Center for the Arts Stories: Christopher Riggs MA ’12

Christopher Riggs MA '12. Photo by Eric Gallippo.
Christopher Riggs MA ’12. Photo by Eric Gallippo.

Center for the Arts Story: I’ve met few educators who exhibit unconditional positive regard for the creative urges of students in the way Ronald Kuivila can. By this I don’t mean to imply that working with Ron involves simple coddling. New ideas are cared for in a nurturing way but are also submitted to rigorous scrutiny. Ron seems to get inside your head and observe the past, present, and future of your bizarre, idiosyncratic impulses. Rather than submit to the artistic affinities of my mentor, I felt like I had become more of who I already was after each week’s thesis meeting. The fact that my particular type of artistic process was of no personal interest to Ron did not appear to present him with any kind of pedagogical obstacle. It was almost as if this distance made him even better at his job. I hesitate to make such a statement because it would imply that someone tuned in to Ron’s particular interests (e.g. American Experimentalism, Computer Music, etc.), would not almost certainly benefit from his expertise. I’m confident they would.

Ron’s style of teaching as cultivation of individual growth is rare in an educator and experiencing it from the perspective of a student is an incredible and occasionally therapeutic experience. Wesleyan University is extremely lucky to have Ron Kuivila as a teacher and anyone with an artistic practice, regardless of genre or discipline, would benefit greatly from his teaching.

Favorite Course: Graduate Thesis Tutorial with Ronald Kuivila

Favorite Professor: Ronald Kuivila

Thesis Title: “Sweet Spot of Potential: The Prepared Guitar of Christopher Riggs”

Center for the Arts Stories: Allison Hurd ’11

Allison Hurd '11. Photo by Yannick Bindert.
Allison Hurd ’11. Photo by Yannick Bindert.

Center for the Arts Story: Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts was, undoubtedly, one of the most integral aspects of my college experience. I always thought of it as a kind of vibratory sanctuary where an incredible amount of creativity and exploration was happening. The activity that took place in so many of its spaces helped me realize a charged, yet meditative relationship to artistic experience. Gamelan concerts in the World Music Hall, Studio Art theses in the Zilkha Gallery, Theater productions like Big Love, Film thesis screenings in the Goldsmith Family Cinema, Pedro Alejandro’s site-specific dance No Eggshells/Outside — these are just a few of the resonating experiences afforded to me by the CFA. Furthermore, because of the CFA’s Creative Campus Fellowship, I was offered a remarkable internship with the Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group of Brooklyn, New York. Without the efforts of the CFA to foster relationships between students and artists working in the professional field, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity, which greatly influenced my development as an artistic thinker and doer.

Favorite Course: “Pathological Citizens: The Politics and Poetics of Disease in Latin American Literature,” taught by Lina Meruane of the Spanish department; and “Dance and Technology,” taught by Rachel Boggia of the Dance department, were two of the most illuminating courses I took at Wesleyan. Both introduced me to a world of knowledge and progressive thinking that continue to inform my scholarly pursuits. Through discussion as well as written and creative projects, Professors Meruane and Boggia allowed each student to access his or her individual strengths in relation to the course material, which, ultimately, led to profound internal discovery and realization.

Favorite Professor: While I was deeply impacted by the teaching of many professors, Henry Abelove has always stood out in my memory. My experience in his course on British literature revealed his unique ability to inspire the attentiveness and accountability of his students. Accordingly, the close reading skills that Professor Abelove helped cultivate in his classroom have enhanced my approach to learning beyond measure. The grace, good humor, and egalitarian spirit with which he engaged his students have, jointly, served as a daily model for how I hope to shape my own interactions with others.

Thesis Title: “Enlightened Visions of the Imaginative Form: A Comparative Analysis of Modern Dance and the Independent Cinema of Maya Deren”

New Trees at the CFA

Pamela Tatge, Director of the Center for the Arts, discusses the four new trees planted in honor of the CFA’s 40th anniversary, to be dedicated at the concert by Amy Crawford + STORM and mamarazzi on Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall.

If you’ve ever taken a stroll through the Center for the Arts courtyard before a performance, or sat out on the lawn for an outdoor concert, you know how important the trees are to the architecture of the CFA. Architect Kevin Roche designed the buildings around the trees back in the early seventies, making sure that the building equipment would have as little impact on them as possible.  Over the past forty years, many of the trees have died from extreme weather conditions and disease.  In honor of the CFA’s 40th anniversary, the University has planted four new trees including one right outside the window of my office on the second floor of the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. Here’s a picture of them planting it earlier this month.

DSC_6030[2]This beautiful red maple replaces a willow tree we lost during Hurricane Irene.  It’s wonderful to come into work every day and see that little tree blowing in the breeze, knowing that one day it will grow to be every bit as majestic as its older brothers and sisters in the complex.

There is also a new paper bark maple between Art Studio South and the Music Studios, a beech tree near the World Music Hall’s north stairwell, and another paper bark maple between the Skull and Serpent building and Music Studios.

