Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Arts are a Contact Sport

The Arts are a Contact Sport

By Tom Wachunas

The Sports section in a weekday edition of The Repository from a few days ago featured articles by four different Repository writers, one by a Cleveland Plain Dealer sports writer, and one Associated Press sports article. Yes, I read about sports in our daily newspaper. In the same newspaper I also read movie, television, and book reviews by writers from places like Los Angeles or New York. Some of them are even occasionally ‘deep’ in their intellectual content. Additionally, I sometimes come across commentaries and interviews about live theatre or concert productions in Cleveland and Akron, and fewer still about the many stage shows presented here in Stark County, with the notable exception of those at the Players Guild Theatre, always well written by Dan Kane.

In a recent conversation at a Canton Symphony Orchestra concert, the subject of concert reviews in the The Repository – or lack of them, actually- came up. And the tired argument that was cited for such a lack was that the paper has no interest in commentary about one-night-only arts events. It’s a lame defense I’ve encountered countless times through many years of approaching the paper about hiring an arts critic – OK, hiring me.

Like any local sports team, the orchestra performs many times throughout its season. Commentary and analysis of one event can enhance readers’ overall awareness of the talents and skills of the orchestra (and let’s not forget the Canton Ballet, or VOCI)), and inform their decisions as to future support or better yet, attendance at a concert. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read in The Repository two, three, sometimes four articles by as many writers about a single football or basketball game, spread across several days AFTER the game was played.

My queries to the paper about its in-depth local arts coverage (or, again, the lack of it) over the past 18 years have netted me a collection of responses from various editors all citing the same reasons for not having an in-house art or music critic. At the top of the list is “we’re not hiring at this time.” Since my last conversation with the paper about a year ago, I’ve noticed the addition of at least one column writer, though not in the arts. Heck, more than once I even offered my services gratis, but was told that it goes against union policy and practices. My collection also includes two carefully worded responses from different editors saying that they didn’t think our community has enough “interest” in arts critiques to warrant hiring a qualified writer.

The Repository editorial authorities have, then, repeatedly determined that Canton is not interested in the kind of arts journalism I’m talking about and have been practicing for nearly 25 years. So be it. We want culture in our hometown paper? Fine. We can just continue to eat the printed movie and television fluff served up by out-of-towners. Besides, there’s always those pesky bloggers.

Photo: “Dempsey and Firpo,” by George Bellows, oil, 1924

Monday, April 26, 2010

Soul Music for the Ages

Soul Music for the Ages

By Tom Wachunas

In the final concert of this season’s Casual Friday chamber series at Cable Recital Hall on April 23, generously sponsored by Premier Bank and Trust, 18 members of the Canton Symphony Orchestra string section delivered what was unquestionably the season’s most emotionally accessible and appealing performance. This was largely due not only to the orchestra’s always remarkable technical and interpretive prowess, but also to the all-Russian program.

What is it about Russian Romantic-era orchestral music that so completely enthralls us? Call it an ineffable, yet somehow palpable – even universal – capacity to touch our souls. From the moment the violins made their achingly sweet, high-register entrance in the first selection - Alexander Borodin’s exquisite “Nocturne” (1881) - the tone was set for an evening that proved wistful, beguiling and otherwise thoroughly engaging on every level.

As is usually the case for these informal chamber presentations, the audience was treated to some expository “teaching” about the music being performed. For the second program selection – Anton Arensky’s “Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky”(1894) - conductor Matthew Brown even provided a posterboard enlargement (in bold red) showing the score’s opening nine-note theme that was woven throughout the composition. Conjuring shades of Leonard Bernstein’s Young Peoples Concerts of old, Brown’s banter was delightfully warm and humorous, reminding us at one point that Arensky was by no means a prolific composer, and that this work was perhaps evidence of the “one hit wonder” status often accorded him. After demonstrating snippets of each of the seven thematic variations (based on one of Tchaikovsky’s “Sixteen Children’s Songs”), the orchestra performed a vibrant reading of what indeed turned out to be a wonderful hit with the audience.

