Here Come the Spring Exhibitions!

Now that spring break has passed, it often feels like a mad rush to the end of the semester. My own progress has been stymied by a nasty flu, but I am hoping to be up and about tomorrow to see the first senior thesis art exhibition of 2015: Wednesday, March 25 at 4 p.m. at the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. The senior artists Luca Ameri, Raphael A. Leitz, Dat Vu, and Derrick Qi Wang will be at the reception, and you can check out the work through Sunday, March 29.

The Davison Art Center is holding an exhibition opening on Thursday, March 26, featuring works by Barbara Kruger, Kiki Smith, Sebastiao Salgado, and Eve Arnold. These are amazing artists, and we are so fortunate to have their pieces in our collection. On Thursday at 5:30 there will be a public conversation with the donors who made this possible, artist Jolie Stahl and photo editor, Robert Dannin. The exhibition will be up through May 24.

Personal Recollections

Wes Students: Exceptional in Any Element!

I met yesterday morning with Ben Travers, who for the last few months has been making very cool videos about Wesleyan students. For example, there is this wonderful, short piece about Mary Vallo ’13, who is doing research on epilepsy with Prof Jan Naegle’s team. Mary is one of the many Wes students who are able to contribute to sophisticated research in the sciences. And check out the video of Oscar Takabvira ’14, who has the great line: “I love numbers and I think they like me back.”Arya Alizadeh ’13 is portrayed as the active citizen he is. I know him from his role with the WSA, but it was great to learn more about his ambitions in engineering and history — and that he rows crew. Senior Carmen Yip also has a memorable line: she hates sweating! Carmen has come to Wes from Hong Kong, but that didn’t satisfy her urge to travel and study. She spent a semester in Regensburg, and has already landed a job with Deutsche Bank!

Ben has also made videos of athletes (including Arya). Casey Reed ’12 is a devoted volleyball player from California, a fundraiser for Wesleyan and a sketch comedy performer. Arthur Burkart ’14 was welcomed onto the crew team, into the African students association and has given back by being a note taker for students who need that assistance. In her video, soccer star Laura Kurash ’13 tells us that she is getting ready for medical school (her memorable line: I’ve seen a lot of blood squirt out; it’s cool). Laura also shows off her musical talents (without using her feet too much!).

One of the coolest (certainly the most fiery) videos Ben has made so far is on Prometheus, Wesleyan’s fire performance group. The students actually are not on fire, but they certainly do light up the night!

If fire isn’t your element, go under water with the swim team. And watch out for Ben as he makes his way around campus, video camera in hand.

 

Coming Home, Finding Family

The extended Wes family has gathered together this weekend, celebrating scholarship, athletics, teaching and all things Red and Black. The seminars were often full and always lively, and they brought together the great energy that characterizes the classes here. I ran into Orin Snyder  ’83, who had just come from a packed discussion, led by the Wesleyan Lawyers Association, of the changing legal network for social media. And Alberto Ibarguen ’66 P’97 HON’11 was equally enthused about his session celebrating 50 years of the Peace Corps. The history of the Peace Corps at Wesleyan spills naturally into our new PATRICELLI CENTER FOR SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP. We cut the ribbon on the new Center on Saturday morning. Later in the day on Saturday I ran into some starry-eyed parents who were quite in awe of the presentation by Wes film faculty Jeanine Basinger, Scott Higgins and Steve Collins on “what makes movies great”! Jeanine was quoted extensively in this morning’s New York Times on Leonardo diCaprio (and a few days ago could be found in the Wall Street Journal). Our film folks are everywhere, but there’s nothing like seeing them on the home turf!

This weekend saw a grand celebration of the extraordinary work in experimental music by Alvin Lucier. Lucierfest brought out artists, musicians and writers who have been inspired by this pioneering composer and teacher. And speaking of things musical, I was delighted to catch Randy Newman’s benefit performance in the chapel on Friday night. We veered from ironic complicity to emotional commitment as he sampled his catalogue.

The efforts of our student athletes were so impressive this weekend, even if they left us saying, “wait ’til next year!” The cross country teams had very strong showings: the women were 6th of 40 teams  and the men were 9th of 44 teams. The women’s soccer team played well but fell to Amherst in the semi-finals of the NESCAC tournament. Our great goalie Jess Tollman ’15 kept the Lord Jeffs at bay for the first half, a fitting end to her strong first year. Our star forward Laura Kurash ’13 was named District Academic All American. This was our first time advancing this far in the tournament, and we are very proud of the women who battled all semester.

And speaking of a battle…our football team put up a mighty effort against the Purple Ephs in front of an enthusiastic homecoming crowd. We came very close to pulling off a great upset against Williams, thanks to a strong team effort. Matt Coyne passed for 192 yards, and star freshman running back LaDarius Drew ’15 was a workhorse despite the cast on his injured hand. Seniors Brett Bandazian and Jordan Greene had 10 tackles apiece, and our punter Jesse Warren ’15 had a world-class game. Coach Mike Whalen ’83 and the entire team are working together to build a great program. We are very proud of them!

All our athletes today are inspired by the great achievements of Wes students in the past. On Saturday night we inducted an all-star group into the Wesleyan Athletics Hall of Fame. When Moira James ’78, along with Dennis Robinson ’79 and the Athletics Advisory Council, came up with the idea of the hall of fame, I knew it would be a way of recognizing and reconnecting with our alumni greats. They also probably figured it would inspire contemporary success. And they were right!

I wish I were able to attend all the events, and it’s been a joy to welcome so many back to campus after a challenging week. Go Wes!

 

Late Afternoon A Cappella
Late Afternoon A Cappella

UPDATE: What a great thing to hear the many a cappella groups at the First Annual Stone A Capella Concert, celebrating Chip Stone ’49, p’79, P’82, GP ’11, GP ’15. A highlight for us was Chip and daughter Sarah Stone Maynard ’79 P ’11 singing a duet about the dangers of drugs to start things off.

 

Writing with Grace and Ease

On Wednesday, September 23, some of Wesleyan’s fine creative writers will be reading from their work at the Russell House. The evening will combine prose and poetry, and it promises to be engaging and surprising. Lisa Cohen is a creative non-fiction author and has recently completed a group biography. Lisa charts the unconventional lives of talented women whose defiance of their contemporary norms has informed our own notions of identity and freedom, celebrity, sexual choice and the economy. Deb Olin Unferth recently joined the Wesleyan faculty and is teaching courses in fiction writing. Her post-realist, award-winning novel Vacation explores how even “thin efforts at intimacy” fail painfully, and how even the slightest coincidences generate powerful consequences.  Elizabeth Willis has taught literature and writing courses at Wesleyan for many years, and recently was named to the new Shapiro-Silverberg Chair in Creative Writing. Elizabeth has accumulated many honors, including a recent prize (selected from over 4,000 entries) from The Boston Review. Fellow critic and poet Susan Stewart said of Elizabeth’s poems: They take up the sound of music and the surfaces of painting, yet clearly do what only poems can do. The voice of a person thinking, discovering, revising, is ever-present without any loss in grace or ease.

I am meeting with a group of alumni away from campus Wednesday night, so I’ll have to settle for a tape of the proceedings. I can only hope the abundant grace and ease of the evening won’t be lost! The readings begin at 8 pm.

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