Arts & Culture

Wesleyan Hires 8 New Tenure-Track Faculty

On Feb. 2, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joyce Jacobsen announced that Wesleyan has hired eight new tenure-track faculty in fields including African American studies, sociology and physics, among others. Wesleyan also made a senior hire, which will be announced later this semester after a successful tenure review, Jacobsen said. Nine other faculty searches are ongoing and will hopefully be completed this spring.

“With 18 searches going on, we will likely have a larger than usual group of new faculty coming to campus next fall,” said Jacobsen. “We’re excited to welcome this accomplished and diverse group of scholar-teachers.”

Brief bios of the eight new tenure-track faculty follow:

Abigail Boggs, assistant professor of sociology, is a Wesleyan alumna whose PhD thesis from University of California – Davis is titled “Prospective Students, Potential Threats: The Figure of the International Student in U.S. Higher Education.” Her work crosses the boundaries of feminist studies, popular culture, queer studies, and transnational studies. Her first book manuscript, “American Futures: International Studies and the Global U.S. University” is currently under review.

Kail ’99 Directs Musical Extravaganza Grease: Live

Grease: Live

Thomas Kail ’99, far right, oversaw the stage direction for Grease: Live.

Thomas Kail ’99, who is currently directing the blockbuster hit Hamilton on Broadway, written by and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, brought the energy of live theater to the small screen as he set the stage direction for Grease: Live, a musical extravaganza starring Julianne Hough as Sandy and Vanessa Hudgens as Rizzo, along with Aaron Tveit as Danny, Carly Rae Jepson as Frenchy, Mario Lopez as Vince Fontaine and Boys II Men in the role of Teen Angel. The musical, which was staged in front of a live audience, aired on Fox on Jan. 31. 

Contemporary Chinese Art on Exhibit at Zilkha Gallery

An exhibition titled “We Chat: A Dialogue in Contemporary Chinese Art” opened Jan. 26 in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery.

In her introductory remarks, Center for the Arts Director Pam Tatge ’84, MALS ’10, P’16 noted that this was the first gallery exhibition of work by this generation of Chinese artists in this country. Born after the end of the Cultural Revolution, these young artists are challenging traditional notions of Chinese identity and inventing new ways to shout out in the global arena.

This exhibition debuts at Wesleyan and features works by Sun Xun, Jin Shan, Ma Qiusha, Lu Yang, Bo Wang, Pixy Liao, Liu Chuang, Shi Zhiying, Guo Xi and Yan Xing. The art reflects the state of China today, and raises questions about the sustainability of national and cultural identity in an increasingly globalized world. Three of these artists spoke at the opening: Bo Wang and Pixy Liao, who currently live in Brooklyn, as well as Jin Shan, who traveled from China to build his installation, “No Man City.”

Curator Barbara Pollack, a writer, artist and journalist, said, “In this exhibition, I think you get a real dose of what China today is like. It is diverse, it is international, it’s open to a world of influences, and it’s sophisticated in its understanding of contemporary art. Relate to this exhibition as a window into contemporary China,” she said.

The exhibit will be on display through Feb. 28. The gallery is open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and is free of charge.

In a related event, Pollack, one of the leading experts on contemporary Chinese art, will moderate a panel discussion about issues facing the Post-Mao generation in China. The panel will include Eric Fish (author of China’s Millennials: The Want Generation), Stanley Rosen (professor of Chinese politics and society at the University of Southern California), and Michelle Yun (curator at the Asia Society Museum). This event will be held at the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall at 1 p.m. Feb. 27.

The exhibition is sponsored by Wesleyan’s College of East Asian Studies and Office of Academic Affairs, with additional support from Sha Ye MA ’96, Andrew and Heather Rayburn, and Amy Gao. Media sponsors of this exhibition are Art New England and artscope.

Photos of the exhibit’s opening are below: (Photos by Rebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19)


Davison Art Center Awarded 2 Photos by Iranian Artist Neshat

Shirin Neshat's "Ghada" and "Sayed," from the Our House Is on Fire series, 2013. Images courtesy of Gladstone Gallery.

Shirin Neshat’s “Ghada” and “Sayed,” from the Our House Is on Fire series, 2013. Images courtesy of Gladstone Gallery.

The Davison Art Center has been awarded two photographs by the Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, as part of a gift from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation to 33 leading colleges and universities around the world. The prints, titled “Ghada” and “Sayed,” are part of Neshat’s Our House is on Fire series, an exploration of Egypt after the Arab Spring, which was supported by the Foundation.

