After a successful 35-year run, Spokane-based arts organization Allegro Baroque & Beyond has announced that this Sunday’s Royal Fireworks Concert will be its last.
The official announcement comes just days before the popular outdoor concert in Riverfront Park, on Sunday July 28, with music starting at 9 pm. Beginning in 1978, the annual summer concert has attracted as many as 30,000 attendees in past years, says Allegro Baroque & Beyond board president Laura Bracken.
The concert features a 60-piece orchestra consisting of musicians from around the country, and occasionally international performers, who play George Frederick Handel’s Musick for the Royal Fireworks from the park’s floating stage. The concert’s finale is choreographed to a fireworks display.
The decision to end the long-running event stems from a decline in financial support over recent years, Bracken says. The cost to put on the concert — which offers free seating in the Riverfront Park Lilac Bowl — reached a high of $50,000 some years, she adds. Funds primarily came from private donations to the nonprofit organization.
Reserved seating for this Sunday’s concert is also offered on the rooftop patio of the Spokane Convention Center. Tickets are $60 a person or $420 for a table of eight.
Along with the decision to end the Royal Fireworks Concert, Allegro Baroque & Beyond’s artistic directors and co-founders, Beverly Biggs and David Dutton, both recently announced their retirement from the organization, Bracken says. Because of their departures, Bracken says at this time she’s not sure if the organization will continue to host any of its other annual events, or if there are any plans to fill Biggs’ and Dutton’s roles.
“Right now, the board does not have the skills and tools it takes to run this type of organization,” Bracken says. “The organization itself will probably be retired, but the [Royal Fireworks Concert] could still be carried on by another organization, so even though Allegro won’t produce it next year, another organization could do so in 2014.”
Allegro Baroque & Beyond also organizes the Music in Historic Homes concert series, offering intimate concerts performed in historically significant Spokane homes, as well a main stage series consisting of three period-music concerts held at The Bing Crosby Theater.
Read the official press release below.
A few minutes ago, Attorney Bob Dunn called to announce he had filed the first complaint in Spokane Superior Court for the Yvonne Johnson suit against the Spokane Civic Theatre.
A few highlights from the complaint:
— Dunn claims the termination "has proximately caused damages in the amount to be proven at trial in anamount no less than two million dollars."
— It claims that "several" board members have resigned after the to terminate Johnson, at least one due to a disagreement with the process. In a phone conversation, Dunn says Jennifer Ferch and Lynn Yost are the board members he's referring to.
— Les Mis has become tangled up in this case. The complaint saysJohnson has "substantial intellectual property rights" involved in theupcoming production of Les Misérables. He's filed an injunction to try to stop the current production.
— The complaint attacks three board members (Bob Francis, Larry Wooley, and Robert Mielbrecht) as having "egregiously orchestrated, implemented, and conspired to effectuate the unlawful termination of Plaintiff Johnson’s employment as the Executive Artistic Director of Defendant Civic Theatre."
Interestingly, it doesn't attack any of the other seven board members.
— It draws from former board president Michael Muzatko's quote in the Inlander story, arguing Johnson was given an ultimatum to "turn around the theater within one year, or it would become a parking lot.”
— It claims Wooley said “that's what insurance is for” in responses to concerns about her termination.
— It still says no reason has been given for termination, "insofar as none existed."
— There are seven charges: 1) breach of contract, 2) "breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing," 3) Ultra Vires Acts (accusing the board of going beyond their assigned powers), 4) "intentional interference with contractual relations and business expectancy," 5) violation of the consumer protection act (by proceeding with Les Mis using Johnson's intellectual property), 6) intentional infliction of emotional distress, and 7) wrongful withholding of wages.
Read the full complaint here:
UPDATE: We've clarified some language about why Ferch and Yost allegedly resigned. Either party can contact us to explain their thinking further.
UPDATE (July 23): A Spokesman-Review story on the lawsuit quotes board member Jennifer Ferch’s resignation letter, which finally hints at an official reason for Johnson’s termination: “alleged claims of illegal activity”:
“This progression from a bully vote to terminate which failed, to an electronic vote to terminate which I believe has failed, followed by a purported discovery of illegal activity by Ms. Johnson is quite remarkable,” Ferch wrote. “I am skeptical both of the strategy employed by certain members of the board, and of the validity of the alleged claims of illegal activity. From my perception, the possible conspiratorial nature of how this has transpired is unseemly at best and underhanded and illegal at worst.”
Instead, the board produced a press release, titled “Press Release forJuly 18, 2013,” saying that “the details of Yvonne A.K. Johnson's departureare confidential and should remain so.” In fact, it goes even further, chidingJohnson for being openly sharing her concerns and opinions over her firing.
“We are saddened that Ms. Johnson has decided to air her grievances in apublic forum,” the release reads. It does not mention that at least three boardmembers have freely shared their grievances with the decision as well.
