Art, This Is
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
, the seventh installment in the blockbuster series, comes out next week. The franchise has great timing given that it’s the gift-giving season, but if you’ve waited until now to buy your Star Wars merchandise, your mouse click might be greeted with a “sold out.” Another option for acquiring swag from the dark or light side of the force might be to attend the exhibit “The Art of Star Wars,” at Art on 5th Gallery, where more than fifty pieces will be on display and available for sale. Allison Lefcort, along with James Coleman, Rodel Gonzalez, and Rob Kaz, have created this licensed work expressly for Disney, the studio behind the movie. Lefcort, like most forty-year-olds, was impressed by the first three movies. “I remember having all the merchandise that was available,” she said. “It’s funny to think back upon it because I remember my Star Wars sheet, pillows, sleeping bag, a million little action figures, and even R2D2 Underoos. I’m not sure my eight-year-old brain understood the significance of these movies the way I understand them today.” In the exhibit, Lefcort has pieces depicting C-3PO, Darth Vader, Yoda, Wicket Wystri Warrick the Ewok, and BB-8, the new droid making its debut in The Force Awakens. Lefcort, a painter of “personalities” whom the Democratic National Committee selected in 1996 to create the portrait of former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, will join Kaz in live painting demonstrations during the first two nights of the show. “I’m a portrait artist so I tend to really zoom in on the faces and try to get to the essence of the character through my style of bold shapes and shadows,” she said. “I think interpreting the Star Wars characters into my style of art is a perfect meld of pop culture and Pop Art.”
Art on 5th Gallery, December 11–January 31, 2016,

Freestyle Wrapping
Handmade gifts can be the best kind. Handmade gifts that are edible can be even better. The Mexican culture understands this well. For generations they have conducted tamaladas—or tamale-making parties—that result in presents wrapped not in shiny paper but instead in cornhusks. On Saturday the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center will host its eighth annual Gran Tamalada. For two hours, three hundred people are expected to participate, like elves, in an assembly line of tamale production. The free event will begin with a brief history of the tamale (or tamal, if you don’t want to sound like a gringo) and appearances by Carmen Tafolla, the current poet laureate of Texas, and Ellen Riojas Clark, a professor of bilingual studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio, who will sign the updated version of their book Tamales, Comadres and the Meaning of Civilization. After that, it will be time for participants to get their hands dirty at one of ten workstations. “This year’s event marks the first time that several members of the Cortez family, owners of the world famous Mi Tierra Café, will lead the hands-on workshop,” said Belinda Menchaca, Guadalupe’s education director. “Participants will learn how to knead the masa, or corn dough, as they learn the proper methods to apply the masa to the cornhusk, and fill it with meat, cook it, and arrange it for display just in time for the holidays.” There will be ready-made tamales for onsite consumption, plus each participant gets to take home two tamales that they’ve made.
Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, December 12, 11 a.m.,

The Mack Daddy
Ever since the New York Times Magazine published “The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie,” the April 2014 article that unearthed previously unknown secrets about blues music and earned a National Magazine Award nomination, there have probably been at least a couple of music fans who have wished for the demise of one of the story’s protagonists, Robert “Mack” McCormick, the Houston writer, producer, and folklorist. This has nothing to do with hate, let’s be clear, but instead with the frustration that comes from knowing, as the article demonstrated, that McCormick has hoarded vast amounts of research, photos, and ephemera collected throughout a lifetime of field work, which had it been made available to the public might have connected a lot of dots in the history of popular music. McCormick died of cancer on November 18. He was 85. Before the scholars start digging through his bounty, a celebration of his life as one of America’s great shoe-leather collectors is in order. After all, this is the man who went in search of Robert Johnson, popularized Lightnin’ Hopkins, and told Dylan to beg off, all of which is recounted in the Texas Monthly obituary by Michael Hall. Perhaps attending McCormick’s memorial service this Saturday is in order.
Memorial Oaks Funeral Home, December 12, 12:30 p.m.,

Cheering Spree
The Polyphonic Spree, the dozen-plus-member Dallas chorale-rock band, subscribes to the old adage that the holiday season is about giving and not receiving. So while most rock bands take a seasonal hiatus, the Spree orchestrates and hosts an annual Holiday Extravaganza. Saturday is the thirteenth such affair, which moves this year to the Majestic Theater after a long run at Lakewood Theatre (now closed and after the threat of being razed, will likely be preserved as an official landmark). The upside to the change of scenery is a higher crowd capacity. That means more people can engage in the Spree’s cheer, which comes in the form of an all-ages show divided into a rock set and a holiday set. There will be stilt-walkers, nutcrackers, and a magician, as well as special guests including Saffy Herndon, the hilarious 10-year-old comedian, and the Dallas Tap Dazzlers, a group of jazz tap dancers whose average age is 65. At midnight, milk and cookies will be served.
Majestic Theatre, December 12, 7 p.m.,

Robert Redford’s Inspiration
The story goes that when Robert Redford walked out of a screening of Austin-via-Lubbock filmmaker Eagle Pennell’s 1978 buddy flick The Whole Shootin’ Match—held during the inaugural year of the Sundance Film Festival, then called the Utah/U.S. Film Festival—he said to the people with him, “I need to start an organization to support filmmakers like that!” and thus the Sundance Institute was born. At least that’s how the story goes according to Louis Black, editor of the Austin Chronicle and founder of SXSW, who recently found a print in Germany of the “lost” film and reissued. Catch a screening Wednesday at the Bullock.
Bullock Texas State History Museum, December16, 7 p.m.,

Big Bird Sighting
Only two out of fifteen species of crane can be found in North America, and one of those, the sandhill crane, is throwing a big party on Galveston Island as you read this, with some two hundred svelte birds roosting and foraging for the winter. Get up close with the gargantuan creatures—they can measure four feet tall, with six-foot wingspans—during Holiday with the Cranes, a weekend of observance with viewings morning and night, both guided and self-guided.
Various locations, December 11–13,