That’s a bit (Alphonse) Mucha!

These days, you don’t tend to find many people who can say they’ve been to an Art Exhibition recently, and even less who have actually paid to view art. So, what’s going on?

When in Prague recently, I was instantly drawn to an Art Exhibition (located just off the Old Town Square) featuring works by Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, and the Czech artist, Alphonse Mucha. This was not a free exhibition however, and I paid 250 CZK (£8 GBP) for the pleasure of viewing all three artists. But was it worth it and would it have been more inclusive and popular if it was free to enter??

Art: A great way to get over your hangover blues

I initially just wanted to see the Andy Warhol exhibition as I have been a fan of his work for a number of years and he inspired influence within my own pieces of artwork. I was reluctant to pay to see all three exhibits, partly because I was starting to run out of money and partly because I didn’t really understand Dali’s work and had never heard of Mucha. But it was cold outside, I was hungover and the exhibition had free WiFi, so I went. Looking back now, I’m incredibly glad I did, as it was by far my most favourite memory from the trip. 250 CZK may be a lot of money when you’re abroad on a student budget, but the amount of art culture and history that I absorbed was priceless.

Art in Dalivision

We started in the Dali exhibit, which offered an insight into the strange and weird world of the Spanish surrealist artist. I was instantly drawn into the paintings and sculptures because of their bizarre nature, but drew new appreciation for Dali after reading about his life and influences.

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Czech him out!

The next exhibition was Alphonse Mucha. I had never heard of Mucha, and wasn’t very enthused to pay to see his work originally. However after seeing Mucha’s work I fell in love with it. The beauty of his art was astounding and almost ethereal and I have since become a great fan of him, and I’m incredibly glad that decided to see it in the end.

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A (War)hol lotta love

Lastly was Andy Warhol, the man who had created the artwork I’d been waiting my whole life to see in the flesh. The man I’d done so many art projects on and had influenced a large portion of my own artwork. It was amazing to not only be able to see  his most famous and influential works, but some of his lesser known pieces too.

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The art of free Art

After consuming all the exhibition had to offer, I am bought back to the question- Why are we not going to Art Galleries or Museums anymore?? There has been a significant decline in people visiting places like this all over the world, with many people being put off by expensive entrance fees and long queues. However in this day and age it’s often necessary to charge fee’s for such exhibits and museums as funding and support for the arts is declining, meaning that they are under pressure to raise enough money to support themselves.

Although I was initially reluctant to pay to enter this exhibition, I’m incredibly glad I did, as I have gained a new appreciation not only for Warhol and Dali, but was also introduced to another amazing artist that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

Was the 250 CZK worth it?

Yes, it was!

 

 

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Dublin There, Done That: UNESCO’s City of Literature

A tiny capital with an enormous reputation…

Dublin as a city prides itself on its creative flair; enriched with prestigious literature and a thriving contemporary live music scene. With a lively pub on every street corner and a historic gem at every turn, in Dublin, you’re never too far from culture in some shape or form.

Literature of all kinds is cherished and celebrated here in Ireland’s capital, having produced a multitude of influential writers, poets and artists ranging from Oscar Wilde and James Joyce, to U2 and The Dubliners. So whatever your personal taste, I’m sure Dublin has it covered!

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Dublin’s vibrant live music scene

Being half Irish myself but never having visited it’s capital, my parents were keen to give me lots of top tips. On the first night, we decided to hit up Whelan’s (a pub/music venue hybrid) on quirky Camden Street, where the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Ed Sheeran have performed. Our plans quickly changed after we heard that the entry cost was €16… as a student, that’s the amount I budget for my weekly food shop!

Instead, we headed back to the all-too-touristy Temple Bar district, where there are more pubs than people, all of which host a merry Irishman sat on a little stool strumming on a humble guitar and singing old Irish folk ballads – all with free entry! Which explains the popularity of Temple Bar (although I must add that they make up for the free entry with their extortionate drink prices)!

