If you’ve been anywhere near the Long Center lately (hopefully soaking up some sun!), you’ve probably noticed the very large sculpture hanging out under our Ring Beam. But don’t let what you see on the surface fool you — LOVE HATE, by artist Mia Florentine Weiss, is an “ambigram,” meaning either word can be read as “love” or “hate,” depending on how you view it. If you’re feeling like you need a change in perspective, today’s your lucky day — this Mid-Week Intermission checks in with Mia about the power of public art, the power of this particular piece, and why the message matters. 

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE JOURNEY 👉 This sculpture traveled the world before it landed right here in ATX. Many thanks to Google for helping us get LOVE HATE to the Long Center! Be sure to tag @longcenter in your pics.

MEET MIA FLORENTINE WEISS
Black and white photo showing Mia, a white German woman with blonde hair, standing with arms crossed in front of an architectural background

Long Center: Tell us a little bit about yourself as an artist, and your approach to creating art.

Mia When I was a teenager, I wrote the following:

I’m art
Says my heart
I’m a born idea
That’s why I’m here

My creativity was my greatest weapon — I collected words as well as objects (objet trouvé) to create something out of them. Growing up in an artistic household (my mother is a designer), in addition to creative days, life-drawing courses, workshops, etc., we were constantly shown new formats in which we children could make art. That shaped me — just like my time at the Free Waldorf school.

After graduating from high school, I found my main topic: What is your place of protection? or the primal human longing for security. Goethe’s Faust in us — love hate of life — the contradiction of things: beauty & horror, light & shadow, war & peace, past & future — is my inspiration. The “human,” the snapshot of a feeling to translate this into pictures / installations / artworks was my vocation, and eventually became my profession.

Long Center: How did the idea of LOVE HATE come to you? What’s the story behind this piece?

Mia: “LOVE HATE is everywhere!” There is a battle of extremes on both sides — for or against.

It seems as if we can only love or hate — do or do not — blaspheme or praise — kiss or romp — dance or stand still — be there or go — follow or lead — judgment or mercy — shame or harm?

That is why art in public space is so important to symbolize a change of perspective.

The LOVE HATE sculptures have been installed in over twenty European cities in cooperation with the EU’s culture committee, even in Moscow, and are now taking this transatlantic step thanks to the EU Delegation to the US and the German Embassy in Washington. We are also in dialogue with the Israeli Embassy and Mayor of Jerusalem.

From image to message to movement, from sculpture to social sculpture for all people. 

LOVE HATE reflects the turmoil but also the hope of the 21st century like no other work of art.

The sculpture, reddish brown "love" in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate with Mia sitting atop it

Long Center: As you said,  LOVE HATE has toured through many different countries before landing in Austin, and its message rings loud and clear given the cruelty happening in Ukraine. How has each location contributed to the message of the piece, and why is this an important message for Austin?

Mia: Art has always changed the world. It is a guarantor of democracy, freedom of expression, and a culture of debate. Artistic freedom as an indicator of democratic societies must always be defended. History shows that artists, like seismographs, sense social/econimic tensions and make them visible to the public through their works. That is why art in public space is the No. 1 exhibition platform that inspires us for a change of perspective.

Art + resistance/actionism = ARTIVISM! This is the answer to conflicts of the 21st century. In the terrible example of Ukraine, we see what people around the world are capable of doing to defend their democratic values (which include artistic freedom). They demonstrate, they show solidarity, they use WORD and deed, they improvise, they use their creativity, they create a common narrative and they are literally a living example of how an image can turn into a movement. That’s LOVE HATE for me. It’s not an artwork — it’s a revolution! We are all children of the revolution.

Austin is a super upcoming city in the US reflecting a NEW NOW. Just like Berlin was for Europe 10-20 years ago. Where better to install LOVE HATE than in the heart of Texas, where more free & creative spirit, like Austin, is needed? 

Mia stands in the middle of the LOVE HATE sculptures in the middle of a European city street

Long Center: What keeps you curious and creating? What ideas and messages will you explore next?

