Recognition Galore for Hope Theatre at the KCACT Regional Festival

At the festival, Hope College students wait for the curtain to rise on the University of Wisconsin La-Crosse’s production of “The Laramie Project.”

In January, a large group of Hope College theatre students embarked on a memorable and enlightening trip to Madison, Wisconsin, to participate in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region III Festival. KCACTF is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide, a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country, where theater departments and student artists showcase their work and receive outside assessment by KCACTF respondents. KCACTF hosts festivals in eight regions across the nation. Hope College participated in the Region III festival with other colleges from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin. At the festival, students have the opportunity to showcase their skills in dramaturgy, acting, stage management, musical theatre, playwriting and design.

This year, KCACTF  recognized Shiloh, a recent Hope production written by the cast and faculty director Richard Perez. The ensemble of Shiloh was awarded a certificate of Merit for Excellence in Collaborative Performance. Theatre faculty lighting and sound designer Perry Landes was awarded a Certificate of Merit for Excellence in Projections Design. Senior Katrina Dykstra designed costumes for this production and received a Theatrical Design Excellence award for her work. As a result of the award,  Dykstra has garnered a coveted, fully-funded opportunity to attend the national festival in Washington D.C. this May.

Senior Katrina Dykstra presenting her winning costume designs from Hope College devised-piece, “Shiloh.”

“I had such a great time at ACTF this year presenting my costume design for Shiloh!,” said Dykstra. “I always love getting criticism from other professors and theatre professionals, so getting to present for so many interesting judges was great. I was so surprised to be selected to be in finals, and even more surprised to receive an award. I’m looking forward to going to Washington D.C. with the national festival. I’m going to learn so much from the seminars and workshops, and meet so many people in the theatre world!”

Hope College theatre also received praise for their work on this year’s production of Into The Woods by receiving a remarkable number of Certificate of Merit Awards:

KCACTF also hosts competitions for students to showcase their work, and several Hope College students received awards for their artistry.

Junior Gracen Barth was the recipient of the Don Childs Award for Excellence in Stagecraft, providing her a fully-funded opportunity to further develop her skills by attending the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas, Nevada, in July of 2020. Barth was also awarded a production manager’s toolkit.

Senior Megan Clark presenting her costume designs for “Arcadia.”

“With production management being a relatively new field, especially on a collegiate level, it was truly an honor to be recognized for my work on this level,” said Barth. “I’m looking forward to being able to further my skills at the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas.”

Senior Megan Clark was recognized for her Into The Woods design presentation for properties, as well as her Arcadia costume design presentation.

As an active member of KCACTF, Hope College receives responses from faculty of  partner schools who attend a performance of each production. The respondent often takes notes during the show and provides valuable feedback to the acting, design, stage management and directing. The respondent then can provide special recognition by nominating production participants for regional awards like those previously mentioned. They also select one or two cast members that they felt had a superb performance. These students each receive an invitation to participate in the annual Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Competition, which occurs at the festival. Each participant works on a monologue and two scenes with a selected partner.

There is something so electric about spending a few days where hundreds of  like-minded passionate artists are gathered to share and celebrate theatre.

Freshmen Emi Herman was nominated for her portrayal of Laney in Crooked. Madison Meeron was her scene partner. Senior Olivia Lehnertz was nominated for her interpretation of Cinderella in Into The Woods. Gracen Barth was her scene partner. Junior Katie Joachim was nominated for her performance as The Baker’s Wife in Into The Woods. Maxwell Lam was her partner.

Joachim and Lam made it to the semifinals of the Irene Ryan auditions. Joachim also auditioned alongside 100 other students to participate in a Musical Theatre Showcase. She was then selected to join 14 others from around the region to perform in a cabaret-style performance where she delivered a heartfelt performance of  “Mr. Snow.”

Students and faculty had an enriching and fulfilling time at the festival this year. There is something so electric about spending a few days where hundreds of  like-minded passionate artists are gathered to share and celebrate theatre. We are grateful to have had this experience and look forward to attending The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival again in the future.

Perform, Teach, and Treat: The Different Careers of Hope Dancers

The Hope College dance department has long prided itself on the versatility of both its curricular programming as well as the careers of its alumni. Founded on the principle, “if you have a love of dance, we have a place for you,” dance  professor-emeritus Maxine DeBruyn founded and established a program that has — for the last 45 years — produced alumni who are changing the idea of what it means to make dance a part of one’s lifelong career.

