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Popular wisdom says “do not judge a book by its cover” and, generally speaking, it’s good advice for how to proceed in life. Not so good, however, when it comes to…, well, books. Publishers know that covers are important as is the entire book presentation. And so do book lovers.
The current Bihl Haus Arts exhibit, Necessary Work: Bryce Milligan’s World of Words and Design, looks at all aspects of producing books as physical objects – things like the cover design, colors, paper, binding and threads – by focusing on a 20-year output of Wings Press, a San Antonio small press owned and run by Bryce Milligan. A poet, publisher, musician and literary activist, Milligan is also a talented book designer who appreciates the connection between content and presentation.

Curated by Agnieszka Czeblakow, a rare books librarian at UTSA, the exhibit includes books, photographs, original art work and letters, all of which illustrate the creative work that goes into book-making. It’s a rare and must-see show for book lovers. It runs through May 21.  That afternoon, before closing, you’ll be able to spend “a casual couple of hours” with Milligan who will perform his songs, chat and share some poetry with the audience. (www.bihlhausarts.org)
*Another exhibit that may interest you is Pedro Friedeberg: in Praise of Folly, at the Ruiz-Healy Art Gallery (www.ruizhealyart.com). The Italian-born Mexican artist is known for his whimsical, flight-of-fancy, sort of surrealistic paintings, sculptures and installations, including his hand-shaped chairs. He described his own work best: “I think of my work as pastiche,” he said. “There is a little bit of everything I like in there.” The end results are visually compelling, intriguing and amusing. Friedeberg’s work has been exhibited in many prominent museums, including the San Antonio Museum of Art. The exhibit closes June 18.

*On the performing arts front, I want to draw your attention to the Children’s Fine Arts Series’ International Puppet FEstival, the only such fest in the U.S. It’s for kids, of course, but don’t we all enjoy the animated little creatures that bounce around, speak in funny voices and create their own mini-realities! Some shows will be suitable for children as young as two or three.
Altogether, there will be 45 performances by six companies, all taking place at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. The participating companies are: Lightwire Theater from New Orleans; Le Theatre des Petites Ames and L’Illusion Theatre, both from Montreal; Sandbank Shadowy Factory from Austin; Paul Messner Puppets, from Kansas City, and The Last Great Hunt from Australia.  All are professional touring groups. (www.childrenfineartseries.org/2016-childrens-international-puppet=festival)

*And speaking of kids, an exceptionally talented group of older teens will showcase their vocal, acting and dancing abilities at the Joci Awards this Sunday, May 1, at the Charline McCombs Empire Theater. Twenty-five finalists from 12 area high schools have already been selected to receive Joci Awards scholarships awarded by the Las Casas Foundation, but the winners in each category will be chosen by a panel of celebrity judges Sunday..

Founded in 2009 and named after Las Casas founder Joci Straus, the scholarship competition in theatrical performing arts has awarded a total of $585,000 in scholarships since its inception. I have never attended one of these shows but people who have rave about them. So give it a try; tickets start at only $10! (Ticketmaster.com or Majestic Theater box office; for information, call 223-4343)

*Before parting, let me mention Memphis, the Tony winning musical at the Woodlawn Theater. Praised for its score and high-powered performances, it’s great entertainment. Run ends May 8. (www.woodlawntheatre.org or call 267-8388)