As today is National Arts Advocacy Day, I think it is appropriate to share with you a couple of outstanding videos produced by the Departments of Art and Theatre & Dance in the College of Communication and Fine Arts. They are powerful reminders of the impact our arts departments play in the life of the University but also as community partners with Memphis and this region. I hope you will have a look at them and join me in applauding their message.
The “Art Talk” video was directed, shot and edited by Daniel Wildberger, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design, and Isabel Machado, Filmmaker and PhD candidate in History. They were invited to make a video about the school by Art Chair Richard Lou, who praised the filmmakers’ talents and also their storytelling sensibility in “creating a beautiful video.” Professor Wildberger says, “Since early on we thought it would be great to let the students tell their stories. Every one of the students was asked the same questions. We had no script, but the questions gave us a little structure. It basically revolved around 3 things: the school, the city, and their work. Another important concept we had was to make it look as real as possible. The students are in their own ‘habitat’: classrooms, libraries, labs, in the art building and around campus.”
The students who are interviewed on camera are: Jody Stokes-Casey (Art History), Jonah Sidhom (Graphic Design), Kathryn Hicks (Graphic Design), Nancy Hardwood (Painting), Charli Byrd Ardrey (Art Education), and Peter Joseph Hoeffecker (Sculpture).
The video is a wonderful recruitment tool for the department, but stands as an excellent work of art in its own right. The On Location International Film Festival has expressed an interest in showing it as part of the “Memphis Rocks” program later this year. You can view the Art video at:
The Theatre & Dance promotional video prominently features a successful regional actress and graduate, Ann-Marie Gideon, who says on camera “I learned to work hard and never give up in a business that isn’t easy…I gained the confidence and experience that helped me to launch my professional career.” The promotional video features a combination of actors, designers and directors in addition to Ann-Marie, including testimonials from Jon Castro, Kitty Devany, Tristan Parks, Janie Crick, and Jung Han Kim. It shows a variety of work in the Theatre Building along with references to off-campus opportunities in Arezzo, Italy, Chicago’s Second City comedy training, and the American Theatre Wing’s Springboard NYC seminars. The video was shot and edited by filmmaker Andrew Harper and produced by Director of Publicity and Promotions Alice Berry.
It is being used as a recruiting tool for Theatre & Dance and the department has been distributing it on individual jump drives which are handed to prospective students at conferences, such as the recent Southeast Theatre Conference earlier this month. As Alice has learned, “Students are excited to see it and also to be handed a copy on their own jump drive. We have had a terrific response to it so far. The Department has been putting an emphasis on recruiting students for the programs by bringing students to campus for workshops and performances and by sending faculty to area schools for workshops and having a greater presence at theatre conferences. But our students are our best ambassadors.” You can view the Theatre & Dance video at:
As Richard R. Ranta, Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts says, “Videos such as these are tremendous billboards for Memphis and the impact The University of Memphis arts programs on this region. We intend to do more of them to showcase the work happening in this College. They remind us that U of M arts students and graduates are also having a huge impact on our community by playing an increasingly significant role in many disciplines as many shift toward work that is collaborative and community-based.”
“We hear a lot about the need to invest in STEM fields–science, technology, engineering, and math–to spur innovation and grow our economy,” adds Dean Ranta. “And of course that is necessary. But I wish to echo a growing chorus of others who have lately argued for the need to place the Arts in the center of that anagram, to expand the slogan, and turn STEM to STEAM.”
Arts students not only entertain, but also work across disciplines, across diverse strands of our community to help solve some of our thorniest problems. I think these videos are persuasive reminders of the impact the arts are having here at The University of Memphis.
M. David Rudd, Provost