Tag Archive for Center for the Arts

Wesleyan Facilities Staff Showcased through “WesWorks” Performance (with Photo Gallery)

wesworks

Forklift Danceworks, in conjunction with the Center for the Arts, presented “WesWorks”—a performance with Wesleyan University facilities staff on Oct. 14 and 15.

A man fixes a street light. Another washes windows. Two women take customer service calls. These are not events that are ordinarily the subject of artistic expression.

Take these everyday tasks, add a personal narrative, evocative lighting, and music that ranges in tone from the whimsical to the driving, and the work takes on an incandescent quality.

Work becomes a kind of magic.

Forklift Danceworks, in conjunction with the Center for the Arts, created “WesWorks,” a dance/theatrical presentation that highlights the important work of custodial staff, groundskeepers, power plant workers, and the other Physical Plant workers who make Wesleyan University run. The workers’ personal narrative was interwoven with a stylized presentation of their jobs in order to create a compelling piece of art. “You get a real understanding of (campus workers) daily lives,” said Samantha Angulo ’25.

“The Language in Common” on Exhibit in Zilkha Gallery

Unspun wool. Silver-spray painted stones. A worn leather suit. Sketches from an iPad. A video of children studying.

Each object offers its own narrative. Set again the viewers’ assumptions and impressions, a whole new set of meanings are created.

A new art exhibition titled “The Language in Common,” curated by Benjamin Chaffee, associate director of visual arts, attempts to offer more questions than answers.

The exhibition, featuring installation, sculpture, video, sound, drawing, poetry and performance, brings together five international and intergenerational artists, including Cecilia Vicuña, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Julien Creuzet, Jasper Marsalis, and Alice Notley. It opened to the public Sept. 14 and will be on display through Dec. 12.

New Play Revisits 1971 Attica Prison Riot

incarcerated stories

Artwork by Ojore Lutalo, which is inspired by the Attica Prison Riot of 1971, will be on exhibition later this month in Zilkha Gallery as part of “Remembering Attica: Legacy of a Prison Revolt,” a series of events commemorating Attica’s 50th anniversary.

Edward Torres, an assistant professor of the practice in theater, can’t help but be moved when he performs the words of L.D. Barkley, a prisoner who played an important role during the 1971 Attica Prison riot, raising morale for incarcerated men protesting their mistreatment. 

“We are men! We are not beasts and we do not intend to be beaten or driven as such,” Barkley said in 1971 shortly before he was killed by police. 

For Torres, the most devastating part of performing the new play Echoes of Attica is to know that every word is real.

“This is a piece of history I am reliving,” Torres said. “It comes alive on the page because of that. It’s very powerful. The emotion is all there in the words, so you don’t have to overdo it.” 

The play, written and directed by Professor of Theater Ronald Jenkins, will be performed at 3 p.m., Sunday, September 12 in the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall at Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts. Admission is free for Wesleyan students, faculty, and staff. 

Rap poet and activist BL Shirelle will be performing new music she wrote for the play “Echoes of Attica.”

Rap poet and activist BL Shirelle will be performing new music she wrote for the play “Echoes of Attica.”

The cast features the formerly incarcerated actors and musicians Darío Peña, BL Shirelle, Naomi Wilson, and Crystal Walker, who all take on multiple roles in the play. 

This event is part of “Remembering Attica: Legacy of a Prison Revolt,” a series of events commemorating the Attica anniversary, including lectures, films, and “Behind Enemy Lines: The Prison Art of Ojore Lutalo,” an exhibition of prison protest art by Ojore Lutalo, in the South Gallery of the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. The exhibition will be on display on campus from Tuesday, September 21 through Sunday, October 17. Lutalo will give an artist talk at the opening of the exhibition at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, September 21.

In September 1971, 2,200 prisoners took over the state prison at Attica, New York, demanding better living conditions and political rights, holding 42 staff members hostage. Negotiations with prison officials broke down and the state police took back the prison by force. Forty-three people were killed in the riot, the vast majority by the police. 

