Category: Art

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.


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.


Hero City: Documentary Photography by Meghan Kirkwood

The Department of Visual and Performing Arts, the Rozsa Center and Pavlis Honors College announce the fall gallery exhibition, Hero City: Documentary Photography by Meghan Kirkwood. The exhibit features a collection of silver gelatin and inkjet photographs of modern Mongolia.

The images capture the unique and storied history of Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar, its transition through economic and cultural change – and the rich and thriving culture that animates this young Asian nation.

This exhibit is presented in collaboration with Michigan Tech’s Pavlis Honors College and the D80 Conference, where Kirkwood will give the keynote address.

The title “Hero City,” refers to the chosen name for this urban center before pressure from soviet activists led to its renaming, Ulaanbaatar (city of the Red Hero). Mongolia’s history is long and complex, and most recently marked by its transition from communism to democracy following the fall of the Soviet Union. This transition was guided by international agencies such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Fund, but the nation’s swift entry into a market economy has brought many challenges for its citizens, in spite of optimism from outside economists who view the country as a “global growth generating” nation. Mongolia offers a prescient look at the disconnect between prescriptive policies and the cultural and political realities that limit their success. Kirkwood’s images seek to capture these tensions, and to draw attention to Mongolia’s vibrant culture.

Kirkwood is an assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. Her photography has been exhibited throughout the United States, Europe, and South Africa. She holds an MFA in Photography from Tulane University, and a PhD in Art History from the University of Kansas. w ww.meghankirkwood.com.

The exhibit will run from Monday, Sept. 28 through Saturday, Nov. 14. Works of art are also hung in several campus buildings and can be seen through a self- guided walking tour.

Gallery hours:

  • Monday – Friday — 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Saturday — 1 to 8 p.m.

Walking tour hours:

  • Monday – Friday — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Kirkwood will give her online D80 keynote address at noon on Friday, Oct. 2, and an online gallery talk on at 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3. A tour map, Zoom links, and more details to all related Hero City and D80 Conference events can be found on the Rozsa Center website.

This program is partially funded/sponsored by the Visiting Professor Program which is funded by a grant to the Office of the Provost from the State of Michigan’s King- Chavez-Parks Initiative. 

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


Online Sculpture Walk

Outside – apart – together, the Visual and Performing Arts Outdoor Sculpture class’s online sculpture exhibit, opens today. The exhibit is an online sculpture walk, and it features work by eight student artists: Sarah Arnold, Mykaela Cayemberg, Mara Hackman, Olivia Hohnholt, Erin Mauk, Tristan Robb, Zoie Schafer, and Michael Stock. The students’ major disciplines include Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Theatre and Entertainment Technology, Medical Laboratory Science and Computer Engineering.

Students in the class, instructed by Lisa Gordillo, found inspiration for their works of art from many different places. Erin Mauk’s sculpture, “Preserving Beauty,” grew from a quote by ecologist Aldo Leopold. Mara Hackman’s work of art re-envisions Alice in Wonderland as a commentary on mental health. Tristan Robb, who’s projects were frequently inspired by the locations where they were to be installed, chose an “anxiety-inducing” space, and sought to make it more welcoming.

Students spent part of the class developing their creative process, and studying a range of artists and working styles. Artist Michael Stock says, “As I developed my creative process throughout the semester, I was learning to strike a chord between pondering my ideas, playing around, and trying to act on an idea.” It wasn’t without its challenges! Zoie Schafer created a ring of handcrafted bowls, and “there was a moment when I was setting the sixth bowl out in the sun to dry and realized there were only five. My dog had stolen the smallest bowl and eaten all of the wheatpasted paper off of it, literally eating my homework.”

The exhibit will remain online through September 1st.  Visitors may also wish to see the class gallery, where works of art from the semester are still on display. Individual projects are also featured on this VPA blog


Gordillo’s Home Studio Featured

Lisa Gordillo’s home studio is featured in a video collection created by SooVAC, The Soo Visual Arts Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The video was created by SooVAC, “as a way of staying connected in a time where everything seems so far away.” Twenty-four artists’ workspaces, in the U.S. and abroad, are featured. The Soo Visual Art Center is a nonprofit art space whose mission is to connect the Minneapolis community with fresh, under-represented, provocative art. More of Gordillo’s work can also be seen on her website.

Soo Visual Arts Center’s Mission is to Connect.


Kites and Community

Visual and Performing Arts Outdoor Sculpture students spent last week making kites and holding a community (physically-distanced) picnic. Faculty member Lisa Gordillo designed this project to connect her students across the distances they’re feeling.