With the possibility of a legal battle looming — Johnson has retainedattorney Bob Dunn — more may come out eventually. But judging by historicalprecedent, there’s not much hope for more information. Instead, with rumor andspeculation unaddressed, plenty of questions remain:
1. Why was Yvonne A. K. Johnson fired as Executive Artistic Director?
2. Why was such short notice given for board members to vote on her firing?
3. Why were the votes firing Johnson collected over email instead of duringa board meeting?
4. Why did at least three board members say they didn’t know why they wereasked to make a decision on Johnson’s employment?
5. Who on the board voted to fire her?
6. Johnson claims she tallied 5 board members out of 10 that voted to keepher, and one who abstained. If she was wrong, who was she wrong about?
7. Board member Margot Ogden, an ardent supporter of Johnson, says she wasrecently made an “honorary board member,” which did not allow her a vote. Butshe says she asked to be reinstated, and then voted. Was her vote counted?
8. Board member Deena Caruso, an ardent supporter of Johnson, says she wastold Thursday couldn’t vote until she paid her dues. She says she paid her duesthe same day, and then voted. Was her vote counted?
9. Johnson and multiple board members say a decision had been made to find amediator to help Johnson and the board work through communication issues. A fewdays later, the board was asked whether she should be terminated. What happenedto the original plan?
10. Upon Johnson’s firing, Jim Ryan, a long-time critic of Johnson, wrotethat “this post was originally drafted for last Tuesday night, when we held acelebration at our home with some dear friends who have yearned for this day fora long time. (We planned it, under covert pretenses, to coincide with the boardmeeting at which she was supposed to be voted out.)” If she was supposed to havebeen fired on Tuesday, July 9, instead of Friday, July 12, what changed?
11. Did Ryan’s campaign against Johnson have any factor in her firing?
12. Did any of the other enemies Johnson made over the last 8.5 years haveanything to do with her firing?
13. Was there any financial or personal malfeasance on the part of Johnson alleged?
14. If the issues leading to her termination were serious enough to be ofcommunity concern, why hide them from the community?
15. If the issues leading to her termination were minor enough to not be ofcommunity concern, why terminate her position so suddenly?
16. Both Johnson and Ryan considered Civic Board President Larry Wooley to bea firm supporter of Johnson. Johnson says she invited Wooley over for ribeyesteaks. Ryan called him a “sycophantic board member… yipping at Yvonne A.K.Johnson's heels in exchange for being made to feel important in one way oranother… [who appeared] poised to help Yvonne A.K. Johnson consolidate her powerby continuing in the fine tradition of obsequious permissiveness.” Whatchanged?
17. Johnson recently lost a court battle against Ryan, and has been charged$10,000, plus attorney fees, for bringing a defamation suit against him. Shesays she discussed with the board whether the Civic or the Civic’s insurancecompany will pay those costs. Does that have anything to do with hertermination?
18.The Spokesman-Review writes that the board’s attorney ordered Johnsonto “immediately refrain from having any contact with any director, employee,donor or anyone else related’ to the theater.” Why limit Johnson’s freedom ofspeech in such a radical way?
19. Did some board members intentionally try to shift the makeup of the boardto make Johnson’s termination possible?
20. Why were several board members supportive of Johnson — Mike Muzatko,Margot Ogden and Deena Caruso — transparent with their opinions, while boardmembers opposed to Johnson remained quiet?
If anyone on the board would like to answer any of these questions, they canfeel free to call me or shoot me an email at DanielW@inlander.com.
Johnson just hired the attorney who got Rodgers his job back.
That may not only mean a legal battle, and a monetary settlement that could cost the Civic money, but it also may mean we never learn all the details behind her firing. Legal settlements often involve non-disclosure clauses.
She writes, "Ihave retained attorney, Bob Dunn. Under his advice I cannot make anyfurther comments at this time regarding Spokane Civic Theatre. I thankall of my friends, family and supporters for helping me to work throughthis process. You are all in my thoughts and prayers."
Along with Rodgers, Dunn's known for advocating for fired Spokane Downtown Spokane director Mike Tedesco. And he attacked the City of Spokane for firing police officer Brad Thoma, who had been involved in a drunken hit-and-run. Thoma had been fired because, legally, a breathalyzer would have had to be installed in his patrol car. Dunn took the novel tactic of arguing that the officer was firedfor his alcoholism — and alcoholism is a disability.
Read more on Dunn here.
But those throughout the community are insistent they don't want a rerun of the Museum of Arts and Culture situation. And that includes Johnson.
"We do not need another MAC situation," Johnson said Saturday. "It was not good for the community. It was not healthy." She also said some of her friends had been encouraging her to hire Dunn.
Here's what the press release said:
The announcement comes just one day after Johnson released a statement welcoming aboard new "artistic associate" Robby French, a graduate of the New York Conservatory for the Dramatic Arts.
Johnson, who also directed plays at the community theater during her tenure, had come under fire from some in the community for the 2010 firing of then-music director James Ryan after an anonymous source informed the theater that Ryan and his wife had an open marriage.
Ryan, who has maintained a blog called "Civic Doody" that has detailed his legal struggles with Johnson and the theater since his firing, had this to say about today's news.
Johnson's tenure wasn't without its merits, though. She was instrumental in a successful financial turnaround for the Civic and was heading up major improvements to their facilities.
Check out next week's issue of The Inlander for more on this story.
