In his recent Community Voices piece, Jorge Barrientos takes to task the illustrious Gregory Porter for his apparent unfamiliarity with the Bakersfield arts scene, but only manages to scratch the surface on the wide range of art endeavors going on in our fair city - with the caveat that all is on temporary hiatus with current COVID-19 restrictions in place ("COMMUNITY VOICES: Gregory Porter says Bakersfield lacks art; it hurts and that's not true," Sept. 5).
In addition to those representing the art scene in Bakersfield as Jorge mentions, including the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra and the several museums calling Bakersfield home, there exists a wide range of organizations and examples, with many in Porter's own field of music. Among them are the Bakersfield Jazz Workshop, which for more than 12 years has been meeting on Tuesdays nights, most recently at Temblor Brewing Company, and providing an hour-long workshop for students and beginners, followed by a performance by a featured artist, and concluding with an open jam session. The workshop also features annual scholarships to local students.
Another weekly offering is the Traditional Irish Music Session, which is hosted every Wednesday night at Dagny's Coffee Shop, in which practitioners of the genre spontaneously perform the various reels, jigs and ballads that define it.
Traditional blues music is alive and well in Kern County, with the Kern River Blues Society meeting on the third Saturday of each month at The Rocket Shop Café in Bakersfield, and the first Saturday of the month at The Kernville Saloon, in Kernville, with blues fans and musicians, beginner to pro, coming together and jamming the blues.
Opportunities to enjoy national and international musicians abound, with a rich and varied schedule of artists appearing at the Rabobank Theater, Fox Theater, Dore Theater (at which Mr. Porter himself has performed), Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame, Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace and World Records — which has the distinction of being the only record shop in the United States boasting its own performing arts theater.
The visual arts are also well represented by the downtown Bakersfield Arts District, centering on the 19th and Eye streets area, in which monthly First Friday evening gatherings take place, highlighting the various downtown galleries. Also downtown is the Bakersfield Museum of Art, which features an impressive calendar of ongoing exhibits, special presentations and educational programs for adults and youth.
The dramatic arts are vibrant, as well, with Stars Dinner Theater, Bakersfield Community Theater, The Ovation Theater, The Empty Space Theater and the Gaslight Melodrama, and excellent programs at Bakersfield College, Cal State Bakersfield and at the various high schools.
Dance, too, thrives in Bakersfield, with the Civic Dance Center having presented an impressive Nutcracker Ballet for more than 40 years, and is the only such presentation in California doing so with a live orchestra, in this case the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, something not even such art meccas as San Francisco or Los Angeles can offer. A plethora of dance academies throughout the area offer instruction in all forms of dance including jazz, tap, ballet, and I know not what else.
In all fairness to the esteemed and exceptionally talented Porter, whose most recent performance in Bakersfield I enjoyed immensely, in may be that his busy schedule permits little time spent in town. He may wish to set aside some time in the future to avail himself of such offerings as may please him.
Peter Wonderly is a native-born Bakersfield resident and has spent the last 24 years as an educator, teaching in continuation high schools.