Artful Wesleyan Weekend

What a weekend of arts activity at Wesleyan! Pam Tatge, Director of the Center for the Arts, continues to combine campus energies with amazing performers from around the world. For me, it started out at a faculty social event at the Zilkha Gallery at the end of the day on Friday. Have you seen the alumni exhibition there yet? It’s terrific. The work repays reflection, and it also made me laugh and squirm (those rats!). The show runs through early December.

Speaking of running, there were packed houses for Abraham in Motion at the Patricelli ’92 Theater. Kyle Abraham is a force of nature, and he brought that force to Middletown big time for three sold out performances. Speaking of sold out performances, Kari and I had the great pleasure of seeing the Theater Department’s production of The Seagull. Directed by Yuri Kordonsky, the show was brilliantly staged, and we saw inspired performances by the talented cast. The show had energy and conviction, passions and ideas.

While we were taking in the Chekhov, more than 300 gathered to hear the rejuventated Wesleyan orchestra. I only wish I’d heard what I’m told was a lovely and thoughtful musical program. Congratulations to Nadya Potemkina, the orchestra’s new director.

Many of these events are the result of faculty/student collaboration, one of the great features of our artful campus. Whether pondering Kyle Abraham’s moves or Chekhov’s moods, it’s been a weekend of creativity at the highest level on campus. I just have to figure out how to be in more than one place at a time.



Art Exhibitions on Our Creative Campus

Yesterday I visited the wonderful Alumni Show II at the Zilkha Gallery in the Center for the Arts. Curated by John Ravenal ’81 P’15, the exhibition offers a compelling look at the wide-ranging talents of Wes grads working in a variety of media. John began with over 150 artists and eventually pared the list back to 17 alumni whose work is displayed now on campus. From John Hatleberg’s ’79 Hope Diamond replica to Stephanie Calvert’s ’08 lush paintings, the art displayed at Zilkha delights, provokes…makes you pay attention and makes you think. It’s very cool.

At the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies Tom Zetterstrom’s photographs from China are now on display. These pictures from 1981 promise to remind us of a key moment in China’s recent history. Next week the Davison Art Gallery will open an exhibition exploring seriality in American printmaking. The interplay of repetition and variation will figure prominently in the exhibition opening on September 19th.

It’s the 40th anniversary of the Center for the Arts this year, and there will be plenty of activities throughout the year. We began with the musical Mash, and plenty of groups were really shredding it on stages across the campus. (I learned this word from a first-year student at the campus BB-Q.)  Here’s a pic from the Smokin Lillies set:



Make art, make music, make Wesleyan as creative a campus as we possibly can!


Make Art (and Intelligent Policy) Not Violence

Lucy+Jorge Orta: Food-Water-Life

The new exhibition at the Zilkha Gallery at Wesleyan gets pretty elemental. The Ortas are in the tradition of “social sculpture,” creating works of art that are meant to function, and, most importantly are meant to change the way we think about functionality. This exhibition is co-sponsored by the College of the Environment, and its themes include biodiversity and climate change. A cool feature of the exhibit is the short essay about the art written by Wesleyan faculty: Stewart Gillmor, Doug Charles, Dana Royer, Michael Singer, Gillian Goslinga, Barry Chernoff, Clement Loo, Courtney Fullilove and Bill Stowe have written pieces that you can see here.

The opening celebration for the exhibition is on Tuesday, January 29 from 4:30-6:30pm (gallery talk at 5pm). It’s a show that will repay attention and reflection!


Guns and Gun Violence

Attention and reflection must be devoted to current debates about guns and violence in the United States. And that’s exactly what the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life is doing. On Wednesday evening, Feb. 6 at 7.30 p.m., the Allbritton Center will host a panel and public discussion, “Guns and Gun Violence: Crisis, Policy and Politics” in the CFA Hall on the Wesleyan campus. The event will shine a spotlight on the rich scholarship on guns and gun violence, and the need for public debate informed by research from different domains, including the social sciences, public policy and public health.

The panel will be chaired by Leah Wright, Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies at Wesleyan.  Following the panelist presentations, the audience discussion will be moderated by John Dankosky, WNPR News Director and host of “Where We Live.”