Mia: I’m a deep diver when it comes to humans and stories — every day gives me ideas & inspiration. In my case, it’s more a selection of information that I will decide on, whether this will be another Mona Lisa piece or not 😉

I cannot not work or reflect — my life is my art and the other way around. Even when I’m depressed. In fact, that’s great in many ways because pain is the petrol for creativity, right? So my advice: stop talking, start acting. Take your broken heart and turn it into art!

Long Center: What are you working on now? Any projects you can share with us?

Mia: Besides the European tour and the roadshow of LOVE HATE in the US, our studio is dealing with exhibitions, installations, and art fairs. As a personal, symbolic project right now — reflecting the war in Ukraine — I just built a giant NEW NOW for the city of Berlin in cooperation with an indpeendent new channel who broadcast from a media boat called Mediapioneer. Together we curated an online auction to sell it and donate all proceeds to journalists in the Ukraine.

Long Center: What do you hope people take with them from the piece?

Mia: A change of perspective — hopefully! That art is system relevant! The only way out of any absurdity is creativity!!

LOVE HATE sits under the Long Center ring beam with the Austin skyline in the background

KEEP IN TOUCH

At the Long Center, we’ve always got a new partnership or something cool we know you’ll want to check out! Find and follow us @longcenter on your social media platform of choice, and we’ll see you real soon.

With only 22 days to go before the big show — that is, the Heller Awards for Young Artists Ceremony where we bring together a ton of students from 32 high schools to celebrate their musical theatre accomplishments for the year — our excitement is nearing extreme porportions. And what better way to get into the spirit of things than to check in with this year’s Ceremony hosts, program alumni Donelvan Thigpen and Jessica O’Brien? See what they had to say about the HAYAs and why they keep coming back to be a part of it in today’s Mid-Week Intermission.

And did we mention that the Heller Awards Ceremony is back in business, live and in-person in Dell Hall? It all goes down April 14th, and tickets to the show go on sale March 31st at 8pm. Sign up for alerts if you don’t want to miss it.

MEET THIS YEAR'S HOSTS, DONELVAN & JESSICA
Tell us a little about you. How did you get where you are today?
Donelvan, wearing glasses and a white and red t-shirt, sits cross-leged against a green field

Donelvan: My journey in performing started in the 3rd grade when my elementary school did The Music Man Jr. I played Marcellus Washburn and from that moment on I’ve been obsessed with the arts.

I wanted to learn how to sing, dance, and act. Musical theatre semed like the perfect place to learn how to become a triple threat, so I started to train with Ginger Morris (that’s the Producing Director of the Heller Awards, for those who don’t know her), and other great teachers, which led me to get accepted into the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

Jessica, poses with a big smile, a hat, and a peace sign in a tree-filled park

Jessica: I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without the gifts of my high school theatre director, Kristie Copeland, and Ginger Morris. It was truly more than just the programs they offered — it was the passion, love, excellence, and inspiration that being in my high school musicals year after year instilled.

It was also the confidence gained by meeting Ginger in my Select Ensemble audition for the very first Musical Awards (called ‘The GAHSMTAs’ back in 2014), and the amazement at her ability to put together a genuine celebration for what we love as human beings and are here on this earth to do. Seeing true collaboration at its finest from female directors, who valued who I was as a person and artist, especially being ayoung woman of color, was a blessing and something I will treasure forever.

What projects are you working on right now? Anything we can check out soon?

Donelvan: Right now, I’m headlining on the Las Vegas Strip! I play Prince in Purple Reign The Prince Tribute Show. And if you’re in Vegas, you can check it out Wednesday through Saturday at 9:30pm!

Jessica: I’m currently serving as a new member of the Board of Directors for the Georgetown Palace Theatre, and am grateful to serve that community right now. I wrote a book about my experience up to this point in life as a black woman. I talk about about a few of the challenges I’ve had to overcome in theatre and in myself, but also highlight the genuine joy I’ve felt.

Being a woman of color is something I celebrate in my book, and I hope to encourage other people to be inspired to celebrate who they are as well!

We know you were in volved in the Heller Awards when you were in high school (in the GAHSMTA days!), but what makes you want to keep coming back and being involved?

