Wilson Museum Exhibition Inspired by the Ideas of Immigrants and “Otherness”

Each summer, the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum collaborates with the Master of Fine Arts program in children’s book writing and illustrating at Hollins University to present exhibitions by faculty and visiting artists.

Award-winning author and illustrator Mary Jane Begin, who will become chair of the program on July 1, deconstructs the creative process and shares the development of two book projects, Revolution and Ping Meets Pang, in the exhibition Mapping the Imagination, which will be on display June 28 – September 9. Begin has selected artwork that reflects both the inspiration for the story concept and for the technical style that fit each book, as well as formation sketches that explore the organic, iterative nature of creativity.

Revolution is based on the story of Begin’s grandmother, who immigrated to America and worked as a child laborer in the textile mills of New England. Ping Meets Pang is about two pandas that are convinced that the other is not a panda because they don’t look or act alike. Each of these stories were inspired by the ideas of immigrants and “otherness,” topics that have been deeply resonant for the artist as she continues to contemplate the current cultural and political landscape. Begin explores these themes through an investigation of story, style, materials, and imagination.

Begin is best known for her acclaimed picture books Little Mouse’s Painting, Before I Go to Sleep, A Mouse Told His Mother, retellings of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Willow Buds, and tales inspired by Wind in the Willows. Her latest picture book is My Little Pony: Under the Sparkling Sea, published by Little Brown Books. She has served as a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design for the past 21 years.

The Wilson Museum will host Begin for an artist lecture on Friday, June 28, at 7:30 p.m. in Room 119 of the Richard Wetherill Visual Arts Center. A reception and book signing will follow.

The Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University is open Tuesday – Sunday, noon – 5 p.m., and Thursday, noon – 8 p.m. Admission is always free.

 

Image: Mary Jane Begin, Illustration from Ping Meets Pang, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

 


With Gratitude To Her Parents and Professors, Yitazba Largo-Anderson ’19 Finds “The Power Of My Voice”

When deciding on a college, Yitazba Largo-Anderson ’19 needed to look no further than her own family for sound advice. “My dad is a professor and my mom is a librarian, and they value education,” she explains. “They urged me to go to a liberal arts school because they knew it would help me round out who I am as person.”

The campus beauty and “a really strong creative writing program” are what Yitazba says drew her particularly to Hollins after living most of her life in Phoenix, Arizona. “I came here not knowing what I wanted to study, I’m interested in so many things,” she adds. After taking classes from several disciplines, she chose to major in English with a concentration in multicultural literature and a minor in social justice.

Yitazba describes her Hollins experience as “finding the power of my voice,” and she cites the crucial roles many faculty members have played in that quest. “[Professor of English] TJ Anderson, [Professor of English] Pauline Kaldas, and [former Visiting Assistant Professor of English] Nick Miller challenged me to think differently and critically about literature, how it was going to impact me, and what I was going to take from it.”

Those lessons deeply influenced the ways she has transformed her love of writing poetry.

“Poetry to me is not only something you read or that’s visual. It’s also very sensory. I love doing music with my poetry.”

Yitazba’s talent for expression evolved when she met Mary Eggleston, a voice instructor in Hollins’ music department. “I had never taken voice lessons before, and Mary helped me come out of my shell with singing. I’ve never had someone teach me how to challenge my voice to go higher than it did the week before, or become a sound that carries in a room.” This spring for the first time, she sang opera for a campus recital.

Last year, Yitazba felt another important breakthrough while participating in theatre. “Hollins professors make suggestions to one another about students who could benefit from some activity. [Professor of Anthropology and Gender and Women’s Studies] LeeRay Costa talked to Rachel Nelson in the theatre department about asking me to play a part in a production she was directing. I’m shy and I never considered being on stage, but I loved it. I want to speak my poetry more now in public, and instead of just submitting my work for publication, I’d like to get into slam poetry.”

