UArts 140

THE MAKER'S MOMENT

The sacred role of artists in our culture

What changes do you see in the world around you that is leading to growing demand for a broad arts education? 

“We should utopia as hard as we can.  Along with a fulfilled humanity we should imagine flying islands, self-constituting coraline neighborhoods, photosynthesizing cars bred from bio-spliced bone-marrow. Big Rock Candy Mountains.  Because we’ll never mistake these dreams for blueprints, nor for mere absurdities.”

— China Mieville

We are in an epoch newly dubbed Anthropocene. Named after us to highlight the fact that we, everyone alive, have been called out as both witness and perpetrator. The world has gone sideways…just look at the charts showing changes in earth’s systems (species diversity, population, ocean acidity, CO2 levels, coral reefs, among others).  Across the board, they show synchronistic acceleration towards a not-good end. These radical, rapid changes require that we face the reality of this moment, that we understand the scope of the problems, and learn to create the future that we desire. Now.

In a recent marketing slip-up, a well-known bank pitched this: “A ballerina yesterday. An engineer today. Let’s get them ready for tomorrow.”  When the arts community called them on it, they pulled the campaign. I have nothing against engineers, but science and technology alone will not bring us into a future that we desire.  As Andrew Simonet proclaims in his book Making Your Life as an Artist, “The scientific method and the artistic process are the two most robust problem solving methodologies ever developed.  Take either one away, and our world would be unrecognizable.” I agree. It is interesting to see more and more artists working side by side with scientists and researchers, each learning from the other to create deeper, more meaningful and powerful work.

This is the sacred role that artists have in our culture. To find new ways of seeing, thinking and feeling about the present moment, and about the future.  Access to a broad arts education would be a step towards cultivating the awesome power of human creativity.

– Andrea Krupp BFA ’84 (Printmaking)

Andrea Krupp headshot Andrea Krupp artwork

Discovering the things that differentiate us

Q: What did you learn or develop at UArts that you have carried with you throughout your career?

Much of what I learned in my time at UArts has stayed with me and grown over the course of my sixteen-year graphic design career. In both my full-time work and my freelance side work, I have put a huge emphasis on customer service and relationship building, and I have developed a reputation for accepting and delivering quality work on incredibly short deadlines. I can draw lines back to both specific and general experiences I had at UArts that have helped to shape my career.

During my junior year, a professor, having just finished an audible and slightly contentious discussion with a couple of classmates sitting next to me, said to me that one cannot “complain one’s way into an art career.” That comment had an immediate impact on me, but also a lasting one. I often thought about the fact with so many talented artists in the world, and more graduating every year, each of us would need to be able to hustle and to figure out what differentiates us. For me, that differentiator has been my ability to show that I understand their needs, that I care about the results that my work yields for them, that I can take direction graciously and offer recommendations where necessary, that I respect the deadlines they have set, and that I will always make an effort to deliver my best work, even when the job is less than glamorous. The trust that that approach has earned me has continued to yield greater autonomy for me over the years.

The same professor also advised us to always take “jobs that are too big for you,” with the idea that when we are forced to find ways to “make it happen,” we grow. Despite being fairly risk-averse by nature, I have often followed that advice. Each time, I have found ways to work through the uncertainty and panic, and each time, it has proven to be well worth the trouble.

For each of us, the significant experiences and the takeaways are different. Some have an immediate effect on us, while others plant seeds that grow years later. I think the common thread is the ability that a UArts education provides to recognize and build upon those significant experiences. For that, I will remain forever grateful.

 

Josh Levitas BFA ’00 (Illustration) has spent the last 16 years creating graphics for a wide variety of clients in the corporate and non-profit sectors and in the entertainment industry. Josh is currently a member of the UArts Alumni Council.

 

 

The unexpected creative path

I entered the Philadelphia Museum School of Art in 1957, expecting to major in Art Education. I never thought that I would be so taken with my exposure to dimensional design in the freshman foundation courses that I would major in it. That’s what the University of the Arts can do for you: enrich your experiences and open you to new avenues of expressing yourself, which in turn can lead to new skills and unexpected but fulfilling careers.

That’s what happened to me nearly 60 years ago. By offering a variety of learning experiences in my freshman foundation year, the University of the Arts allowed me to better understand my talents. Then it allowed me to hone those talents and find my unique vision, which I’ve been able to use throughout my continuing career as a photographer, teacher, and graphic designer. I often think how lucky I was to have had this experience at the University of the Arts.