Jenkins, who has facilitated theater workshops in Italy, Indonesia, and the United States for over a decade, saw the potential in the story after listening to Attica survivors speak about their experiences. Working with the cast and hearing their personal stories of police abuse, medical mistreatment, and general degradation at the hands of authorities, offering an added dimension to the script.

Peña spoke of being thrown down the stairs and having his ribs broken. Shirelle talked about being beaten. Wilson never thought she’d survive prison and rewrote her obituary fifteen times. There is nothing theoretical in their rehearsal conversations. 

Jenkins believes that the heart of the play rests with the music. Gospel songs performed by Wilson and rap music written by Shirelle provide an important piece of the story’s emotional journey. “The songs come from a place of sincerity,” Shirelle told a preview performance audience. “They are real. I spent ten years in prison and when I wrote the song about medical mistreatment in prison, it was easy because I had seen it all so many times.” 

In addition to the emotional truths unearthed by the actors, there are the literal truths found in the script. Jenkins crafted the play using thousands of pages of reports, FBI files, and interviewing survivors of the prison. The records are poignant, disturbing and, in some instances, just absurd. (Jenkins points to a conversation where President Richard Nixon congratulated New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller for his good work on handling the riot despite the deaths of innocent people.)

While the play might explore the past, the ills of the present are never far away.

“It’s important to remember that Attica is not just about the past. Attica is about the present, the things that are happening right now, things that are being done every day in the criminal justice system,” Jenkins said. “It helps us understand the origins of the violence that the state commits against communities of color.”

The play will be published in Spring 2022 by MIT Press in Performing Arts Journal. 

The performance is supported at Wesleyan by the African American Studies Program, the Film Studies Department, the Theater Department, the Art Studio Program of the Art and Art History Department, the Music Department, the Center for the Arts, the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, the History Department, the Science in Society Program, the Center for Pedagogical Innovation, the Provost’s Committee on Equity and Diversity, and the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life.

Snyder ’16 Reflects on Her Experience with Forklift

On Oct. 14, Forklift Danceworks will present WesWorks, a performance that celebrates the skilled movement and the often unheard stories of the people whose work sustains the daily lives of the Wesleyan campus.

In this Q&A we speak with Penny Snyder ’16, who works as the communications manager for Forklift. At Wesleyan, she majored in English and received High Honors for her general scholarship thesis on art museums, architecture, and public space. She is an incoming graduate student at the Lyndon B. Johnston School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. 

Penny Snyder '16

Penny Snyder ’16

Q: Hello Penny! How were you first introduced to Forklift Danceworks?

PS: During my senior year at Wesleyan, I was a student member of the College of the Environment’s Think Tank on Urban Environments and Urban Engagement. There, I met Allison Orr and Clara Pinsky ’16 who made her senior thesis with Allison and the other student member of that think tank. As I was working on my thesis on urban development and public space at art museums, it was exhilarating to be in dialogue with people researching and working on the same issues in academia and the real world.

After working for a year in communications at a planning and design firm in Boston, I moved to Austin to work at a museum and started volunteering for Forklift and attending performances. I figured if I hung out for long enough Forklift might have room for me. Then Allison finally called me in December of 2019 and asked if I’d help out more officially!

Q: What personally made you want to stay involved with Forklift after Wesleyan?

PS: I always felt connected to Forklift’s belief that everyone is creative and that art can exist in many forms and settings outside of traditional arts institutions. I grew up in Oklahoma, a place where there’s not a ton of traditional (or even non-traditional) arts institutions, but nonetheless, is a place I’m deeply tied to and holds inspiration and potential for me.

Forklift’s LaMotte ’18 Discusses Upcoming WesWorks Performance

On Oct. 14, Forklift Danceworks will present WesWorks, a performance that celebrates the skilled movement and tells the often unheard stories of the people whose work sustains the daily lives of the Wesleyan campus.

Gretchen LaMotte '18

Gretchen LaMotte ’18

In this Q&A we speak with Gretchen LaMotte ’18, choreographer and programs manager for Forklift Danceworks. At Wesleyan, LaMotte majored in science in society while working for the Center for the Arts’ Creative Campus Initiative, Zilkha Gallery, and the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance.

