From culture to concerts to circuses, a sneak peek at 2013

There is life after the recession, even for metro Atlanta’s arts groups, entertainment presenters and attractions, many of which have struggled for support of all sorts for several years. Though we’re by no means suggesting a complete recovery is at hand as a new year dawns, you can at least sense the return of ambitious programming and hints of new approaches toward engaging audiences amid the highlights already filling the 2013 calendar. Here’s a glance at some of the cultural enrichment to come.

Passion of Kahlo, Rivera resonates still

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived lives of artistic genius and personal tumult, the stuff of movies. In fact, a fine 2002 film was made about them, “Frida,” starring Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina. It only encouraged interest.

“Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting,” running at the High Museum of Art from Feb. 14 to May 12, should sate that. With the Art Gallery of Ontario, the High organized the 140-work exhibit drawn from the collection of Mexico City’s Museo Dolores Olmedo as well as the private Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Mexican Art.

Rather than concentrating on their romance, the exhibit “focuses on how the artists influenced each other while learning from and sharing in each other’s successes and failures,” guest curator Elliott King said. “It considers both artists in a shared cultural and political context.”

By coincidence, the High will feature another exhibit with cinema-sparked interest, “Girl With a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings From the Mauritshuis,” June 23 to Sept. 29. Its Atlanta tour stop will mark the first time Johannes Vermeer’s iconic title painting will be seen in the Southeast.

Info: 404-733-4200,

History Center salutes veterans with park

The Atlanta History Center dedicated a modest Veterans Park built around a Vietnam War marker in 2000 at the corner of West Paces Ferry Road and Slaton Drive. Though the memorial did not grow as anticipated, the Buckhead institution since has increased the amount of programming focused on military service.

With a $500,000 grant from the Home Depot Foundation, the center plans to replace it with an expanded (from a quarter-acre to three-quarters of an acre) park opening Memorial Day weekend. The major enhancements will be interactive information panels with codes that visitors can scan with their smartphones and tablets to access videotaped stories and photos of Atlanta heroes from various conflicts; and a newly carved outdoor gathering space capable of hosting large crowds for military programs.

Info: 404-814-4000,

Botanical Garden sculpture exhibit should grow on you

Having previously turned its 30 verdant acres into a “museum without walls” for Henry Moore sculpture and Dale Chihuly glass, among other notable exhibits, the Atlanta Botanical Garden next imports “Imaginary Worlds.” Opening May 4, the show will feature 19 monumental sculptures, each created from thousands of groomed annuals growing within an invisible metal armature.

Visitors will encounter a grazing unicorn, a pair of gigantic cobras, a friendly ogre and a 23-foot-tall goddess (the largest work) emerging from the earth. It’s all the handiwork of International Mosaiculture of Montreal, which has staged exhibits internationally, though “Imaginary Worlds” is its first at an American botanical garden.

Info: 404-876-5859,

Big Apple returns for three-circus smackdown

The recession knocked Atlanta off Big Apple Circus’ tour itinerary after 2010, but the popular New York-based outfit plans to return in February, this time at a new metro area site. Instead of setting up its big top at Stone Mountain Park as usual, it will stage a new show, “Legendarium,” at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park in Alpharetta, Feb. 1 to 18.

Big Apple’s return means that Atlanta will again be circus central in February, a time of year when troupes typically bring their tours south. Each of three circuses will offer something distinct: Big Apple specializes in an intimate one-ring experience that revels in the artistry of performance, with no seat more than 50 feet from the acts. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, with “Dragons” at Philips Arena from Feb. 13 to 18 and at the Arena at Gwinnett Center from Feb. 21 to March 3, presents large-scaled spectacle. And UniverSoul Circus, bringing its tour to Turner Field’s Green Lot from Feb. 14 to March 3, is an Atlanta-based ensemble starring an international roster of contortionists, high wire, Russian bar, teeterboard, hand balancers and other performance artists.

