Utah State University piano department holds “A Celebration of Women Composers”

By Lydia Velazquez

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Utah State University piano students will be participating in the university’s first themed, multimedia recital, its focus being females composers. The recital will take place Monday from 7:30-8:30 p.m. in the Russell/Wanlass performance hall.

After a discussion in a class of Professor Olson’s, who is the current interim piano program coordinator, about the lack of pieces by women in traditional piano repertoire and the existence of bias there was then the idea for students to find pieces by females composers and research the history of both the piece and the composer.

The project has been self-driven, as the students chose and researched the piano literature entirely on their own and worked on their selected pieces over the summer. The recital and its focus is timely as late last winter there were allegations made by former USU piano students regarding sexual harassment and assault by faculty in the piano department. The investigation ended in April but there were newly released documents this fall that further discussed the context of the situation and faculty involved.

“Back in spring there was a lot of controversy in the piano area and it really hit our students pretty hard,” Olson said. “They were just thinking of ways they could make things better around here and this was an idea that came in one of the classes we had, to show the value of women composers and the way much of that music has been neglected over the years.”

Dr. Bakker, one of USU’s music professors, remembers seeing the listing for the concert and getting excited because in her own classes she has always worked to incorporate music by women as well as people of color. Bakker contacted Olson to contribute by having her music theory students write programs notes about the pieces and their composers for the recital.

“The curriculum I went through as an undergraduate music major included only music by white men. It didn’t even attempt to justify why that was,” Bakker said. “It was apparently a self-evident truth, completely unexamined. That attitude has never sat well with me, and I vowed to learn about and share music by underrepresented composers with my students.”

There is a hope to continue these “themed” recitals, potentially making them tradition, and to further provide music students with opportunities to perform literature that they select themselves and form a connection with.

“The musical canon is currently being reaffirmed in concert-programming decisions,” Bakker said. “Students need to know that if it is going to change, it will be because people like them took an open mind to music that is new to them, regardless of when it was composed and by whom.”

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Utah State University’s annual Artoberfest focuses on diversity in art and on campus

by Lydia Velazquez

A more varied set of performances will be featured this year at the annual Artoberfest event from the Caine College Art Council at Utah State University, which begins Thursday at 4 p.m.  

As in years past, the event, now in its fifth year, will also have free food, and art on display as well as on sale. But this year the entire event has been refocused to better showcase the diversity of talent within the college, as well as the university.

“We will be showcasing ceramicists, painters, printmakers, crafters, as well as talent within the theater department, and both classical and contemporary musicians,” said Sierra Wise, the art council senator. “Additionally, we will be showcasing performances from various diversity organizations on campus. We aim to give a platform to all students to showcase their unique talents and individuality in the arts.”

Artoberfest has never taken place during a set week, as last year it was during Homecoming Week and this year it is taking place during Diversity Week. Nonetheless, the timing this year has allowed for Wise to collaborate with USU Student Association club and diversity vice president Josh Johnson and his organizations to showcase performing groups outside of the Caine College.

“It has given us the opportunity to reach out to diversity groups and involve them in the event,” said Kamber Jensen, a member of the Art Council. “Without diversity, art would cease to grow and change. With too much similarity, we lose creativity.”

Artoberfest was originally set to take place on the Quad, but this year it will take place in The Hub on the first floor of the Taggart Student Center because of predicted rain.

With the new school year returns Moonlight and Music, and it’s lacking in diverse performers

by Lydia Velazquez

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Utah State University students gathered to roast marshmallows and listen to live music on the Taggart Student Center patio Thursday night to kick off the first Moonlight and Music of the school year, a monthly event put on by USU Student Association’s Series Committee.

As the students milled about the patio, two white men played their guitars and played setlists of indie/alternative rock.

“Part of me kinda wants to give USU the benefit of the doubt, that it’s just because our campus itself is not diverse at all,” said series committee member Allison Allred, regarding the lack of diversity with Moonlight and Music performers. “However, I do think that for some reason the white dudes around here just feel a little more confident to go for things like this and I don’t know why. Also, I just think that they seem to be the ones to be given the opportunity.”

It’s hard to tell, however, whether this lack in diversity is something changeable or something systematic.

Looking at the past school year, fall semester there were some female performers but normally the two performers of the night would be male. Come spring semester, there was a even split between male and female performers. However, each artist or band was comprised of white individuals.

“I don’t believe we have ever had a person of color perform,” said Max Heine, the series committee director for the 2018-19 school year. “I don’t believe this is an issue – more a symptom of the population. I would love to have more representation in Moonlight & Music.”

According to the USU Analysis, Assessment and Accreditation Office’s Fall 2017 Enrollment Analysis, the student body of Fall 2017 was about 81 percent white, while 5.7 percent was Hispanic, 1.8 percent American Indian, 1.2 percent Asian and 0.8 percent African American.

