Articles tagged with: community engagement

  • Student-run podcast provides guidance, inspiration for future artists

    The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts in downtown St. Catharines is home to the student-run podcast, Dear Marilyn, named in honour of the late textile artist and philanthropist.

    Originally published in The Brock News | TUESDAY, APRIL 12, 2022 | by 

    What started as a passion project for two Brock University students in search of career tips has become a robust podcast series providing invaluable insight to the next generation of creators.

    Produced for students by students, the popular podcast Dear Marilyn is now in its second season of connecting the student community with professional artists, with plans to continue production on an ongoing basis.

    Created in 2021 by Dramatic Arts (DART) students Danielle Letourneau and Luca D’Amico, the podcast name honours celebrated textile artist, philanthropist and arts advocate Marilyn I. Walker. In 2008, Walker made a historic donation to Brock that led to the creation of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA).

    Letourneau, the podcast’s producer who is now in her fourth year of study with a concentration in Drama and Education and minor in History, says that she has often felt anxiety about entering theatre as a profession.

    “I started this podcast to give students like myself a resource for practical job advice,” Letourneau said. “The arts industry is not always considered the most conventional career path, but we do it because this is what we love; the arts nurture our souls.”

    Supported by Dean Carol Merriam of the Faculty of Humanities through the Dean’s Discretionary Fund in 2021, the Associate Dean of Fine and Performing Arts and MIWSFPA department Chairs, the Dear Marilyn team invites local and surrounding artists from a range of artistic disciplines to share their stories.

    Co-hosts Hayley Bando, a second-year Dramatic Arts major with a concentration in Production and Design, and Chloe Racho, a third-year Music major with a minor in French Studies, are thrilled to be part of the project.

    “We are honoured to help bring these diverse perspectives about professional journeys in the arts to the Brock community,” Bando said.

    Recent podcast guests include actor, writer and producer Thet Win, voice actor Keegan Vaillancourt and singer-songwriter Glenn Marais.

    MIWSFPA faculty have been supportive since day one, with Karen Fricker, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts, championing the podcast idea in its early stages.

    “I was happy to support Dear Marilyn initially because it’s a great idea, and a positive student-led project during the hard time of the pandemic,” she said. “I looked forward to each episode and was entertained and educated by the hosts’ sparky exchanges with guests.”

    DART Associate Professor Gyllian Raby guided the grant proposal for Dear Marilyn resulting in the expansion of the podcast to include all four departments at the downtown arts campus (Dramatic Arts, Music, Visual Arts and Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture).

    “What’s not to like about Dear Marilyn? It relates directly to our mission to create experiential, professionalized learning for students producing, hosting, editing and broadcasting,” Raby said. “And, it’s entertaining and insightful.”

    DART Associate Professor Danielle Wilson has been working with the team on the second season. Episodes are edited by Alex Sykes, a fourth-year DART student with a concentration in Production and Design.

    Available on Spotify, the next episode goes live this week. For the latest news, follow Dear Marilyn on Instagram.

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    Categories: Current Students, Faculty & Instructors, Future Students, News, Uncategorised

  • STAC and VISA students explore curation with arts industry experts

    Brock University students from the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture (STAC) and Visual Arts (VISA) at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) are having important conversations with arts professionals around the curatorial function of museums, galleries, and cultural organizations.

    Students enrolled in STAC/VISA 3P42 Methods and Principles of Curating will be participating in a field trip to the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum and upcoming classroom discussions with professionals from the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Yale University Art Gallery.

    The events are led by Instructor Sonya de Lazzer, Gallery Coordinator at the Visual Arts Gallery & Student Exhibition Space at the MIWSFPA. Sonya is an alumni of the Visual Arts Program at Brock (BA Honours). In 2013, she obtained her M.A. in Art History from University at Buffalo, The State University of New York and is currently completing her PhD in Art and Visual Culture at Western University. Sonya brings extensive experience from the museum and art gallery world, where she worked as a Programming and Curatorial Assistant at a local art gallery and museum for several years, developing her exhibition writing and installation skillsets.


    Upcoming class events (not open to the public):

    March 7 – Exploring Experiences: Conversations Around Curating
    Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum: Shawna Butts, Assistant Curator & Education Programming
    Students will be toured through the historical society and view current exhibitions and learn about the way in which these sites collect and care for their collection(s).

