Center for the Arts Story: I found the Center for the Arts through an unexpected route: my extracurricular activities in the Environmental Organizers Network (EON). As an Art History person, I’d always been involved in what was happening on the other side of the CFA green, but it wasn’t until I by chance attended a meeting about the first Feet to the Fire Festival that I really got to know the CFA. I kept going to planning meetings, and before long I found myself co-leading a student forum on environmental art and helping with logistics for the festival. As part of the student forum, I co-created an animation about the carbon cycle, but the best part about the actual day of the festival definitely wasn’t seeing my own work: it was getting to see the work of so many artists and thinkers (dancers, musicians, biologists, sculptors, and more) and the Middletown community (professors, students, and citizens) come together. That was really when the value of interdisciplinary work became clear to me.
The Feet to the Fire Festival in May 2008 allowed me to deepen interests I already had, while simultaneously discovering things totally new to me. At the same time that my two major passions serendipitously came together, I was introduced to the related (but new for me) field of performing arts. That became another passion, and as a senior I returned to the CFA as the Arts Administration Intern.
Interdisciplinary work and cultural planning became dominant threads in the rest of my Wesleyan experience. Even though I spent most of my time in the same corner of campus (between the CFA and the Davison Art Center), I found a lot of boundary-breaking activity there, and that broadness defined my time at Wesleyan. Actually, it’s still defining me: I found my current path (library and information science) through a studio art class about information theory I took with Jeffrey Schiff.
Favorite Course: Topics in Studio Art
Favorite Professor: impossible to choose just one!
Thesis Title: “Notions of Method: Text and Photograph in Methods of Connoisseurship” (Art History)
An update from Pamela Tatge, Director of the Center for the Arts, about exciting developments for “SPILL,” a work that the Center for the Arts commissioned from playwright Leigh Fondakowski which had a workshop performance at Wesleyan in February 2012.
For those of you who don’t know SPILL, in 2010, playwright and director Leigh Fondakowski teamed up with Wesleyan Professor and Environmental Studies chair Barry Chernoff to co-teach an interdisciplinary course bringing together documentary theater and science. Students traveled to the Gulf Coast to conduct interviews and scientific research on the devastating British Petroleum (BP) oil spill that occurred earlier that year. Upon returning to campus, students developed original performances and visual art based on their research findings. Ms. Fondakowski too went on to create an original performance from her own research conducted in the Gulf, a work created with visual artist Reeva Wortel entitled SPILL.
Originally commissioned by the Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University, SPILL tells the story of the BP oil disaster through a deeply personal lens. Over the course of two years, Ms. Fondakowski interviewed oil rig workers, clean-up volunteers, community leaders, fishermen, scientists, environmentalists, oil industry proponents, families who lost loved ones in the explosion, and others—chronicling their stories into one compelling narrative that asks us to consider the true cost of oil. Much like The Laramie Project—Ms. Fondakowski’s wildly successful previous play (co-written with Moises Kaufman and Tectonic Theater) about the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, an openly gay student from the University of Wyoming—SPILL engages its audience in a challenging but vital dialogue about critical issues.
While the first half of SPILL focuses on the oil rig explosion, the second deals with the aftermath and its effects on the people and land of south Louisiana. After each performance, the audience is invited to view an art installation comprised of life-sized portraits of the interviewees, painted by visual artist and collaborator Reeva Wortel. The striking installation creates a colorful space in which the conversation can be continued long after the performance itself has ended. In this way SPILL goes well beyond the average play. It is also an art installation, a conversation, a history, and a starting point for social change.