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The magical Book of Kells exhibition in the Old Library

Next morning we headed over to one of Ireland’s most impressive must-sees: The Book of Kells exhibition and the Old Library. Located in the heart of the city, this ancient treasure of Christianity is housed in the beautiful Trinity College (which in itself is worth a visit!). But at an €11 entry fee, I couldn’t help but be too inwardly annoyed about the cost to fully appreciate the spectacle around me.

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And finally… the infamous Guinness Storehouse

How have I got this far without mentioning Dublin’s beloved Guinness? I’m sure you’re all aware of the stereotype that the Irish have a soft spot for drinking, from Jameson Whiskey to Magners Cider.

But Guinness… Guinness is more than just a drink for Dubliners, Guinness is a way of life.

“My favourite food from my homeland is Guinness. My second choice is Guinness. My third choice – would have to be Guinness.”

– Peter O’Toole, Irish actor

So without question, visiting the original Guinness Brewery in St. James’s Gate was above all else top of my to-do list. And by the looks of things, top of most people’s list as the Guinness Storehouse is Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction… and Guinness gracious me it did not disappoint!

What happened to the value of art?

It makes you think doesn’t it, that if I – a self-proclaimed music lover –  wouldn’t be willing to pay much more than a couple of quid to listen to some live music, who else feels the same?

As for the Book of Kells, I’d have been just as content with a quiet amble around St Stephens Green park for my dose of literary culture as it’s renowned for having many legendary writers ponder in its fields… without having to spend a penny!

It’s no wonder less people are engaging with the arts these days – it simply costs too much. It’s been estimated that just 3% of adults in England regularly participate in cultural events and this group are typically well-educated and from a higher economic background… basically if you’re clever and rich you can afford these luxuries.

Creative city… worth a visit?

So, whether you’ve come to soak up the rich heritage Dublin has to offer, fill yourself to the brim with the Ireland’s famous stout, or jig along to the sound of an acoustic Irish guitar…

…Dublin’s got your back, whether you’ve got money in your pocket or not!

(Featured Image: Flickr)

Nothing in this life is free: should you have to pay for culture?

In 2017, the average British family spent £73.50 a week on recreation and culture. While this may seem like a large amount on first glance, the Office for National Statistics included a host of activities under this bracket, from sports participation to downloading music. Despite this generous categorisation, these figures can allow us to consider what we are really spending our money on. Whilst some consider it our human right to engage in culture, the truth is that the creative industries have been witness to a mass decrease in available funding. With the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport dedicated to promoting this sector, the question remains: is culture a public or private good? Once the curtain falls, who should foot the bill?

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The changing face of theatre. Credit: Lennart Tange (via Flickr)

Where is the money?

The 2008 global financial crisis hit the cultural sector hard. According to Arts Council, the aftermath of the economic downturn meant that there was a 20 per cent reduction in local authorities’ spending between 2009/10 and 2014/15. This has resulted in an often volatile and competitive cultural landscape where venues must compete for a slice of the ever-shrinking money pie. Everything must be funded in one way or another if they are to survive. However, it can sometimes require a combination of determination, innovation and luck to secure the required finances. For the consumer, this can mean that cultural venues either don’t have the money required to operate, or have inflated prices at the door.

Personal experience

This year I have attended a host of cultural events. In March, I saw a highly-acclaimed West End musical, and in February I attended an intimate local comedy performance. Both of these required me to pay money, and while the latter was less expensive, I nonetheless had to reach into my pocket to experience both. However, this wasn’t brought to my attention until I attended Women Representing Womenin April, a performance-based workshop and conference which looked into representation and exclusivity. The event, which was entirely free, had been made possible by research funding. It brought together women from all walks of life to discuss issues they felt strongly about, included talks and interactive workshops, and culminated in a final live performance. There was even food and drink provided throughout the weekend – all for free.

