[Announcer] Funding for The Art Show is made possible by the L & L Nippert Charitable Foundation, Montgomery County, the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. Foundation, The Virginia W. Kettering Foundation The Sutphin Family Foundation.
Additional funding provided by... (no audio) and viewers like you.
In this edition of "The Art Show": crafting the perfect sound, (upbeat music) sharing a passion for West African dance, and getting uncomfortable with modern and contemporary art.
It's all ahead on this edition of "The Art Show."
(upbeat music) (upbeat music) Hi, I am Rodney Veal and welcome to "The Art Show" where each week we provide access to local, regional, and national artists and arts organizations.
World-renowned luthier Don MacRostie has dedicated his life to creating mandolins with the perfect sound.
He owns and operates Red Diamond Mandolins in Athens, Ohio where he puts his heart and soul into each one of his handmade instruments.
In 2022, Don received an Ohio Heritage Fellowship Award for material culture from the Ohio Arts Council.
Here's his story.
(mandolin music) I moved to this farm a little over 40 years ago.
I've been out here about 41, 42 years.
Moving here, there was a machinery shed that I thought that'll make a nice shop.
I think I got kind of interested in the guitar in high school.
It was during the folk revival of the '50s and '60s, and I was interested in that music and trying to learn that.
My name is Don MacRostie.
I own and operate Red Diamond Mandolins here in Athens, Ohio.
I graduated college in '66, and that was around the start of the Vietnam War.
So I wound up in the Navy.
I was in Vietnam, I was on an aircraft carrier.
I got out of the service in '70.
I decided to use my GI bill, go back to college.
I came to Ohio University.
I enjoyed not only going to college, but I loved the area.
I saw a lot of the county and a lot of the Southeast Ohio, and I've been here ever since.
My sister-in-law had a mandolin, so I was looking at that and I don't have a lot of space.
It'd be a lot easier to build a smaller instrument.
So that's how I got to pick the mandolin.
I was thinking about a name that I could put on the peghead and I was reading a book about a fellow who in the 1800s was traveling Europe hunting Stradivarius violins, and one of the names of the Stradivarius violins was the Red Diamond.
And I said, "Ah, that's a name, I'll use that."
I've been building for close to 50 years.
I've seen how instruments come through to the audience and there's an instrument that seems to, for bluegrass music really project out a sound.
And that's the Gibsons of the early '20s.
They were signed by Lloyd Loar.
Don MacRostie is one of those guys that was always on the search for the secret formula to the best sounding mandolin, and in my opinion, he found it.
What sets Don's mandolins apart from the rest, in my opinion, is the constant pursuit of the golden era sound.
And when I say that, I mean the mandolins of the early 1920s that were manufactured by Gibson.
He's come up with this really interesting process of measuring the flexibility of the top and back of some of those legendary mandolins, and then using those measurements to kind of guide his own building process.
(water sizzling) When I build mandolins, I start out with the sides.
I make the blocks, I bend the sides, and glue them up into a rib assembly.
That's the first step.
And I even put the linings in that allow the tops and the backs to be attached to the side.
Then I'll carve tops next, and the tops will be carved and glued on.
And at that point, I'll voice it to some extent.
That means make it of a flexibility that will produce a good sound.
It's the combination of the art, shape, the flexibility, the species of wood, and many other things that produce a sound.
Once that's done and the neck is fitted in, I'll glue the back on, which makes the rib assembly, the body assembly very rigid.
And then you can put the neck back in it and set your angle and finish up the neck.
It'll get a fingerboard.
It'll get a peghead for mounting tuners and decoration of the peghead.
It's traditional for a good mandolin to have a darker finish.
It's a sunburst they call it.
So it's a shaded finish from a bright sun in the center, golden to a darker edge.
Once the instrument's completely done, you put strings on it.
I was building mandolins in mid '70s, and it turned out that there was a company here in Athens that did instruments there.
It was called Stewart MacDonald.
And then I got into product design with them.
I was able to do things there because of my prior building experience and the things that I was doing there, I was able to bring home and better do my building.
For bluegrass and a lot of other styles of music, the F5 mandolin is what's desirable.
The design is incredible.
A lot of people buy kind of on reputation, and if I build instruments that really please other people, I get customers.
