Around The State

Star speakers hit the lecture circuit: Bill Moyers and George Will in Dallas, Bob Dole in San Antonio. Plus: birding in Rockport and Fulton; a world-class mezzo-soprano in Fort Worth; oil-patch art in Beaumont; and contemporary Mexican photography in Houston. Edited by Quita McMath, Erin Gromen, and Katy Vine

The Main Event

Now Hear This

Over the past two decades, a couple of Texas universities have emerged as major destinations on the big-name lecture circuit. In San Antonio, Trinity University’s distinguished lecture series, which began in 1979 with a talk by author Alex Haley, now draws the likes of James Baker, Colin Powell, and Henry Kissinger. On September 15 former senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole will launch this year’s four-lecture series with a talk titled “Leadership and Values In The Twenty-First Century.” (One hopes his famous dry wit will make an appearance in the question-and-answer session afterward.) Meanwhile, in Dallas, Southern Methodist University’s Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series, whose 1998–99 lineup includes Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush, kicks off on September 28 when David Gergen moderates a panel discussion between his fellow journalists Bill Moyers and George Will. In its sixteen years the series has expanded to nine lectures and featured speakers ranging from Ted Turner to Margaret Thatcher and Norman Schwarzkopf. Such heavyweights must be booked months in advance, says the Tate’s executive director, Kit Sawers, and that can pose a problem. “It’s hard to know if a speaker will be newsworthy on the date they’re scheduled to appear,” she says, “or if they’ll have a prior commitment—like world peace.” Quita McMath


Watch The Birdies!

Think of a community where volunteers throw an annual progressive dinner for hummingbirds, and you’ll have the idea behind the hummer/bird celebration!, One of the state’s quirkiest grass-roots events. For weeks preceding the four-day fling (September 17–20), hundreds of bird-minded folks in the breezy, adjacent coastal towns of Rockport and Fulton plant nectar-rich flowers and festoon yards and parks with hummingbird feeders. When the feathered guests start arriving from other parts of North America on their fall migration south, they can zip into these feeding stations for a snack. Of the many activities planned, the most popular by far are the hummer home tours, where busloads of birdwatchers troop through selected back yards, hoping to get within a few feet of hordes of the scrappy, carbo-loading birds. Attendees will see plenty of ruby-throats, as well as some buff-bellied, rufous, black-chinned, broad-tailed, and anna’s hummingbirds. Educational activities include hawk and beach-bird trips; lectures on bats, cranes, wildflowers, and specific hummingbirds; plus a fascinating demonstration of how to band a hummingbird (hint: watch that beak, and don’t squeeze). Patricia Sharpe


Our Friend Flicka

It was said of Sarah Bernhardt that she could move an audience to tears simply by reading the telephone book. The same might be said of Frederica von Stade, if you substitute “singing” for “reading.” The mezzo-soprano’s beauty, her charm, her interpretive skills, and her mellow tone assure that audiences quickly come to think of her as “Flicka,” as she is known to intimates and opera buffs alike. A favorite of Metroplex music lovers, von Stade has premiered new works in Dallas (remember Dominick Argento’s wonderfully accessible The Aspern Papers in 1988?), and she helped inaugurate the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth earlier this year. Now she is returning to the hall to open the Fort Worth Symphony’s first season in its new home. She will be singing the meltingly lovely Songs Of The Auvergne, by Joseph Canteloube, which she recorded more than a decade ago; the more sensual Five Greek Songs, by Maurice Ravel; and a selection of arias. That program may seem a little tame for someone who sang the role of the bitchy adventuress Gräfin Geschwitz in Alban Berg’s discordant Lulu in the San Francisco Opera’s Femmes Fatales Festival this summer, but we’re not complaining. Whatever Flicka sings is always music to our ears. Chester Rosson


Oil Paintings

The Art Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaumont will be exhibiting the crudest of subjects this month, but you won’t hear any politicians calling for a return to family values. “Oil Patch Dreams: Images of the Petroleum Industry in American Art,” which opens September 12 and will travel to Midland, El Paso, Austin, and Wichita Falls next year, consists of more than sixty paintings and sculptures by such artists as Thomas Hart Benton, Jerry Bywaters, George Grosz, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, and Alexandre Hogue (above, his 1940 painting Spindletop Runs Wild). The exhibit is the brainchild of curator Francine Carraro, a professor of art history at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos. “Art and cultural historians have written about the Western myth and the cowboy myth, and museums put up exhibits with Western themes,” says Carraro, “but an art exhibit on the importance of oil to the Texas identity is unprecedented.” And what better setting for it than a museum that was built largely with oil money? Whether you prefer the abstract paintings or the realistic depictions of life on a rig, chances are you’ll think this show is pretty slick. Katy Vine


Focus Group

Throughout Mexico, the entire month of September becomes a foto fiesta, with workshops, exhibits, tours, and even television programs devoted to the medium of photography. These events are part of FotoSeptiembre, a festival designed to awaken the public’s interest in native photographic talent and also provide a forum for evaluating the current state of the art. For anyone interested in exploring the work of emerging Mexican artists, the good news is that a trip south of the border won’t be necessary.  A touring FotoSeptiembre exhibit, “Nuevo Visiones/New Visions”—curated by Patricia Mendoza, the director of Mexico City’s Centro de la Imagen—debuts at the Houston Center for Photography September 18. It presents a handful of contemporary Mexican photographers, such as photojournalist Raul Ortega, who leans toward grim slices of reality (above, Chiapas, 1995), and Laura Cohen, whose staged still lifes of everyday objects have an abstract quality. “We’re thrilled about our participation in this international festival,” says Jean Caslin, the director of the Houston Center for Photography. “It’s wonderful to see the images created by different perspectives and cultures so close to our own border.” Erin Gromen