ArtFul Living

St. Louis Area Fine Arts, Crafts & Performing Arts

Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky, Arts Editor

With the holiday season upon us,
why not make it an ARTful season?!

December is a busy time of year for everyone, and that included the ARTS. There’s lots to see and do, not to mention all of the creative arts activities going on in our own homes. One of my favorite holiday memories was Christmas Eve night at my grandmother’s house. The family was large, with more cousins than I think I have even yet counted.

Every inch of the house, both inside and out, was decorated. Multi-colored lights bedecked the front porch, and I delighted in finding the Santa figurines positioned throughout the house. The tree was incredibly tall (or maybe I was just incredibly small) and covered in glass ornaments, treasures from my grandmother’s homeland of Germany.

Cookies were true works of art, having been carefully baked for weeks before the big celebration—cookies almost too ornate and beautiful to eat and even as children, we could all appreciate the work and love put into them. An immense train set complete with lighted houses, chugged away in the basement while my older cousin Ricky manned the controls, to the delight of us “younger” cousins. We all dressed in our absolutely finest (that usually meant ‘scratchiest”) good clothes for the evening. Every dish for dinner was an edible work of art, beautifully arranged on every shining platter. A few of my cousins took flute lessons and would sit in the corner of the dining room, tweeting out holiday tunes. One year I brought a guitar to join them. It was a houseful of happy chaos.

Highlights always included being shhhsed so my grandmother could make her special phone call “back home” to Germany on the scratchy and unpredictable transatlantic phone line. Then, if we were really good, Santa himself would soon after appear at the front door with a gift for each of us. And then it was time to bundle up against the cold, get back in the car, to ride sleepily home. What great memories, still so vivid after all these years.

How do you make the season special? Perhaps the Nutcracker Tea on Sunday, December 2 or 9 at the Foundry Art Centre is a good start. From 2-4 p.m., lovely tea sandwiches, sweets, teas and cocoa start the afternoon, followed by a ballet performance by Common Thread Contemporary Dance. Tickets are $20 for adults, $12 for children; details at www.foundryartcentre.org or call 636-255-0270.

Mustard Seed Theatre, on Fontbonne University’s campus at 6800 Wydown, again presents All Is Calm: Christmas Truce of 1914. This joyous yet heartbreaking a capella musical tells the stories of the soldiers who laid down the arms of war to observe a night of peace with their enemies on a World War I battlefield. Because this year marks the 100th anniversary of the War to End All Wars, this play is a must-see. Reserve tickets at www.metrotix.com.

Regular readers of this column know that two subjects I don’t cover are television and book reviews. Except for this column, this time… Douglas Howard (college English department chair) and David Bianculli (media critic for NPR) have co-edited the just released book, Television Finales: Howdy Doody to Girls. This extensive compilation from Syracuse University Press brings together more than seventy compulsively readable essays by a broad range of today’s leading television scholars and critics. It’s the perfect gift for any television aficionado who has ever become immersed in a television series. Paul Levinson, professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University, said, “Finales are in many cases the high points of iconic television series. This carefully compiled and well-researched compendium provides a definitive explication and assessment of finales… and will become a classic text in the field.”

A chapter is dedicated to each of the most prominent television series finales of the last eight decades. I found the most compelling chapter to be that on the bizarre finale of Twin Peaks, that mystery/horror series (about coffee, doughnuts, and murder??) created by Mark Frost and David Lynch in the ‘90’s. The author of this chapter is Dr. Adam Ochonicky, film and literary studies instructor at the University of Wisconsin (and yes, I’m very proud to be his mom). Available at bookstores everywhere, and www.amazon.com.

As you plan your gift giving for the season, please, please, please be an ARTful giver. A handmade gift, whether from one of the great artists and craftspeople in our area or one you’ve made yourself, is so very meaningful. Museum gift shops offer wonderful selections. A membership to one of our area’s museums or tickets to a performance continue giving joy after the gift is opened. Above all, may peace fill your season, however you celebrate it. And may that peace remain.