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The Arts at



Donnay Burden �19

THE ARTS AT URSINUS COLLEGE Art. What is it? How would you define it? When asked these questions, people often answer, “Art is a means of expression.” While that is true, it is a limited definition. There are other ways that human beings express themselves. What makes art distinct? A curious definition from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary may help us to explore this further: Art, noun [L. ars (artis) root ar, to join; Gr. Artunein, to arrange]: the disposition or modification of things by human skill, to answer the purpose intended. In this sense art stands opposed to nature. This is not what most people would think when asked to define art. But on further inspection, it is apt. Art is, fundamentally, a human endeavor. A human takes something made by nature (a slab of marble, a sound, a human body) and manipulates it (to sculpt, to compose music, to choreograph) and, by doing so, answers some individual purpose. This is what makes art distinct: the human being who is creating has a purpose, and art is the means with which that artist is trying to answer that purpose. The purpose may be to entertain (as we often think art may do), but it also may be to challenge, to provoke, to enlighten, to empower, and so on. The purpose belongs to the artist who is answering personal fundamental questions about the human experience. With this inquiry-based definition in mind, art is an important component of Ursinus’s Quest: Open Questions Open Minds core curriculum. Our new curriculum invites students to ask: What should matter to me? How should we live together? How can we understand the world? What will I do? Through art and artmaking, Ursinus students begin to answer these questions in unique and creative ways, fulfilling the very definition of art. We invite you to join us. In reading this new magazine focused on the arts at Ursinus College, we hope you will enjoy meeting some of the artists working in our community and the many ways with which these artists are exploring Ursinus’s fundamental questions. By Domenick Scudera, M.F.A. Professor of Theater Chair of the Department of Theater and Dance





FROM SCRIPT TO STAGE Producing Radium Girls “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms.” –Thornton Wilder The roaring 1920s was an era filled with music, culture and political change across the United States, but the fluorescent glow of radium was the talk of the town. Products containing the dangerous material were crowding the markets. From chocolate to toothpaste, radium was everywhere, but it wasn’t until female workers at a watch factory started getting sick that things became clearer. This is the story of Radium Girls by D.W. Gregory and, like all productions at Ursinus College, it takes great preparation and creativity to get from script to stage. “Our productions create a sense of community because they’re also purpose-driven,” says Meghan Brodie ’00, an Ursinus graduate and assistant professor of theater who directed Radium Girls. “You’re creating something together. That is rewarding for me to see among our students because it helps them develop their own sense of community on the Ursinus campus.” The Ursinus theater experience is multidisciplinary. Dozens of students, from various academic majors, are involved in every part of a production, from deck crew, wardrobe and props to acting and stage management. “We reach a broad cross-section of students who have an interest in theater and the arts,” Brodie says. “There are heaps of moving parts and not only are we collaborating with actors and designers, but we’re mapping out how it’s all being packaged and presented, even down to the nuts and bolts, like the number of additional seats we can fit in the theater relative to how close the actors will be to the audience.”


The preproduction process begins with a deep dive into the history of each story. Brodie, whose scholarly research focuses on female authors and feminist, gender and sexuality studies, was looking for a play written by a woman that had historical elements that her student actors could research. Radium Girls was a perfect fit. The groundwork for any Ursinus production is laid the previous academic year. Production meetings are held over the summer and casting begins during the first week of classes. For Radium Girls, since each of the actors portrayed a real person, the students used newspaper coverage, historical radium advertisements,


photos and biographies to inform their performances. “And then we begin putting the play on its feet,” Brodie says. Professor of Theater Domenick Scudera lent his voice to create faux radio advertisements for real products of the time and the sound clips served as transitions between scenes. Alongside the scenic, lighting, costume, sound and props designs, other elements of the play were also carefully curated to help create the overall picture of the historical period, including production posters and a lobby display.

Additionally, professional theater designers Millie Hiibel (costumes), Meghan Jones (scenic design) and Shannon Zura (lighting and sound design) joined the Radium Girls production team. “All of these professional designers have worked with and mentored our students on previous productions and are familiar with our spaces, so they have a great handle on the creative potential of both the Blackbox Theater and the Lenfest stage, as well as what we can accomplish with the resources that we have,” Brodie says. “Each production creates a strong community among the actors and production team

members who collaborate to achieve the same goal, to present a polished and engaging production. The students have a sincere investment in their work. “The productions also cultivate students’ confidence, time management skills and ability to analyze texts. Working on Radium Girls, the actors knew each other’s lines, were responsible for scene transitions, helped each other with quick costume changes—they were a true ensemble cast. The relationships they build are genuine and based on a common multidisciplinary endeavor, and I think that’s not only unique to theater, but unique to Ursinus, too.”


