At the Moss Arts Center, artists don’t show up, perform, and leave.
“We’re a place where artists come to connect with people, share their experiences and insight, and learn more about our community,” said Ruth Waalkes, associate provost for the arts and executive director of the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech.
Programs hosted by the Center for the Arts and the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, both housed inside the Moss Arts Center, bring new ways for everyone to engage with the arts and the creative process.
In simpler terms, the Moss Arts Center is more than just a building and the Center for the Arts is about more than just selling tickets.
“Central to our work is the idea of community engagement,” Waalkes said. “We work purposefully at the Center for the Arts to bring artists of regional, national, and international prominence who share our passion for learning, discovery, and engagement and embrace the many traditions, cultures, and ideas that reflect the diversity of our world. This exploration and collaboration creates a two-way process where community members can learn from artists and vice versa.”
In particular, the center contributes to Virginia Tech students’ education and provides ways for them to participate in the creative process. This includes everything from special collaborative experiences with visiting artists to student-led programming.
“Attending Center for the Arts’ performances has helped me to personally get in touch with both the Virginia Tech and Blacksburg communities and to learn more about American culture and traditions,” said Mohammed Seyam of Egypt, a doctoral student in computer science. “I’ve seen performances from different places across the world and from different places in the U.S., each with different musical and visual flavors. I appreciate the high-quality and diverse performances that cover a wide area of the international art landscape.”
The center frequently invites student performers and artists to share their talents in conjunction with visiting artists’ activities and to fill the center’s Grand Lobby and other public spaces during events. For example, SalsaTech showed patrons the finer points of salsa dancing, and Dhamaal Dance Team performed the Garba, a form of folk dance from Guajarat, India. Student musicians from the School of Performing Arts and student-led ensembles such as Juxtaposition, Sensations, Expressions, and Soulstice, performed before center events.
The center’s art galleries showcase work from undergraduate and graduate students from the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and other colleges across campus affiliated with the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology. Exhibitions have included traditional and trans-media work, such as kinetic sculptures, and computer-generated, projected imagery.
Engagement events have included master classes with professional dancers and artistic directors, question-and-answer sessions, and talks about creativity and technology in the arts. Students were invited to rehearsals with orchestras, Shakespearean monologue workshops, instrument demonstrations, work reviews, and professional development exercises.
“The master classes and pre-show sessions that have been provided by several artists at the center were new to me,” Seyam said. “I found they provided a good chance to know more about the performers and the show itself and added a lot to my actual show experience. The close interaction between artists and audience in such sessions creates an intimacy between attendants and the performer and provides a complete event experience for the audience.”
Students join faculty and community members to present My Take Talks in the galleries. This series invites people to share their perspectives on the art.
More than 100 student workers, plus graduate assistants, support the center while gaining professional experience. Students can curate programs through an effort spearheaded by Jon Catherwood-Ginn, the center’s partnerships and engagement manager.
“Not only do we want to open our doors to students to participate in engagement activities with visiting and local artists, but we want to create space for them to articulate and realize their own programmatic choices,” Catherwood-Ginn said. “We are working with students as they design performances and events for the center, based on the artists that they’re inspired by and the themes that they would like to explore. That way, students bring their own personal stories into the process while learning how to program within a professional presenting environment.”
Seyam has been helping to develop programming. He said the opportunity, “assures students that the Center for the Arts is a place where students’ voices can be heard, and where students’ suggestions are seriously taken into consideration.”
For more information on this topic, contact Susan Bland at 540-231-1986.
Before we kick everything into high gear for the 2014-15 season, let’s take a look back at one of the many exciting moments from the inaugural season: the building dedication ceremony at the Moss Arts Center!
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Folks visited from near and far to witness as the building was officially dedicated the day before our Center for the Arts Gala Celebration, on April 25, 2014.
Former Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said a few words, followed by remarks from some of our generous donors. It still feels surreal that we’ve come this far, with our first season in the MAC under our belts! Thank you to everyone who’s helped get us here.
A tag-team My Take Talk on Saturday, June 21, featured professors Frank Weiner and Jim Bassett from the School of Architecture + Design as they spoke about Fields + Array, one of two exhibitions as part of OpenLab.
These inspirational professors shared their perspectives on Fields + Array in the historical context of Max Bill’s “concrete art.”
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OpenLab closes on Sunday, July 27, so make sure you check it out before then!
If you haven’t yet had a chance to take in the incredible work showcased as part of our current exhibition, OpenLab, make sure you swing by the Moss Arts Center before it closes next Sunday, July 27. You’d be missing something really special!
We celebrated the opening of OpenLab on Saturday, June 14, with a public reception and artist talk with five of the seven exhibiting artists.