“Shirin Neshat is one of the most important photographers of our time, and these deeply moving portraits evoke our common humanity. Looking closely at the photographs, you can see a veil of calligraphy—the text in Persian for the poem A Cry, by Persian poet Mehdi Akhaven Sales,” said Clare Rogan, curator of the Davison Art Center. “These fascinating images prompt us to consider humility, complexity, and the interlocking role of the arts, letters, contemporary life, and politics—all topics perfect for teaching here at Wesleyan.”

In Our House Is on Fire, Neshat investigates the universal experiences of pain and mourning on both national and personal levels. Traveling to Egypt, the artist invited various people to sit before her camera and to share their stories of loss, culminating in her new portrait series. Photographing her subjects up-close and with notable directness, Neshat creates a poignant connection between subject and viewer. She then overlays the images with a nearly indecipherable veil of text, inscribing calligraphy across the folds of each face, thereby mirroring the way in which a national calamity has become embedded in the personal history of each individual.

LA Times Features New Dramatic Oratorio by Neely Bruce

The Los Angeles Times offers a preview of “Circular 14: The Apotheosis of Aristides, a new dramatic oratorio composed by Neely Bruce, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, which has its world premiere Jan. 23 at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles.

The piece tells the story of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, a diplomat and little-known Portuguese hero to many thousands of Jews during World War II. In June 1940, nearly 120,000 refugees fleeing from Nazi persecution amassed down the road from the Portuguese consulate in Bordeaux, France. Though Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar issued a vehement directive to deny safe haven to the refugees, Sousa Mendes still issued more than 30,000 visas in a matter of months. The article likens him to Oskar Schindler, the factory owner famous for saving the lives of more than 1,000 Jews during the Holocaust. In contrast, Sousa Mendes’ “contribution to history hasn’t received the same recognition mainly because Salazar took great pains to bury his story, Bruce says.”

According to the article:

After Sousa Mendes’ actions were discovered, his case went to the Supreme Court of Portugal, where he was essentially given a slap on the wrist. The punishment wasn’t severe enough for Salazar, so the dictator had Sousa Mendes stripped of all diplomatic privileges as well as his license to practice law. When Sousa Mendes married his second wife, Andrée Cibial, the couple were not allowed to marry in Portugal. Family members found it hard to secure employment.

“The petty cruelty involved was just ridiculous,” Bruce says.

Sousa Mendes died in poverty in 1954, and he was buried in a wooden box in the cemetery of Franciscan monks.

It’s a beautiful yet tragic tale, filled with larger-than-life characters — all the hallmarks of great opera, Bruce says, adding that the piece has been in the works for more than five years and that he ended up writing the libretto himself.

“I wasn’t writing a fairy-tale opera. I was writing an opera about real events, so I wanted to be as accurate as possible,” says Bruce, who has often visited political issues in his compositions and once set the Bill of Rights to music.


Mozart in the Jungle, Co-Created by Weitz ’88, Wins 2 Golden Globe Awards

Gael Garcia Bernal in Mozart in the Jungle (Photo: Amazon)

Gael Garcia Bernal in Mozart in the Jungle. (Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios)

At the Golden Globe Awards ceremony televised on NBC on Jan. 10, honoring film and television achievements, the Amazon Studios TV series Mozart in the Jungle received two awards, Best Television Series – Comedy and Best Actor in a Comedy Series (Gael Garcia Bernal).

The series deals with off-screen adventures and love life of a symphony conductor and is co-created, directed and executive produced by Paul Weitz ’88, who also recently directed and wrote the hit film Grandma with Lily Tomlin. Season 2 was just released on Amazon Prime at the end of December.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the comedy series’ win was a bit of a surprise because of its strong competition, which included such popular and acclaimed shows as Transparent, Orange Is the New Black, HBO’s Silicon Valley and Veep, and the new Hulu series Casual.

In a recent interview in Indiewire about the season 2 of the series, Weitz says: “The show is about the great passion of art and it’s a great way to manifest that, with music. I don’t think this one particular show could exist without it being that, because it needs to be contemporary. People devoting themselves to something that’s been going on for hundreds of years. … What’s the role of creativity in one’s life? What’s the role of passion, and how much does that overwhelm everything else?

For those unfamiliar with the show, New York magazine/Vulture recently published “What Is Golden Globe Winner Mozart in the Jungle All About?”