BELLA R AG O M O “Acting should be bigger than life. Scripts should be bigger than life. It should all be bigger than life.” —Bette Davis Bella Ragomo ’21 remembers watching television as a child, picturing herself one day performing for an audience of thousands. As she stands on the stage under the warm lights at the Lenfest Theater in Ursinus College’s Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center, she reflects on her opportunity to one

day achieve that dream. “I was looking for a college that would offer a well-rounded education,” she says. “It was important to have a balanced learning experience and I discovered that at Ursinus.” As an Ursinus theater program scholarship recipient, Ragomo is taking the stage by storm, landing the lead role in the Greek comedy Lysistrata as a firstyear student and also acting in plays like 12 Angry Jurors. “I think what’s great about the Ursinus theater experience is that you have every opportunity to land a role in a production. It’s not exclusive, it’s very inclusive,” she says.




For Jeanine McCain, moving east to the dense, bustling Philadelphia area from the vast and mountainous terrains of Montana and Colorado was a bit of an out-of-body experience. “I have a sense of my own body in those spaces and a certain aesthetic for dance that comes from being in those places,” she says. “When I came to the East Coast, I immediately noticed that I felt different in my body. In the landscapes I was used to, there are vast open spaces and it’s as if my body can be more open while I’m there. On the East Coast, it’s more


R OS I E DAV I S AU B R E Y Once a prospective biology major, Rosie Davis Aubrey ’15 came to Ursinus hoping to continue to pursue her passion for dance during her free time. But that passion became her purpose. During her senior year, Davis Aubrey was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, a grant that allows recipients to embark on a year of travel, personal

dense and there are so many more people that our bodies seem to close in a little bit. It feels like a protective mechanism, and it’s a completely different aesthetic.” Those experiences have informed her choreography and performance. McCain explores human connections to physical environments and personal history. Her performance research blends the physical moving body with digital technology and art installation. She uses portable, handheld projectors to project images onto dancers

during performance—a way to layer meaning, invite intimacy and ignite a visceral response in the viewer. “It reveals the human body as a landscape of its own for embodied moving imagery,” she says. McCain’s blend of performance and technology have been presented at the IMAGINE Festival: Film, Technology, and the Body in Action; the International Interdisciplinary Artists Consortium; and the Sans Souci Festival of Dance Cinema, as well as at the Philadelphia

insight and creative research. Her work, which took her to India, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, began by exploring “the role dance plays for young girls and how through dance, you can mature and find your identity.” “By the end of the year, it became a self-exploration through dance, identifying my own identity through dance,” she says. The experience was transformational. Davis Aubrey graduated from Ursinus as a dance major committed to bringing change to the world. She choreographed a dance piece about resilience, community and her black identity, and plans to apply her degree to a career in dance movement therapy.

Fringe Festival and on the Ursinus stage in Once Removed, performed by Ursinus students. For her students, McCain encourages a similar creative process, one that draws upon personal experience. “I try to offer a way for them to find something new with their work,” she says. “Dance is not only a process of stringing together movement vocabulary that they’ve learned along the way. We develop processes of original movement invention that may reveal things from below the surface.”



MEGHAN BRODIE By the time she graduated as Ursinus’s first theater major, Meghan Brodie ’00 had paved the way for hundreds of future students and helped to kick-start a thriving performing arts culture at the college—one that she is still proudly part of as a faculty member. “The arts reflect our own humanity and they


