Monterey County is vast, but the art world is very small indeed, criss-crossing the county’s miles of lettuce fields, acres of redwood forest and blocks of waterfront luxury homes with a network of relationships that pull everything together.
CSUMB’s World Theater (582-4580) Operations Manager Phil Esparza has deep roots with El Teatro Campesino, Luis Valdez’ high-impact small house in San Juan Bautista. Years ago, a young dancer, Martine Santangelo, began his flamenco career there, then moved to Spain to study, marrying Soledad Barrio, a rising star from Madrid. In gratitude for his first break, Santangelo brought Barrio and her troupe, Noche Flamenca, to San Juan Bautista in 2009 for a dazzling night of dance and music – a fundraiser for El Teatro. World Theater Director Joe Cardinelli witnessed the riveting event and invited Noche Flamenca, featuring Soledad Barrio to open the season (Oct. 21, 7:30pm).
A friendship first brought the premiere troupe of New York-based Paul Taylor Dance Company to the intimate World Theater; enthusiastic audiences bring them back this year for the third time (Nov. 11, 7:30pm). This year, Taylor celebrates his 80th birthday with a new work, “Brief Encounters,” set to the music of Debussy, exhibiting the athleticism, grace and social narrative for which Taylor’s choreographies are known.
Another long association is that between Carmel’s Sunset Center (624-7738) and Smuin Ballet, a San Francisco-based company whose melding of classical and contemporary forms won them a reputation for both innovation and lyricism (Dec. 3, 8pm; Dec. 4, 2pm and 8pm).
Then Sunset Center offers a Carmel home for a neighbor from the North: Mixed Nutz, an enchanting take on The Nutcracker, melding dance, circus and live music, by Tandy Beale, a Santa Cruz-based dancer/choreographer and former artistic director of the Pickle Family Circus (Dec. 28-29 at 7pm).
The Lisa Coscino Gallery (646-1939) has long represented photographer Bryant Austin, whose huge-scale images of endangered undersea mammals are wordless missionaries for environmental stewardship. Partnering with the Aquarium and the National Marine Sanctuaries in Santa Cruz, Austin’s photos and a film about him were part of the BLUE Ocean Film Festival at a standing-room-only evening at the Maritime Museum.
The spirit of the Monterey Jazz Fesival will be kept alive in images as well as music with an exhibition by Leon Morris at Carmel’s Exposed (238-0127) photography gallery. Up through Oct. 10, it features shots of Ray Charles and Nina Simone, as well as this year’s MJF artists, including Chick Corea, Roy Haynes and Ahmad Jamal.
The mission is local for Sunset Center galleries: local artists, local connections. In September it’s George de Groat: A Painter’s Legacy (reception Sept. 10, 5:30-7:30). In October, Tom Burns (625-3700) of the Carmel Art & Film Festival (Oct. 6-10) curates the gallery with Film Festival-related works, then takes about 75 artists to show in Devendorf Park while film and merriment unravel at the Sunset. Then, for Carmel’s 94th birthday party Oct. 30, the paintings of Luke Lamar explore “Why We Love Carmel.” In December, Kim Weston’s lyrical images of ballerinas lighten the dark days of winter.
Exemplifying the consequences of becoming isolated from the community, the Sunset Center’s most famous tenant, the Center for Photographic Arts (625-5181), knew only dark days just two years ago. With new leadership, CPA re-built its connections to regional photographers and cemented its national and international relationships digitally. A marvelous John Sexton exhibition just closed, but coming next – Metaphors, Masks and Movement: 2009 Juried Exhibition Winners Show (Sept. 4-Oct. 16; reception Sept. 11, 4-6pm) features Richard Garrod, Chester Ng and Matthew Farris. Charles Cramer: Earth, Water, Light follows (Oct. 23-Jan. 9, opens Oct. 23, 4-6pm) with stunning works by the landscape photographer.
Monterey Museum of Art (372-5477) navigated the economy that forced many museums to close by what Director E. Michael Whittington calls “a culture of fiscal discipline.” Cementing relationships with donors and collectors countywide, the museum used the recession advantageously to make strategic art purchases. Currently the museum presents a record-breaking exhibit of Ansel Adams: Portrait of America (through Oct. 3) and the bold works of Robynn Smith (through Oct. 31). Large-scale abstracts based on urban found images, In Process: Ingrid Calame, fills MMA-La Mirada next (Oct. 30-February) while the traditional Miniatures show/fundraiser fills the Pacific Avenue galleries Nov. 18-Jan. 2, with Beverly Rayner occupying the Monterey NOW gallery through Feb. 20).