Culture Karma


Mother Knows Best

By Randy Kraft


Randy Kraft

I grew up in New York and spent most of my Saturday afternoons at the Metropolitan Museum or at elegant uptown galleries. If it was free, we were there. My mother was an immigrant, determined to expose her only daughter to what she believed mattered most. She pinched pennies for balcony seats to the ballet and the opera, my father pinched tickets to the theater from an army buddy who was a concierge, we attended free concerts at Central Park, and spent many a Sunday afternoon at the grand Lowe’s Paradise movie theater on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, where stars twinkled on the domed ceiling. Music filled my tiny apartment, compliments of public radio, and the local librarian kept books in her drawer for me.

As a young woman, I made the obligatory trip to Italy, where I ogled the David and peered at what seemed like millions of paintings in dimly lit churches. I remember few, but three years ago, when I went to Rome, the sight La Pieta reduced me to tears.

No crying, exultation was my emotion at the Orange County Museum of Art’s Alexander Calder show and the Laguna Art Museum’s Noguchi exhibit. Three dimensional art, so close to reality, always speaks to me, so I was also in awe of the Picasso guitars at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in March.

            Last week-end, Legion Hall was transformed into a theater of the absurd, with a campy production of “Xanadu” cooked to perfection by No Square Theater. I confess that in the little WC off the entry, I had to restrain myself from peeking into one of the many bins filled with props and costume accessories, a treasure trove of art in itself. [BTW, a very reliable source tells me that the script for October’s “Lagunatics” is close to completion and looking good.]

            Laguna Live this summer features Jazz Wednesdays at Hotel Laguna and of course fine arts flourish throughout the town, serving as honey for the tourist bees. [I thought the selection at the Festival to be impressive this year but confess I haven’t made it to Sawdust, yet.]

      I cannot tell you what art is. I can tell you for sure that young folks gliding through the sand into the waves on their skim boards at Aliso Beach last week were as artful as a Calder mobile. Perhaps that’s all it is: a thing of beauty where none previously existed. Art meant to make us laugh or cry. Fill us with awe. Soothe or elevate our spirits beyond the ordinary and beyond what ails us, which makes it all the more essential these days.


 Ex-New Yorker Randy Kraft formerly covered city hall for the Indy and writes a book blog for

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