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.

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Review of TCNJ Art Gallery’s Featured Exhibition: Video Cubano, by Scott Samuels

Please welcome Scott Samuels, a junior studying Art Education and Spanish, to the TCNJ School of the Arts & Communication blog! Scott reviewed the TCNJ Art Gallery’s featured exhibition, Video Cubano, which is on display now through December 15, 2013. See what Scott’s reactions were, and be sure to check out this free exhibition for yourself before the end of the semester!

Scott Samuels

Scott Samuels, Junior, Art Education and Spanish

Scott Samuels is a junior studying Art Education and Spanish.  His hobbies include painting, playing drums, tennis, and creative writing, and he is currently coaching the speech and debate team at Bridgewater-Raritan High School.

 Video Cubano:
What: Video Cubano, a collection of 22 videos from 18 Cuban artists
When: October 23 – December 15, 2013 (Gallery hours: Tues, Wed, & Thurs 12pm-7pm, Sun 1pm-3pm)
Where: TCNJ Art Gallery, AIMM Building, First Floor, Space 115
www.tcnj.edu/artgallery

Hamlet Lavastida (b. 1983), Reflexión, 2009. DVD 3:05, courtesy the artist and The 8th Floor.

Hamlet Lavastida (b. 1983), Reflexión, 2009. DVD 3:05, courtesy the artist and The 8th Floor.

The current exhibit in The College of New Jersey’s Art Gallery features videos by artists from our island neighbor to the south.  The goal of the show is to let Cuban art permeate the sometimes impenetrable wall that exists between Cuba and the United States, giving us a glimpse at life within the socialist state, and providing Cuban visionaries the opportunity to share their stories.

The exhibition’s official pamphlet contains a brief interview with one of the artists, Geandy Pavón, which sheds light on the power of art and anti-government sentiment in Cuba.  Pavón recalls that on the opening night of his first exhibition in 1988, a multitude of people showed up, including many who had no particular interest in art, simply because they had heard that the works “portrayed Castro and some of the issues that were taboo in the country at the time.”  But before the doors could open, the state authorities intervened, prohibiting the controversial works from being shown.  In response, the artists extricated their pieces and displayed them in a well-lit storefront, an act which became “a public catharsis” for scores of frustrated Cuban citizens who could not freely and openly express their political views.

Geandy Pavón’s contribution to Video Cubano is a piece called “Timing Revolutions,” in which we see a pair of hands folding a photograph of a fatally wounded Ché Guevara into an origami elephant, perhaps signifying a Hinduism-inspired reincarnation of ideals.  Sandra Ramos gives us a heart-pounding relay race, or “Carrera de Relevo” in which hand-drawn, cartoony figures pass a green baton inside a cavernous stadium filled with roaring fans.  The baton starts off in the hands of a Renaissance prince, who runs it to Uncle Sam, who passes it to Hitler, then to Lenin, and then to Fidel Castro, who, being shot by an unseen bullet, collapses and tosses the baton precariously to a young girl dressed in pink.  Ramos’s animation suggests the notion that, after an age of shifting political ideologies, the power of the idea is finally in the hands of the people.

Jeosviel Abstengo-Chaviano’s “Prendas Corpus” is a series of clips where various individuals (whose faces are off-screen) strap slabs of raw meat onto different parts of their bodies, trying to assimilate the extra flesh in order to smuggle it to their destination.  “Concierto” by Analía Amaya is a beautiful rendition of nighttime scenes in Cuban neighborhoods, in which the vistas are built piece-by-piece to a moving classical score reminiscent of the climax of a dramatic film.  And Alexandre Arrechea’s “Making Room” features a split screen: on the right a wrecking ball demolishes a historical building in black and white, while simultaneously on the left, a dark-skinned man dons multiple pairs of pants in an ambience of electronic trance music.

