newsId: 9E3A6929-D3B0-EDDC-8DE80361206F2370
Title: Providing Access to the Arts
Author: Abbey Becker
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Abstract: Alumna Brooke Kidd founded Joe’s Movement Emporium, a community-based performing arts center.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 04/21/2014
Content:

When Brooke Kidd’s friends mentioned they needed a dance space to rehearse, she answered the call. Kidd, who graduated from AU with two bachelor’s degrees in ’91—international relations and an individualized degree from the College of Arts and Sciences combining dance and African studies—and a master’s degree in dance in ’98, founded Joe’s Movement Emporium as a response to a community need.  

With some experience working for nonprofits and a desire to start a community-based performing arts center strong in dance, Kidd launched Joe’s in 1995. She chose the community of Mt. Rainier, a small community on the border of Washington, D.C., in Prince George’s County, Maryland, as the home base for Joe’s due to its need for arts education. “I intentionally chose a community near D.C. that had problems with access to the arts,” she says.  

Kidd came up with an idea for a space like Joe’s after traveling as an undergraduate to Cameroon, where she saw examples of performing arts centers that were more “open-door-oriented” than a large facility. She enrolled in the master’s program for dance to further develop her ideas about dance education, especially teaching it in a community setting. She managed a teaching contract as a graduate student staffer for a year that hosted arts classes in 15 different D.C. public housing communities.

Now in its 18th year, the nonprofit performing arts center provides education, production, and artists’ services for a collective of 24 professional artist groups. “We’re a business environment for arts companies, where they can retain their original identities and share space,” says Kidd.  

Joe’s started in a single, vacant storefront. Between 1997 and 2006, the organization expanded to three storefronts on 34th Street in Mt. Rainier. In 2007, Joe’s relocated to a renovated space in a vacant 20,000-square-foot facility around the corner. The $3.2 million capital project funded three new studios, a large lobby and theater, an arts education center, and five individually leased artist studios. 

While Joe’s has grown exponentially since its inception, initially Kidd wasn’t sure how the organization would fare. “When you open something like this, you don’t know what to expect,” she says. “It’s an evolving experience.” 

The organization offers year-round arts education programs, in addition to rehearsal space, performances, and events of all kinds. “We added an afterschool program in response to the community’s request,” she says. “This part of the county was lacking out-of-school services for elementary and middle school kids.” 

Many of the programs at Joe’s center around movement, which Kidd considers an essential part of human development. “People feel so good after moving,” she says. “In particular, when working with special populations, you can see the impact even more clearly. Dance and dance-related arts are lifestyles that people can adopt for the long-term; fitness tends to be more sporadic.” 

In addition to working with children, Joe’s provides dance classes to disabled adults who lead a sedentary life. “With regular movement, their independence and capacity just blossom,” Kidd says.

Kidd believes in the equalizing power of dance. “It creates social structures of inclusion that really balance everything. There’s no hierarchy in dance,” she says. 

That idea can be applied to those who don’t consider themselves particularly coordinated. “There’s an old African proverb,” she says. “‘If you can talk, you can sing; if you can walk, you can dance.’”

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Title: Merging Theatre and International Relations
Author: Abbey Becker
Subtitle:
Abstract: Jeff Gan ’14 finds his sweet spot at the junction of theatre and international relations.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 04/07/2014
Content:

When Jeff Gan arrived at AU, he declared a major in international relations in the School of International Studies. Like many of his fellow students, he wanted to work at the State Department and join the Foreign Service. But then he caught a bug that altered his path. 

On a whim, Gan joined the University College, a small-group learning and living community for first-year students. Participants share an on-campus “residential neighborhood” and attend an intensive seminar together, which for Gan’s cohort was Theatre: Principles, Plays, and Performance. 

Gan had done some theatre in high school, and he had made some new theatre friends through the program, so he decided to take a few theatre courses on the side. “I thought I’d be a theatre minor at most,” he says. 

But the more classes he took, the more he discovered professors he really liked, and he developed a passion for the art. 

Gan noticed that he had begun to look at international relations through a cultural lens—and at theatre through an international perspective. A cultural context, he discovered, enriched his understanding of history—and vice versa. And so Gan decided to declare a second major: theatre. 

“The more I got into the liberal arts curriculum, the more I realized there were more options that could give me a broader reach,” he says. “I could touch economics, politics, the arts, literature, and sociology through this art form.” 

It didn’t take long for Gan to become a part of AU’s small and intimate performing arts community, where everyone is on a first-name basis. “We have regular meetings as an entire department, initiated by Professor Sybil Williams,” he says, “and we hold informal freshman-senior gettogethers every month to address concerns, offer advice, even play Apples to Apples.” 

Gan knew he loved theatre, but he wasn’t sure where his second major might lead. His revelation, he says, came in Cara Gabriel’s theatre history class. Gan approached his teacher after class one day and told her, “I really enjoyed this—how can I do more of this kind of thing?” She told him that he could be a director or an academic—or look into dramaturgy. It turns out he didn’t have to look long or far. 

Gan went to see theatre professor Carl Menninger, who was directing the show Bare: A Pop Opera, and he asked how he could get involved in the production. Menninger suggested that he be the dramaturge. And that is how Gan discovered his path. 

“You get to form this very passionate relationship with the text,” he says. “Some directors say that their experience feels like giving birth—you pour so much of yourself into it. With dramaturgy, you’re really involved with the process, but it’s less emotionally draining.” 

Research is at the center of dramaturgy, which satisfies Gan’s insatiable curiosity. “You get to reach into subjects that aren’t necessarily about drama,” he says. “I get to do a lot of historical research. For one of the shows I did, I devoted three hours to researching the postage system in Weimar Germany, and I loved it.” 

Gan has long been a fan of the performing arts, but now he understands them on a deeper level. “Every live performance is unique. You’ll never have the same confluence of audience and actors or have the cues called in the exact same way,” he says. “It’s a really beautiful and very brief relationship between the audience and the performance that can’t be replicated.” 

Gan’s enthusiasm for theatre and his passion for research have not gone unnoticed by his professors or the directors he’s worked with. 

“Jeff is perfectly suited to life in the theatre because he is something of a Renaissance man,” says professor Meghan Raham. “He has a truly curious mind and is eager and able to synthesize ideas and information from seemingly disparate disciplines into a central idea. Jeff’s interest in everything makes him particularly valuable as a collaborator, and he also manages somehow to be quite likeable while knowing a lot about everything—an even more unique trait. I can’t wait to see what the world looks like once he takes over.” 

While world domination doesn’t seem to be part of his agenda, Gan hopes eventually to follow in the footsteps of those who have inspired him most: his theatre professors. “I want to expose as many people as possible to theatre,” he says. “I believe in its power, and I want to help build a sustainable consumer base for the arts.”

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Title: Spring Exhibits at the AU Museum
Author: Rebecca Basu
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Abstract: Shows focus on Beat Generation, Korean contemporary art, and interactive technologies.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 03/31/2014
Content:

Exhibits at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center this spring showcase the diversity of American and global artists while encouraging viewers to contemplate past events and contemporary times.

Artistic visionaries and the Beat Generation

An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan, and Their Circle, showing Saturday, April 26 through Sunday, Aug. 17, features work by Jess Collins, known simply as Jess, and his partner, the poet Robert Duncan. Soon after meeting in San Francisco in the early 1950’s, they began both a romantic and professional partnership that lasted until Duncan’s death. They merged their personal and artistic lives by exploring their mutual interest in cultural mythologies, transformative narrative, and the appropriation of images. Jess’s collages and drawings were often published to accompany Duncan’s poems and essays. Duncan’s writings and ideas in turn made their way into Jess’s dense and allusive works. The couple’s gatherings at their San Francisco home served as a salon and gallery space for their artist friends.

This exhibition looks at Jess’s and Duncan’s influence and unique position as precursors of Postmodernism and will present works by the couple, along with a selection of works by the couple’s artist friends.

Commenting on the show, AU Museum Director and Curator Jack Rasmussen observed: “The Beat Generation is the antidote to our increasingly monetized contemporary art world: more transformative rather than strategic, more collaborative than entrepreneurial.”

SMALL_Double_Mirror_Ironing 2006 MyongHiKim

Mixed Media Exhibit Muses on Multi-cultural Identities

Double Mirror, showing Tuesday, April 1, through June 1, features the work of 30 Korean and Korean-American artists. Paintings, drawings, photography, reliefs, video projection and other installations convey the complexity and richness of reflective processes of being a creative wanderer in the mainstream art world. Artworks also explore the challenges of being a minority or an outsider in the United States.