Please join us for the 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert of music alumni this Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 8pm when the trees will be dedicated, or just come by and take a stroll and welcome them to the CFA!

CFA 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert:
Amy Crawford + STORM and mamarazzi

Featuring Music Alumni of the Past Decade
Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$20 general public; $18 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $15 Wesleyan alumni; $6 Wesleyan students

Center for the Arts Stories: Yelena Sayko ’10

Yelena Sayko '10
Yelena Sayko ’10

Center for the Arts Story: As is typical for many who wish to pursue a career in the arts – in my case, theater – the most obvious path was a career in design, acting, or directing. However, once I began working in the administration office of the Center for the Arts as the Marketing Assistant, a whole new world opened up to me. I was creatively challenged and fulfilled in a way that I never thought possible. Furthermore, experience in a professional office environment prepared me for internships and jobs in “the real world.” It’s not facetious to say that the Center for the Arts is responsible for my decision to pursue a career in arts marketing, which I have been doing in New York City since graduating in 2010.

Favorite Course: I took an improvisation class with David Jaffe my sophomore year that was actually life-altering. It really helped me come out of my shell and be more assertive. For better or worse!

Favorite Professor: I was never a History major, but if I had taken a class with Magda Teter before my Senior year, I might very well have ended up as one.

Center for the Arts Stories: Alexandra Provo ’10

Alexandra Provo '10
Alexandra Provo ’10

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)

Center for the Arts Stories: Grace Overbeke ’08

Grace Overbeke '08
Grace Overbeke ’08

Center for the Arts Story: Most productions of The Tempest do not feature a death scene in which the clown Trinculo delivers a dying soliloquy composed entirely of duck-quacks, as he is devoured by a Balinese dragon puppet. And I humbly believe that they are the poorer for it. In Wesleyan University’s 2005 production Caliban Remembers: A Balinese Tempest, Ron Jenkins and Nyoman Catra transformed the massive Center for the Arts Theater into a small, intimate venue, blocking off the regular seating section and bringing the audience onstage so that they could get a closer view of the masked actors and intricate shadow puppets used in this unique adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I was lucky enough to play Trinculo in this ensemble, whose rehearsal process  involved everything from master classes with Bill Irwin (who played Trinculo in the New York Theatre Festival production) to traditional Balinese dance training from Nyoman Catra, one of Bali’s most renowned performers. We worked intensely with masks, with musical instruments, with shadow puppets and with one another to create a piece that drew from myriad cultural traditions and theatrical movements. Not only did that production introduce me to a diverse array of theatrical techniques, it also showed me how an author like Shakespeare—who epitomizes the Western canon—can find new expression and vitality when combined with Eastern influences.

Favorite Course: Solo Performance

Favorite Professor: Ron Jenkins

Thesis Title: “America’s Madwomen: Jewish Female Comedians in the 20th Century”

Alumni Musicians Take the Stage (Nov. 2)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 discusses the Center for the Arts’ 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert 
featuring music alumni of the past decade Amy Crawford + STORM and mamarazzi, which will take place during Homecoming/Family Weekend on Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall.

This year the Center for the Arts celebrates its 40th anniversary and a number of Wesleyan alumni artists are returning to campus to join in the festivities. These alumni are photographers, musicians, creative bloggers, installation artists, painters, performers, and more. Together they represent a microcosm of Wesleyan’s thriving and diverse art world. They majored in music, government, art history, neuroscience, and just about every other subject.  They work across disciplines and with mixed medias, constantly pushing the boundaries of creative expression.

The Alumni Show II is currently on view in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery; and on Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 8pm, Amy Crawford and Eric Herman, two graduates from the class of 2005, will perform in Crowell Concert Hall along with other alums during the CFA 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert. Featuring music alumni of the past decade, the concert promises to be as diverse as the Wesleyan arts community itself.

Amy Crawford '05
Amy Crawford ’05

Having performed her senior recital in Crowell Concert Hall, Amy Crawford returns to that same stage with jazz ensemble STORM featuring guitarist Jesse Lewis, drummer Jared Schonig, bassist Ike Sturm, and vibraphonist Chris Dingman ’02. Ms. Crawford and Mr. Dingman did not know each other at Wesleyan, but they connected soon after when she reached out to him for some alumni advice on surviving as a musician in the Big Apple. Although they’ve become good friends and worked together on a number of projects since then, this will be the first time Ms. Crawford performs with STORM.

Ms. Crawford describes STORM as a quartet with incredible chemistry, and says she’s been itching for an excuse to work with them.  Last year she wrote, recorded, and produced a number of original songs independently.  At Wesleyan, she and the members of STORM will play from this catalogue of original material, with a favorite cover or two thrown in for good measure. She is excited to see how the studio-produced songs come to life in a live performance with other musicians.


