Mike Lee | KUT

Senior Producer: Arts Eclectic, Get Involved, Sonic IDs

Mike is a features producer at KUT, where he’s been working since his days as an English major at the University of Texas. He produces Arts Eclectic, Get Involved, and the Sonic ID project, and also produces videos and cartoons for kut.org. When pressed to do so, he’ll write short paragraphs about himself in the third person, but usually prefers not to.

Several years ago, he featured a young dancer on his Arts Eclectic program, and she was so impressed by his interviewing skills that she up and married him. Now they enjoy traveling, following their creative whims, and spending time with their dogs.

Now in its sixth year, Austin’s OUTsider Festival is one of those rare yearly fests that’s purposefully trying not to become bigger every year. Curran Nault, the creator and artistic director of the LGBTQ+ arts festival, says that staying small and intimate is central to the mission of OUTsider. “One of our intents is actually always to, in some ways, not get bigger. To kind of stay super-intimate,” Nault says. “Because one of the things that OUTsider, I think, does really well is creating a sense of intimacy between the audience and the artist.”

SaulPaul’s Alien Adventure, a new family-friendly musical, was inspired by musician SaulPaul’s mission to spread positive messages into the world and also – perhaps more surprisingly – by his catching a dance competition show on TV.

“I was actually inspired by watching ‘World of Dance’ … a show I’d never seen before and really wasn’t into,” SaulPaul says. “But I was amazed by the beautiful sets. And each week they’d have these dancers and they’d create this world and they would dance.”

From Dress For Success Austin, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:

At Dress for Success Austin, we transform lives with an all-in-one solution to help anyone who identifies as a woman secure gainful employment and career advancement through career and image consulting. The mission of Dress for Success Austin is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and development tools to help them thrive in work and in life.

For the next few months, the Neill-Cochran House Museum will host If These Walls Could Talk, a collaborative art piece from actor Jennifer Cumberbatch and sculptor Ginger Geyer. It’s an ambitious undertaking, featuring dozens of Geyer’s porcelain works, several performances by Cumberbatch, filmed pieces, discussions and more.

Geyer says she’s fitting her sculptures in all around the house. There are 78 pieces on display, “tucked into the bedrooms, into the parlors, and actually hidden in plain sight,” Geyer says. “The visitor’s going to be a little fooled by trying to find them, because they are of the tradition of trompe l’oeil, or ‘fool the eye.’ You might call it a scavenger hunt or an Easter egg hunt.”

SoundSpace, the ongoing hybrid art series produced by Steve Parker at UT’s Blanton Museum of Art, returns this weekend with Not Bad Muzak, a new installment inspired by elevator music and its close cousin, telephone on-hold music.

“It aligns with a current exhibition by Ed Ruscha at the museum,” Parker says. “[Ruscha] uses text a lot in his work, and he often paints landscapes in the back. The text is the subject but the landscape in the back he refers to as ‘elevator music."

It might not seem like a natural partnership, but Sky Candy, the aerial arts studio and training center, and the Umlauf, Austin’s venerable sculpture garden and museum, have recently gotten into the habit of hosting galas for one another. “We got in touch through mutual friends, and Sky Candy was kind enough to perform at our other fundraiser, Garden Party, last year,” says Sarah Story, Umlauf’s executive director. 

From The Settlement Home For Children, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:

                                                                                                                                    

About The Settlement Home for Children

At The Settlement Home for Children, our mission is to promote healing and growth in children, young adults and families by providing a continuum of care, support and resources. We serve individuals who have experienced severe emotional trauma, abuse and neglect.  

“I think so often, people see someone performing – like a comedian – and they assume they’re confident and sort of have it all figured out,” says performer Stephanie Thoreson. “But there’s actually a huge intersection between mental health [issues] and the arts community.”

Scott Paxton

For several years now, the folks at Soundwaves Art Foundation have been creating and selling original art to raise money for charity. Their new endeavor is called W’ALL Austin, and while it’s got a similar goal, it’s a much larger project. It’s an actual wall that’s (at its highest point) fifteen feet tall and growing.

Kirk Tuck

Zach Theatre’s musical version of A Christmas Carol is now in its sixth season, but the idea for the show was kicking around in artistic director Dave Steakley’s brain for years before making it to the Topfer stage.

“This has been percolating for me for about fifteen years,” Steakley says. “[And] this version of A Christmas Carol has evolved every year.”

Annie Winsett

Eighteen years ago, the folks at Blue Genie decided to throw together a small art show, to sell off the employees’ art to holiday shoppers.

Dana Younger, one of Blue Genie’s founders, says they didn’t really expect to keep putting on that holiday show every year for the next couple of decades, but that’s what happened.

From We Are Blood, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:

We Are Blood is the nonprofit blood center serving Central Texans since 1951, when they were founded as the “Travis County Medical Society Blood Bank.” Sixty-eight years later, We Are Blood continues to collect blood donations at three donation centers and numerous mobile blood drives across 10 counties in Central Texas, providing a life-saving resource for our neighbors in need. 

