Imaginative New Year




The 21st century may have gotten off to a bad start, but there’s always reason for optimism, especially if you’ve got a good imagination. For example, in John Irving’s “The World According to Garp,” the title character is house shopping with his wife. Just as they are about to tour a home a small plane crashes into it. Garp buys it on the spot. It’s been “pre-disastered,” he explains. “We’ll be safe here.”Of course, nothing in a John Irving novel is ever that simple, much less so in real life, but it does seem like the century has already thrown its worst our way.

The last decade had such a personality disorder that no one ever quite figured what to call it (the “aughts” sounds too trivial, the “two thousands” too grand). I know a lot of people are just happy to call it over, but it’s not like nothing good came out of recent years. In fact, as far as art and culture is concerned, it’s been an astoundingly creative period. If you want to refresh your spirit and revive your sense of what’s possible, that’s a good place to start. Here’s just a short list of cultural signs of hope and imagination born out of the decade with no name.

The new, fantastically improved Currier Museum of Art opened. The New Hampshire Film Festival turned into one of the most celebrated cinema events in the Northeast. Likewise, the New Hampshire Film Office became a real organizing force of a burgeoning local movie-making scene. The Nashua Sculpture Symposium went into a second year of attracting talent from around the world to create public art installations, while, on a more intimate level, Nashua welcomed the opening of the eclectic Studio 99. The Red River Theatres finally finished that mythical cattle drive to Concord, bringing the best foreign and independent films to the Capitol City, meanwhile the trendy Spotlight Café opened across the street at the Capitol Center for the Arts. The amazing restoration and remodeling of the Music Hall in Portsmouth provided a sublime context for the fascinating Writers on a New England Stage series. The explosive growth of New Hampshire Media Makers in Dover and the launch of Shortstream TV in Portsmouth gave a hint of what the new media world has in store for the next 10 years. Finally, and on a more personal note, the New Hampshire Theatre Awards, created right here in the New Hampshire Magazine offices and run for eight years by volunteers, has filed for non-profit status and named a board of directors to be announced at awards night, February 5, at the Palace Theatre in Manchester.

That sounds like a lot, but in fact the list goes on and on. And much of it has been happening right through the dark night of the financial soul that the economy has endured since 2007. But maybe it’s when things seem bleakest that a little art and imagination can make the biggest difference.

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