Report on 2015-16 Brandeis Arts Council Awards

Four Studio Intensive Workshops
$12,000 awarded

For the second year, the Council supported the department of Fine Arts series of intensive workshops for studio artists from advanced beginner undergraduates to post-baccalaureate students. The department brought back the most popular workshops from 2014-15: drawing marathon, immersive landscape painting and the bronze pour, and introduced “Head Examined,” a painting workshop. These weekends devoted exclusively to art enabled students to generate a large amount of work, push past failures, and achieve fluency and confidence. And they developed a strong community that included their faculty mentors and carried over into the classroom.


Above: KRS-One meets students, photo by Jarret Bencks

Art | Race | Activism Series
$10,200 awarded

ART | RACE | ACTIVISM continues Brandeis' 2014–15 initiative: ART | BLACKNESS | DIASPORA, which brought artists Mark Bradford, Melvin Edwards, Lara Baladi and art historian Christina Knight to our campus. 

Both series – spearheaded by Gannit Ankori (FA) in partnership with the Rose Art Museum and the department of African and Afro-American Studies  reaffirm the foundational social justice mission of Brandeis University; challenge racial biases that have excluded innovative artists of color from the art-historical and cultural canons; and advance our commitment to exhibit, teach and research the diverse histories and cultures of Africa and the African Diaspora. 

With the Brandeis Arts Council funding in place, the series was able to secure additional funds and partnership from the Mandel Center for the Humanities, the Ethics Center, and the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies; the departments of African and Afro-American Studies, Women Gender and Sexuality Studies, Latin American and Latino Studies; the Creativity and Social Transformation minor, and the Rose Art Museum. The Mellon Foundation also supported the series.

Fall semester

  • Nevet Yitzhak (Israel) | Artist talk
  • Professor Salah Hassan (Cornell University) | “Contemporary African Art as a Paradox: Is ‘Afropolitan’ the Answer?”
  • Professor Tavia Nyong'o (NYU) | “The Fugitive Present: Sweet Sweetback and The Mythic Being”
  • Yoshua Okón (Mexico) | Artist talk
  • KRS-One  | Performative artist talk by the hip-hop master 

Spring semester

  • Camille A. Brown | Artist talk and dance workshop
  • James Montford '74 | Artist talk
  • Theaster Gates | Richman Distinguished Fellow in Public Life lecture: “A Cursory Sermon on Art and the City”
  • Professor Nicole Fleetwood (Rutgers University“Looking in/Looking Out: Prison Portraits and the Visual Archive of Mass Incarceration”
  • Njideka Akunyili Crosby | Artist talk and studio visits with graduate students
  • Rick Lowe | Artist talk and participation in two classes with students from AAAS, FA and CAST minor

Guerilla Opera performance

Guerilla Opera Residency
$14,600 awarded

The Boston-based experimental opera company Guerilla Opera worked with undergraduates in music and creative writing, culminating in a stunning performance during the Festival of the Arts. Four graduate students and four undergraduates wrote music and libretti that were performed by some of Boston's top professional musicians and singers. 

Click here for the program (PDF download).

Home Within 

MusicUnitesUS Presents: Sound Mapping at Home
$5,000 awarded

Syrian composer and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh visited classes throughout Brandeis, speaking to and coaching students in music, sociology, fine arts, philosophy, anthropology, film, Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, and International and Global Studies. The centerpiece of the residency was the 60-minute audiovisual performance, "Home Within," the newest project of Azmeh and Syrian-Armenian visual artist Kevork Mourad. In this work, art and music develop in counterpoint to each other, creating an impressionistic reflection on the Syrian revolution and its aftermath. The Lydian String Quartet also performed Azmeh's new work for string quartet, clarinet, electronics and film at the sold-out concert. James Thompson, professor of applied and social theater at Manchester University, gave the pre-concert talk, "Art, Beauty and War: A Short History."

Click here for the program (PDF download).

Faure Festival and Concert
$10,980 awarded

The festival, held on March 12 and 13, 2016, included readings of three scholarly paper; a master class for singers led by Dominique Labelle, soprano; a roundtable discussion with several scholars and experts; and performances by the Lydian String Quartet and the Brandeis-Wellesley Orchestra (Neal Hampton, conductor). “[We] are in the first stages of imagining a spacious structure in which to explore his 64 years of creative work, one whose rooms may be surprisingly diverse and perhaps in some respects unfinished,” wrote Professor Carlo Caballero, University of Colorado, in the program notes. The Boston Music Intelligencer published an extensive review of the festival.

Click here for the program (PDF download).

Devising Original Theater Workshop
$5,000 awarded

Rachel Sullivan and Honest Accomplice Theater collaborated with Jennifer Cleary's course THA 126, Playing for Change, and led a week of workshops on creating original ensemble theater pieces from research. This process, known as devised theater, is increasingly central to the practice of the Theater Arts Department's core values of creativity, diversity and inclusion, and collaboration.  The residency ended with a performance of "The Birds and the Bees," which the Brandeis Hoot described as presenting "fresh material and key insight into transgender identity."

Confederacy of Dunces audience

Photo: Alyssa Avis

Boston Theater Trips
$4,500 awarded

Students attended professional productions of "Dry Land" (Company One), "A Confederacy of Dunces" (world premiere, Huntington Theatre Company), and "An Octoroon" (Company One/Arts Emerson). Many students noted that they are not able to afford tickets to professional theater in Boston and appreciate "the tickets, the transportation and the good spirits."

Shoes On, Shoes Off performance

Photos: Mike Lovett

Dance Theater Performance
$10,500 awarded

Susan Dibble (THA) choreographed and directed this dance theater piece consisting of 16 scenes "about shoes, people & other important things" inspired by a local shoe store, Michelson's Shoes, and by Dibble's love for small and inclusive communities. Eleven undergraduates performed alongside professional dancers, and many more worked on design and production alongside their professional counterparts, including three alumni, Alex Jacobs (MFA '14), Becca Freifeld'10 (stage manager) and Jess Huang'15 (costume designer).

Click here for the program (PDF download).

Mobile Seminars
$12,220 awarded

For the series' inaugural trip, Professor Gannit Ankori (FA) and Ingrid Schorr (Office of the Arts) took 30 students to see Alvin Ailey Dance Theater at Boston's Citi Wang Theater. Students prepared by reading "Black Bodies Dancing Black Culture: Black Atlantic Transformations" in "EmBODYing Liberation: The Black Body in American Dance," and engaged in a preperformance discussion with Professor Jasmine Johnson (AAAS/WGS). For many students, this was their first time seeing a professional dance performance and/or their first time seeing a performance in Boston. One student wrote in an email of thanks the next day: "It was spectacular and I had an absolutely spectacular time. Never has my soul been served in such a way." We look forward to the next iteration of this powerful experience as we develop the Mobile Seminar series in 2016-17.

Click here to read "Black Bodies Dancing Black Culture" (PDF download)