Q: Hi Gretchen! In October, Forklift will host the performance of “WesWorks,” featuring members of Wesleyan’s Physical Plant staff and campus custodians. Can you describe the process and the goal?

GL: “WesWorks” is about honoring, celebrating, and supporting the people whose work sustains campus life. The core of the process is relationship-building, which we do by spending time with partnering employees on the job, working alongside them as much as possible, and interviewing them about their work. Because we’re visitors to campus, we’re working to support students to be part of that process, and we’re lucky to be building on seven years of work between Physical Plant, students, and Forklift.

Otake on “An Artist’s Practice in the Year of Pandemic and Political Cries”

As a dancer and choreographer, Wesleyan’s Visiting Dance Artist-in-Residence Eiko Otake spent the past 45-plus years of her career presenting her work in theaters, universities, museums, galleries, outdoor sites, and festivals worldwide. But like other artists navigating through the crisis, Otake was forced to find creative ways to re-focus, re-imagine, and share her work during the ongoing pandemic.

In March 2020, the Center for the Arts invited Otake to begin a Virtual Creative Residency, during which she began shifting her performance-based art to an online venue named Eiko Otake’s Virtual Studio. Here, Otake posts her new creations, dialogues, and reflections.

On Nov. 15, Otake led a virtual tour and conversation titled “An Artist’s Practice in the Year of Pandemic and Political Cries.” She was joined by two of her collaborators, DonChristian Jones ’12 and Iris McCloughan ’10. McCloughan also moderated the discussion.

The group shared works such as Your Morning Is My Night, Fish House, Visit, Attending, A Body in a Cemetery, Saving, and others.

otake

On Nov. 15, Eiko Otake, DonChristian Jones ’12, and Iris McCloughan ’10 presented a live, virtual conversation titled “An Artist’s Practice in the Year of Pandemic and Political Cries.” McCloughan also moderated the discussion. In 2020, Otake was invited by Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts (CFA) to its first Virtual Creative Residency. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Otake created Virtual Studio, a space to share newly created and newly edited video works, written reflections, the voices of her collaborators, dialogues with artists and writers, and response from viewers.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. The Washington Post: “How One College Is Helping Students Get Engaged in Elections—and, No, It’s Not Political”

President Michael Roth writes about Wesleyan’s initiative to engage students meaningfully in work in the public sphere ahead of the 2020 elections, and calls on other colleges and universities to do the same. He writes: “Now is the time for higher education leaders to commit their institutions to find their own paths for promoting student involvement in the 2020 elections. This kind of direct participation in civic life provides an educational benefit that will help students develop skills for lifelong active citizenship; participants will gain organizational skills, learn to engage productively with others with whom they disagree and learn about themselves.”

2. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: “Nicole Stanton Will Be the Next Provost at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut”

Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton will begin her new role as Wesleyan’s 12th provost and vice president for academic affairs on May 15. She joined Wesleyan in 2007 as associate professor of dance, and currently serves as dean of the Arts and Humanities.

Bands, Soloists Perform at the 8th Annual MASH Festival

Inspired by Fête de la Musique (also known as Make Music Day), the eighth annual The MASH festival on Sept. 6 highlighted Wesleyan’s student music scene, with multiple stages on campus featuring everything from a cappella ensembles to student and faculty bands.

More than 15 musicians or groups performed, including gonzo, sweetburger, Jackie Weo, g.flores, Mattabesset String Collective, Quasimodal, audrey mills, the basukes, Rebecca Roff, la media chulla, Lopii, Baby Leelo, livia wood, Pablo lee-davis, iris olympia, Philippe bungabong, ian etc., and Lily Gitlitz.

Photos of The MASH are below: (Photos by Preksha Sreewastav ’21)

MASH

MASH

NEA Supports Dance Artist Yerushalmy’s Residency at Wesleyan

Netta Yerushalmy: "Paramodernities." Photo by Maria Baranova.

