Recently while on Austin’s buoyant social circuit, we learned more about child advocates, saluted some cultural heroes, savored an opera, lingered over a humanities exhibit, mingled at a block party, toasted a nonagenarian and shared an Austin history book with the masses.
CASAblanca for CASA of Travis County
The takeaway from this large gala: CASA of Travis County is on track to become the first large urban group of Court Appointed Special Advocates to place a trained volunteer with each abused or neglected youth within the judicial system. We learned this from impassioned Board President David Rubin, who followed equally stirring Executive Director Laura Wolf at the dais halfway through what, for some guests, was a six-hour event at the JW Marriott.
Gratifying to find that this key nonprofit has doubled the size of its guest list and that last year it provided individualized help to 1,847 children, 722 of whom went home to safe permanent families. During the same year, however, 700 children still needed advocates.
I sat with amazing Judges Darlene Byrne and Aurora Martinez Jones, who split up the foster care cases inside the same courtroom, one part of the Texas system that is not, as one federal judge ruled, overall “broken.”
UT Doty Award Dinner
A consummate example of an Austin awards ceremony: It was short at 90 minutes.
Two hours if you include the cocktail reception. There was entertainment — a trombone choir and a jazz trio. Only three awards, all clearly well deserved, were introduced by polished and informative speeches and videos.
The honorees, who appeared, well, honored, kept their remarks brief. My table companions kept up a lively conversational beat, and the catered dinner at the AT&T Center was tasty from beginning to end.
I am talking about the Doty Award Dinner, named for the founding dean of the University of Texas College of Fine Arts. Doug Dempster and Sondra Lomax did a crisp yet warm job of overseeing the annual rites. The big prize went to the Kimbell Art Foundation, created in 1936 in Fort Worth. Not only does this trust support one of that city’s astonishingly good art museums, it backs art history programs at UT. Young alumni honors were taken home by playwright Meghan Kelly and jazz pianist Helen Sung.
Austin Opera’s “The Daughter of the Regiment”
Funny opera? Sure. It’s not all sturm und drang at Austin Opera. Donizetti‘s “The Daughter of the Regiment” — a young adoptee of a Napoleonic regiment must go through multiple tests before landing love — was not always laugh-out-loud funny, but every minute was smile-out-loud funny.
The cast at our Sunday matinee was terrific from top to bottom, and, of course, they and the orchestra sounded magnificent under maestro Richard Buckley. The combination of French (singing) and English (speaking) was jolting at first, but we took to it quickly. We are always happy to see fresh faces in the crowd for performances by this leading Austin arts group, one of the jewels in Austin’s cultural crown.
Ransom Center’s “Stories to Tell”
This is something we have been waiting to see: More of the vast collection at the Ransom Center on display for the public.
With a few other lucky souls, we peeked at a preview of the exhibition “Stories to Tell,” which will remain up through July. the haul seems fairly evenly split among American and European literature, performing arts, film, photography and visual arts, sharing the backstories along the way.
One encouraging bit of news: The Ransom Center folks plan to devote one corner of the first-floor galleries permanently to timely, rotating samples from this collection, which ranks among the finest of its kind in the world. We enjoyed catching up with longtime photography curator Roy Flukinger and still relatively new performing arts curator Eric Colleary, as well as Austin Way magazine editor extraordinaire Kathy Blackwell.
KMFA’s 50th Anniversary Block Party
If you are going to celebrate a community treasure’s 50th birthday, you invite in the whole community. And what better place to do so than the indoor/outdoor Fair Market events center in East Austin on one of the fairest days of the year?
You had your food trucks, your scattered entertainment, your face painting (I demurred), your mingling over drinks. Kids seemed overjoyed, but frankly, who wouldn’t have a good time at such an event?
KMFA has planned its first and only gala ever for later in this golden year. We look forward to it.
Patricia Fiske at 90
She is an original in many ways. A beauty, she grew up quickly and took on New York with all the gusto of her generation. More recently, she has been an Austin poet, actress, memoirist, singer and self-described peacemonger. So when it came time to toast Patricia Fiske at her 90th birthday party, we couldn’t resist.
The well-assembled event at the Zilker Clubhouse included comfort food and drinks, a tent to ward off inclement weather and — a special treat — the Austin Symphony Big Band. Now, I love the 1940s sound — “my music,” as Patricia aptly remarked — and I have rarely heard it rendered so expertly as it was this on this loveliest of lovely nights.
Three dates for “Indelible Austin”
Thanks for asking: “Indelible Austin: Selected Histories” is on target to receive its third printing. And vol. 2 is due out in the fall. Meanwhile, we are nearing the 5oth public appearance related to this collection of my historical columns from the American-Statesman, published by Waterloo Press and benefiting the Austin History Center Association.
In the course of a week, we talked to the Governor’s Mansion Docents at Chateau Bellevue; led a panel discussion during the Angelina Eberly Luncheon — along with family and community leaders Saundra Kirk, Lonnie Limón and Evan Tanaguchi — at the Driskill Hotel; and answered questions at an Episcopalian gathering known as Pub Church, which assembles casually but thoughtfully at Scholz Garten. Enjoyed the public dialogue with leader Stephen Kinney on the beauty of the people of Austin.
Cultural leader J.C. Shakespeare, who asked one of the sharpest questions at the church event, shared this happy excerpt from “Indelible Austin” on Facebook. I continue to endorse it.
“I fall in love with Austin every day when I leave our bungalow and walk downhill to the social center of the city. Unabashedly, I cherish our arts, music, movies, fashion, sports, media, museums, nightlife, eateries, shops, and parties. I sing the praises of the Great Streets program, the Butler Hike and Bike Trail, and the State Capitol. I linger over the reflections on Lady Bird Lake and the arcing green hills along the horizon. I boast about the University of Texas — ranked in the world’s Top 30, according to the Times of London — and how Austin Community College responds nimbly to our business ecology. As soon as I hit the social circuit by entering a room full of Austinites, I’m electrified. These people are worth knowing!”