Month: January 2021

Denali: Artists Respond to Music Inspired by Wilderness

by Bethany Jones, Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts

2017 Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival’s Composing in the Wilderness Program composers.

The Department of Visual and Performing Arts and the Rozsa Center are pleased to announce “Denali: Artists Respond to Music Inspired by Wilderness,” an exciting collaboration culminating in both a Rozsa Gallery A-Space exhibit and a virtual event

The project features composers and artists, their music, and the art inspired by it. “Denali: Artists Respond to Music Inspired by Wilderness,” exists in the confluence of two languages — music and visual art.

It features eighteen works of art made in response to original chamber music inspired by composers’ experiences in Denali National Park, in central Alaska. The in-person gallery experience opens in the Rozsa Gallery A-Space on Friday (Jan. 22), and both the live and virtual events will be available through Saturday, April 17.

Gallery hours are:

  • M-F: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. 1:00 – 8:00 PM
  • Saturdays: 1 – 8 p.m.

The Denali virtual event can be streamed anytime from Jan. 22 to April 17 by visiting the Rozsa website.

QR codes, posted with each work of art throughout the gallery exhibit, provide links to the related pieces of music by scanning with a QR code reader on a smartphone.

Musical scores, program notes, artist statements, and biographies of all project participants will be available both inside the gallery exhibit and digitally as part of the virtual experience.

According to project leaders Terri Frew (VPA) and Libby Meyer, (VPA), “What do you get when you set nine composers loose in Denali National Park? You get nine great pieces of music. Give this music to artists as inspiration and you get eighteen great pieces of art!”

In conjunction with the A-Space Gallery exhibit, participants of Composing in the Wilderness, a shared wilderness experience for adventurous composers and members of the Elements Artist Group, will discuss the collaboration, share performances of the music and images of artwork in virtual music and art experience, featuring a series of videos with each composer, their music and artwork related to each piece of original music.

The Elements Artist Group comprises six artists anchored in Alaska including Charlotte Bird, Susan Campbell, Nancy Hausle-Johnson, Mary Bee Kaufman, Margo Klass and Ree Nancarrow.

The nine composers from the 2017 Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival’s Composing in the Wilderness Program include Jesse Budel, Christian Dubeau, Corinna Hogan, Aaron Keyt, Brent Lawrence, Libby Meyer, Christina Rusnak, Dawn Sonntag and Jennifer Wright.

The idea for the project was originally sparked by a painting Elements artist Mary Bee Kaufman rendered while listening to music written by Christina Rusnak in 2012. Their successful collaboration resonated with other Elements artists who were eager to explore a new challenge – making visual art in response to music inspired by a place they all love, Denali National Park.

Stephen Lias, Composing in the Wilderness director, shared the proposal with his Composing in the Wilderness musicians and they enthusiastically said, “Yes.”

In 2017, Lias led nine experienced composers into the backcountry of Denali National Park. They composed original chamber music inspired by their experiences in the wilderness and then shared recordings of their compositions, along with their scores, ideas, and inspiration with the Elements artists. Elements artists created visual responses to the music, generating eighteen works of art – two responses to each of the nine musical compositions. Artists worked in a variety of media including fiber art, ceramic tiles, painting, poetry, and artist books. Denali: Artists Respond to Music Inspired by Wilderness is evidence of the surprising results that emerge when artists collaborate.

The generous support of a Community Arts Development Grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts helped fund the project along with sponsorship by the National Park Service, Alaska Geographic, Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, and Composers in the Wilderness.


Dean’s Teaching Showcase

Written by David Hemmer, dean of the College of Sciences and Arts

Mary Cyr, lecturer in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, has been selected as our first spring Dean’s Teaching Showcase member. In making the nomination Hemmer said “The costume shop is next to my office in Walker, but until recently I had no real idea the incredible work that Mary does there. Our classroom students and student performers are fortunate to have her talent and creativity on campus.”

Cyr’s courses in costume technology, design and crafts are typically hands-on requiring very up-close and meticulous work such as: sketching and rendering of the human form; pattern drafting, marking, and alteration; machine sewing and hand sewing techniques; along with dyeing and other fabric manipulation techniques.