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The conference was held over a 2 day period. Credit: Carolyn Westwater

Culture for all

It felt somewhat out of the ordinary to wander into a venue, listen to speakers and engage in culture without giving anything in return. But why is this? In reality, there are a host of free events up and down the country for those who wish to seek them out. Eventbrite is a great tool for finding these. The Culture White Paper contends that “everyone should enjoy the opportunities that culture offers, no matter where they start in life”. While it would be futile to suggest that all cultural output should be free of charge, local authorities should have provisions in place to support those who are in a disadvantaged position. This could be done by creating a hardship fund for financial aid or by ensuring that there are a minimum number of free events that everyone can attend.

Attending Women Representing Women opened my eyes to the ways in which events can be produced for a low-cost whilst also being equally as rewarding for the attendees. The truth is that there will always be some aspects of culture that are extortionately priced, as commercial companies utilise their success and find opportunity to make money. However, culture is ultimately a public service and a basic human right, and every corner of society should have the opportunity to engage in it in one way or another.

Featured image credit: Cosmix (via Pixabay)

 

Has the ‘creative city’ lost its meaning?

I recently noticed how more and more cities are branding themselves as being ‘creative’ and presenting themselves as being the ultimate city of culture/music/arts/literature/drama …the list goes on! I’m not sure how others feel, but I would argue that the loose use of these terms, particularly the concept of a ‘creative city’, almost dilutes its significance and stops us from knowing which places are really worthy of such titles.

These days it appears that in order to be labelled a creative city, a place must simply ensure they tick a set of boxes, with little to no consideration of their history and whether or not they have always bred creativity and culture. In 2017, Hull was awarded the ‘UK City of Culture’. People have said that this did wonders for the city and has put them on the map. But surely culture is something organic which comes from the ground up, not something which is developed because a place wants to attract more tourists.

The creative economy in the UK accounts for almost 10 per cent of GDP, with its growth consistently faster than the UK economy as a whole. Given these facts, it is safe to say that our creative economy is a national strength and a rare area of world leadership. 

“I call the age we are entering the creative age because the key factor propelling us forward is the rise of creativity as the primary mover of our economy” – Richard Florida

But are we labelling everywhere as being a creative city when perhaps we should just be accepting that creativity has become a more ingrained, normal aspect of our society and does not need to be used repeatedly as an effort to make somewhere appear more edgy and worthy of respect and visitors?

With more and more cities now branding themselves as creative cities, I also can’t help but feel it is taking away from those cities whose creativity has always been central to their identity. When promoting or describing a city, of course the depth and variety of the city’s creativity and culture ought to be mentioned, but each city should celebrate and emphasise all the things which are unique to them rather than simply branding themselves the hundredth ‘music city’, for example. 

Last year I spent some time in Nashville, Tennessee which has long been known worldwide as the original ‘Music City’. This is a place that lives up to its name. Music truly is the heart and soul of this city which gives the place a vibe and character which cannot be replicated by simply building some fancy constructions and deciding to put more emphasis and money into nurturing local talent. Music, in Nashville, is something which is deeply rooted in the city’s historic culture and so applying the term ‘music city’ to a multitude of other cities in attempt to up its visitors seems slightly ridiculous and a little like stealing someone else’s thunder. 

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Nashville, Tennessee. Image: No Copyright, Own Image

Here in the UK, the cities which the majority of us would agree have traditionally been considered creative cities would be places such as Liverpool, Manchester and London along with a few others. Again, the reason for this, is because reputations for being creative have been built up over decades, even centuries. That is not to say that other cities excelling in these areas should not be recognised and encouraged but it should take a long time before a place earns a title like this.

Like I was saying, creativity is thriving everywhere these days which of course is a wonderful thing. But at this rate, it wont be long before we’ll have awarded everyone that title. So perhaps we should stop dishing out these labels and they should just be reserved for those considered to have been the original creative cities. 

Anyway, I’d love to hear other people’s opinions on this, so please leave your thoughts below! 

 

Featured Image: Getty Images

Are we ‘Downsizing’ our love for cinema? It seems not!