Donelvan: Doing a musical in high school was so much fun, but it was also a lot of hard work! I want to be involved with the Awards because I believe any school that attempts to put on a musical should be honored and recognized, and that’s exactly what happens at the Heller Awards.

Jessica: It is amazing to see the caliber of professionalism that has been growing over the last few years because of the HAYAs. Yet I keep coming back because HS musicals are where I got my start. Austin is my home and it was the education programs like this one where I met some of my best friends and some truly amazing people who have challenged me along my journey. I’m passionate about leaving behind a higher ceiling for the next generation of artsits around me, and I am so excited to celebrate with these students and directors!

QUICK ASIDE
Did you catch those Nominations announcements??

Prepare for the Awards on April 14th with this 37-minute video announcing our 2022 nominees, plus a fun musical theatre number because we’re ‘back in business, and ain’t it grand.’ Not your thing? You can also save some time and check out the Nominations in this blog.

5 LESSONS FROM THE HELLER AWARDS DONELVAN & JESSICA USE EVERY DAY
Donelvan dressed as Prince in Purple Reign The Prince Tribute Show, in a blakc suit against a purple background

1 // Be adaptable. At some point, something you never thought would happen is going to happen, but if you’re adaptable you can always move forward.

2 // Never take anything personally.

3 // This one’s more of a quote. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Almost everything you do in life requires collaboration and especially in the arts.

4 // Always do your best. Even if you don’t feel at your best on a given day, if you do the best that you have at that moment, you can go to sleep with no regrets.

5 // Always cherish the present moment. I had a lot of anxiety waiting for a better moment to come along, or for something great to happen. But with that mindset, even when that “great moment” comes along, you’ll miss it because you’re already thinking about the next thing. 

All of your power is stored at this very moment. That’s all there is. (If you want to go deeper in this, check out “The Power of Now,” by Eckhart Tolle.

Jessica, sings powerfully into a handheld microphone wearing a sparkly silver dress

1 // It takes a village, but collaboration is a recipe for success.

2 // It takes having conversations and listening to those around you to produce a production that is valuable to all involved.

1 // It’s not personal, it’s just business.

2 // Everyone is doing their best, so give kindness and grace to everyone involved.

5 // Show up as you are, because that can speak volumes.

ARTS EDUCATION MATTERS

Show your support for arts education by following @hellerawardsatx on your social media platform of choice, or take it one step further and make a donation to the Heller Awards for Young Artists today. The future of arts education is here, and you can make sure it continues.

 

The Heller Awards for Young Artists are back in business! Ain’t it grand 🤩

We kicked things off on March 6 with a Virtual Nominations Ceremony, but in case you missed it (and want to avoid spoilers!), you can watch the recording below 👇

 

Are you ready? Okay, good.

THE 2022 haya NOMINEES ARE…

 

Congratulations to all the performers, crews, teachers, schools, and families who participated! We’ll see ya in Dell Hall real soon; April 14 to be exact. Until then, be sure to follow @hellerawardsatx on the social media platform of your choice for school shout outs and behind-the-scenes goodies. 

If you’re already looking forward to a post-SXSW cool-down, we have just the ticket — enter the cool jazz sounds of Christian McBride, headed to the Long Center March 25th with his New Jawn ensemble. A jazz legend by trade and whizz on the double bass, we got to sit down with Christian for a brief moment during his whirlwind European tour to check in ahead of his Austin appearance. Read on in this Mid-Week Intermssion for a brief peek behind the tour van door.

If you’re already sold 👉 You can still snag a few tickets to see Christian McBride’s New Jawn on March 25th with Austin locals Brannen Temple Express. We recommend.

INTRODUCING CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE
Christian, a tall black man in a gray suit, leans against a wall and smiles as he stands with his double bass

From coast to coast, Christian McBride is the voice and sound of jazz in America — literally, he hosts NPR’s Jazz Night in America — just check out this curated list from the show of the latest and best jazz out there right now. He frequently tours across the globe, including with his quartet, New Jawn, and winning a host of GRAMMY Awards along the way.