    March 21 – Exploring Experiences: Conversations Around Curating
    Nick Clemens, Preparator, Royal Ontario Museum
    Preparator and museum professional Nick Clemens will be joining the classroom to share his many experiences working with art/artefacts/objects at the Royal Ontario Museum. The class will explore the need for mindfulness and respect for the object as it relates to the curatorial practice, and the care that goes into curating and presenting a work to an audience.

    March 28 – Exploring Experiences: Conversations Around Curating
    Where Collections Live: Roksana Filipowska PhD, Wurtele Study Center Programs and Outreach Manager, Yale university Art Gallery
    Dr. Roksana Filipowska joins the classroom for a virtual exploration and conversation on open and visible storage. Filipowska works as Programs and Outreach Manager at the Wurtele Study Centre, Yale University Art Gallery. Students will engage in discussing the importance of collection visibility, as well as learn about the many challenges that many collections face regarding storage.

    These events are supported by an Experiential Education grant from the Co-op, Career & Experiential Education Office.

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    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Events, Faculty & Instructors, Future Students, News, Uncategorised

  • Brock community members nominated for St. Catharines Arts Awards

    Image caption: Artists and Instructors from Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts Curtis Tye (left) and Barbara Worthy (right) are among the nominees for the 2021 St. Catharines Arts Awards.

    Originally published in The Brock News WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2021 | by 

    The City of St. Catharines is gearing up to celebrate the local arts scene and those who champion it — including members of the Brock community.

    Among the City’s recently released nominees for the 2021 St. Catharines Arts Awards are several individuals and one group who are connected to the University.

    Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) instructors Curtis Tye and Barbara Worthy were nominated for the Arts in Education Award and Making a Difference Award, respectively.

    Other Brock nominees include alumna and musician Kathryn Sinopoli (BA ’13, BEd ’13), who received the nod for the Emerging Artist Award, and social, economic and environmental justice organization OPIRG Brock and retired Visual Arts faculty member Jean Bridge, who were both nominated for the Making a Difference Award.

    Tye, who has been an Instructor with the Department of Dramatic Arts (DART) since 2013, is honoured to be nominated for the second year in a row in for the Arts in Education Award, which celebrates individuals and groups committed to engaging residents through arts education.

    “I have always believed learning through the arts is a collective endeavour — there is no single individual that makes that successful,” he said. “I am someone who helps facilitate group and collective success, and I believe in a common goal for learning.”

    Tye currently teaches DART 2P21 Drama in Education II and DART IP95 Creative Play for Education. Along with teaching and a successful career as a corporate public speaking and leadership coach, Tye also serves as a committee member for Brock’s Social Justice Research Institute.

    Worthy, a MIWSFPA Instructor famous for her energetic class warm-ups and always having her little white dog at her side, has taught in DART since 2006 and teaches at the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture. Currently, Worthy is teaching DART 3P92 Scriptwriting, to students in the Dramatic Arts, English and Creative Writing, Film and GAME programs. An experienced creative producer and writer, Worthy is also thrilled to be a part of the awards celebration.

    A former longtime producer for CBC Toronto and former actor with Shaw Festival, Worthy’s teaching philosophy is informed by her professional career in the arts and a strong belief in the importance of experiential learning.

    “What truly makes a difference to communities everywhere is the power of art, the power of drama and the power of the written word,” Worthy said. “Making a difference to me means providing students with access to the real world, specifically their local communities, where they can truly experience the arts for themselves.”

    The St. Catharines Arts Awards will be presented online Sunday, Nov. 21, livestreamed from the stage of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre (PAC).

    “The city’s cultural and artistic community has exploded in recent years — there are so many diverse voices and visions out there,” said Kathleen Powell, the City’s Acting Supervisor of Cultural Services. “These nominees represent some of the best our community has to offer, world-class talents who call St. Catharines home and step up to build a community we can all be proud of.”

    For more information about the arts awards and how to view the celebration, visit the City of St. Catharines website.

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    Categories: Announcements, Events, Faculty & Instructors, In the Media, Media Releases, News, Uncategorised

  • Much work to be done on live theatre’s road to recovery, says Brock prof

    Editor’s note: The following article tells about the challenges, enthusiasm for, and success in relaunching the performing arts in the Niagara Region, now 18 months into the pandemic. Students of the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture may register for the course taught by Professor Fricker, DART 1P91 Introduction to Theatre and Performance, as part of their degree program.


    (above) Brock Dramatic Arts graduate Amanda McDonnell (BA ’15), who is part of the front of house team at the Shaw Festival, welcomed audiences back this summer.

    THURSDAY, AUGUST 26, 2021 | by 

    After 17 months, the live theatrical experience is slowly making its return — but not without challenges ahead, says Brock theatre expert Karen Fricker.