Yes, I graduated with a BFA in Dimensional Design, but I found work in other fields. For the past 15 years, I’ve designed—and continue to design—over 100 book covers a year for the University of Pennsylvania Press. Last year, I collaborated with my son to create surrealistic video bumpers for a concert at the Venice Island Performing Arts Center. Currently, I’m working on photographs of common objects for a show scheduled in 2017. And one of those objects is a photograph of a sculpture from my freshman year.

 

John Hubbard

John Hubbard BFA ’61 (Dimensional Design) is an insightful designer with extensive experience in the design of books, magazines, packaging, collateral material, and consumer products. Currently is the Art Director at the University of Pennsylvania Press.

My UArts Dance education taught powerful life lessons

Q: What did you learn or develop at UArts that you have carried with you throughout your career?

There are so many things that I learned at UArts that have served me throughout my career. The most important of these were incredible work ethic and an appreciation for the necessity of all art forms. UArts was the most demanding program I had ever encountered. It taught me to make a schedule, to be disciplined in every single aspect of my life from my diet, to my sleep, and to my emotions.

The encouragement the amazing dance faculty offered me at every turn supported me in making these life changes that have now stuck with me and have become habit. I wouldn’t be nearly as successful without them. Tough love in dance seems to be a thing of the past which is disheartening at times because it is that very thing from my teachers like Pat Thomas, Wayne St. David, Ruth Andrien, and Roni Koresh that made me know this road wouldn’t be easy. It was the bright light of encouragement and belief from Molly Misgala and Connie Michael who inspired me to know that in spite of that hard road, I could do it. I learned that you can do anything you put your mind to regardless of the talent you possess.

UArts gave me the tools I need to succeed at the business end of managing myself as an artist and branding what I have to offer. The Business for Dancers class has proven to be one of the most important classes I ever took. My dance history class taught me an appreciation for everything that came before me so that I could lead dance into the future. It deflated my ego and made me humble in my craft. Nina Bennahum was the most intelligent human I had ever encountered and I wanted to be just like her. It is not often someone can inspire me to read and research but to this day I am always seeking new information about the past to bring into the work of the future.

My time at UArts was filled with so many lessons that I reflect on daily and not a day goes by where I am not accessing some gem given to me in my time there. I am forever grateful to be an alumna.

 

Cheryl Copeland

Cheryl Copeland BFA ’03 (Jazz Dance) is a choreographer and educator. She has served as resident choreographer for Teen Dance Company of the Bay Area, and as artistic director of pre-professional companies; Breakthru Dance, DAC PAC, and Humnz Dance Ensemble, as well as her professional company BHumn Dance Company. She owned BHumn DanceSpace, the leading training facility for modern dance in Austin, Texas for four years  and then retired as owner and headed to New York City to serve as the director of Education at Peridance Capezio Center, where is she is still head of their audition tour and communications.

 

The Love of the Arts – Continuing Education

Q: What did you  accomplish at UArts that you never thought possible?

Few people have the pluck or the pocketbooks of a Florence Foster Jenkins. We might have dreamed of commanding an audience at Carnegie Hall, or rocking the stage with Bruce. We might have eyed the long-limbed dancers under the arched windows of Terra Hall and yearned to be on toe to Tchaikovsky. We might have caught a modern art exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and wondered if we too, could have painted that. But for the most part, we remain the audience rather than the performer.

However, for those of us who dwell or work in Philadelphia with artistic goals languishing on the shelf, all is not lost.  For several years, I have slipped from my office to the rest room after work, shed the jacket and pumps, donned the Lycra, and become a student of the arts. First it was jazz dance. We limbered up channeling Lady Gaga and Amy Winehouse, may she rest in peace, and then donned hats and canes, working on routines (involving chairs!). True, I was always a beat or two behind, but it was a blast.

A few years later, I put on my first set of tap shoes. Yeah.  The class fit into my schedule, and when your kids are out of the house and you’ve passed the mid-century mark, you crave something new.  Something you’ve never done.  And fortunately, you’re past worrying about whether you’re any good. So tap was perfect and Corrine Karon, bless her heart, has mastered the art of keeping a class flowing with dancers of all levels. I learned the difference between trenches and shim shams, and gained appreciation for the difference in styles between Fred Astaire, Savion Glover and Michelle Dorrance, to name a few.

So I’ve been able to indulge this imagination.  I flash my student card, glance at the latest posters, and feel like part of the crowd at the Wawa.  Thank you, UArts, for enabling an art lover to connect to her artistic impulse and the pulse of the city. It’s been great to meet and dance with people of all ages and backgrounds.  I’m doing it.  Here’s to 140 more years of continuing education.

