January 23, 2017

Random Acts… Everyone should attend Festival of Human Abilities

Posted in Art, Diversity, Entertainment, Health, Travel at 5:37 pm by dinaheng

Why does an aquarium have an annual festival featuring performances that showcase the creativity of people with disabilities?

“It’s all part of our outreach to many communities,” explains Peter Martineau, marketing events manager for the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif. “Our mission is about taking care of the animals, the ocean and the ecosystem by getting people engaged to accomplish that mission.”Dinah Eng

So in addition to cultural festivals that celebrate people from diverse racial backgrounds, the Aquarium decided to create an event highlighting the talents of those with disabilities. The great thing about these events is that people from all walks of life attend and learn from each other.

This year, the Aquarium’s 14th Annual Festival of Human Abilities (Jan. 28-29) will feature hip hop wheelchair dancers (Auti Angel, The Rollettes, and Infinite Flow); a sign language choir; Kodi Lee, a singer who is blind and has autism; Dat Nguyen, a guitarist who is blind, and other inspiring performers.

Along with music and dance, the event will include art demonstrations, like the making of mouth-stick art by local artists with disabilities. Diveheart, an organization that takes people with disabilities scuba diving, will do a talk and take divers into an Aquarium exhibit.

Free creative workshop classes, lasting 30 to 45 minutes, will teach participants how to sing in sign language, create wheelchair art, paint a hat, or try hip hop wheelchair dancing. The Aquarium will also give audio tours for guests who are blind.

Auti Angel gives a wheelchair dancing performance at the 13th Annual Aquarium of the Pacific's Festival of Human Abilities. Photo courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Auti Angel gives a wheelchair dancing performance at the 13th Annual Aquarium of the Pacific’s Festival of Human Abilities. Photo courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific.

“We all have challenges in our lives, and whether you have a disability or not, you’ll find yourself inspired by these performances,” Martineau says. “We usually get about 7,000 attendees each day, and one of the most powerful things is the opportunity for people who don’t have disabilities to feel comfortable around those who do.

“The more you can talk to someone and hang out with them, the more you realize that that person’s a human being you can talk to. Everyone at the festival is getting the ocean conservation message, and it’s going to take a diverse world of people to make it happen.”

Admission to the festival costs $29.95 for adults (12 years and older), $26.95 for seniors (62 and older); $17.95 for children 3 to 11; and is free for children ages 3 and younger. Members of the Aquarium are admitted free of charge.

For more information, check out http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/events/info/festival_of_human_abilities/.





January 23, 2014

The accidental auctioneer

Posted in Art, Business, Women at 4:03 am by dinaheng

Kathleen Doyle never planned on running an auction house. But when her husband, William J. Doyle, founder and CEO of auctioneer and art-appraisal company Doyle New York, died of leukemia 20 years ago at age 53, she not only stabilized the firm but modernized a business that was antiquated in more ways than one — and turned the company into a global brand.

To read the complete story in Fortune magazine, click here.

October 10, 2013

Friendship drives day-trip to Nashville

Posted in Art, Between Us column, Dining, Travel, Women at 10:34 pm by dinaheng

Take two girlfriends who haven’t seen each other in a couple of years, one day together, and where do you go?

My friend Christine and I decided to spend that day in Nashville, Tenn., an hour from her home and a four-plus hour plane ride from my home in Los Angeles. For two women who love to talk about everything, it was a sweet, albeit brief, reunion of two kindred souls.Dinah Eng

Arriving on Friday afternoon, we checked into the Loews Vanderbilt, a contemporary haven in Nashville’s Midtown, a charming and bustling area west of downtown by Vanderbilt University (2100 West End Ave.). The hotel, which has completed a $17 million renovation, features a new lobby, new guest bathrooms, a new Mason’s restaurant and Mason Bar, and an updated outdoor patio space.

The lobby has a definite masculine feel, with straight, square lines reflected in the furniture and dark wood paneling. A floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace adds warmth to the space, along with The Rehearsal Room, a group gathering space off the lobby. In the great room, a Hank Williams mural wall is a clever nod to country music singers, whose faces make up the little squares in the mural. Seating includes connectivity for those who need to stay plugged-in online.

Lobby fireplace at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in Nashville. Photo courtesy of Loews Hotels.

Lobby fireplace at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in Nashville. Photo courtesy of Loews Hotels.

After checking in, Christine and I made our way up to our room, stopping for a sip of “welcome fruit punch,” which was a great idea, but unfortunately, tasted like watered down Kool-Aid.

Upstairs, however, we were delighted with our room, which was both spacious and beautifully decorated in rust and beige colors. We were impressed with the layout of the room, which featured two comfortable beds, a side table with two lounge chairs, a desk and entertainment center. The wall by the bathroom door was angled, giving easier access to one of the beds, and a place to hang a full-length mirror, a creative use of space. The bathroom, which featured Lather Inc. toiletries, a walk-in shower, and tiles that looked like washed white Birchwood, was well-appointed and stylish. (Our room ran about $239 plus tax for a Friday night.)