Yitazba’s roots are Scotch-Irish and Diné (the Navajo Nation’s preferred name, it translates to “of the people”), and while she has always been attached to Native American culture through her grandmother, she never had the opportunity to engage in a serious exploration of Native American studies until she came to Hollins. “It was the first time I had ever experienced a whole class dedicated to Native American women and taught by a Native American woman, [Visiting Instructor of Sociology] Shari Valentine.”

Yitazba will spend the next year engaged in a fellowship at the College of William and Mary’s Swem Library. She’ll be working with their Project Outreach initiative on making inclusivity and diversity more prevalent in academic research. She then hopes to attend law school and focus on some aspect of Native American law, but doesn’t intend to make a legal career her lifelong vocation.

“I’d like to get an M.F.A. in creative writing after law school and eventually teach Native American voice through poetry in conjunction with Native American studies. My parents and my professors have all inspired me – Shari Valentine has especially been a constant source of encouragement, and I want to make an impact on a student like she’s done for me. I want to pass that gift down to someone.”

 


Hollins Honored For Best Undergraduate Theatre Program in Virginia

One of the world’s most-read theatre websites has named Hollins Theatre as the top undergraduate theatre program in Virginia.

OnStage Blog, which covers theatre on an international level, features Hollins in the 2019 edition of “The Best Undergraduate Theatre Programs in Each State.”

“Every year, OnStage Blog deep dives into college theatre programs to find what we feel are some of the best in the nation,” the website explains. “While the perfect program is the one that fits best with the student, schools can become that fit with fantastic facilities, strong faculty, [and] multiple performance opportunities, among other things. In truth, there are some schools that do that better than others and should be recognized for it.”

“There are some really terrific programs in our state, so this is quite an honor,” said Ernie Zulia, artistic director and chair of the Hollins theatre department. “I thank our incredible theatre faculty and staff for their brilliance and hard work. They are what makes us shine.”

In its review, OnStage Blog touts Hollins for the internship opportunities it offers “at some of the country’s most prestigious professional theatres, including: Cleveland Play House, Houston’s Alley Theatre, Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage, New York’s Amas Musical Theatre, and Roanoke’s Mill Mountain Theatre. Other internships are being arranged at theatres around the country on a regular basis.”


Hollins Partners With City of Roanoke For Art By Bus, Writer By Bus Programs

Hollins is helping promote the value of public transportation to the Roanoke Valley by bringing visual arts and inspired writing onto the area’s bus network.

The university has joined RIDE Solutions, the Roanoke Arts Commission, and the Greater Roanoke Transit Company in presenting the annual Art By Bus and Writer By Bus programs, which this year showcase the talents of Hollins undergraduate and graduate students.

JM Lamb
Horizon student JM Lamb, whose design, “Wishes,” was selected for the fifth annual Art By Bus Program.

Associate Professor of Art Jennifer Printz led one of her classes in creating a series of original works, one of which would be selected to be installed on an entire half of a Valley Metro bus. “Wishes” by Horizon student JM Lamb (pictured above) was chosen by representatives of Hollins, RIDE Solutions, and the Arts Commission to be displayed this year.

Lucy Marcus, who is pursuing an M.F.A. in creative writing at Hollins, was selected through a competitive process by a panel of arts commission and community members as this year’s Writer By Bus. She will ride various buses throughout April and May to produce literary works about her experiences, the people she meets, and the neighborhoods she visits. Her chronicles can be followed on the Writer By Bus Facebook page. Marcus’ final works will appear on the RIDE Solutions webpage this fall.

“These are exciting opportunities for our students not only to be involved in promoting this vital public service, but also to see an example of how the arts can be used to draw attention and change perceptions about important issues in our community,” said Hollins President Pareena Lawrence.

Kevin Price, general manager of the Greater Roanoke Transit Company, added, “We hope to make the role of public transit more visible, and to make the experience of taking the bus more exciting.”

Lucy Marcus
Hollins graduate student and teaching fellow Lucy Marcus is this year’s Writer By Bus.

