Arts & Culture

Roche Remembered for Designing the Center for the Arts Complex

Pritzker Prize–winning architect Kevin Roche, who designed Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts, died on March 1 at the age of 96 at his home in Guilford, Conn.

In January, the Connecticut Architecture Foundation presented the Connecticut premiere of the feature documentary film “Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect” (2017) at Wesleyan. The film considers many of the key architectural questions through his 70-year career, including the relationship between architects and the public they serve. His architectural philosophy was that “the responsibility of the modern architect is to create a community for a modern society,” and he emphasized the importance of bringing nature into the buildings they inhabit. “It would be impossible to write a history of 20th-century architecture without Kevin Roche,” Robert A.M. Stern said in the film.

Some of his over 200 projects included the Knights of Columbus Tower in New Haven; the New Haven Coliseum; the Oakland Museum of Art; the John Deere headquarters in Moline, Ill.; the Ford Foundation in New York City; and a nearly 50-year relationship with the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Audio Book Narrator Ballerini ’92 Wins Audie Award—Again

Edoardo Ballerini ’92 was named Best Male Narrator for his work on Watchers, by Dean Koontz, at the 2019 Audie Awards, sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association. He had also won this award three years earlier for Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters, and has narrated the work from a wide variety of authors, including Dante, the Dalai Lama, James Patterson, and Franz Kafka. (Photo by Max Flatow)

This year at the 24th annual Audie Awards, held on Feb. 4, Edoardo Ballerini ’92 was named Best Male Narrator for his work on Watchers by Dean Koontz.

The awards are sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association. In this winning entry, Ballerini was cited for “do[ing] a top-notch job of narrating this story. Listeners join Travis Cornell, who is hiking while trying to make sense of his life. When he chances upon an apparently stray golden retriever, things will never be the same. Ballerini creates a balance of warmth and suspense that reflects the heartwarming, yet at times frightening, aspects of the plot. He helps to characterize the three protagonists, including Einstein, the highly intelligent dog.”

This was Ballerini’s second time to receive the Audie for Best Male Narrator. In 2013, he stepped up to the podium for his work on Jess Walters’s Beautiful Ruins. But it’s not only modern fiction that finds its voice through Ballerini. His narration has made vibrant the books by a wide range of authors across centuries, including those by Dante, the Dalai Lama, James Patterson, and Franz Kafka.

Ballerini began working in film and television as a recent graduate, “then audiobooks kind of came to me,” he said. “Somebody asked me if I would record a version of The Prince, by Machiavelli, and I said, ‘Sure. Why not?’”

That was in 2007, when the audiobook industry started taking off. Although this form had been around for decades, the industry has been growing rapidly in recent years: in 2018 alone audiobook revenue increased 22.7 percent. While this uptick has been attributed to advancing technology, which makes it easier to stream or download and listen anywhere, Ballerini thinks other factors are at play.

Dachs ’98 Receives Sci-Tech Oscar for PIX System

Eric Dachs ’98, founder and CEO of PIX System, accepts a Sci-Tech Oscar for technical achievement. “For over 15 years, serving the talent in this industry has been a profound honor,” he said. “We are humbled and grateful to the academy for recognizing our efforts.” (Photo courtesy of AMPAS)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) honored Eric Dachs ’98, the founder and CEO of PIX System, with a Technical Achievement Award at its Oscars 2019 Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation on Feb. 9, 2019.

Since its creation in 2003, PIX System has become the entertainment industry gold standard in providing secure communication and content management capabilities. Dachs, a theater major while at Wesleyan, designed and coded the initial software early in his career when he was an assistant to sound designer Ren Klyce for Panic Room. It was then that he saw the need for an easy, safe digital platform to share revisions and collaborate across locations.

Accepting the Oscar along with three members of his team—director of R&D Erik Bielefeldt, technical director Craig Wood, and Paul McReynolds—Dachs said, “For over 15 years, serving the exceptional talent in this industry has been a profound honor. We are humbled and grateful to the Academy for recognizing our efforts.” Among those he thanked were clients, as well as the open-source community “whose often unrecognized critical efforts make PIX possible,” and family and friends.