I seem to have been to the cinema an awful lot lately; mostly to see films I have never even heard of or seen the trailer for until about two hours before going. This, in large, is down to the fact that, being students, my friends and I have too much time on our hands and have a tendency to go to the cinema to watch anything and everything purely for something to do. A few weeks ago, we found ourselves watching a rather peculiar film called ‘Downsizing’. You’ll find my two pence on it below, but it got me thinking more generally about how in this period of digitisation, where everyone is otherwise turning to the internet for media content, we are still willing to pay over £10 to see a film at the cinema we may not even be that bothered about seeing in the first place!

Described as a science fiction comedy-drama, Downsizing, is a film based around a new procedure, which in attempt to combat overpopulation and global warming, shrinks people down to pocket sized humans and packs them off to live in an experimental community called ‘Leisureland’. Matt Damon and Kristen Wigg, who play husband and wife Paul and Audrey Safranek, decide to make the jump in the hope of a fresh start. But seconds before the procedure Audrey changes her mind but leaves it too late for her husband to change his. 

This is where I have to stop because in all honesty I couldn’t tell you what happened in the second half when Paul was forced to start his new life alone because the film, for me, took a nose dive about half way through and it lost me. Perhaps the original script writer decided to take a sabbatical during the writing process and the second half was completed by someone on work experience. OR maybe I have an unsophisticated taste in film and it went over my head; we may never know!

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Image: Getty Images

Ian Hargreaves, a Professor at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Culture sees the digital era as bringing both threat and opportunity. It would be fair to say that in relation to film, it is hard copies that are experiencing the former but does this also extend to cinema?

DVD sales have plummeted in the past ten years due to digitisation. Back in the good ol’ Blockbuster days, getting a new VHS or DVD was a novelty but these days, with the luxury of high speed internet, that novelty has decreased due to the endless volume of films always available to us at the click of a button. Writing in The Guardian, Mark Sweney highlighted statistics that emerged last year which showed DVD sales being overtaken by streaming and downloading for the first time. This isn’t hard to believe. Netflix charges £5-10 pounds a month for a huge range of films and TV which is the same you might pay for a DVD (i.e. ONE film) that was released two years ago.  

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Image: Getty Images

However, lots of stats and surveys suggest that cinema is not experiencing the same type of drop in popularity as DVDs or at least not to the same extent. In fact, market research company, Statista, found that:

“The total box office revenue in North America amounted to 11.38 billion U.S. dollars in 2016, the highest it has ever been”. 

I’m not overlooking the obvious fact that films released in cinemas are brand new and aren’t instantly accessible online, but I think, from my own experience at least, that the cinema experience is something which people enjoy regardless of whether or not they’re seeing a film they’ve been wanting to see for months. Digitisation does not appear to have impacted on people’s enjoyment of going to the cinema and I think that is, in part, because it is such a deep-rooted part of our culture – and I hope it stays that way! 

 

Featured Image: empirecinemas.co.uk

Who Decides? – making art accesible to all!

(Title Image: Who Decides? website)

Who Decides? is a free art exhibition held at the National Museum Cardiff from 28 October 20172 September 2018 and is suitable for all ages, making it accessible to everyone!

It’s an exhibition curated by people who have experienced homelessness in Wales and who are supported by The Wallich.

This process then allows them to regain a sense of purpose and it gives them the opportunity to re-connect with people, culture, and society.

As Heidi Jones, one of the curator’s of the exhibition says,

“The main thing I like about art is that you can make something new from something old. It’s like The Wallich – they take us when we’re a wreck and make something new.”

Additionally, by inviting an outside group in to curate the exhibition, those who manage the museum are finally acknowledging that they need to democratise the process of selecting and exhibiting art.

This will bring variety to the art we see and it allows people from all walks of life to feel connected to art. Art should be for everyone after all!

The Exhibition

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(Image: Own Image)

Upon entering the exhibition you are greeted by a banner with quotes on it such as,

‘Please take pictures’ and ‘Please make noise’

Where previously exhibitions may have made may you feel that you had to be quiet or insular with your experience, now there were no restrictions (apart from no touching of course!).

The space is no longer restricting and alternatively invites everyone – no matter their age or artistic knowledge.

