A Touch of Glass

By Megan McDonald January 10, 2012

At the opening of an exhibition of objects from his spectacular glass collection at Ringling College of Art and Design on Friday, Richard Basch made note of an interesting juxtaposition. 

Ringling is has a reputation as a cutting-edge center of  computer animation and  is “the most technically advanced school in the country,” Basch said. “Yet glassmaking is a combination of air and heat and tools that date back thousands of years and haven’t changed.”

And he joked that, “If there is a crash in the computer room, you just re-boot.  If there’s a crash in here, it’s a disaster.”

The  glass pieces, by Dale Chihuly, William Morris, Martin Blank and other  great American artists, look right at home in their dazzling setting in the Ringling Academic Center. The exhibit is the third Ringling has mounted of the collection of Basch and his wife Barbara. The couple has pledged to donate to the college their entire , multi-million dollar collection, which numbers 250 pieces and includes works that are six feet tall and weigh up to half a ton.

“We’re just giving it floor space in our home until Ringling is ready for it all,”  Richard Basch said.

The couple became Ringling supporters through their involvement with the Sarasota Museum of Art,  an organization which merged with Ringling several years ago, and is more than halfway to its goal of opening a modern and contemporary art museum in Sarasota.

The Basch glass show will be on exhibit through March 24.

Tina Brown talks of success and failure

Ringling events have kept me quite busy recently. On Saturday, I attended the always stimulating Ringling Library Association’s Platinum Dinner at the Ritz-Carlton.  The guest of honor this year was the renowned magazine editor  Tina Brown, who reviewed her career in a speech delivered in rapid-fire style.

Brown said that career could be titled Three Weddings and a Funeral. By that she meant she’d had enormous success revitalizing Britain’s Tattler magazine, and then repeated her triumph  in the United States with the New Yorker and Vanity Fair. But then, she had a well-publicized flameout with the short-lived magazine Talk.

Brown said she’d learned as much from that failure as from all her successes,  including paying attention to what your strengths are, and realizing that your success depends a great deal on the people you surround yourself with.  She also said the launch of Talk, celebrated  with a party at the Statue of Liberty,  involved too much hype.  She  quoted approvingly a Hollywood producer, who said the opening-night party “should never be better than the film.”

Brown  is now marrying old journalism and new journalism as editor of the provocative website The Daily Beast  (named for a newspaper in the Evelyn Waugh novel Scoop) and its partner, the venerable newsmagazine Newsweek.

She was introduced by Herald-Tribune publisher  Diane McFarlin, who was quizzed all night about what the change in the paper’s ownership might mean.  Brown said she hoped the new owners  will keep the paper the same wonderful community asset “that I hear that it is.”

A  Fascinating Lunch with James Woods

James Woods and me.

When I met actor James Woods at an intimate lunch at Ringling on Monday, I told him I had to apologize for bothering him on his Caribbean vacation in 1986. I then showed him a picture of me posing with him  on  a Caribbean beach . He and I were both passengers on a 100-passenger sailing ship called the Windstar.  I’ve followed Woods’ career all these years not only because he’s a great actor, but because he was so gracious and friendly toward his fellow passengers on that trip.

“And I’m still a nice guy,”  quipped Woods, who told the luncheon guests to “call me Jimmy.”  He then amazed me by recalling all the stops on that long-ago cruise. “Do you remember when we anchored at one island and then swam to another?” he said.

Woods was at Ringling for a screening of one of his earliest films, Salvador, and to speak to students in Ringling’s digital film program. Extremely bright and displaying a sharp, sometimes sarcastic sense of humor,  Woods held court for nearly three hours at the lunch. He touched on everything from the follies of Hollywood to politics, architecture and how a perfect dinner table should be designed.

Woods was enthusiastic about what he’d already learned about the Ringling program, and by the plans to build a post-production facility. He said he’s at a stage where he’s more interested in producing and directing than acting, and expressed the hope he could one day bring a project here. He was particularly happy that Ringling is placing a major emphasis on storytelling, an art he thinks Hollywood has lost sight of.

For even more arts and travel updates, follow Charlie Huisking on Twitter @CharlieHuisking.

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