Outdoor Sculpture Showcases Washington, D.C. Artist

SMALL_BK_Adams

Mynd Alive / BK ADAMS•I AM ART features outdoor sculpture by BK ADAMS. The show runs from Tuesday, April 1, through Sunday, August 17. Of Adams’ work, Washington Post journalist Michael O’Sullivan wrote that it “evoke[s] the squiggles of Jackson Pollock, the graffiti-like scribbles of Jean-Michel Basquiat and African figuration, all topped with a healthy sense of humor and play that keeps the work from seeming derivative.”

Pause, Look and Listen in Unlikely Spaces

SMALL_BrinkandBoundary_Sky

Brink and Boundary showing Tuesday, April 1 through Sunday August 17, invites viewers to experience how spaces often overlooked and forgotten in the Katzen Arts Center—its emergency stairwell, entryway, elevator and exterior—can transform with surprising and inventive installations. New and interactive technologies in sound and video redefine the boundaries of traditional exhibition spaces.  

Meet The Neighbors

SMALL_Neighbors_Mothership

Curated by AU professors Zoë Charlton and Tim Doud, The Neighbors opens Tuesday, April 1, and runs through June 1. The show features painting, sculpture, video and installations by teaching artists from 13 Washington, D.C.-area universities and colleges.

Emerging Artists

SMALL_MFA

Students in pursuit of Masters of Fine Arts degrees at AU will showcase their work in two shows: Champion Divers opens to the public Saturday, April 5, and runs through April 20. The second show, Perambulators, opens Saturday, April 26, and runs through May 12. Both shows feature an exciting range of art including works in painting, sculpture, collage and material studies, photography and new media.

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Title: Professor's Artwork Explores Choice
Author: Alyssa Rohricht
Subtitle:
Abstract: Studio art professor Tim Doud finds inspiration and focus for many of his paintings through online portrayals.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 03/26/2014
Content:

Think about how you portray yourself online—on all those profiles and platforms and social media sites. You might post your occupation, your hometown, your hobbies and favorite foods, a link to your blog. Maybe you feature a favorite quote. Sometimes you pick a unique username. And almost always you select a photo of yourself that reflects who you are as you want to be seen. 

The process by which we create our fantasy self for public presentation is complex and involves a series of choices, some of which we may not be able to explain—but all of which reflect our desires, wishes, hopes, and realities. We put it out there in cyberspace, this imagined self, and we invite others to connect and engage with this reflection of our personal fantasy. It is this interaction between the self and the imagination that inspires artist and art professor Tim Doud. 

For two series of portraits, Doud visited online dating sites to find his models. He sees the dynamic between artist and model as collaborative. “I pay attention to the choices people make,” says Doud. “The model is a collaborator [in that] she or he makes decisions about their public self for presentation.”

Doud’s models choose their clothes, their makeup, and, to some extent, the setting and staging. The “meaning” of the portrait, he says, lies in the interaction between the model’s choices of “self material” and his or her imagined life and the artist’s ability to bring this material into focus. 

His series Angie (Mac) features a makeup artist. Angie made herself up, literally and figuratively; the craft of the portraiture, says Doud, is to make the model’s choices visible. So, for example, in the painting Polly Vinyl, Angie wears a white fur ski cap with a puffy blue winter coat and bright white eye shadow, while in Wanderlust, she chooses braided pigtails, bright pink lips, and electric blue makeup. 

Doud’s work draws attention to the theatricality of everyday life. The model in his Rodney series chooses clothing that is elaborate and fun. In See, Rodney poses in black and leather with reflective glasses, fingerless gloves, and an elaborate headpiece. In Buzz, he wears a black hat with a bow tie and a green and black flamenco shirt with puffy sleeves. In Designer, Rodney reclines in a wooden chair, now wearing a pinstriped suit with green striped shirt and red tie and glasses. 

It’s about more than dressing up, says Doud. Each different outfit is a part of Rodney’s identity. The idea is to consider the choices we make and how they “flesh us out” into public identity. 

In the multiframe series titled Blue, Doud created 30 self-portraits that are meant to be viewed as one unified piece. Each portrait depicts Doud from the chest up and wearing a different blue, button-up shirt. “I made the choices of what shirts to wear, I chose my glasses,” says Doud. “I problematize these by arranging them in systems across a structure of color and hue choices. Each portrait, then, examines how commodity makes personality present.” 

In each series, including Blue, the facial expression of the model remains the same. That is because it isn’t about the psychology of the face, says Doud. “It is about the psychology of the choice and the expectations brought to those choices by viewers.” The artist directs focus away from what a portrait means to the means by which it signifies—what our clothing signifies, the brands we choose, which bring up larger questions of consumerism and self-representation. 

Doud currently is working on part two of his Blue series, which more directly questions the Western-centric fashion industry. 

Doud’s work has been exhibited in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C., as well as in Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. A finalist in the 2013 Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, his portrait Room and Board from the Rodney series was featured on the cover of the catalog.

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newsId: F6105D3D-A272-490A-D11C2966F0EF7A45
Title: Turning a Dream into Reality
Author: Jamie McCrary
Subtitle:
Abstract: Arts supporter Sylvia Greenberg performed on the Greenberg Theatre stage.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 03/21/2014
Content:

AU arts patron Sylvia Greenberg always wanted to be on stage. “When I was getting ready for college, I wanted to go to New York and be an actress,” says Greenberg. “My father said no, so I never pursued it, but I think being on stage was my big dream.” 

When theatre professor Carl Menninger learned that 91-year-old Greenberg had never had an opportunity to be an actress, he decided it was time to do something about it. 

“I thought, how could we not make this happen?” says Menninger. “She has done so much for AU’s Theatre Program. For me, helping turn her dream into reality was a way to thank Sylvia for her tremendous generosity.” 

A longtime supporter of the arts at AU, Greenberg and her husband, Harold, provided the funding to establish AU’s Harold and Sylvia Greenberg Theatre. Before it opened in March 2003, students rehearsed and performed in the Experimental Theatre, a small black box space on campus that was missing a backstage. “I really wanted AU students to have a place where they could feel like they were on stage,” says Greenberg. “I think a lot of these young people have great talent, and I wanted to give them a place to cultivate that.” 

Menninger believes the Greenberg Theatre has helped to expand AU’s Theatre and Musical Theatre Programs. “The [theatre] program would not be what it is today without her. Since Iarrived at AU 10 years ago, the program has doubled, and in no small part because we have a beautiful facility for students to use,” says Menninger. “So, she’s always wanted to act, and there’s a theatre named after her—why is she not standing on the stage that has her name on it?” 

After reading several scripts, Menninger discovered the perfect fit for Greenberg: Amy Herzog’s 4,000 Miles. A finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in drama, the play explores the relationship between 21-year-old Leo and his feisty, 91-year-old grandmother, Vera, examining their differences, disagreements, and ultimately, their connection. Greenberg played Vera, which proved to be an ideal role for her. 

“I think this show was written for me, because I could really identify with Vera,” says Greenberg. “I use the same expressions she uses. I even say the same things [in real life that] she said in the script.” 

Presented at the Greenberg Theatre on November 24, 2013, Menninger organized the show as a staged reading with AU theatre students. “No one had to memorize anything because we read the script from music stands. We could rehearse as much or as little as Sylvia had time for,” says Menninger. “She was terrific—she got a standing ovation. The cast took a bow, and instantly the audience was on their feet.” 

Aside from fulfilling her dream of being on stage, the performance fueled another passion in Greenberg: working with students. “I’ve never had more fun, working with Carl and all the young people,” says Greenberg. “I’ve been connected with the students because I’ve always attended performances, but I never really got that close to them. I enjoyed getting to know them.” 

For Menninger, the intergenerational component of the play made the experience all the richer. “Because 4,000 Miles is about a grandmother and a grandson, it sparked so many interesting conversations between Sylvia and the students,” says Menninger. “One day, we sat there with the young man who played Leo and he talked about his grandparents, and Greenberg talked about her grandson and the challenges of that relationship. There was so much to be learned without ever feeling you were learning anything.” 

Greenberg hopes that she can continue working with AU students and that her support for the arts will help them succeed. “I think there’s a great deal of talent at AU, and I’d love to see these students be successful,” says Greenberg. “It would make me feel really good knowing I was a part of that.” 

More than anything, Greenberg hopes that she can continue acting. “I enjoyed every minute of performing in 4,000 Miles,” she says. “I loved the whole experience. I’m ready for the stage now.”

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Title: Infamous Trial Brought to the Stage
Author: Jamie McCrary
Subtitle:
Abstract: Theatre production Inherit the Wind explores the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial.”
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 03/14/2014
Content:

Though based on the happenings nearly ninety years ago, director Gail Humphries Mardirosian thinks the issues addressed in Inherit the Wind are just as relevant today as when the play first debuted. “Inherit the Wind explores the idea of freedom of thought and looks at the role of the legal system in facilitating this freedom,” says Humphries Mardirosian. “I think the question raised in the play still holds true today: how do we fight for and continue to guarantee individual freedom? It seems that there are social circumstances that constantly challenge this right.”  