• September 6 – December 8, 2013: The Alumni Show II exhibition in Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, featuring painting, sculpture, drawing, installation art, video art, performance, and films
• September 12 & 13, 2013: Stripped/Dressed featuring Rise and the Connecticut premiere of Carrugi by Doug Varone and Dancers
• September 13, 2013; November 16, 2013; and February 15, 2014: Dine/Dance/Discover, a new event designed to bring audiences closer to the work on stage before and after all three 2013–2014 Breaking Ground Dance Series performances
• September 27 & 28, 2013: the Connecticut premiere of Who’s Hungryby Dan Froot and Dan Hurlin
• September 29, 2013: the first of twelve recitals featuring the complete piano works of Wesleyan John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Neely Bruce, including two world premieres
• October 9–13, 2013: the 37th annual Navaratri Festival, including the Connecticut debut of dancer Aparna Ramaswamy
• October 15, 2013: the New England debut of Netherlands-based pianist Reinier van Houdt
• October 25, 2013: Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré, the “Hendrix of the Sahara”
• November 9, 2013: the Connecticut debut of London-based a cappella trio Juice Vocal Ensemble
• November 11, 2013: Blood, Muscle, Bone, a performative “teach-in” by choreographers Liz Lerman and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar
• November 13–16, 2013: Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull directed by Wesleyan Associate Professor of Theater Yuri Kordonsky
• November 15 & 16, 2013: the Connecticut premiere of the dance work Pavement by Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion
• January 30 & 31, 2014: the New England premiere of the theater work HOME/SICK by The Assembly
• February 1, 2014: the Connecticut debut of the Ignacio Berroa Trio
• February 14, 2014: the first concert in New England by Ukrainian pianist Vadym Kholodenko after winning the Gold Medal in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition
• February 14 & 15, 2014: the New England premiere of Times Bones by San Francisco’s Margaret Jenkins Dance Company
• March 8 & 9, 2014: the 15th annual DanceMasters Weekend, featuring a Showcase Performance by three dance companies, and twelve Master Classes over two days
• March 27—29, 2014: the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States conference, to be held in New England for the first time since 1998
Tickets for the 2013-2014 season at the Center for the Arts go on sale on Monday, July 1, 2013. Tickets will be available online at http://www.wesleyan.edu/boxoffice; and starting at Noon by phone at (860) 685-3355, or in person at the Wesleyan University Box Office, located in the Usdan University Center, 45 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown.
Programs, artists, and dates are subject to change without notice.
CFA Arts Administration Intern Monica M. Tinyo ’13 discusses the MiddletownRemix Festival, taking place on Saturday, May 11, 2013 from 2pm to 5pm. All festival events are free, and will take place rain or shine. The Festival Information Center will be located at 575 Main Street, Middletown, CT (in front of It’s Only Natural Market). Click here to download the MiddletownRemix Festival Schedule and Map (opens as a pdf).
This Saturday, MiddletownRemix: Hear More, See More – A Festival of Art and Sound will celebrate the city’s acoustic identity with four world premieres of works commissioned for the festival, three live DJ sets, two commissioned art/sound installations, a laptop orchestra, a flash mob dance, food trucks, graffiti art, improv sketches, and a gallery walk.
MiddletownRemix is part of Wesleyan’s year-long initiative Music & Public Life, as well as part of the Center for the Arts’ greater initiative to foster community engagement using the arts as a catalyst. Not since Middletown Dances in September 2005 on Main Street, and the Feet to the Fire Festival in May 2008 at Veterans Park, has there been such an opportunity for Wesleyan students and the greater Middletown community to collaborate and celebrate the space they share. Gabriela de Golia ’13 explains this collaboration is exactly why “the Wesleyan Student Assembly’s Middletown-Wesleyan Relations Committee is so excited for this festival. For a whole afternoon, students, residents, families and renowned artists will be able to experience the artistic culture of Wesleyan and Middletown, and celebrate the work of talented community members. This is a special chance for the University and town to come together and engage with one another on a more personal and interactive level than is usually possible.”
This Saturday’s festival will premiere a total of eight commissioned works from Middletown artists, Wesleyan students and faculty; including “MTRX” (2012) by Jason Freeman, which will be performed by Wesleyan University’s Toneburst Laptop & Electronic Arts Ensemble, directed by Paula Matthusen, at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm at the Green Street Arts Center (located at 51 Green Street).
Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to listen and dance with your neighbors. There will be a flash mob dance at 2:30pm on Main Street between Liberty and Ferry Street. It’s not too late to learn the flash mob dance, which is open to all levels of dancers. Learn the dance on YouTube here and perform it as part of the flash mob on May 11 (participants should plan to arrive at the Festival Information Center, located at 575 Main Street in front of It’s Only Natural Market, at 2pm, and then perform the dance at 2:30pm).
