Larger-Than-Life: Making Murals in Professor Gregory Thielker’s Advanced Painting Class by Scott Samuels

Junior Art Education major Scott Samuels wraps up the Spring 2014 semester in his latest blog post on the process behind his and his classmates’ 10-foot murals created in Professor Thielker’s Advanced Painting course. The TCNJ student exhibition Young Galaxy is currently on display at ARTWORKS Trenton now through Saturday, May 3, 2014

ArtworksMurals1smIn Professor Gregory Thielker’s Advanced Painting class, we have spent the last month creating four 10-foot murals for the side of the ARTWORKS Visual Arts Center in downtown Trenton, NJ. Bringing these large-scale paintings into existence meant engaging in activities absent from traditional painting classes but integral to the creation of public art, like meeting with members of the local community and asking area businesses for donations. The mission of ARTWORKS is to “promote artistic diversity by fostering creativity, learning, and appreciation of the arts.” Essentially, ARTWORKS builds community by offering art classes, exhibitions, and events, making art accessible to everyone.

ArtworksMurals3The first phase of our intellectual process was meeting with various local figures at TCNJ’s Trenton classroom. Included in the forum were Lauren Otis and Addison Vincent, two artists working at ARTWORKS, as well as Trenton-based Derrick Branch and Michael Kember. Organized by Professor Thielker, this meeting of minds was designed to give us an idea of the pulse of Trenton, inspire our artmaking, and kick-start the design process. Over the following week, each member of the class produced seven mural designs that would be critiqued and nominated for placement on the wall.

artworksmurals4My group chose a digitally-rendered design produced by Ashley Garguilo, which depicts local muralist and activist Will “Kasso” Condry gazing down a Trenton street. The buildings are illustrated in bright, rainbow hues, suggesting that where others simply see a dilapidated structure, Kasso sees a blank canvas. With our design chosen, we wrote a printed proposal that would serve as an introduction to and overview of our mural. Included in this document were the date and location of installation, a small image of the artwork, and a brief background on what a mural is. We also explained a bit about ARTWORKS Trenton, and listed exactly what supplies we needed so we could distribute the proposal to local stores. With several copies of the proposal in hand, we visited the Jerry’s Artarama of Princeton to explain our project and ask for donations, whereupon the Outreach Director Lisa Thomas was generous enough to let us have eight large tubs of acrylic paint.

Our artistic process commenced with a trip to Home Depot, where each group purchased four 5’x3’ cement boards, for a final dimension of 10’x6’. We primed the front, back, and sides of the boards, then used a digital projector to trace each quarter of the design onto the panels. We printed each quadrant of the design in color on large paper to use as a color reference, and began mixing paint, filling in the shapes like a paint-by-number. In two short yet very busy weeks, the mural was complete, and we painted our names and sponsor at the bottom, then coated the panels with a thick layer of glossy varnish to protect against weathering and ultraviolet light.

Kasso muralWhen it came to installation, our dedicated professor attached wood frames to the ARTWORKS building’s brick façade, into which we screwed the mural panels. This was by far the most unnerving stage of the process, as a crew of five people lifted the heavy cement boards one at a time on a tall ladder and screwed them in amidst a steady wind. Besides the weight of the boards, the most difficult task was lining the panels up precisely so that the paintings flowed seamlessly from one to the next. Needless to say, our mural project was a unique and fascinating learning experience, which exposed us to topics and activities we would not have seen in a normal painting class. The murals are part of the Young Galaxy exhibition currently up at ARTWORKS, which features fresh works from TCNJ’s advanced students, including drawings, videos, sculptures, and installations. The show will be up through May 3rd, and I strongly encourage all who can to stop in and visit. You will know you are in the right place when you see four vibrant murals jump out at you.

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Theater as the Integrated Performing Arts by Shannon McGovern

Have you heard about the School of the Arts and Communication’s new Integrated Performing Arts minor? Find out everything you need to know from Shannon McGovern in her latest blog post below! For more information about the minor, please visit www.tcnj.edu/ipa.

Shannon McGovern is a junior Music student, with minors in Integrated Performing Arts and Management. She is a member of All College Theatre, Alpha Psi Omega, the TCNJ Chorale, and The Mixed Signals Improv troupe. She is looking forward to baking soufflés and cookies with her younger siblings over Spring Break.

At the end of last semester, I changed my major and added on 2 minors. As a Junior at TCNJ, this was one of the scariest decisions I have ever made. I switched from the Bachelor of Music in Music Education degree to a Bachelor of Arts in Music with minors in Management and Integrated Performing Arts. Though it was a terrifying decision to make, I am so excited to be studying things that I’m really, truly interested in — the main subject of which is theater.

When I first found out there wasn’t a specific route for studying theater at TCNJ, I was a little disappointed. However, after becoming a part of the Integrated Performing Arts minor (henceforth known as IPA), I realize this interdisciplinary minor is more valuable than a theater minor would ever be.