As Mareth Williams, one of the curator’s says,

“it’s going to be a lot more free because we’re going to allow people to have an area where they can talk, where they can chat, where they can discuss, where they can go up to a complete stranger and say what do you think of this?”

From my experience, this new liberating atmosphere was obvious. Children were excitedly shouting about the art that they had seen and adults were asking the staff various questions about the artwork.

Refreshing to say the least.

 

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‘Radiant fold (…the Illuminating Gas)’ by Cerith Wyn Evans (Image: Own Image)

 

The exhibition was full of various paintings, sculptures, films, prints, and drawings, which range from the early 20th century up until 2017.

These feature artists such as, Anthony Caro, Olga Chernysheva, Richard Deacon, Laura Ford, Richard Long, Paula Rego, Clare Woods, and Bedwyr Williams.

And with the majority of the artists featured being Welsh, the exhibition also helps to support Cardiff in its development as a creative city.

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‘Glory Glory (Hat and Horns)’ by Laura Ford (Image: Own Image)
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‘Memorial to Tryweryn’ by John Meirion Morris  (Image: Own Image)

When you visit the gallery, you can also vote for your favourite artwork to be exhibited in the future.

This is a brilliant way to engage visitors by getting them to consider what artworks really appeal to them and why.

At long last the public can take charge on what culture THEY want to see, rather than have it dictated to them.

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(Image: Own Image)
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(Image: Own Image)

By handing over the power in this project, the museum is helping to abolish the stereotype that art and culture are elitist.

They recognise that museums, art, and culture should be for everyone.

Which reminds me of one of the quotes in the exhibition, which read:

“Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts” – Art is a fundamental human right; Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

To learn more about the exhibition and the people who helped curate it, watch the video below:

 

Celebrate Brooklyn: ‘Keep it Great Give $5 on the Gate.’

One of New York’s foremost cultural attractions since 1979, presenting talent from around the world in a free summer-long concert, this is BRIC’s Celebrate Brooklyn.

Located in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, each summer a scenic amphitheatre plays host to this iconic cultural festival.

BRIC, the leading presenter of free cultural programming in Brooklyn, aims to celebrate the borough’s diversity through showcasing a range of artists, whether that is music, dance, film or art.

 

 

The Festival

Celebrate Brooklyn was considered a catalyst for the development of the performing arts scene in Brooklyn, in the process, the festival also contributed to the gentrification of Prospect Park after years of neglect.

Arguably a mix of high and low culture, the festival features a large range of genres from global music icons to independent bands and is dedicated to supporting new talent.

In 2017, the festival programme ran from 7th June to 12th August, attracting over 250,000 attendees, becoming what Time Out magazine calls, ‘a major force in its own right.’

 

 

Last summer I was lucky enough to experience an evening at Celebrate Brooklyn, where Lila Downs, a Mexican folk artist and Orkesta Mendoza, a Latin indie-rock band were both performing. Attending enabled me to be exposed to two new musical genres as well as gaining an appreciation for a new culture, which subsequently contributes to the mission of the festival.

The Mission

The festival’s mission is to bring Brooklyn together in a safe harmonious setting while enhancing audience members understanding of the world by highlighting the vibrant cultures that make the borough so unique.

To expose as many people as possible to new cultures the festival is free to attend.

Funding

Despite being free, there is a saying associated with the festival,

‘keep it great give $5 on the gate.’

The audience is encouraged to make an optional donation at the gate; yet, there is also no obligation to do so.

Through personal experience, I found that majority of attendees did not donate on the gate. With one audience member even overheard saying,

‘the queue is only this big because it’s free.’

Do they have a point?

Should we be required to pay for the culture we consume? Or is it our right to be able to access culture through funding by local authorities? If this festival weren’t free, would it still attract such high numbers?

 

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From Pixabay – licensed for use under Creative Commons Zero License (CC0)

 

When it comes to Celebrate Brooklyn, audience members are not obligated to donate due to a wealth of generous sponsors.