Students learned about a traditional Guatemalan kite – the barrilete, made Guatemalan recipes such as chilaquiles and chirmol, read works by Guatemalan writers such as Rigoberta Menchu and Antonio L. Cota Garcia, and studied paintings by Carlos Merida. The class also learned about U.S.-based artists who create community connections, such as Theaster Gates.

Student Sarah Arnold based her kite design on a mandala, then installed it in a forest. Erin Mauk was interested in Guatemala’s quetzal bird – her kite was inspired by the bird’s mythology and it’s long, flowing tail. Marah Hackman drew inspiration from Michigan’s Northern Lights.

Each student made their own barrilete, and hosted a picnic with the people in their household, then came back together to share what they made, so that everyone felt connected. Together, the students created a patchwork event – with many different things happening in different places, but everyone working together.  

The student gallery is on view until August 28. More works will be added each week.  

Artist Erin Mauk’s barrilete flying high
Sarah Arnold’s kite installed in the woods
Kite by artist Mykaela Cayemberg
A student-family picnic
Michael Stock grills tomatoes to make chirmol
Sarah Arnold’s Guatemalan tostadas


Physically-Distanced Outdoor Sculpture

The landscape is their studio. Students in Outdoor Sculpture will spend their summer class session creating works of art outside. The class is taught by Lisa Gordillo (Visual and Performing Arts). It is Michigan Tech’s first fully-online sculpture class.

Gordillo is working with her students to build a class that creates connections with community (even at a distance). Students consider art, ecology, and social connection as they make their works of art.  

The class has found inspiration from environmentally and socially engaged artists such as Lita Albuquerque,  Shoehei KatayamaNancy HoltAndy Goldsworthy, and Rebecca Louise Law.  

Student Mara Hackman’s first sculpture was inspired by Katayama’s work of art, Golden Repair. In that piece, Katayama uses emergency blankets to “repair” a glacial crack, referencing the Japanese tradition kintsukuroi, the ceramic practice of embracing flaws and imperfections by repairing them with gold. Hackman combined flowers and trash into a wave that followed a shoreline area near her home, considering environmental impacts and resilience.

Next up: students will make kites and hold an online community picnic. 

The student gallery is on view until August 15. More works will be added each week.  

Artist: Mykaela Cayemberg
Major: Civil Engineering
Studying Line. Daisies in rock (2020)
Artist: Mara Hackman
Major: Medical Laboratory Science
Studying Space: Balloons and string (2020)
Artist: Zoie Schafer
Major: Wildlife Ecology & Conservation
Color splash drawing of sculpture #2. Pencil and ink (2020)
Artist: Sarah Arnold
Major: Wildlife Ecology & Conservation
Studying Space. Balloons and string (2020)

#q: sculpture under quarantine

Art Professor, Lisa Gordillo has announced the opening of #q: sculpture under quarantine, an online gallery created by students in Advanced Sculpture Studio in the Visual and Performing Arts.

Students in this class developed works of art while social distancing in their homes. Although their projects are much different than students had originally planned, their work shows just how adaptable and resilient Michigan Tech students are, and the power of art to connect us during uncertain times. 

“a coronavirus adventure” by Tyler Flaningam


“Intertwined” Art Exhibition

Art continues to thrive, even in the most difficult times. Our very own Lisa Gordillo is part of an exhibition in Dayton, OH, from the Dayton Society of Artists. According to Gordillo, “Intertwined” features fiber art and brings together 32 artists from across the US together into one space. Using traditional methods in innovative ways, these artists explore voice, reactions to change of environment, women’s issues, creating individual spaces, and the passing on of art, craft, and culture. Curated by Heather Jones.

Art piece
Cotton thread, Guatemalan quetzales, wood
Lisa Gordillo
Trenzando (Braiding)
Cotton thread, Guatemalan quetzales, wood

Outdoor Sculpture – Online FA2110 for Track B

Visual and Performing Arts Professor, Lisa Gordillo will be teaching Outdoor Sculpture during summer track B, which will be completely online. You can take the class from anywhere!

The class focuses on making works of art outside. And — because of the world we’re in — it will also include many opportunities for creating connections with community (even at a distance). We’ll learn from environmental artists and from artists whose work brings people together, and you’ll make your own works of art, wherever you are.

There are no prerequisites. No experience is necessary, and very few tools are required. This is a HASS class. Everyone is welcome.