New York City dance artist Netta Yerushalmy will present “Paramodernities” at Wesleyan in October. Her work at the Center for the Arts is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. (Photo by Maria Baranova)

Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts recently received a $15,000 Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the presentation and residency activities of dance artist Netta Yerushalmy, who will perform the work “Paramodernities” in October.

The Center for the Arts is one of 977 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an Art Works grant.

“Support from the National Endowment for the Arts is central to our ability to fulfill our mission to be a vibrant center for dance in the state, and to bring contemporary dance to audiences who might not otherwise be able to access it,” said Sarah Curran, director of the Center for the Arts. “We are grateful for the vote of confidence that this grant implies.”

Yerushalmy’s performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 in the Center for the Arts Theater. It’s part of the CFA’s Performing Arts Series, which features cutting-edge choreography, world-renowned dance companies, and companies pushing the boundaries of the art form, as well as a wide array of world-class musicians and groundbreaking theater performances and discussions. 

Seniors Exhibit Art Theses at Zilkha Gallery

Works by seniors in the Art Studio Program of Wesleyan’s Department of Art and Art History are on exhibit through April 28. Exhibitions change each week.

The Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday; noon to 7 p.m. on Thursday; and noon to 5 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The show is free and open to the public.

The exhibit includes the following artwork on display April 2 through 7:

Cayla Blachman presented “Where To.”

 

 

Shirley See Yan Fang presented her exhibit titled “做得好.”

Audible Bacillus Exhibit Explores the Fluidity of the Human Biome

The exhibit, Audible Bacillus, opened at the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery on Jan. 29.

Audible Bacillus opened at the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery on Jan. 29.

The opening reception included opening remarks by Curator Benjamin Chaffee, associate director of visual arts.

The opening reception included opening remarks by curator Benjamin Chaffee, associate director of visual arts.

Chaffee set out to answer questions such as, "What does it mean for our world concept, language, ethics, and knowledge if we accept that human bodies co-evolved with their microbiomes?"

With the exhibit, Chaffee set out to answer questions such as, “What does it mean for our world concept, language, ethics, and knowledge if we accept that human bodies coevolved with their microbiomes?”

The works are presented not as practical scientific rhetoric but rather as investigations in their own right into a variety of themes including alternative epistemologies, the nature and source of volition, a breakdown of the boundary between self/other, the limits of our language(s), and into the radical care we need to sustain a future.

The works are presented as investigations into a variety of themes including alternative epistemologies, the nature and source of volition, a breakdown of the boundary between self/other, the limits of our language(s), and the radical care we need to sustain a future.

Stromatolites, the fossilized remains of ancient cyanobacteria, the dominant species on the Earth billions of years ago, will also be included in the exhibition.

Stromatolites, the fossilized remains of ancient cyanobacteria that were the dominant species on the Earth billions of years ago, are included in the exhibition.

The exhibit presents pieces of audio and video to create an experience of movement for visitors, mirroring Chaffee’s efforts to understand the fluidity of the human biome.

The exhibit incorporates multi-media pieces, including artist Ed Atkin's video short titled "Warm, Warm, Warm Spring Mouths."

The exhibit also incorporates multimedia pieces, including artist Ed Atkin’s video short titled “Warm, Warm, Warm Spring Mouths.”

Listen to a conversation between Benjamin Chaffee and Curator of the Davison Art Center Miya Tokumitsu about this exhibition on the Center for the Arts Radio Hour.

A conversation between Chaffee and Curator of the Davison Art Center Miya Tokumitsu about this exhibition can be heard on the Center for the Arts Radio Hour.

Gallery Hours: Tuesday and Wednesday, 12-5 p.m.; Thursday, 12-7 p.m. (NEW Extended Hours); Friday through Sunday, 12-5pm.

The Zilkha Gallery is open Tuesday and Wednesday, noon to 5 p.m.; Thursday, noon to 7 p.m.; and Friday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

Audible Bacillus will be on display through Sunday, March 3, 2019. (Photos by Sara McCrea ’21)