Typically small festivals are reliant on volunteers and can find it challenging to attract sponsors however in this case, Celebrate Brooklyn has a multitude. Their most significant sponsors are American Express and Bud Light, with secondary sponsors such as IKEA.

The Concern

Despite such generous sponsors, without whom the festival would not take place, there is a potential concern with this funding model.

If you leave the funding and support to the market, will Celebrate Brooklyn become commercialised?

Currently, this is not the case, although there are subtle hints of commercialisation within the festival grounds, the commercial sponsors are somewhat silent. Yet, that is not to say given time, that they will not take on a more significant presence.

Speaking to a Brooklyn local who is a regular attendee at Celebrate Brooklyn, Lorraine said,

‘I think there will come a time when we will all be required to donate, but that is ok, I think the festival is well worth the small donation.’

While such large commercial sponsorship is not currently negative, it does arouse questions regarding the funding of cultural events, sustainability and responsibility.

If you are interested in finding out more about BRIC or what Celebrate Brooklyn has on offer for Summer 2018 you can visit:

https://www.bricartsmedia.org/events-performances/bric-celebrate-brooklyn-festival

 

Image Credits:

  1. Pixabay – Royalty Free Image 
  2. Own Image – Taken on iphone June 2017
  3. Own Image – Taken on iphone June 2017
  4. Pixabay – Royalty Free Image

Building a creative gem in a commercial city

Downtown Atlanta is the city’s central business district and home to multiple major global business corporations: The Coca-Cola Company, Delta Air Lines, United Parcel Services… the list stretches on. Home to the world’s busiest airport and a heap (2.5 million m2 to be exact) of office space just in downtown aloneit’s safe to say that Atlanta is kind of a big deal when it comes to talking business in a busy city. Also classified as one of the world’s ‘alpha-world cities’ ,this metropolitan giant contributed its fair share towards the global economic system. However, while Atlanta may live up to their alpha status within the business arena, it can sometimes be easy to miss the thriving art and creative community that is dampened by all the surrounding commercial noise.

Situated just a short-way east of downtown is an up-and-coming creative and cultural hub. Little Five Points (L5P) has not only developed a reputation for the arts but also as a well-known gathering spot for all sub-cultures around the city. But the path to gaining reputation as a creative community is not an easy one. During its past, economic development and gentrification saw L5P struggle with issues of abandonment and economic and structural disrepair, which challenged L5P’s existence as a retail and art scene. Fortunately, restoration in the neighbourhood in the late 80s and 90s welcomed a new community with new energy; artists, creative-ists and student, who redeveloped L5P into an ‘intown cool’, alternative local marketplace bursting with arts, unique fashion, delicious food and live music

Here are some spots that make L5P unique:

1. Vortex Bar & Grill

The skull-shaped entrance has increasingly become recognised as the iconic ‘entrance’ of L5P. True to its eye-catching colours architecture, Vortex captures the eccentric qualities that encapsulate the area. They also serve Atlanta’s best burgers!IMG_4336.JPG

2. Junkman’s Daughter

Junkman’s Daughter is one of the oldest in the community and perfect for a throwback – there is something for every generation. Named the ‘Alternative Super Store’ by its owners, it’s a testament to the diversity and creativity that L5P represents. Its peculiar yet remarkable exterior is also a marvel in itself.

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Junkman’s Daughter Entrance
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Junkman’s Daughter Exterior

3. Variety’s Playhouse

Home to famous live-music acts in the Atlanta area, Variety’s Playhouse was once a 1940s theatre that has now transformed into a local live-music venue showcasing national and local acts. It has retained its vintage art-deco interior and exterior, making it the distinctive and popular music venue it is today.

Variety Playhouse (Image Credits: Jbarta via Wikipedia. Licensed under Creative Commons 3.0) 

4. Everywhere and Anywhere! The streets of L5P are filled with unique and expressive murals and art displays that add to the vibrancy of the area. Colourful and inspirational, even adverts are not adverts are not your typical ones at L5P!