People are excited about playing music.
They want a good instrument.
They love it, and they share with their friends.
I think Don is helping to strengthen the arts in Ohio by building the best instruments possible.
And I would consider Don's mandolins to be some of the best in the world.
You see 'em across the bluegrass scene.
Alan Bibey, a really great bluegrass mandolin player, plays his mandolins regularly.
Josh Pinkham, another amazing kind of world-renowned mandolinist, plays Don's mandolins, and it makes sense that his mandolins are some of the best in the world because he is a sensitive person that way.
He can see what you need and what you're looking for in an instrument and wants to make a product that fills what you need.
It almost feels like a family relationship when you purchase an instrument from Don.
I own two Red Diamonds, and when I look at every nook and cranny and corner, everything is just perfect.
There's not a single thing out of place.
And it's really interesting to kind of look at a mandolin and then hear the sound that comes off of.
The lows are rich and sustaining.
The highs aren't too shrilled, they're very glassy and bell like.
So it's really interesting to play a Red Diamond compared to some of these other mandolins.
There's life in every single note all across the fingerboard.
Not only is he building the best instruments that he possibly can, he's bringing attention from around the world to central and southern Ohio through the kind of craft that he's chosen in his life.
And I think that's really important because it brings fresh musicians and fresh perspectives to this region.
And then they take a little bit of Ohio back with them whenever they take one of his mandolins.
As I started building mandolins, I started learning to play mandolin too.
By playing you're able to understand musicians that you're building for.
I play with a couple of guys regularly right now.
We've played together for 40 years probably.
Music has allowed me to buy a farm, raise a family, and love what I do.
There was a term back in the '60s that I latched onto, it's called Right Livelihood, and it meant what you're doing in your working life has to be right or contribute to the planet, the world, the neighbors, and not be destructive.
And I think that building instruments and playing music is right livelihood.
I was able through both Stewart-MacDonald, employment at Stewart-MacDonald and my building to do do well, and to have a good life.
(mandolin music) (players laughing) If you'd like to learn more about this or any other story on today's show, visit us online at cetconnect.org or thinktv.org.
Dancer and educator Quianna Simpson tries to live her life by the African philosophy of Ubuntu, giving back to humanity.
Quianna began practicing traditional West African dance at the age of seven and considers herself a community dancer.
She now teaches at the Thiossane Institute in Columbus where she danced as a child.
(gentle music) I think I've always loved to move and do rhythm.
My mom says even when I was little, I was clicking my heels to songs and all of those things.
But really, formalized training, if you will, happened when Suzan Bradford, which is my mom's really, really good friend, I know her as Aunt Suzan, decided to start a children's African dance company and she needed dancers.
And it was like kind of that your friends help you out by sending their kids to your stuff, so it's like, "Go be in your aunt's dance troupe" situation, and that's really how I really got started into African dance.
At home in my living room, dancing, watching videos right before I even joined the troupe, it was always a sense of happiness and joy.
I loved every second of it.
And so moving into a children's company where there are also people around me who also enjoy to dance, was definitely a space that was opened up for me to just do really that, self-expression and have a good time and make friends.
It really just felt like a normal, another part of life that I just really enjoyed being at and doing.
I think that the learning part was definitely fun.
But it felt more like kinship and friendship and being a part of something but that connector feeling that was like, ahhh.
(traditional African music) (dancers laughing) I think the performing was the key to me really knowing that I loved it, that I felt a different sense of confidence and excitement and all of those things.
I always grew up shy and timid.
And people are like, "You're always so quiet."
And then I get on stage and I just like explode.
So traditionally in African dance, we wear what is called a lapa.
And it ties around your skirt so it would feel very similar to maybe putting on a tutu, seeing as you have to wrap it right around.
But it is traditionally worn, and so in Africa, a lot of the ethnic groups there, so we wear it as traditional dress for dance.
And then really could be very comfortable on the top but bare feet are very important.
In African dance specifically, for us, the way that we use that is as a connector to the ground, to Mother Earth, to give back into us.
And you can feel those vibrations.
The drum is kind of pounding and it sits on the floor and so it vibrates the floor and those same vibrations kind of come right back up through your heels.
And I think that's really awesome too.