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Alireza Borhani and Negar Kalantar (not pictured), both doctoral students in the School of Architecture + Design at Virginia Tech, created a wide selection of intricate kinetic sculptures in MOTION + eMOTION. Their pieces are on display in the Miles C. Horton Jr. Gallery.
Downstairs, wander through a field of concrete cylinders and ghostly white sheets in Fields + Array, an immersive architectural environment created by a five-person team of recent graduates from the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech: Ashton Hamm, James Heard, Daniel Hemmendinger, Chelsea Kilburn, and Matthew Ridgeway.
Catch OpenLab before it’s gone. The exhibition is open Wednesday through Friday, noon to 6 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.
Last week, we asked you fabulous folks to tell us what you consider to be the top moments from our inaugural season in the Moss Arts Center. We got all sorts of comments, emails, and tweets from all of you. So without further ado, here’s the list of the top moments of the 2013-14 season!
15.) The Opera Gala Closing Concert of the Vocal Arts and Music Festival
This year’s two-and-a-half week long Vocal Arts and Music Festival was filled with extraordinary singers and musicians. The Opera Gala Closing Concert, along with several other performances during the festival, showcased these talents for the first time in the new Street and Davis Performance Hall. And, man, did those voices soar. Pictured above are International Vocal Arts Institute singers Gina Perregrino and Marc-Antoine d’Aragon.
If you liked the Vocal Arts and Music Festival, you’ll love The Three Feathers.
Join us next season for the world premier of the one-act children’s opera The Three Feathers, commissioned by the Center for the Arts. Composed by Lori Laitman, conducted by Scott Williamson, and directed by Beth Greenberg, with libretto by Dana Gioia, The Three Feathers is based on a Grimm’s fairytale with a mysterious world inhabited by a king, his three princess daughters, and courtiers; and the fantastical underworld kingdom of the Frog Prince and his chorus of rats, bats, and frogs.
14.) Community Open House
The Community Open House marked the end of our first week of performances and events in the Moss Arts Center, bringing together singers and community members from all across campus, Blacksburg, and the region. The mood in the building by that point was a mix of elation, excitement, and quiet relief–the inaugural performance had gone off without a hitch, and you all were really there in the building, enjoying performances and events! Local singers, dancers, spoken word artists, musicians, a capella ensembles, and a community chorus led by visiting artist Elise Witt were all peppered throughout the center, with all of these community members coming together for the culmination of the event with An Impromptu Glorious Chorus, led by Witt (pictured above, far right).
Staff says: Susan Bland, our communications manager, loved having all members of the community gathered in the lobby for the open house. She said, “seeing the Moss Arts Center filled with people singing, dancing, smiling, and celebrating their community was nothing short of magic!”
If you liked the Community Open House, you’ll love all the other exciting engagement events and opportunities we’ll have throughout the new season!
Be sure to take a look at our single ticket guide, out in August, for the first information about upcoming community events at the Moss Arts Center.
13.) Martha Graham Dance Company
Appalachian Spring smack dab in the middle of spring in Appalachia. (Sorry, SORRY, so terribly pun-y, we know!) What made the time that members of the Martha Graham Dance Company spent here in Blacksburg so special was not only the extraordinary performance on March 29, but also the engagement events with–and for–the community. Radford University dance students learned from these professional dancers during a master class, and the company’s artistic director, Janet Eilber, gave an artist talk, which was open to the public.
If you liked Martha Graham Dance Company, you’ll love Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.
Heralded as “a breath of fresh air” by The New York Times, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet brings their unique mix of graceful and elegant ballet and a repertoire of sharp new works to the stage in the Street and Davis Performance Hall in October. Dance lovers won’t want to miss this evening of gorgeous choreography and extremely skilled dancers.
12.) Ira Glass
Ira Glass, of NPR’s This American Life, brought stories to life with both humor and poignancy during his performance of Reinventing Radio on stage in the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre. But his interaction with our community wasn’t just limited to the deep belly-laughs he doled out on stage. Glass worked with Virginia Tech and Community High School journalism students during a workshop prior to the show, and he met with local journalism and public relations professionals during a private reception in the Miles C. Horton Jr. Gallery.
Staff says: Jon Catherwood-Ginn, partnerships and engagement manager at the center, said his favorite moment came from that workshop with students. He said, “Ira Glass — meeting with journalism students from Community High School in Roanoke and Virginia Tech during a small-scale class and Q&A. He played audio clips and teased himself about his early reporting from years back in D.C., critiqued students’ pieces, and shared all kinds of wisdom about finding your unique voice as a journalist. Unforgettable!”