For more information about six of the commissioned MiddletownRemix festival artists, check out these interviews from the Creative Campus blog:
Director of the Center for the Arts Pamela Tatge reflects on the exhibition FOOD-WATER-LIFE—LUCY+JORGE ORTA, on view in the Main Gallery of the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery through Sunday, March 3, 2013.
It’s the start of the spring semester here at Wesleyan University, and our student gallery monitors are preparing to welcome a new exhibition into the Zilkha Gallery: FOOD-WATER-LIFE—LUCY+JORGE ORTA. I was introduced to the French artist couple by Ginger Duggan and Judy Hoos Fox, independent curators who have brought two exhibitions to Zilkha Gallery in the past two years: Connectivity Lost in September 2010 and Passing Time* in January 2012. The Ortas, whose studio is in Paris, contributed 70 x 7 The Meal to Connectivity Lost, a set of plates that were a part of their public art piece that they have mounted in cities around the world whereby thousands of people share a meal together on a set of limited edition plates, forging a powerful encounter of people from all walks of life.
Ginger and Judy shared with us that although the Ortas have exhibited all over the world, and in group shows in the U.S., they had never had a solo show in this country. Wesleyan partnered with the Tufts University Art Gallery who organized the exhibition, and we have our opening on Tuesday, January 29 from 4:30pm to 6:30pm.
I’m excited to have this stunning exhibition in our gallery for many reasons, first because the issues their works illuminate are those that many in our community are discussing: biodiversity, environmental conditions, climate change, and exchange among peoples. The exhibition also intersects with this year’s Feet to the Fire theme, Earth and Justice for All, with many courses in Wesleyan’s College of the Environment exploring environmental justice issues.
But most importantly, it’s been a long time since we’ve had large-scale sculptural elements in the gallery. The minute I saw their work I could see it beautifully sited in Zilkha: the height of the gallery frames the strikingly colorful parachute installations; the segment on food is situated in front of the gallery’s windows and is in dialogue with the trees and grass of our courtyard; the film of the Ortas’ public art work in Antarctica is set against the raw majesty of the floor to ceiling limestone of the Main Gallery’s back wall.
And the full-scale canoe that is docked in the center of Zilkha has a sister canoe that the Ortas have installed at the Shanghai Biennale, where it is a fully-working water purification system. The Museum of Contemporary Art is pumping in water from the Huang Pu River, up 20 meters into the museum’s third floor. It is purified in a bamboo “factory” and then clean drinking water is available for the visitors to taste, enjoy and take away in a specially designed OrtaWater bottle. I’m sorry that our budget didn’t allow us to do the same with water from the Connecticut River!
Following the opening on Tuesday, the exhibition will be on view, alongside Janne Höltermann’s Remodeling Zilkha installation in the North Gallery, through Sunday, March 3.
*Many of you may not know that Wesleyan’s exhibition, Passing Time, left Middletown last March and traveled to Indiana’s DePauw University, then to the Salina Art Center in Kansas. While we will be celebrating the opening of the Orta exhibition on Tuesday, Passing Time will open at the Bakalar Gallery at Boston’s Massachusetts College of Art and Design! If you missed it at Wesleyan, you can see it in Boston through Sunday, March 3.
This spring at the Center for the Arts we bring you work that is of today: innovative, inquisitive and sure to surprise and engage you. Continuing our exploration of Music & Public Life, we bring you a concert of music from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello–what you might have heard both in the mansion and in the slaves’ quarters–where audiences will have the chance to experience the first glass harmonica on the Crowell Concert Hall stage. The great activist and trumpeter Hugh Masekela will bring his band to Wesleyan, and our own West African Drumming ensemble will have the chance to open for him. In dance, we bring back Andrea Miller’s Gallim Dance after their performance at the DanceMasters Weekend Showcase in 2011 brought audiences to their feet. Her piece Mama Call investigates her Spanish-Sephardic heritage, and the reprise of Pupil features the spirited music of Balkan Beat Box. In theater, we bring the master innovator Lee Breuer to campus with his newest work Glass Guignol, a compilation of texts from Tennessee Williams’ women, performed by the indomitable Maude Mitchell.