Lamb’s design (along with works from the City of Roanoke’s public arts collection that will be displayed on the exterior of two other Valley Metro buses) was officially unveiled at an event on the Hollins campus on April 18. “My intention with this project was to create an image that invokes memories and feelings that instill joy, transcending age, race, and cultural differences, as well as socioeconomic class inequalities. In short, something for everyone,” Lamb explained. “Initially when most of us think of dandelion seed ‘puffs,’ we can mentally scroll back to childhood and the hours spent stalking the yard for an intact ‘puff’ to blow in the wind. So simple and satisfying was this playful task, the thought of it produces a smile on most of our faces.”

Marcus, who was recognized with Lamb at the event, noted, “I feel very lucky to live here, where our city workers and elected officials who do the difficult and vital work of keeping the transit circulating also create such rich programming to integrate and support the arts. I look forward to riding and writing with my eyes and heart open.”

Learn more about this year’s Art By Bus and Writer By Bus programs in this Roanoke Times article.

Virginia’s Blue Ridge Trailsetter Series features the Art By Bus program in this segment on local art in the Roanoke Valley.

 


Hollins Theatre’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Brings Immersive Experience to Shakespeare’s Crowd-Pleaser, Nov. 28 – Dec. 1

Hollins Theatre is presenting a lively and novel production of one of William Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream…in Motion!, a 60-minute express version of the play that has been charming audiences for more than 420 years, will be staged as an immersive theatre experience in multiple locations throughout the Hollins campus, November 28 – December 1.

“If you think you might enjoy running through the library stacks as if you were in the woods outside Athens chasing fairies, mechanicals, and young lovers, you may want to grab a ticket for this unique theatrical experience,” says Ernie Zulia, chair of the Hollins University theatre department, referencing the final two evenings of the show’s run at Hollins’ Wyndham Robertson Library. “Shakespeare holds a very sacred place on the Hollins campus.”

Jim Warren, distinguished visiting faculty and founding artistic director of the renowned American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Va., adapted and directs the production “Getting to work with these remarkable Hollins women has been a delight for me. Together we navigated the pleasure of Tinker Day, Ring Night, and a million other commitments that make college life at Hollins such enchanting chaos. Getting to work on this play, with this cast, in this place, and making it a movable feast of the imagination has been an honor and a privilege.”

“What a joy it has been to host this terrific Shakespearean artist here at Hollins,” Zulia adds.

Midsummer will be performed at campus locations on the following dates and times:

Wednesday, November 28, 7:30 p.m.: Upstairs Studio Theatre (must be able to climb stairs)

Thursday, November 29, 7:30 p.m.: Botetourt Reading Room

Friday, November 30, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.: Wyndham Robertson Library (SOLD OUT)

Saturday, December 1, 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.: Wyndham Robertson Library (SOLD OUT)

Admission is $10 general public, and Hollins students, faculty, and staff can obtain one free ticket each. For more information, call the Hollins Theatre Box Office at 362-6517.

 

 

 

 

 

 


VTCSOM’s “The Influence of Women” Exhibition Showcases Hollins Artists

Works by Hollins University students highlight a new exhibition that explores and celebrates the many ways women affect their worlds.

Students in Associate Professor of Art Jennifer Printz’s Intaglio Printmaking class have contributed their creativity to “The Influence of Women,” which is on display at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM) through March 1, 2019.

“Each student produced two amazing prints about women who have influenced them from friends, to family, to fictional heroines,” Printz explains.

The focus of the show was developed in appreciation for VTCSOM’s founding dean, Cynda Johnson, who is retiring at the end of this year.

Sponsored by VTCSOM’s Creativity in Healthcare Education program, “The Influence of Women” is one of three exhibitions held annually for local artists to showcase their works to the community and to reinforce to medical students the importance of having a community connection.

VTCSOM is located at 2 Riverside Circle in Roanoke.

