Friday, June 24, 2016

Tippet Rise: Philanthropists' love of landscape and the arts creates world class venue in Stillwater County

This photograph was taken in the fall as one of the first large sculptural pieces was being installed. The piece is
"Proverb," by Mark di Suvero .  This June, July and August, concert goers will hear music indoors and around the sculptures.


Editor's Note: Today we offer the first of a two-part piece on Tippet Rise Art Center, which opens for its summer season with a roster of world class concerts. Today, we look at the genesis, background and development of the multi-million dollar arts and nature project.  Next Friday, we explore the programming, breadth, management and international scope of Tippet Rise.
Tippet Rise landscape offers color in all four seasons, and provides backdrop
for what Tippet Rise organizers call "music coming from the center of the earth."


HIGH ATOP the plateaus where sheep and cattle ranchers have long ground out a living, and native people fished and hunted centuries before, a brilliantly conceived center for the arts and music is open for its first season.
Imagination, location and deep pockets are principal players in the new Tippet Rise Art Center near Fishtail, Montana.
Peter and Cathy Halstead had a vision for a place
that would break down barriers between art and nature.
The finely tuned enterprise in the majestic Beartooth Mountains includes concert spaces for world class musicians, outdoor museum pieces with multi-million dollar commissions, and meticulous, "green" architecture with methods to make it an environmentalist’s dream.
 Big Sky Journal piece features Halsteads and Tippet Rise
The 11,500-acre creation has been introducing itself to small groups for several months and began to officially welcome the public in June.
AFTER SCOURING land in Hawaii and Colorado, Tippet Rise benefactors Peter and Cathy Halstead came upon the  property they’d dreamed of.  They fell in love with the Fishtail property, seeing its potential for a magnificent nature-driven “gallery” with indoor and outdoor concert spaces.
Alban Bassuet shows off the Patrick
Dougherty schoolhouse, Daydreams," which
transcends boundaries between land
art, sculpture, and architecture.
Tippet Rise is the result, an innovative brain child of these two creative people with money to indulge their fantasies.  
Located on hills and valleys which inspired painter Isabelle Johnson, Tippet Rise – like its former inhabitant -- is an original. It encourages participation.  Neither festival nor retreat, it incorporates elements of both.   It is the Halsteads' personal homage to the arts, taking their philanthropy and love of the arts to a grand level in an inspiring setting.
As creators and bankrollers of the non-profit Tippet Rise enterprise, the Halsteads opened heart, mind and check book, hiring cutting edge talent to shape their vision.
Peter is an accomplished pianist with an enviable collection of Steinways many of which he has moved to the property. He dreamed of weaving classical music with landscape. Cathy, a painter with a fondness for grand sculptural pieces, shares Peter’s love of the outdoors. The two wanted their concert space to extend the landscape, to merge nature’s art with man’s creations.
THEY COURTED internationally recognized acoustician, designer and venue planner Alban Bassuet. Naming the acclaimed Frenchman “executive director,” they charged him with bringing together performers, audiences, sculpture and musical pieces in a spectacular natural setting.
An Isabelle Johnson painting of her family ranch. The land
is now host to an acclaimed new art center.
Bassuet supervises design, construction and programming, drawing from his “players” like a maestro rehearsing a premiere.  He drives the property, confers with contractors and engineers, studies architectural plans, makes decisions.
With the premier season in swing through its finale Aug. 21 – Bassuet is basking in glory. He thinks it "fitting, almost ordained" that Tippet Rise ground inspired a beloved Montana painter long before the Halsteads eyed it.
Painter Isabelle Johnson, photographed in the
1940s, inhabited and painted Tippet Rise land. 
Isabelle Johnson, born in 1901, lived on the land for decades, painting it with a modernist’s zeal.  Her style is compared to an earlier post-Impressionist pioneer, Paul Cezanne.  She died in 1992, leaving paintings testifying to the countryside’s beauty.  Bassuet and the Halsteads believe it fitting that music and sculpture celebrate the land Johnson loved, ranched and painted, and that her family ranch land hosts a novel arts center. 
“Is there a budget?” a guest asks.  “Not really,” Bassuet smiles. “It’s about the Halsteads’ belief that art, music, architecture and nature play key roles in the human experience.”     
THE HALSTEADS' fortunes come from investments, banking, oil and alcohol.  (Does Grey Goose vodka ring a bell?  Sidney Frank, Cathy Halstead’s father who died in 2006, founded the company.) The two grew up with philanthropy, art and reverence for the land.
Arts boosters Bruce Keller, Christene Meyers and Corby 
Skinner, backed by an Alexander Calder sculpture at Tippet Rise.
Hiring an enterprising Frenchman to champion their project was shrewd, for they found someone whose artistic sensibilities parallel theirs.  Their bold ambition – creating modern art in a rugged landscape -- works.  The sculptures look made for the place, rising against a backdrop of sagebrush and volcanic rock, both constants in Johnson’s paintings.   
The Halsteads’ dream included the desire that people be free to “move about the land, appreciating it as an extension of their enjoyment of the arts,” Bassuet says.  “They insisted each piece occupy its own space.”  With sculpture commissions in the millions, the Halsteads wanted viewers to concentrate on each piece individually– without seeing another work.  For that, a large expanse of land was a necessity.   
The renowned Ariel String Quartet opened the debut Tippet Rise season
with pianist Nikolai Demidenko, left, on the Brahms Piano Quartet. 
COMING UP:  Next week's blog celebrates the programming, artwork and expertise represented in Tippet Rise, from the world renowned sculptors and musicians (NPR's Christopher O'Reilly is program director) to cutting-edge architects, the ranch manager who keeps a working ranch, the "green" caterers and the education co-ordinator who works with museums and school expeditions on outreach programs.  Remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us Fridays when we post for the weekend.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Viator: victory and variety with lively, well organized tours

