For the past 56 (!) years, the performing arts series of Alverno College, Alverno Presents, has been bringing some of the most rewarding art and artists to Milwaukee’s doorstep. Internationally celebrated dance, music, and performance have been the norm. In addition to that, the last decade has seen director David Ravel cook up and commission works from some of Milwaukee’s finest creators, too. One-time only shows like Nick Sanborn’s “Lend Me Your Voice,” Betty Blexrud-Strigens’ “Smith Uncovered” (a tribute to Patti Smith), Jordan Lee’s “Jones Uncovered” (a tribute to Quincy Jones), and Hello Death’s recent “Prince Uncovered” (a tribute to Prince) have been big, bold, and unmistakable highlights of their respective years. Toss in multi-media explorations of the meaning of life itself, dance performances in the Lynden Sculpture Garden, and, of course, the long-running Global Union festival, and you have an indispensable asset to the Milwaukee cultural scene.
Sadly, it appears Alverno’s current 2015/2016 season will be its last. And that, friends, really sucks. In a statement released today, Ravel explains the decision:
After 56 years, Alverno College is no longer in a position to continue its financial support of its performing arts series, Alverno Presents. The 2015/2016 season will be our last.
The attached video talks about what we do and why. Please take a moment to watch it.
Five shows remain. They represent the breadth of our interests and the depth of our passions. We are excited to share them with you, and we hope you will join us.
That Alverno Presents has connected powerful art to diverse audiences for over a half century is no small accomplishment. The vision and tenacity of the College, the School Sisters of Saint Francis, and especially Alverno Presents’ founder, Sr. Laura Lampe, inspire humility and awe. What Rory Trainor, Marielle Allschwang, Rollie Layman and I have accomplished happened because we could stand on their strong shoulders.
This year, we dedicated our Season 56 brochure to risk-taking in art-making, with the words “This Might Fail/Beauty” as two faces of the same pursuit. To ‘dare greatly’ while seeking out beauty is, for us, the worthiest cause of all.
One of my favorite writers, Rebecca Solnit, wrote the following in one of my favorite books, Hope In The Dark: “Virginia Woolf wrote in her journal, ‘The future is dark, which is on the whole, the best thing the future can be, I think.’ Dark, she seems to say, as in inscrutable, not as in terrible. We often mistake the one for the other. People imagine the end of the world is nigh because the future is unimaginable…We talk about “what we hope for” in terms of what we hope will come to pass but we could think of it another way, as why we hope. We hope on principle, we hope tactically and strategically, we hope because the future is dark, we hope because it’s a more powerful and more joyful way to live.”
I have great hope. I look forward to the new ways I will be working with artists I care about and connecting their works to the communities I love. I am excited for what comes next.
About the only good news, as Ravel mentions, is that the five remaining Alverno Presents shows in 2016 are still a go. Christopher Porterfield’s “How To Write A Popular Song” is set for January 30 at the Pitman Theatre, Okwui Okpokwasili’s “Bronx Gothic” February 12 and 13 at Pitman, the Boban And Marko Markovic Orchestra March 5 at Pitman, The Hinterlands’ “The Radicalization Process” April 8 and 9 at Pitman, and the Jones Family Singers April 30 at Pitman. According to the Journal Sentinel, two more “Uncovered” shows will take place next season at Turner Hall, under a new arrangement with the Pabst Theater Group. The arrangement may see the eventual return of Global Union as well.