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Street Art/ Sun Trust Advert in L5P
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Street Art in L5P
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Art Mural in L5P

L5P is uniquely located between two affluent neighbourhoods that urged the community to integrate alternative ideas of culture, style and community, and to contribute to the overall development of L5P’s creative scene and identity. Free from any big-box brands, it allows opportunities for local independent businesses to strive, reflecting the various mixture of cultures and ideas present in Altanta’s growing creative community.

Atlanta may not be on track to become the next global creative city, but by embracing subcultures and celebrating overlooked communities, it has cultivated a creative hub that is symbolic and representative to the area’s rich history and allow L5P to define their own sense of ‘creativity’. This perhaps foregrounds the notion that it is not always about striving for global recognition for creativity, but about being recognised as a city that is home-grown and nurtured, and reflects personal history and community. As the NBA Atlanta Hawks would say, “the people of the city are definitely #TrueToAtlanta”

Header image credits to Wally Gobetz via Flickr (Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

All other photo credits to Lorria Sahmet unless stated otherwise.

A secret Berlin: 5 things you really need to see

With its swanky architecture, creative vibes and outrageous parties, Berlin should definitely be on the top of your list. Since the fall of the famous Berlin wall (Berliner Mauer for you language folk), it’s become a place where “anything-goes” and by anything, they mean anything.

From Berghain to Aquadom this list will guide you through five of the best and most unusual sights of Berlin, starting with Spreepark.

Spreepark

Abandoned amusement park, Berlin (photographer: Jan Bommes)

Spreepark takes residence in the north of the Plänterwald in South East Berlin. It’s been abandoned for the last ten years now, and it doesn’t try to hide it. Every inch of the park is littered with the remnants of rides and life-sized dinosaurs, including a broken roller coaster leading into the mouth of a mysterious raving-rabid creature. But this doesn’t stop trails of explorers from venturing inside. A prominent setting in horror film “Hanna”, the park is admittedly difficult to enter but with the hop of a fence, anything is possible.

Berghain

Berghain at night (photographer: Michael Mayer)

Berghain is pure ecstasy in its physical form. It is a place of mystery, stimulation and hardcore booze, drugs and techno fuelled pleasure. A short walk from Berlin’s main station (Ostbahnhof), Berghain has made its mark worldwide, perhaps due to its exclusive selection process as well as its crazy powerful sound system. Literally anything DOES go there, so don’t be expecting any rules. Berghain has become a cultural icon, famous for being the techno capital of the current world but of course that all depends on if you can get in. Wear black. And lots of it. But don’t try and be something you’re not. Because they will know. The quite honestly terrifying bouncers will pry on each and every detail of your trying-not-to-be-edgy outfit. Click here to find out exactly how to get into Berghain. It opens at 10pm on a Friday night and stays open until 4am on Monday morning. Two final words: good luck.

AquaDom

Aquadom in the Radisson SAS hotel (photographer: Tobias Wutzow)

Berlin’s AquaDom is famous for being the world’s largest free standing aquarium in the world: standing at over 25 metres in height and 12 metres in diameter. Containing over one million litres of water, a coral reef and almost 2,600 fish, it really is a wonder to behold. Not a sight to be seen from ground-level, the ingenious attraction uses an elevator to allow guests a full 360 degree experience of the 56 species of fish as well as the divers who care for the tank. A visit to AquaDom promises you a real-life experience of a coral reef, so don’t miss out. I promise you won’t regret it.

Liquidrom

The large saltwater pool at Liquidrom (photographer: Aaron Muszalski)

Feel the future with a trip to the Liquidrom, where you can float around in a pool of saltwater amidst the rhythms of underwater techno. Designed by German architects GMP, the complex is shaped like an abstract tent erected so high it scrapes the Berlin sky. Ultra-modern spa facilities make up the Liquidrom, including an outsize sauna, an aromatherapy steam bath and a hot tub inspired by the Japanese hot springs. Offering a number of unusual yet soothing massage treatments, the Liquidrom’s centrepiece is the incredible salt water pool. Masses of neon lights filter into the dome, bringing colour and illumination into the dimly lit room. If you want to relax in the style of the future, you won’t want to miss this.

