigolds guide the spirits to their altars using their vibrant colors and scent. It is believed that the spirits of the dead visit the living during the celebration. Marigolds, or flowers in general, also represent the fragility of life. The marigold most commonly used in Día de los Muertos celebrations is the Targetes erecta or African Marigold, otherwise known as cempasúchil or flower of the dead.”

To view the history of thirty-one prior Día de los Muertos celebrations at the Mexic-Arte Museum, please venture to the annex gallery. Exhibitions will be on display through most of the autumnal season until mid-November. Please note the Viva la Vida festival is a daylong, eight-hour event open to the public on October 31, 2015. Tickets to the Catrina Ball on October 17, 2015 can be purchased online. For more information regarding upcoming events, exhibitions, admission, memberships and hours of operation, please visit www.mexic-artemuseum.org or call 512-480-9373.

¡Viva Mexico & Tejas!

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in October 2015. 

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The High Road on Dawson sponsors an event to raise funds for Austin musicians

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The High Road on Dawson will sponsor its first official Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM) fundraiser this upcoming Tuesday September 1, 2015. Hosting a local event that features a DJ, several bands to play live music, a full bar and limited baskets of snacks; their goal is to raise $2,500. This HAAM-related gathering at The High Road on Dawson welcomes all ages, children and adults, and it begins at 4:30 PM sharp and will last till approximately 10:00 PM.

“HAAM Benefit Day is a nationally recognized city-wide musical celebration that helps keep music in Austin alive and well. HAAM has helped over 4,000 musicians access over 52,000 healthcare appointments valued at over $30 million dollars since 2005. These include routine dental work, doctor visits and prescriptions, psychiatric counseling sessions, eye exams, out-patient procedures, specialist referrals, hearing screenings and more. Join others in attracting the national and local attention as well as giving your customers, clients and employees the satisfaction of knowing you are supporting the amazing musicians of Austin. This amazing day is made possible by the many businesses and volunteers that sign up to support HAAM. “

Happy hour, or in this case Hammy Hour at The High Road on Dawson, lasts from 4:30 to 6:00 PM. DJ Cole will spin records during this time. Afterward, listed in order of appearance is the line-up of bands including the following: Eve Monsees & Mike Buck, Jon Dee Graham & William Harries Graham, Mike Hall & Randy Franklin, Curtis McMurtry & Diana Burgess, Andrew DuPlantis, Bonnie Whitmore, Jaimee Harris, Christiane Swenson, Tech 12.

All guests are required to check-in before entering. There is no cover. Donations are accepted. Anyone 21 and up will be given a wristband in order to frequent the bars. Baskets of food entailing ham and cheese sandwiches, chips and a pickle cost $8 each. Parking is also readily available, but guests are also encouraged to utilize Uber or Lyft.

One of the many amiable traits regarding The High Road on Dawson is that their building is located at 700 Dawson off Barton Springs Road on the top of a hill overlooking a skyline view of downtown Austin. Showcasing many of the scenic beauties within the city of Austin, the views from their building are lovely and distinct. “The High Road on Dawson is a member-based, non-profit charity with over a century of tradition. Our organization encourages and provides opportunities for its members to support their local community with donations of funds, material goods, and volunteer service. The High Road on Dawson is a philanthropic association that cherishes fellowship among its members and promotes personal growth and leadership.”

An official flyer for their HAAM event on Tuesday, September 1, 2015 can also be found on their Facebook page. For more information regarding The High Road on Dawson visit their website. All other inquires regarding the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, donations or how to get involved, please refer to www.myhaam.org.

 Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in August 2015.

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