So, what exactly is slam poetry? Slam poetry is spoken-word performances of original poetry that can sometimes closer resemble a rap battle than a recitation of a traditional sonnet. Contestants usually get 3 minutes to woo judges who are randomly picked from the audience.
The Slam New Orleans team won last year’s National Poetry Slam competition with “Mama Ain’t Seen.”
Started in an effort to connect local, upcoming artists with experienced industry professionals, Terrain has seen five successful events over the same number of years.
Now, this evening of art in all modes is set to happen again on October 4 in downtown Spokane and submissions opened this week.
Here are some details about submitting…
Aligned with the Spokane Arts Commission and Fall Visual Arts Tour, a seasoned group of handpicked, local art professionals will carefully review all submissions.
What: Like we said, it’s multimodal! If you have some paintings, drawings or ceramics you want to display, send in a picture. If you want to play some music, send them an .mp3 file. If you want to do some kind of live performance or demonstration, send them a written proposal.
When: All submissions must be in by August 9 at midnight.
Why: Well, if you’re an artist, why not!? This event offers you the chance to meet other artists, make connections and show off your work.
How: Create an account, submit, think positively, do more art, wait to hear back. Hug a puppy.
There will be more information to come as the event draws closer, but in the meantime, make yoursubmissions. If you’re more of an art-looker-at-er, just look forward to checking out the art in early October.
Though it's bound to be a quiet evening around the city — those of us who are working today have noticed that downtown Spokane has turned into a something of ghost town — First Friday is still on schedule and there is plenty of new art to see.
If you plan to take advantage of the calmer downtown scene this evening, and the current abundance of parking meters, use this handy Google map showing where and when tonight's events take place.
Earlier this year, we told you about Dale Chihuly’s exhibitin the Jundt Art Museum at Gonzaga University and his coinciding lecture at the BingCrosby Theater in April. Although the lecture tickets sold out lightning fast,the exhibit continues to run in the museum for a limited time.
A famous Northwest artist, Chihuly is not only known for hisstunning and colorful glass pieces, but for making glass art a popular culturaltrend. His work is included in more than 200 museums worldwide, including theJundt Art Museum.
The “Gonzaga Red Chandelier” has hung in the center of theChancellor Room year round since 1995, but several of his pieces from Gonzaga’scollection are now part of an exhibit titled Chihuly: Tradition and Transformation in the museum’s ArcadeGallery. The exhibit includes glass as well as drawings Chihuly created duringa 1995 session with students on Gonzaga’s campus and will be on display untilJuly 31.
In case you missed the sold-out show, Gonzaga and Chihulyhave created a video of the lecture that will be available until the end of theexhibit.
Three pros are performing this Saturday at the Bing Crosby Theatre as part of the Bada Bing Comedy Series. The show is at 8 pm, and tickets are $15. Let’s take a look at the lineup.
Dwight Slade began his career in Portland in the 1980s opening for the likes of Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld and Dave Chappelle. He’s a classic does-this-ever-happen-to-you-comedian. His website calls him “part man; part ageless boy.” That’s accurate, but he’ll be the true seasoned veteran on stage this Saturday.
Kane Holloway is young. He makes YouTube videos about being poor. He’s from Seattle and is a regular at Tacoma Comedy Club. His jokes are narrative-based, and you can be sure he’ll throw in a lot of misdirection.
Kelsey Cook’s website refers to her as a “young up-and-coming comedian,” which is true. However, the WSU grad might be the one to really crack up the audience on Saturday. Her YouTube videos have garnered special attention, especially her response to sorority girl Rebecca Martinson’s hate-filled email. Cook wields an edgy style, talking about white trash girls on Facebook, homeless people and herpes. I asked her a few questions ahead of her arrival in Spokane…
How do your Spokane roots influence your comedy?
I joke that one of my favorite hobbies is following white trash people on Facebook, and that I'm Facebook friends with a lot of white trash because I'm from the meth capital of the world: Spokane! I give this city a hard time, but I don't think Spokanites take offense to it because I'm one of their own.
What has been your proudest moment as a comic so far?
When one of my YouTube videos was featured in the front-page article on Yahoo! There was a crazy sorority girl in the news recently named Rebecca Martinson who received national attention after writing a horrifying email to her sorority sisters, and I made a parody video of her. When Yahoo featured the video as part of their article, my inbox got flooded with new subscribers and fan mail. It was a pretty incredible feeling as a performer to get that kind of recognition and see the words "stand up comedian Kelsey Cook" in a Yahoo article!
Why do you do comedy?
I do comedy because, to me, the greatest feeling in the world is making people laugh. Whether it's your family at the dinner table, a stranger, or a huge crowd of people, you feel on top of the world. I'm also a total people-pleaser, so doing comedy satisfies two impulses of mine: one, to make other people happy, and two, to feel connected with others through our senses of humor. The rush of walking on stage and getting 300 people to be on board with you and your point of view is unlike anything else I've ever experienced. It's incredibly addicting. I don't feel like I have any vices like drugs or alcohol, but if I got cut off from my supply of adrenaline from the stage, it would be a matter of days before I became a crazy pigeon lady on the streets.
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