Dachs’s PIX System was used in production of eight Oscar-winning films this year, including A Star Is Born, Black Panther, First Man, Green Book, Roma, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

For Dachs, Wesleyan’s creative liberal arts education was the basis for his achievement in technology and business. A transfer student, he focused on sound design in both film and theater, using analog and the then-new digital equipment.

Wesleyan in the News

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

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Forbes: “Three Questions to Ask Yourself at the Beginning of Your Career”

Sharon Belden Castonguay, director of the Gordon Career Center, offers career advice for young people just starting out.

2. The Times Literary Supplement: “Multiple Lives”

Hirsh Sawhney, assistant professor of English, coordinator of South Asian studies, explores the “complicated existence” of Mahatma Gandhi.

3. The Washington Post: “The Delight of Being Inconspicuous in a World That’s Always Watching Us”

President Michael Roth reviews a new book, How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency, by Akiko Busch.

Yannatta ’91: Opium Moon Wins Grammy on Her Be Why Music Label

Grammy Celebration: Julie Yannatta ’91 (left), founder and CEO of Be Why Music, with Opium Moon (l. to r.: M.B. Gordy, Lili Haydn, Itai Disraeli, Hamid Saeidi), whose debut album, Opium Moon, won a Grammy for Best New Age Album in 2018. (Photo courtesy Julie Yannatta ’91)

When Opium Moon won the Grammy Award for the Best New Age Album this year, “Thank you, Julie Yannatta…” were the first words from singer/violinist Lili Haydn’s lips once she reached the stage.

Yannatta ’91 is founder and owner of Be Why Music, the label that released the self-titled debut album by the eclectic band—Lili Haydn on violin/voice, Hamid Saeidi on santoor (Persian hammered dulcimer) and voice, M.B. Gordy on ancient percussion, and Itai Disraeli on fretless bass. Their haunting music draws from each member’s cultural traditions: Iran, Israel, Canada, and the United States.

Yannatta, with a career path as eclectic as the roots of this music—a lawyer and musician who moved back to the States from Finland in 2005—calls the variety in her pursuits “the gift of my Wesleyan education: my absolute fearlessness to do whatever it is I’m inclined or excited to do.”

Arevalo Mateus PhD ’13 Named Lead Scholar for NY State Archives Documentation Plan

Jorge Arévalo Mateus

Jorge Arévalo Mateus earned a PhD in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan in 2013.

Jorge Arévalo Mateus PhD ’13 is a lead scholar on a developing plan for The New York State Archives. The plan will focus on the collection and preservation of, as well as accessibility to, records involving under-documented topics and communities.

Arévalo Mateus will guide the research process of the project, which will include surveys on collections and communities and regional meetings across the state. The project is one of the Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York (DHPSNY), a statewide program that supports a network of library and archival repositories that contain New York’s historical records and is in conversation with other collecting institutions in the state.

President Roth Hosts Brunch in Conjunction with Art Miami

As part of Art Miami‘s 29th annual art week held Dec. 4-9 in Miami, Fla., several alumni, parents, and friends attended a brunch with Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78. The brunch included a general day pass to view three fairs at Art Miami, CONTEXT Art Miami, and AQUA Art Miami.

Former Wesleyan Trustee Alberto Ibarguen ’66, P’97, Hon.’11 introduced President Roth at the brunch. Ibarguen is president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami.

View photos of the event below and in this Wesleyan Flickr album. (Photos by Leo Photographer, Miami)

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)

Murillo’s Poem Featured in American Poetry Review

John Murillo (Photo courtesy of American Poetry Review)

New poetry by John Murillo, assistant professor of English, is published in the Feb. 2019 issue (Volume 48, No. 1) of American Poetry Review. Murillo also is featured on the publication’s cover page.

His poem, titled “A Refusal to Mourn the Deaths, by Gunfire, of Three Men in Brooklyn,” is a nod to Dylan Thomas’s famous poem, “A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London.”

