The Kansas City Star from Kansas City, Missouri on July 2, 1967 · 61
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The Kansas City Star from Kansas City, Missouri · 61

Kansas City, Missouri
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 2, 1967
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One of the Arts & Entertainment editors said in effect two weeks ago: However much we here know about culture in Kansas City the nation has yet to show that it is aware of very much happening The article reporting on a national Conference on the Arts and the Press noted that "not one of 50-some important persons of the world of the arts thought to mention even in passing any significant development here" but that many speakers mentioned hopeful signs in other cities outside New York— especially and Repeatedly San Francisco Seattle Denver Milwaukee Minneapolis Cleveland Dallas Houston Atlanta— even Tulsa and of course Chicago" The editor slighted efforts to advertise such things as Kansas City having "the world's tallest city hall" (it doesn't) or being the center of a little "Golden Circle" In the world of the arts the editor said Kansas City seems to rank "with another Great Major League City— Green Bay Wis" Many civic leaders are indeed greatly concerned about all that and are attempting to promote sophisticated receptivity to a high degree of excellence Here are two articulate responses and elsewhere on this page the art editor answers earlier letters that have pleaded for greater attention to the amateurs in the arts By Irvine 0 Hockaday Jr (President Performing Art Foundation) TT THILE readers can ap- mm preciate the provoca- f tive articleconcerning “Culture in Kansas City’’ (June 18) it is important that the opinion of “fifty some important persons of the world of the arts” be placed in proper proportion by Kansas Citians At approximately the time the arts conference which Thorpe Menn attended was being held Time magazine was discussing the “venturesome” Performing Arts Foundation of Kansas City and critics from Dallas to Paris were singing the praises of that organization’s “19th Century Affair” Roger Stevens certainly one of the most important “persons of the world of the arts” flew to Kansas City from Washington D C to see the Foundation’s performance of “Orpheus” and Mr Stevens left Kansas City favorably impressed The artists who have participated in the Performing Arts Foundation’s productions have become advocates of Kansas City’s cultural future For example Dame Margot Fonteyn’s generous reference to her experience in Kansas City with the PAF quoted in the May issue of McCall’s The opinion of the Northwestern Conference VIP’s to the contrary notwithstanding culture in Kansas City should be judged in two ways: 1 By assessing the artistic caliber of the particular endeavor in question 2 By determining whether the production exhibit or whatever is constructive insofar as the potential Kansas City audience is concerned eg will the experience generate a continuing interest among those in attendance? Using both of the above measuring devices Kansas City is on the threshold of its most exciting cultural future in our history Three years ago the PAF adopted a charter which made a total com mitment to an artistic standard of excellence This standard has been rigidly maintained resulting in as Mr Menn points out high praise from the local national and international press To mention only a few additional examples the Nelson Gallery continues to reflect an artistic standard of the highest caliber and is known throughout the country- and the world The Ford Foundation has publicly acknowledged the importance of our Lyric theater The dramatic activities at the U M K C Playhouse have attracted considerable attention QUITE AS IMPORTANT as the artistic standard set by a number of local groups is the fact that citizens of Kansas City have recognized and supported (with time attendance and dollars) those activities which have concentrated on imaginative and high grade productions The Performing Arts Foundation received approximately $140000 in contributions from individuals and corporations in 1967 and an additional $52000 from the sale of tickets to three performances of “Orpheus in the Underworld” This type of backing indicates that we have a healthy and active cultural body with a strong heart and while Kansas City will suffer from growing pains at least the important facts remain that we are growing and that there are local cultural groups setting a standard and planning a future which will insure our preeminence in the cultural arena A close look at the cultural vitality which exists here justifies our not placing too much significance on the arts conference’s lack of mention “even in derogation” of the arts in Kansas City More importantly while the seminars continue the Performing Arts Foundation and other local groups will be actively planning the continuation of the programs which have been so dramatic in the last several years As the New York Times said about a PAF production: “With this celebration the Foundation has again shown Kansas City that one need not go to New York or Europe or even Dallas for the last word in fine ballet and musical theater” Cow Town Forever? By Eri Fouts (A Member of Hie Audience) I was glad to see The Star turn over most of the front page of the June 18 Arts & Entertainment Section to discussions of the condition of culture and civic leadership in Kansas City Thorpe Menn made some good points about the support of the arts in Kansas City He also asked for public discussion of the subject so here’s my two bits worth Let’s face it: Kansas City is still the world’s most beautiful On Light Side of UMKC Rep LOVE ATTRACTS even if the girl’s eccentric family causes unwitting problems for romance in “You Can’t Take It With You” next offering by the U M K C Summer