TYLER SHIPLEY At the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia, the spotlight shines backstage in what’s known as the hemp house, where Tyler Shipley �11 is the head flyman. Hemp houses get their name from the manila hemp once most commonly used to make the ropes that, along with pulleys and sandbags, were used to fly theatrical scenery in and out of scenes on stage. Shipley is responsible for all of the “flying” scenery moving above actors’ heads during stage productions. “I always wanted to be in theater in some aspect,” says Shipley, who earned his wings working on Ursinus productions before doing freelance production work and then working for a production


company. His backstage résumé also includes haunted houses, rock and roll concerts, and television and movie sets. “I worked on the NFL draft [held on Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 2017], building and climbing steel, 80 to 90 feet in the air above everyone else,” he says. “I was most known for being a steel climber. I’ve gotten that reputation. I really enjoy that kind of work. I’m a climber, I’m a rigger, an audio-visual technician, a lighting technician, a carpenter, a grip. There are many, many descriptions for what I do.” Shipley says he remembers the first time he walked backstage at Ursinus with the intent on working behind the scenes on productions. “Ursinus set me up with an advantage,” he says. “It gave me a much more diverse set of skills than I would have had if I went somewhere else. Ursinus gave me that overarching experience and being a theater major set me up to diversify myself in the industry.”

challenge us in many ways,” Brodie says. “And I’m grateful that the college has continued to support the arts and sees them as a fundamental component of every student’s education.”

ancient Greek play following the titular character, an Athenian who calls for her fellow women to participate in a sex strike in order to motivate men to end the Peloponnesian War.

Brodie’s own research examines the intersections of theater and feminist, gender and sexuality studies; her artistic scholarship typically focuses on plays written by women. Her credits include many impressive achievements, including directing the English-language world premiere of Germaine Tillion’s Holocaust operetta In the Underworld and a staged reading of Paula Vogel’s Indecent, about the controversial 1923 Broadway play God of Vengeance, for which the cast was arrested for obscenity.

“I recently submitted a piece to a journal on my production of Lysistrata at Ursinus and situated that within the #MeToo movement to talk about how McLaughlin’s adaptation of the play resonates in new and surprising ways at this moment in time,” she says.

Brodie directed Ellen McLaughlin’s adaptation of Lysistrata at Ursinus, an adaptation of the

Some of Brodie’s choices as a director are influenced by current events and how audiences can be challenged and engaged by giving voice to marginalized populations. Brodie believes theater can be a tool for cultivating empathy and empowering audiences, actors and production team members to make change in the world.

“I love teaching my Dramatic Dames course, which focuses on drama by and about women,” she says. “Our classroom discussions are always thought-provoking and often spark ideas for future projects. I also teach Butches, Bitches, and Buggers, which is an exploration of modern queer drama, and that dovetails really nicely with some of my research. I am learning with and from my students and am able to continue to investigate my areas of expertise in these two courses. My own writing and directing inform my work in the classroom and vice versa, which is incredibly exciting and rewarding for me. I feel fortunate to be able to mentor students and pay forward the exceptional support and opportunities with which Ursinus provided me when I was a student here.”


Donnay Burden �19



His movements intimate and personal, Donnay Burden ’19 says he likes to tap into human emotion in his choreographed dance pieces, “trying to dig deep with the dancers I work with to bring out a story about what’s going on with them at that specific time on stage.” Her inspiration driven by personal challenges and the lessons of her mentors, Jenna Endy ’19 created a spirited, original Ursinus College Dance Company piece that taps into

Jenna Endy �19

the emotional journey of self-discovery called La Strada—The Road—a visual representation of who she is and how she got there. At Ursinus, both dancers quickly developed a passion for choreographing solo pieces and works of art for other dancers, unafraid to try new things. As a health and exercise physiology and dance double major, as well as the captain of the Ursinus women’s soccer team, Endy has blended the

disciplines together seamlessly, crediting much of her success in soccer to an innate awareness of her body that drives performance. Her goal is to expand the field of athletic training for dancers. Burden describes his choreography style as improvisational. Creating movement and planning as he goes, Burden records his sessions in solo and group work and watches them back to discover what

moments he likes and which he wants to change. A piece he created for the National College Dance festival tackled social norms and breaking from societal pressure. By experimenting with movement, props and new methods, Burden’s work often carries a theme of serious social and emotional commentary. “I like going to that deep place in my artistry,” he says.