Jennifer Muisenga ’12 Florey

Jennifer Muisenga ’12 Florey was a dance education major at Hope. During her senior year, she completed her student teaching in Chicago and went on to become the assistant director of Auroris Dance Company in the Chicago suburbs. During the summer of 2013, she accepted a teaching position at Kofa High School in Yuma, Arizona, directing the dance program. She is currently in her last semester at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro completing her thesis to receive her master of arts in dance education.

Asked about her time in the Hope College dance department Flory stated, “the Hope dance program provided me with a well-rounded education in order to provide my students with the best education. The professors pushed me outside my comfort zone and always saw the potential in me. I always felt supported in everything I did, and I continue to feel supported by them to this day.”

Tim Heck ’04

After graduating in 2004 from Hope College as a theater and dance major, Tim Heck continued his training with regional dance companies such as Eisenhower Dance Ensemble, Thodos Dance Chicago and Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago. From 2006-2013, Tim originated work and performed with Lucky Plush Productions, Blue Man Group, the circus punk marching band Mucca Pazza, Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak, 500 Clown, Redmoon Theater, and the small-top circus tent Le Tigre Tent.  He taught modern dance technique at Lou Conte Dance Studios and was a teaching artist with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.  In 2013, Tim was hired by Sleep No More in New York City – a groundbreaking, immersive, dance, theater event created by the British-based company Punchdrunk. As of 2018, Tim is performing in Sleep No More in Shanghai, China, where he lives with his wife, Hope, who serves as the production’s resident director.

“In my experience at the Hope College dance department, I was able to learn by doing,” Heck says.  “While I was regularly getting demanding technical instruction that I needed as a fresh dancer, I was also able to practice the art regularly.  It very directly laid the groundwork for what I have continued doing since.”

Dr. Kathleen Davenport ’03

Kathleen L. Davenport ’03 majored in both dance and French at Hope on a pre-medicine track for medical school. Today, she is a fellowship-trained sports, performing arts and dance medicine physician. Following her medical school graduation and residency, Davenport then completed a spine and sports fellowship at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, NY, where she worked with physician leaders in dance medicine and published peer-reviewed articles on hip pain, and platelet rich plasma injections. Dr. Davenport currently works in South Florida and serves the local dance community as the Company Physician for Miami City Ballet, Board of Directors for Boca Ballet Theatre, and as affiliate professor at Florida Atlantic University Department of Theatre. She serves on the Board of Directors for the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS) and serves on multiple committees for the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA).

“Hope College helped prepare me for this dance medicine journey. I was introduced to IADMS and joined the organization while at Hope and now sit on the Board of Directors. I have spoken to dance medicine and science professionals around the world, and Hope remains the only institution to my knowledge to offer a unique degree in dance and pre-med. Thanks to Hope, I have been set up for success in all aspects of life, personally and professionally.”

Object Lessons: Mexican People Portfolio

In 1946, the Taller de Grafica Popular (People’s Graphic Workshop) in Mexico City published a portfolio titled Mexican People that consisted of twelve lithographic prints by ten different artists depicting scenes of Mexican working life. The purpose of the portfolio was to help Americans better understand the peoples and cultures of Mexico as both countries struggled to readjust to new global economic conditions after World War II.

Silver Mine Worker. Francisco Mora (Mexican, 1922-2002), 1946, Lithograph, Hope College Collection

The Kruizenga Art Museum purchased an intact copy of the Mexican People portfolio in January, 2016. It has since become one of the most heavily used artworks in the museum’s teaching program as every year it is shown to multiple Spanish language, history, and interdisciplinary studies classes.

The Taller de Grafica Popular, or TGP, was a printmaking collective that was founded in 1937 to promote the goals of the Mexican Revolution and other left-wing causes. During its heyday from the late 1930s to the late 1950s, the TGP produced thousands of low-cost prints and posters aimed at supporting workers’ rights, combatting corruption and violence, and promoting national and international unity.

Lime Kilns. Raul Anguiano (Mexican, 1915-2006), 1946, Lithograph, Hope College Collection

Publication of the Mexican People portfolio coincided with the 100th anniversary of the start of the Mexican-American War, which lasted from 1846 to 1848 and resulted in the United States claiming a large portion of Mexico’s northern territory. It also coincided with a renewed conversation about immigration that occurred as American politicians debated what to do about the Bracero program, which brought hundreds of thousands of Mexican workers to the United States to fill vital farm and factory jobs during World War II. Although Bracero workers were supposed to come into the US on fixed-term labor contracts, some wanted the ability to extend their contracts while others wanted to stay in the US permanently. Many American farmers supported extending the Bracero program as they had become highly reliant on Mexican labor to maintain their agricultural output. In the end, the Bracero program was extended until 1964 and provided a legal channel for more than five million Mexicans to work in the US on a seasonal or full-time basis during those years.

