OM Family Birthdays
Jim Newman, born May 25, 1933, celebrates his 85th birthday today. Jim has worked since the early 1950’s to keep the Bay Area’s artistic identity alive and well. In 1958 he opened the Dilexi Gallery, with his friend Bob Alexander, in North Beach to help create a space for up and coming artists to showcase their work. It was upstairs from a jazz club, which makes sense when you consider his skill at the saxophone and love of jazz in general. He first caught the attention of Charles Amirkhanian, now the Executive and Artistic Director for Other Minds, with his television producing in the late 1960’s. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle Charles reminisced on a particular broadcast accompanied by the music of Terry Riley, “The entire TV program consisted of 30 minutes of these silver balls spinning, with electronic organ music playing. I thought, ‘What a terrific use of television!’”.
Together they would later come together to create the first Other Minds Festival in 1993. When Charles decided to step down from KPFA in 1992 after twenty-three years of broadcasting new music to the Bay Area, Jim reached out to ask how they could keep experimental music culture alive. That conversation lead to the creation of Other Minds and twenty-five years later, the organization is still going strong. Jim throughout his career has had countless collaborations with exciting artists and Other Minds wishes him a very happy birthday!
Working with his rangefinder Leica, shooting real black-and-white film with available light, photographer John Fago of Bethel, Vermont, was an integral part of the Other Minds for our first two decades, documenting the interactions and performances of our guest composers each year in private meetings at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program ranch and at venues throughout the city of San Francisco. John’s genius was to embed himself in our meetings until the composers forgot he was in the room. In the words of Mr. Fago, “After majoring in Fine Arts and writing a thesis on Paul Klee’s The Thinking Eye, some friends who were students of Harry Callahan steered me into photography. The good fortune of becoming a stringer for The Christian Science Monitor encouraged me to make a life of it.
“In 1983-4, I travelled widely in China as doors closed in 1949 began to re-open. 1985 took me to the isolated world of southwest Louisiana, photographing for Ann Savoy’s book Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People. In 1986 I managed to get to Lhasa, Tibet during the remarkable moment when the Chinese briefly paused their repression of Tibetan spiritual life. Documenting rural village life from 1986 to 1992, I made fourteen visits to the remote mountain village of Ajoya in Sinaloa, Mexico, as drug related violence began to drive the people into slums of distant cities. Invited into a country closed to all but about 200 foreigners in 1991, I photographed post-Khmer-Rouge Cambodia before another wave of displacement and destruction arrived with global capitalism. In 1992 I slipped into the richness of Cuban culture during the “special period” of material scarcity that accompanied the post-Soviet collapse of their foreign aid. I’ve also been blessed with long-term projects, fifteen years inside the starlit Telluride Film Festival, twenty-five years shadowing remarkable composers and artists for the Composer-to-Composer Festival and the Other Minds Festival—a few episodes in a longer story.
“As storytellers we want to draw the viewer in closer but the line between simple attraction and deeper illumination is slippery. I happily point my sailboat higher into the wind when Robert Frank says, if he could re-edit The Americans he “would choose pictures that are more questions… less perfect but have mystery.”