A particularly notable element throughout the entire evening was the subtly animated physicality of Brown’s conducting style. As if embracing the air around himself, he seemed to gather the music inward, mold and caress it, then release it back to the ever-responsive players in a symbiotic flow of give-and-take. Far from being a distraction, his ‘method’ is more a kind of guiding, even passionate choreography that enhances the experience of really hearing the music. And nowhere was this visually captivating punctuation of the musical dynamics more apparent than in the performance of the evening’s final work, Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings”.

This work, written in 1880, was a favorite of both composer and his audiences. Certainly it is among the Romantic era’s most beloved and resonant compositions (particularly the familiar second Valse movement), and an eminently appropriate finale for the concert. And once again the orchestra rose to the occasion of a masterwork with its own signature mastery of unified, sonorous tonality combined with lyrical fervor. Brown’s interpretation was impeccably attuned to the work’s flow of mood and cadence shifts, defined most noticeably in the second movement by quietly arrested passages followed by short, breathless rests. In all, from those sweet waltz hesitations, to the elegiac drama of the third movement, through the dance-like jubilance of the final movement, this was an invigorating and powerful translation of Tchaikovsky’s grandiloquent language of the human soul.

Photo, by Marantzer: St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chattels Charming and Curious

Chattels Charming and Curious

By Tom Wachunas

The world of wooden domestic movables includes a vast array of objects designed to house a vast array of smaller domestic objects. The differentiating terminology for such household appointments is nearly as voluminous: consoles, highboys, breakfronts, bureaus, buffets, sideboards, dressers… to name just some. Cabinetry can get complicated.

And beautiful, as is amply evident in two companion exhibits running concurrently with the Contemporary Ohio Ceramics show at the Canton Museum of Art (see my post previous to this). “A Sculptural Perspective” and “Based on a True Story” present furniture pieces made by John Strauss and Kevin Anderson, respectively. Both are local artists who have done with wood what their Ohio counterparts featured in the main gallery exhibit have done with clay, pushing their mediums beyond traditional notions of craft and functionality into the arena of fine art.

John Strauss’s work is a bit of a throwback to the Art Deco era, which is no surprise if you read his statement. His pieces successfully embody that period’s taste for gleaming opulence achieved through lush finishes, exotic woods, and cool, elegant curves melded with very refined angularity. Further, as the title of his exhibit indicates, his pieces are thoughtfully constructed sculptures that just happen to be useful as furniture, while being considerably more organic and lyrical than most of the listless knock-offs that pass for ‘nouveau deco’ furnishings these days.

Strauss’s twin “Lorcia Pedestals” have a monolithic presence about them, along with a minimalist formality. But their Ash wood veneer is stunning in its sienna-colored dappling, giving these imposing shapes a sumptuous kind of animation. That same sensibility runs through other pieces here, as in “Savoy Console.” Its sleek Lacewood surface appears to almost breathe through the dark, intricate grain. The bulk of the form doesn’t so much stand on as rise from its gently carved, arched front legs.

So while Strauss offers a refreshing take on decorative, even nostalgic Modernism, Kevin Anderson’s musings in wood are less easily categorized, though certainly no less fascinating. While some of them have the look of salvaged, rustic antiques, others are curious hybrids of “influences” both airy and ponderous.

And some are downright funny, like “Elphaba’s Dresser,” with its drawer handles made from tufts of stiff brush bristles (a recurring motif in this collection), and resting on clunky-looking industrial casters. Still, Anderson’s unorthodox sense of detailing has a quirky charm that works to give his pieces real warmth and personality. For all of its odd, tapered angularity, “Books and Cheese” is indeed a bookshelf, even if it is topped with a wedge of “cheese” that protrudes in the cuckoo clock tradition.