Repertory theater The Kaufman-Hart comedy starting Thursday night at the Playhouse is one of the lighter presentations by the summer troupe Left to right are daughter Alice (Carol Pfander) her mother and grandfather (Robin Humphrey and Art Ellison) and her sweetheart (Robert Elliott) cow town Whenever I leave it I am always glad to get back But can’t Kansas City be a cow town (I’m proud of it!) and a cultural center too? Evidently it is not the latter v Last fall I was in Philadelphia for a few days On the downtown streets people wearing sandwich boards and holding tin cups were begging money for the local ballet company These were average people begging average people to help an art A lot of people in the Kansas City area love the arts especially theater and will often drive two hundred miles or more to see a good play or a swinging musical production One night this spring my daughter and I were leaving the Circle theater after a per-formance A well-dressed man a total stranger stopped us in the station and told us how much he had enjoyed the show while waiting between trains “You must have a nice city here” he said Not too long ago after a very hopeful start our repertory theater project inspired by (he famous Tyrone Guthrie theater in Minneapolis died Certain “moneyed men” without whose backing the project was impossible would not come through and assure its success This makes you wonder You wonder if the local “establishment” without whose wholehearted support the performing arts cannot really flourish here are as culture-minded as they like to appear to be Of course they do keep the Philharmonic afloat and they have stood by the Starlight theater in its lean years and they do go all out for “in” things like the opening night at our once-a-year 3-night Performing Arts Foundation spectaculars But what else do they really support? The Lyric Opera still goes on at the inadequate Rockhill motion picture theater the Civic ballet usually performs in a Johnson County high school auditorium our community theaters have their barns our Resident theater has too small a stage and the Circle theater the only professional group around struggles on in the iar of the Union Station Will some of our “cultured” local faces turn red if the Circle theater too — from lack of support— goes down the drain? Maybe a few but not many The local “establishment” couldn’t care less the man-in-the-street who relaxes his tired fanny at night in front of the TV won’t know the difference and most of the kids dragging their cars from drive-in to drive-in have never even seen live theater Why bother about the plight of culture? We are Cow Town (Continued on Page 3D) Permissiveness and Professionalism in Art By Donald L Hoffmann (The Star’s 'Art Editor) N THESE DAYS of wasted leisure the disease of KmiSsiveness looms je Standards fall and non-professional artists clamor for public praise The poor public is bombarded with awkward juvenile productions at sidewalk shows art fairs in shops and public establish-ments (Dwight D Eisenhower took : a good attitude last week ' when he said at a benefit showing of his work in New York “Let’s don’t call my stuff art” Painting has been for him a form of relaxation and his work was exhibited not as professional art but I?) I r Js & simply because it was his) An art column shouldn’t have to talk about itself It should talk about art But the time has come to spell out plainly the purposes of an art column— purposes that should have been apparent all along An art column should not be directed to the man who knows what he likes and likes only what he thinks he knows Rather art criticism is an attempt at understanding art of a quality evidently worthy of such an attempt If standards and values cannot be maintained in discussions of art then art can only be regarded as an activity— no different from little-league baseball RECENT LETTERS to the Arts & Entertainment section have raised the issues at hand One letter was printed in last week’s section But for convenience statements from several letters will be repeated here together with responses I am sick and tired of the same old reviews we get It’s either old China Peru Aztec India Totem poles cigar store Indians or else extreme avant-garde which no one could live with Nearly all of the reviews are based on museum and gallery exhibitions Hie reviews hopefully inspire some readers to attend such exhibitions NO SUNDAY PAINTER could have conceived a painting with such force and contemporaneousness as this study of a horse’s head painted by Pablo Picasso on May 2 1937 preliminary to his famous 25-foot canvas “Gnernica” The mas-terpiece “Guernica” was a summation of Picasso’s searches of the 1920s and JBSOs combining the techniques of Cubism Surrealism and Expressionism in a rfc stark reaction to the atrocities of the Spanish civil war The Museum of Modern V:-Art which provided the photograph above is marking the 30th anniversary of v “Guernica” with a summer exhibit of 38 studies and 16 postscripts all like ” “Guernica” on extended loan from the artist and to use their own eyes Museums and galleries make it their concern to try to exhibit the best professional art The art they exhibit is generally wide-ranging both in time and place of execution Many people do live with “extreme avant-garde” art That art is avant-garde says nothing about its quality Art untested by time is the most difficult to judge But anyone living in the 20th century owes it to himself to make an effort at understanding the professional art of his own time Where is something the people tan enjoy — The Star is printed jor the people Why not its art column? The Star is a large metropolitan newspaper Certain sections of the newspaper are devoted to specialized topics Sports is one of them A person with no interest in sports cannot be expected to read about sports The financial pages