Arts + Letters

Art with a Twist: Berkeley Art Museum’s Gala Features Work by Literal Iconoclast

Yes, the new Berkeley Art Museum will be filled with impressive works of art, but how many museums can claim that their fundraiser’s invitations and dishes are becoming collectors’ items? Then again, how many are able to say that their party paraphernalia bears the designs of an American cult figure?

The fold-out invite card and the plates for Thursday’s event feature patterns created by Barry McGee—the man who back in the early 1990s created a name for himself, literally, as a San Francisco graffiti artist who went by the tag “Twist.”

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Gets Set to Open in New Digs

The new UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, now in the final stages of construction, exists in the heart of downtown as the large shell of a structure—its insides not yet filled with the art and art fanciers who will flood its halls when it opens to the public on January 31.

Though the new museum is 20 percent smaller than the old Mario Ciampi–designed concrete one, the building comes out to 83,000 square feet and features 25,000 square feet of gallery space.

For the Young and the Restless: Why Cal Linguist Declares “Gig” Word of the Year

Each year, UC Berkeley linguist Geoffrey Nunberg chooses a Word of the Year: A word, in other words, that was in particularly wide usage and seems to sum up the zeitgeist. Nunberg had a few good contenders for 2015, including “refugee” (due to the crises in the Middle East and Europe and along the Rio Grande) and “microaggression,” the practice of employing subtle snubs to denigrate or intimidate.

Superman With a Pen: Why This Graphic Novelist is New Ambassador for Youth Lit

The fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature was inaugurated yesterday morning at the Library of Congress. Gathered under the ornate ceiling were rows of the literary elite and elementary school children, all awaiting words of wisdom from a guy who writes comic books.

Setting Misery to Music: Collaboration Lets Listeners “Hear” Effects of Climate Change

As the 2015 U.N. climate change conference continues in the outskirts of Paris—pursuing a global agreement to slow down the devastating effects of global warming—there will be graphs. There will be charts. There will be slideshows.

But if presenters really want to tug at a world leader’s heartstrings, they might want to bring a violin. Break out a synthesizer, a keyboard, and play a snippet of what climate change sounds like: Earth, out of tune and distorted, an orchestra gone a little haywire.

Nesting Instincts: In Japan, Cal Architectural Students Reinvent the Community Center

Imagine a community center that’s not your typical chunk of cinderblock—instead it’s an architecturally avant garde space where neighbors gather to grow, cook and eat food. That’s the concept behind the breezy structure “Nest We Grow,” an experiment designed to connect a community’s social spaces and growing spaces.

Biographer in the Bancroft: Writer Pursues Clues to Ms. Didion, in the Library, With a Pen

In 1976, Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner tapped Joan Didion to cover the Patty Hearst trial. What a match-up. What a saga. California royalty caught in surreal counterculture chaos, narrated by a star of the New Journalism, herself a daughter of the Golden West.

Didion signed on, and announced that she wouldn’t be spending much time in the courtroom.

Preludes and Fugues: Choreographer Twyla Tharp Still Laying Down Her Legacy

“I had to become the greatest choreographer of my time,” Twyla Tharp has declared. “That was my mission, and that’s what I set out to do.”

With a reputation as a workaholic and perfectionist, Tharp has indeed become a world-renowned choreographer and is currently marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of her dance company with a 10-week, 17-city tour. But this is no mere retrospective—at age 74, Tharpis determined to keep expanding her oeuvre and laying down her legacy.

Totally Radical: A New Initiative from Cal Performances Aims to Gather New Audiences.

Venezuela’s Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of two international orchestras at just 34 years old, is often called the poster child for how early exposure to music and the arts can nourish and lift one toward a better life. Growing up with musician parents likely helped shape his career path, but Dudamel credits much of his success to El Sistema, a Venezuelan program started in 1975 that offers musical access to all.

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Coming to a Theater Near You! Again: Do We Live Vicariously Through Reboots and Sequels?

The Transporter: Refueled is coming out on Friday, and it’s the fourth reboot in the Transporter franchise (if you don’t count the television series reboot of 2012). It rehashes the same concept of a man transporting something, with a few changes—one of those being Ed Skrein taking the place of Jason Statham, the actor who created the role of Frank Martin and played him in the other three Transporter movies released between 2002 and 2008.

To Hear History: High-Tech Project Will Restore Recorded Native Americans Voices

Decades of wear and tear haven’t been kind to the 2,713 wax cylinders in UC Berkeley’s Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, which linguists and anthropologists have used for over a century to study the languages and cultural practices of Native California. But a new project promises to revitalize these old, fragile recordings — the first of which was recorded by famed anthropologist Alfred Kroeber in 1901 — with cutting-edge optical scanning technology.

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