Lumber Workers. Alfredo Zalce (Mexican, 1908-2003), 1946, Lithograph, Hope College Collection

The Mexican People portfolio presents a positive image of Mexicans as being hardworking and industrious. It includes captions in both Spanish and English that explain the subjects of each print and shows on a map of Mexico where the different scenes are located. The portfolio was distributed in the United States through Associated American Artists, a New York-based gallery that was dedicated to providing original works of art at affordable prices to middle-class consumers. Approximately 250 copies of the portfolio were issued in the United States. Some of the portfolios were broken up and the prints were sold off individually; other copies of the portfolio were kept intact.

The complete portfolio is on view in the Kruizenga Museum through January 26. Admission is always free and everyone is welcome. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 4pm.

Silver Mine Worker

Francisco Mora (Mexican, 1922-2002), 1946, Lithograph, Hope College Collection, 2016.1.1.2

Mexico is home to some of the richest silver deposits in the world.  After the Spanish conquest of Mexico in the 16th century, huge quantities of Mexican silver were shipped overseas to fuel the economies of Europe and Asia. Historically most Mexican silver was mined by hand. Miners often worked in low tunnels with poor ventilation and drainage and accidental deaths were common. The exploitation of Mexican mines and miners continued well into the 20th century, as we see in this Francisco Mora print depicting a miner working in the state of Hidalgo north of Mexico City.

Lime Kilns

Raul Anguiano (Mexican, 1915-2006), 1946, Lithograph, Hope College Collection, 2016.1.1.4

Lime is a calcium-rich mineral that was traditionally produced by burning limestone or chalk in large kilns. It is a vital ingredient in cement and concrete around the world. In Mexico it is also often used to whitewash adobe houses and to prepare maize for cooking. Making lime can be dangerous. The smoke from the kilns contains particles that can damage the lungs, while the intense light of the kiln fire can damage the eyes. Raul Anguiano captures the hot, back-breaking nature of lime production in this image of a lime factory near the town of Tula de Allende in central Mexico.

Lumber Workers

Alfredo Zalce (Mexican, 1908-2003), 1946, Lithograph, Hope College Collection, 2016.1.1.11

The Lacandon Jungle in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico is a lush tropical rainforest filled with a bountiful variety of trees, plants and animals. Because it was remote and difficult to access, the Lacandon Jungle remained relatively intact until the late 19th century. Since then, however, large sections of the rainforest have been cut down to make way for mining operations, coffee and rubber plantations as well as agricultural farms and ranches. Today only ten percent of the original forest remains untouched. This print depicts sawyers in the Gulf Coast port of Ciudad del Carmen cutting tropical hardwood logs from Chiapas into standard lengths so that they can be shipped off to market in the United States and Europe.

Student Profile: Theatre Major Katrina Dykstra Thrives in NYC

Katrina Dykstra, left, performs in The Christmas Carol with Titan Theatre. Photo by Michael Pauley

I had the privilege of spending four months in New York City last fall, working with the Titan Theatre Company, a classical theatre company based in Queens. In my time with Titan, I helped set up a fundraising gala, understudied roles and worked on the set and costume designs for their production of The Tempest, and worked on the costumes and performed in their production of A Christmas Carol.

I met Lenny Banovez, the artistic director of Titan, through Hope Summer Repertory Theatre (HSRT) in the spring of 2018. (Lenny is also the artistic director for HSRT so he was on our campus  last spring to get ready for summer shows.) I knew I would be spending a semester in New York with the GLCA New York Arts Semester, a program Hope has had a long association with, so I got up the courage to asked Lenny if I could work for Titan. I am so happy that I took that small risk.  Working for a smaller company like Titan gave me opportunity to use all of my theatre skills, from costumes to performing, and allowed me to work closely with their entire team, from the artistic director to the general manager to the artistic associate. My experience ended up being so personalized to me, and I gained so many friends and professional connections through the process.

I quickly fell in love with New York bagels and the busy sidewalks, and found my routine of daily errands, internship tasks and night-time rehearsals.

Moving to New York from West Michigan was definitely a big transition. I was definitely a little scared when I showed up at LaGuardia Airport in Queens with two bags, my backpack, and myself. From grocery shopping to getting a cup of coffee, life just looks different in New York.  I had to learn how to navigate subways and buses, and I walked more than I ever have in my life! I quickly fell in love with New York bagels and the busy sidewalks, and found my routine of daily errands, internship tasks and night-time rehearsals. Having the opportunity to go to New York for four months and only focus on theatre was such a gift, and I’m so grateful to Hope College and the New York Arts Program for enabling me to do this.