are another instance of a specialized topic Persons without business interests or holdings of stocks and bonds cannot be expected to study the financial columns The same applies to the art ’column ' This city is loaded with many fine artists Why can’t they ever be mentioned? They break their hearts at sidewalk shows The really professional work of professional artists is discussed when it is exhibited Dedicated professional artists do not exhibit in sidewalk shows— to them it is mixing in very bad company America as a political nation is a republic based on the premise that the people shall judge In matters of art however politics do not apply Popular vote on works of art is next to meaningless We have learned this past season that if the majority ruled in art the museums and galleries would be filled with nothing but the paintings of Andrew Wyeth and his thousands of imitators— works which demand very little of the public and which do little t expand a person’s consciousness or sensibilities The Friends of Art (at the Nelson Gallery) has failed Kansas City's many able artists 17181 is simply untrue The Friends of Art is a supportive organization which has grown very rapidly in the last few years has exhibited the work of local professional artists and has done incalculable service by raising standards far beyond the realm of patronizing artists who merely happen to live in the Kansas City area The early exhibitions (at an Eastern museum that regularly exhibits work by artists of its area) were pretty sad but they gave local artists recognition That is at the root of the problem Art is not an activity praiseworthy in itself Persons who paint in their off-hours in their basements are indeed presumptuous to put their work before the public and then demand recognition Bad art said Oscar Wilde is worse than no art at all If a person is producing bad art it is of little interest to know that he happens to live in Kansas City The world is flooded with bad art Life is short There is no call to waste time with bad art when there is precious little time to spend with art of real consequence All we get is some ridiculous praise of junkyard welding Nonsense “Junkyard welding” is itself a phrase which betrays no knowledge of contemporary art The man who thinks he is aloof from “junkyard welding” is probably driving a motor car that is nothing more than a piece of “junkyard welding” on a monumental scale— ami he finds it handsome To repeat the matter of looking at art is properly concerning with expanding one’s horizons not limiting them to the familiar side of a weathered barn So a War Film Excites Is Excitement Enough? (“The Dirty Dozen” reviewed below is now playing at the Roxy) By Giles M Fowler (Th Star's Motion Picture Editor) IS IT POSSIBLE to be seized by a melodrama strung up by its technical dexterity and hauled into a state of willing involvement without quite approving of the film in toe end? Maybe it shouldn’t be since the standard criterion for such movies is how tightly they grip and how sharply they sock “The Dirty Dozen” grips and socks better than most recent war films It’s a big expensive skillfully machined piece of work with Lee Marvin at the head of its huge cast and much good acting often from unexpected quarters ( like Clint Walker of all people and ex-Cleveland fullback Jim Brown) Still once the excitement was past I felt a certain dissatisfaction It came first from my growing belief that war these days is becoming less and less acceptable as a sub ject for simple melodrama and second from the related feeling that parts of “The Dirty Dozen” are dishonest about some human and moral facts of life The plot is a new twist on an old idea We’ve all seen films in which wise leadership transforms unpromising trainees into fighters who do brilliantly under fire This time the trainees aren’t just unpromising they’re downright outrageous— a rabble of 12 dangerous misfits all convicted of violent crimes and offered pardons if they succeed in a hazardous mission It’s an absorbing story as the “dirty dozen” well ‘ "named gradually engage our sympathy and involve us in their harrowing assignment But quite aside from the thrill of it all the war these men fight— like all war — is a nasty business in which the best moral values are subverted And because war is this way I feel its only valid depiction is one that emphasizes its hor ror clarifies its immorality and exposes its "glory'’ as a false rationale THE DIRTY DOZEN” doesn't really go out of its way to extol glory or bypass horror yet in the end glory is extolled (though played down by some ironic closing lines) and the horror on view is still far gentler than real horror (Scarcely touched on for instance is the implicit hideousness of one bit of action in which scores of German officers and their women are roasted alive) The picture also hints that most criminals are really good guys underneath whose crimes are forgivahle if they'll just shape up and restrict their killing to real bad guys— like Germans This may help us relate to the dozen as people but it doesn't justify such an overt reversal of truth Well enough of moralizing Yes I was pretty well taken in by the movie from its first (Continued on Page 6D1 Culture in Kansas City (Con’t) But ‘The Body Is Healthy And the Heart Is Strong’ i 'VjSAV 'aV' Section D Arts Entertainment ART 3-6 BOOKS 2 DINING 6 THE KANSAS CITY STAR 4 7 -irss MUSIC 6 Sunday July 2 1967 records 6 STAGE 3 AN ASSAULT ON A NAZI-HELD CHATEAU is led by Lee Marvin (standing) in “The Dirty Dozen” a new war film written by Nunnally Johnson and Lukas Heller (from E M Nathanson’s novel) produced by Kenneth Hyman directed by Robert Aldrich and released by Metro-Gold wyn-Mayer Other leading players: Ernest Borgnine Charles Bronson Jim Brown John Cassavetes Richard Jaeckel George Kennedy Trini Lopez Ralph Meeker Robert Ryan Telly