In what seems to be an incredibly interesting project from the University of Alabama and the Ferguson Center, an actual, formal, hands-on, community conversation about the arts, music, and Tuscaloosa itself will be taking place within the next month called Dinner with Strangers.
From what I can tell, it is a series of actual dinners with local musicians, artists, movers, and shakers (though highly doubtful that none of them would seem to want to be called that) around the city. The goal of it is to bring together members of the arts and music community together with selected students to discuss the evolving nature of a college city’s arts and music scene. (Why didn’t anyone invite me, Mr. Wellington Riverbottom?!) Students are invited to apply to be a part of it.
The entire, month-long conversation seems to be a dinner with all selected people participating, a blog that is open for discussion of the issues, and an eventual after party with food and live music, the last of which will be open to the entire public on November 30th. This fall’s Dinner with Strangers will be predominantly held on dates in November and will focus on local music. Dinner with Strangers in the spring will discuss visual expressions and the downtown area; the dates are not yet set for the spring.
The mission apparently is to get more community involvement with the scene with the first step to be in the form of students meeting the people who are making art within Tuscaloosa and also to cultivate more interest. It seems to be vital for students to add their thoughts, of which I certainly agree.
While the members of the entire group aren’t quite set in stone, it seems that the community members representing local music will consist of David Allgood (musician/manager of the Bama Theatre), Craig Pickering (drummer), Bo Hicks (Well That’s Cool), Bob McKinney (bassist), Mark Hughes Cobb (journalist/writer/editor of Tusk/songwriter/singer), David Allen (bandleader/booking agent for Green Bar), Ann Powers (NPR music journalist), and Blaine Duncan (singer/songwriter).
That’s quite the list to have in one room and discussing how to improve things in town.
The deadline for students to apply seems to be October 31st. You can probably find out more by e-mailing the coordinator here. Sounds like something great to be a part of and something that’s not to be missed.