If anyone wonders whether the arts are alive and well in higher education, they need look no further than the College’s Creative and Performing Arts (CaPA) Fellowship program. This year, there are 27 students from diverse academic backgrounds pursuing projects that range from writing to studio art to theater to music.
“We find an increasingly large number of students who desire a liberal arts education and an opportunity to not only pursue, but showcase, their talent while enhancing their community’s artistic experience,” says Jim Toia, coordinator of the CaPA fellows and director of the art department’s Community-Based Teaching Program. “That is exactly what the CaPA program is about.”
The program was created through the generosity of Bruce ’65 and Jackie P ’02 Maggin. It provides up to $7,500 over four years to students with a record of achievement in creative and performing arts. Forming a community of artists on campus, CaPA fellows meet regularly as a group and individually with Toia to discuss their work and art in general. They help organize arts-based events and activities on campus and also travel to New York City to see performances and visit galleries and museums.
A perfect example of the CaPA vision was this fall’s CaPA Cabaret organized by Michael Pinkard ’14 (Puyallup, Wash.), a physics major who plays tenor saxophone, clarinet, and piano. He was joined in a quintet by fellow CaPA students John Paul Bisciotti ’14 (Media, Pa.), a mechanical engineering major on bass, Brian Pinkard ’16 (Puyallup, Wash.) on trumpet, Pete Taggart ’15 (Babylon, N.Y.), a civil engineering major on drums, and Lucas Reilly ’13 (Sayre, Pa.), an English and music double major on piano. They performed a mixture of jazz standards, original compositions, free improvisations, and original arrangements of classic songs.
Held in the faculty dining room of Marquis Hall, the cabaret also featured the work of other CaPA fellows, including a dance performance by English major Ann Lauer ’14 (Annandale, N.J.), films by Ani Acopian ’16 (Easton, Pa.) and film & media studies and engineering studies double major Joel Vargas ’14 (Bronx, N.Y.), a reading by Isabelle Turits ’16 (Sagaponack, N.Y.), and vocal performances by Kathryn Schwacha ’16 (East Windsor, N.J.) and Aleni MacKarey ’16 (South Abington Township, Pa.).
“The cabaret went off spectacularly,” says Pinkard, who hopes to make it an annual event. “There was a lot of energy from the performers and the audience. Music is fun to play, especially in small group settings where you have the opportunity to find meaning in what you are playing and to really connect with your friends and fellow musicians.”
Lauer, who has been studying ballet since she age three, discovered a passion for both performing but teaching. She teaches a ballet class on campus and has been taking private lessons to learn modern dance. Being a CaPA fellow and participating in events like the cabaret, she says, have broadened her dance experience and exposed her to other forms of art.
“I absolutely love teaching ballet,” she says. “With other genres, such as modern, the movement is limitless. You can dance however you want, which is what I love about it, but ballet is a challenge. It’s rewarding to accomplish difficult movement. It’s fun and exciting working with dancers who have different talents and strengths. It’s also interesting to see how other dancers mold the movement to fit their skill and body form.”
But CaPA is not just about performance art. Many students are pursuing writing and studio art projects. Next semester, psychology major Samantha Ladell ’14 (Livingston, N.J.) plans to invite local elementary and middle school children to create chalk drawings on her Young Masters Wall, located along the Karl Stirner Arts Trail in Easton. For her main CaPA project, Ladell envisions creating basic art therapy courses for pediatric hospital patients.
“Art gives me an outlet,” says Ladell, who also is working as a teaching assistant for Toia’s high school class. “Being a CaPA scholar has opened my eyes to various kinds of art and has let me explore and experiment in ways I hadn’t tried before.”
Madeline Gambino ’14 (Bethlehem, Pa.) has been reworking a fantasy fiction series she began in high school and plans to have the Verjavald Trilogy—Savarik, Deepening Waters, and Arahmid’s Dust —ready to shop to a publisher this spring. Or, she may pursue self-publishing and distribute the series to local bookshops. She also is developing another series that will be a continuation of the Verjavald Trilogy.
The CaPA program significantly influenced Gambino’s decision to attend Lafayette. It has provided an outlet to trade ideas with other artists.
“Having a group of individuals who know about, support, and encourage my writing and goals allows me to feel confident about the role it plays in my life and to pursue academic and extracurricular interests that both support and strengthen my writing,” says the history major. “Jim Toia and the other CaPA advisers have been incredibly supportive and helpful in suggesting projects, classes, and goals, and I enjoy meeting other students who also think through a creative, artistic lens.”
Like Gambino, Huong “Lyn” Nguyen ’15 (Upper Darby, Pa.) sees writing as an intensely personal activity. She wrote On the Way, a Philadelphia Young Playwrights (PYP) playwriting festival winner. The play explores the lives of a Vietnamese family after the Vietnam War and was performed at Temple University and the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia.
Inspired by stories from her own family as well as a friend’s struggle with his homosexuality, she is now working on a play about the traditional marriage system set in 1970s-’80s Vietnam. Eventually, Nguyen plans to bring her play to life by working with a cast and mentor once she begins the revision process.
“The atmosphere of CaPA fuels me. Here I am in a room with people from every academic concentration, and we are there for one purpose—to create art,” she says. “Writing for the stage is one of the best ways for me to communicate. In person, I tend to run out of words, so it’s comforting to have a place where my ideas can be understood.”