A mural underway
Odili Donald Odita, one of our current exhibiting artists, is making his mark on the Moss Arts Center long after his last work comes down off the gallery walls.
Odita, a master of geometric abstractions who mines the expressive and metaphoric power of line, color, and form in brilliantly colored canvases, will spend nearly a month creating a work on a wall in the Grand Lobby. He took inspiration for the mural design from the contrast between the lightness of the expansive of windows on the building and the use of Virginia Tech’s famed Hokie Stone.
It is an honor to be invited by the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to create a wall painting installation for the Moss Arts Center, which houses the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech. When arriving at the Moss Arts Center, I was struck by the long and jagged walkway that leads up to the monumental structure seen within a fielded landscape and surrounding park grounds.
My initial feelings were of astonishment; this building seemed to rise up out of the ground, singular and apart from the neighboring structures with its environment. A grounding factor was the stone that comprised much of the exterior structure of this building. The stone itself is saturated with a color that is dominant and starkly present, yet analogous with its surround of sparse green grass and blue-gray sky. This stone’s glow helped to give the feeling that this building could have been carved out of, rather than built into its environs.
There was another feeling I had of disjuncture. There seemed to be a general question of connection between the celestial, upward nature of the windows against the earthly-bound quality of the stone. This feeling changed as I entered the building through its main doors and walked toward the center stairwell. The building sang from this point forward as I walked through the grand, curvular stairwell and into its majestic concert hall. The concert space resonated with the joyous glory of a choir in full effect–the heavens opened up at the ceiling through the design of magnificent arched panels that glide upward with the grace of angels. It was in the stairwell, at the heart of the building, where it all began to make sense for me–this is where I understood the narrative between the forces of parts that are the stone, the windows, like steeples of a church, and the concert hall. Altogether these parts spoke to me with the grandeur of a magnum opus. I knew from that point I had to make a design that would build a bridge and continue the reconciliation between these distinctive parts.
My design has in mind crossroads; crossroads as the point of direction and change where choice and action is made. I want to make a form that is like a windmill rotating with this force of change. I want to create a space that is both reflective and attentive to the design forces throughout the building, and generate in my installation movements that begin to unlock the energies stored within the center’s walls. It is my intention to have the wall painting rotate with color in a big and expansive way, showering its forces outward, throughout the center’s grandiose and dynamic inner core.
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The mural, underway in the Grand Lobby right now, will be completed at the end of the month, and will remain in place for a year. Come by the Moss Arts Center to check on the progress of the mural and to see other works by Odita and his fellow exhibiting artists, Patrick Wilson and Manfred Mohr, while Evolving Geometries: Line, Form, and Color is open, now through November 20.
First image pictured above is a mural installation in Helsinki.
Q&A: Chatting with Aaron Dworkin; the Catalyst Quartet of Sphinx Virtuosi
In celebration of the upcoming performance by Sphinx Virtuosi (which is tomorrow, Sunday, Nov. 3, at 3 p.m.) we spoke with both Aaron Dworkin, founder of Sphinx Virtuosi, and the Catalyst Quartet, the string quartet of Sphinx Virtuosi.
Center for the Arts: I know you’ve said that you would attend orchestra concerts, look around, and wonder why you didn’t see anyone else who looked like you. How did you deal with that realization? What obstacles did you have to overcome in order to be a significant part of changing that?
Aaron Dworkin: In recognizing the issue, my personality is such that I tend want to do something about it. I felt that there must be a pool of people out there that are much like myself. I thought about the issues of access, exposure and awareness, and I wanted to build a platform (At the time, the Sphinx Competition, followed by all of the additional education and artistic programs), whereby, young artists of color would have access to professional development and educational opportunities.
CFA: How do you feel Sphinx Virtuosi shapes the landscape of classical music?