Running March 27-29 in the Harold and Sylvia Greenberg Theatre, Inherit the Wind is based on the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial,” an infamous court case that tested biology teacher John Scopes’ right to teach evolution in Tennessee public schools. Both the trial and the play examine the conflict between science and religion and freedom of speech and thought, ultimately questioning the extent to which one can think and debate freely. “The playwrights, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, believed that educated, scientifically aware people could still believe deeply in God,” Humphries Mardirosian says. “They did not intend Inherit the Wind to be seen as a battle between science and religion. They were making a case for Bertram Cates, the character inspired by John Scopes, to speak out as an individual and teach as he feels he should.” 

Humphries Mardirosian believes Inherit the Wind creates a space to further explore the issues raised in the Scopes Trial and hopes the play will inspire audiences to question their own thoughts and beliefs. “My predilection as a director is to select productions that challenge us to think about issues provoked through the theatre experience,” she says. “There is much to ponder in this production, and in my mind there is no clear answer or resolution. I think the ambiguity of the ending of this play triggers deep thinking and important questioning.”  

Though the production follows the text and directives of Lawrence and Lee’s script, Humphries Mardirosian enhances and builds upon the concept of the wind in the play, crafting it as a mystical and ethereal presence. One way she achieves this is by personifying the wind as a character, an addition entirely new and unique to this production. “The decision to include the wind as part of the cast has allowed me to enhance the style of magical realism, which I have embraced in this production,” says Humphries Mardirosian. “The wind is a pervasive, spiritual presence throughout the entire play. She never leaves the stage except at intermission. I think this existential presence also captures a mystical component that connects back to a core theme of the play in terms of individual spirituality.” 

Humphries Mardirosian also uses the sound of the wind to stress its elusive yet omnipresent nature. Utilizing both live and computer orchestrated recordings, sound designers generate dimensions of wind sounds ranging from embracing and enticing to torrential and terrifying, providing an auditory reminder of the wind’s constant presence. “I hope these directorial choices I have made create a haunting connection for the audience,” she says. “I am adding a different texture for a contemporary audience that I hope will taunt them. I think that these elements truly serve the text.”

Humphries Mardirosian recognizes that the themes and ideas presented in Inherit the Wind are not the easiest to face but wants the students in the production to grapple with them so they can grow as artists. “Inherit the Wind should foster a respect for the power of theater to deal with difficult subject matter and generate important dialogue,” she says. “I know that each of the students will mature as emerging artists, at whatever level they can. I want to push my students’ boundaries, as well as those of the audience.”  

She also hopes Inherit the Wind will be a catalyst for change, inspiring both the students in the play and audiences attending a production to take action. “There’s a quote from Vaclav Havel that motivates my life. He says, ‘None of us as one can change the world, but each of us must behave as if we can.’ I think that this ideal is present in the play, and I hope it empowers students and motivates the audience to do something,” Humphries Mardirosian says. “I believe in the power of the individual and ultimately a collective to effect change, and I want Inherit the Wind to inspire this belief in others, too.”

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Title: Alum's Parody Song Goes Viral
Author: Abbey Becker
Subtitle:
Abstract: Freddy Scott’s song parody has been picked up by media and online outlets all over the world.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 02/28/2014
Content:

Freddy Scott, BS audio technology ’08, has always been a big fan of the band Nine Inch Nails and calls the band’s lead singer, Trent Reznor, one of the inspirations for much of his composing work. A few weeks ago, Scott incorporated Reznor into what was intended as a project he created just for fun, but it ended up being picked up by media and online outlets all over the world.

His song parody, “This Is A Trent Reznor Song,” was created on a whim when listening to the band’s new album in the car on the way back from the grocery store. “On the way home, I started singing part of the parody I wrote in the car,” says Scott. “I recorded it in two hours when I got home, and later that afternoon, after being picked up by outlets like Entertainment Weekly, Boing Boing, SPIN, and the Huffington Post, the song had 400,000 plays. I wasn’t planning to make something that went viral. Now my life’s changing.”

Since the song’s release, Scott has been getting requests for composing work and other collaborations. “I write a lot of comedy, and I’ve been contacted by a few comedians to work with them,” he says.

Before this explosion of recognition, Scott had been working as a composer in Los Angeles. He wrote the music for a cartoon pilot called “Grimm Fairy Tales Animated,” which will be released at the end of March on iTunes and Xbox Live. He worked with David Schwartz, who scored themes for “Arrested Development,” on episodes of the show’s last season, which aired exclusively on Netflix. “That was the universe telling me that the composing thing was a good idea,” he says.

His love for music began at a young age. Scott has been playing music since he was four years old. He started taking saxophone lessons in elementary school, then got into rock, and picked up guitar at age 11. He played in various bands before college.

While attending Old Dominion University in Virginia, he got a job working at a satellite radio company called WorldSpace in the D.C. area. As a metro area native—he grew up in Alexandria, Virginia—it made sense for him to transfer to AU, particularly because of the Audio Technology Program.

Scott’s experience in the program helped shape what he’s doing today. “I wanted to produce and write music for a living,” he says. “I really wanted to angle my degree toward music—recording, mixing, and engineering. The program was new at the time, so it wasn’t as advanced as it is now, but students could cater the major to what we wanted to do.” 

He praises his professors in the program for supporting his goals. “I couldn’t say nicer things about Matt Boerum and what a great teacher he is. Russell Williams was such a mentor for me. And Paul Oehlers was instrumental in me feeling like working in this industry was possible,” Scott says.

In the future, Scott wants to expand beyond composing. “My dream is not so much to be a composer but a creative entity in general,” he says. “Right now, I’m pitching a 13-episode show that I co-wrote with AU grad Russ Hull, SOC/BA ’08, called ‘Metal Mouth’ that we originally shot in the basement of McKinley [on the AU campus]. And I’m hoping to continue marrying my two loves of music and comedy to make great projects as my career progresses. ”

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Title: Program Choices Drive Vibrant Arts Organizations
Author: Jamie McCrary
Subtitle:
Abstract: Leading Arts Researcher and Consultant Alan Brown Speaks at AU Arts Management Colloquium
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 02/28/2014
Content:

What is it that truly connects an arts organization to a community? And how does that organization find relevance in its community so that audiences and patrons remain connected to its art in their daily lives? Alan Brown, researcher and consultant in nonprofit arts, believes the answers lie in an organization’s program choices. “The heart and core of an arts organization is its capacity to bring forth interesting, worthwhile, and imaginative programming. Everything else develops around this,” Brown says. “It’s truly an arts organization’s most essential and critical function.”

Brown addressed these questions, among others, at the Arts Management Spring Colloquium on February 24. Entitled “Artistic Vibrancy and Creativity in Programming,” the colloquium brought together arts management faculty, students, and professionals to discuss the importance of forming diverse artistic programming—a process Brown believes creates vibrant organizations. “Through my lecture, I hope I’ve encouraged students and faculty to think about exactly what artistic vibrancy is, why it is important to talk about, and how it might vary from organization to organization,” says Brown.

In his presentation, Brown pointed out that it has become more and more difficult to be an effective curator—an individual who selects artists and puts together artistic programs. Though this job has become more challenging, it has also become more essential in connecting an organization to its public. “Arts organizations now are increasingly expected to be embedded in their communities in ways that create public value,” Brown says. “In today’s world, you also have to be a diagnostician of a community; you need to understand its needs in order to apply your artistic vision effectively. Most great curators are architects of impact, not just curators of art.”

One reason selecting engaging and relevant artistic programs has become more difficult is the increased diversification of the American population. The public now has more diverse cultural tastes than ever before. “For more and more arts organizations, there is this pressure to diversify their programming because the public itself is diversifying,” Brown says.

This pressure has become a major source of tension for many arts organizations. “It’s causing a lot of stress because organizations get stuck in programming formulas that are decades old, and many organizations are not having a conversation about how to develop new product lines,” says Brown. “Breaking free of that construct and speaking to a more diverse public is very difficult. The ecology of experimentation is not producing change fast enough.”

Adding to the challenge of program diversification is the fact that most arts organizations don’t want to have the conversation at all. “Generally in our field, there is not a lot of dialogue about artistic core,” Brown says. “It’s not an easy discussion to have. Funders are sensitive because they don’t want to influence programming for fear of being branded as manipulative or coercive. Artistic directors shy away from it because they don’t want the board looking at their creative process.”

