There is a story about Winston Churchill going around in regards to arts funding.
When asked to close the theaters because of dangers from the Nazi blitz, Winston Churchill turned to an Air Force marshal and asked, ''Good God, man, what are we fighting for then?''
I was thinking the same thing as I sat in the capacity crowd at the Manship Theatre for “The End of the Earth,” a mix of music, poetry, and film that came about through cooperation and determination among artists and institutions. As the quartet walked the dark paths of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, I was reminded that Messiaen showed his sketches for this piece to a fellow musician while on the train to a prison camp, and in remarking on the piece’s premiere to his fellow prisoners and captors, “Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension.”
Right now, Bobby Jindal and his administration are set to cut the Decentralized Arts Fund by 83%, Chelsea’s is facing closure over a bureaucratic nest of permit issues, and the Westdale Monument is facing demolition because we cannot muster the civic wherewithal to have it moved or effectively block its demolition. Not to mention this nasty economy we are having…
It is gross hyperbole to compare our situation to those in which Messiaen and Churchill found themselves, but it bears mentioning that art flourished unabated by those situations. And, there was no sign of the arts being cut at the Manship Theatre and later at a crowded art show at the Ephemeral Gallery. It was a glorious night to be in Baton Rouge.
Arts and culture are arguably the one thing we do exceptionally well in Louisiana, even in our boring old city. A number of people I talked to at the opening remarked about the event: “This kind of thing makes you forget you are in Baton Rouge.” And I thought, “This kind of thing should be a reminder you are in Baton Rouge.” We can have nights like this all the time.
If I sound like a stubborn cheerleader rooting for what everyone considers a losing team, yammering about the arts and music scene, I can accept that. I have in the past grown hoarse hollering about things I’ve cared less about, and I’ll grow hoarse about this one. We have a great city, and we can make great things happen, but we are the ones that are going to have to do it. It is worth fighting for.
Call your congressman, e-mail Jindal. Call the Metro Council. Put it in your Facebook status. Do all these things, but the other thing we need to do is participate in the arts, keep making art and music and culture a priority in your life. Your life will be much better for it.
Three shows of note for this week:
Country legend Charley Louvin at the Red Dragon on Friday. It is really unbelievable that Chris Maxwell got a performer of his stature to play in such an intimate setting.
Gov’t Majik and the Dirty South Afro-Beat Arkestra at Chelsea’s -- New Orleans’ own concoction of Fela, Sun Ra, peyote and crawfish.
Lil Buck Senegal and Rudy Richard at Teddy’s. Lafayette’s Little Buck doesn’t play too often in Baton Rouge, and it’s time we change that.
Wednesday, April 1
The Waymores at the Manship Theatre
Thursday, April 2
Who’s Bad – a tribute to Michael Jackson at The Varsity
Full service, Death to Juliet, and Godspeed the Jackal at North Gate Tavern
Friday, April 3
Charlie Louvin at the Red Dragon
Prince Tribute Night at Spanish Moon
Gov’t Majik and the Dirty South Afro-Beat Arkestra at Chelsea’s
Framing Hanley at The Varsity
Marjory Lee, Jason Ricci & New Blood, and Ryan Jenkins at Boudreaux & Thibodeaux’s
5D Band at Phil Brady’s
Saturday, April 4
Lil Buck Senegal and Rudy Richard at Teddy’s Juke Joint
We Landed on the Moon! and Brass Bed at Spanish Moon
The B-Sides, Borderline Cuckoo, and Kate Gaffney at Chelsea’s
Robot Punk, a tribute to Daft Punk, Gabriel Saint, Mic Phedusha, Brent Armstrong, IExist and others at North Gate Tavern
Blaine Roy & Second Wind at Boudreaux & Thibodeaux’s
Sunday, April 5
Mem Shannon at Teddy’s Juke Joint