In Zilkha Gallery, Lucy and Jorge Orta’s Food-Water-Life will be on view. This is the first-ever solo show in the U.S. of work by these Paris-based artists, who stage performative events to bring attention to some of the world’s most urgent environmental and social issues. The colorful sculptural works, including a large canoe, and three parachutes, will take advantage of Zilkha’s scale, and a series of food events is being staged to more deeply connect you to the themes of the show.
This is just a note to thank you for attending our events and exhibitions this past year. I hope you have enjoyed and been challenged by the work of our faculty, students and visiting artists! After Reunion/Commencement this weekend, we will be switching gears to prepare for another beautiful summer in Middletown and the CFA’s summer series. I’ll be posting various CFA news items as I hear about what our students and faculty are up to, as well as our alumni and visiting artists. Feel free to email me with any news you think I should know about at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First, I want to let those of you who saw Leigh Fondakowski’s work-in-progress SPILL at Beckham Hall in February know that she and her artistic collaborator for the project, Reeva Wortel, have been awarded two 3-week residencies in New Orleans this fall. Fondakowski and Wortel will live and work at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and at Louisiana State University to further develop the play. Fondakowski’s hope is to premier the completed work in New Orleans on the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2013. We’re so excited to see this important work travel home, completing the circle begun last summer as seven Wesleyan students journeyed with Fondakowski and Wesleyan’s own Barry Chernoff, Director of the College of the Environment, to conduct the interviews and research that became the seeds of this project.
And in local news, in last Sunday’s New Haven Register, I read about a terrific program facilitated by Brad Roth MALS ’97, who runs an organization called Dancing Day, Inc. based in Milford and has taught dance across Connecticut. Now in its third year, the Shared Ability Program, under the auspices of Young Audiences of CT and in partnership with the New Haven Ballet, continues to provide a supportive environment for ballet students and children with disabilities to meet, interact, and share their different experiences and interests. Students learn to accept touch, to communicate through movement, and to express themselves creatively and interactively – skills they’ll develop and draw upon throughout their lives.
For Roth, the “challenge is to create interesting choreography where the attention is not to the disability, but to the choreography. The magic is when restricted movement looks like designed movement or art, rather than the perception of limitation. They’re beautiful little moments that happen regularly – magic little moments where movement turns into dance.”
You can see Brad (and others) talk about the program in this video.
We congratulate Brad and his students on their work so far, and wish them the best of luck in the future.
Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge talks to Josh Cohen ’14 and Matthew Krakauer ’14 about what they learned from writer Leigh Fondakowski and scientist Barry Chernoff. “SPILL”, Ms. Fondakowski‘s collaboration with visual artist Reeva Wortel, will be performed in Beckham Hall this weekend (Feb. 25 & 26).
I went to Beckham Hall on Tuesday as Leigh Fondakowski and Reeva Wortel were loading in elements for SPILL, a new work that Wesleyan and others have commissioned about the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill. We’ve seen images of Reeva’s portraits, but finally we were able to see the eight foot tall canvasses unpacked. They are life-sized representations of the people whom Fondakowski and Wortel interviewed, people whose lives were changed forever.
This weekend, the stories of oyster fishermen, Tea Party Republicans, families of oil riggers and others will be told in a choral reading format by Fondakowski’s New York-based cast. Wesleyan students also had the chance to meet and interview some of these people when they took a course that Fondakowski and Barry Chernoff, Director of the College of the Environment, co-taught last summer in and around New Orleans.
They learned about the aftermath of the spill through the lens of a scientist and an artist. They toured the beaches and the bayou, understanding the science of what occurred and meeting with scientists about the condition of coastal wildlife. They also learned Fondakowski’s interviewing techniques and how she uses a technique entitled Moment Work to create a piece of theater. When I saw Josh Cohen ’14, a student in the course at Young Jean Lee’s talk this week, he said: “I have to go back to Louisiana. [Fondakowski and Chernoff] introduced me to a world I’d never experienced before. I learned about making theater from the ground up. As a result, it completely changed the way I look at everything. I can’t wait to see Leigh’s play.” He was with Matthew Krakauer ’14, another student in the course: “I learned a completely new way to think about theater. I had one mindset about how theater is made, but this class changed everything. In fact, Moment Work informed how I experienced my entire time there. I can’t wait to go back.”
