Stage & Dance

Rich Copley: The new year opens with stories whose endings haven't been written yet

Welcome to 2012. Some people think we won't make it all the way through, thanks to that whole Mayan calendar thing, but it looks as if there are still a good 111/2 months ahead of us, with lots of arts and cultural events and stories to look forward to.

Before we get going — and for some of you, I know it might be hard to get going this morning — here are some of the things the Herald-Leader and's arts and culture desk will be watching in the coming year.

The landscape

■ In December, plans for Rupp Arena and the development of the arena district moved forward when one of three committees voted in favor of a renovation proposal. As I said in last week's year in review, this has primarily been a sports story about the home of the University of Kentucky men's basketball team.

But there are major implications for the arts because cultural leaders are eying projects such as a new concert hall to house the Lexington Philharmonic and Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras, and a home for the School for the Creative and Performing Arts.

As plans move forward, it will be intriguing to see what gets solidified and whether advocates for other projects will emerge. A few reports in the Herald-Leader and in Business Lexington brought out proponents of a larger performing-arts theater of 2,000 to 2,500 seats, something that has been discussed for decades in Lexington. Will they make noise about that not being in the plans?

■ Speaking of big theaters, we await announcements of the 2012-13 seasons at Richmond's Eastern Kentucky University Center for the Arts, Danville's Norton Center for the Arts, the Lexington Opera House and the University of Kentucky Singletary Center for the Arts. It will be fun to see how programming at these venues evolves. The EKU Center, which opened in 2011, and Norton Center had statement seasons this year, with EKU seeming to favor time-tested big names and Centre College's Norton Center going for more eclectic fare than in years past.

Will those statements continue to resonate? How will programming at the Lexington venues continue to evolve, particularly at Singletary? It had success with cross-genre and cross-generational acts Pink Martini and Chris Isaak.

■ Not inclined to wait for the Rupp Arena project, the Lexington Art League has announced plans to search for a downtown satellite location. This could be an important move for a visual arts scene that has struggled to find a marquee venue downtown. Institute 193 and Land of Tomorrow gallery have been catalysts for exhibits by visiting local artists, and it will be exciting to see how they evolve.

The money

It might be a new year, but the economy will continue to be an issue. Lexington has made out relatively well since the fall (I use that word in a number of ways) of 2008. We haven't seen any major meltdowns, such as the Louisville Orchestra's contract dispute that consumed the River City's music scene.

What has been fascinating in Lexington the past few years has been the emergence of new patrons for the arts, notably UK Chandler Hospital's involvement in art collecting and exhibition, and its work with Dr. Ronald Saykaly and his wife, Teresa Garbulinska, who are supporting the joint composer-in-residence program by the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington and the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra.

Another exciting thing to watch will be the effect of the new Web site Similar to Kickstarter, which has helped to finance Guy Mendes' book 40/40: Forty Years, Forty Portraits, it allows organizations to post projects in need of funding, and donors may choose how much they want to give. Already, Lexington Children's Theatre and Agape Theatre Group have posted projects, so we'll be looking to see whether Power2Give catches on and what kind of effect it has.

A big anniversary

Anniversaries happen every year, but Lexington's flagship arts organization will turn 50 only once: this season. The Lexington Philharmonic will celebrate with its Jan. 14 pops concert of movie music and its Feb. 17 show featuring a world premiere by Daniel Kellogg, part of the aforementioned Saykaly Garbulinska Composer-in-Residence program. The intriguing thing here is watching the Philharmonic simultaneously celebrate its longevity and evolve into the future.

The film scene

It's funny that we call it film because actual film is so rare now in motion pictures, particularly at the local level. The growth of digital technology has increasingly put filmmaking ability in the hands of modestly financed artists, and the Internet has provided a forum for unfettered exhibition of these works to the world.

Tucky Williams' recent success with her Web series, Girl/Girl Scene, filmed entirely in Lexington with area talent, is a prime example of what filmmakers can do these days.

The Lexington Film League has worked to encourage filmmaking and celebrate what has been done here with events including last winter's Do-ers video contest and the Harry Dean Stanton Film Festival. The growth of local film is a story poised to take off.

Political theater?

It is an election year. The economy probably will continue to be lousy. These are times when arts, humanities and public broadcasting funding can become an issue.

In Kentucky, there are legislators on both sides of the debate. U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, a Democrat, has a record of supporting arts funding. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican, says he thinks government should not be financing the arts.

How big a deal will this become? And even more intriguingly, will something happen to make it a big deal?

Therein lies the key question about 2012 — or any year — on Jan. 1: What will happen?