The IPA minor resulted when the Theatre and Drama Interdisciplinary minor was updated and renamed in Spring 2012. The goal of the IPA program “is to offer students an expanded experience in performance techniques using the various disciplines in the School and in the College.” There are requirements for Theory/History/Literature, Applied Music, Visual Arts/Interactive Multimedia, and Applied Theatre, Dance, and Production. Within the IPA minor, I have taken voice lessons, studied a little bit of computer programming, learned about art history, made a fool of myself in my hip-hop dance class, and have had more fun than I ever thought possible. I have a new appreciation for all of these realms of art and performance, and have realized that I can do most of these things to a passable degree.

The amazing part, is that all of these “different” arts inform and grow off of each other. When I’m learning a new song for my voice studio, I find symbols in the text that are commonly discussed in art history. During my dance class, I find myself applying my knowledge of music history to that of the development of ballet. Everything is interrelated in the arts, and you can’t truly master one without the knowledge of the others.

When you think about it, theater is the ultimate product of all that knowledge — it combines all aspects of art into one cohesive experience. In that case, doesn’t it make sense that I study the visual arts, music, acting, literature, and dance if my final goal is to continue creating theater? I know that the knowledge I am discovering in the classroom is improving my skills as a performer/collaborator/audience member in the theater. I feel very at home studying the Integrated Performing Arts, and I bet that if you love art in any form, you will as well. So if you’re trying to figure out what to do for those elective classes, why not talk to your advisor and think about taking up the minor? I promise it’ll be a lot of fun.

If you’re interested in any of the TCNJ student-run theater organizations, theater, switching your major, or the IPA minor or have any questions, feel free to email me at mcgoves1@tcnj.edu. Students may also contact any of the coordinators for the program: Terry Byrne (Associate Professor of Communication Studies, byrneter@tcnj.edu), James Day (Assistant Dean of The School of the Arts & Communication, day@tcnj.edu) or Robert McMahan (Professor of Music, mcmahan@tcnj.edu) for academic advisement regarding the minor.

For more information about the IPA minor, please visit www.tcnj.edu/ipa.

Leaving the Nest by Stephanie Schoppe, Graduating Senior

Stephanie Schoppe, Communication Studies major, will graduate from TCNJ at the end of this Fall semester. We thank Stephanie for sharing advice, her experiences, and her study abroad trip to South Africa with us! Please read her farewell post for The School of the Arts & Communication blog. Congratulations to Stephanie and all TCNJ students graduating this December!

“Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” This is a quote that my generation is very familiar with. It invokes a feeling that, even when you leave a place that holds so many memories for you, when you come back it feels like you never left. Leaving that place may be a little bit scary, of course. But while you’re gone, it’ll be there, filled with people ready to hug you and say, “Welcome back.”

This feeling is all too real for me at the moment. This is my final semester as a TCNJ student. I didn’t feel the despair and dread that comes with the registration period. I won’t be here to experience coming back from winter break in January and catching up on how everyone’s break was. Next semester someone else will be living in my room at my house. These things and more, whether I like it or not, are happening, and they’re happening faster than I really want them too.

I’m currently in the process of applying to grad schools. Whenever I work on my applications, I’m taken back to four years ago when I was applying to undergrad schools. The process was so exciting then. “I get to go to college and meet people from all over the state and I get to experience the typical college life and I’ll be away from my parents and it’ll be great!” And it was. It absolutely was. Fast-forward to today, and I still feel that way about applying to grad schools. Only now it’s a teensy bit bittersweet.

These four and a half years, I’ve done things I never thought I’d get to do. I got to act in plays. I got to sit front row to see some of my favorite comedians perform. I got to study in another country not once but twice; I’m going to London in January, which I’ve neglected to mention in my posts until now (sorry). I got to sing with people from Japan. I made a difference in the world just by baking really cool-looking cupcakes. And I got to witness the initial outrage over our now beloved, shiny, and colorful balls.

Do I have advice for my friends who are graduating in May? I do. Don’t worry about it. I have to tell myself that at least once every single day. The more you panic about getting a good grade on the GREs or the LSATs or getting a job right out of school, the more you’ll stress and burn yourself out, and trust me, you don’t want to do that. Don’t overstress yourself so much that you forget to enjoy your final semester as a TCNJ Lion. Go to the C-Store, buy a lot of ice cream, and watch a bad movie with your friends. Listen to your iPod and take a walk by the lakes. Then go sit by the lakes and just be in that moment. Do something as simple as taking a nice, two-hour nap one day. You’ve worked so hard the last four years, and you deserve to enjoy every moment before you leave here.

To the freshmen coming up on completing their first semester of college, you don’t need to have anything figured out now. I’ve heard some of my friends who are freshmen worry about graduating in four years and about what they want to do with your life. It’s okay to not have that figured out now. If you worry about what’s after college, you won’t enjoy what’s going on in college now. Explore a little. Join a club you’d never think to join. Take classes in a variety of departments if you can. Don’t spend all your time worrying about what to do after graduation. You’ve got four years to do that. Also, not graduating on time isn’t as bad as it sounds. Speaking from personal experience, it’s really, totally fine.

To conclude my final blog post as a TCNJ student, TCNJ has been my second home for 4 1/2 years. It feels weird to leave; you’re not supposed to leave your home, right? Some of my best friends are here, and will still be here when I leave. I’m not ready to leave now, and I probably won’t be ready to leave in December. But I know if I need to, I can always come back to TCNJ, where there will be students and professors here ready to welcome me home.