Guest Artist Series: Bridging a Life

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by Matthew Meyer, ‘12

guest-artist.jpgFive years ago Bard College at Simon’s Rock created a new program to support the Division of Arts and to help “bridge” the gap between the classroom and the professional world. “Bridges Visiting Artist Program” at its core was developed as a BA Seminar in which students from all divisions could study and discuss art with peers. Each year, four or five artists from across disciplines visited campus, joining classes to work directly with students.

This year, Bridges was renamed and launched as the Guest Artists Series, making the program more recognizable on campus and off. Similar to the Guest Writers program organized by the Division of Languages and Literature, Guest Artists is a course (ARTS 284) in which students study the work of specific artists and meet them throughout the semester through the Guest Artists Series: Artist on the Global Stage. It’s the highlight of class.

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This year’s guests include Shahzad Ismaily, who along with collaborators Gyda Valtysdottir and Macarena Ortuzar gave a Butoh Dance concert and workshops on connecting music and dance. The second guest was poet, novelist, and visual artist John K. Lawson, who presented an exhibit on “Visual Syncopation”, which wrapped up its installation in the Hillman-Jackson Gallery at the end of last month.

According to Aimée, the Guest Artist Series is, simply put, another opportunity that students have to reach out. “When students enter any discipline, [most] are looking for mentors to show them paths…” That’s where Guest Artists come in to share their experiences, talk about the challenges they face, and offer advice to budding new artists.

Aimée adds, “It’s never difficult to find willing participants – with our arts faculty, alumni, and colleagues, we can send invites that will bring a variety of talent to Simon’s Rock.” It offers a way for almost any student to meet a true professional, role model, or mentor (it has happened) in their field. And although the Guest Artist class is at the heart of the project, each guest visits a number of other classes and gives open performances.

A husband and wife duo, David Redmon and Ashley Sabin recently visited campus. The two produce documentaries about sociological issues. Students that went to their show got to see an early showing of their recent film, “Girl Model,” on March 19th, before its nationwide television premier on March 23rd.

This year’s Guest Artists Series wraps up with actress, director, fiber artist, and Simon’s Rock instructor Karen Allen. Allen will visit students and classes throughout the theater program. Her 1987 film, The Glass Menagerie, will screen on April 12, and students will have the opportunity to visit her Fiber Arts studio in Great Barrington.

The Guest Artists series has full plans to continue next spring, following the Guest Writer series in the fall.