For the sudden shut-down in the Spring 2020 semester, Cyr quickly assembled appropriate level kits, to be picked up or mailed, for both FA1703 Costume Technology and FA 3703 Advanced Costume Technology. These included the projects the students had been working on as well as the remaining projects for the semester, which had to include basic hand sewing tools and materials for FA1703 and next level patterns, fabric, drafting paper, and hand-drafting tools for FA 3703.

Using document cameras and creating pictorial tutorials, she taught the students the necessary techniques while also introducing the proper use of the tools. Then the students remotely shared their works in progress for guidance and finished projects for critique and evaluation.

Cyr expanded and enhanced these methods for Fall 2020 to begin with face-to-face classes that had to be ready to go remote at a moment’s notice. She used a document camera and large monitor in the costume shop to demonstrate close work while maintaining appropriate distances from and between the students who could also show their minute work using the same.

Cyr also chose to teach two sections of FA1703 so a typical number of students could take the course while maintaining social distancing in the costume shop. With time to plan, she researched patterns all would be able to understand and use whether remote or in-person. She expanded the supplies and tools to function in class and transition easily as potential take-home kits.

Cyr searched out very small but fully functional sewing machines, small irons, and good quality fabric shears to effectively create a portable costume shop for each student. In addition to her classroom responsibilities, she is the costume designer for all of the theatre productions. She also oversees the work of the costume shop as they build the costumes for the theatre productions.

She is imaginative in her designs and consistent in meeting all deadlines for costuming the shows. VPA Chair Jared Anderson said “Mary has been a vital part of the Visual and Performing Arts Department since she arrived in 2015. She has created new courses that have expanded opportunities for students to work in costuming and has been especially innovative and flexible in the ways that she has delivered a hands-on curriculum during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is always dependable in her work, meeting important deadlines and overseeing student workers in the costume shop. She is beloved by students who work with her. It is a pleasure to have her on the faculty in the Visual and Performing Arts Department.”

Cyr will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members, and is also a candidate for next year’s CTL Instructional Award Series (to be determined this summer) recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.


The Rozsa Center Presents a Digital Version of Class Acts Programming with “Smart Art Bites”

The 2020-21 school year has been full of challenges, flexibility and innovation for students, educators and families. At the Rozsa we typically host performance field trips for K-5 classes through our Class Acts program, but this year we’ve brainstormed something different … and digital.

Introducing Smart Art Bites! Smart Art Bites is a five-episode digital series that offers bite-sized art lessons for K-5 students, families and teachers to incorporate the arts into everyday learning. Each episode focuses on a different art skill taught by a professional artist.

We will release new videos over the coming weeks, and we’ve partnered with the Portage Lake District Library to bring you reading lists tailored to each Smart Art Bites episode.

Our first episode was released this week and can be viewed on the Rozsa Center Class Acts webpage. In our first Smart Art Bites episode Arthur “L.A.” Buckner teaches a beat using a low sound and high sound that you can play on objects in your home.

Watch as L.A. jams out for a drum set performance and see how the beat evolves. This episode is streaming now on YouTube.

For the latest news and events, join our Rozsa newsletter, check our website and Facebook page frequently, and stay informed as we announce new events each week.


Auditions for “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” Tonight and Tomorrow Night

The Michigan Tech Theatre Company’s next production is “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). Auditions will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. tonight and tomorrow night (January 14/15) via Zoom (password: 085217).

Casting is open for three actors. Be ready to improvise. Actors will learn a short scene and memorize it within the audition. Make sure you are able to activate your computer camera and audio and that all parties within your immediate area are aware of your participation so as to not be caught unaware within our silly pseudo-Elizabethan world.

You will be asked to use the space around you, so consider how to position your camera for the best effect. 

“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” will be performed on a Zoom platform and broadcast live February 18-20 and February 25-27.

Rehearsals will be from 7 to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and every evening the week before opening, with a brush-up rehearsal on February 24.

Here is a copy of the script we will use for auditions. Any questions, please contact Trish Helsel at helsel@mtu.edu.