 

Image: Rachel Jackson Hikaru, dry-point print with watercolor, 2018.


Film Major’s LGBT Short Is a YouTube Sensation

A Hollins University student filmmaker is generating impressive online buzz with her unconventional approach to the LGBT movie genre.

Collide, a short film written and directed by Hannah Thompson ’20, has been seen more than 510,000 times since it premiered on YouTube in December 2016.

“I wanted to do something original that I could relate to,” says Thompson, a double-major in film and psychology from Warrenton, Virginia. “A lot of LGBT short films are also geared toward a straight audience by featuring two fem lesbians and portraying sexual situations. They can make more money that way, but it has always made me feel uncomfortable.”

Collide is the story of two young women who dislike one another intensely upon their first meeting in a high school classroom. But when their teacher pairs them on a project that focuses on conquering their individual fears, a friendship blossoms and they ultimately fall in love.

“Coming out is not a main plot point,” Thompson explains. “There’s no tragic story where being gay is their downfall. Their sexuality is never mentioned. It’s just something that happens similar to any straight love story. I wanted people to watch Collide and say, ‘Wow, I’ve had this happen to me.’”

Based on the more than 1,100 comments that have been posted on YouTube since the film’s debut, Collide has clearly touched many. Thompson believes it’s because the story “ends happily. We’re excited for what’s to come, and people understand that the two main characters are going to be together. Often, especially in popular films, it doesn’t happen that way. I wanted something that was easy for people to latch onto, and I’m grateful they did.”

Thompson says she’s been humbled by what people have shared. Feedback has often been along the lines of, “I don’t really see happy lesbian stories. I’m so glad to find something relatable instead of watching a heterosexual romance and hoping I can find something that’s meaningful to me.” Viewers overseas have expressed this common sentiment: “This isn’t legal here, but I’m so glad to see something like this. It makes me feel that maybe one day I can have this life.”

The film has also inspired fan fiction and even prompted Halloween revelers to dress up as the film’s characters. In March, Unite UK: An LGBT+ Blog Uniting the Community Together, interviewed Thompson and members of the film’s cast for a feature story, and last summer, Collide was an official selection as a semi-finalist at Canada’s Our Voices Film Festival.

Thompson’s journey of artistic discovery that ultimately led to filmmaking was by no means pre-determined. She attended art classes and camps from an early age, “but I couldn’t find the thing I was best at. I did theatre, studio art, photography, and I was mediocre at all those things. I never really found what I loved until I took a film class at Hollins.”

Growing up, Thompson was familiar with Hollins because her grandmother is an alumna. In her early teens, at her grandmother’s urging, Thompson attended Hollinsummer, the university’s educational camp for rising ninth through 12th grade girls. “I was scared because it was my first sleepaway camp,” she recalls, “but I loved the campus. It was the first time I’d ever been away from home that I wasn’t homesick. I felt like it was sort of my place.”

That impression still resonated with Thompson when she was applying to colleges a few years later. “Even though I had been at Hollins a lot, I went ahead and did a real campus tour. I remember turning to my mom and saying, ‘This is it.’”

Thompson initially thought she’d major only in psychology, but her artistic drive persisted despite her previous frustrations. Since film was a genre she had not actively pursued previously, she decided to enroll in a video production class her first year. “I was nervous because it was the first film class I had ever taken. I worried, ‘What if this doesn’t go well for me?’ I don’t like not being good at things.”

Fortunately, Thompson quickly found an ally in Amy Gerber-Stroh, associate professor of film and chair of Hollins’ film department. An accomplished filmmaker in her own right, Gerber-Stroh helped Thompson build her confidence and realize film making was the artistic outlet she had been seeking.

“Amy has changed my life in so many different ways. Coming into Hollins, I was afraid I wasn’t going to find the thing I could pour my entire heart into. I felt like I had so much to say and I didn’t know where to put it.”

