One thing I can always count on seeing in a Bakersfield College art faculty show is an interesting range of styles and a variety of media. A preview of the exhibit that's opening Thursday evening at BC's Jones Gallery fulfills my expectations.

One piece that brought a smile to my face -- and probably yours -- is David Koeth's poster-like graphic. Done in a contemporary style, it incorporates a hodge-podge of different fonts with humorous comments that may echo the laments of many of today's teachers.

To give you an idea of the content, here's the headline and subtitle Koeth put at the top of the piece: "Problem Child: An awkward typeface that never reads the textbook before class, and sends text messages during critiques."

Adel Shafik on the other hand, used a method that dates back to ancient times in creating his brilliantly colored encaustic painting that appears to depict a searing white sun nestled in the trough of a tumultuous sea and framed by a sky of shimmering gold.

"Greek artists practiced encaustic painting as far back as the 5th century B.C.," Shafik said. "I was challenged by its process of heating and cooling which captures the dynamic of chaos and demands control unlike that of any other painting medium."

Encaustic, he explained, is a beeswax-based paint that is combined with pigments and other elements. It is applied in a molten state and then reheated in order to fuse the paint onto the surface and create an enamel-like finish.

More in the present is Kristopher Stallworth's sensitive photograph of a dry river bed strewn with pebbles, a scene that, unfortunately, can be found just about anywhere in Kern County these days.

Then there's Emily Maddigan's fearsome sculpture of an angry man with masses of curly hair and with a horribly disfigured face. It is timeless.

Other faculty members whose work is being shown are Deborah Rodenhauser, Laura Borneman, Claire Putney, Cameron Brian and Armando Rubio.

Margaret Nowling, curator, said the exhibit can be seen through Nov. 15 during the gallery's usual hours, 1-4 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

Mango Street Monologues

Thursday evening at The Empty Space, local writers and performers will speak about incidents in their own lives in relation to the themes of "The House on Mango Street," this year's One Book/One Bakersfield selection.

The book, by Sandra Cisneros, is made up of short vignettes -- some are fewer than 200 words. Likewise, Kevin Shah, coordinator of the event, has asked participants to limit readings of their own work to three minutes. Recommended for mature audiences, the program will include visual art, live music and refreshments.

Late-night drama

A one-act play with only two actors occupies the late-night slot this weekend at The Empty Space. "The Unexpected Man," by French writer Yasmina Reza, is the story of two strangers who are traveling on a train.

It is told through interior monologues spoken by the man, a successful author who worries that he's past his prime, and a woman who adores his work but is afraid to tell him so.

Kamel Haddad, who also directs, portrays the man; Jaclyn Taylor, the woman.

Mozart music at Beale

Mercedes Barcella, a local pianist who has been called a child prodigy by some, and her sister Celeste Barcella, a violinist, will present a free concert on Saturday in the Beale Memorial Library auditorium. They will return to perform their concert a second time at 11 a.m. on Nov. 10.

Both are mainly self-taught and have given performances at children's hospitals in Central and Southern California. They appear in period costume for their program, the "Living Composer Concert," which features the music of Mozart.

Art you can touch

Unlike most paintings and sculptures, it's OK to run your fingers over the 13 pieces in the Arts Council of Kern's new traveling exhibit.

"Art in Touch," as it is called, opens Friday with a reception at the Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

The artwork is enhanced by audio recordings of the artists' statements narrated by Jeff Lemucchi, news director and morning anchor at radio station KERN.

Criteria for the work selected for the show emphasized that it should be tactile and interactive, said Nicole Saint-John of the Arts Council.

With that in mind, one of the artists, Justin Jennings, created "Edges," an angular 24-by-36 inch sculpture made from heavily oxidized welded steel. One of his goals was to produce a piece that would give people with limited vision a sense of space.

"You don't just examine this piece from the outside, you enter it," Jennings said. "The exploration of its surface is rough and smooth and plated; giving way to voids that invite you back inside."

Enemerio "Emmy" Galvan said what he was thinking of making his clay sculpture, "Dichotomy," was an organic form, an object that could be discovered in nature. To bring about the piece's distinctive texture, he applied his "special recipe" of liquid, non-toxic minerals to the form when the clay was firm but still damp.

Saint-John said a call for artists was published earlier this year on the California Arts Council website. Two of the artists whose work was chosen for the exhibit are from out of town. The other 11 are residents of Kern County. The selection committee included two local curators, Margaret Nowling of the Bakersfield College Jones Gallery and Vikki Cruz, Bakersfield Museum of Art.

Throughout 2013, the exhibit will be displayed at three other venues: Taft College Art Gallery, Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest and the Independent Living Center of Kern County. It is funded by a grant from the Black Rock Arts Foundation.

The Empty's new season

Two of the five main stage shows The Empty Space will do for the first half of 2013 are musicals. Thinking about the small space available at the Oak Street theater caused me to wonder if those particular productions will have live music.

The response I got from Bob Kempf, the artistic director, could be characterized as "Maybe -- but then again, maybe not."

"Over the years, it's been fairly tricky fitting even a small band into The Empty Space, so it doesn't seem likely that we will have live music," he said. "But you never know; we have some innovative directors on board."

By the way, Kempf said each director (or team of directors) pitched the particular show they are doing at the theater's Pitch Day, held twice a year.

First up are Kristina Saldana and Brian Sivesind, who will direct the January production of "Spring Awakening," a Tony Award-winning musical by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater.

Next on the list -- opening in March and April respectively -- are two Pulitzer winners: Beth Henley's "Crimes of the Heart," with Kempf at the helm, and Margaret Edson's drama, "Wit," directed by Porter Jamison.

In May, Cody Ganger and Kevin Ganger will share the director's chair for "The Nerd," a comedy written by Larry Shue. To finish the first half of the 2013 season, Lorenzo Salazar will direct "Sweet Charity," a still-popular Neil Simon musical comedy. CAMILLE GAVIN: Only theme for this show is talent