Tell it to the whales |

Tell it to the whales

Wren Wertin

With the release of its winter 2003 season, the Vail Symposium has once again proven itself both creative and relevant as an organization working to enhance the intellectual and cultural quality of life in the Vail Valley.

In keeping with seasons past, they offer Art, Hot Topics and Literary Series. The new Slifer Series has absorbed the Film Series and expanded it.

“We’re interested in so many things,” said Kathy Cleaver of the Symposium. “We want to provide more and more local color.”

The Slifer Series

This new series takes a theme – The Mystic West – and explores it through movies, jewelry and mythos. A four-part free movie series at the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek kicks off next Wednesday, hosted by Scott Cunningham.

Cunningham came to Vail a year ago, and is a reporter for the Vail Trail. Having minored in film studies at school, he will be exploring (and re-discovering) American westerns.

“It’s sort of the premiere American genre as far as film goes,” said Cunningham. “At one point in Hollywood, more than one in every four movies made was a Western.”

He chose the movies that would give a good overview of the genre; each has different major stars, directors, and comes from a different era.

“I think it’s been the norm in Hollywood that when a director wants to explore the American identity he goes to a Western. It’s ingrained in American mythology as an environment that strips people down to the bare essentials – one good man with a gun and one bad man with a gun.”

In addition to the evenings of films, there will also be a discussion led by Irma Bailey, a celebrated collector of Indian jewelry, on Feb.19. She invites participants to bring their own jewelry, as she discusses her passion.

“I’m a fanatic about Indian jewelry, rugs, pottery – you name it,” said Cleaver. “So I’m thrilled about this event.”

The series continues with an evening discussing ghost towns with author and historian Kenneth Jessen – already sold out. The series concludes Mar. 23 at 4 Eagle Ranch with a “Git Along Little Dogies” sing-along and chili feast.

Art Series

If you thought the Age of Queen Victoria was strictly prim and proper, then perhaps you should make time for “Understanding the Pre-Raphaelites” Jan. 16. Lee MacCormick Edwards, an art history professor and author, will be taking a look at the controversial alternative to the fashionable academic art of the day. John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones are some of the artists to be discussed.

Alan and Anne Mintz are opening their home in Mountain Star to the Symposium on Jan. 23 (a change from the previously scheduled Jan. 28), allowing attendees to see their post-war contemporary abstract art collection. The Mintzs are part-time residents, and spend part of the year on the East Coast. As Anne pointed out, the East Coast is a hotbed of art, and collecting art is a natural evolution for people of substance. Their home in Mountain Star reflects their contemporary bent, and is best described as Eurasian – very zen and fung shui. What do they like about abstract expressionism?

“You’ll see the art and you’ll understand why,” said Anne decisively.

The two-day Denver Art Tour will take place on Feb. 14 and 15, and will include a private tour of the “Retrospectacle” exhibit at the Denver Art Museum.

Literary Series

The Symposium is taking the Literary Series through unchartered waters – literally. “The Man Who Talks To Whales” brings Jim Nollman to Vail on Feb. 23. Nollman has spoken with ravens, dolphins, bellbirds, frogs, orcas, humpback whales and elk. He’s played harmonica with howler monkeys in the middle of the Panama Canal with the blessings of the Smithsonian Institute. He’s recorded flute music with wolves, produced a radio show with gobbling turkeys, and strummed an Indian raga with whales off the coast of Vancouver Island. The whales have captured his interest, and he now specializes in communicating with them. He will be sharing his story, illustrated with a video, with Vail.

Vail Mountain School English teacher is back, heading up a Shakespearean round-robin read-around. Since “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be shown at the Vilar Center on Mar. 7, he and his crew will be reading the same play on Mar. 2.

“When I think of this play, I think of the crazy, dream-like quality of love,” he said. “I remember, particularly, that “the lunatic, the lover, and the poet are of imagination all compact.'”

(The quotation comes from the last act of the play.) Morris continues to lead these discussions “because hearing the words is essential to the experience of drama. This approach is especially important with Shakespeare, who wrote his plays in poetic verse, which must be heard for its sounds and rhythm.”

The Festival of Words is back, too, April 25-27. The event is moving to the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek.

Hot Topics

One of the hottest topics these days is “Afghanistan and the War on Terrorism,” and Time Magazine correspondent Rob Schultheis will be discussing just that on Feb. 11, kicking off the Hot Topics Series. Gary Hart will be visiting Vail to speak about “America Unprepared, America Still in Danger.” Co-chair of the Council Task Force that produced the report of the same name, Hart helped present the most comprehensive review of national security since 1947. He speaks on Mar. 14. Richard S. Strong, a part-time Vail resident, will be speaking Apr. 15 about “The State of the Economy and the Stock Market’s Future.” He’ll turn 30 years of investment experience into predictions on where the market is headed.

The Vail Symposium

The Vail Symposium is a non-profit organization funded by donations and its members. All events are open to the public. For more information, call the Symposium at 476-0954, or visit

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.

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