AD: Members of the Virtuosi have and continued to study at all top 10 music schools and conservatories. They perform as soloists in their own right with almost 30 orchestras nationally. Some past and present members are also members of professional chamber groups, as well as professional orchestras. Furthermore, they reach thousands of people in live audiences each year, from the most prominent stages of halls across the nation, pioneering cutting edge programming and building awareness of the vast talent inherent within the ensemble.
CFA: If you had to choose only one, which achievement would you say you’re the most proud of to date?
AD: That would be a difficult question to isolate: I am deeply proud of having just celebrated the 10th anniversary of Carnegie Hall performances of the Sphinx Virtuosi. I feel that their talent, dedication and commitment to artistic excellence is a profound statement for our industry as a whole.
The members of the Catalyst Quartet are:
- Karla Donehew Perez, violin (KDP)
- Jessie Montgomery, violin (JM)
- Paul Laraia, viola (PL)
- Karlos Rodriguez, cello (KR)
Center for the Arts: With master classes and engagement opportunities, it seems safe to say that music education is a passion for each of you. What is the biggest thing you hope your audiences learn from your performances?
Paul Laraia: I hope that audiences are able to take away a deeper appreciation for classical music, and how it can relate to them, their lives, and that the performance allows them to get in touch with the deeper parts within themselves.
Jessie Montgomery: Teaching provides an opportunity to reflect on the “why” and the “how” of what I do as an artist.
Karlos Rodriguez: That music is for everyone and that there is a social and community aspect that even a non musician can understand through talking about the practice of chamber music.
Karla Donehew Perez: I would love to help children realize that there is more to classical music than meets the eye. That there is more variety out there. Besides the music, I would love to show that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.
CFA: Can each of you recall the first moment you realized that music would play a big role in your life, when you realized you were hooked?
PL: I was a freshman in high school, in the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, and we were rehearsing Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2. It was my first experience with such great players and repertoire. Even though I could barely keep up, I was just enraptured by the sounds surrounding me, and the powerful push and pull of the music I was a part of. Even though my tiny little contribution to the music may not have been much, the passion inside my heart was one with the passion of the music around me, and I was filled with a sense of true awe.
JM: I was about 13 years old. I had recently taken a “break” from playing because it was getting frustrating an taking up a lot of my extremely valuable social and homework time. But after about 3 months of not playing, I began to really miss playing, and miss the regular interaction with my teacher, and all of the really close friends I had made at music school and I gradually just came back to it, realizing that the music and the community surrounding it were a part I me and I couldn’t go on without it. Soon afterward, I committed myself to gearing up for college auditions and the rest is history.
KR: I remember my first quartet rehearsal in high school at the new world school of the arts in Miami, FL. It was a defining moment!
KDP: I think it happened around age 12. I enrolled in a special arts school in Berkeley, Ca that specialized in chamber music. It changed my life.
CFA: What do each of you most look forward to before each performance you give, either as part of the Sphinx Virtuosi or the Catalyst Quartet?
PL: I look forward to a concert where there is that magic combination of hall, audience, and colleauges, i.e. when the hall is full of enthusiastic and attentive listeners, the acustic is not too dry nor too wet and there is no need to force the tone, and whenever I get to share the stage with musicians such as my quartet-mates, because I am able to gain true inspiration and create music that is greater than the sum of its individuals.
JM: Anytime I get up to perform, I am excited to share all the new ideas I have been working on with each group. Each time I get up to stage I am trying to communicate something unique, and each time I look forward to hearing how best it can come across.
KR: Communicating. Both with each other and with our audiences.
KDP: The endless possibilities while on stage. Anything can happen!
CFA: If you had to pick only one, what would you say is one moment from your experiences as part of either the Sphinx Virtuosi or the Catalyst Quartet that you’ll never forget?
PL: I’ll never forget the first time we as the new Catalyst Quartet performed our first Bach Goldberg Suite and the music came alive in a way it never could in rehearsals. All of our hard work and preparations, not to mention the excitement surrounding its creation, came to fruition and left a definate impression on me.