AN ARTFUL EDUCATION From creation to curation, art students at Ursinus participate in an interdisciplinary program that threads studio art, art history and museum studies. “We help students erode the divide between practice and theory in a visceral way,” says Deborah Barkun, chair of the Department of Art and Art History and museum studies program director at Ursinus. “We teach students to think critically and give constructive feedback regardless of their medium or field. We show them that there are many ways to live a creative life.” The program is made intellectually rigorous through discussion-based classes, intensive writing assignments, oral presentations, art theory and more. A student’s creativity is an essential component of their area of study; they’re encouraged to not only create art, but to learn to study and talk about art and are challenged with writing extensively about the meaning of art, process and influences. “We’ve endeavored to develop a curriculum that is intellectually rigorous and timely, which, it its interdisciplinarity, gives students a sense of what its like to be a practicing artist, a researcher, a museum curator in the world today, as well as


what the business of art looks like,” Barkun says. Contemporary art is interdisciplinary. It’s in conversation with science, psychology, history, policy and more. It’s innovative and immersive, and there is never a singular meaning to a single piece or a larger exhibition. “It can be interpreted in many different ways and in that sense, it’s connected to the work being done across campus in other disciplines,” Barkun says. Ursinus art students work in various mediums to create original works; they have an opportunity to curate exhibitions with artists through a museum studies course; and they use the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art—one of only three percent of the nation’s museums accredited by the American Alliance of Museums—as a living classroom. “Students working in sculpture, photography, drawing and painting are part of the same common conversation and they’re experimenting across boundaries,” Barkun says. “They’re grounded in traditional skills, but we’re empowering them to think critically, thoughtfully and reflectively about the impact of their art.”



SARAH KAUFMAN After years of figure painting, drawing and sculpting, Sarah Kaufman decided to turn to a different medium to capture the human form: her camera. “It’s always people,” explains Kaufman, an


assistant professor of art and art history. “I’m really interested in our relationships with our bodies, how we live in them, and how our bodies relate to the environments we inhabit.” Her photographs come from a unique camera, a late 1950s Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex that she fell in love with as an undergraduate student. The camera offered a new perspective to her work by creating a large, square negative, giving her the chance to think inside the box for a change. Her work is primarily film based, not digital, but not in the way many would expect. Instead of simply developing her photographs, Kaufman uses a hybrid process to scan her negatives and make digital prints of them.

Kaufman also finds inspiration in Philadelphia, as it is the home to her art studio, an old stocking-factory-turned-loft-space, and many of her projects. She loves to bring a bit of the historic city into her classroom, and even brings students to Philadelphia. “I have really enjoyed getting my students to connect with Philly; bringing artists from Philly to campus and bringing my students to Philadelphia,” Kaufman says. “I taught our senior capstone in the art department a couple of years ago, and I arranged for my seniors to give public artist talks at the Fleisher Art Memorial, like a professional artist would do.” Kaufman is one of 68 local artists whose work is

featured in a permanent public art display at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Her photographs in that display explore a swimming hole in Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Park and emphasize the value of access to green spaces within an urban setting. The project investigates how people relate to their environment and affirms a human need or impulse to commune with the natural world. The images depict moments of coherence between our bodies and the world around us. “I’m honored to have my work included in this significant art collection in the heart of Philadelphia. I’m grateful to be part of this highly visible permanent exhibition that highlights Pennsylvania artists for an international audience,” Kaufman says.

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JACQUELYN FOX With some 55,000 centuries-old artifacts from Egypt on hand, Jacquelyn Fox ʼ11 serves as a gatekeeper of sorts at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. An assistant collections manager there, the Ursinus alumna takes inventory and handles unpacking and storing the delicate objects at an offsite location, as well as some of those that remain at the museum. With great care and attention to detail, Fox works toward the betterment of storage and safety for the objects, and takes on photography and cataloguing, creating a record of ancient history. Fox sharpened her collections skills at the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art on the Ursinus campus, an experience that “changed my life,” she says. Originally intending to major in biology, she carved out a new path working with the Berman’s impressive collection,

assisting with museum renovation and serving on its 20th anniversary committee as a student. Working at the Berman “elevates the knowledge of students who want to go into this field,” Fox says. “It’s so invaluable to learn how a museum works. That’s not very prevalent on many college campuses. That experience led me right to where I wanted to be.” After Ursinus, Fox earned a master’s degree at Seton Hall University and then landed at Penn Museum, which is dedicated to ongoing cross-cultural discovery. Its exhibitions and events welcome visitors to uncover the mystery of the ancient past, something with which Fox has become quite familiar. At Ursinus, she says, “I got a lot out of the core curriculum and learned how to think critically. I was able to gain a perspective I am now applying to my field.”