After unpacking, we headed out to see The Parthenon in Centennial Park (2600 West End Ave.), just a few blocks from the hotel. The Parthenon, the world’s only full-scale replica of the famous Athens’ temple in Greece, was an impressive sight. The structure houses the city’s art museum and Athena Parthenos, a massive sculpture of the Greek goddess Athena by Nashville sculptor Alan LeQuire that stands nearly 42 feet tall, making it the largest piece of indoor sculpture in the Western World.

The Parthenon in Nashville.  Photo courtesy of Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Parthenon in Nashville. Photo courtesy of Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“I love it that a city known for country music decided to call itself the ‘Athens of the South,’ “ Christine said.

Before long, it was time to head out to Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art (1200 Forrest Park Drive), a beautiful 55-acre estate in West Nashville built by the Cheek family, owners of a wholesale grocery business that invested in Maxwell House Coffee and made a fortune. Cheekwood offers lectures, special events, exhibitions and more yearround.

We were fortunate enough to catch part of Bruce Munro’s “Light At Cheekwood,” an amazing large-scale light-based installation that covered the grounds, along with a more intimate exhibit in the Museum of Art, a 30,000-square-foot Georgian-style mansion that was built for the Cheek family.

Inside the museum, we walked through works that Munro had designed, inspired by personal experiences, childhood memories, literature and popular culture. Each piece played with light, and as we walked past the word “Light” in different languages (“Lumiere,” “Luz” and “Licht”) on the wall above us, it was a reminder that when we see the light in everyone, we will understand that inside, we are all One.

Bruce Munro's "Light" exhibition at Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art. Photo by Kyle Dreier.

Bruce Munro’s “Light” exhibition at Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art. Photo by Kyle Dreier.

“So often, people don’t take the long view,” Christine said, looking at Munro’s pieces of light. “They’d rather talk about terrorists than who’s going to grow their food when the land is a desert because of climate change. People don’t want to change their behavior even a little because it’s inconvenient.”

After an all-too-short walk through the gallery, we returned to the hotel to rest and have dinner in our room. We talked about our lives, the need to make time for relaxation, and the blessing of our friendship. Before long, it was time to go to sleep.

The next morning, we decided to have breakfast at Marché Artisan Foods, a small cafe and marketplace in East Nashville (1000 Main Street). A popular neighborhood eatery, the place was filled with people waiting for a table. As diners waited, they could peruse the bakery case or look through cabinet shelves filled with items like Drew’s Brews, hand-roasted coffee made in Nashville and Apple Jams from the midwest.

The restaurant, which does not take reservations, has both individual and community tables. While it’s a charming space, be warned that the crowd is noisy and there are no acoustic features to dampen the din.

The breakfast menu runs the gamut from pastries and oatmeal to crepes and omelettes, with entrees reasonably priced around $10. I ordered an almond croissant ($2.75) and the Anson Mills Organic Oatmeal with plums and cream ($5). Christine had the Crepes du Jour ($10), made with roasted chicken, spinach and goat cheese, with roasted red pepper tomato sauce. We both ordered the Noble Blood Orange Juice ($4).

Sadly, the food was nothing special. My almond croissant tasted like it had sat in the case overnight. The oatmeal was fine, but not memorable. Christine called her crepes “ordinary.” We were both disappointed to discover that the orange juice was not fresh-squeezed, but was packaged.

All too soon, it was time to head out to the airport, and to say our good-byes. Nashville was a great rendezvous point, and as we hugged each other farewell, we promised that it wouldn’t be so long before we got together again.

That, of course, is the way all good visits should end.

June 12, 2013

Unique bowls remind us of life’s beauty

Posted in Art, Between Us column, Business, Women at 10:50 pm by dinaheng

Ellen Bartfeld, formerly an educational therapist, owned a stained glass overlay franchise in Santa Barbara, Calif. until her son started eighth grade. After her mother died, she and her husband moved Bartfeld’s father into their home, caring for him until his death in 2000.

“After he died, I needed to go back to work, so I started doing pressed flower things, and took them to a local art fair,” Bartfeld says. “Being around other artists, you get lots of ideas. I had done some stained glass work in the 1970s, and decided to make little bowls. So I went to the bead store, and made a few bowls for the art show.”Dinah Eng

When a customer immediately bought the bowls, Bartfeld stopped doing the pressed flower items and started taking the uniquely decorated bowls to more art shows.

Today, her work is sold through the Uncommon Goods catalogue, and at gift shops around the world. Sold under the banner Gravity Ranch Designs, her stained glass bowls, edged with copper foil, are customized around various themes, including Butterflies and Dragonflies, Four-legged Friends, By the Water, Birds and Bees, and Plants and Flowers.

What is striking about the designs is the pairing of the stained glass colors with beads, charms and vintage jewelry. Images from nature are used, as well as elements of Asian design, with Chinese letters for love and friendship, Buddha charms, and symbols for Om and the Tree of Life.