One of the more powerful videos is “La Ronda” by Adonis Flores, in which a Cuban soldier dressed in camouflage prowls the streets of an affluent city on all fours, wearing five-fingered black rubber boots on his hands to match the conventional boots on his feet.  Onlookers cautiously move out of the way as he struggles by, some staring with curiosity and others aghast.  A symbolically loaded piece comes from Amilkar Feria Flores, whose work “Tengo una idea” shows a hand lighting a match against a black background.  The match then ignites a row of tiny human figures standing arm in arm, whose heads are themselves made of matches which promptly burst into flames, signifying the incendiary spread of ideas and the potentially destructive aftermath.

“Invencible” by Ricardo Miguel Hernandez is a frantic scene of shaky handycam footage showing a man darting behind barricades, tossing Molotov cocktails at an unseen enemy.  We are immersed in the din of explosions, helicopters, gunfire, and sirens, yet when the character finally gazes out from behind a rusty barrel, we see that there is no assault, just an empty field in front of him.  Finally, “Diglosia” by Ernesto Leal is a compilation of words filmed from different billboards, signs, and advertisements, which form the sentences of a political discourse.  The words come from different public places throughout Cuba; some seem old and withered, some are new, some zoom in or out, others are out of focus.  At the outset of the video, Leal provides a definition of the term “diglosia,” which represents the divergence of the two forms of a language, one written and one spoken.  When we interpret this definition in the context of the piece, we realize that a duality is set up between the language of pro-government propaganda, and the actual conversations that take place in Cuban homes regarding the country’s social and political situation.  One of the (translated) phrases reads, “Today’s Cuban no longer believes in the happy utopia of a supreme and immortal socialism.”  We see that a widening disparity exists between the communist party’s constructed public image and the living opinions floating in the minds of the Cuban people.

The works of Video Cubano are the vehicles of dissemination for a generation of artists acting as the leaders of a new ideological movement.  Through their images and sound, these artists aim to illuminate diverse perspectives, influence the world’s perception of Cuban society, and fight for the right of the Cuban people to be global citizens.

Video Cubano Opening

Opening reception of Video Cubano, a collection of 22 videos from 18 Cuban artists

Blogging the Brown Bag Series: Round Two by Katharine Callahan

Katharine Callahan, freshman Communication Studies major, reports on the variety of this semester’s Brown Bag Series. Find out more about these special guest presentations, and be sure to catch the last two of the semester in the Mayo Concert Hall, Friday, Nov. 15 and 22, 11:30am to 12:20pm! Bring your lunch and relax!

Dr. Lucas Blair, Little Bird Games

Dr. Lucas Blair, Little Bird Games

Unfortunately I was not able to attend the brown bag on October eleventh, Little Bird Games, which was presented by Dr. Lucas Blair, as I had a schedule conflict with an event I had to attend. However, if you would like to learn more about Dr. Blair’s company, Little Bird Games, which specializes in making educational and therapeutic video, board, and card games, I have attached a link to the company’s website here.

Jeffry Cudlin, Imposters, Interlocutors, and Dilettantes

Jeffry Cudlin, “Imposters, Interlocutors, and Dilettantes”

Finishing up the Brown Bags for the month of October was Jeffry Cudlin with his presentation entitled, Imposters, Interlocutors, and Dilettantes.  Mr. Cudlin is an art curator, art critic, and artist himself. He has written art critiques for the Washington Post, Washington City Paper, and Sculpture Magazine, and worked previously as a curator for the Arlington Arts Center in Virginia. Mr. Cudlin is the first artist we have had present at TCNJ’s Brown Bag Series, and you can view his artwork and read about his process on his website. Mr. Cudlin’s work as an artist relies heavily on collaboration from other trusted artists, and generally takes the form of a parody that takes an awkward turn; especially in his works such as “The Request.”