On a more serious note there’s “Nola” (abbreviation for New Orleans, Louisiana), a low-sitting affair painted in dull browns. The three open drawers contain groupings of miniature houses in various stages of inundation by a creeping rusty mist. With its top bearing a painted Sacred Heart emblem, and its sides of coffered squares, the work brings to mind a mausoleum – a haunting “end” table remembrance of Katrina.

The appeal of Anderson’s work is in its subtle usurping of furniture’s function to hide the accumulated objects and evidence of everyday living - to store our stories, as it were. This is indeed furniture with tales to tell.

Photo: “NOLA” – painted wood, by Kevin Anderson. His work along with that of John Strauss, on view through July 25 at the Canton Museum of Art, located in the Cultural Center for the Arts, 1001 Market Avenue North, Canton. Museum hours: Thursdays and Fridays 10a.m. to 5p.m., to 3p.m. Saturdays / 1p.m to 5p.m Sundays/ 10a.m. to 8p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays / Admission: $6 adults, $4 seniors and students, free for children 12 and younger.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tales from the Kiln

Tales from the Kiln

By Tom Wachunas

Since the blossoming of the Studio Craft Movement of the 1960s, the number of American artists working in clay has steadily increased. They are artists who have expanded the medium beyond the strictures of wheel throwing, and explored its versatility in making purely fine- art objects that transcend traditional ceramic functionality. The newly-opened exhibit at the Canton Museum of Art (CMA) – Form, Figure & Function: Contemporary Ohio Ceramics – is an ambitious curatorial collaboration between Charlotte Gordon of the Springfield Museum of Art, and CMA’s Lynnda Arrasmith. Featuring 52 works by 17 artists, it’s a thoroughly eye-popping cross section of Ohio artists who, for the most part, have pushed the niceties of the potter’s craft into fascinating sculptural realms.

The glistening shapes that make up the wall piece by Eva Kwong are inspired by bacteria. These oversized, brightly speckled escapees from a Petri dish are presented as a raucous calligraphy that celebrates, with child-like wonder, Nature’s more squiggly, amorphous forms.

‘Escapees’ might also be a way to describe the playful creatures that crawl all over the dog in “Juggling Dog,” as well as over the central figure in “Queen Mother,” both by Janis Mars Wunderlich. These intricate, marvelously textured statues are sculpted testaments to the precarious joys of raising kids.

Less ‘innocent’ though equally intriguing are “Ride” and “Head to Head” by Jim Bowling. The former, with its bulbous, anthropomorphic forms, is an eerily beautiful abstraction of pure sensuality. In the latter, the two abstract forms, with blistered surfaces of faded green and garish orange, have a similar primordial character as they appear on the verge of connecting, or perhaps drifting apart.

Speaking of heads, there are several works here that render human heads in a variety of ways, from delightfully whimsical to somber, or startling. Jack Earl’s red-shirted “Cloud Man” is a pleasantly surreal vision of a man with his head literally in a cloud, wearing it like a ridiculously large, cottony hat. The bald-headed, armless man in Tom Bartel’s “Figure Fifty-Five,” on the other hand, while surreal, is anything but pleasant. Bartel tells us in his statement of his interest in skin as a vehicle for connecting with the vicissitudes of living. Here, the skin of the figure has a convincingly sickly, matte pallor and texture, like the cracked, moldy surface of a very old oil portrait in need of restoration.

The stylized heads of babies that comprise two of the works by Juliellen Byrne have a similar patina of unkind aging about them, oddly reminiscent of antique porcelain baby dolls. These haunting visages exude the same poetic questioning and urgency that can be found in her statement about them. They are anonymous children of war. The torso of the doll (with praying hands sprouting from the top of the head) in “Toe Tag” is covered with pinned-on names of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and/or Iraq. “What seems most wrong about this conflict is the harm and sadness that it brings to someone’s baby,” Byrne muses.