Singapore's sound and light show attracts visitors from all over the world. Highlights are these magical "lit-up trees." 
The Grand Palace in Bangkok is best visited through a tour.  Our Viator
cut through the throngs. If you're with a tour, there's power in numbers.



IN OUR COMBINED decades of global travel, we have always taken tours, chiefly as a way of introducing ourselves to the new.
Tours are as different as places and people. One should choose them carefully, educate before booking and be prepared to enjoy -- by putting complete energy into the activities, making the most of it.
Our recent five-week foray to the Far East proved again that well planned tours are our way to go.
Keller and Cookie pause in Hong Kong, part of a lively 
half-day tour which hit a half-dozen highlights of the city
Unless you are meeting family or friends, and plan to be hosted for full, active touring, you'll find that reputable tours afford many benefits. We chose Viator because we like the variety it offers and all but one of our seven tours had excellent, engaging, witty guides.
Again, do some homework to find a good fit but Viator knows its stuff.
EVEN DIE-HARD "on my own" kind of travelers find Viator a good way to get to know a city or region.
If you enjoy participating in planned activities, meeting new people from myriad backgrounds, and having the peace of mind that someone else has booked the tickets and planned the transportation, tours are up your alley.
Tours, like most of life, are what you make them.
Tours often incorporate a meal, a great way to sample
the culinary wonders of wherever you are on the planet.
For us, they're a great way to travel, because they get us out of the hotel room (we're usually low-key in the morning, with our coffee, books, exercise, walk and a bite before noon).
TOURS ARE not for everyone, But particularly when in a new city, we love a half-day tour for the overview and to ground us. Often we return to a neighborhood, museum or eatery on our own.
Other advantages of touring include large-scale coverage of an area. You might be 100 miles away in a few hours, and on your third stop. Tours cover a lot, and are excellent for first or second visits to a city. For us, they're an educational alternative to lazy mornings.
Colorful Singapore street displays
were part of an evening tour.
Organized tours can be theme-oriented, too, to concentrate
on museums and the arts.  In Bangkok, a night tour 
included a traditional Thai dance presentation.
Our day trip to Mt. Fuji incorporated a morning drive from busy Tokyo into the lovely countryside, a trip to the famous mountain (kitschy gift shop naturally, but easy to grab magnets and other flat, small gifts.) We enjoyed a beautifully presented bento-box lunch at a traditional Japanese inn, an exciting aerial tram tide over the volcanic cone of the Hakone Range, and a short but lovely cruise on Lake Ashinoko.
This Hong Kong jeweler was part of a morning tour
to a jewelry store (Hong Kong has the world's most.) 
OUR HALF-DAY Hong Kong tour included a sampan ride to the famous Jumbo Floating Restaurant, a drive to Victoria Peak, time at Stanley Market for shopping and wandering and a visit to a famous jewelry store to watch artisans.
Cookie and Keller at Victoria Peak, part of an organized Hong Kong tour.
We took organized tours in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Saigon and other cities on our recent Far East foray.  We saw three to four times as much as we would have on our own.
Especially in new terrain, having someone else do the planning is wonderful, too. The tour
assembles the itinerary and allots the time. Without a tour, we might spend 3 or 4 hours in a single place. A tour gets you in and out in an hour or 90 minutes, frustrating if you want to linger. (If you're in Paris, tours won't spend a day at the Louvre. But come back.)
A good tour incorporates variety -- say, an hour on the river, a tram ride, stop in a museum or specialty shop to watch a craftsman, maybe an interesting lunch.
TRANSPORTATION is a key part. The tour company gets you from point A to point B, so you don’t worry about getting lost, renting a car, finding a subway or hailing a cab.  You can usually arrange to leave the tour early -- if you wish to remain somewhere -- and make your own way back.
LANGUAGE EASE is another plus to a tour.  You may enjoy using Berlitz French, Italian or Mandarin, but it's lovely to have an English speaking guide to tour you around Ephesus, the Vatican or the Great Wall. We always get to know our guide and ask questions. (Don't forget to tip; guides rely on this. And fill out the evaluation. They're read.)