Click below to hear an ArtCast that journalism students Andrea Ledsema, Michelle Sutherland, and CJ Riculan compiled with stories about community in the lobby at the Moss Arts Center before Glass’s performance of Reinventing Radio in November.
If you liked Ira Glass, you’ll love David Sedaris.
Known for his sardonic wit, David Sedaris is a master of satire and a brilliant humorist with more published titles to his name than we would dare attempt to count. If you’d love another smart look at the human condition with all of the eccentricities (at which you can’t help but laugh), you won’t want to miss Sedaris in October.
11.) Crooked Road Festival
The nearly week-long festival featured all sorts of events and activities, from heritage exhibitions and local performers to square dance and clogging workshops and big headlining acts. We even saw some incredible work with local students from musicians Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle, who helped the students create and sing in their own Crankies performance, complete with hand-drawn images for their hand-cranked lightbox (hence Crankies!). We loved seeing such a broad audience for Crooked Road–there were plenty of new faces we hadn’t seen as often so far throughout the season. And, of course, the best part of the festival was the chance to celebrate the heritage that runs so deep in this beautiful area.
If you liked the performances of the Crooked Road Festival, you’ll love Kathy Mattea.
Kathy Mattea’s heart and soul is in Appalachian coal country, and she’ll bring her acoustic roots music to the Moss Arts Center, along with an artist talk the night before her performance, My Coal Journey. Author Barbara Kingsolver said, “the particular genius of Kathy Mattea is to call up the touchstones of hope and heartbreak that we all carry in our pockets. Even if these mountains are not yours, the fact is everybody has a home stretch, where you feel a little torn up because no matter which way you’re headed, you are going towards home and also leaving it behind. Believe me, this is the soundtrack for that journey.”
10.) Anderson & Roe
This youthful duo brought their energetic performance to the Moss Arts Center, imbuing the classics with their passion for their craft and giving the audience a glimpse at some of their favorite contemporary works painted in a classic light. The entire performance was beautiful and mesmerizing, but when they performed Radiohead’s Paranoid Android on two nine-foot Steinway & Sons pianos…whew.
Staff says: Shana Buzzard, marketing and events coordinator for the center, says her favorite moment of the season was “when Anderson & Roe performed one of my favorites, Rite of Spring.” (As the person sitting beside her, watching her subtly nod her head along to the music, I can vouch that she did, indeed, love it.)
If you liked Anderson & Roe, you’ll love the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
The youthful Australian Chamber Orchestra will be channeling Anderson & Roe’s performance during their time on stage next April, as they mix the classics of Mozart and Hadyn with a new work commissioned by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. The Australian Chamber Orchestra is renowned for inspired programming and the rapturous response of audiences and critics alike.
9.) Blacksburg Master Chorale performing Mendelssohn’s Elijah
Seeing over 200 local singers and musicians on stage was absolutely a highlight of the year. The Master Chorale members were joined by singers from Virginia Tech, and musical accompaniment was provided by Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, who took the stage again after their Holiday Pops performance in December. It’s incredible that we have such fine talent so close to home.
If you liked Blacksburg Master Chorale, you’ll love Cantus and Theater Latté Da.
Renowned vocal ensemble Cantus and Theatre Latté Da present All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 in November. The evening brings European carols and war-songs for a capella voices as we commemorate the Christmas truce of 1914, when a young German soldier stepped into no man’s land singing Stille Nacht.
8.) Roanoke Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Pops performance
We were delighted to welcome our friends from down the road to the stage in the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre for an afternoon of everyone’s holiday favorites. We also dedicated the afternoon to a very special friend of the center, Keith Cedras.
If you liked Roanoke Symphony Orchestra’s performance, you’ll love seeing RSO not once, but three times next season!
Roanoke Symphony Orchestra returns with three performances next season, featuring violinist Akemi Takayama; mandolin player Jeff Midkiff; and pianist Tanya Gabrielian, as well as the triumphant return of the Holiday Pops program to the Moss Arts Center.
7.) Visual art exhibitions (that’s right–all of them!)
From our very first exhibitions featuring Jennifer Steinkamp, Leo Villareal, and Joan Grossman, to the current exhibition featuring artists from our own Virginia Tech community, the gallery spaces at the Moss Arts Center have been packed all year with colorful, thought-provoking, incredible works. And with several talks from the artists themselves (Kehinde Wiley was incredible!) to the many, many My Take Talks from local community members, we’ve offered ways for you to engage with the works and to think about them in new and exciting ways.
Staff says: Graduate assistant Meggin Hicklin had a hard time narrowing her favorite moment down to just one–she picked seven! But one thing is clear: her top moments involve her time working around the visual art exhibitions. She said she loved “the opening of our first show–especially my first view of Leo Villareal’s Digital Sublime from the street. Magical. And the arrival of the Aspects show art work was like Christmas morning.”