There was a time, some years ago, when I thought that asking artists to write a statement to accompany their work was an inconvenience at best, an unnecessary imposition at worst. After all, if the work needed explaining in words, then perhaps the artist had chosen the wrong medium, or the work failed to “explain” itself. And besides, I had encountered too many artists who hadn’t the slightest clue as to effectively articulating their intentions, thereby confusing rather than educating the viewer. Looking back on that position, I realize now that it smacked of artsy hubris – an arrogant, selfish objection to allowing even the possibility of more efficacious communication with the viewer. Certainly, some artists are better wordsmiths than others. But to the extent that such statements can be efforts offered in good faith for genuine illumination, to that extent they are acts of generosity on the part of the artist.

And so it is that the artists’ statements posted in this exhibit are by and large revelatory and even entertaining invitations to better appreciate the work at hand. None of those statements is more intelligently transparent, compelling, and sensitive than that written by Byrne. She concludes, “Our roles in this world may be unequal in their impact or power, our fame, wealth, wit and courage, granted in different measure, the presence of a higher power staining us variously bright to pale, we are all someone’s baby.”

Byrne’s work is a sobering counter-balance to some of the more decorative and gleeful entries here, to be sure. Yet as such, it’s a necessary balance that fits very well into the vibrant aura of this exhibition. These are works executed in clay, that most common of materials. Malleable dirt. From such ordinary, gritty origins, this show is an extraordinary gathering of hands and voices that speak eloquently to the joys, absurdities both tragic and fanciful, and profundities of simply being alive.

Photo: “Cloud Man,” by Jack Earl, courtesy Canton Museum of Art. One of 52 works in clay, on view through July 26 at the Canton Museum of Art, located in the Cultural Center for the Arts, 1001 Market Avenu North, Canton. Museum hours: Thursdays and Fridays 10a.m. to 5p.m., to 3p.m. Saturdays / 1p.m to 5p.m Sundays/ 10a.m. to 8p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays / Admission: $6 adults, $4 seniors and students, free for children 12 and younger.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Of Genius and Spring

Of Genius and Spring

By Tom Wachunas

In an unexpectedly light-hearted break from ‘traditional’ concert beginnings, for this concert, all 75 members of the Canton Symphony Orchestra entered the house from the rear in a bouncing procession down the aisles of Umstattd Hall. Once on stage they stood, each with a warm smile, facing the audience. The moment was endearing, as if to welcome not just an adoring audience, but Spring, in all its sunny splendor.

Interestingly enough, the first work on the April 10 program could hardly be called sunny. No matter, really. With Samuel Barber’s Essay for Orchestra No. 1, the orchestra wasted no time in once again demonstrating an astonishingly rich, balanced tonal unity, and mastery of subtle lyricism. This single-movement Barber composition, which is as much a soulful meditation as it is an ‘essay,’ is an exquisitely equipped vehicle for those qualities. A solemn spirit – at times exuding a sense of desolate loneliness - pervades the first part of the work, beginning with the theme quietly introduced by the strings, but soon enough soaring to a passionate climax with the horns. Then momentums shift, and variations in mood and texture ensue. Throughout, the orchestra was clearly sensitive to Maestro Zimmermann’s warm grasp of the work’s elegiac poeticism. After the full orchestra delivered a sonorous return to the opening theme, the work ended with a retreat to a hushed, unresolved harmony, leaving in its wake a gentle tension.

In some ways that tension continued well into the beginning of the next work on the program, Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The orchestra developed the opening themes over what seemed to be an interminable period before the piano made its bold entrance. Ahh, but the suspense was all the more sweet upon hearing just a few bars played by the featured guest artist here, pianist Panayis Lyras.

One could make a fairly convincing argument that what Einstein did for understanding the physics of the universe, Chopin did for mastering the piano. The French considered him an angel. And of Chopin’s nonpareil piano skills. Mendelssohn once observed, “…there is something entirely original in his piano playing and it is, at the same time, so masterly that he may be called a perfect virtuoso.”

