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Your weekend arts forecast: The art of sponges, the beauty of Beethoven

Bill DeYoung



Violinist Simone Lamsma performs Beethoven's Violin Concerto with The Florida Orchestra this weekend. Photo: Otto van den Toorme.

The USF Contemporary Art Museum, part of the University of South Florida Institute for Research in Art in the College of The Arts, brings artist Hope Ginsburg and a beguiling public performance to Tarpon Springs Sunday.

Hope Ginsburg

Ginsburg, an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, is represented at the USF museum by Sponge Exchange, an exhibition supported by the National Endowment for the Arts Art Works grant and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

The centerpiece is Swirling, an immersive video and sculpture installation, with three-dimensional dioramas, that “submerges viewers in the underwater coral nurseries and outplant sites of St. Croix, capturing the often-unseen coral farming and reef restoration work that occurs beneath the surface.”

Created in collaboration with diver/videographer Matt Flowers and composer Joshua Quarles, Swirling, “which finds humans hovering weightless and inverted at the bottom of the ocean hand-gluing coral fragments to all but obliterated coral reefs,” Ginsberg explained, “is as hopeful as it is tragic.”

Which brings us to Sunday’s program. At 3 p.m., Ginsburg will speak at the Leepa-Ratner Museum of Art on her fascination with the sponge as a model for knowledge exchange, and a catalyst for social and ecological change.

At 6 p.m., things move to the Sponge Exchange for Land Dive Team: Tarpon Springs, a meditative exercise accompanied by live music.

Ginsburg, and others dressed in scuba gear, will meditate on the docks:

Land Dive Team: Tarpon Springs invites audiences to participate in the meditative and collective breathing practice as a tool for coping with the mental and emotional challenges of living in a radically changing environment.”

Admission is free to both events. Details and museum info here.

Dutch treat

Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma was a child prodigy whose family relocated to Great Britain when she was 11, so that she could study at the Yehudi Menuhin School; eight years later she graduated with honors from London’s Royal Academy of Music.

Lamsma made her professional solo debut at 14, with the North Netherlands Orchestra, performing Paganini’s 1st Violin Concerto.

Any musician’s biographical data is never as interesting as the visceral response to their music. So when the New York Times says “Simone Lamsma played splendidly, with crisp clarity and brightly radiant sound, conveying both the rhapsodic fervor and intriguing pensiveness of the music,” or she’s praised by the Chicago Tribune as “absolutely stunning,” it’s time to sit up and pay attention.

Conductor Jaap van Zweden, music director of the New York Philharmonic and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, has described her as one of the leading violinists in the world.

Lamsma, whose repertoire includes more than 60 violin concertos, performs this weekend with The Florida Orchestra, under the baton of Christoph König. She will play Beethoven’s 45-minute Violin Concerto.

“I personally feel this is the violin concerto of all time, a real monument,’’ the musician told TFO’s Kurt Loft. “It’s so perfect as a composition, and is able to transmit the deepest of emotion, and the most tender beauty imaginable. There’s a grandeur combined with such elegance throughout: the greatness and intimacy of the first movement, the beauty of the second, the playfulness of the third. This music seems to make time stand still.’’

This season, of course, is Beethoven-heavy because 2020 marks the 250th anniversary of the great composer’s birth.

The program also includes Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture and Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra. It’s presented Friday (8 p.m.) at the Straz Center, and at the Mahaffey Theater Saturday (8 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.). All tickets are here.

Art of the Stage

The Detroit-based chamber orchestra Sphinx Virtuosi is in performance at 7 p.m. Friday in the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg’s Marly Music Room. We’ll feature the group Friday in the Catalyst.

That performance is part of the lengthy event series attached to the MFA’s ongoing Art of the Stage: Picasso to Hockney exhibition. Today (Thursday, Feb. 20) the dance group Open/Space Collective is in the gallery space with Process is Product, an experimental workshop/performance focusing on improvisation and interaction with the audience.

Performers for Process is Product (5-7 p.m., free with museum admission) are Helen Hansen French, Erik Wagner, Fernando Chonqui, Amber DiPietra and Noa Spector-Flock. Read more here.

Festival fever

Strolling Straub Park this weekend, you’ll encounter the 7th Annual St. Petersburg Fine Arts Festival, with more than 100 Florida artists and craft people showing and selling, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Not so far away is Williams Park, where Localtopia is going on Saturday (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), with 250-plus independent businesses and community organizations, all local. It’s also Localtopia’s seventh year.

And now, this

Today (Thursday, Jan. 20): Representing St. Petersburg Opera Company, Sarasota baritone Jason Stearns is in recital from the circular staircase at the Dali Museum, from 6 to 6:30 p.m. Admission to the performance is free.

Today (Thursday, Jan. 20): Spanish-born singer Ona Kirei, whose cool Iberian jazz vocals are always welcome, joins forces with guitarist Dominic Walker for This Bird Has Flown: A Jazz Tribute to the Beatles (7:30 p.m.) at thestudio@620. The band also includes piano, bass and drums.

Artist Neverne Covington, profiled earlier this week in the Catalyst, talks about her work at 7 p.m. Friday in the Tully-Levine Gallery, in the Arts Xchange, in the Warehouse Arts District.

Dominique Morisseau’s brilliant drama Skeleton Crew is in its final weekend at American Stage, as is the uproarious comedy Morningside at Stageworks Theater.

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