    “Amidst the adversity that live performing arts have been faced with through the pandemic, a wonderful thing has happened this summer: the return of live theatrical performance, because it has been able to be outside,” says the Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Officer in Dramatic Arts (DART), who is an expert in theatre criticism, theatre theory and contemporary theatre.

    The Shaw and Stratford Festivals, two of Ontario’s most celebrated repertory companies, have been staging performances outdoors under canopies (tents with no walls) with mandatory masks for audiences in addition to capacity limits in accordance with provincial guidance. Both festivals are taking audience, artist and staff safety seriously, with COVID-19 protocols in place, says Fricker, who is also a theatre critic for the Toronto Star, writing about performances in the city as well as the Shaw and Stratford Festivals each summer.

    Although these outdoor performances do not come close to hosting the usual number of spectators, Fricker says this is a “big step in the right direction.”

    “Artists are being paid and creativity is happening,” she says, adding that while “innovative digital work has been heroic during the pandemic, experiencing live performances in a shared space is a joyous return.”

    Brock’s Dramatic Arts Department engages with the Shaw Festival in numerous ways, including the annual DART/Shaw internship and course-based experiences with Shaw artists and arts workers. A number of DART students and graduates work at the festival in front of house, producing and administration, and creative capacities.

    Seeing some of those familiar faces at Shaw this summer has been a particular highlight, Fricker says.

    While outdoor performances are a step in the right direction, Fricker says there is still more work to do. There will be limited live, in-person programming in the performing arts sector this fall, mainly due to unclear guidance from the provincial government around reopening, she says.

    In the early summer, the performing arts industry lobbied the government to address live performances in the official stages of reopening. Now that the performing arts have been included, companies have been able to plan. However, “you can’t just lift a theatre production off in a few weeks; you need a runway,” Fricker says.

    Colleen Smith, Executive Director of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre (PAC) adjacent to Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, says the team at the PAC has experienced these challenges first-hand.

    “Never did any of us whose lives revolve around bringing together artists and audiences believe that we would witness the end of the age-old adage, ‘the show must go on,’” she says. “In fact, the show stopped for months at a time. It’s been an unbelievable period of disruption, heartache and loss of purpose for so many artists and arts workers.”

    Smith says that “buoyed by our partners at the City of St. Catharines and Brock University, as well as the support from our Board of Directors, we have used the first half of 2021 to develop a three-year recovery strategy that will place the PAC firmly within our community as a centre for creative and artistic experiences and learning.”

    The PAC is planning a gradual return, starting with the annual Celebration of Nations gathering, which will be in a hybrid format in September.

    Among the local theatre organizations taking important steps to make innovative work and engage the public in Niagara safely is the young people’s theatre company Carousel Players, which is focusing on new play development in August and September.

    “We are experimenting with a range of forms, including clown, puppetry and mask,” says Artistic Director and Brock graduate Monica Dufault (MA ’11). “We want to offer new pieces that are dynamic and theatrically alive when we meet our audiences again.”

    The company will present an outdoor performance, The Giant Puppet Party, for Culture Days in October, a new digital play for ages 12 to 17 called Meet Chloe starting in November, and a school touring production of The Velveteen Rabbit for ages four to seven in March 2022.

    Suitcase in Point, another St. Catharines-based theatre company, recently announced the launch of a reimagined In the Soil Arts Festival running Friday, Aug. 27 to Saturday, Sept. 25. The festival includes opportunities to see live, original theatre, new music, comedy acts, installations and participatory workshops. All-inclusive festival passes are available for purchase online.

    DART graduate Deanna Jones (BA ’02), the Artistic Director of Suitcase in Point and In the Soil, says the limits of the last 17 months have been a “unique test on our arts organization and the arts community at large.”

    “We knew this 13th edition of our annual In the Soil Arts Festival would be different, and we were determined to find inspired ways to get off of our screens and offer artists and audiences safe ways to connect — in person.”

    During In the Soil, artists from Essential Collective Theatre will be set up on James and St. Paul Street interviewing community members about their pandemic experiences. Working on this initiative are DART graduates Jordine de Guzman (BA ’20), Kristina Ojaperv (BA ’19) and Ren Reid (BA ’20). The project will culminate in the Pandemic Stories Project, a new play to be read at St. Catharines’ Culture Days in early October.

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    Categories: Alumni, Announcements, Current Students, Events, Faculty & Instructors, Future Students, In the Media, Media Releases, News, Uncategorised