It’s difficult to see how Mendelssohn’s assessment of the musical genius Chopin couldn’t be applied to Mr. Lyras as well. His command of the rubato technique that Chopin championed (one that allowed for great rhythmic liberty) was in dazzling abundance, along with an uncanny sensitivity to the music’s lush, evocative emotionality. His performance of the cascading embellishments that make Chopin compositions so uniquely thrilling (and challenging) was nothing short of magical. Meanwhile, the orchestral accompaniment, while executed with balanced restraint, was never languid or anemic, but always crisply supportive of Lyras’ electrifying finesse.After this superb performance, Lyras further thrilled the now-enraptured audience with his encore of Chopin's Mazurka in A flat.

Apropos to this season of awakening from wintry doldrums, the concert concluded on a jubilant note with Schumann’s Symphony No. 1 in B flat Major, a.k.a. “Spring.” This was as efficacious a reading of Schumann’s celebration of the season as one could ever hope to hear, and a thoroughly rousing end to the evening. Not that conductor or musicians were by any means lethargic for the Chopin, but here even Maestro Zimmermann was visibly more animated as he led the orchestra through the symphony’s powerful opening fanfare of trumpets and horns. From there it was an exhilarating musical journey through vernal majesty, drama, and the promise of joyous renewal. It’s a promise that this orchestra consistently keeps well.

Photo: 1838 oil portrait of Frederic Chopin, by Eugene Delacroix

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Notice: Deviltry and Flapdoodle on the River

Notice: Deviltry and Flapdoodle on the River

By Tom Wachunas

Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” begins with a ‘Notice,’ to wit: “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.” It’s a snide and ironic taunt, to be sure, if not a silly start to an icon of quintessentially American literature.

The notice also appears as a projected backdrop in the opening scene of the current production of “Huck Finn’s Story,” by Aurand Harris, and directed by Ansley Valentine at Kent State University at Stark Theatre. In fact the entire set for this production, designed by Louis Williams, is built around the projected black and white illustrations from the novel’s first edition. The stage “landscape” is comprised of low-lying platforms dotted with benches that can double as rocks, a canoe paddled down the Mississippi, or walls of a cabin. Call it a utilitarian but elegant study in gray-toned minimalism. All of the play’s real color and panache is left for the eight cast members to deliver, and they do so with infectious verve.

Anthony Antoniades turns in a steady performance as Huck – an effective mix of pure boyishness tinged with just the right dose of mischievous charm. As the story progresses, Antoniades’ reading of Huck’s crisis of conscience over what to do about the runaway slave, Jim, becomes increasingly genuine and poignant.

Mack Valencia is a fascinating and refreshing casting choice for the role of Jim. He’s well-directed here to eschew the stereotyped portrait of a sonorous, towering or muscle-bound fugitive. Instead, we see a man who gleefully echoes Huck’s ardent youthfulness, vulnerability, and impetuous naivete, made all the more sturdy by the bonds of loyalty and friendship.

Even in this condensed form of distilled scenes from the novel, Aurand Harris’ play successfully recapitulates the story’s flow, including its more hilarious and absurd passages. In that regard, the actors in this production are amply suited to the task. Particularly noteworthy are Jerimie Newcomb and Jason Baasten as the conspiring Duke and King, respectively, delivering monumentally funny portraits of inept, greedy charlatans. And for the brief time she is on stage as Huck’s Aunt Sally, Debra Duncan is nonetheless memorable for her quirky, ebullient doting.

In the end, if all the shenanigans and treacheries that transpire in this classic tale are what Huck can expect to see as a “grown-up” in the “sivilized” world, he lets us know that he and Jim will have none of it. They’d both be happier and better off roaming the river, free from such hypocrisies. We, on the other hand (Mark Twain’s cautionary notice notwithstanding), need not fear prosecution, banishment, or worse, for savoring our immersion in the motive, moral, and plot of this play so skillfully and delightfully presented here.

