By any measure, PhotoMidwest 2006 is a big event. Organized by the Center of Photography at Madison, the month-long celebration of photography (which runs through the end of October) includes workshops, lectures and dozens of exhibitions at 80 different venues.
Held every other year, PhotoMidwest began life in 2002 as the locally focused Photo Fest. Today, it concentrates on the work of amateur and professional photographers from seven Midwestern states, and chairperson Patricia Delker says it draws attendees from as far away as California and Canada.
Most PhotoMidwest-related exhibitions are booked by the participating photographers themselves. The event also features a juried group show at the Wisconsin Union Galleries in the UW Memorial Union. This year's juror is Catherine Edelman of Chicago's Catherine Edelman Gallery, one of the leading exhibitors of contemporary photography in the Midwest.
PhotoMidwest's exhibitions, lectures and workshops have no particular theme, and all photographic approaches and processes are considered fair game. 'We're not concerned about how images are produced,' Delker explains. 'We're concerned about the quality of the images.'
Lectures and workshops also run the gamut from serious esthetic considerations of photography to hands-on instruction about specific techniques. One of this year's highlights is award-winning Minnesota photographer Alec Soth's lecture at the Chazen Museum of Art (Oct. 30). Soth's work was one of the hits of the Whitney Museum of American Art's 2004 biennale, and his 'Sleeping by the Mississippi' project has been praised for the way it depicts contemporary life along the country's longest river.
A workshop on photographing from the heart led by Doug Beasley (Oct. 20-22), a well-known advocate of the content-over-camera technique, should also be a big draw.
Even with more than a hundred events this year, Delker is certain that PhotoMidwest has room to grow. She'd love to bring corporate sponsors on board (currently grants, workshop fees and volunteers from the Center for Photography are its lifeblood), and she'd also like to add photographers from more states to the mix. But whatever shape PhotoMidwest takes in the future, she says its emphasis will remain the photography scene flourishing in the nation's heartland.
'We're just trying to reach out to people throughout the Midwest and show that there is good photography occurring throughout the region.'
For a complete PhotoMidwest schedule, see www.photomidwest.org.
Meet the new boss
Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has admitted that, in part, he chose newly appointed Overture Center director Tom Carto over two other finalists for the job because of his proven fundraising prowess. That makes financial sense, since the arts facility faced an unexpected '- and at times contentious '- refinancing process last year.
During a brief interview on Tuesday, just prior to his confirmation by the Madison Common Council, Carto indicated that he would hit the ground running once he wraps up his duties as president and CEO of the Renaissance Performing Arts Association in Mansfield, Ohio.
First up for him, says Carto, is developing relationships with arts groups and community leaders and keeping them involved in Overture's future. He also plans to develop a broad fundraising strategy.
'Most nonprofit performing arts groups have a component of their income as contributed income, some as much as 50%,' he notes. 'It can come from grant writing, it can come from sponsorships, it can come from annual funds, and it can come from memberships, individual donations and foundations. How that fits with the rest of the fundraising picture in Madison, with the rest of the arts and nonprofit organizations in the city, is where a long-term strategy will come in.'
Since he won't start his duties at Overture until January, Carto won't be crafting programming for the 2007-2008 season. But he will give some input to interim director Michael Goldberg. In Mansfield, he booked many of the same touring Broadway shows and entertainment events that regularly make up Overture's schedule. On the other hand, he says Overture offers more opportunities for programming, as well as access to a larger, more dynamic community. That has him excited.
'We tried a number of things at RPA with more eclectic programming '- modern dance, ethnic world music and things like that,' he says. 'I think there's much more potential here for audience development in those areas, and in areas of programming that can be nurtured and cultivated. And here you have the venues to start small and hopefully grow things into bigger venues, whereas in Mansfield we were locked into one big and one medium-size [hall].'
As yet, it's unclear whether Carto will promote big changes at Overture or play the role of a creative caretaker. But he's clearly thrilled with the opportunity to step up to a much larger facility and community.
And that's a good sign.