The three panelists for this event include:
Saul Cornell (Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History at Fordham University, and a resident of Connecticut) is one of the nation’s leading authorities on American legal history and a specialist on the history of the 2nd Amendment. Prof. Cornell’s books include ‘A Well Regulated Militia’: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control (2006) and Whose Right to Bear Arms Did the Second Amendment Protect? (2000).
Kristin A. Goss (Associate Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke University) specializes in public agenda-setting and the politics of gun control.  The author of Disarmed: The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America (2006, 2009), she has published several articles about women and gun control and gun ownership and the institutional origins of the gun war.
Matthew Miller (Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health) is a physician with training in health policy and the author of several articles on the effects of firearm legislation on rates of suicide and homicide.

Two events in the CFA that encourage us to think about (and deal with) some of the most pressing problems confronting us today.

Performance! Now!

Yesterday afternoon I stopped by the opening of the new exhibition in Zilkha, Performance Now. What a wonderful show! The entire gallery space seems transformed, and there is so much to look at, listen to, laugh with, and be absorbed by.  The exhibition is a collaboration between Wesleyan, Independent Curators International, and Performa. Roselee Goldberg, who has long championed adventurous performance art, curated the exhibition, and was on hand yesterday to make some remarks. She’ll be back on November 17th to lecture. A group of alumni who are making performance based work (check out Liz Magic Laser ’03 in this show) will be speaking on campus October 20. Here’s a brief summary of the show from the website:

Performance Now is an exhibition that will debut at Wesleyan, and show how performance has come to be at the center of the discussion on the latest developments in contemporary art and culture. Bringing together some of the most significant artists working today, this exhibition surveys the most critical and experimental currents in performance over the last ten years from around the globe. Segments of the exhibition featuring video, film and photography, by artists including Marina Abramovic, William Kentridge, Clifford Owens and Laurie Simmons, will be showcased in Zilkha Gallery.

Throughout the semester there will be seminars, talks, and performances. And check out the very cool Film Series on Thursday in the Powell Cinema at the Center for Film Studies.

There is plenty of performance on campus every year, but there is a strange synergy brewing this term. The Center for the Humanities is focused on temporality this semester, and performance is certainly a time-based medium. I heard historian Lynn Hunt’s great talk on Monday night, and it got the series off to a strong start.  And, of course, the Music and Public Life program continues all year with great performances and reflections on them.

As I meet with folks on campus, it seems that scores of students are auditioning for plays, dances and musical groups in these first weeks of the semester.  Here’s to “call backs!”

Artful Weekend, Artful Weeks Ahead (don’t forget to THINK BIG!)

It’s the season for senior thesis writers to be burning the midnight oil. In a couple of weeks these projects will be handed in to advisors and multiple readers, and then it will be the faculty burning the oil as we carefully read through the arguments, stories, proofs, and poems on which  students have been working for the last several months.

Many students preparing recitals, plays and exhibitions have already had to complete their work so that it can be scheduled for performance and display. Yesterday I checked out the student senior exhibitions in the Zilkha Gallery, and boy was I impressed! My first impression was of Sienna Perro’s subtle yet disturbing photographs of funeral homes. Her sober approach to the material only heightened the emotional power of the work. I had a chance to chat with Kuan-lin Huang about his wonderful installation. Kuan-lin used sculpture, sound and projected images to call to mind the tension between individuality and submergence in the group. I didn’t meet the other artists, but I was mightily impressed by the architectural installation (Gil Sunshine), the magically realist painting of family correspondences (Elizabeth Chabot), and the minimalist cartography installation (Johnny Tan). I think the work will be up for a short part of Sunday afternoon (April 1). The next wave of senior exhibitions opens on Tuesday.

My afternoon on Saturday was enriched by a marvelous concert that was part of Sam Long’s senior thesis in music and environmental studies. Sam’s band, The Honey and the Sting, played original music composed in response to the Connecticut River Valley.