I think honestly that's what kind of fueled my passion for live music.
I love dancing to live music.
(drums beating) Thiossane specifically does focus on traditional West African dance, that's what we go for.
And it is to present and preserve the culture through music and dance.
And I think it's important for us to do that because it continues to give African Americans an understanding that we had a whole life before slavery, that there were and there still are sisters and brothers of ours who have had freedom this entire time and have been able to practice and support and love each other through these particular cultures and beliefs that really supported the system that they worked in, this communal idea.
And I think that's really where Thiossane focuses on presenting and preserving and showing that.
And I think that's why it's important for us to stay into what we consider a traditional form.
We want to show the roots of it.
(drums beating) I start hearing about some of the different things that they were doing over here at Ohio State, which is they had some Africanist movement instructors coming in and they were looking at celebrating those different kind of works.
And I have to admit and be honest, when I was younger, Ohio State seemed very far away from me.
I didn't see myself there, I didn't see a lot of people who looked like me.
I didn't have a problem with it.
It just wasn't my path.
I didn't do ballet.
When little girls where going to class on Saturday mornings and putting ballet shoes on and tutus, I was tying on a lapa and taking my socks and shoes off to hit the floor for African dance.
So for every recital they did, I was in the community doing a performance and so, yes, I've been able to teach African dance over the past couple of semesters and it's been great.
I love it.
I've been able to take what I've been doing in the community and really add the rigor and the study of it on another level and have the students immerse themselves in that sense.
And that's also been really great for me because I've always just been working in the community.
So also it gave me an opportunity to re-look at how I give information and instruction in this form, and what my duties are to really pass that on and make sure I give people a good foundation and information about African dance and how to really study African dance.
And that part has been great.
And so being a part of that movement has been awesome.
I've also been able to be under a new set of tutelage, if you will, about my teachings and how I do the things.
And so it's like two-fold.
I'm getting to share what I love to do, all of this information and love and passion that's already been building up inside of me, I'm teaching that, and then I'm also learning new ways to do that as well with the instructors that are here.
(gentle music) So I consider myself a community dancer because I understand how much my community has poured into me.
And there is this really strong sense of responsibility and importance that I reciprocate that, and that I now give that back to the community.
So as much as they've given me, I want to give right back to them, and to share my gift and passion in the sense that you really have this space, these people, these ideas, these beliefs and systems that we stick together, that we hold each other up, that we owe each other a sense of true humanity, is where I think kind of like just lives in me.
And the best way I could think about giving that back to those people and to these spaces is to pour it out in my dance and in my passion and what I do.
(drums beating) Part of my research here at Ohio State and part of what my drive is, is understanding the importance of when children are young and there's a moment in time or space where pouring into them, having specific leadership and guidance, having an appointed person to usher them through those little moments, which are really difficult as you kind of teenager change over.
I think those moments are really important and we need to put a little more focus there, so that when you do get to, for example, my age, that again that understanding that you were once supported by someone, so you may have that feeling or understanding that there's a little responsibility there to carry the next person.
And I think that's where my drive for humanity comes from and that's really borne out of my time with Thiossane.
I specifically had somebody guiding me and helping me through those teenage years.
And it wasn't that I was perfect.
I got suspended from school.
I know, don't tell anybody.
It's a blemish on my record.
(Quianna laughing) But I did, so I got in trouble.
I was a follower.
I didn't stand up for myself sometimes and bad decisions were made, and I cut school, so I wasn't perfect, those things happen.
But because there was someone particularly in place that could connect to me through dance, but connect to me on this thing we call life, that when I got older, I realized I made it through because somebody was holding my hand.
And so we kind of call that a rite of passage, right?
And that's what it turns over to and that's where my study is.
My study is here is about the rite of passage and the importance of rite of passage to assist and help adolescents really make that change from being a child into a young adult and the difficulty of that.
But understanding that if you give them that really good foundation and that really good understanding of who they are and who they belong to and help that hand and that guiding hand to kind of pull them through, nine times out of 10 you come out on the other end, you make some dumb decisions, but you look back and you say, "Okay, I know I made it because," right?
And then that a lot of times will have that person, one, really want to be a contributing member to their community, to their society.
But also feel the need to return and come back and do the same thing for the next person, or for the next youth, or the next child, or whoever that is.