A Christmas Carol scene with Katrina Dykstra, seated back right. Photo by Michael Pauley

My NYC internship was perfect to round out my college career as I was able to put to work all the skills I have learned with my Hope theatre education. Being in NYC also allowed me to bring back some knowledge and experience about the “real world” and share it with my friends and classmates, such as what going to Broadway chorus auditions looks like, or the best place to get soup dumplings.

A highlight of my time in New York was working on A Christmas Carol. A guest director, Tony Clements, came in to work on the production. Getting to work with a director and actors who have Broadway credits was such an incredible experience for me as a student, and as an actor looking to work in the field. I learned so much just by watching them work in rehearsal, whether I was onstage with them in a scene or not. We were lucky enough to sell out most of the shows for A Christmas Carol, and it was an experience I will never forget.

From hemming tablecloths to sewing rope onto sails to performing, I got to experience every part of what it takes to put up a theatre production in a small New York theatre. I am so grateful for what the New York Arts Program and Titan Theatre Company helped me do this past semester, and I’m hoping to go back to New York soon!

Editor’s note: At the regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival held in Madison, Wisconsin earlier this month, Katrina won a regional Theatrical Design Excellence award for her costume design for Hope’s production of Shiloh last April.  As a part of this honor, she is invited to attend the national KCACT Festival in Washington, D.C. in April.  She has also been cast as Nina in Hope’s April production of The Seagull so it will be a busy semester for her!

Student Profile: Studio Art Major Brianna Derfiny

Now that the fall semester has ended, senior art studio majors have some time to reflect on what they learned in ART 365, the independent studio projects course. They will also look forward to ART 350, the art studio seminar, this spring. The goal of these two seminars is to create a body of work for the senior show, which will open on April 5, 2019.

Brianna Derfiny with her completed work in the Student Juried Art Show

Brianna “Bri” Derfiny of Southgate, Michigan will be spending her inter-semester break contemplating how her practice in ART 365 will transfer to her project for ART 350. Like her classmates in the class of 2019, Bri is at the cusp of transforming from a student into a practicing artist. With that comes the essential question: how to I develop habits of artistic practice that will keep me making art after Hope College?

The studio program at Hope is designed to address this question. The curriculum is set up as a pyramid and is a hybrid of art school and liberal arts curricula. Whereas at an art school, students would immediately focus on one medium, students at Hope develop skills in a wide range of media. At the pyramid’s base, every studio major must take foundational courses in the each of the media offered: painting, sculpture, printmaking, ceramics, photography and design. In these courses, students (both majors and students in the general education curriculum) spend the class time practice skills under the close supervision of a professor. Bri explains, “Throughout college, I have always had to stick to the boundaries of an assignment.  It’s like living in an imaginary box.”

The middle of the pyramid, students choose advanced studio courses from blocks, where students can track themselves into 2D or 3D practices. At this level, students work with more freedom with assignments that have broader perimeters. Bri explains that the advanced course are still assignment-based, but in addition to skill, students must now bring content to the work.  Bri says, “Technique is still important, but much of the assignment is about thinking more broadly and working on a topic you want to go with. In figure drawing class, Professor Sullivan always wanted a concept while you are focusing on technical skills. An idea always needed to be there.”

Bri with senior Art History major Nina Kay discussing work from ART 365

At the top of the pyramid is the ART 365/350 sequence, which models the design of art school. These courses function as capstones to the art studio major. In the fall, Art 365 is a seminar that is not skills based, but completely focused on teaching students how to work without the perimeters of an assignment. Class time is dedicated to discussion and critique, and all studio work must be done outside of class.  A challenge for students is to develop consistent habits and a work schedule that will keep them in the studio working on their art practice in the midst of all of the other things going on in their lives. In reflecting on her experience, Bri says, “I really like making art in general. In ART 365, coming up with ideas is the easy part. Having to work through the idea and actually create the work is challenging.”

One of the benefits of being in the studio seminar is having a space to work.  In the fall, seniors share a studio space in the DePree Art center, but in the spring they will have their own studios. “Over the summer, finding the time and the space to make work was challenging. I had a job, but I tried to draw in my sketchbook every day. Having a space to work is essential,” says Bri. “I feel I have always had a good work ethic. It makes it much easier when you are passionate about it. So, I feel like it is really easy to spend a ton of time in the studio. And even if I am not working on art, I can be taking notes on what I potentially do the following week.”