Bay ’86 Directs New Film about 2012 Benghazi Events

David Denman, John Krasinski and Pablo Schreiber in 13 Hours. (Photo: Dion Beebe/Paramount Pictures)

David Denman, John Krasinski and Pablo Schreiber in 13 Hours. (Photo courtesy of Dion Beebe/Paramount Pictures)

Michael Bay ’86 has directed a new film 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (Paramount), which opened in U.S. theaters on Jan. 15. Based on the non-fiction book of the same name, the movie traces what happened Sept. 11–12, 2012, when terrorists attacked two Central Intelligence Agency compounds in Benghazi, Libya.

The film tracks six security operatives, most of them former military, who defended the diplomatic compound and nearby CIA annex. The cast includes James Badge Dale, John Krasinski, Max Martini, Toby Stephens, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, Dominic Fumusa and Demetrius Grosse.

In his review in Slate, film critic David Ehlich writes: “Bay has stated that his intentions were simply to honor the heroism of the guys on the ground, and 13 Hours bears that out. The result … is one of the most politically astute films about America’s foreign politics in years ….”

In National Review, critic Stephen Miller also praises the film: “Audience members familiar with the director’s style will still appreciate all the hallmarks of a Michael Bay film present in 13 Hours. Witness the gritty close ups, muted slow motion, earth-rattling explosions, and long tracking shots of bombs and bullets that will draw direct comparisons to his previous work on The Rock and Bad Boys. … this is Bay’s most serious film to date. He does a good job of laying out exactly how and when the attacks took place at the consulate and later at the annex building. We never feel lost in the firefights.”

For featurettes and a trailer for 13 Hours, go to the director’s website.

Juhasz, Students Teach Word Recognition Workshop at Green Street TLC

Associate Professor Barbara Juhasz, Akila Raoul ’16 and Micaela Kaye ’16 visited the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center Dec. 2 to lead a workshop on word recognition. Juhasz is associate professor of psychology, associate professor of integrative sciences and associate professor of neuroscience and behavior.

The trio worked with students enrolled in Green Street’s AfterSchool program. During this special half day program, Juhasz spoke to the Green Street students (in grades 1-5) about her word recgonition research at Wesleyan and then lead a hands-on workshop involving word games.

“Our students had a wonderful time exploring the concept of compound word recognition with our guests,” said Sandra Guze, education and program coordinator at GSTLC.

Photos of the workshop are below:





Painting I Students Display Artwork in Usdan

Artwork by Painting I students is on display in Usdan University Center’s gallery this month.

Artwork by ARST 439 Painting I students is on display in Usdan University Center’s gallery this month. ARST 439, taught by Tula Telfair, professor of art, is an introductory oil painting class that stresses the fundamentals of formal structure: color, paint manipulation, composition and scale.

Artwork by Painting I students is on display in Usdan University Center’s gallery this month. Painting I was taught by Tula Telfair, professor of art.   Students include Ashlyn Drake ’18, Molly Fisher ’16, Sara Wallace-Lee ’18, Anna Sanford ’18, Ray Miao ’18, Phuong Le ’18, Celina Bernstein ’18, Tara Stone ’18, Arianna Tamaddon ’18, Ariel Ciccone ’16, Lizzie Zelter ’18.

The student artists include Ashlyn Drake ’18, Molly Fisher ’16, Sara Wallace-Lee ’18, Anna Sanford ’18, Ray Miao ’18, Phuong Le ’18, Celina Bernstein ’18, Tara Stone ’18, Arianna Tamaddon ’18, Ariel Ciccone ’16 and Lizzie Zelter ’18.

‘Eradicate the Self’ Self-Portrait: A TEDx Talk by Artist/Curator Ian Boyden ’95

At his TEDx talk, Ian Boyden shares photographs of the stone self-portrait, before and after its river journey

At his TEDx talk, Ian Boyden ’95 shares photographs of the stone self-portrait, after its river journey permanently changed the initial piece of art. (Photo courtesy of Mari Johnson)

Artist Ian Boyden ’95 presented a TEDx talk in September 2015 on his concept of “‘eradicate the self’ self-portraiture.” He expands our understanding of “self” beyond a single individual to include the environment.

“Several years ago I was sitting around a bonfire with a bunch of artists and we were talking about self-portraiture when I rashly dismissed it as some sort of narcissistic folly,” he recalled in the talk. “I woke up later that night, sweating, wondering what on earth was I, a person who’d never made a self portrait, even talking about?

“Of course, therein lay this challenge: to make a self-portrait. A challenge which I accepted, because I knew I had to make one, if I were ever going to talk about self-portraiture again. And so I did. And it changed my life.”

