For Worcester State’s Visual and Performing Arts Department, the conclusion of the Spring 2021 semester marked an important moment of hope and emergence as theater students returned to Fuller Theater stage and musicians began to play together in real time again in performances that continue to be accessible online.
“If there’s a silver lining in these unprecedented times, it’s that audiences have greater access to art online,” says VPA Chair and Theater Professor Adam Zahler. “Across the globe, arts and culture institutions have used the internet to make their work available. It’s not the same as an in-person experience, but new doors have been opened and the public response has been gratifying.”
In that spirit, VPA recently presented “Extreme Artery,” its annual end-of-school-year blast of presentations, as a virtual event. The initiative opened on Thursday April 22, with the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery’s online Student Thesis Art Exhibition and continued through Thursday, May 6, when the Worcester State University Chorale virtually performed its annual theme night concert, “Songs From the Year You Were Born.” The two weeks in between featured a variety of presentations that are still available for public viewing.
“Music composition students showcased exceptional technical skills and musicality with their Spring 2021 presentation of original compositions, and it’s an honor to be able to present this professional collection of work,” says Music Professor and Applied Music Coordinator Kyle Martin. “Another exciting feature in the end-of-semester Spring 2021 music presentations included the fun ’80s presentation from Steve Gagliastro’s voice lesson students and the occasional presence of instrumental musicians sharing practice rooms and the stage in our virtual ‘Mosaic of Music.’ It was great to see them playing music together—from a safe distance—in real time again. We’re looking forward to continuing this momentum in Fall 2021.”
In addition to the Senior Thesis Art Exhibition, which the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery presented via its new website, visual artists participated in Extreme Artery by showcasing collections of work from a variety of courses, ranging from Watercolor and Cross Media to Fundamentals of Drawing and Creating Cultural Forms.
“Our students have showed such resilience, creativity, and passion as they have turned to their arts for expression throughout the pandemic,” says Amaryllis Siniossoglou, a VPA Professor who used two laptops, a “HoverCam” camera, and a pen tablet among her devices to deliver art courses virtually to students. “In this difficult time, we have learned new ways of using technology to connect with students as meaningfully and personally as we can, and I applaud them for their wonderful and moving collections of Spring 2021 work.”
On Thursday, April 29, the Theater Program streamed live and filmed scenes together for the first time in a Spring 2021 interdisciplinary production, “Dancing with Demons.” The production was devised and scripted throughout the semester by VPA students and faculty, who leveraged their improvisation skills during rehearsals as well as the Worcester State Urban Studies Department’s archive of COVID-era materials and interviews, to tell a mythic tale of danger and resurrection for a live online audience on the department’s YouTube channel.
For the Worcester State University Chorale, in addition to marking the finale of the virtual Extreme Artery initiative, their annual theme-night performance was also part of the a cappella group’s fundraising efforts for a tour that is being planned for Spring 2022.
“I’m so proud of our talented, resilient group of singers who responded to the past year by identifying virtual fundraising opportunities, participating in an edited collaboration with production companies to present a rendition of ‘The Road Home’ together from afar, and most recently, transitioning our annual theme-night performance, ‘Songs From the Year You Were Born,’ to an online presentation,” says Chorale Director and Professor Christie Nigro. “On behalf of our department and our group, it’s an honor to extend heartfelt congratulations and thanks to graduating seniors Chorale President Jennifer Jerome and Soprano Alexis Ramos. Best wishes to you and all of the Worcester State Seniors.”
As artists look forward to audiences being in-person, again, Zahler, who is stepping down as VPA department chair after nine years, says, “This is an extraordinary and exciting time to be teaching arts students. The arts have had to adapt and, though we know this isn’t over yet, we don’t expect that we’ll just return to the way things were before. We’ve invested in new equipment, learned new techniques, and the art we’ve made and taught has changed. I don’t think all that will go on some shelf to collect dust.”
Fall 2022 will see significant, positive changes for VPA. The department is launching the new theater major and the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery will be reopening in the Ghosh Science and Tech Building in the fall.
“Meanwhile,” says Zahler, “stay tuned. There’s more to come.”
Links to Spring 2021 Visual and Performing Arts Presentations
Student Thesis Art Exhibition: https://wsuvpagallery.weebly.com/thesis-exhibition-2021.html
80s Theme Performance by voice students of VPA Music Professor Steve Gagliastro: https://youtu.be/6z4SD39OKYc
“Dancing with Demons,” an interdisciplinary, devised production: https://youtu.be/HvpvHFG0kuI
Presentation by Student Music Composers: https://youtu.be/_HIPhnLSCeM
Applied Music Students present “Mosaic of Music:” https://youtu.be/vw_64uVgwbY
Worcester State University Chorale performs “Songs From the Year You Were Born:” https://youtu.be/q4hwr1SNF54
Visual art collections and more Extreme Artery Spring 2021 presentations are accessible via #ExtremeArtery2021 on VPA’s Instagram and Facebook pages: https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/extremeartery2021/
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