“I think, just first off, that white men like to make themselves dominate above everyone else, but I also feel like minorities are scared almost because there is such a large white population,” said series committee member Nichole Chiaramonte. “I’m not as much as a minority as other people, that’s how I view it. If there was an African American that wanted to perform versus me, I would be viewed as just a normal person. But if I was an African American, I would be like like ‘shoot, I have to worry about people thinking this, this and this.’ ”

Art education researcher and art educator visit USU to talk about digital art and its place in the classroom

by Lydia Velazquez

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Utah State University art students sat in the Russell/Wanlass performance hall on Thursday night to hear art education researcher Flavia Bastos and high school art teacher James Rees discuss their digital art project “Who is American Today?”

The lecture was part of the Art + Design Department’s year-long “Communitas” lecture series – named after the Latin noun to evoke “the fundamental spirit of community,” according to the website page for the series. The goal of the lecture series is to “promote the values of equality, diversity, and togetherness,” as the page explains.

Recognition of diversity was repeatedly brought up by Bastos and Rees, as well as how the public education system plays a role in the discussion and recognition of diversity.

The project started with Rees’ art students at Provo High School – where he teaches – asking them to use digital storytelling to answer the question, “What does an American look like for you today?”

Some students responded with videos discussing their immigrant families and how they view Americans as people willing to work hard. Other students addressed a lack of recognition of diversity and felt that an American is most commonly presented as a white, cis, straight male.

“When they were talking about diversity and personal life stories, I just looked at my own diversity and personal life and that I probably need to have more of a voice in my art,” said USU senior photography student James Taylor. “That’s something that drives me to look more into that and be able to create art that has more of a personal aspect towards me and how I can contribute to a diverse culture.”

Rees said his students didn’t feel “they could interact with digital media from a creative perspective,” both because they didn’t view themselves as being capable of creating media and because they didn’t view it as something that could have artistic value.

“Youth are, in a way, full of potential but are also alienated from politics because they are not seen as political subjects,” Flavia Bastos said to the audience. However, she further explained the importance of discussion in the classroom to encourage students to understand they have the capability to instigate change in politics, the media and more.

“If you can’t have discourse in the classroom, you can’t have it anywhere else,” Bastos said.

Rees and Bastos said public education should be a safe forum for students to better understand the world around them and to experiment in how they express their ideas by being “critical digital citizens,” active in every aspect of life, especially digital engagement.

“One thing that stuck out to me was the layers of culture and opinions that we have in everything,” USU art history sophomore Kaily Davis said. “We’re looking through a tiny little dot in a piece of paper and we’re trying to see the whole world through this pin-sized hole and it’s interesting how varied views you can get just by shifting a tiny bit.”  

More about the “Who is American Today?” project can be found at whoisamerican.com.

Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art reopens after two years of renovations

by Lydia Velazquez

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Tiana Godfrey prepares the art drawers in the NEHMA’s new object study center. Photo taken by Kat Taylor.

If someone from Cache Valley wanted the pleasure of visiting an art museum and walking through rooms adorned in contemporary pieces, they would have to make the hour-and-a-half trek down to Salt Lake City as well as pay a sustainable admission fee, depending on the museum.

However, as of Saturday, the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art will reopen, reclaiming its status as the only modern art museum between Salt Lake City and Boise, Idaho and reasserting its presence in the lives of Utah State University students and community members alike.

NEHMA is located next to the Caine College of the Arts, though is independent from the university, and has been closed for the past two years for renovation and expansions under the direction of Katie Lee Koven, the executive director and chief curator.

“Katie’s vision and energy has given the museum a new energy and relevance to not only USU but to the entire region, state and nation,” said Craig Jessop, dean of the arts college. “I applaud Katie for the marvelous work she and her team are doing. We are honored to be collaborators with Katie and the museum in bringing the arts to USU and the people of the State of Utah.”

NEHMA will now have a museum store, cafe, new gallery space and more storage space for collections. The museum will continue prior programs, such as “Museum and Music” and “Family Art Days,” but will rebrand the latter of the two to be more inclusive. “Family Art Days” will now be “Community Art Days,” as to encourage people that the events aren’t just for kids.

Because the museum is a nonprofit, a new membership program will also launch with the reopening.

“It’s structured similar to a public radio pledge drive, or something along those lines,” said Kat Taylor, the public relations and marketing coordinator for the museum, “where we really just encourage people to support the museum through financial donations and it comes with a little bit of perks. One of those perks is attending our member events, so that’s something new that will be happening.”

The reopening reception will feature a chalk artist, a photobooth, and a crowdsourced musical performance of Terry Riley’s Minimalist Masterpiece in “C,” kicking off the “Museum and Music” series for the year.

“I think the part I’m most excited for is the part where it’s happening and I’m there and it’s this thing we’ve imagined for so long coming together,” Taylor said.

The reception for the museum’s reopening is Saturday at 7-9 p.m.

