Pop Rocks: Even with changes to local arts community, future looks bright

Symphony Orchestra Augusta announced the immediate resignation of Maestro Shizuo Z Kuwahara's on Aug. 19.

When I was young, I lived on a pretty steady diet of science fiction movies and paperbacks. As a result, I felt like I had a pretty defined understanding of what the future would look like. Needless to say, my adolescent predictions of flying cars and travel to the stars are still on hold. But as I grow older, I’ve realized that the future is a far more subtle and slippery thing.

 

Change often happens quietly. We don’t realize the future has arrived because we are always looking forward – or something like that.

Take, for instance, the arts community in Augusta. When I arrived back in Augusta some 15 (or so) years ago, after a 10-year absence, it took me some time to understand the ways it had progressed and evolved. I understood that it was different, but felt it was still firmly rooted in tradition.

And then I sort of stopped thinking about it.

I mean, I certainly continued observing and writing about the ebbs, flows and shows of the various organizations, but changes registered as small shifts and singular events. I didn’t see that the future was happening all around me. But it was and now I have stopped to take a look.

I’m not sure what prompted this survey-the-scene impulse. I think it is, in part, due to seeing what I consider essential parts of this community’s past disappearing.

Augusta Ballet founder Ron Colton has passed. The old Augusta library, one of my favorite pieces of local architecture, is in the process of being sliced, diced and, in my opinion, defaced. Maestro Shizuo Kuwahara, Z to his friends and fans, has announced suddenly and unexpectedly that he is resigning his Symphony Orchestra Augusta post That is a tremendous loss.

Things are going away and that makes me sad. But more things are moving forward and that makes me glad.

Augusta’s downtown has emerged as a true creative district. The number of galleries may have declined, but the number of truly talented visual artists has increased and the cooperative community that has developed is quietly becoming a core component of the creative community.

The oft-touted restoration project the Imperial Theatre has so desperately needed completed for at least 20 years has often moved slower than expected, but construction is underway at the Miller – a beautiful venue people had all but written off 20 years ago.

Even programming has evolved. Symphony Orchestra Augusta, when I arrived in town, was really specializing in pieces written by men that were dead and European. Today, those classic composers are still represented, but they are part of a much broader and more varied repertoire. And while much of this was spearheaded by Maestro Z, I would imagine it’s an approach that will continue in his absence. I certainly hope so.

The examples go on and on. There are things we never imagined we would see 15 years ago. Fifteen years ago we never would have believed there would be legitimate bookings at what was then called the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center. We would never believe we would one day be able to refer to that building as James Brown Arena.

The idea of a professional theater – I’m looking at you, Le Chat Noir – that produced adult and experimental theater, not to mention film festivals, improv nights and more – on the regular was impossible to comprehend.

The list goes on and on.

The truth is that while we have lost we have also gained and right now, the gains seem to outweigh the losses.

To be certain, I am still eagerly anticipating my jet pack, but until then the future – at least the future at present – looks pretty bright.

 

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