TEDDI CAPUTO & DANIELLA STATUTI Art isn’t simply created on a canvas or shaped into sculpture. There’s complexity to its collection and curation as well, something intimately familiar to Teddi Caputo ’18 and Daniella Statuti ’18. “Curating is, in some ways, a visual essay. An argument is made and the artwork—and how it is displayed—is the evidence,” says Caputo, who, during her senior year at Ursinus, drew upon the extensive permanent collection at the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art to create Something to Wait For: The Art of the Seasons. For both students, research and writing, as well as the ability to curate their own exhibitions, led to a more holistic approach to their art education and informed their own art. As part of Ursinus’s museum studies course, Caputo—a curation virtuoso—and Statuti—a collections specialist—helped launch the first solo museum exhibition for Philadelphia artist Natessa Amin. They also worked hand-in-hand with Justin Favela on the painstakingly detailed The Valley of Oaxaca, a site-specific mural using pińata paper that covered the walls of the Berman’s Pfeiffer Wing. “We often discuss how the meaning of artwork can change when hung in a gallery and how each viewer’s opinion will be different, but contribute to the overall meaning of that artwork,” Statuti says. “Learning about the ways these artists pushed the boundaries definitely encouraged me to take more risks in my own artwork.” The two Ursinus grads agree that being an artist is about learning the value of collaboration and building a community. Caputo adds, “Curating taught me that the choices I make are valuable and I have ideas worth putting out into the world. I’ve only grown as an artist since this experience.”




CREATIVE WRITING “Soon I’ll find the right words, and they will be very simple.” —Jack Kerouac, Some of the Dharma Jon Volkmer, director of creative writing at Ursinus, often finds himself echoing Kerouac’s sentiment. “Simple clarity is an elusive goal,” he says. “We tend to clutter up our writing with too many words. Learning what to take out is at least as important as inventing what to put in.” Writing can be a slow and solitary experience. Thanks to several writing-centered groups, it’s less


so at Ursinus. Weekly readings and critiques are hosted by the literary society, or Lit Soc. Informal sessions take place in the Writing and Arts House on Main Street, a special interest (SPINT) house on campus. In the Center for Writing and Speaking, students meet with peers to help draft and revise writing projects and oral presentations. But Volkmer insists there’s no substitute for one-on-one interaction. “Every instructor in the creative writing program and in the English department sets aside time to meet with each student

individually. We address the writing in specific and detailed ways. The student emerges overflowing with ideas and takes pride from the undeniable step forward of the next draft.” The Lantern, the annual literary magazine, presents student works across a spectrum of genres, along with a color insert for visual arts, in a beautiful, high-quality publication. Volkmer describes the contents as “diverse, brave and sometimes raw.” “I love the authenticity of the voices,” Volkmer says. “There are works of dazzling inventiveness and works torn straight from the heart. It’s a great showcase for the talent of Ursinus students. It’s

also competitive. To have work published in The Lantern means lot on this campus.” One of the foundations of the Ursinus creative writing program is a $40,000 scholarship awarded to an incoming first-year student with a colorful perspective and an original voice. Recipients live their first two semesters in the very room once occupied by J.D. Salinger for the year that he was an Ursinus student. “Living in that room is quite an honor,” Volkmer says. “It’s something no other school can offer. But that’s not the main point of the award. It attracts a wide variety of students who have one thing in common: they are serious about their art.”

“Our writing community is built on the kinship and shared purpose of the diverse group of students who respect that intensity in each other,” he says. It’s a community that does not end with a diploma. Graduates are invited back to read their work and talk about their experiences. The prize-winners for each issue of The Lantern are chosen by alumni judges. “There’s room for tremendous individuality for each writer that enrolls here,” Volkmer says, “but there’s also a lot of support. As a teacher, you learn that sometimes you have to step in and provide a guiding hand, and sometimes...” He shrugs. “Sometimes, you just have to get out of the way.”



M. NZADI KEITA “The unlikely, the incongruous, the oppositional, the untraceable, the unspoken—these are often the points of witness that launch my writing,” says M. Nzadi Keita, Ursinus’s eminent poet and scholar.


