Student engagement drives Center for the Arts' programming

At the Moss Arts Center, artists don’t show up, perform, and leave.

“We’re a place where artists come to connect with people, share their experiences and insight, and learn more about our community,” said Ruth Waalkes, associate provost for the arts and executive director of the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech.

   

Dancers Denise Vale, senior artistic associate with the Martha Graham Dance Company, leads a master class in modern dance for students from Virginia Tech and Radford University.

Programs hosted by the Center for the Arts and the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, both housed inside the Moss Arts Center, bring new ways for everyone to engage with the arts and the creative process.

In simpler terms, the Moss Arts Center is more than just a building and the Center for the Arts is about more than just selling tickets. 

“Central to our work is the idea of community engagement,” Waalkes said. “We work purposefully at the Center for the Arts to bring artists of regional, national, and international prominence who share our passion for learning, discovery, and engagement and embrace the many traditions, cultures, and ideas that reflect the diversity of our world. This exploration and collaboration creates a two-way process where community members can learn from artists and vice versa.”

In particular, the center contributes to Virginia Tech students’ education and provides ways for them to participate in the creative process. This includes everything from special collaborative experiences with visiting artists to student-led programming.

“Attending Center for the Arts’ performances has helped me to personally get in touch with both the Virginia Tech and Blacksburg communities and to learn more about American culture and traditions,” said Mohammed Seyam, of Egypt, a doctoral student in computer science. “I’ve seen performances from different places across the world and from different places in the U.S., each with different musical and visual flavors. I appreciate the high-quality and diverse performances that cover a wide area of the international art landscape.”

The center frequently invites student performers and artists to share their talents in conjunction with visiting artists’ activities and to fill the center’s Grand Lobby and other public spaces during events. For example, SalsaTech showed patrons the finer points of salsa dancing, and the Dhamaal Dance Team performed the Garba, a form of folk dance from Guajarat, India. Student musicians from the School of Performing Arts and student-led ensembles such as Juxtaposition, Sensations, Expressions, and Soulstice, performed before center events.

   

Talk The Acting Company conducts a Shakespeare monologue workshop with theatre students from the School of Performing Arts.

The center’s art galleries showcase work from undergraduate and graduate students from the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and other colleges across campus affiliated with the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology. Exhibitions have included traditional and trans-media work, such as kinetic sculptures and computer-generated, projected imagery.

Engagement events have included master classes with professional dancers and artistic directors, question-and-answer sessions, and talks about creativity and technology in the arts. Students were invited to rehearsals with orchestras, Shakespearean monologue workshops, instrument demonstrations, work reviews, and professional development exercises.

“The master classes and pre-show sessions that have been provided by several artists at the center were new to me,” Seyam said. “I found they provided a good chance to know more about the performers and the show itself and added a lot to my actual show experience. The close interaction between artists and audience in such sessions creates an intimacy between attendants and the performer and provides a complete event experience for the audience.”

Students join faculty and community members to present My Take Talks in the galleries. This series invites people to share their perspectives on the art.

More than 100 student workers, plus graduate assistants, support the center while gaining professional experience. Students can curate programs through an effort spearheaded by Jon Catherwood-Ginn, the center’s partnerships and engagement manager.

“Not only do we want to open our doors to students to participate in engagement activities with visiting and local artists, but we want to create space for them to articulate and realize their own programmatic choices,” Catherwood-Ginn said. “We are working with students as they design performances and events for the center, based on the artists that they’re inspired by and the themes that they would like to explore. That way, students bring their own personal stories into the process while learning how to program within a professional presenting environment.”

Seyam has been helping to develop programming. He said the opportunity, “assures students that the Center for the Arts is a place where students’ voices can be heard, and where students’ suggestions are seriously taken into consideration.”

  • For more information on this topic, contact Susan Bland at 540-231-1986.

Photos: Center for the Arts engagement

    Musicians

During the 2013-14 season, the Center for the Arts provided opportunities for students and the larger community to interact with the artists and learn from their expertise.

Free student tickets available

Free rush seats for Center for the Arts performances are available to Virginia Tech students via text message.  

Text “arts” to 31996 to be added to the notification list. 

Availability varies by performance. A valid Virginia Tech student identification is required for admission.

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