Rosina Reynolds, a familiar face in all the theater
venues around San Diego, plays Golda Meir.
DON'T MISS: Golda Meir made history as Israel's prime minister.  The brilliant, ground-breaking woman is beautifully portrayed in "Golda's Balcony" by the gifted Rosina Reynolds. She does a marvelous job in bringing life to this multi-dimensional icon, managing to be both "large" and intimate in the wonderful, small space of New Village Arts Theatre, Carlsbad.  Reynolds' Golda is both tough and tender, seeking peace in the world and in her marriage. Todd Salovey of San Diego Repertory Theatre and the Lipinsky Jewish Festival directs this masterful production, with photos of the seminal events of which Golda played a part, and the all important "Golda wig" to keep us focused. Not that we need it with Reynolds in command. A bravura performance and you may catch it and a "Golda Gin and Tonic" through June 26.

Alexander Calder is one of many famous names you'll
find in the sculpture and music roster at Tippet Rise.
UP NEXT: Two wealthy philanthropists who love nature and the arts equally have dug deep into their ample pockets to bestow a grand gift on Montana and the world. Tippet Rise, near Fishtail, Montana, has a grandeur and beauty about it with world class musicians, state-of-the-art acoustics and buildings and outdoor sculpture to knock your socks off.  An Alexander Calder sculpture sets the tone for a wonderful evening of exploration and discovery, merging landscape, art and music. Cathy and Peter Halstead are on hand to launch their long dreamed of endeavor. Remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us Fridays when we post for the weekend. The Tippet Rise piece will post next Friday afternoon.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Vegas Mob Museum offers thrills, chills, colorful history of crime

The Mob Museum in Las Vegas offers a fascinating departure from gambling, and a treasure trove of crime lore.


Cookie peruses one of many user-friendly exhibits.