One solution Brown proposes is a shift in focus and responsibility at the governance level. Though he realizes involving boards in the programming process is controversial because traditionally this has been a sole responsibility of the artistic staff, Brown believes the board should take an active role in determining overall goals of programming choices. “I don’t think the board should be involved with program decision making, but I do think they need to have a policy about outcomes,” says Brown. “To what ends do we offer programs? What are we trying to accomplish in our community? If there’s a policy frame around programming, then the artistic staff can use this as a guide in making their program decisions.”

By encouraging conversations about outcomes between the artistic staff and the board, arts organizations foster a more integrated and unified approach towards programming. “The absence of this dialogue about outcomes is where I think a lot of arts groups and artistic directors have problems,” Brown says. “Unless there’s a high level programming conversation happening, when ticket sales go south, someone loses their job because there’s no integration of board policy and program objectives. This approach makes it everyone’s job to own programming risks because it’s part of the policy.”

Moving forward, Brown hopes to see this shift of governance focus, but he also hopes to see arts organizations develop what he calls “ecological thinking.” “I hope arts managers and artists will embrace this idea of seeing themselves as a part of this larger ecology of interdependent organizations and people,” Brown says. “I think this encourages everyone to start acting like their collective well-being depends on the health of the overall ecology, and not just their own organizations. We need to remember we are all in this together.”

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newsId: 915F3262-01B4-7257-47B07BA022284B21
Title: Librarian Profile: Nobue Matsuoka
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Abstract: Music Librarian Nobue Matsuoka has expertise in a range of subjects, and is an ideal resource for students in the music program, students interested in librarianship, Japanese studies, or other forms of performing arts.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 02/27/2014
Content:

Music Librarian Nobue Matsuoka takes her role at American University seriously. A scholar, author, and accomplished percussionist, she has lectured on Japanese culture and performing arts for students in AU’s Department of Performing Arts, as well as performing music on campus and throughout the region and presenting her research at conferences. While Nobue is our resident music expert, she can also be a terrific resource for students interested in studying the language or culture of Japan.

Where can you find her?

Nobue’s office door (Katzen 224) is “always open” when she is not working in the Music Library, located on the first floor of Katzen Art Center. She can also be found performing faculty demos at the Applied Music Performance Lab (AMPL), which is a requirement for all music majors. Nobue thoroughly enjoys these opportunities to practice as a performer and share her insights on public performance with students.

Why she loves her job

Being able to work with music every day is a source of joy for Nobue, as is the chance to regularly collaborate with both students and faculty. She sees her role as the Music Librarian as a chance to “curate a community” among music lovers at AU. Consequently, the Music Library is a place where students and faculty can exchange ideas about music, find deeper resources for their research, and expand their musical tastes. For Nobue “the most exciting part of working with students is sharing new ideas with them and seeing them make discoveries as a part of the academic experience.”

In the Community

Nobue has given public performances with some of her DPA colleagues, including Professorial Lecturer Benjamin Albright, a trumpet player in “The President’s Own” United States Marine Corps Band, and Instructor Todd Baldwin, a trombone player in the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own.”

Some of the talented composers within DPA have collaborated with Nobue too. She has performed pieces by Fernando Benadon, Chair of the Department of Performing Arts Chair, and Paul Oehlers, Director, Audio Technology Program.

In February, Nobue played in the United States Army Band Chamber Music Series at Fort Meyer in Arlington, VA.

Whether you catch one of her performances, stop by the Music Library for some recommendations, or make an appointment for a research consultation, Nobue’s expertise and talent will shine through.

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Title: HABITAT: A Music and Technology Performance
Author: Jamie McCrary
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Abstract: HABITAT showcases percussion, video, and computer-altered audio into a concert-length composition.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 02/14/2014
Content:

AU professor and Audio Technology Program director William Brent believes integrating technology into live performances creates vibrant environments for artistic communication. “I’m looking for new expressive spaces,” says Brent. “Generating images and sounds and processing them in real time adds dynamic expressive layers to a performance. It places a focus on relationships between sounds and images that wasn’t there before.” 

Brent is looking forward to exploring this expressive space with composer Steve Antosca and percussionist Ross Karre in their upcoming performance of HABITAT. A performance of HABITAT at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center on February 21 at 8 p.m., melds percussion, video, and computer-altered audio into a concert-length composition that challenges audiences to reformulate their perception of a musical performance. “HABITAT takes the idea of solo acoustic instrument performance and expands it into a larger space with more performative capabilities through technology,” Brent says.  

HABITAT is organized into six sections, each of which will be performed at designated stations throughout the three floors of the gallery. Audio from each station is captured, transformed, mixed with extra electronic sounds, and spatialized over 10 speakers surrounding the audience on the first floor. Stations feature different groups of percussion instruments including vibraphone, gongs, cow bells, and bowls. Some stations contain cameras that track and translate the performer’s movements into synthesized sounds.  

The AU Museum offers an ideal space for HABITAT, providing a non-traditional venue that works with both the audio and the visual elements of the performance. “Steve Antosca, HABITAT’s composer, is interested in working outside of the traditional concert hall in galleries, atriums, and large buildings. By performing in these kinds of spaces, we’re able to create an environment of both sound and visual art, which is perfect in a museum because many percussion set ups end up looking like sculptures,” says Brent. “I think this is where the idea of HABITAT comes from—that the performer is learning to exist in this environment.”  

Though HABITAT is a composed piece with specific directions for the performer, some elements of the piece are indeterminate and partially random, creating a different presentation each time the piece is performed. Percussionist Ross Karre has practiced the written music for each of the six stations, but because many of the synthesized sounds and visuals depend on his gestures and movements, the piece is constantly re-organizing and shifting. “Karre is put in a place where he has to adapt,” Brent says. “This is what HABITAT is really about—watching the percussionist come to grips with these elements in the space and master them in his own way.”

Brent believes this interaction with technology pushes the boundaries of the performing arts experience, encouraging the performer to approach his craft from a different angle. “I don’t think all art should be at the cutting edge of technology, but I think it’s important some art is,” Brent says. “By taking the most recent tools available to artists and finding new ways of using them in real, viable performance works, it helps artists think of their own works in different ways. They see new possibilities when they’re exposed to what technology is out there.” While there have been many fulfilling aspects working to create and perform HABITAT, for Brent, the most rewarding part has been the creative freedom the process encourages. “Steve and Ross are both people I have long working relationships with, which really facilitates an openness to explore new techniques and ideas,” Brent says. “For instance, I know how Ross plays, so I can write interactive programs around his style, allowing me to get specific reactions from the computer part that will align with what we’re interested in exploring.”  

Though Brent is excited to be a part of HABITAT and continue working to produce similar works, he realizes that not all audiences embrace the combination of live performance and technology. He hopes that HABITAT will be a catalyst for understanding and curiosity in audiences, demonstrating that technology is just another tool artists can use to express themselves. “Sometimes technology and live performance are approached as opposing disciplines, almost with the attitude that the goal of technology is to replace the human element in music and performing arts,” Brent says. “I hope that HABITAT reinforces the idea that technology has always been used by artists, and that it’s not something that will replace the human element but give new expressive capabilities to live performers.”

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Title: Self-Censorship and the Missing Future
Author: Pat Aufderheide
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Abstract: A third of visual arts professionals overall have avoided or abandoned work in their field, because of insecurity about fair use.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 01/31/2014
Content:

The visual arts communities of practice—artists, scholars, teachers, museum professionals, and more—share a common problem: confusion and misunderstanding of the nature of copyright law and the availability of fair use, according to a report by American University and issued by the College Art Association.

Their work is constrained and censored, most powerfully by themselves, because of that confusion and the resulting fear and anxiety. Better and more work can be done with better copyright understanding, without impairing the ability of artists and scholars to get credit for their work, maintain appropriate control over their work, and monetize their work.

Some key takeaways of the report:

  • Members of the visual arts community typically overestimate risk of employing fair use, which leads them to avoid it, even in circumstances where the law permits and so doing would not harm personal relationships needed for their work.
  • They pay a high price for copyright confusion and misunderstanding. Scholars avoid both certain artists and topics, and grad students are steered away from modern work. Museum exhibitions are changed, and catalog publication cancelled. Journals are issued without critically important illustrations. Digital innovation is delayed or even avoided.
  • A third of visual arts professionals overall have avoided or abandoned work in their field, because of insecurity about fair use.
  • The highest cost is the “missing future,” the scholarship undone, the knowledge not preserved for the next generation, the creative use of digital opportunities truncated.
  • Although both artists and others in the visual arts community share these problems, artists are more likely to use copyrighted material without licensing it, and less likely to abandon or avoid projects because of copyright frustrations.

Profs. Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi were co-principal investigators on the research report, and graduate fellows at the Center for Media & Social Impact, Tijana Milosevic and Bryan Bello, contributed. The report, commissioned by the College Art Association, was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Read the full report here.

This post was originally published at cmsimpact.org.