Keita blends cultural history into her writing, which has been published in various journals and anthologies, including A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South and Confirmation: An Anthology of African-American Women. Her prose appears in Peace Is a Haiku Song, a collaboration with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Project. “Birds, public transportation, standing in line, photography, literary characters and the rapid gentrification of Philadelphia are particular agents of my inspiration,” says Keita, who ran a memoir writing workshop, the Toni Cade Bambara Germantown Stories Project,

that served adults and youth with ties to the Germantown section of Philadelphia. In June 2017 she was named one of 12 Pew Fellows by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. The fellows are selected from local artists whose work range from film and media to landscape architecture. The author of Brief Evidence of Heaven: Poems from the Life of Anna Murray Douglass, Keita’s poems imagine how free-born, illiterate Anna Murray Douglass, the wife of Frederick Douglass, saw the world as an independent woman, mother and an abolitionist in her own right. “I found her life to be incredibly poetic ... a mix of tragedy and

mystery and unique placement,” Keita says. “I was intrigued by the fact that there was almost nothing written about her.” “As a writer and a scholar, I’m interested in black women’s experiences in periods of struggle in particular, and dialogue on race and gender, whether we’re talking about the 19th century or the late 20th century,” she says. “Anna met Frederick when he was still enslaved. He was hired to work on the docks in Baltimore. This is when he started really getting caught up in the idea of escaping … and she gave him money. She sold some of her possessions and helped him develop a disguise. She was pivotal in his actual escape. I couldn’t resist. This project begged to be done.”


ANASTASIA DZIEKAN “There is an art to flying, or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.” —The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “It’s my favorite quote from my favorite series,” says Anastasia Dziekan ’22. “The first time I read it, I thought it was hilarious, but the more I think about it, I interpret it as, in order to succeed spectacularly, you have to be willing to set yourself up to fail spectacularly.” An Ursinus creative writing scholarship

recipient, Dziekan’s writing is taking flight.

“I like to make specific observations about the people I interact with and the things that I see,” she says, noting her love of science fiction, fantasy and comic books. “I file it away in my mind and then incorporate it into a piece that I write later. And even if I’m writing a poem, I’ll incorporate weird metaphors or sources of weird fiction.” She says Ursinus has exposed her to different writing styles that broaden her view of what’s possible, from creative nonfiction to poetry and even screenwriting. “There’s this huge depth of creativity that sets you up for more advanced writing.”



QUINN GILMANFORLINI As an Ursinus alumna who made her way back to her alma mater as a lecturer in the English department, Quinn Gilman-Forlini ’15 has a unique perspective. Her journey began as a recipient of Ursinus’s Creative Writing Award, which gives students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live on campus in a residence hall of acclaimed Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger. “I wanted a school that recognized me for my writing and that’s how I found out about Ursinus—because of the scholarship,” GilmanForlini says. “I really am attached to this place. I felt inspired sitting at the desk in that room and looking out on the campus and thinking, ‘This was Salinger’s view.’” “Just having that history was really nice for me,” she says. The Ursinus scribe is redefining her relationship to the college now, breaking from the muscle memory of returning back to her student dorm after lunch, or heading to her next class and sitting at a desk instead of taking her new position at the podium in the front of the room. Her poetry is a way for her to test new limits with writing. “I want every word to matter beyond content—as sound, rhythm, connotation, symbol. As a poet, I’m interested in form and shape. I like to impose formal structures on myself and see how I can work within—and break—those rules,” she shares. One of her pieces, “Failed Sonnet with Implosion,” is a 14-line rhyming sonnet that is interrupted just before the final couplet by an amalgamation of disconnected thoughts all over the page, followed by the formal couplet. “I like to create my own forms and restraints, too. I tend to use a lot of mathematics and science in my poems, so I’ll write a poem in the form of a geometry proof, or a poem that uses the Fibonacci sequence as the number of lines in exponentially lengthening sections,” she says. Gilman-Forlini lets inspiration find her. While she will sometimes set rules for herself, each poem is a new experience. “Every poem I write starts in curiosity. I have no plan or agenda. I feel as if I’m writing toward an unanswerable question, and I’m not even sure what the question is. The poem tries to get closer to what that question might be.”






