Heidi Marquez Smith takes over at Texas Cultural Trust

12:00 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017 Austin360
Austin’s Kele Roberson deferred a $25,000 scholarship to the Juilliard School in order to join the Royal Ballet School in London. Contributed by Dance Magazine

The former head of the Texas Book Festival will now lead the Texas Cultural Trust.

Heidi Marquez Smith takes over as executive director at the statewide arts advocacy group after the departure of Jennifer Ransom Rice.

“As a longtime, passionate advocate for literacy and the arts, I am thrilled to be part of an organization that promotes the vital role of the arts in education and actively supports our state’s many talented artists and educators,” Marquez Smith says. “I look forward to advancing the work of the trust to build awareness of the quantifiable impact of art in the classroom and the Texas economy, and the important role of the arts in building a competitive workforce for the future of our state.”

Most recently a consultant with her own firm, Marquez Smith is actively involved in the leadership of the Texas Lyceum, St. David’s Foundation, Dell Children’s Trust and Texas Book Festival. She also volunteers at Eanes Elementary School, Hill Country Middle School, Eanes Education Foundation, Pop-Up Birthday, LBJ Presidential Library and the city of Rollingwood.

Perhaps most impressively, she served as special assistant to the president for cabinet liaison under President George W. Bush.

It takes quite a diplomat to run the Texas Cultural Trust, which hands out the Texas Medal of Arts in a grand biennial ceremony; directly promotes arts education; and meanwhile attempts to convince Texas legislators to support dollars for the arts. Recently, that august body reduced funding by 28 percent, which means that soon only $6 million will be spent by the state each year on the arts. By way of contrast, the city of Austin alone spends $12 million.

BACKGROUND: Legislature cuts Texas arts funding 28 percent.

Austin dancer heads to Royal Ballet

Kele Roberson, who studied at Austin’s Dance Institute and the Austin School for the Performing and Visual Arts, deferred a $25,000 scholarship to the Juilliard School in order to join the Royal Ballet School in London.

This program funnels dancers into one of the top ballet companies in the world and is quite an opportunity for Roberson, who gave an interview on the subject to Jennifer Stahl for Dance Magazine.

“I only had to watch a deep plié before writing down a 10 out of 10 on his score sheet and scribbling a giant star next to his name,” Stahl says of Roberson’s audition for the New York City Dance Alliance’s college scholarship program. “Before he even had a chance to show off his incredible lines, I was mesmerized by his nuanced grace in even the simplest of movements.”

Roberson, who started studying ballet at age 11 and completed a summer program with the Royal Ballet, still might attend Juilliard later.

“As of right now, that’s the plan. Juilliard’s always been a dream,” he told Stahl. “I graduated a year ahead — I’m still 17 — so I decided to take this year at the Royal to perfect what I can in terms of technique, and hope to audition for Juilliard next year.”

News of his coup spread quickly on social media.

“What a phenomenal artist already!” says dancer Andrea Williams. “I’m going to miss seeing his dance everyday but I’m so glad he’s going to the Royal Ballet!”

Art news in triplicate

In this case, important art news comes in threes.

Big Medium, which produces EAST and WEST, has confirmed the dates and other details for the next Texas Biennial. The group survey exhibition, which features artists living and working in the state, will appear at 211 E. Alpine Road in Austin Sept. 30-Nov. 11. The artists selected by curator and artistic director Leslie Moody Castro were recently announced: Three Austin artists — Teruko Nimura, Vladimir Mejia and Ted Carey — made the final list.

Pop Austin, which stages annual exhibitions of art one might not normally see in Austin, announces that this year the monumental event will take place Nov. 9-12 at Fair Market. It kicks off with an opening party Nov. 9. General admission will take place Nov. 10-12. Among the artists featured will be Aaron de la Cruz, Jon One and Yang Na. Tickets go on sale Aug. 30. The show is also a part of Big Medium’s EAST.

The Landmarks program, which provides the high-quality public art for the University of Texas, let us know about a big new mural in the works. The 4,000-square-foot-piece by José Parlá will grace Rowling Hall, the new home of the McCombs School of Business graduate program at Guadalupe Street and West Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The unveiling will take place at a big bash in January.

Rude Mechs to jolt Yale, Guthrie

The Rude Mechs have lined up long residencies at two of the nation’s biggest and best regional theaters, Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Conn., and Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minn.

Adored in Austin and looking for a new performance home base here, the 22-year-old group is actually among the few American companies to make much of their art away from home. Fun fact: The Rudes now rehearse in the American-Statesman building.

Their presence abroad really took off with their 1999 hit “Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century.” Since then, theaters, universities and art centers have clamored to be a part of their heady fun.

At Yale, the Rudes will present the world premiere of “Field Guide,” a fast and furious take on Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov.” The work, commissioned by Yale Rep, runs Jan. 26-Feb. 17.

In July, the Rudes will further develop “Not Every Mountain,” written by Kirk Lynn and directed by Thomas Graves with music by Peter Stopschinski, at the three-venue Guthrie Theater. According to the theater’s spokesman, it is “a beguiling meditation on change and permanence.”

We recently visited the Guthrie for the first time since it moved into its newish digs on the Mississippi River. Pretty spectacular — if hulking — space with a loyal audience and, no small thing, the best pre-show, in-theater dining we’ve ever experienced.

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