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Title: The Alchemist to Open at AU’s Greenberg Theatre
Author: Jamie McCrary
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Abstract: Learn about the play’s plot, alchemy’s impact on society, and its connection to modern day science.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 01/29/2014
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Ben Jonson’s play The Alchemist embraces the idea of perfection—both in the play and in society at large. “A lot of intelligent people during Jonson’s time believed the basic theory behind alchemy: that everything in the world is working towards perfection,” says Dr. Karl Kippola, director of the play and an assistant professor of theatre at AU. “Jonson takes this idea and relates it to his characters, and more broadly to humanity. I think he saw alchemical science as an interesting analogy to what was going on in society at the time.”

Opening at AU’s Greenberg Theatre on February 13, 2014, the seventeenth century play is considered one of the great satirical comedies of English theatre. The Alchemist mocks society—and alchemy’s—fixation on “getting rich quick,” poking fun at people’s desire to reach higher levels of wealth without any work. “The Alchemist brings science into a popular art form, but I don’t think Jonson was trying to comment on the science itself,” Kippola says. “While there were legitimate uses for alchemy, Johnson was primarily interested in it as a way of making fun of people who were trying to reach a higher level of perfection than they really deserve.”

A combination of science, rudimentary chemistry, and mysticism, in Jonson’s time many people were drawn to alchemy for its supposed ability to change, or transmute, metal into gold. The Alchemist personifies this attraction by following three con men that attempt to swindle people out of their money, one of whom poses as an alchemist. “In a lot of society, alchemy was seen as this dirty, grungy profession,” says Dr. Matthew Hartings, an assistant professor of chemistry at AU. “There were some serious people trying to do transmutations, but there were also a lot of other people who were using alchemy as a way to con money from people. Alchemy is used in the pejorative quite a bit in the play, which really reflects this view from society.”

Aside from satirizing alchemy and people’s shallow draw to its offerings, Kippola believes The Alchemist resonates with a deeper ideal in society. “I think it appeals to human nature to dream of achieving a high position without necessarily doing any hard work to achieve it,” says Kippola. “I think alchemy represented this hope of an ideal, perfect future. It allowed people to dream about bettering themselves through wealth.”

A field that nurtured the development of modern day chemistry, for many years the two were nearly synonymous—until alchemy’s reputation turned sour. “There were some amazing scientists practicing alchemy—people who developed how we perform science and chemistry today,” Hartings says. “However, because so many alchemists were using their craft to con people, scientists really wanted to shed the label of ‘alchemy.’ They wanted their work to be seen as important and valuable, so they created the separate field of chemistry.”

Though historically alchemy was a scientific process, the field was also inundated with artistic, religious, and magical ideas, creating a blend of scientific and humanities-based thought. “During Jonson’s time there wasn’t a huge backlog of scientific evidence, and much of scientific discourse was dominated by religious thinking. Alchemy was seen as having a real mysticism—there was always this attempt to use alchemy to reach divine places,” says Hartings.

Historically integrated with the arts, alchemy has surfaced not only in theatre, but in paintings, literature, and allegorical storytelling. Hartings believes alchemy’s melding of science and the humanities is why the profession appears so often in the arts—and a big reason why alchemy is a field unique to any other. “When alchemy was practiced, there was a scientific side and a mystical side, but you needed both to solve the problems you were faced with. This combination led to alchemy being used in many different art forms,” says Hartings. “Alchemy sort of melded things into one field of thinking, which is unique because we don’t practice science and the humanities like that anymore. Today we really separate them into two different fields.”

While alchemy’s blend of magical and artistic ideas certainly added to its mysticism, Kippola feels its connection to science itself is what makes the field so enigmatic. “I think that unless you’re a scientist, there is something very magical and unknown about the field. I think we trust and rely on science as a way of explaining what we don’t understand,” Kippola says. “It’s interesting to look back on alchemy and see its faults, but also see how people had the same faith in it as we do in science. They had to put their faith in something or somebody, so they chose to put their faith in alchemy.”

The Alchemist will open at AU’s Greenberg Theatre on February 13 at 8 pm Performances will follow on February 14 and 15 at 8 pm and February 15 at 2 pm.

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Title: Winter 2014 Exhibits at the AU Museum
Author: Rebecca Basu
Subtitle:
Abstract: Also featured: a captivating multimedia performance that turns the museum into a musical instrument.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 01/24/2014
Content:

Three new exhibits—ranging from a second look at four decades of Washington, D.C. art to the works of a Cuban artist known for his “climactically bizarre treatment of the female body”—and a captivating performance will kick off 2014 at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center.

The exhibitions open on Saturday, January 25 and run through March and April. In addition to the exhibits, the museum will feature a concert-length, multimedia presentation that converges rhythmic percussion, video, and visuals into a trance-like performance called HABITAT at 8 p.m. on Friday, February 21.

A Second Celebration of Washington Art

Washington Art Matters II: 1940s-1980s, open Saturday, January 25 through Sunday, March 16, is a second opportunity to revisit Washington D.C.’s most celebrated artists of the 20th century. The works in the exhibition—inspired by the book, Washington Art Matters, written by Jean Lawlor Cohen, Sidney Lawrence, Elizabeth Tebow and Benjamin L. Forgey—represent the best of Washington art over five decades. Visitors may join the exhibit curators Andrea Pollan, Jack Rasmussen and Forgey for a gallery talk at 4 p.m., Saturday, February 1, to learn more about the featured art.

Sidney Lawrence, whose work is featured in the exhibit, is known for his Washington, D.C. cityscapes, mixed-media art and paintings, as well as his art reviews and essays. His work has been exhibited and reviewed in the Capital region and elsewhere since the 1980s. A native of San Francisco, Lawrence moved to Washington in 1975 for a public relations job at the Hirshhorn Museum where he worked for most of his career while developing his craft.

William Dunlap, who operates studios in McLean, Virginia, and Florida, and is a visual arts commentator for WETA-TV’s Around Town program, will also be featured.

“Washington Art Matters II:1940s -1980s is the second in our series of exhibitions telling the story of the history of art in the Washington metropolitan area,” said Rasmussen, director and curator of the American University Museum. “One hundred artists demonstrate there is much more to Washington art than you might remember or imagine. The exhibit is still based on the book, but features different artists than those featured in the first exhibition.”

Cuban Artist Remembered for Provocative, Obscure Artwork

Agustín Fernández: Ultimate Surrealist, showing Saturday, January 25 through Sunday, March 16, features a selection of more than 50 major works, including paintings and drawings, that bridge ambiguity and erotic overtones by Cuban artist Agustín Fernández.

Fernández is known for his bizarre, surreal oil paintings of the female form.

Donald Kuspit, curator of the exhibit, writes that Fernández is considered by historians as “the most internationally important Cuban artist to emerge in the postwar period.” Kuspit contends that Fernández is the “ultimate surrealist,” because of his “climactically bizarre treatment of the female body” and “obsessive theme of a great many surrealist works.”

While some critics may find this work to be perverse or disturbing, Fernández himself, while still alive, said, “my work is not erotic.”

“My esthetic preoccupation has been with volume and with the oscillation between exact and in the inexact,” Fernández said in the book, Outside Cuba: Contemporary Visual Artists (Transaction Publishers, 1989) by Ileana Fuentes, Graciella Cruz Taura and Ricardo Pau-Llosa.

Before 1960, Fernández described his work as more Cuban and romantic. After living in exile in Paris and the United States, his paintings became more metaphysical, he said.

The exhibit is organized by the Agustín Fernández Foundation and made possible by Joseph Hage Aaronson LLC, G-Global, Darlene and Jorge Perez, Gilbert and Judy Shelton, Dr. Emilio Suarez, the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, Zor and Irina Gorelov, John and Lauren Oramas, Hilda Capo, Blas Reyes, the Yoshida Family and Damian J. Fernandez.

Broadening Horizons

The third exhibit, Sightlines, running Saturday, January 25 through Sunday, April 6, is a group exhibition of works by Ann Pibal, Jill Downen, Frank Trankina and Dean Smith. Curated by Tim Doud, a professor in AU’s Department of Art, the show features the works of artists Doud has met during various stages of his career.

“These works range from the play of control in Ann Pibal's subtle abstract paintings, the time intensive exploration of drawing in Dean Smith's works on papers, the constructed narratives of Frank Trankina's humorous still life paintings and Jill Downen's architectural installations that engage with time and space,” Doud said.

A Kaleidoscope of Rhythm and Imagery

To cap off the winter exhibits, composer Steve Antosca will present a concert-length multimedia performance called HABITAT at 8 p.m., Friday, February 21 at the AU Museum. This technology venture, with composition, concept and images by Antosca, percussion and video content by Ross Karre, and audio and video technology by William Brent, is a bit of encore to the world premiere of HABITAT at the National Gallery of Art in November.