 

Denise+Portner

Denise Portner is senior vice president at SteegeThomson Communications and a UArts Continuing Education student.

 

Improvising and Connecting

Q: What did you learn or develop at UArts that you have carried with you throughout your career?

As a Dance/movement therapist working primarily with older adults with dementia and other cognitive impairments, I often need to improvise and offer creative, in the moment solutions when interacting with this population. In my work and throughout my time spent at UArts, connection has played a central role; the overall quality and degree of connection to one another, to society, and to different parts of the self. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to see and to connect with others through a different lens as a student, and to be able to channel my skills and empathy to help others to adapt and to achieve balance and mind-body wellness today.

Moving and improvising through the same physical space with my peers while maintaining my kinesphere and personal boundaries, adapting to changing tempos and rhythms, “feeling” the music and mind-body connection, and imparting this sense of discipline to others throughout my Dance Education studies at UArts helped to shape the professional dance/movement therapist I am today. Dance/movement therapy (DMT), a holistic modality based upon the principles that the mind and body are intrinsically connected and that movement reflects thoughts and feeling patterns, engages the psychological theory, movement assessment and execution, as well as empathic reflection that I practiced and fine-tuned while at UArts each and every day.

Movement is a universally understood mode of communication. I move and improvise with my clients during DMT sessions, helping them to adapt to emotional and physical losses, changes, and limitations. We create a safe and personal space for thoughts and feelings. DMT helps to connect individuals with one another and encourages self-expression in a structured and supportive setting.

While moving through life, we must improvise and adjust our approach, as we adapt to changing situations and make connections along the way.

 

Natasha Goldstein-Levitas BFA ’00 (Dance Education) is a Board Certified Dance/Movement Therapist with 16 years of experience working with high functioning to severely cognitively and physically impaired adults and older adults. She incorporates her extensive knowledge of music and vocal artists of the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s into sessions, along with sensory stimulation techniques, props and reminiscence. She is a published author on the topic of dance/movement therapy with older adults. She is also a staff writer for the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) blog.

Natasha Goldstein-Levitas

The Citizen-Artist’s Time is Now

Q: What changes do you see in your industry that are leading to growing demand for a broad arts education? What are the signs that the citizen artist’s time is now?

As we exit the information age and enter the conceptual age, creativity is a key skill in a new economy. With information on almost any subject matter at most of our finger tips, it is not knowing the information that is most valuable, but what we do with that information that is key. The arts teach us to creatively problem solve, to collaborate, and to build something new out of that which already exists. These skills will be crucial in a conceptual age and arts education is in a perfect position to train tomorrow’s future leaders.

My training as an actor at UArts prepared me for my career as an arts administrator and as a civic leader in my community. Some of the fundamental skills of acting have been invaluable to my role as an arts leader. I learned to collaborate and learned that the most successful projects develop through the input of multiple individuals. I learned to be goal and objective focused. I learned to be comfortable in the public eye. Most importantly though, I learned empathy. I learned to see the world through other people’s eyes. This skill has allowed me to communicate and work with others at a high level. All of this came from my actor training and humanities focused education at UArts. I am not sure I would have gained all of this through another means of education.

 

Geoffrey Kershner

Geoffrey Kershner BFA ’00 (Acting) is the Executive Director of the Academy Center of the Arts in Lynchburg, Virginia. Previously, he was the Artistic Director of the Endstation Theatre Company. Geoffrey is a current member of the UArts Alumni Council.

Celebrating UArts’ 140th Anniversary

Welcome to the University of the Arts’ 140th Anniversary journal. As we celebrate this exciting milestone—a time when we honor our impressive past and begin moving ahead with a vision for this exceptional institution’s future—we ask you to join us.

The University has a long history of excellence and innovation, and I am very excited to be working with so many talented individuals to move it in the right direction. Your voice will help us in that journey.

If you are an alumnus or alumna, we want to hear from you. We’ve sent out an alumni survey to check in with you on what you’ve been doing since you moved on from Broad and Pine, and what lessons you’ve taken with you from here that have had an impact on your career and your life. If you haven’t taken the survey, it’s quick and easy; please take just a couple of minutes to do so here: uarts.edu/alumnisurvey.

And check back here regularly to read some of those responses and for more about our 140th Anniversary celebration as it continues.

Thank you for your participation in this survey, and for being a part of the University’s exciting year ahead.

David Yager
President
The University of the Arts

© 2017 UArts 140

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