Photo: Anthony Antoniades (left) as Huck Finn, Mack Valencia as Jim

“Huck Finn’s Story” in the Fine Arts Theatre at Kent State University at Stark, 6000 Frank Avenue, North Canton. Shows on Saturday, April 10 at 8p.m., Sunday April 11 at 2:30p.m., Friday April 16 and Saturday April 17 at 8p.m., Sunday April 18 at 2:30p.m.
Tickets $10 for adults, $5 for non-Kent State students, seniors and children under 17. Free for Kent students with current student I.D. Call (330) 244 -3348, Monday – Friday 1p.m. to 5p.m. for reservations and group rates.

For other reviews of the performing and visual arts in greater Canton, visit ARTWACH at

Monday, April 5, 2010

Agonies and Ecstasies

Agonies and Ecstasies

By Tom Wachunas

In its second concert (March 26 at Cable Rectal Hall) of the 2009-10 chamber music series presented by the Canton Symphony Orchestra (CSO), the Linden String Quartet (CSO Quartet-in Residence) offered an evening that was as intriguing as the first concert for its conceptual continuity of program order, though in some ways more challenging. The challenge was perhaps arguably more a test for the ears of the listeners than for the unquestionable skills of the musicians. As this concert so deftly demonstrated, if music has charms to soothe a savage breast, it can just as easily stir the savage beast.

The evening began with a warm, lively reading of Mozart’s String Quartet in E-flat major (1783). It became known as one of “The Haydn Quartets” because of that composer’s inspirational influence on the adoring Mozart. And while it’s true that Haydn had opened up a wholly new approach to the quartet genre by means of extended thematic developments and more expansive roles for second violin, viola, and cello, Mozart went to great lengths in taking those innovations to still more stratospheric heights. Here, the quartet revealed all the music’s transparent intricacies with world-class finesse and verve. And throughout, the players (Sarah McElravy, violin; Catherine Cosbey, violin; Eric Wong, viola; Felix Umansky, cello) sustained a tonal resonance suggestive of a much larger ensemble – a delightful quality they achieve in every work I’ve heard them perform.

Now that the clearly appreciative audience had been treated to such an elegantly served traditional confection, it was time for what some may have regarded as utterly foreign cuisine. In a programming choice somewhat reminiscent of the quartet’s first concert in Canton (wherein Bartok’s mischievous String Quartet No. 3 was inserted between Haydn and Beethoven), the next selection here was Alban Berg’s String Quartet, Opus 3.

The task of introducing the work went to violinist Catherine Cosbey. Disarmingly nervous and charming, she explained to the audience that the work was clear evidence that by 1910, when Berg composed the work, all bets in the classical music world of Vienna were off. A new, unfettered and explosive sort of expressionism was afoot, largely due to the influence of Schoenberg’s 12-tone composition technique. She described the Berg piece (Berg was a devoted Schoenberg student) as having a Mahlerian undercurrent juxtaposed with “brutal atonality,” adding that she and her cohorts hoped we would enjoy its beauty and dark drama.

I admit to being fairly non-conversant in the arcane terminology to be found in much of the literature regarding Schoenberg’s innovations and influence. Still, I’ve heard enough of such “modern” orchestral music to appreciate that it is an acquired taste, and one of which I am not, as a rule, overly fond. Having said that, I will tell you that the Berg work is replete with foreboding crescendos, tumultuous wailings, weepy bent notes, eerie “special effects,” and an otherwise pervasive, cinematic sense of impending disaster. Cosbey was right about the dark drama. This was an agonizing, marginally “lyrical” (to my ears) exercise in atonality.