Eric Herman takes the stage with Brooklyn-based band mamarazzi and his bass guitar. The band, which Mr. Herman describes as a “Wesleyan expat project” that traces its beginnings to 2008, also includes guitarist Andrew Aprile ’06, keyboardist Rob Cohen ’06, percussionist Sam Bathrick ’04, tenor saxophonist Tacuma Bradley ’04, vocalist Tavi Fields ’02, and drummer Andrea Belfiore. Not easily categorized into one genre, mamarazzi fuses together funk, jazz, hip hop, salsa, and Afro-funk.

mamarazzi draws from a range of influences, including Thom Yorke, Maceo Parker, Frank Zappa, Fela Kuti, and Wesleyan’s own Adjunct Professor of Music Abraham Adzenyah, who teaches “West African Music & Culture.” Mr. Herman thinks everyone in the band took at least one class with Professor Adzenyah, and they continue to incorporate what they learned from him into their music. Professor Adzenyah’s class inspired many of mamarazzi’s members to travel to Ghana, not as a band but on their own, and Mr. Herman says these trips have informed their music.

Both Mr. Herman and Ms. Crawford attest to the influence that Wesleyan professors have had on their music, careers, and lives. Ms. Crawford found a mentor in jazz musician and Adjunct Professor of Music Jay Hoggard. “I never considered myself a singer,” she says. “He was the one who pushed me in that direction. He helped me build myself into a better musician.”  Both alumni give a shout out to John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Anthony Braxton for encouraging them to pursue music.  “He was a huge inspiration for me,” Mr. Herman says.

Shaped by their experiences at Wesleyan, Ms. Crawford and Mr. Herman will help shape this year’s music scene as they return to the CFA for the 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert. The concert presents an opportunity for current students to see what alumni artists are working on now and for our community to see how far our graduates have come.

CFA 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert:
Amy Crawford + STORM and mamarazzi

Featuring Music Alumni of the Past Decade
Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$20 general public; $18 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

Center for the Arts Stories: Mike James ’07

Mike James '07
Mike James ’07. Photo by Kristin Hoebermann.

Center for the Arts Story: Someone had to leave Yuri Kordonsky’s production of Peer Gynt my senior year, and I got the part. We had just a couple weeks left until opening. One of Yuri’s directorial choices was to have the actors visible on the edges of the stage at all times, watching. I remember sitting off to the side one day during rehearsal in the main theater at the CFA. I didn’t have any lines in the scene, so I sat on the floor, finishing my thesis or some other homework. Yuri came over to me and said something about trying to be present for everyone else. I pretended to understand. Mostly out of guilt, I put my notebook away. I watched for a little bit, and remembered getting in trouble with Cláudia Nascimento the previous year. She had given me a similar scolding. I spent the ends of rehearsals for her production of The Deceased Woman staring at my watch, and Cláudia suggested I might learn to be grateful for every second of rehearsal. I guess I had to learn it twice. I’m still learning it. But when I put my notebook away in Yuri’s rehearsal, I was bored, at first. But then I started to notice my castmates were coming up with brilliant storytelling ideas. My castmates were arguing about different translations of the play. My castmates were acting really, really well. Suddenly I saw why I was earning university credit hours. And, I got a taste of what presence and generosity felt like. (Just tastes. I’m sure I’m still a monster to some degree.) The classes and programs at Wesleyan’s CFA aren’t for hobbyists. They aren’t supplemental. The seriousness, rigor, and passion for education found in this mini-campus match or beat any other department.

Favorite Course: Modern Dance III

Thesis Title: “Over Lunch: Lord Halifax, Anthony Eden, and the Fictions of Appeasement”

Center for the Arts Stories: Amy Crawford ’05

Amy Crawford '05. Photo by Julia Stotz.
Amy Crawford ’05. Photo by Julia Stotz.

Center for the Arts Story: Meeting Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge, interning at the CFA and learning the ropes of arts administration under her incredible leadership. I responded to an ad in the Argus for the CFA arts administration intern opportunity. Prior to that I didn’t know much about Pam and what the rest of the CFA staff were accomplishing. The internship gave me a different perspective on what happens at the CFA and also set me up with the skills to work in arts administration and produce concerts and projects in NYC after I graduated. Pam provided me with invaluable guidance and advice during my first year in the professional world – she is a gem and I will always consider her a mentor!

Favorite Course: Not a course, per se, but the independent study opportunities that Jay Hoggard offered me (I would receive early wake-up calls from Jay on lesson mornings to make sure I was on my way to the CFA!), and playing jazz standards with Anthony Braxton outside of class were some of my favorite and most formative musical experiences at Wesleyan.

Favorite Professor: James McGuire.

Thesis Title:
My major was Government, and the title of my thesis was “Cold War, Hot Jazz: American, German and Soviet Policy Responses to Jazz Music Pre- and Post-World War II.”  But I completed a senior music recital under the supervision of Jay Hoggard, “just for fun,” as well.

Center for the Arts Stories: Kelly Quinn ’93

Within the open and accepting microcosm of the CFA, I had the tremendous privilege of studying under Ron Kuivila in the electroacoustic music studio.  In that studio, I found the voice that was deep within me but unable to speak using conventional ‘language.’ Ron and the CFA—and Wesleyan as a whole—enabled me to finally find *my* language—not one of words, but one of sound: The one language that makes sense to me.