If you liked what you saw last season, keep your eyes peeled for our single ticket guides, set to hit the mail in August.
In it, you’ll see details about our upcoming visual arts exhibitions next season and get a sneak peek at the beautiful things bringing life to our gallery spaces.
6.) Zakir Hussain
Often called the “Elvis of India,” it’s no surprise that Zakir Hussain and his fellow musicians’ performance ended up on the list. You all proved right away how excited you were for Hussain’s performance–tickets seemed to be flying out of the door! With such a rich cultural experience, it was hard not to fall in love with the energy of the group of musicians, headed by tabla virtuoso Hussain. But in addition to that, folks enjoyed a master class with Hussain in the intimate setting of the Cube, and Virginia Tech Dhamaal enchanted us all with their performance in the lobby prior to the performance. This was absolutely a night for the books!
If you liked Zakir Hussain, you’ll love The Senegal St. Joseph Gospel Choir.
Percussion and voice blend in next season’s performance by the decades-old Senegal St. Joseph Gospel Choir. Immerse yourself in the culture of Senegal, with gospels in the country’s four languages. The choir represents the humanity and the fraternity that exists within the capital city, Dakar, and throughout the country.
5.) Dance Theatre of Harlem
Like so many of the performances this season, the action on the stage was just one component of what made this event so special. The story behind this performance, in particular, is so wonderful. Carol Crawford Smith, of The Center for Dance here in Blacksburg, was a former dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem. Her friend and former colleague, Kellye Saunders, led a master class for Crawford Smith’s students at The Center for Dance while the company was in town for the performance. Above and beyond that, some of the dancers at The Center for Dance had the incredible opportunity to join Dance Theatre of Harlem on stage as the “Gloria girls.”
If you liked Dance Theatre of Harlem, you’ll love BeijingDance/LDTX.
BeijingDance/LDTX was the first professional dance company founded independently of the Chinese government, and serves as an important voice in the evolution of modern Chinese thought and society. The company’s technically exquisite dancers and diverse repertoire ensure a beautiful night of dance at the Moss Arts Center–and we certainly can’t wait!
4.) Philip Glass Ensemble
This one’s a no-brainer: it marked our first official performance in the Moss Arts Center, to a full house, by world-renowned talent. After so many long weeks and hard work leading up to it, we could not have been more proud to welcome you all into our home, this center, for an incredible performance. (And, full disclosure: there may or may not have been a few tears of joy shed during Ruth’s curtain speech by some staff members. Okay, one. Specifically the one typing this.)
3.) The on-stage proposal during Tomáš Kubínek’s performance
Ken Knott and Jen Sharp are possibly the cutest couple ever, and being able to play a part in the story of their romance is such an honor. Ken had no idea when he walked into the center with Jen and her two kids that he’d later be standing up in front of about 1,000 people, asking for the hand of the love of his life. You can read more about their story here.
If you liked this, you’ll love…just kidding. We have no idea when another proposal might happen in the Moss Arts Center next!
2.) The Center for the Arts Gala Celebration featuring Natalie Cole and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra
Gala. Gala! This was an amazing night–everyone was dressed to the nines, the food looked and tasted incredible, and the performances were stunning. But, of course, Natalie Cole was the star of the show. Hearing some favorites and some of her father’s classics was a total treat, but some of our staff loved (LOVED) when she broke out in that Michael Jackson song. And, really, two words: ice sculpture.
If you liked Natalie Cole, you’ll love Audra McDonald.
Currently on Broadway starring as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emmerson’s Bar and Grill, Audra McDonald is such an incredible actress and singer, and she’ll bring to life some of your favorite Broadway numbers, with the strong backing of her trio.
1.) Diavolo Dance Theater
There’s no big surprise here: one of the most explosive and engaging events of the inaugural season came with Diavolo Dance Theater’s visit to Blacksburg. Not only did their performance onstage astound (at least, it did us!) but their visit to town was jam-packed with a special free performance for local middle school students, professional development workshops for teachers and area employees, and a hands-on experience for Virginia Tech dancers and cadets. The dancers in the company captivated their audiences with their high energy, enormous personalities, and wild, wild talent!
Staff says: One of our student workers, Dag Yeshiwas, said Diavolo was hands down his favorite of the season. “One of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had. I was at the edge of my seat throughout the performance.”
If you loved Diavolo Dance Theater, you’ll love Cirque Mechanics.
Next season, BMX biking meets the circus when Cirque Mechanics takes the stage with dance and performance art in Pedal Punk. You won’t want to miss the fantastic “Gantry Bike,” which acts as a moving interactive set for the performers.