JM: Last year the quartet played at the Gianni Bergamo Competition in Swizerland. I had only been with the quartet for a few months and it was exhilarating performing all this new repertoire in a foreign country for a completely new set of peers and mentors and be so well received. We won 2nd place!
KR: Playing with members of the Guarneri quartet in concert at Carnegie hall. Not just because of what they’ve contributed to the landscape of chamber music but because I was also playing with my teacher.
KDP: There are so many, it’s hard to choose. Just sharing the stage with these amazing musicians is enough.
Click here for more information about Aaron Dworkin, Sphinx Virtuosi, and the Catalyst Quartet. For tickets to Sunday’s performance by Sphinx Virtuosi, click here.
Meeting of the minds: Virginia Tech and UNC Chapel Hill
As we inch closer and closer to the massive–but exciting!–undertaking that is opening and running an arts center, we look to our friends at Carolina Performing Arts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for some pointers and advice.
On Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, we hosted the majority of the Carolina Performing Arts staff here in Blacksburg.
We all gathered together to learn a little more about their organization, and then we broke into smaller groups by department for more focused question and answer sessions.
Afterwards, both groups took a tour of the new building. We hadn’t quite moved in at that point, but we were very close! Here, our executive director, Ruth Waalkes, tells everyone about the building before entering through the Turner Street entrance.
Here, both executive directors (Ruth Waalkes of the Center for the Arts and Emil Kang of Carolina Performing Arts) take a moment to pose on our stage.
We learned so much from each other that day: tried and true methods for running an arts center from them, and new ideas and different ways of thinking from us. But the learning didn’t stop there.
Earlier this month, on Thursday, October 3, 2013, Kacy McAllister, our box office manager, and Katy Baker Johnston, our house manager, took a trip down to Chapel Hill to shadow their audience services staff during the first night of a two-night performance, Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration featuring Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.
Memorial Hall at Carolina Performing Arts seats about 400 more patrons than our Street and Davis Performance Hall, so for our patron services team, it was helpful to see how the folks at Chapel Hill staff their performances and how they handle situations like seating latecomers.
Katy says she was most excited to see how Sarah Mixter, audience services manager at Carolina Performing Arts, organized her staff and the flow of the evening.
Everyone here is so grateful for the opportunity to learn from folks who have already been doing this job for several years, and we’re excited to take on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Digging into the inaugural season
By now you’ve probably seen the lineup. You’ve likely narrowed it down to your top, say, 10 choices. Or better yet, your top 21 (that would be all of them).
We’ve already heard from some of you that you can’t possibly narrow it down, so you’ll just come to as many as you can. To which we say, “Yes, please! Come on in!”
But for those of you who are still looking things over, allow us to help guide the way a bit.
(Speaking of “guide,” have you seen our Inaugural Season Guide yet? When the hard copies were delivered to our office, we may or may not have spent some time gazing longingly at them, petting the different pages with different textures, and–in one instance–smelling the brand new ink smell. I think we’re in love! Kudos to our Creative Services Manager Brian Yohn for all his hard work.)
Anyway, back to the season. Let’s jump right on in, shall we?
A bridge in the Grand Lobby?
Odili Donald Odita’s artwork brightened the spaces in the Miles C. Horton Jr. Gallery during the Evolving Geometries: Line, Form, and Color exhibition, which closed late last month. His paintings, so full of color, so vibrant and energetic, were a complete pleasure to have here in the Moss Arts Center.
But luckily, we don’t have to give up ALL of his work.
Odita’s expansive mural, Bridge, is in the Grand Lobby of the center, and will remain up for at least a year. It was such a treat to watch as the mural came together, bit by bit, day after day for nearly a month.
Check out this video and hear Odita discuss his inspiration for the video: our beautiful building!
You can see Bridge for yourself whenever the Moss Arts Center is open. For details on building hours and closings, please see our calendar.