Last semester, Bri branched out from her comfort zone and combined her work in drawing and rendering with more conceptual work such as performance and process-based work. “I think my rendering skill and my shading are what I am best at. My work has a strong realism attribute to it.  I tried to escape it this semester and experimented with abstract and geometric shapes. I also tied different forms of art. I have done spoken words before, but never performed them in an artistic setting. Having done that and being able to render the way that I do leads me in the direction to including more poetry in my rendered work.”

Bri in the senior studio of DePree holding a drawing from ART 365

Next semester in ART 350, Bri and her classmates will take the habits they have been developing and the experiments that seemed the most successful and move towards creating a body of work for the senior show. While some students will produce mixed-media and installation-based works that are very reflective of Hope’s hybrid curriculum, others will hone a particular medium in which they excel.

As Bri thinks about her part, she feels both the excitement of having freedom to create her own body of work, as well as the intimidation that comes with such freedom. “It is all the things. It’s exciting and somewhat intimidating to have to create a body of work that is good and that shows off your skills and concepts.

“Moving forward I am gong to do more rendered work, because that is what I like and what I think I am best at. But it was really helpful to see that I can conceptualize an idea without rendering it completely. I want to incorporate some performance in some way, so I would render works that have performative elements with them.  I have an idea for one, but I am not necessarily sure how I would implement that same idea throughout different works. That is what I will have to figure out next semester.”

Juried Art Show Provides Hope Students With Invaluable Experience

Student Juried Show at the DePree Gallery

The annual juried art show opened in the DePree Gallery on Monday, November 19th.  Twenty-eight students have work in the show, including painting, sculpture, works on paper, textiles, new media, and installation art.  This year the guest juror is Patrick Earl Hammie, a professor of art at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champlain.

People may wonder what a juried art show is, and why does the Department of Art and Art History include juried shows in the exhibition program?  How can someone judge a work, and based on what criteria?

Rembrandt van Rijn, Holly Family with a Curtain, 1646 (Image in the public domain)

Juried art shows are an essential part of an artist’s training.  Juried competitions have roots in antiquity.  The Roman author Pliny described competitions in Athens in which the greatest artists of Ancient Greece, Praxiteles, Zeuxis and Apelles, participated. Competition was thought to bring out the best in artists, as is the case in sport: the better the opponent, the better one plays. The most famous artist competition in antiquity was the dual between the well-established Zeuxis and the underdog Parrhasios.  Zeuxis painted grapes that looked so real, birds flew up to the painting and tried to eat them. On his turn, Parrhasios placed a curtain on the stage. When Zeuxis told Parrhasios to reveal the painting behind the curtain, only then did Zeuxis realize he had been fooled by Parrhasios’s life-like painting of a curtain. Many artists, including Rembrandt, refer to this story in their works as a way to show off their skill and compete, so to speak, with the great painters of antiquity.

Pietro Antonio Martini, The Paris Salon of 1787, 1781 (Image in the public domain)

Once art academies were established in the 16th century in France and England, juried shows were an important part of the academic curriculum. Students participated in juried shows in which the faculty decided which paintings would be exhibited at the public exhibitions, called Salons. Faculty chose works that it deemed represented good taste. Such competitions often determined the careers and reputations of artists.  As a result, the faculty controlled public demand for certain artists and artworks. (If only that were the case today!)

Juried salons often caused controversy.  In 1863, the Salon committee rejected the works of several artists, including the French modernist Manet and the American painter Whistler, due to their new and non-traditional approaches to style and subject matter.  These artists complained to the Salon committee and were given an alternative exhibition space called the Salon des Refusés (Exhibition of the Rejected Ones).

“Having an outside person come and talk to us about our work (after jurying) was helpful because he was objective.  He doesn’t teach or know us, so he responds to what he sees.” — Holle Wade ’20

Despite controversies, judging art by outside jurors gives a student a fresh perspective of his or her work. Juried performances are part and parcel to the cultivation and training of young musicians, as well. Having to perform in front of a stranger might be nerve wracking, but it trains young musicians not just to master skill but also and importantly to develop musicianship. Because of the close teacher-student relationship that is the nature of music and studio art instruction, outside jurying is essential for broadening the feedback students receive. Studio and art history major Holle Wade ’20 offers this insight, “having an outside person come and talk to us about our work (after jurying) was helpful because he was objective.  He doesn’t teach or know us, so he responds to what he sees.”

Juried artwork must stand on its own … meaning the work itself must do the talking.