Powered by a relentless energy and a boundless love of swing, McBride’s path has described a continuous positive arc since his arrival on the scene. With a career now blazing into its third decade, the Philadelphia native has become one of the most requested, most recorded, and most respected figures in the music world today. You’re gonna understand why really soon.

So let’s get into it!

Long Center: So tell us a little bit about how you’ve handled the chaos of the last year. How have you stayed creative?

Christian: Even though the pandemic was a long, difficult, and sometimes scary time full of unkowns, on the other hand, having time off the road actually gave me more space to be creative, etc. 

I was able to spend more time with my wife Melissa, and our dogs, and event spent some time cooking! Aside from some pivoting to Zoom (like the rest of the world) on projects like recording episodes of my SiriusXM show (The Lowdown: Conversations with Christian) remotely rather than in person, it fortunately did not affect things too much.

Long Center: Well we’re incredibly excited to have you on stage at the end of the month. What’s it been like to tour again? How have the members of the New Jawn stayed connected to each other and to listeners?

Christian:  The time off was nice, but it’s great to be on tour again see so many friends. My band, New Jawn (that’s Marcus Strickland, Josh Evans, and Nasheet Waits) did actually play together a few times during the pandemic — at the Village Vanguard (a livestream with no audience) and a similar livestream taping for Celebrity Series in Boston. So we were grateful for that.

Christian in suit, tie, and hat, strolls down a street with a pipe.
Quick Aside:
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT BRANNEN TEMPLE and the EXPRESS

Brannen Temple is a 3X Gammy Award-winning drummer and Austin native, who is best known as a drummer for acts like Eric Burdon, Robben Ford, Lizz Wright, Eric Johnson, Ruthie Foster and more.

He leads his modern jazz/soul band Brannen Temple Express, which features trombonist Andre Hayward (Duke Ellington Band), pianist Dayne Reliford (Hannibal Lokumbe), saxophonist LaQuin Lay (DJ Beverly Bond), bassist D-Madness (Tribal Nation) and percussionist Mikel Urdy (Marc Broussard).

Long Center: Okay Christian, we have to ask… any new projects or albums in the works that you can share with us?

Christian: New Jawn recently went into the studio, as well, to record some new tunes… so stay tuned!

Long Center: As we keep getting back out there and safely host events and shows again, we’re encouraging all of our readers to give into their curiosity and discover something new.

What have you been curious about? 

Christian: I tend to stay curious about everything, all the time. I read a lot, try to go to museums, and want to always keep my brain active.

Curiosity expands your intelligence. I’d like to think that I make multiple discoveries every day, but I most recently discovered T25 workout videos while on the road… it’s serious!!!

Long Center: For those who are into jazz but may not know where to start, any recommended artists for newcomers to explore?

Christian: The go-to is always Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. It’s the perfect album.

Long Center: What can our concert goers expect from your show on March 25th? What do you hope they take home with them from the experience?

Christian: I no longer have any wishes for the audiences to take home a particular feeling. However the music makes them feel, it’s how they feel. I just hope they’re going to be curious, and listen with open ears and an open heart.

Christian wears a super cool maroon blazer as he poses with his hat

KEEP IN TOUCH

At the Long Center, we’ve always got a new partnership or something cool we know you’ll want to check out! Find and follow us @longcenter on your social media platform of choice, and we’ll see you real soon.

Don’t get us wrong — we’ve loved all the growing pains of creating theatre in a digital world these last two years. But we can say with all honesty that we’re so happy that the 2022 Heller Awards for Young Artists Ceremony will be returning to Dell Hall! We’re kicking things off big with a virtual Nominations Day stream to start the countdown to the big day. Tune in March 6 at 7:30pm on YouTube to watch with us!

You can expect a fully-produced opening number performed by the Select Ensemble, nomination announcements for 16 categories and 3 student achievement awards across 30+ school productions, and plenty of support and excitement for our return to the big stage.

CATCH UP BEFORE THE 2022 NOMINATIONS

Our 2021 Nominations stream started out with a musical number for the ages. Watch this collab from our Select Ensemble and HAYA alumni 👇

 

The show must go on – instead of skipping a year, we created an all-virtual production for 2021 with innovative tech from Co-Production House. Read all about it!

