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… 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
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
People make mistakes
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.


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

Hope Connections Play Critical Role in Exhibit at the Kruizenga Art Museum

The exhibition Living Tradition: Contemporary Ethiopian Christian Art from the Sobania Collection, on view at the Kruizenga Art Museum until Saturday, December 15, would never have happened without critical contributions from current and former Hope College students who worked together with the museum staff in various capacities as donors, artists, curators and catalog designers.


Neal and Liz Sobania donated their large collection of Ethiopian Christian art to Hope.

The person most responsible for the Living Tradition exhibition is Dr. Neal Sobania ’68, who, together with his wife Liz, donated all but two of the 67 artworks featured in the exhibition. After graduating from Hope, Neal served for four years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia. He then went on to earn a Master’s Degree from Ohio University in 1973 and a PhD from the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies in 1980, where his research focused on nomadic herders of northern Kenya. Neal returned to Hope College as a history professor in 1981. He taught at Hope from 1981 to 1995 and at Pacific Lutheran University from 1995 to 2015, while also directing the international education programs at both institutions. The Ethiopian Christian art on display in Living Tradition is part of a much larger African art collection that the Sobanias have been donating to the Kruizenga Art Museum in installments since 2015. The Sobania gift is one reason why the Kruizenga Art Museum now possesses the largest, most diverse collection of African art in West Michigan.

Ethiopian-born artist and 2003 Hope alumnus Daniel Berhanemeskel spoke at the Kruizenga Art Museum about traditional Ethiopian painting materials, techniques and styles.

Artist Daniel Berhanemeskel ’03 painted four of the icons that are included in the exhibition and also donated a set of Ethiopian priest’s robes that are among the visual highlights of the show. Daniel belongs to a prominent family of Ethiopian religious artists and has been painting since he was eight years old. With support from Neal Sobania and former Hope art professor Del Michel, Daniel came to Hope College in 1999 to major in art. After graduating from Hope, Daniel earned an MFA degree from Michigan State University and has continued his career as a painter while also working as a computer programmer in Northern Virginia. Daniel gave a gallery talk at the Kruizenga Art Museum on September 22 that drew more than 70 people, the largest audience ever to attend a gallery talk at the Kruizenga Art Museum.

Thanks to an endowment established by John H. Dryfhout ’64, the Kruizenga Museum is able to employ student interns to research its collections and help curate exhibitions. Nina Kay, class of 2019, is a current Hope College senior who is double majoring in Art History and Women and Gender Studies and minoring in Creative Writing. Nina worked at the museum as the John H. Dryfhout intern in the spring of 2018, helping to curate the Living Tradition exhibition by cataloging, researching and writing labels for all of the icon paintings in the exhibition. Nina’s work on the exhibition also led her to ask questions about the role of women in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which in turn prompted the curatorial team to add an entire section to the exhibition addressing that topic. Students have participated as curators or preparators in every major exhibition organized by the Kruizenga Museum since it opened in September, 2015.

The last major contributor to the exhibition is Tom Wagner ’84, who currently works as a photographer and graphic designer based in Grand Rapids. Tom designed and produced the catalog for the exhibition. A digital copy of the catalog is available free of charge on the museum’s website and a limited number of printed copies are available for purchase at the museum. The Living Tradition catalog is the second exhibition publication produced by Tom for the Kruizenga Museum. The museum strives to produce at least one exhibition catalog every year to showcase the research and writing of student curators.

The Kruizenga Art Museum functions as an educational resource for Hope College and the greater West Michigan community. The museum features two public galleries as well as a classroom and climate-controlled storage space for its 4,000-object permanent collection. It is named in honor of a leadership gift from Dr. Richard and the late Margaret Kruizenga of Holland, both of whom graduated from Hope in 1952.  

Additional information is available at The museum is located at 271 Columbia Ave., between 10th and 13th streets and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Precision and Heart: Beijing Guitar Duo

The acoustic guitar world is a demanding world. Precision is key, but heart is essential. A technically precise performance is expected, but if that is all you hear, you leave the concert impressed but unmoved. But when a performance combines technical skill with passion, you can walk away with a slightly altered worldview. Of course, this is the result of any great art which takes you into another realm and sends you back with a new way of seeing your world.

It can also be a solitary world for the guitarist, practicing for hours alone in preparation for those few hours in front of an audience. But for guitarists Meng Su and Yameng Wang, who make up the Beijing Guitar Duo performing here at Hope this Friday, those hours alone are supplemented by hours of working together. A solo guitar concert is a chance to watch an artist single handily fill the void, but a duo guitar concert is similar to watching a pas de deux in ballet. There are moments of individual soaring, but the guitarists are continually working around and with one another.

Wang and Su obviously love this guitar dance. Both come from the coastal city of Qingdao in China, and they each found early individual success. Before Su left high school, she had already won several international guitar competitions. Wang was the youngest winner ever of the Tokyo International Guitar Competition — when she was 12. Eventually, they both ended up in the U.S. studying in Baltimore with the legendary Manuel Barrueco. But despite their individual success, they continue to work together.

In addition to recording a CD with Barrueco himself, the duo’s other recordings have found great success. Their debut CD,  Maracaípe, received a Latin-GRAMMY nomination for the title piece, written specifically for them by Sergio Assad (who performed at Hope College with his brother in 1998). As a duo they have performed throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. This past season alone took them to countries such as Germany, Russia, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Poland, China, Panama, and the United States.

Watch and listen to the Beijing Duo!

But for our audience, you only need to drive to the Jack H. Miller Center on the Hope College campus to be part of the Beijing Guitar Duo’s world. As with any performance, you get the chance to see the world with new vision.


Beijing Guitar Duo
Friday, Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m.
John and Dede Recital Howard at the Jack H. Miller Center
Tickets are available online, at the Hope Ticket office in the Anderson-Werkman building (100 East 8th St.), or at the door on Friday.

Hope Alum Wins at ArtPrize

We kick off this new blog, The Arts at Hope, with fantastic news! Last Friday night in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Hope alumna Megan Constance Altieri ’13 was named a winner in ArtPrize, the West Michigan-based international art competition recognized as one of the world’s largest annual public art events. Altieri’s piece, Sonder, won the $12,500 Installation Public Vote Award.

Installed on the grounds of the Grand Rapids Public Art Museum, Sonder “illustrates the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as our own,” reads the description of the work on the ArtPrize website. “In our awareness of even a single other person, we begin to grasp the magnitude of the 7.6 billion coexisting realities all as specific and important as one another. Over the past two years, Altieri has gathered fragments of overheard conversations and hand-stamped them on articles of clothing matching those of the speaker.”

Sonder is moving for its empathy as it offers viewers a greater awareness of lives lived outside their own. The public engagement with the piece was also touching; at any one time, dozens and dozens of curious people engaged with the work, taking in and talking about its significance.

“Megan was one of those students I’ll never forget. She was constantly in the studio and devoted herself fully to her art, yet also had the best sense of humor,” recalls Dr. Heidi Kraus, associate professor of art and art history and director of the DePree Art Gallery. “You could always expect to see Megan laughing, but the seriousness with which she approached her work was never in question. The department is so proud of her—although we certainly aren’t surprised by her success. She was and remains a bright light in our program here at Hope.”

When she’s not winning an ArtPrize, Altieri — who also was a four-year women’s soccer player for Hope — is an art teacher at Wellspring Preparatory High School in Grand Rapids.

Watch Altieri talk about Sonder‘s creation and relevance.

Congratulations, Megan Constance Altieri! Your alma mater is happy for and proud of you!