AN URSINUS SYMPHONY Every December, Messiah, George Frideric Handel’s oratorio composed in the 18th century, is performed in Ursinus College’s historic Bomberger Auditorium in front of a capacity audience of members of the campus and neighboring communities. It’s an Ursinus tradition that has continued for more than three-quarters of a century, with a professional orchestra, soloists and the elegance and power of the Heefner Memorial Organ. John French has conducted the masterpiece for four decades, nearly half of the time it has been performed at the college. “It’s a major undertaking; a huge piece of music. And it brings about a sense of community,” says French, the William F. Heefner Professor of Music at Ursinus. “Bomberger Auditorium is a perfect setting for that performance because it’s so intimate—probably close to what it was like when Handel performed it.” French conducts choir movements and plays the harpsichord throughout Messiah, a personal stamp on a traditional performance of the oratorio. When he began his teaching career at Ursinus, French was the only music instructor, along with a single theater professor and a single art professor. Reflecting back, he’s proud of how vibrant the arts culture has become at the college. “I take great pride in helping to shape what a music major at a liberal arts college should be,” he says. “The emphasis is not to develop individual prodigies who specialize in one instrument and go out on major concert stages or the international music scene. There’s nothing wrong with that. But what we have clearly done is develop a program focused specifically on music as a discipline—the history and the theory.” In 2019, the Ursinus College Choir and Meistersingers presented a retrospective on French’s 40-year career in Collegeville, featuring works inspired by his eclectic tastes. That performance was the last Ursinus College choral concert conducted by French. Included in the concert was a special commissioned work, Jubilate Deo, composed for the occasion by Philadelphia composer Kile Smith.

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ROSA ABRAHAMS Listening to music isn’t a passive act. If you’re nodding your head or drumming a pencil on a desk to the beat of a tune, or just letting loose on the dance floor at a party, the physical response to music is as much a part of the experience as simply listening. “Even if we don’t mean to do it, we synchronize with the music,” says Rosa Abrahams, an


assistant professor of music at Ursinus. “Studies have shown that if we’re just sitting and listening, our pulse will sync up with the beat.” Music theory is the study of the structure of music and how we understand it, but it goes beyond the notes on a page. “When I teach any theory class, the goal is to be able to get students to talk about their musical

experience, which is different if you’re listening, performing or composing,” says Abrahams, who encourages her students to not think of music as a simply auditory experience. “The physical reaction to music helps you articulate what music is.” Abrahams researches embodied experiences with music and in particular, ritual music in Jewish and Greek Orthodox settings. While there are still physical interactions with music used during prayer, it’s quite distinct from physical experiences with other types of music, she says. “Synchronization doesn’t always occur in these types of ritual settings,” Abrahams says. “People

sometimes sing and move in ways that look and seem out of sync. That goes against what cognitive psychology says should happen.” By asking questions like, “How do you move when you listen to music?” or “How do you move when you pray?” Abrahams is invested in helping the scholarly music community and practitioners understand these practices. Abrahams recently shared her research at the International Conference on Analytical Approaches to World Music in Thessaloniki, Greece, where she presented her paper, “But We’re Not in Zombie Mode: Meter and Selected Attention in Greek Orthodox Movement and Music.”


JULIAN SCHWARTZ To compose the perfect piece of music, you first must be willing to experiment. Fortunately, both of those things— composition and experimentation—come naturally to Julian Schwartz ’20, a double major in chemistry and music. “There are a lot of Baroque pieces where something—like a bassline or a harmony— stays the same, but everything you hear on top of it is always changing,” Schwartz says. “It’s repetitive, and the changes are not only what make it more interesting, but accessible to the listener.”

Schwartz received Ursinus’s Robert Rifkin Prize for Best Original Musical Composition for a Baroque-inspired three-minute string quartet that he composed and later performed during Ursinus’s annual Celebration of Student Achievement. The musician/chemist had been playing electric bass for five years, taking inspiration from his father, who played classical, jazz and world music. “I’m not sure I really appreciated it until a few years ago,” Schwartz said. “I took a history of western music class at Ursinus and I took music theory. I really got into it. I was inspired to compose this particular piece because of something we had been learning in class. I just began to play around a little.” The result, you might say, was perfect musical chemistry.