 

 

World renowned sculpture artist brings his work and imagination to Utah State

by Lydia Velazquez 

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The lawn tucked between the Merrill Cazier Library and the engineering buildings at Utah State University was nothing more than another patch of grass on campus. As of Monday it is now the working ground for a sculpture made entirely of sticks.

The project is part of the Caine College’s Year of the Arts, North Carolina-based sculpture artist Patrick Dougherty is building one of his well-known sculptures with the help of volunteers from the community.

“Making something permanent is kind of a convention of the normal art world because you’re always thinking about what you could sell it for,” Dougherty said. “But, at least for my mind, the essence of a good sculpture is one that is highly interesting and compelling for people.”

This viewpoint toward art, its value and the expectations associated with it is unconventional, like Dougherty’s choice medium: saplings.

Normally, Dougherty uses a sapling type native to the area he is working in and can be collected close to the production site. However, there is not enough willow sapling available in Cache Valley for the project, so Dougherty had some shipped from upstate New York.

The structure is anticipated to be up for roughly two years, depending on weather conditions.

Regardless of its lifespan, the sculpture is already making an impact.

“I’m an art educator at a local high school and just any opportunity for professional development or to have experience to pass onto my students, I take full advantage of,” said Caine College alumnus Andrea Smith.

Smith and her colleague Katie Shoup are art teachers at Mountain Crest High School. The two were originally hoping to get their students involved. Because there can only be so many volunteers working at a time, they decided to volunteer on behalf of students.

“I teach 2D design and photography and my colleague teaches sculpture,” Shoup said. “We wanted to see if we could have something we could bring back to our students to help them think a little more creatively. Sometimes you see an actual sculpture that’s already built and you really miss out on the process and we love the process as artists, so it’s fun to be involved.”

Dougherty hopes students and members of the community will take advantage of the sculpture’s accessibility and let the artwork become part of their lives.

“You want to choose a pivotal place in which people are going to see it and potentially use it,” Dougherty said. “So if its not kinda immediately available, it takes effort to go see it and this is just a step off the walk. A good sculpture, it promotes, it carries you, it’s transportive.”

There is a livestream to view the installation process at https://art.usu.edu/willow and a display of photos of Dougherty’s other work in the basement floor of the library.

Dougherty will be delivering the Caine College of the Arts Dean’s Convocation Sept. 18 at 5:30 p.m. in the Russell/Wanlass Performance Hall. The event is open to the public.

USU student Erik Dalton wants to leave behind something worthwhile

by Lydia Velazquez

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It’s a Tuesday evening at Utah State University and people are milling about the grassy area behind Old Main for A Light on the Hill, an annual event put on by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. There are tables promoting clubs, various food trucks, and over toward the edge of the crowd of people is Erik Dalton gently singing and playing his ukulele.

Dalton’s history with music isn’t a stunning one, but it’s still unconventional in its origin.

“I never used to sing. Was not into it and it wasn’t until high school that I took a guitar class because I needed an art credit,” Dalton said. “It was required that we sing while planing the songs we learned in class. I learned my first song, went and played it for him, it was kind of intimidating because I had never sung in front of people before.”

As he sang for his teacher, he remembers his classmates going quiet and him becoming more nervous. However, the worry turned out to be nothing, as not only did his teacher commend him on his playing and singing, but also a number of his classmates.

The Bountiful native said he’s been playing guitar and writing songs ever since.

Yet, despite this open love toward music, including live streams on his Instagram and a number of Poetry and a Beverage performances under his belt, Dalton keeps a realistic distance from things.

Take, for example, his experience auditioning for NBC’s The Voice this summer.

Dalton was simply going about his day when his dad texted him a picture of a TV screen saying “Salt Lake City, The Voice Auditions” and encouraged Dalton to do it. He didn’t see any reason not to and thus prepared for the singing competition audition in less than 24 hours.

The next day he attended the audition, amongst thousands of people, some who’d even travelled from as far as Tennessee.

Dalton didn’t pass the first round of auditions held only in front of a producer, but he was pleased with the experience nonetheless.

He admits if he had known about the audition further into advance he wouldn’t have done it but he’s happy to have gone out on a whim and gave it a shot, as he thinks it’s important “we all try hard things.”

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Taken from Dalton’s Instagram, @erikdalton11

If given the opportunity or “big break” to pursue music professionally, Dalton said he wouldn’t take it. “I love music and its one of my favorite things to do, but not to have it as a career. I have a huge passion for healthcare and helping others so that’s what I want to do.”

Such an explanation lines up with Dalton’s current plans, as he is two semesters away from graduating with two majors in human biology and Spanish. Yet, this reasoning also feels like the crucial point to understanding Dalton’s love for music. It stems from the same reasoning for his desire to pursue a career in public health: he wants to help people.

“My main goal with my music honestly is reach as many people as possible and maybe help someone with my lyrics,” said Dalton. “I write music because it’s something worthwhile to leave behind, you know? Like, when Erik’s gone, who knows how many years in the future, my music is still going to be here.”