April 16, 2010

Fellowships Help Students Pursue Creative Projects

Annual fellowships will help students undertake creative projects and spread the arts on campus

After spending last summer as part of a research team coding computer programs for applications in both economics and art, Samantha Smith ’12 (Lynnfield, Mass.) decided she wanted to help provide opportunities for non-art majors to pursue creative interests.

“At Lafayette, students aren’t limited to just one program or activity,” says the economics and business major. “My talents are spread over a very wide spectrum on campus. I participate in plays, I perform in the band, and I sing in all sorts of groups. I write, I compose, and I have done computer science research. I would love to get math students, computer science students — all students, really — more involved in the arts at Lafayette.”

Smith plans to encourage cross-disciplinary activities by organizing informal performances requiring minimal time commitments from participants. As a music theory tutor, she also would like to teach beginning voice, theory, and piano workshops.

“I want to serve as an example to show students that synergies are possible and powerful,” she says.

Smith is one of five recipients of Lafayette’s inaugural Maggin Family Creative and Performing Arts (CaPA) Fellowships. The students will use grants ranging from $2,500 to $4,500 to pursue their interests and talents in the arts through special projects, internships, research, study abroad, and other activities.

The other recipients are biochemistry major Brett Billings ’12 (Marion, Kan.), art major Nina Horowitz ’11 (Warren, N.J.), English major Sean Ryon ’12 (Kennett Square, Pa.), and Sara Somach ’13 (Shaker Heights, N.H.).

Billings will use his fellowship to establish an on-campus radio theater group modeled after Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre on the Air. Envisioning a weekly radio show that broadcasts original student work, he will use radio theater to explore the art of storytelling and encourage drama, stories, poetry, and music. “It is my strong belief that the artist is first and foremost a storyteller,” he says. “Be it as substantial as a bronze sculpture in a courtyard or as fleeting as a radio broadcast that is forgotten seemingly as quickly as it is broadcast, the job of the artist is to tell the stories that fundamentally comprise the human spirit.”

This year’s fellowship recipients will act as ambassadors to next year’s recipients, who will be members of the incoming first-year class. The CaPA group will meet monthly to discuss issues of the arts as well as their particular form of expression, and meet with faculty, staff, and visiting artists. As students mature they will be expected to perform, exhibit, or present their work to the College community.

“I’m eager to share my music with the other fellows and the rest of the community,” says Somach, who plays the cello in a number of the music department’s ensembles. “I’m looking forward to meeting with the fellows to learn more about their arts, brainstorming about how to mix them, and tying our arts in with other disciplines. I can already tell that they will inspire me, and I hope that my music will inspire them. I’m excited to expand my horizons and have opportunities that wouldn’t be available otherwise.”

Horowitz plans to enroll in classes at the Art Student League of New York City and Museum of Modern Art. She will travel to Los Angeles this summer to visit the photography show The Engaged Observer at the Getty Museum and Los Angeles Center for Digital Art. As a correspondent for The Lafayette, she will share her experiences about the opportunity and what she’s learned.

Ryon will produce an original hip-hop album focusing on diversity and how music can play a critically important role in advancing the discussion of diversity-related issues in the College community. Performers, including some from Lafayette, will be invited to compose over his original instrumental tracks. Once the album is complete, Ryon will coordinate a performance of select tracks for the campus.

“Hip-hop has been a major part of my life, and I’m thrilled to be able to share my passion for it with the community at large,” he says.

The CaPA program was created through the generosity of Bruce ’65 and Jackie Maggin. Jim Toia, director of the art department’s Community-Based Teaching program, is the program’s founding coordinator. Beginning this fall, selected members of each entering class will receive up to $7,500 over their four years at the College. It is expected that about 10 fellowships will be awarded each year. The recipients will be selected by a committee of faculty in the arts and humanities chaired by Provost Wendy L. Hill.

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