Utilizing the space of the museum, a surge of percussion and computer-generated visuals will immerse visitors with a trance-like performance, from a variety of stations. Custom-designed video tracking software by Brent—a professor in AU’s Department of Performing Arts— will follow the motions of the percussionist. During the presentation, sounds may be thrown across the hall, stretched or shifted, while images are distorted, saturated or faded.

“The American University Museum is thrilled that Steve Antosca's HABITAT will be performed in the museum’s curvilinear and soaring spaces,” said Rasmussen. “HABITAT was one piece when it ‘played’ the National Gallery of Art last month, but will be different at the Katzen Arts Center as the Katzen is quite a different space or ‘instrument.’ The performance should be just as breathtaking.”

Tags: Art Dept,Arts and Entertainment,Arts, Fine,Arts, Performing,AU Museum,Audio Technology,Audio Technology Dept,College of Arts and Sciences,Katzen Arts Center,Media Relations,Performing Arts,Performing Arts Dept
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Title: AU Honors MLK with Week of Events
Author: Abbey Becker
Subtitle:
Abstract: Faculty, students and staff celebrate King and his legacy through a week of tailored events.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 01/16/2014
Content:

American University is hosting a week of events to honor the legacy of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. beginning Monday, January 20, and concluding Tuesday, January 28. Faculty members, students and staff from across the university have organized or will participate in these 13 events. 

Theatre professor Caleen Jennings has been involved with Martin Luther King Jr. events at AU for the past 24 years. This year, she is writing an original presentation, called “MLK Unspoken!,” based on a survey of more than 100 students that she completed regarding what the observed holiday means to them, if anything. “This college generation grew up with this holiday, and mine didn’t,” says Jennings. “I was interested in how meaningful it is to them—is it just something that comes up like Presidents Day? Is there any sense of what King stood for, and is it meaningful to them?” 

Jennings chose the title to reflect the attitude of many young people toward the holiday. “I chose the word ‘unspoken’ because young people are sometimes afraid to say, I don’t get it, this is boring, we’re beyond that,” she says. “I wanted to get authentic voices.” 

While Jennings hopes that people will be energized by what contemporary students are wrestling with when it comes to this holiday, she’s also hoping it’s a bit lighthearted. “I’m hoping to capture some of the humor along with the controversial aspects,” she says. 

Literature professors Kyle Dargan and Keith Leonard will host a program called “Art for the People” for the week’s celebration, which will examine the role of artists who claimed to be the voice of the Civil Rights Movement. “When you consider the movement, I think you should consider the music that buoyed and drove the hearts in that movement: freedom songs, gospel, soul, even adaptations of the spirituals that enslaved Africans sang,” says Dargan. “All that music inspired those who acted.” 

Dargan chose to participate during this week because of a personal connection to Dr. King. “My grandmother—who was the first African American female detective in Newark, New Jersey—actually guarded Coretta Scott King during her stop in Newark when she was touring after Dr. King's assassination,” he says. 

Each year, he makes a point to walk to the Lincoln Memorial on the holiday to reflect on history. He’s hoping that participating in AU’s week of events will spur collective reflection. “We should be thinking about how the work of the civil rights leaders—those lauded and those unsung—informs our purpose of benefiting people's lives,” says Dargan. 

The gospel concert and candlelight vigil, which is scheduled for the evening of January 22—the same day as “Art for the People”—will bring some of the songs discussed during Dargan’s and Leonard’s event to life. Professor Sylstea Sledge, a musician in residence, and the AU Gospel Choir will perform songs of the Civil Rights Movement at Kay Spiritual Life Center. 

Sociology professor Bette Dickerson, along with Washington College of Law librarian Renee Cuthbert, is organizing the “Women in the Civil Rights Movement” event, where a group of scholarly panelists will discuss these women’s accomplishments and their impact then and now. They will also talk about why the Jewish community got involved in the movement. “Women's activism during the Civil Rights Movement is the reason that women today have a voice and are uniquely positioned as phenomenal leaders,” says Dickerson. “Pulling together a panel that consists of some women that were engaged in the Civil Rights Movement themselves or that have the same or similar passion that the women of the movement had is important to share with the AU community as it addresses its own issues of diversity and inclusion.” 

Dickerson believes it’s important to examine all aspects of the movement, even those that aren’t always at the forefront of discussion. “As educators, it is critical that we revisit the movement for every generation to come, because there are critical lessons to be learned for addressing today's issues,” she says. 

Clarence Lusane, a professor in the School of International Service, is using another civil rights leader as a lens to examine Martin Luther King Jr. His event, “Mandela, Apartheid and the Civil Rights Movement,” will look at the life of former South African President Nelson Mandela to compare the movements in South Africa and the United States. “Mandela and King saw their struggles as united and similar in important ways,” he says. “Dr. King called for an end to apartheid and the release of Nelson Mandela. Mandela always acknowledged the inspiration that King and the Civil Rights Movement gave to South African activists and the African National Congress in particular.” In addition, both King and Mandela were recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.

As an international relations professor, Lusane considers it a goal of his to link issues and concerns in the United States with similar ones around the world. Lusane’s research and scholarly focus has been on global human rights and racial and ethnic equality for more than 30 years. “In the more than 60 countries where I have traveled, Dr. King has always had a presence, and I would dare say so has Mandela,” he says. “I decided to organize this event last summer when it became clear that President Mandela was in the last period of his life.” He also worked with the South African embassy to help organize the memorial held at the National Cathedral in December after Mandela’s passing. 

He sees the week as a real reflection of what AU is about. “This event is important, in conjunction with the other MLK activities, in continuing to promote the social justice ethos that American University is known for,” says Lusane. “It is important that our students want to have a positive impact on the world. Through an examination of King’s life as well as participating in activities and events around the city, MLK Week is a unique and invaluable opportunity for AU students to engage and bridge the divide between studying and doing.” 

For a complete list of 2014 events, please visit the Center for Community Engagement and Service's website.

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Title: AU Alumna Margo Seibert's Broadway Debut
Author: Jamie McCrary
Subtitle:
Abstract: AU alumna Margo Seibert anticipates her upcoming Broadway debut as Adrian in the new musical Rocky.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 01/02/2014
Content:

Though much of her time is spent pretending to be someone else, AU alumna Margo Seibert, BA international relations '05, believes in staying true to herself. “It took me a long time to learn and embrace this, but you just have to be you,” says Seibert. “If you don’t bring what’s unique about you into an acting role, then you’re just walking on stage to deliver what other people want—and how are you supposed to know what that is, exactly?”  

An actress and singer in New York City, Seibert will be making her Broadway debut this March as Adrian in the new musical Rocky. Based on the 1976 movie written by Sylvester Stallone, Rocky tells the unlikely love story of tough boxer Rocky Balboa and shy pet store clerk Adrian Pennino.“Adrian is this painfully shy woman who has been completely overlooked, and Rocky sees the beauty and the potential in her,” says Seibert. “They both are in such dire places in their lives, and they find hope and light within each other. It’s a really beautiful love story.”  

Seibert is striving to stay true to herself by bringing her own experiences and emotions into the role. “Adrian is a very shy, scared, and nervous person,” she says. “Instead of trying to figure out exactly what is going on with her, I’m trying to channel all the scared, nervous, and frightening things that have happened to me into the character. And the nervousness I felt waiting to go into the audition—I could use that, too.”  

Though making her Broadway debut is exciting on its own, Seibert is thrilled about the opportunity to help develop new work. “I can’t believe I’m making my Broadway debut in an original musical,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to developing Adrian’s character with Andy Karl, who is playing Rocky, and exploring their relationship. It makes me feel like I am an active, intelligent contributor to the artistic process.” 

A 2005 AU graduate, Seibert did not study theatre during college. She majored in international relations in the School of International Service at AU and spent her time outside of class rehearsing and performing in university theatre productions. “The cool thing about being at AU is that I could always be in productions here,” says Seibert. “It was such a great family—I’m so glad that they accepted me with such open arms. AU gave me the opportunity to still be involved in all of those productions and cultivate the confidence I needed.”  

Seibert believes that studying another field only strengthened her craft, enabling her to deepen her understanding and perspective of life outside the theatre. “Sometimes I get sensitive because I never studied theatre formally, but I think it only helps to be diverse and study as many things as you can,” she says. “Life experience is important as an actor. Those experiences are only going to help inform your work.” 

In addition to gaining perspective outside of the theatre, Seibert believes in the power of community. “I think that I’ve been able to come so far because I had very supportive family and friends,” she says. “This has been a huge help, especially when I’ve been very discouraged. Having a close support network—people who are on your team—is so important.”  