TCNJ Wind Ensemble performing Dr. Stephen Gorbos's "Bounce"

TCNJ Wind Ensemble performing Dr. Stephen Gorbos’s “Bounce”

Another significant work discussed during TCNJ’s Brown Bag Series was Dr. Stephen Gorbos’s “Bounce,” a traditional string-instrumental piece selected by two separate New York City orchestras to be preformed. In his presentation entitled Inside a Composer’s Studio: The Process of Revising a Piece, Dr. Gorbos explains that a traditional string ensemble has a homogeneous sound, while wind ensembles have a heterogeneous sound; for that reason, Dr. Gorbos decided to adapt his work to be played by a wind ensemble. Dr. Gorbos stated that wind ensembles are “a newly emerging orchestral style,” and he transformed his work with the help of TCNJ’s very own Professor David Vickerman. Professor Vickerman led the TCNJ Wind Ensemble in performing excerpts of Gorbos’s wind ensemble-adapted piece “Bounce” while Gorbos outlined the reconstructive process of adapting a string ensemble to a wind ensemble. The entire piece was performed later that night by the TCNJ Wind Ensemble for an audience in the Kendall Main Stage Theatre.

Geandy Pavón, Flying Che, oil on canvas

Geandy Pavón, Flying Che, oil on canvas

The next Brown Bag presentation was given by Geandy Pavón, and was entitled, Vanitas: The Political Still Life.  Pavón was born on the eastern half of the island of Cuba, and began his work as an artist very early in life. After he and his art troupe were expelled from every art university on the island, they took their controversial work to the streets of Cuba. When Pavón came to the United States, it was because Amnesty International granted him a visa on account of his artwork. Pavón focused mainly on his hyper-realistic oil on canvas paintings in his collection called “Wrinkled,” in which Pavón uses the symbolism of his art as a political statement. His collection “Vanitas” is reminiscent of the vanitas style artwork of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that uses skulls to symbolize the shortness of life.

Next week’s Brown Bag on Friday, November 15, This Trenton Life: Screening and Discussion, will be given by Dr. Susan Ryan, TCNJ Associate Professor of Communication Studies who collaborated with TCNJ students on this short documentary. The final Brown Bag on Friday, November 22, Constructing the Past and Shaping the Present in Appalachia Through Dance, will be presented by professors of dance from Radford Univeristy. For more information, please visit www.tcnj.edu/bbs.

Blogging the Brown Bag Series: Round One by Katharine Callahan, Freshman Communication Studies Major

Please welcome one of our new student bloggers for the TCNJ School of the Arts & Communication blog, Katharine Callahan! She’s been busy attending the Brown Bag Series lectures and presentations. Read what Katharine has to say about the first four Fall 2013 Brown Bags!

My name is Katharine Callahan, I am a freshman this year at TCNJ, and am majoring in Communication Studies. My track is public and mass communications, with a minor in International Studies and Marketing. I work in Ewing and Trenton during the week between classes, and come spring semester hopefully I won’t have to work at so I can join some of the clubs on campus!

The presenters this fall semester for TCNJ’s Brown Bag Series are not just TCNJ Alumni who landed a job early after graduating, semi-professionals who got a lucky break in their endeavors, or unenthusiastic individuals repeating monotone lines they have used a dozen different times in presentations just like this. No, the Brown Bags thus far have only showed hard working individuals, regardless of if they are TCNJ alumni or not, who have worked and struggled to achieve the success they have today, and continue to work and struggle because of their enthusiasm for the arts.

Cheese Sandwich Days

Christy Ney, Asst. Stage Manager, “Wicked”

Christy Ney, TCNJ Alumni and Assistant Stage Manager of the Broadway Musical Wicked, presented the first Brown Bag, “A Life in the Wings,” and introduced the concept of “Cheese Sandwich Days,” days when you can’t afford to pay for your rent, your bills, or for your groceries, so you resort to eating bread and cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Christy was a communication studies major at TCNJ with a minor in theater (which is no longer offered at TCNJ), she opted to study the television and film production track during her time here, and was an active part of TCNJ’s Theater club and the TSC (Trenton State College) Update, which you might know now as Lions TV. Besides keeping up with school and extracurriculars her senior year, Christy also had an externship (essentially job shadowing at a company or corporation) in NYC working for Disney Theatrical on their Broadway production of The Lion King, which led to her receiving a job on the production of the play only ten days after graduation.