(drums beating) (dancers cheering) (upbeat music) Did you miss an episode of "The Art Show"?
You can watch it on demand at cetconnect.org and thinktv.org.
You'll find all the previous episodes as well as current episodes and links to the artists we feature.
At the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College, a new exhibit centers on chairs and sitting.
Depictions of this basic part of daily life raises questions about privilege, bodies, and who gets a seat.
Let's step inside the gallery with the curators for a look at the exhibit "Like a Good Armchair."
(groovy music) The title of the exhibition "Like a Good Armchair" is taken from a quote from the French painter Henri Matisse in 1908 who said that art should be something like a good armchair to rest your thoughts in, rest from fatigue.
And looking through the 20th and 21st century as art progresses through social upheavals and various social movements, we see that actually vanguard art is most effective and productive when it challenges people to think differently, sort of shakes them out of their routines.
(groovy music) The museum's collection is upwards of 15,000 objects.
The modern and contemporary collection is upwards of 5,000 objects, and we have a number of armchairs by artists.
They are both statements about design and the built environment.
But this exhibition uses contemporary thinking around identities to reconsider them in the ways that those very ordinary objects and actions, chairs and sitting, are loaded with significance and layers of privilege and the expression of different identities.
I'm also standing in front of Andy Warhol's "Electric Chairs," and Andy Warhol famously resisted making explicitly political statements.
And so he sort of sugarcoats this really horrifying image, this image of state-sanctioned murder in these candy colors.
We associate Andy Warhol with celebrity in some sense, with Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.
But in fact, in the '60s and '70s, from when this series comes, he was really invested in depicting race riots, electric chairs, car crashes, plane crashes, suicides.
And so there is this darker undertone.
(groovy music) So this piece is by Alison Saar, it's called "Lave Tete."
She's thinking about this Haitian and Cuban tradition of washing one's head as a means of cleansing the spirit.
As you can see here, the person is naked.
And so this would have been done nude with other women.
And it was meant to be a very intimate act.
And so alongside that, you can also see these pots.
And I think that speaks to an expectation of domestic labor for women.
(groovy music) We have from the museum's African art collection, a Chokwe Chief's Chair, 20th century.
And this really inverts a number of stereotypes in modern art specifically in Western modern art.
And the idea that avant garde artists like Picasso were borrowing from tribal art to create Cubism.
This chair turns that idea on its head because it's actually an example of African artists appropriating a European form of chair to symbolize prestige.
I'm an undergrad student and I don't think that many students get the chance to collaborate on an exhibition.
So I'm really grateful to Sam and to the Allen.
Something that I had noticed, there seemed to be a lack of other conceptions of sitting in Asia.
There's a tradition in Asia of sitting on the floor or on mats, and that is how we connect with the earth.
And so I really was hoping to see more of that represented.
And so in doing so, we had some Buddha figures that we included in the exhibition, but we also dipped into the Asian collection, and we found this Ebina Masao, and the series depicts royal figures in court.
I think that it's really intimate, both of their gazes demure to each other and away from the viewer and the artist, and paired with these other works, they're all very intimate.
And I really think that's transcultural and transhistorical.
And I really think that it's a beautiful concept, and I think that ties together the entire show.
(groovy music) I think it's pretty amazing just having started working with this permanent collection, that it can actually tell these very, very broad stories that range from World War I and II veterans, to decolonization and diaspora, to design and identity in the 1980s, to gender, sexuality, disability, and ableism.
And so, but at the same time, it is also just a chance for us to take out some artworks that people might love to see.
(groovy music) If you need more art goodness in your life, the podcast "Rodney Veal's Inspired By" is available now.
You can find it on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Learn more and find show notes at thinktv.org or cetconnect.org/inspiredby.
And that wraps it up for this edition of "The Art Show."
Until next time, I'm Rodney Veal.
Thanks for watching.
(upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) [Announcer] Funding for "The Art Show" is made possible by the L & L Nippert Charitable Foundation, Montgomery County, the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. Foundation, The Virginia W. Kettering Foundation, The Sutphin Family Foundation.
Additional funding provided by... (no audio) and viewers like you.
Closed captioning in part has been made possible through a grant from The Bahmann Foundation.