Info: Big Apple, 1-800-922-3772, Ringling, 1-800-745-3000, UniverSoul, 1-800-745-3000,

Ailey, Atlanta Ballet present hot Israeli choreographer

So much so that when Atlanta Ballet announced that it was bringing Naharin’s “Minus 16” as part of its “New Choreographic Voices,” March 22-24 at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, it was positioned as a building block on top of last season’s Twyla Tharp world premiere. And so much so that Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre also is planning to perform “Minus 16,” which has been in its repertory since 2010, in some of the five programs that it will present during its annual Fox Theatre stop, Feb. 14-17.

What’s the fuss about Naharin, with whom Atlanta Ballet plans a three-year collaboration? The artistic director of Tel Aviv-based Batsheva Dance Company is known for his “Gaga” movement language that establishes a flow throughout the dancers’ bodies that encourages overall fluidity no matter from where a movement stems. Or as the choreographer himself once explained: “We learn to connect to (a) groove even when there is no music.”

Meanwhile, Andrea Miller, a former Batsheva dancer strongly influenced by Naharin, brings her New York troupe, Gallim Dance, to the Rialto Center for the Arts on Feb. 16.

Info: Ailey, 1-855-285-8499, Atlanta Ballet, 1-800-745-3000, Gallim, 404-413-9849,

$50,000 Hudgens Prize, exhibit for top Georgia artist

The $50,000 award that comes with the second Hudgens Prize is an attention grabber, no doubt. However, the reason the Jacqueline Casey Hudgens Center for the Arts launched the visual arts competition in 2010 wasn’t just to pad the portfolio of one artist, but to draw attention to and encourage the top-flight visual artists who call metro Atlanta and the state home.

Three nationally noted jurors will pick four finalists, who will be exhibited at the Duluth center June 8 to Sept. 7. Then the prize winner, announced Aug. 10, will get a solo exhibit there in March 2014 and have a piece selected for the Hudgens’ permanent collection.

Deadline for submissions: 11:59 p.m. Feb. 1. Let the art-making begin!

Info: 770-623-6002,

Four female singers seize Philips stage

Hey, boys, want to see some girl power at work? Then head to Philips Arena this spring, where no fewer than four powerhouses of pop (OK, country fans, go ahead and argue that Taylor Swift is technically country and see how far that gets you) will commandeer the downtown Atlanta arena.

Sure, there are plenty of big guys hitting that stage in early 2013 as well — Bon Jovi, Rod Stewart and Steve Winwood among them — but no one can deny the blinding star power of Lady Gaga, whose U.S. leg of her massive “Born This Way Ball” starts Jan. 14 in Washington state; Pink, who is sure to take to the skies in an aerial routine, as she loves to do live; Rihanna, who, questionable dating practices aside, has ruled Top 40 radio the past two years; and the aforementioned Swift, who never went on a date that she couldn’t turn into a hit down the road.

On paper, it might look like an estrogen-fest. But in reality, it’s simple math. These chicks fill seats. MELISSA RUGGIERI

Info: Pink, March 1; Lady Gaga, March 11; Taylor Swift, April 18-19; Rihanna, April 22. 1-800-745-3000,

Decatur Book Festival puts tweeters to poetic test

Poetry has always been a big player at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival, and in 2013, it will take on an even greater role with the Labor Day weekend festival’s first Twitter poetry contest. It will be judged by none other than the festival’s 2012 keynote speaker, U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey.

In 2012, Trethewey vowed that she’d never be a tweeting poet herself, so it will be interesting to see her top pick. Expect to hear during the downtown Decatur event. ROSALIND BENTLEY


50 years later, deep thought on W.E.B. DuBois

“The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line.” That is perhaps the most famous (and some say true) pronouncement of W.E.B. DuBois.

The legendary intellectual, writer and political activist taught for a time at what is now Clark Atlanta University. To mark the 50th anniversary of his death, the school is holding a major four-day conference on its campus, Feb. 20-23, that will explore the scholar’s legacy and impact of his ideas on contemporary thought around race relations.

Presenters and guests will include poet Sonia Sanchez, author Amiri Baraka and Arthur McFarlane, DuBois’ great-grandson. ROSALIND BENTLEY


NBAF, Living Walls taking new directions

2013 promises to be a year of evolution for two of the city’s arts groups, one a veteran, one an upstart:


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