Though Seibert is not sure where her life as an actress will take her, she wants to continue deepening her craft and collaborating with others to produce new work. “This is a very big opportunity for me right now, and I’m excited to see where Rocky goes,” she says. “I would love to continue to be a champion of new work and be a part of this creative process. The cultivation of music and art is still happening, and I want to be a part of that.” 

More than anything, Seibert hopes that her work will continue to impact audiences, drawing them into a world that asks them to connect with others—and to themselves. “You never know how many Adrians are in the audience experiencing her emotions. Maybe they need to see the story to say ‘Okay, I’m worth it,’” says Seibert. “That’s what theatre does. You see yourself, your mother, your father, whoever—you see the people that you know in a way that you haven’t before. You never know how it will impact people, and I’m so thankful to be a part of creating that personal experience for people.”

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Title: Investing in Creativity
Author: Jamie McCrary
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Abstract: Ximena Varela discusses the arts in Latin America and the recent AU symposium that examined the region’s creative economy.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 01/02/2014
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AU professor Ximena Varela believes investing in arts and culture will strengthen the future of Latin America’s economy. “Creative life is a really integral part of many Latin Americans’ lives,” says Varela. “In many different places in Latin America, you have arts and culture initiatives that generate jobs and job skills training. Focusing on ways people can make a living from the creative industries there makes a lot of sense.” 

This topic, among others, was discussed at the Creative and Cultural Industries and the Future of Latin America’s Economy symposium, held at AU on November 25. Formed in collaboration between AU’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies and the Inter-American Development Bank, the symposium brought together leading arts professionals to discuss the importance of Latin America’s creative industries to the region’s economy. Panelists included researchers and practitioners from both the US and Latin America, including Sunil Iyengar from the National Endowment for the Arts, Anahí Moyano Larrea from the Ministry of Culture of Costa Rica, and Arlene Dávila from New York University. 

“This is the first time an international lending bank in Washington other than the World Bank is saying culture matters,” Varela says. “The fact that the Inter-American Development Bank sponsored a public event to talk about the importance of arts and culture is a big deal.” 

Organized as a roundtable event divided into two panels, participants examined what current data can tell us about the importance of Latin America’s cultural industries and how this data is connected to broader issues within the region’s economy. “Metrics and measurements were an important topic on the panels,” says Varela. “This is actually one of the biggest contributions U.S. cultural policy professionals have made to the field. Rather than using purely quantitative data to advocate for the arts, they have established more nuanced and qualitative ways of making their case.” 

While Varela assisted in planning the symposium topics, her main contribution was her research. A professor in the arts management program at AU, much of Varela’s research focuses on international cultural policy and its connection to arts and culture. “The research I do fits really well with the symposium,” says Varela. “For instance, I just finished an article on cultural diplomacy in Brazil. This ties into the symposium because it’s about how Brazil is using arts and culture in a way that’s non-traditional for cultural diplomacy, which impacts the country’s economy.” 

Varela believes we can learn a lot from Latin America’s approach to arts and culture. “In the US, when we say support for the arts, we’re basically talking about money. In Latin America, support for the arts means a community standing behind a theatre and not letting it close because it matters,” says Varela. “I think Latin America’s creative industries can teach us a lot about what connection and contribution can mean.” 

One reason for Latin America’s strong community support for the arts is the relationship cultural institutions maintain with their local communities. Rather than remaining separate, segregated institutions in society, many Latin American arts organizations actively incorporate and contribute to their surrounding communities. “One of my all-time favorite projects is the construction of the Museum of Popular Culture in Costa Rica,” says Varela. “The architects who designed the building worked with local traditional builders, which created jobs and gave value to the skills the builders have. This project not only preserved objects that were important to the community, but really incorporated and contributed to the community by providing a livelihood for people.” 

Moving forward, Varela believes the next step in promoting Latin America’s creative economy is creating additional funding opportunities. “I think it’s really important to find a way to create sustained financial support for people who want to embark on creative economy initiatives,” says Varela. “It would make a tremendous contribution to the creative economy there if people could take things beyond the start-up phase and really launch them as enterprises.” 

Though she realizes the symposium is one of many steps needed to strengthen the future of Latin America’s creative economy, Varela hopes that the meeting helped shift people’s perspectives. “I hope that when people are talking about what the creative industries can contribute, the Inter-American Development Bank and other agencies will understand that investing in arts and culture is not investing in extra, non-essential things,” Varela says. “My goal is really to be a part of causing that shift.”

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Title: South African Judge Discusses Art and Politics
Author: Colleen Holroyd
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Abstract: Albie Sachs speaks at 2013 Arts Management Colloquium.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 12/20/2013
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This fall’s Arts Management Colloquium, a joint event with the Washington College of Law, took place on November 18. Albie Sachs, a founding member of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and a human rights activist, spoke about the role the arts played in the establishment of a democracy in post-apartheid South Africa. 

Despite growing up in an activist family, Sachs initially pushed back against assumptions that he would follow the same path his parents walked. They saw the plight of Africans in South Africa as a parallel to their own treatment as Jews in Lithuania prior to World War I. 

Sachs enrolled at the University of Cape Town at age 15, and it was then that he began to get involved in politics and human rights. He joined the Modern Youth Society, which was committed to the ideas of free thought, progressive politics, and an egalitarian, multiracial society. When he was 17, he joined the Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign, which was a campaign of civil disobedience against apartheid. Sachs began practicing law at the age of 21 in Cape Town, where he defended those charged under apartheid racial statutes and repressive security laws. 

In the 1960s, the South African government introduced a new law that allowed political prisoners to be detained for 90 days without charges filed against them. Sachs was arrested (for the first time) in 1963. After 90 days, he was released and arrested again immediately upon his release. Two and half months later, he was released. Then in 1965, he was arrested again, this time under the 180-Day law, which allowed for longer periods of detainment without trial.

In 1966, Sachs went into exile in England, where he studied and taught law. He later went to Mozambique and worked as a law professor and legal researcher. In the 1980s, while still in exile, he helped to write the African National Congress’s Code of Conduct and its statutes. As a member of the Constitutional Committee and a national executive of the congress, he returned to South Africa in 1990 to help with the negotiations that led to the country becoming a constitutional democracy. When Nelson Mandela was elected president in 1994, Sachs was appointed to serve on the newly established Constitutional Court. 

Because of his background in law and the arts, it only made sense to host this Arts Management Colloquium’s event at the Washington College of Law. AU’s program began with a multimedia tour of the South African Constitutional Court built on the site of the infamous Old Fort Prison in Johannesburg in which many prisoners were unjustly held, including world leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. Sachs led the design of the building, which expresses the ideals of the new democracy through its architecture and the collection of South African art works inside. Every nook and cranny of the court has South African art at its core, from the lobby design motif that reflects the African tradition of “justice under a tree,” to the courtroom itself in which the bricks of the old prison were used for the exterior walls, thereby transforming the bricks of oppression into bricks that uphold justice. Sachs said the light-filled design was inspired by a fellow justice who mentioned that her mother might ask, “Is the building smiling at me or frowning at me?” The question reminded Sachs that the building should serve as a symbol of both common sense and justice. It should reflect the most aspirational ideals of democracy and also be a place that felt open and welcome to all South Africans. 

As part of the program, Anne L’Ecuyer, a faculty member in the Arts Management Program, facilitated a brief artistic exchange between Sachs and the audience. Participants received handmade paper objects shaped like leaves and were invited to explore the concept of Ubuntu, an African philosophy that means “I am because you are.” As the discussion began, L’Ecuyer asked everyone to hold the leaves above their heads, and to rustle and wave them at Sachs. “We did this in your honor and to extend the idea of justice under a tree,” she said, “To show that we are all under a tree together. We are a tree here tonight.” Sachs said he was surprised and moved by the gesture. 

L’Ecuyer asked Sachs how the arts came to be such an important part of his life. “I can’t separate art from all the elements. It all came into my life in different ways,” he said. Both of his parents were involved in the struggle against apartheid and joined the Communist Party in the 1920s. His father, Emil Solomon Sachs, was a leader of the South Africa’s Garment Workers Union. His parents emigrated to South Africa from Lithuania. 

Music was also woven into the evening’s program. After singing two phrases of the spiritual, “Standing in the Need of Prayer,” Sachs stopped and mused that if the group were in South Africa, everyone would have joined in by then. At another point, he addressed how music and musicians are sometimes ahead of their time: “Our jazz musicians wrote our Bill of Rights in music before we wrote it in words.” He ended the evening by singing Irving Berlin’s “Always,” a song that helped him get through the long months of imprisonment. 

Sachs also noted the more practical connection between the arts and law. “Clearly, when you are writing a judgment, you respect the conventions and the presentation, but even then you can use language to express it a certain way,” said Sachs.