GANGSTERS, mafia bosses and their molls, booze, blood and bullets combine for a dose of criminal behavior -- and the guys and gals who went after the bad guys and girls.
The Mob Museum offers all that and more.
Get ready for a history of J. Edgar Hoover's relentless pursuit of crime bosses, wall-sized images of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and other brutal murders. The well designed, user-friendly three-story treasure trove of memorabilia is an intensely orchestrated study of the evolution of crime.
REMEMBER THE gangster movies from the 1930s and '40s? ("You dirty rat.")  We grew up with them, and generations later, they still play well. And so does the Mob Museum.
Crime -- unfolding through the acting of Jimmy Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, even Humphrey Bogart -- has always had an audience.
Look up your favorite criminal in a wall of wanted posters.
Known officially as the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, this fascinating place bills itself as a history museum. It is that -- a nod to the colorful history of crime. Located in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada, near the "Old Las Vegas" sign, it's a 15 or 20-minute drive from The Strip, a pleasant diversion from the lure of the casinos.
TODAY'S AUDIENCE needs to be engaged, and the museum does that, through dozens of large and small inter-active exhibits.  You can be part of a line-up, take your medicine in an electric chair, knock at a speakeasy door.
You'll discover more about crime than you'd ever think you wanted to know -- but it's all fascinating.  Emphasis is, of course, on the role Las Vegas has played through the years, with a nod to Bugsy Seigel and his Hollywood/Santa Monica connections.
Pretend to meet your fate, as these two giggling friends are
doing, as
 you are strapped into the electric chair.
KELLER HAD fun with the line-up, and I took a seat in the electric chair -- a truly creepy experience. Newsreels of actual crime busts and other police activity are interspersed with an array of weapons.  An intriguing gallery of photos makes the mobsters and their pursuers come alive.
Videos tell various crime stories,
as attractive displays await.
And homage is paid to the movies -- from "The Godfather" to earlier, vintage flicks which glamorized the criminals and are still popular today.
  Hollywood's connection to  organized crime is explored.
THE MOB Museum is fun, but also startling in its detail and scope.  Statistics reveal the millions of dollars of laundered money, the thousands of brutal murders and power the mob once had.  One map shows the mob's concentration in major U.S. cities, and another interesting display traces the European roots of mob crime in America. You'll see the mobsters and crime bosses at play, too, enjoying their families, out for a day of pleasure.  If you dare, you can join the mafia yourself, taking a blood oath and pledging loyalty to the death!
  The Las Vegas Mob Museum delivers the real deal in crime fighting history and technique. Viator can take you there, and for a tour of the city as well.
Bruce Keller readies for his place in the line-up, with
this "mug shot," at the Las Vegas Mob Museum.
A STAFF of nearly two dozen runs the mob museum, which reaches into the community with fund-raisers and special activities.  Summer camps for kids teach the evils and consequences of a life of crime. The museum sponsors a series of "Courtroom Conversations," moderated panel discussions exploring Las Vegas crime and law enforcement history.  And the lovely Triple George Grill down the street offers a three-course dinner fit for Don Corleone. It's $89 and includes Mob Museum admission.
Go undercover to tackle high-finance fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, murder and greed. The underworld never looked so inviting! Go to:

The Lipinsky Festival presents top Jewish inspired entertainment, including
Hershey Felder, left, who presents his Leonard Bernstein work, "Maestro."
MORE TO ENJOY:  Don't miss the 23rd annual Lipinsky Jewish Arts Festival -- in several venues, including Encinitas and Oceanside, with many events downtown at the Lyceum Theater and San Diego Repertory Theater. A wonderful abundance of theater, readings, concerts, and more await. We rave about fiddler Yale Strom's Klezmer Summit Monday, which he dubs "JewGrass." Marvelous blend of klezmer, bluegrass, country and Yiddish song plus Hot Pstromi and the Jewish Men's Choir. Simply vunderlekh, this lively mix of presentations. Call 619 544-1000 or check this out for tickets to a delightful variety of events: 
From left, in "Stupid Fu**ing Bird," actors Rachel Esther Tate,
 Ro Boddie, KaroleForeman, Jacque Wilke, Francis Gercke, Brian Rickel, Walter Murray
Photo by Nil Noyan  

It helps if you know something of the melodrama and darkness of Chekhov, but it really isn't essential. This contemporary "remix" of "The Seagull," is a high energy, provocative work at Cygnet Theater. It is so outrageous, so fresh and raging, that it can't help but entertain. A terrific cast brings playwright Aaron Posner's creation to life against a backdrop of generational disparities, debates about the meaning of life, art and love. (And what else is there in drama?) Clever dialogue and inventive staging provide an engaging time at the theater, through June 19. For tickets:
NEXT WEEK we take a spin with Viator tours, with tips on making the most of your travel time here or abroad. Remember to explore, learn and live and check us out Fridays when we post for the weekend.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Red Rocks of Nevada just a fast drive from famous Vegas Strip

Red Rock Canyon beckons our roadies away from gambling, with a leisurely 13-mile scenic drive through the Mojave Desert.