Center for the Arts Director Pam Tatge to Lead Jacob’s Pillow

Pamela Tatge (Photo by Sandy Aldieri)

Pamela Tatge (Photo by Sandy Aldieri)

Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge ’84, MALS ’10, P ’16, will leave the university in April to serve as executive director of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. There, she will set the artistic vision and strategic goals for the organization, including programming one of America’s longest-running international dance festivals, and overseeing education, preservation, and audience engagement programs, as well as marketing and development.

For the past 16 years, Tatge has overseen robust programming in music, dance, theater, and visual arts at the CFA. She has supported the realization of faculty and student work in the arts and spearheaded the development of the university’s Creative Campus Initiative with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; an initiative that includes Feet to the Fire, an annual campus-wide exploration of environmental issues. She also led the development of the university’s Green Street Arts Center, a community arts center established in 2005 to serve as an anchor to revitalization efforts in Middletown’s North End. In 2010, together with former Jacob’s Pillow Director Samuel A. Miller ’75, she co-founded Wesleyan’s Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP), the first post-graduate program of its kind. Other accomplishments include the inauguration of the Breaking Ground Dance Series, DanceMasters Weekend, and the Outside the Box Theater Series.

“We wish Pamela Tatge all the best as she takes the helm at Jacob’s Pillow,” said President Michael Roth. “Pamela’s leadership of Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts has been widely recognized for its educational and artistic adventurousness, and her ability to engage with diverse communities has inspired respect, affection, and joy. Although we will miss her at Wesleyan, we look forward to following her work at the Pillow.”

“Wesleyan has been an extraordinarily generative place for me,” said Tatge. “Since I first set foot on the CFA Theater stage as a first-year student and aspiring actress in 1980, to my present role as a parent of a Wesleyan senior, the university has been one of the most active, vibrant, and important parts of my personal and professional life. As the director of the CFA, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with faculty, students, and staff in the arts and across the campus to re-imagine the role of a university arts presenter. I’ve had the great privilege of also bringing hundreds of brilliant artists from around the world to share their work with our campus and community. I’m so grateful for all of the support that Wesleyan, my alma mater, has given me, and I’m deeply appreciative to the staff of the CFA who for 16-1/2 years has worked tirelessly with me to envision and create such a robust university arts program. I will have many, many friends on campus, in our audience, and in the greater Middletown community whom I will miss greatly, but I encourage them to visit me at Jacob’s Pillow this summer.”

Tatge is the recipient of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters’ 2010 William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence and Sustained Achievement in Programming. Prior to her work at Wesleyan, she spent a decade as the director of development and long range planning at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven.

Jacob’s Pillow is a National Historic Landmark, recipient of the National Medal of Arts, and home to one of America’s longest-running international dance festivals, which includes more than 50 national and international dance companies and hundreds of performances, talks, tours, classes, exhibits, and events annually.

New Society Provides Creative Venue for Wesleyan Staff


The Wesleyan Society for the Preservation of Domestic Technology held its first meeting Jan. 6 in Usdan University Center. At left, Joanne Rafferty, associate director of operations, crochets a scarf. She learned to crochet by watching a video tutorial online.

A group of Wesleyan staff members is forming a “close-knit” community over crocheting and crafts.

Bulaong Ramiz, assistant director of student activities and leadership development, learned how to knit in high school and was recently taught how to crochet by her friend and colleague Allie Grella. “I’m working on my first ever headband to keep my ears warm during these chilly months,” she said.

Bulaong Ramiz, assistant director of student activities and leadership development, learned how to knit in high school and was recently taught how to crochet by her friend and colleague Allie Grella. “I’m working on my first ever headband to keep my ears warm during these chilly months,” she said.

Dubbed the Wesleyan Society for the Preservation of Domestic Technology, the group held its first meeting Jan. 6 in Usdan University Center. Participants gathered for one hour for crafting and camaraderie.

“You provide your own lunch and supplies, and we provide an environment fostering whimsy, creativity and technical facility in the traditional craft arts,” said group creator Nate Lerner, director of university events and scheduling. “All campus crafters are welcome!”

Lerner brought a cross-stitch project to the gathering.

“This is a scene from the Miyazaki film My Neighbor Totoro,” he said, stitching an umbrella. “It’s one of my wife’s favorite movies (Rachel Lerner ’06), and I’m making it for her office. I don’t have any other portable craft skills, so I plan on continuing to bring cross stitch projects to the meetings.”

Joanne Rafferty, associate director of operations, learned how to crochet last week by watching a video on YouTube.