The music was gorgeous, and the lyrics were smart, funny and evocative. Jess Best 12, Mel Hsu ’13, Howe Pearson ’12 and Gemma Smith ’12 gave heartfelt and compelling performances. Although I know the band members had originally wanted to perform outside (with bike-generator powered amplification), the vibe in the Chapel was just right.

Some mighty vibes these days in Memorial Chapel. Last week’s Think Big lectures featuring an all-star faculty line-up was exciting, provocative and fun. Joshua Levine ’12 and his comrades Hannah Vogel ’13, Jack Hoskins ’12, Max Nussenbaum ’12 and Maxwell Hellmann ’13 did a fabulous job organizing the event.

Don’t they look like they are thinking BIG? Pictured here are Leah Wright, Rich Adelstein, Mary-Jane Rubenstein, Matt Kurtz, Jeanine Basinger and John Finn. In their 9 minute talks, the profs talked about what engages them most as researchers and teachers. I had a great time moderating the event. There will be more pics and videos posted soon.

Taiko drumming seems to be happening at various places on campus this weekend. And last night I also got to hear a staggering performance by Dylan Griffin ’12 of Schubert’s Impromptus and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Listening to Dylan play, I was so happy to be at a university at which student performance is so seriously accomplished and so highly valued!


Time Passes, Classes Begin (and so do exhibitions)!

Today classes get underway, and for me that’s always an exciting time. I re-tooled the Past on Film quite a bit this semester, and I am eager to see how the course develops in its new incarnation. I know many of my faculty colleagues have been developing new versions of old favorites, or developing new courses that address issues that have recently come to the fore. We are building a syllabus library, and you can check out some examples of what’s being taught at Wes here.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of greeting Wesleyan’s graduate students as they finished a day long symposium exploring career options in the sciences and music. Graduate students are not always very visible at our small university, but they play a vital role in our educational ecology. MA and Ph.D. students in ethnomusicology, chemistry, liberal studies, biology or experimental composition (to name just some of their fields) are all developing as scholars and teachers even while still being students. James Ricci, the head of the Graduate Students Association, heads up a vibrant, diverse and dedicated community. Bill Herbst, astronomer and Director of Graduate Studies, and Cheryl-Ann Hagner, who is in charge of graduate student services, are providing greater visibility and support to this important area at Wesleyan.

As classes get underway, there is a most interesting exhibition set to open in the Zilkha Gallery. The show is entitled “Passing Time,” and it features some extraordinarily gifted contemporary artists. Here’s a description of the show from the Center for the Arts: “The multiple and converging meanings of the phrase “passing time”–spending time, time to die–are explored in the evocative imagery of recent art by fourteen international artists working in video, photography, sculpture and works on paper. Some artists turn to sport, some to music; some refer to nature and its rhythms to explore concepts of time–short term, long term and terminating. Others partner with time itself in their making of art. Time is a concept that philosophers and physicists ponder. Time provides a framework that orders, measures and defines. We spend time, we waste it, we keep it; time flies, it drags. It is elastic in its perception–long when we are young, gaining momentum as we age. This exhibition explores the relationship between the time of our life and the time of the eons. The exhibit features works by Rineke Dijkstra (The Netherlands), Shaun Gladwell (Australia), Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Stefana McClure and Bill Viola (United States), among others. The exhibition is curated by Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox of c2—curatorsquared. Faculty members from six disciplines have written reactions to the show: Lutz Huwel (Physics), Bill Herbst (Astronomy), John Seamon (Psychology), Sara Croucher (Anthro), Uli Plass (German) and Janne Hoeltermann (Studio Art). Check out the website, or better yet, see the work at Zilkha.

The doors of Zilkha open on Friday, and the official opening celebration is Tuesday, January 31, from 5-7 pm.

Best wishes to all as the new semester begins!




Approaching the Finish Line

The last week has been a whirlwind of opportunities to see some of the best of student work at Wesleyan. I’ve enjoyed seeing the senior theses art exhibitions as they’ve gone up in the Zilkha Gallery (and there’s a greatest hits version now), and it is fun to see the work of this term’s drawing and painting students in their work spaces. Tula Telfair’s students will have work on display today, and the photography exhibition of work collected for Wesleyan by the late Puffin D’Oench continues in Davison Gallery through Commencement. The Davison collection is one of the jewels of our Center for the Arts, and we recently hosted the Friends of the Davison for a reception at the President’s House. The group raises money to acquire new works of art, and they have really helped keep the collection an important resource for the university. You can check out their blog.