The number of small U.S. businesses owned by women is growing by leaps and bounds, and by 2018, one-third of new jobs are projected to be generated by female-owned companies, according to The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute.

Like Bartfeld, many of these businesses were started by entrepreneurs who created  their own niche in a field, and who wanted to work on their own terms. Starting a new venture requires courage, particularly when you’re a one-woman company like Gravity Ranch Designs, and as Bartfeld notes, many things have to be learned along the way.

Stained glass bowls by Gravity Ranch Designs.

Stained glass bowls by Gravity Ranch Designs.

“You have to put yourself out there,” Bartfeld says. “You have to be willing to fail, and wipe out your savings while you’re trying. If you don’t, nothing will happen. That’s the hardest part. Not everybody will make it, even though they have the talent. The second part of the process is pushing through, and making it happen.”

Bartfeld’s leap of faith was entering the New York International Gift Fair, where retailers from around the world look for wares to sell in their stores. Fortunately,  the orders started rolling in. In this spring’s show, she got a giant order from a store in Kuwait. The entrepreneur says she learned to discuss payment and shipping specifications ahead of time, as her e-mailed questions received no response. Instead, the Kuwaiti store requested an invoice and just did a wire transfer payment with no discussion.

“I remember when I did my first show, I asked another vendor, ‘What do you do if you get a huge order?’ “ Bartfeld says. “She said, ‘You just figure it out.’ Instead of stressing out about things that may or may not happen, it’s so much easier to just deal with it when you need to. Otherwise, you’re just putting obstacles in your own way.”

Advice that makes sense in business, and beyond.

For more information, check out http://gravityranchdesigns.com/index.htm on the Internet.

July 25, 2012

Vienna beckons through Klimt exhibit

Posted in Art, Between Us column, Travel at 9:27 pm by dinaheng

The work of Gustav Klimt, one of Austria’s greatest painters, led the way into Modernism at the turn of the 20th century, making Vienna one of its birthplaces.

A beautiful exhibition of his work, “Gustav Klimt:The Magic of Line,” is on display at The Getty Center in Los Angeles through September 23. This retrospective, dedicated to the drawings of the painter best known for his work “The Kiss,” was organized by the Albertina Museum in Vienna, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Klimt’s birth.

“For Klimt, art is turning inward and exploring different psychological states,” says Lee Hendricks, senior curator of drawings at The Getty Center, who helped put the exhibition together. “He, along with some other artists who were dissatisfied with the conservative Viennese art scene, introduced avant garde art to Vienna in the Secessionist movement. He became one of the greatest graphic artists that ever lived.”

The exhibit features wonderfully detailed life drawings that were the beginnings of his other work. For a ceiling fresco in Vienna’s Burgtheater, for example, he painted “Shakespeare’s Theater,” a depiction of the crypt scene from “Romeo & Juliet” at the Globe Theater.

“He went out on the street and pulled these people over to dress them in costumes from ‘Romeo & Juliet,’ “ explains Hendricks. “He dressed his brother as the dead Romeo.
from nude models that are sensuous and often frankly erotic.”

In the later years, his life drawings featured nude figures that were sensuous and often frankly erotic.

“Floating nude women became a theme for the rest of his career,” Hendricks says. “It meant Man is not empowered to take control of his life, and the only way to cope is to give up and float through life. His work says humankind is part of a continuum, with no control over his fate.”

Ironically, Klimt’s paintings are often seen as being symbolic of the spirit of optimism that marked the beginning of the Modernist era.

This year, Vienna is marking the 150th anniversary of the celebrated artist’s birthday with a series of events, featuring about 800 of his works around the city at museums including the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Leopold Museum, the MAK, the Austrian Folklore Museum and others.

“Klimt had a long life and never married,” says Norbert Kettner, managing director of the Vienna Tourist Board. “Vienna, at the turn of the century, was the fifth largest city in the world. The times of the empires were over, and Vienna became the birthplace of the arts, sciences and culture. Today, we are a middle-size city that combines northern European efficiency and southern European lifestyle.”

He notes that Viennese cuisine is the only one in the world named after a city, which is not surprising since vineyards in the capital city of Austria have a long history, not to mention the city’s prolific coffee houses.

If Klimt’s work isn’t enough to entice visitors, Vienna also has a long tradition in music — think Johann Strauss I, Franz Schubert, or the Vienna Boys Choir.

“We like to combine the finer things in life — going to the theater and enjoying fine foods afterwards,” says Astrid Pockfuss, media relations manager for the Vienna Tourist Board. “Fifty percent of the city is green space. You can take the train to the wineries, and at night, you can go to a black tie ball.”

Vienna is perhaps the last great bastion of the 19th century ball, holding more than 200 significant balls each year, some with as many as nine live orchestras. For as little as 50 euros, Pockfuss notes, you can buy a ticket to a ball and wander from one hall to another to enjoy the music and cultural atmosphere.

You never know who you might meet. You might even find your own inspiration for “The Kiss.”

For more information about Austria’s capital city, check out www.vienna.info/en.