Tickets for SPILL are extremely limited: only 50 per performance, so if you are interested in attending, do buy your tickets early.
“SPILL” Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 7pm & 10pm
Sunday, February 26, 2012 at 2pm & 7pm
Fayerweather Beckham Hall , Wyllys Avenue
$12 general public; $10 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $5 Wesleyan students
Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge discusses “RISK!” (Feb. 10) and “SPILL” (Feb. 25 & 26).
Carolyn Cohen ’12 came to the CFA with an idea. She and members or her comedy improv troupe said they wanted to bring Kevin Allison (of MTV’s The State) to Wesleyan to do a story slam with a twist. Mr. Allison has created RISK! – a program that he has taken to college campuses around the country where he pairs luminaries in the comedy scene with students and other members of the community (check out what they did at Brown University here). They all tell stories that show sides of themselves that they never thought they’d dare to share in public (that’s where the “risk” comes in). Tonight, Wesleyan will welcome Mr. Allison and San Francisco-based comic W. Kamau Bell to tell stories alongside Wesleyan students. The 7pm performance will include stories told by Jana Heaton ’14 and graduate student Jakob Schaeffer. The 10pm performance will include stories told by Carolyn Cohen ’12 and Virgil Taylor ’15. Both performances will feature music by Samuel Friedman ’13.
RISK! Friday, February 10, 2012 at 7pm & 10pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$12 general public; $10 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $5 Wesleyan students* *Wesleyan Students may purchase advance tickets to both performances for $8. Students that have already purchased tickets to one of the performances, may add the other performance at the discounted rate. This discounted rate is available through the Wesleyan University Box Office in the Usdan University Center.
I also want to encourage all of our CFA friends to save the date to see the first-ever public showing of a play commissioned by the CFA through the Creative Campus Initiative. SPILL is a stunning new work co-created by Leigh Fondakowski (Head Writer, The Laramie Project), and visual artist Reeva Wortel, and is based in part on interviews with people from the Gulf Coast of southern Louisiana in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of April 2010, the largest environmental disaster in the history of the United States. The performances at Wesleyan are the first public showing of the performance/installation and will feature life-sized painted portraits of the interviewees, along with a choral reading of the play.
We met Leigh for the first time in 2008 when the Theater Department and CFA brought her to campus to lead a workshop on the Tectonic Theater’s “moment work” in conjunction with a residency by Moises Kaufman (founder of Tectonic). In 2010, the CFA invited her to co-teach an environmental studies course with Wesleyan scientist Barry Chernoff. Together the pair developed the Deepwater Horizon Tragedy: A Scientific and Artistic Inquiry course. By exploring the oil spill from both an artistic and scientific standpoint, students learned the science of the Gulf Coast region and the ecological impact of the oil spill as well as artistic tools and methods that enabled them to understand the science at a deeper level, and make the research and the meaning of that research visible to an audience through their art.
Leigh was so taken by what she saw and heard, she decided to create her own piece in a first-time collaboration with visual artist Reeva Wortel. The text for the work is created from transcripts of interviews with people across the political spectrum – from Tea Party Republicans to life-long environmental conservationists, families who lost loved ones in the explosion on the oil rig, as well as oil-rig workers, clean-up workers, scientists, politicians, priests, and members of the diverse fishing communities along the coast. What emerges is a story as complex as this region’s historic relationship to oil and the oil industry.
There are only fifty seats for each performance so we encourage you to reserve your tickets early. Every performance will be followed by a talk-back with the creators. They are anxious for your feedback as they prepare to take the work to New Orleans for the second anniversary of the spill in April, as well as an anticipated national tour in 2013. We hope you will be a part of the birthing of this new work, and will be able to join us on February 25 or 26.
SPILL Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 7pm & 10pm Sunday, February 26, 2012 at 2pm & 7pm Fayerweather Beckham Hall , Wyllys Avenue $12 general public; $10 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students, $5 Wesleyan students