Student Juried Show at the DePree Gallery

When a student submits work to a juried show, the work must stand on its own.  This means the student-artist will not be present to explain what he or she meant or intended when the juror looks at the work.  The work itself must do the talking. In preparing for the exhibition, the student-artist must think about the details that are all too easy to overlook in a regular assignment.  For example, the student must come to a point where the work feels finished.  This includes a myriad of decisions such as (and not too different from essay writing): Is my main idea clear? Is it a relevant idea? Does my work have a perspective? Have I used my skills intently? Have I straightened the edges, dried the paint, polished the plate?  How should I display my work?  Good art is less about inspiration than about decisions.

Student Juried Show at the DePree Gallery

At Hope College, the guest juror is alone in the gallery as he or she selects the works for the show. The juror looks at each work individually as assess the work’s merits.  The juror also tries to make a coherent show by considering how the works will function together as an ensemble. When Hammie spoke about his process in jurying, he said that he looked for works that connected to him on a personal level.  For Hammie, the question was: what is visually arresting about this work? Hammie looked at whether the artist’s intent was clear.  He also selected works that surprised him or confronted him with the unexpected: confident skill, nuanced colors, bold size, and new media. Walking through the exhibition, the visitor can feel Hammie’s attraction to bold colors, compelling formal presentations of the body and interplays of scale and materials.

The student juried show is an invaluable opportunity for Hope College students that is not typical of undergraduate studio art education, even at many elite institutions.

All of the artists in the show should feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that their work is exhibited in a professional-level art gallery. “It’s a new feeling to have your work displayed for everyone to see,” says Wade. “Hammie chose work that makes you think. It’s more than just technical skill. It’s about looking and not walking away.” The student juried show is an invaluable opportunity for Hope College students that is not typical of undergraduate studio art education, even at many elite institutions.

Object Lessons: Calculus in the KAM

How is art relevant to calculus and calculus relevant to art? Every semester for the past two years, Dr. Stephanie Edwards, professor of mathematics and chairperson of the department, has been bringing her Calculus I and II classes to the Kruizenga Art Museum to consider exactly these questions.

To answer the first question — how art is relevant to calculus — the students begin by learning about the art-making process in which artists break down an envisioned artwork into smaller constituent components and then work out the logistical steps that are needed to transform each component into reality. Students are helped to understand the often experimental nature of art making by looking at a group of preparatory drawings, trial prints and sculptural models that show how artists figure out certain aspects of their artworks, including forms, compositions, and color schemes.

Students begin by learning about the art-making process in which artists break down an envisioned artwork into smaller constituent components and then work out the logistical steps that are needed to transform each component into reality.

Next, the students look at a group of finished artworks that reveal how artists sometimes make mistakes when putting together the different components of their artwork, resulting in passages that are flawed or show obvious signs of correction. In many cases the class is able to reverse engineer the creative process and speculate about how and why the mistakes likely occurred.

Finally, the students are asked to compare the processes of art-making to the processes of mathematical problem-solving. Different students see different parallels between art and math, but most end up agreeing that the processes of both disciplines are similarly creative and dynamic.

Now, the second question: how is calculus relevant to art? Dr. Edward’s students are asked to step into the shoes of a Ming-dynasty Chinese bell maker.

Temple Bell. Chinese, 17th century. Bronze. Gift of David Kamansky and Gerald Wheaton, 2014.23.160.

Now, the second question: how is calculus relevant to art? Dr. Edward’s students are asked to step into the shoes of a Ming-dynasty Chinese bell maker. The students learn that in 17th-century China, bronze bells were made using full-size wax models that were encased in clay molds and heated to melt the wax, leaving a hollow space in which to pour the molten bronze. Because bronze was expensive, bell makers did not want to buy and melt too much of the semi-precious metal, so they calculated the volume of bronze they would need using the dimensions of the wax model.

Hope calculus students do the same thing, but instead of using a wax model, they use a Ming Chinese bell that was cast around 400 years ago. By measuring the bell’s circumference, its thickness, and the length from its crown to its rim, the students are able to use the math skills they learned in class to figure out the bell’s volume, allowing some variation for the bell’s irregular decorative features. Admittedly, there is usually no pressing need to know the volume of an already cast bell, but this class exercise provides an opportunity to apply practical math skills while at the same time learning about an interesting historical artifact.

One last lesson: The bell above would have been used in a Chinese Buddhist temple to call monks to prayer and to meals. It is not like a Western-style bell that is swung and rung with a clapper inside the bell. Rather, bells like this were hung in a stationary position and struck on the side with a padded mallet. It was cast in clay molds using the lost-wax technique. The body of the bell was cast first and then the double-headed dragon loop was cast directly onto the top of the bell later. The Chinese have been using bronze to make both sacred and secular objects since the 3rd millennium BCE.