Sawhney Speaks at Tata Mumbai LitFest

Hirsh Sawhney, assistant professor of English, coordinator of South Asian Studies, spoke on a panel about the way in which outsiders write about India at Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest. Other panelists included, from left, memoirist Carlo Pizzati, Sawhney, writer Scott Carney, and renowned Indian publisher Karthika VK.

Hirsh Sawhney, assistant professor of English and coordinator of South Asian Studies, second from left, spoke on a panel at Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest about the way in which outsiders write about India. Pictured, from left, are fellow panelists: memoirist Carlo Pizzati, writer Scott Carney, and renowned Indian publisher Karthika VK.

Hirsh Sawhney, assistant professor of English and coordinator of South Asian Studies, recently participated in Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest. The ninth annual event was held Nov. 15–18 in Mumbai and was attended by more than 100 participants from around the world.

At the festival, Sawhney participated in a panel discussion about the way in which outsiders write about India, and how outside perspectives have shaped both Euro-American and South Asian perspectives on India.

“A lot of this conversation focused on the undying legacy of empire, and we had a nuanced conversation about issues of representation and authenticity, a discussion that seemed very relevant to parallel conversations occurring here at Wes,” he said. “The conversations were obviously focused on books and writers, and there were some big writers there, such as Allan Hollinghurst. But there were also provocative conversations about contemporary political issues, such as the rise of right-wing extremist policy and rhetoric in both Indian and North American politics.”

Curran’s Diderot Biography Touches on Affairs, Tormented Relationships, Social Beliefs

Andrew Curran, the William Armstrong Professor of the Humanities, is the author of Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely, published by Other Press on Jan. 15.

According to the publisher:

“Denis Diderot is often associated with the decades-long battle to bring the world’s first comprehensive Encyclopédie into existence. But his most daring writing took place in the shadows. Thrown into prison for his atheism in 1749, Diderot decided to reserve his best books for posterity—for us, in fact. In the astonishing cache of unpublished writings left behind after his death, Diderot challenged virtually all of his century’s accepted truths, from the sanctity of monarchy, to the racial justification of the slave trade, to the norms of human sexuality. One of Diderot’s most attentive readers during his lifetime was Catherine the Great, who not only supported him financially but invited him to St. Petersburg to talk about the possibility of democratizing the Russian empire.”

Organizing the biography by theme, “Curran vividly describes Diderot’s tormented relationship with Rousseau, his curious correspondence with Voltaire, his passionate affairs, and his often iconoclastic stands on art, theater, morality, politics, and religion. But what this book brings out most brilliantly is how the writer’s personal turmoil was an essential part of his genius and his ability to flout taboos, dogma, and convention.”

Andrew Curran

Andrew Curran

Curran is a fellow in the history of medicine at the New York Academy of Medicine and a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques. At Wesleyan, he also is professor of French and chair of Romance Languages and Literatures. This spring, he’s teaching French Composition and Conversation.

Curran also is the author of two previous books, Sublime Disorder: Physical Monstrosity in Diderot’s Universe and The Anatomy of Blackness: Science and Slavery in an Age of Enlightenment.

Curran’s book was featured in The New York Times’s New & Noteworthy section on Jan. 15. Read a review on the book in Kirkus.

Alumni, Family Members Gather for Hamilton Performance in Hartford

On Dec. 18, approximately 100 Wesleyan alumni and family members as well as staff gathered at The Bushnell in Hartford to celebrate the Connecticut debut of Hamilton: An American Musical, the Tony Award-winning musical created by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and directed by Thomas Kail ’99. Hamilton is currently touring the U.S., with a run at the Bushnell Dec. 11-30, 2018.

Photos from the event are below: (Photos by Rich Marinelli)

Attendees also enjoyed a reception before the performance at the Maxwell M. and Ruth R. Belding Theater.

Attendees also enjoyed a reception before the performance at the Maxwell M. and Ruth R. Belding Theater.

Jack Mitchell '61 gave a toast to Barbara-Jan Wilson, special advisor to the president, who in December retired as long-time vice president for University Relations.

Jack Mitchell ’61, GP’16, gave a toast to Barbara-Jan Wilson, special advisor to the president, who in December retired as long-time vice president for University Relations.