Savalas Clint Walker and Robert Webber Scanning the Arts KANSAS CITY it would seem has served largely as a way-station on the road to success in literature From Eugene Field who wrote some of his verse here during a tour of duty on the old Kansas City Times to Ernest Hemingway who as a young man reported briefly for The Star most writers of more than local reputation have tended to remain in our community only temporarily They were so to speak birds of passage Over the years however there have been a few notable exceptions And one of the most distinguished of these I’ve always believed was the late Dr Logan Clendening Dr Clen-dening was not merely born and reared in Kansas City With time out for a medical education he continued to live and work here throughout his life including a period of some 20 years when he had already become a national figure The greater part of the doctor’s writing to be sure dealt with the practice or history of medicine But like that of his long time friend and col-league Dr Ralph H Major it had a special q u a 1-ity combining a humanistic approach with a literary style at once clear easy and personal Books such as Clendening’s “Behind the Doctor” or Major’s “Fatal Partners: War and Disease” are no condescending popularizations no exercises in writing down to a lay audience I still recall a “gueSs” hazarded now more than two decades ago by Stefan Zweig the eminent Austrian man of letters He had stopped here to lecture during his exile as a refugee from Nazi persecution In effect Zweig said that although wholly unacquainted with this city he would suppose some of its best writing to be done by persons with medical training I asked him why And he replied that for reasons he’d never been able to explain mid-continental communities (of which his native Vienna was typical) appeared to provide unusually fertile ground for medicalliterary activity WHILE ZWEIG’S SPECULATION may sound as unpersuasive to you as it then did to me the fact remains that his deduction from it comes reasonably close to the mark I would add however that perhaps the lure of national book-publishing centers is not so strong where physicians are concerned as in the case of authors not having an equivalent base outside their writing careers At any rate I like to think the genial and cultivated Dr Clendening offers an almost classic illustration of the point Zweig was trying to make For a time the doctor both practiced and taught medicine But later on his literary bent increasingly came to the fore This trend was reflected in a daily column on diet and health first carried by The Star as well as a veritable outpouring of books and magazine articles What Clendening had to say was not merely the product of omniverous reading He also bad a compulsive interest in his fellow man Medicine to Dr Clendening was no mysterious and esoteric activity detached from the rest of human experience The doctor once said to a class at the University of Kansas Medical Center: “There is nothing learned in the world that doesn’t add to your ability as a physical diagnostician As for myself I wouldn’t care to be examined by a doctor who hadn’t read ‘Hamlet’ ” And Clendening practiced what he preached His favorite poet was Catullus: his favorite novelist Dickens his favorite physician-author Rabelais Among the works of Logan Clendening M D is a delightful “Handbook to the Pickwick Papers” published by Alfred A Knopf in 1936 This little volume — it runs only to about 150 pages — offers no pretense to being a scholarly treatise on its subject Rather the handbook is an informal commentary on various aspects of “The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club” the outgrowth of a youthful and continuing enthusiasm for Charles Dickens “To the great army of readers” Clendening explains “my own generation— at least the stratum to which I belonged— brought heavy reinforcements We not only read Dickens we lived him Across our dinner tables we flung the speeches of Jingle and Sam Weller and Micawber and Mr F’s aunt as the current coin of conversation We acted him at Sunday school pantomimes And when we went away to war (the doctor was a medical corps officer in the first World war) we chose ‘Pickwick’ as the one book to put in our knapsacks and were perfectly content to go without a marshal’s baton there” WHEREUPON CLENDENING takes time out to talk about the publication of the first installments which had appeared exactly a hundred years earlier the praises that had been heaped upon “Pickwick” in the intervening century the vexed question of Robert Seymour’s role in initiating the project the origin of certain incidents and characters the wide-ranging topography of the “scientific” investigations conducted by Samuel Pickwick Tracy Tupman Augustus Snodgrass and Nathaniel Winkle who had been deputized as the corresponding society of the Pickwick club Dr Clendening was a master conversationalist in his books as in life It’s no accident I submit that he so often quoted Boswell's account of pithy remarks made by Dr Johnson Or that he possessed the true writer’s gift for seizing the attention of his readers at the outset Consider this opening passage from one of his medical books: “Behind the doctor— so many centuries so many stories so many people! I see them crowding around him a great throng of old ghosts as he walks into the room When he takes out his stethescope to listen to your heart there is thin consumptive Dr Laennec of Paris peeping over his shoulder When he taps your chest another ghost— jolly music-loving Dr Leopold Auenbrugger of Vienna— smiles his appreciation of his discovery through the years Dr Clendening of Kansas City Which of us who knew him will forget him? And who having once read almost anything the doctor wrote didn’t feel he knew him? —Henry C Haskell i I

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