With guidance from Gerber-Stroh and other faculty as well as the support of her fellow film students, Thompson says she “has a home in the film department. It’s this place where I can be myself and share my art. Sometimes you have to do that when your work is incomplete and therefore at its most vulnerable, but I’ve learned that’s okay because students and mentors are always there to help, especially when you’re flustered and your ideas aren’t working out.”

Thompson now has four films available online. Another short, August and the Rain Boots (2017), is similar to Collide in that it tells the story of a friendship that grows into a romantic relationship and ends on a celebratory note. The film boasts more than 192,000 YouTube views and was recently selected to appear at the Oregon Cinema Arts Film Festival.

“Hannah has become such a superstar through our film program,” Gerber-Stroh says. “It’s remarkable how often she gets requests from advertisers, actors, and others from the film industry asking for a chance to work with her. She epitomizes this new era of how students make films and videos and how they show their work.”

Thompson plans to go to Los Angeles after graduating from Hollins. “I want to be a director for the rest of my life, telling my stories and working with amazing people.”

 

Photo caption: Hannah Thompson ’20 shoots a scene for her 2017 short film, August and the Rain Boots. 


Student Artists Showcased in New Voice Exhibit

Hollins University studio art majors Meera Chauhan ’19 and Ashley-Kate Meador ’18 are among ten emerging regional artists featured in the Sixth Annual New Voice Exhibit at the Floyd Center for the Arts in Floyd, Virginia.

The exhibition continues through March 31 and admission is free and open to the public.

Each year, the New Voice Exhibit highlights artists who are suggested by area college and university art instructors. Either current or former students, the artists may be just beginning their artistic journeys or changing their artistic paths is some major way. In addition to Hollins, this year’s artists come from Radford University and Virginia Tech as well as nominations by Floyd Center for the Arts Board and Gallery Committee members.

“What a fascinating show this is,” said Becky Lattuca, the center’s director of special programming. “Although we review the recommendations before inviting the artists to participate, we do not select the artwork. Instead, we ask each of them to surprise us with their choices. This approach allows the artists to highlight what they see as their most significant recent innovations, creating a uniquely diverse and thought-provoking representation of what these emerging artists have to say.”

Chauhan works in oil paint while Meador creates with textile.

The Floyd Center for the Arts is located at 220 Parkway Lane South in Floyd and is open Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.


International Photography Magazine Profiles Professor Robert Sulkin

The latest issue of Black + White Photography magazine features “The Experimental Professor,” an extensive look at the work of Professor of Art Robert Sulkin.

A member of the Hollins faculty since 1980, Sulkin is an award-winning photographer who has been featured in more than 100 solo and group shows, including exhibitions at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

“He defines his career as a teacher as one of the biggest current influences on his artwork,” the article states.

“The teaching and artwork are symbiotic, then feed on one another,” Sulkin tells Black + White Photography. “I get excited when students do things that are good and that makes me want to go to my studio.”


Students, Faculty Give Flight to “Roanoke Wings” Art Installation

Hollins University students led by Associate Professor of Art Jennifer Anderson have constructed a new public art installation in downtown Roanoke.

“Roanoke Wings” is located in Market Square and features three sets of wings, each with their own unique design that ties into the history, charm, and people of Roanoke. The installation is free and accessible to anyone walking through downtown. Visitors will be invited to take pictures standing behind each Roanoke Wing and share them on social media with the hashtag #roanokewings. They are also encouraged to look closely and experience all that can be seen within these unique pieces of art.

“This project has been a crucial part of a public art class that I am teaching this semester,” Anderson said. “It’s given students the unique opportunity to create something that can be shared with the greater Roanoke community. Our goal was for the project to be colorful, engaging, and educational. And of course, we can’t wait to see the images that appear online.”

“Roanoke Wings” will remain on display through January 6, 2017, and is the result of a collaboration between Hollins, Downtown Roanoke, Inc., and the Roanoke Arts Commission. The installation is the first in a series of planned public art projects in downtown Roanoke.