On October 15, 2011 the International Art Museum of America (IAMA) located near 6th and Market streets in San Francisco, celebrated its grand opening.
Proceedings got underway in a festive way courtesy of the Leung White Crane Dragon and Lion Dance Association. They danced on the sidewalk at the front of the IAMA 1025 Market street entrance. Dancers wore large lion costumes and a dragon that swirled around. The dance and costuming was complimented by a full battery of Chinese drums, cymbals and percussion.
After a ribbon cutting at the museum entrance the Chinese dancers ushered everyone through the 1025 Market St. entrance through “the garden”, a lush portion of the museum that is filled with tropical plants, a waterfall, a fireplace, a hand carved wooden pagoda and elfin looking house. Streams wind around elaborate stone work and the atmosphere is serene. The processional wound its way toward the rear of the building where the stage was setup. After speeches by dignitaries and a proclamation from the mayor it was time for the music to get underway.
Morning performances included an exciting lineup of performers. The program began with international opera luminary Brenda Jackson of Los Angeles, CA. She started her set with a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, and continued with an exciting and diverse repertoire that included opera, jazz, gospel, spirituals and Broadway. Her voice was mature and powerful. Blessed, with a voice with a five octave range, she was able to stir up a wide variety of emotions that ranged from the soaring to the subtle.
Brenda Jackson was a difficult act to follow, but youth performer Aurora Lee did it with grace and beauty. She played the Chinese 21 string zither called “guzheng”. Dressed elegantly in violet with gold accents her playing delighted the audience. Fragrant blossoming tone petals poured from the guzheng with all the grace and beauty of an emerging flower.
The paintings in the gallery weren’t the only selections of fine art on display. The Tea Dancers/Ballet de la Compasión followed with an ensemble piece that made interesting use of bright red robes and sweeping gestures. Featured dancers were Natta Haotzima, Mayra Enriquez, Jennifer Wright, and Sarah Mckay. A solo dance followed by Mayra Enriquez. Their dance was a painting in motion filled with beautiful lines, sweeping gestures and expansive choreography.
The entertainment paused for a moment for afternoon tours of the gallery’s awe-inspiring, must see, art collection. The art is nothing short of superb and is a nice mix of Asian as well as European masters that compliment each other nicely. Hands on childrens activities included “Fun with frames”, family picture frame making fun.
Entertainment continued in the afternoon and featured another round of stellar performances. There was not one “big grand finale” but two! These were delivered by Cheung Wa Mandy of chinesemusiclessons.com and her students: Lisa Lu and Ivy Wong.
Cheung Wa Mandy has been in the Bay Area since 1999 teaching and performing. Based in Oakland, CA she is a member of the Composers and Authors Society of Hong Kong. She has been recognized as one of the best Chinese musical artists, and many of her students have won awards at competitions.
It was a great mixture of youth and maturity on stage. The playing was clean, well delivered with solid technique regardless of the age of the performers. The ensemble included guzheng, the Chinese plucked lute called ‘pipa’ and the Chinese fiddle or ‘erhu’. An elegant medley of traditional tunes were featured including, Bamboo Song,Butterfly Song,Jasmine Song, Dance of the Yi Temple, and other traditional folk songs.
The second grand finale of the evening was Flamenco Academy of Dance and featured Virginia Iglesias doing traditional Flamenco dances, handclaps, and playing castinets. She was accompanied by Jorge Liceaga on guitar with Gineva Harrison on the Latin box drum called ‘cajon’.
The performances were robust and the musicianship and dance were outstanding. Each performer was clearly a master of their craft. Vigorous rhythms emerged from Jorge Liceaga’s guitar. Interesting exchanges occurred between dancer and cajon player: Virginia Iglesias feet were a blur and it was difficult to tell at times where the dance rhythms ended and the cajon beats began the two were so intertwined.
Virginia Iglesias spent many years studying Flamenco dance in Seville, Spain and has been teaching in the bay area for an extended time. Her hard work and dedication were clearly in evidence during this performance. Backed by a top shelf musicians her set was a raging success and a definite crowd pleaser. Kudos also go out to Stage, Lights, and Sound of Berkeley, CA who did a terrific job of running sound for the event.
Given the great success of the grand opening it is hoped that the museum will continue to feature music performances. It is also a great area to have music as the brick, stone and immaculate tile work (courtesy of Gemart) contribute to the museum’s excellent acoustics.
In the meantime, their stunning collection of visual art will delight visitors of all ages.
IAMA is offering free admission to the public from October 15-30, 2011. Stop by to see the newly opened museum shop (located at 1023 Market Street) and new additions to their exhibits. The International Art Museum of America is open to the public, Tuesday – Sunday, 11 am-5 pm. Starting October 15, 2011.
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