Before a Turtle Can Perform…

…we must prepare. Many people experienced an outstanding performance by the Turtle Island Quartet, winners of two Grammy awards and leaders in crossing the jazz and classical lines. They returned to Hope College with jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut on Nov. 9 and the Concert Hall at the Jack H. Miller Center was alive with creativity. But that 7:30 p.m. performance is actually the last part of a very busy day of preparing for the artists and the artists preparing for the performance.

9:00-11:00 a.m. Piano tuning. 

Long-time Hope piano tuner Kelly Bakker knows the instruments well and has tuned thousands of pianos, including many for the legendary artists that have crossed Hope’s stages over the years.

Jack H. Miller stage for Turtle Island
The stage is set according to the technical rider.

11:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Technical Setup.
Technical Director Erik Alberg and Asst. Technical Director David Johnson work on meeting the needs of the technical rider. Although a string quartet, the Turtle Island Quartet is wired for sound. The rider tells Erik everything from what types of chairs they require (piano benches are often favored by cellists), where the chairs should go, and how the technical equipment should be arranged. Erik makes a call on pulling out the back wall to create a sound shell and will adjust the drapes along the walls to either enliven or deaden the sound. The rider gives details, but creating the right balance is an art. Erik has been doing this for a long time with all levels of artists and he has the art part down. In the midst of all this, Drew Elliott, sound engineer for the Music Dept. hops in to make sure all the sound is connected to his software since the quartet has requested a recording of the performance.

Turtle Island Masterclass
Two members of the Grammy-award winning Turtle Island Quartet work with Hope College students.

2:30 – 3:30 p.m. Masterclass.
Before they take the stage, all of our artists connect with the community in different ways. This time, it was a masterclass with two Hope College student ensembles under the direction of faculty member Mihai Craiovneau. A music masterclass typically consists of students performing a prepared piece before an artist and then receiving feedback on their work. There is usually some give and take and the piece always sounds different by the end. Of course, leave it to the Turtles (as they often refer to themselves) to throw a wrench in the normal. Two members of quartet, including founder David Balakrishnan, listened to both a quartet and octet perform. They gave some feedback. And then they went all jazz on them having them work on a piece Balakrishnan wrote and teaching the students how to improvise. String players are not always encouraged to go off the printed page, but in this masterclass, it was a requirement. And the students were clearly enjoying the challenge. At the end, Balakrishnan dubbed them “honorary Turtles.”

“You can tell this is a strong department because the strings are strong. Usually the toughest area,” Balakrishnan commented later.

Turtle Island Soundcheck
Turtle Island Quartet and Cyrus Chestnut during soundcheck (from the Technical Director’s viewpoint)

3:30 – 5:45 p.m. Soundcheck and rehearsal.
With the masterclass done the remaining quartet members arrive with Chestnut for soundcheck and rehearsal. Without fail, our artists are always impressed with how prepared Erik and David are with their requests. As a result, they just have to fine tune the equipment hookups and then quickly get to hearing how it sounds. Again, with our technical staff skills, what could be a two hour process is done quickly, leaving the quartet and Chestnut time to simply rehearse. And they rehearse hard. Some pieces go straight through, but there is a lot of starting and stopping and repeating until they get to where they want.

5:45 – 7:00 p.m. Eat and Change.

Like most artists, the groups goes past their scheduled rehearsal time, but they leave it to find a catered meal in the Music Dept. conference room. Well-fed artists are happy artists, and they eat well. A couple change in the Green Room and others run back and change at the Haworth Inn. While they are doing that the ticket office is opening in the lobby and the ushers are getting last minute directions on what they need to do. CDs are set in the lobby and everything is in place for the doors to open. Members of the group also seek out last minute places to warm up.

7:30 p.m. The Performance.
Finally. As a presenter (my role), this is the best part of the day. The group is introduced and I can sit back and simply enjoy another incredible performance along with 700 friends. And what a performance. The quartet opens with two pieces by themselves and then introduce Chestnut, whose light touch on the keyboard works very well with the quartet. The second half starts with two solo pieces by Chestnut before the quartet joins him. A lot of creativity ensues as the quartet and Chestnut are trying this full length collaboration for the first time. They premiered two pieces, including one they had rehearsed for the first time that afternoon! All members of the ensemble take turns introducing the pieces, which include spiritual works from a variety of backgrounds and provide a personal side to the evening. After a full performance, standing ovation, an encore, and then to the lobby to sign CDs and meet the audience, the quartet and Chestnut headed back for the hotel close to 10:30 p.m.

A Professor-Mother And Student-Son’s Journey “Into The Woods”

*Editor’s note: The Department of Theatre at Hope College will present “Into the Woods” on Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 14-17, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the Events and Conferences Office and at the door on performance nights.

