The Shaking Ray Levi Society’s retrospective exhibit is a don’t-miss
For the past three decades, the Shaking Ray Levi Society (SRLS) has been a major driving force for the arts in Chattanooga. This month, the UTC Art Department and the SRLS will be presenting a “30-Year Retrospective Exhibit” at the Apothecary. The show will be an opportunity to catch a glimpse of exclusive archival materials, including poster art, audio, and video that has never been released to the public.
Fans of the radio program “Outside Pleasures,” which aired on WUTC in the ’80s and ’90s will be able to enjoy audio from the broadcasts. Rare footage from various events, including the Shaking Ray Levi Festival at the Hunter Museum in 1993, will be viewable for the first time. The event is the beginning of a yearlong celebration of the history of this remarkable organization.
Founded in 1985 by Dennis Palmer, Julian Norwood, Terry Fugate, Craig Phillips and Bob Stagner, the SRLS was formed as a response to a need for more adventurous art within the community. The 1980s saw the beginnings of Chattanooga’s transformation from a dirty industrial center into one of America’s premiere cities. The Shaking Rays have been a part of this transformation from day one, and they are best known for their critically acclaimed performance series.
The SRLS’s mission is to support innovation and creativity, providing the city with creative collaborations, community outreach programs, educational workshops, and live performances. It’s dedicated to bringing next-level music, film, and performance art to the area, and does this by sponsoring unique shows from nationally and internationally recognized artists who otherwise might not have the occasion to perform in Chattanooga.
Booking shows that are ahead of the curve, the Society has presented numerous prominent people to local audiences years before they found wider success. Some examples of this are writer David Sedaris and indie-rock bands Of Montreal and Cat Power. A few of the well-established artists brought to town are Reverend Howard Finster, John Zorn, Fred Frith, Tony Oxley, J.D. Parran, Foday Mussa Suso, Quintron & Miss Pussycat, Olivia Tremor Control, and Derek Bailey.
The SRLS’s wide range of activities are driven by the idea that art is always growing, changing, and evolving. Members believe that some of the most vital art today is found outside of the mainstream. The Society’s purpose is not to stand apart as outsiders, but to instead bring a fascinating outside world into the community.
One of its emphases is on using improvisation, both in dance and music, as a tool to unlock creative potential. They often spotlight free improv, a process by which a musician or dancer is able to be spontaneously inventive in an environment that is receptive and positive. By engaging the community, provoking interest, and inviting curious minds to experience something new, the Society enhances and stimulates creative culture.
The SRLS supports local artists by seeking out and encouraging homegrown talent. Under its creative umbrella, innovative projects are given the opportunity to come to fruition. Since the expansion of its mission in 2004 to include a focus on supporting cinema in addition to music, the SRLS has co-produced a number of film projects.
It nurtures creativity throughout the area with unique workshops, and a partnership with The Rhythmic Arts Project (TRAP) allows it to reach out to those with developmental and physical disabilities, including recovering stroke and accident patients and autistic children.
In addition to being an exhibition, this 30-year retrospective is a celebration of what the founders of the Society have created. Bob Stagner tells us, “It’s no cosmic coincidence the 30th anniversary of the SRLS falls on what would be its artistic director and founder Dennis Palmer’s 58th birthday, Oct 13, 2015.
“Among Dennis’s many talents was the strong ability to see the future. Being 15-20 years ahead of his time while working with some folks who were 10-20 years behind the times would always give me a math headache, but not him. The growth of SRLS and power in the message would make his heart smile.
As more and more talented, open-minded, open-hearted individuals find our city and our work, the future looks grand. So here’s to an unbelievable three decades. Cheers to the next three—watch this space!”
“The Shaking Ray Levi Society 30-Year Retrospective Exhibit”
Opening night: Oct. 15, 5-8 p.m., performance at 6:30 p.m.
Closing night: Oct. 19, 5-7 p.m., talk and spoken-word performance by Tom Landis at 6 p.m.
744 McCallie Ave.