Amazingly enough, though, hearing it performed live by this quartet, with electrifying abandon, was a truly riveting, even savory experience in the same way a terrifying thunderstorm (arguably “beautiful” in its own right) can grip your attention. As such, the performance was a memorable testament to this ensemble’s authentic passion for the music.

Played with equally commanding abandon, the final work on the program – Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in A minor (1827) - brought fresh new meaning to the idea of leaving listeners smiling when they exit the hall. This was a rapturous interpretation of a significant work by a composer who understood Beethoven’s unique (and initially under-appreciated) contribution to the genre. The players brought all their formidable gifts to bear as they immersed us in the music’s ecstatic and searing pathos. It was an evening that ended thankfully not with a grimace, but grace.

Photo: The Linden String Quartet, courtesy Canton Symphony Orchestra: (left-to-right) Felix Umansky(cello), Catherine Cosbey (violin), Sarah McElravy (violin), Eric Wong (viola)

For information on upcoming performances by the Canton Symphony Orchestra, visit

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Son Also Rises

The Son Also Rises

By Tom Wachunas

Happy Easter. Let’s begin with gratitude. I’m grateful to God – the First Muse, the Creator of all creators - for moving Kevin Anderson and his curatorial partner, Craig Joseph, to organize and mount Stations of the Cross at Anderson Creative. I’m grateful for all the participating artists: Kevin Anderson, Dylan Atkinson, Marcy Axelband, Mark Ball, Ashley Barlow, Sharon Charmley, Joseph Close, Steve Ehret, Adam Gruber, Hugo Jimenez, Tiffany Marsh, Tom Megalis, Erin Mulligan, Emily Vigil, Michele Waalkes, and Chris Wurst. And I’m grateful for the opportunity – make that blessing – to be among the participating writers who contributed to the exhibition’s accompanying meditational booklet: Judi Christy, Steve Shumaker, Gennae Falconer, Jenny Hardacre, Andrew Rudd, and Todd Walburn.

For all of the marvelous visuals to be found here, this is neither a typical gallery show nor an artsy-craftsy emporium. Call it an artful enablement. Here is a place to quietly commit time - that most precious and fragile of commodities – to consider Christ, crucified and risen. And consider this, too: To the extent that you are willing to spend time here, to that extent you become a necessary, integral part of the “exhibit.” For in so doing, I really think you will not be just looking at something exterior to yourself, but looked upon lovingly by our God who inspired it. As such, then, I also see this show as a bold, communal act of faith, encouragement, and praise.

Historically, Stations of the Cross in many churches that display them have been classically-rendered illustrations of 14 “moments” in Jesus’ final hours between his agonized Gethsemane prayer and his burial after the crucifixion. Here, the art work spans a wide and well-crafted range of media and styles from the naturalistic to the purely symbolic. While these are clearly very personal visions on the artists’ parts, each inspires real and refreshing connections to the Gospel narrative on ours.

The same can be said of the accompanying writings. Each writer offers not only a personal meditation on the posted Scriptural content, but also poignant questions or perhaps even challenges on making these events alive, applicable, and otherwise relevant to our lives today. Regardless of your predisposition to the Passion of Christ, you are here invited to savor how the writers and visual artists alike have provided contemporary significance to this devotional milieu, investing it with a loving spirit of urgency and empowerment.

Now, back to gratitude. I’m grateful that this exhibit will be on view through May 1. It’s an expanded “station” to make Easter something beyond merely a too-temporary rite of Spring and its attendant holiday feasts, appreciations of bunnies and colored eggs, or visits to church all dressed up in our Sunday best. Think of it as a service offered to re-examine that pesky ‘world view,’ that dusty ‘moral compass,’ and see how well- aligned it may or may not be with the magnetic field of Christ.

For He is Risen Indeed.

Stations of the Cross, on display through May 1 at Anderson Creative, 331 Cleveland Avenue NW, downtown Canton. Open from noon to 10p.m. on Good Friday (April 2), and during regular gallery hours of noon to 5p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.