Christy worked with The Lion King for four years before she decided to leave and began working with Wicked; a dream job that she landed because of both her experience and connections in the field. Christy stressed that networking is not only essential to her job as Asst. Stage Manager, where she is the center point of communication during the show during every performance, but also to the field of communications. She has started her own company called “Broadway Basics” to teach upcoming individuals the fundamentals of working and networking on Broadway. “Learn as many names as you can,” Christy says, “because you never know when knowing a name will come in handy.”

Dean John Laughton, Joan Myers Brown, Risa Kaplowitz, and Karen Calloway-Williams

Dean John Laughton, Ms. Joan Myers Brown, Ms. Risa Gary Kaplowitz, and Ms. Karen Calloway Williams

One name worth knowing in the arts field is Joan Meyers Brown, founder and Executive Artistic Director of PHILANDANCO, the world-renowned Philadelphia based African American dance company. Ms. Brown, Karen Calloway Williams, who was the first African American tap dancer to appear in Riverdance, Risa Gary Kaplowitz, a predominant figure in the ballet world, and our very own Dean of the School of the Arts and Communication, Dr. John Laughton, were all a part of TCNJ’s second Brown Bag event, “By Way of the Funk.” The premise of their conversation was of the bias many African Americans face in the world of dance, especially ballet. Ms. Brown told of how when she was growing up, during segregation in the 1960s, she was the only African American girl in her ballet class, and how difficult it was to become a professional in her field because of her race. This is why, in 1970, she founded the Philadelphia Dance Company known as PHILANDANCO, a dance company that tries to equalize the representation African Americans have in the dance community. Karen Williams explained the prejudices she faced, and still continues to face, in her successful career as a tap dancer. Risa Kaplowitz, who herself is not African American, explained the lack of African American dancers she sees in professional ballet, noting that Misty Copeland is one of very, very few African Americans to “make it” in ballet. The conclusion of their lecture examined segregation in the past to bias in dance now, with Dean Laughton referencing a conversation he once had with Rosa Parks, and the audience applauding Ms. Brown’s winning of the National Medal of the Arts from the President in 2012.

Filmmaker Luis Salas, Dr. Susan Ryan, and Professor Lorna Johnson-Frizell

Filmmaker Luis Salas, Dr. Susan Ryan, and Professor Lorna Johnson-Frizell

Luis Salas, a 2002 alumni of TCNJ, spoke of his latest work, a  “mockumentary” entitled Dead Man Working, about the dead rising as a cheap workforce that results in a loss of jobs for the living. Salas says that the inspiration for his work came from the zombie pop culture craze in 2008 along with the year’s economic downfall in the United States. Prior to Dead Man Working, Salas had worked on documentaries such as 2006’s Far From the Island, which focused on Cuban Immigrants to the United States. Salas says that he got his start in film by doing a lot of unpaid work, and at one point helped to film in the adult film industry, where Salas says many filmmakers begin their work but try to hide it because they do not want to be known for that kind of work. However, Salas leaves us with the understanding that where you begin your work does not define your future work, and states that getting your foot in the door is the most important factor in beginning a career in film.

Dr. Benjamin Gross gave the fourth Brown Bag lecture, and went in to detail about David Sarnoff, the founder of NBC and main proponent of RCA Laboratories’ success as the “center of America’s consumer electronic industry.” Sarnoff only attended school until eighth grade, when he then moved to the United States and worked full-time to help support his family. RCA Labs, located in Princeton, was created in 1919, and it is because of RCA labs that we today have such inventions as the color television, liquid crystal displays, and semiconductor devices. However, none of this would have been possible without David Sarnoff, who believed in investing immensely in the lab’s research development department. Dr. Gross ended his lecture with a quote from Sarnoff that describes the pursuit of knowledge many TCNJ students embody, “There is no security in standing still. Those who rest on the rock of stabilization sooner or later find that that rock becomes their tombstone. There is no security for the future in the mere knowledge of today. There is hope and opportunity in what we can learn tomorrow.”

TCNJ Sarnoff Collection, Roscoe West Hall, 2nd Floor

TCNJ Sarnoff Collection, Roscoe West Hall, 2nd Floor