Design Panoptikum

Horn man

Design Panoptikum is a “surrealist” museum of industrial objects so, if you like quirky things, you’ll love this. Behind Torstaße is architect Vlad Korneev’s unique museum filled with a bizarre collection of crazy curiosities of the most eccentric kind. Amidst the shadowy rooms emerge an assortment of mechanical monsters made up of spare pasts and parts. Dolls, lamps and instruments of every industry come together to form a ghostly atmosphere beyond even a child’s imagination. For all things weird and wonderful, visit Design Panoptikum.

RuPaul’s Drag Race: a celebration of self-expression or just another serving of cultural junk food?

If you’ve filled out your personal details online recently, you’ll have noticed the sudden increase in options when it comes to selecting your ‘gender’ – female, male, transgender, gender fluid, gender non-conforming, bigender – the possibilities are endless! We’re in an age of gender fluidity and freedom of sexuality. Gender is in the spotlight.

Queue RuPaul’s Drag Race: a reality competition series in the search for America’s next drag superstar. Each week, contestants compete in various challenges, from underwater photo shoots to performing in telenovelas, where they’re judged on their all-round ability as drag queens. At the end of each episode, the bottom two queens must “lip-sync for their life” in order to avoid being sent home.

Hosted by actor, drag queen and television personality, RuPaul, the show prides itself on its role as an advocate for self-love and of drag as a respectable art form. “Remember, if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”, RuPaul asks the remaining drag queens at the end of each episode, “can I get an amen up in here?”

rupaul's drag race ruvealed logo
Image source: Logo TV

But is the show a refreshing and inspiring celebration of self-expression and drag culture or is it simply another product of cultural junk food?

Of course, the drag queen is not a new concept. Since the birth of theatre, men have been performing as women as women were not allowed to perform on stage. And even after women were allowed, men continued to dress as women for comedic effect: drag queens.

Although drag has a long history, RuPaul’s Drag Race is arguably the first time drag culture has been viewed and enjoyed by the masses, proving its popularity with the season 9 premiere reaching almost 1 million viewers.

The show’s relatively recent convergence into mainstream popular culture has enabled public access to a culture that most are unfamiliar with. By introducing viewers to what many would consider to be an alien concept (a homosexual man impersonating a heterosexual woman) the show bridges the gap between the otherwise misunderstood drag community and the typical reality TV consumer.

Through the medium of entertainment television, viewers are able to appreciate drag as an art: singing, dancing, modeling, acting, fashion and makeup – not to mention the dynamic female personas that must be kept up throughout the series.

rupaul's drag race logotv
Image source: Logo TV

However, because of the light-hearted nature of RuPaul’s Drag Race and its ludicrous weekly challenges, we may begin to question the show’s cultural value.

TV critics would likely brand the show yet another product of ‘low culture’ in an industry already saturated with simpleminded reality shows. The show’s format resembles America’s Next Top Model: a purely entertainment-based series that arguably provides a template indicating a product of low ‘quality’ television.

So perhaps RuPaul’s Drag Race isn’t going to raise any IQs but by adopting this formulaic structure, the show allows the drag community to be understood and appreciated by the typical popular culture consumer.

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Image source: Vada Magazine

Whilst the show uses humour to engage its audience, this has not always been translated effectively and some argue the show is problematic in regards to race and has even been labelled ‘incredibly transphobic.’

But with its overriding themes of self-acceptance, self-love and self-expression, the show does ultimately promote diversity. And as one of the few mainstream representations of the LGBTQ+ community, the show clearly recognises the responsibility it holds.

Most of the girls taking part in the competition have had difficult lives. Many have been disowned by their families and one contestant came out as HIV positive during season six. As RuPaul explains, “their parents don’t approve. Society doesn’t approve.”

For many, the show will remain to be a guilty pleasure and for some, problematic. But by rejecting society’s rules, RuPaul’s Drag Race offers a much needed insight into the drag community and serves as an advocate for self-love in an all too judgmental society.

 

Featured image source: Logo TV