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Title: Membership at the AU Museum
Author: Colleen Holroyd
Subtitle:
Abstract: Sign up for membership at the AU Museum before the first members only preview.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 12/20/2013
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The American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center prides itself on its contemporary artistic offerings, focusing on international art, political art, and local (D.C.-based) art. Still a young museum—the museum was founded in 2005—it has quickly risen to prominence in the area.  

The support of its members is crucial to continuing to provide the same caliber of artwork. Members provide an organization with stability—a support base to depend on—and this rings true for the AU Museum. Not only do exhibitions, special events, and programming quality increase with a wider support base, but in an effort to make sure members’ experiences are as happy and fulfilling as possible, the museum relies on feedback from their education programs, tours, and volunteers. Money from membership goes into an account restricted for programming.  

As primary curator, museum director Jack Rasmussen keeps a few things in mind when devising exhibits. Because it’s such a big space that supports six to seven exhibits at a time, he wants there to be some sense of internal structure, so that exhibits reinforce each other. “I try to orchestrate the shows. They are all part of a suite, if you will,” he says.  

In keeping with the Katzen Arts Center’s interdisciplinary atmosphere, visitors will find more than visual arts on display. Recently, the museum instated a program to bring music into the galleries. Earlier in the year, Israeli pianist Alon Goldstein gave a concert in the gallery among the Donald Rothfeld Collection of Contemporary Israeli Art on exhibition. Museum staff are also looking at other opportunities to extend membership benefits, including offering members trips to other museums, such as the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. Members receive notice of all upcoming events and are able to secure spots sooner than the general public.  

At an associate-level and above, a member receives access to special events that a non-member would not. Member-only events include private tours before the opening of a new exhibit with Rasmussen. “A membership offers the opportunity to dig a little deeper into the exhibitions, the artists, and the thought processes of the curator in choosing the work,” says Rasmussen.  

Katzen Circle members (the highest level) are invited to a private dinner with the director. The members also receive discounts to special programs like Kids@Katzen and to the museum store.  

For the full list of membership levels with benefits and to apply, visit the museum membership website. Membership levels include a student membership, priced at only $15 a year. Student members are invited to all openings and receive events-related publications. For $30 more, an individual membership ($45 per year) gives members a 10 percent discount at the museum store, Katzen Café, and Argo Tea, in addition to student membership benefits.

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Title: New Dance Faculty Member at AU
Author: Colleen Holroyd
Subtitle:
Abstract: AU’s dance program welcomes dancer and choreographer Brian Devine as a full-time faculty member.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 11/22/2013
Content:

The dance program at American University welcomed a new full-time faculty member this semester. Brian Devine, a recent MFA graduate of Ohio State University and professional dancer and choreographer, brings an open and forward-looking approach to AU’s dance program.

One of his goals is to further the growth of the dance minor. This semester, in addition to directing Choreolab, he teaches ballet and Dance as an Art Form, a class he describes as “an anthropologic, ethnographic melting pot of the human body and movement and where it fits in society.”

For the past 10 years, he has split his time primarily between choreographing and teaching. Prior to coming to AU, he taught at a boarding school in New Hampshire, studied and danced in Seattle, and worked in New York City. In Seattle, he danced with a pick-up company—if the magic combination of money and an event occurred, then the dance company could function. “I didn’t have as extensive of a performance career as I think I would’ve wanted when I was 18 and doe-eyed and going off into the world, but that’s okay,” he says. “I still have dance in my life every day, so that’s a success for me.”

Devine describes his choreographic process as musically driven. “I have to find the music in order to make the dance, and then I can go from there and shape it,” he says. While he has a different experience with each dance he creates, the music is the impetus, his driving force. “The piece that I walk in the room thinking I’m creating and the one I end up creating are sometimes two very different pieces,” he says.

As this year’s artistic director of Choreolab, Devine got to watch fledgling choreographers stretch their wings in a supportive environment. This year, six AU students were selected to present at Choreolab, the largest number chosen in recent years. For some of them, it is the first time they had choreographed a dance. Each of the student choreographers selected a creative advisor who watched rehearsals, gave feedback, and nurtured them throughout the process.

The six pieces presented at the concert were of varying genres and styles, and sometimes unexpected given the students’ backgrounds. Perhaps students came from a balletic background, but the work they ended up with was not balletic. “It’s exciting to watch them grow and learn and see what they make,” Devine says.

Seeing the students grow as artists and start to develop their own choreographic voice through this process was exciting for Devine. “It was interesting to see their frustrations and how they worked them out as a choreographer rather than a dancer,” he says. “It gave the students the experience of being on the other side of the table, and experience they might not necessarily have had.”

At the Choreolab performance on November 6, three outside adjudicators were brought in, two from D.C. and one from New York City. After the students’ works concluded, the panel was invited onstage to provide feedback, giving the audience the chance to hear the dancer’s lexicon. It was an opportunity to see what dancers talk about when they talk about dance. “Learning how people talk about their work gives you a deeper insight into their work in general,” he says.

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Title: Record Executive Traces Evolution of Music Industry in Digital Age
Author: Laura Herring
Subtitle:
Abstract: AU alumnus Steve Greenberg shares his tips for succeeding in the digital age of music as the keynote speaker for Kogod’s annual Alan Meltzer CEO Leadership Speaker Series.
Topic: Business
Publication Date: 11/15/2013
Content:

When Steve Greenberg, SIS/BA '82, got his start in the music industry, record sales and radio time were the driving factor in financial success. Now, more than 20 years later, the digital age has taken the industry by storm, online streaming and viral promotion determine the success of a new song, a new artist.

"The industry has gone from passive input based on radio listeners determining what's a hit to artists reaching No. 1 without ever being on the air," he said. "The new model is all about making [listeners] passionate and making them want to share the music."

Greenberg shared his first-hand insights into the inner workings of the digital age of music and how he's kept his company on the cutting edge of the music industry in the 21st century and where they'll go from here as the keynote speaker at Kogod's annual Alan Meltzer CEO Leadership Speaker Series on November 12, 2013.

"We're still experimenting and trying new things," Greenberg said. "There are definitely still a lot of challenges to be faced in the future. I don't have all the answers yet but I'm hopeful someone will find them."

Alan Meltzer CEO Leadership Speaker Series Fall 2013—Steve Greenberg from Kogod School of Business on Vimeo.

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Title: AU Hosts Feminist Art History Conference
Author: Abbey Becker
Subtitle:
Abstract: In its fourth year, the conference attracted attendees and speakers from around the world.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 11/15/2013
Content:

Four years ago, when Art History Professor Helen Langa and the Art Department’s manager of visual resources, Kathe Albrecht, were part of the team that developed the first annual Feminist Art History Conference to explore the legacy of two pioneering feminist art historians, Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard, professors emerita of art history at AU, they “wanted to gather people from around the area, maybe the country, to share papers on feminist art history,” says Albrecht. “Programs around the country emphasize feminism in the study of art history, and we thought a conference would fill a need or be of interest. We started that first year thinking, hopefully we’ll have a handful of speakers, maybe a handful of people in the audience, and it turned out that the first year we had 120 participants coming from around the country.” Conference attendance has grown each year since then.  

This year, 180 people came from all over the world. Over 12 percent of conference pre- registrants were international and hailed from eight different countries. The selection committee, which was made up of professors in the art history program, reviewed over 150 papers to select the 68 speakers, portioning them into 16 topical sessions. “Feminist art history is being studied in every subfield,” says Professor Juliet Bellow, a member of the selection committee. “We had papers that spanned a chronological range from the medieval period up through the present.”  

Presenters ranged from graduate students to mid- and senior-level scholars, which included over 20 percent international representation. While the experience of the speakers varied, their level of scholarship was uniformly high. “When you think about the Renaissance, you think, well, everybody’s written about it. That’s just not the case,” Albrecht says. “There’s still a lot to be done in every period of art history, and a good art historian will figure out what the new and important questions are and will try to find out the answers.”  

The conference offered an invaluable opportunity for students to network with established scholars and see the kind of careers they could pursue. “Great conversations occur over lunch or over a glass of wine at the reception,” says Albrecht. “I’ve had people ask about connecting with speakers they’ve met at past conferences.”  

Bellow required that her undergraduate students in her introduction to methodology in art history course attend the conference. “I told them I thought this would be really important to see—the kinds of ways art historians are putting these approaches into practice today,” she says. “In class, we’ll talk about their perceptions about the range of different papers and what that tells them about the relationship of feminist art history from its inception in the 1970s through the present.” 

Program sessions were held on Friday afternoon and all day Saturday. On Sunday, a corollary event was held at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. Conference attendees were allowed free entry into the museum and to the American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s exhibition, as well as access to a talk by Eleanor Heartney, Nancy Princenthal, Helaine Posner, and Sue Scott on their new book, The Reckoning: Women Artists of the New Millennium.

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