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DAVID NOLAN During his time as an Ursinus student, it wasn’t at all uncommon to find David Nolan ’14 in Bomberger Hall on a Saturday night practicing an instrument. He even recalls convincing his thengirlfriend (now his wife) to record a song there with him—a song they would eventually dance to at their wedding. “My time at Ursinus is the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing today,” says Nolan, director of music at George School in Newtown, Pa. “I was afforded opportunities to perform as a soloist with the jazz band and I may not have had that chance at a larger school. I was able to become an audio engineer. Professor John French drove me to grad school auditions and worked with me twice a week outside class time so that I could learn how to be a conductor. He also gave me an opportunity to conduct the Meistersingers in concert.” “Ursinus allowed me to take advantage of everything,” Nolan says. “I was hooked. It was the openness of the education and the access to professors who were willing to share their experiences with you that allowed me to succeed.” When he came to Ursinus in 2010, music was not yet an academic major at Ursinus. Nolan started out as a psychology major willing to take advantage of as many musical opportunities as possible—opportunities that allowed him to earn a master’s degree at Butler University’s Jordan College of the Arts. He now oversees the music lessons program at George School and serves as conductor and music director for its community chorus. He also teaches string ensemble, vocal ensemble and directs the school’s musicals. Nolan’s lessons learned at Ursinus are very much a part of his own teaching. “My underlying musical philosophy and my pedagogical approach stems directly from my Ursinus experience,” he says. “We can tell a story through our music and I make sure my students are acutely aware of not just how we do it, but why—what we’re singing about, what music we’re making and how it makes an impact on who’s listening.” “You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do in music in order to find your calling at Ursinus,” he says. “You’re going to get a comprehensive education and experiences that will guide you along the way.”

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THE ART OF THE BERMAN MUSEUM The Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art is an American Alliance of Museums (AAM) accredited institution located on Ursinus’s 170-acre campus. A modestly sized museum, the Berman serves a student body of 1,500 students and the surrounding suburban Philadelphia communities.


The Berman is an artistic refuge—a place of delicate contemplation, critical reflection and investigation of the new. Students at Ursinus have the unique opportunity to work at the Berman, being offered insight into the art and museum worlds, which often exclude those who do not have advanced degrees or


Dina Wind: St ainless 1981-1 994 (Spring 2018)

Justin Favela : Re/Presentin g México: José María Velasco and the Politic s of Paper (Fall 2018)

Matthias Scha ller: Das Meist erstück (The Masterpie ce) (Fall 2018)

Kate Gilmore: Hard Work: Ea rly Videos by Kat e Gilmore (Winter 2019)

Adam DelMar celle: Bearing Witnes s (Spring 2019)

years of experience and training. With a small staff of only four employees, student workers are integral to the Berman’s day-to-day operations— they are the backbone of the museum, working as receptionists, gallery monitors, and collections and curator’s assistants. There is no typical day at the Berman Museum. As a student worker, one might spend time in the collections vaults combing through countless paintings (maybe even catching a glance at a work by a famous artist, such as Andy Warhol or Pablo Picasso); climb on top of one of the 75 contemporary outdoor sculptures to clean them; help a visiting artist install their work; or attend an artist lecture. At times it may feel as though

there are no limits to what can be learned and what new things can be experienced; the beauty of a contemporary art museum is that it is always changing—reimagining itself as even better than when it was last seen. At times, what is most sacred about a museum is the idea of the collective witness. To share in the experience of seeing, feeling and thinking amongst fellow students, colleagues and community members touches us in ways almost indescribable. When exhibitions open, the Berman becomes an unforgettable place of community and celebration. As Ursinus celebrates its 150th anniversary

in 2019-2020, the Berman commemorates 30 years with a performance piece by artist Douglas Henderson called Music for 150 Carpenters, and an immersive sound piece by artist Stephanie Rowden. Other exhibitions include Science Fiction (July 2019) and a solo show of Philadelphia artist Virgil Marti (October 2020). The Berman’s eclectic collection is an important resource for teaching and outreach to both college and community audiences. Ensuring the integrity, preservation and interpretation of these artworks and artifacts for subsequent generations is an ongoing responsibility sustained in public trust.



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The Arts at Ursinus

Arts at Ursinus 2019 Oil on Canvas COM_040119 | 04/19

Melanie Lee ʼ19 Biology major Art minor

Annika Phillips ʼ20 XXXXXXXXX


From Left to Right: Anika Shah ʼ19 Anthropology & Sociology major

Profile for Erin Hovey

The Arts at Ursinus College  

Arts at Ursinus is a biennial Ursinus College magazine publication that demonstrates the vibrant performing arts, studio art and creative wr...

The Arts at Ursinus College  

Arts at Ursinus is a biennial Ursinus College magazine publication that demonstrates the vibrant performing arts, studio art and creative wr...

Profile for ursinus