 

 

Relive the magic and see how our video capture translated to the big screen by watching the full 2021 Awards Ceremony all over again!

We hope you’ll tune in with us and support this incredible program. Show your support for arts education by following @hellerawardsatx on your social media platform of choice, or take it one step further and make a donation to the Heller Awards for Young Artists today. The future of arts education is here, and you can make sure it continues.

The time has come — we’re so excited to kick off I Live Here I Give Here’s 24 hours of community giving through Amplify Austin! We’ve made it our mission to continue to lift up our artistic community by providing platforms, resources, and overwhelming support for local artists and arts orgs. But guess what — you’re in luck, because today is the perfect time for you to do the same!

Last year, we raised $40,000 together to keep our local artists performing safely. This year, with your help, we know we can raise $50,000 and push that support even further, because when we give emerging artists a leg up and spotlight community orgs, our shared curiosity brings us closer together. So, here are 5 reasons to donate and #AmplifyYourCuriosity today.

 
Gina Chavez, a tall woman with short dark hair in a white flowy blouse sings straight to the camera
 
 
Reason #1 // 
Because we want more moments like this one 🤩

We all felt the joy of re-emerging and remembering what it was like to have a good time the Austin way — that is, with some unforgettable live performances on stages, in parks, and back at our favorite local venues. It’s time to explore and give into our ATX brand of curiosity that knows a new creative discovery is around every corner. We’re here to help with that, because moments like this one ☝️ are one of a kind.

a crowd sits watching a brightly-lit show on the H-E-B terrace at night
 
 
Reason #2 //
To give up-and-coming creatives a boost

Throughout the last two years, we’ve hunkered down and made it our mission to continue to connect Austinites with artists, industry workers with industry work, and unique stages with those who need them in whatever ways we can.

Just like you, the thing we love most about this place is that stars are born here, so what we do — through shows and experiences, like The Drop-In and Good Vibes Only — is focused on giving those up-and-comings and next-best-things the boost they need to connect, discover, and create. And that goes for the youngest artists out there (shoutout to our Heller Awards high schoolers) plus some extra local love for our local scene.

a stylish black woman with short hair sticks her tonge out at the camera while dancing
 
 
Reason #3 //
To (re)connect with your neighbors

Community connections are a big part of what we believe in here at the LC. That’s meant reconnecting with organizations and partnering with others to not only see how we could grow our relationships, but how we could support them in bigger and better ways.

Last year, we got to know the team at Six Square through a playlist exchange and saw Big Freedia return to the Long Center for their Beyond the Square Festival. There was also a movie premiere with Austin Asian American Film Festival, a fundraiser for the Musician Treatment Foundation to provide critical healthcare for musical artists, and an unforgettable Keep Live Music Alive fest with Black Fret. And with your support during Amplify Austin, just think of all the new connections we can dream up!

a moodily-lit stage is packed with jazz musicians with a standing base in the background and strings in the foreground against a magenta stage scrim

 

 

Reason #4 //
Because there’s no experience like an Austin experience

Austin isn’t called the Live Music Capital of the World for nothing — it’s the city’s bread & butter. This also means that things happen on Austin stages that don’t happen anywhere else, and we’ve been honored to connect our most unique stages with the funds they need to get through these pandemic lows.

These stages are as unique as Austin itself. We’ve got neighborhood joints on every street corner, backdoors in every alley way, with no chance of a boring night out. And for us, we’re pleased to be more than your average performing arts center for not-your-average city, where anyone and everyone can cheer on an Austin FC game, watch the sunset over downtown while living it up at a free show, or catching your favorite celeb for one night only from the best seat in the house.

a group of friedns enjoy a show on the Long Center lawn

 

 

Reason #5 //
Because we have the most fun when we’re together

It’s as simple as that. We’re in the business of creating opportunities — and we mean any opportunity — for Austinites to hang out and enjoy. Your gift to the Long Center during Amplify Austin supports everything that we do, and puts Austin artists at the top of our list as we champion what makes this place the best place to call “home.” Thanks for chipping in to #AmplifyYourCuriosity with us!

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