Colton Matocha

Robert Segovia, the writer and director of the new comedic two-act play Losers in Space suggests that the play might not exist if he hadn’t lost his job a while back. “I started writing it three or four years ago, and… didn’t think I was a good enough writer,” he says “And I got laid off, which is sad, but it did give me time of like, oh, it’s kind of now or never to write this thing.”

Alan Trammel

Mark Pickell, the artistic director of Capital T Theatre company, has long been a fan of Chicago-based playwright Mickle Maher, so he was eager to produce Maher’s new work here in Austin.

“He wrote this new one – it just premiered in Chicago this summer – and he sent it [to me], and it was brilliant,” Pickell says.

Julia Mann

When Wizard World returns to the Austin Convention Center next weekend, there will be celebrity guests and panel discussions and lots of cosplay and lots of very nerdy stuff to buy or just gawk at. There will also be local art. 

Every year, the Artists’ Alley section of the convention features artists showing, selling and talking about their work. This year, Austin’s Theresa Schlossberg and Julia Mann will be two of the participating artists.

From HomeAid Austin, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:

HomeAid's mission is: "Building new lives for Austin’s homeless through housing and community outreach."

Ryah Christensen

The Rosewood-Zaragosa Neighborhood Center is one of six Austin Public Health facilities that offer social and health services to Austin residents. It’s also now the home of “The Community Quilt,” a large-scale mosaic artwork that was created by the members of the community themselves.

Jessica Arroyo

“I’ve been thinking about doing this for about six years,” says tango lover and Guardia Vieja founder Pooja Kumar. “I had already kind of started to meet different people who were looking at tango as not just a dance – they had other aspects of it that they were really interested in. I’ve just kind of been thinking about how I can bring them all together.”

According to Penfold Theatre’s producing artistic director Ryan Crowder, the musical Ghost Quartet “started out as a kind of concept album of spooky things. There are tons of stories inspired by various sources, [such as] 1001 Arabian Nights and Fall of the House of Usher, and the Grimm’s Fairy Tales – all of these different ghost stories are packed into it.” 

Steve Rogers

The new show Angola uses the improv comedy format to take a look at an unexpected subject matter – mass incarceration in America. It’s a heavy topic to discuss with comedy, and Angola aims to eschew easy laughs to take a grounded but satirical approach.  

“I posted something on Facebook one day about comedians who choose to be unhappy so that they can stay funny,” says comedian Katie Stone. “And it was just basically like, ‘what’s the endgame here?’”

From MOVE Texas, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:

ABOUT: 

MOVE Texas is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, grassroots organization working to build power in underrepresented youth communities through civic engagement, leadership development, and issue advocacy. MOVE is an acronym for the pillars of our programmatic work: Mobilize. Organize. Vote. Empower. 

John Mulvany

Artist John Mulvany hasn’t had a solo show of paintings in quite a while, largely because his life started getting a little busier lately.

“I had kids in the last few years, and they’ve taken a lot of time [and] energy and art kind of went on the back burner for a little bit,” he says. “But during that time I was doing a lot of walking around my neighborhood in East Austin, just noticing a lot of things that I hadn’t before. And the show sort of evolved from there.”

Sandy Carson

“How long do you need to be here before you’re actually Texan, right?” asks photographer Sandy Carson.

He was born in Scotland but moved to Texas in the '90s, so he’s now lived roughly half his life in the Lone Star State. “I suppose I’m a Scottish Texan by now, right? If you’re half and half?”

Katie Bender describes the premise behind her new solo show thusly: “I’m hosting a series of séances to communicate [with] and hopefully resurrect the spirit of Harry Houdini.”

“This piece is called In Light, and it’s really the exploration which I have been doing for many, many years – the human journey on the earth in these times,” says Sally Jacques, the artistic director of Blue Lapis Light. “So it deals with our human experiences and then the possibility of transformation.”

“Paper chairs [is] always interested in making the pedestrian – the familiar – feel strange,” says paper chairs co-artistic director Elizabeth Doss. “And this play sort of delivers that in spades.”

Errich Petersen

“It’s crazy,” says director Jenny Lavery of the new comedy Dance Nation, which is having its regional premiere at the Long Center this month. “The playwright [Clare Barron] is pushing form and content in a way that I have never seen before."

From League of Women Voters Austin Area, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:

About Us

The League of Women Voters Austin Area is an all-volunteer, membership nonprofit covering Travis and Williamson Counties.  Our strength, for 100 years, is rooted in the commitment of grassroots members, volunteers, and help from donors like you. 

Writer and performer Laura de la Fuente created the character Liz Behan spontaneously one day, while driving from Marfa back home to Austin.

“There was a lot of open road, I was with my wife next to me, and I had just bought this new hat,” de la Fuente says. “It was this gorgeous felt hat with leather around it and studs. [I] put on this hat while I was driving back and started singing this song, and it went ‘Open road, Texas sky … I love my wife and I’m a womaaaaaaan!’ And from there, Liz Behan was born.”

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