MCA Denver's Sarah Kate Baie on Casa Bonita, the fiscal cliff and nine years of Mixed Taste
Sarah Kate Baie has seen Mixed Taste -- the recurring lecture series kicking off tomorrow at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver -- grow exponentially over the last nine years, from its early days at Belmar to its current, summer-season mainstay status at the MCA. Programming curator Baie and her staff spend the year creating ths program that brings often uncommon but always entertaining topics together for parallel conversations.
This year's lineup sees specialists on Sandhill cranes and performance-enhancing drugs come to the stage together, while Tyrannosaurus Rex and Lucha Libre experts will also battle it out (conversationally speaking) in front of a live audience. In advance of the first Mixed Taste of 2013 -- zombies and raw milk cheese -- we spoke with Baie about how, exactly, something like the fiscal cliff wound up paired with Denver's famous Casa Bonita cliff divers.
Westword: What goes into the curation of a season of Mixed Taste?
Alex Stephens Sarah Kate Baie
After nine years of doing Mixed Taste, we're always trying to find a fresh way to approach the topics, by bringing in new and different speakers. This year, we wanted to do something that was a little bit different -- we've always done two lectures on completely unrelated topics, but we wanted to create programs that maybe seemed like they ought to be related. So, we did a few things differently than we ordinarily do.
We're doing a program on the fiscal cliff and cliff diving -- which is a lecture on the fiscal cliff and then a lecture on cliff diving by the Casa Bonita cliff divers. It sounds related, but it has nothing to do with each other at all. Or, sinkholes and wormholes -- sinkholes are, of course, the geological phenomenon that happens underneath the ground in sandstone-rich areas, and wormholes are a space-time continuum phenomenon that happens at the center of black holes.
In doing it this way, we've been able bring in a bunch of speakers who are brand-new to Mixed Taste, as well as some local luminaries that we're excited to have on board. On August 29, when we close out the season, we're bringing in Dr. Scott (Sampson), the new curator at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and he's going to speak on Tyrannosaurus Rex. And Delta Jr., who is a luchador on the Denver Lucha Libre circuit, is going to speak about Lucha Libre.
Mixed Taste is a popular event -- beyond interesting topic-pairings, what else do you think attracts such a devoted audience?
The thing about Mixed Taste is, you really don't know what is going to happen. Sometimes, things that have no relation to each other wind up becoming very connected and you can't believe you didn't see the connections between these two topics before. But sometimes, topics that seem like there would be more connection between actually don't prove to be that fruitful.
Half the fun is that Mixed Taste can work a little like a game show -- the live element of chance combined with humor and play means that no matter what happens, it is going to be unexpected. I think that's why people keep coming back to the series again and again -- even though the format is fairly rigid, the magic that happens that night is unpredictable.
I also think one other aspect is that it taps into areas of expertise in the community that perhaps people didn't even know were there. For instance, with déjà vu, the woman giving that lecture is a professor of psychology at CSU [ Ann Cleary]. Her post-doctoral research is on déjà vu and the brain phenomenon known as déjà vu. So what might seem like a "light" lecture that will be really funny may in fact be really funny, but it is actually a very serious lecture on a phenomenon that is known in the brain, and what the certain set of circumstances are that allow us to perceive that phenomenon.