Rock climbing offers challenges on a variety of trails in Red Rock.


WHEN YOU'VE grown weary of badgering Lady Luck in Las Vegas, put down your Blackjack chips and head for the beautiful and calming red rocks and inspiring geological formations near the famous Strip.
Most people are aware of Sedona's towering red rocks, and the flamboyant reds and oranges of Utah's Bryce Canyon. You might not know of two natural treasures for the outdoor buff visiting Nevada.
We followed a group of "scooter" enthusiasts,
who took their vehicles on short, scenic journeys.
TWO PARKS await your perusal and we tried them both, creating two relaxing day trips to divert us from the happy craziness of our periodic gambling outings.
If you bring your pets, be sure to
carry enough water for all!
Rock formations resemble animals, and you may be lucky
enough to see a rare, protected desert tortoise.
Red Rock Canyon is a delight.  Maximum speed limit on its gorgeous 13-mile scenic drive is 35 miles per hour, and we went slower through most of it, to give it adequate attention.  The Mojave desert was not yet in the three-digit range a couple weeks ago (it is now), and we had beautiful, sunny days for our outings, with a little breeze to help cool us.
WE REVELED in spectacular scenery and shared stunning views with other motorists, hikers, bicyclists, motorcyclists and even a few daring runners.
Craggy canyons challenge
hikers and offer views
of breathtaking proportion.
Since leashed pets are welcome, we took Nick and Nora on both outings.  We packed a couple large bottles of water, and the four of us drank them both. Do take note of the need for water, even if the temperatures are mild.  The desert air is dry and the sun is bright, so you'll find yourself thirstier than normal.
A beautiful day or two in nature are just what gamblers need,
to slow the pace by providing time to enjoy nature's beauty.
OUR OUTINGS  were designed as nature-driven counterpoints to the seductive clink-clank buzz of casino life.
Moss on rocks provide texture, beauty.
Inspired by Red Rock, we visited Valley of Fire State Park for our other day trip. While Red Rock is 30 minutes west of Las Vegas, Valley of Fire is an hour-plus northeast. Both are worthy outings, at $10 each (your national park pass works at Red Rock.) But beware the encroaching hot season when temperatures can reach 120 degrees!
WE LOVE the man-made glitter of Las Vegas, but it's important to us to explore the natural world, too. We live comfortably in both these diverse worlds,  with our hikes and nature forays in the morning and early afternoon (we packed a picnic lunch and greenie treats for the Yorkies).  Then back to our favorite Flamingo Hotel with its bird sanctuary, a nap and shower and night on the town with a Las Vegas show. Nature's show to begin the day -- and a glitzy Vegas performance to cap the night! Perfect blend.
The Mob Museum in Las Vegas offers a thoughtfully curated study of the
evolution of crime and those who fought it, in major U.S. cities.

UP NEXT: The Mob Museum in Las Vegas offers another opportunity to escape the seductive buzz of the casino world.  Located in "old" Las Vegas, near the fabled hotels of the early-day city, the museum features three floors of crime and criminal behavior, a fascinating effort.  You'll learn about the mobsters and their molls, explore the evolution of crime in major U.S. cities, and learn about the lawmen and women who cracked criminal cases.

Terrific actors play the parts, here Tony winning actor Harriet Harris, top, 
and the gifted Talene Monahon play a crafty stage mother and her
daughter. "Hollywood," a world premiere directed by Joe DiPietro,
runs through June 12 at the famed  La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego.
--Jim Carmody photo
NIMBLE NEW WORK: A noir murder mystery, with exquisite staging and costumes, plus a brilliant piano "score" from an on-stage virtuoso, makes a fun night at the theater. "Hollywood" at La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego,  runs through June 12. Headlining a cast of accomplished actors is the magnificent Harriet Harris. Expert direction and the Playhouse's usual high production values provide engaging theater. The story, based on a real-life unsolved murder, is an homage to the noir thriller films of Hollywood's golden era. Remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us Fridays when we post for the weekend.