I strolled over to Russell House last week to listen to the writing prize winners read from their work. It was a revelation, and I was deeply moved by the stories, essays and poems I heard. The pride and affection of the writing faculty for their students was so clear, as was the support of our ever-growing community of writing students!

There has been lots of film, music and dance across the campus over the last several days, and Kari, Sophie and I were fortunate to witness much of it. From Rent to African drumming and dance, from a cappella groups to Mark Slobin’s Yiddish theater production, I’ve been hearing and seeing some stunning performances.

Tomorrow our finals begin, and I think I’ll be hearing a lot of tapping on computer keyboards as students write and faculty grade exams and essays. Good luck to all!

Spring Theses, Flowering all Around Us

As I tossed Mathilde the tennis ball yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice the spray of crocuses that were pushing through the soil in the backyard. It still seemed freezing to this California-spoiled guy, but spring was beginning to show itself. It’s been a hard winter, but our campus promises to be in bloom very soon.

I strolled over to the Zilkha Gallery to check out the group show of studio art senior theses. Each week now there will be a new group of artists showing their work. Drew Broderick, Robert Eastman, Alyssa Hutton, Cameron Rowland, and Elizabeth Sonenberg provided me with plenty to think about, and marvel and smile at. I was impressed by the delicate drawing, adventurous three dimensional installations and strong political perspective. Photographs by COL senior Alana Perino are on display in the Zelnick Pavillion, and they succeed in giving a strong sense of place that is both strange and familiar.

On Saturday night I’d popped over to Crowell to hear the senior thesis recital of Daniel Henry, an extraordinarily talented trumpet player. In addition to his own vibrant, funky compositions, Daniel’s 9-piece ensemble played music in tribute to the great Lee Morgan. I wasn’t able to stay for the entire concert, but what I heard was stirring. The ensemble was cruising along, and the audience was clearly in for a great ride.

Seniors finishing their theses are hunkering down for the final stretch, and those folks won’t be seen much on campus for the next couple of weeks. But those presenting their final projects in theater, music, dance and studio art will be out in force. Check ‘em out, and cheer them on!

Teaching, Research and a Busy Weekend

Yesterday felt like the first warm spring day since students returned from Spring Break, and it was great to see Andrus Field and Foss Hill fill up in the late afternoon. I’d begun the day with a visit to our pilot program at the Cheshire State Correctional Institution. VP Sonia Manjon and I visited Melanye Price’s class in political science, and I was struck by the seriousness with which the men were approaching complex issues in American political culture.  Russell Perkins ’09, who helped get this program underway and continues to coordinate it, met us at the prison. It was important to see first-hand some of the issues that arise in a program that teaches liberal arts classes in correctional institutions.

For the last year or so Provost Joe Bruno and I have sponsored talks by faculty for their colleagues across the campus. The faculty lunch lecture yesterday was delivered with panache by Stewart Novick, one of our star professors of chemistry. Stew’s subject was astrochemistry, and he did a masterful job of explaining the “rich chemistry” of dense interspatial dust clouds — even to someone as chemistry-challenged as I! I was especially impressed by the interdisciplinary importance of the work for astronomy, physics and cosmology. The collaboration on this sophisticated research by undergraduate and graduate students was yet another sign of how our science programs are dedicated to the scholar-teacher model at the highest level.

Busy weekend on the horizon at Wesleyan. The senior theses art exhibitions at Zilkha gallery are always worth checking out. This week Sarah Abbott, Julian Wellisz, Rachel Schwerin, Megumu Tagami and Yang Li have their recent work on display.

Baseball hosts Middlebury today and Saturday afternoon, and the softball team is at home against Hamilton. Men’s lacrosse is at home against the always strong Tufts team. Come out and support the Cardinals!

[tags]Cheshire State Correctional Institution, Russell Perkins ’09, Provost Joe Bruno, Stewart Novick, senior art theses[/tags]