My life has always been marked by the productions that I have designed. I know exactly what I was working on when I learned my best friend was getting married, when I learned my father had cancer, when I fell in love, and yes, when I was pregnant with both my children.

Production team for “Into The Woods” in 1995: Daina Robins, Director; Michelle Bombe, Costume Designer; Terri Lynn Vaughn (Forte Filips), Choreographer; Mary Kay Samouce, Scenic Designer

Hope College Theatre Department and Hope Summer Repertory Theatre have occasionally produced the same play over the years, but the Theatre Department has rarely repeated a title. In fact, it has only happened once in the 28 years that I have been at Hope.  “Into The Woods” was first produced at Hope in the fall of 1995. I don’t need to look this date up as this is one of those milestone productions for me. I was pregnant and about to give birth in January.  Anne de Velder, the costume shop manager at the time, made a baby quilt for my newborn made out of all of the fabrics I had selected for the costumes in the production.  It is a cherished possession.

I remember the production resonating with me about parenthood, the desire to have a child, and the fierce protection a mother feels about her offspring.

Griffin and me outside DeWitt Theatre

Time passes, dozens of productions grace the stage at Hope, and the baby that was born after the production of Into The Woods is now a senior majoring in theatre at Hope.  What goes around comes around.  The department decides that the time is right to once again produce Into The Woods.  Griffin, who will be 23 in January, is playing Cinderella’s Prince and the Wolf.

My husband and I took Griffin to see this production at Utah Shakespeare Festival the summer before his first year of college.  I remember sobbing through most of the musical because this time, what resonated with me is sending your child out into the woods…..it is scary and frightening, but necessary.

Alexander Johnson, Rapunzel’s Prince, and Griffin Baer, Cinderella’s Prince, rehearse “Agony.”

As I watch the dress rehearsals this week, I think about the years that have passed.  It is time for my son to take his next journey.  He is graduating in December and will be starting a contract with the Missoula Children’s Theatre. It is an exciting program and he will be touring the country in the spring connecting with hundreds of young people.  This will be Griffin’s last performance at Hope.

Griffin Baer as Cinderella’s Prince

Every year at graduation, I am heartbroken when my students whom I have shared many hours of collaborative work and have become friends and colleagues must leave Hope. I am, of course, excited for their new adventures and am delighted that I stay in communication with most of them.   But the heart cracks a bit.   Just when I think I can’t do it again, the next fall an enthusiastic first year student appears in my office and I think, “Ok, here we go again.”

“Into the Woods” version 2018:  I will be the one crying in the audience when our beautiful Cinderella, Olivia Lehnertz, sings,  “You Are Not Alone.”

Mother cannot guide you
Now you’re on your own
Only me beside you
Still, you’re not alone
No one is alone
Truly
No one is alone
I wish…
I know
Mother isn’t here now
Wrong things, right things
Who knows what she’d say?
Who can say what’s true?
Nothing’s quite so clear now
Do things, fight things
Feel you’ve lost your way?
You decide, but
You are not alone
Believe me
No one is alone (No one is alone)
Believe me
Truly
People make mistakes
Fathers
Mothers
People make mistakes
Holding to their own
Thinking they’re alone
Honor their mistakes
Fight for their mistakes
Everybody makes
One another’s terrible mistakes
Witches can be right, giants can be good
You decide what’s right, you decide what’s good
Just remember
Just remember
Someone is on your side (Our side)
Our side
Someone else is not
While we’re seeing our side (Our side)
Our side
Maybe we forgot, they are not alone
No one is alone
Someone is on your side
No one is alone

Author Michelle Bombe, professor of theatre, serves as the resident costume designer and the director of theatre at Hope. As director of theatre, she is responsible for the production program of the theatre department.

Bruce McCombs Exhibit in Final Days

The Bruce McCombs exhibit currently in the DePree Art Center and Gallery is your opportunity to feel as though you are walking through campus while indoors and in one place. Multiple realistic watercolor artwork of Hope buildings and scene-scapes by the long-time Hope professor are on display until Friday, November 9.  McCombs’ profound artistic talent and his unexpected perspectives gives viewers angles of Hope’s campus they may have never considered before. His mesmerizing use of light, reflections and shadows will also capture your imagination as it first did his.

Stop by the gallery soon to catch the college in art form.

The De Pree Art Center and Gallery is located at 275 Columbia Ave., between 10th and 13th streets.  The gallery is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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Art by Bruce McCombs
Art by Bruce McCombs
Art by Bruce McComb
Art by Bruce McCombs
Art by Bruce McCombs
Art by Bruce McCombs