Thursday, June 27, 2013

Award-Winning Documentarian Lauren Greenfield Visits OSAI

by Catherine Roberts, OSAI PR Counselor

OSAI guest artist Lauren Greenfield is a major photographer and filmmaker, whose work primarily deals with the effects popular culture and media have on individuals in American society. She is best known for her recent documentary The Queen of Versailles, about Jackie and David Siegel, owners of timeshare company Westgate Resorts, and their doomed attempt to build the largest single family home in America. The film has won many awards, including the Sundance Film Festival's U.S. Directing Award.

Greenfield has worked extensively through photography and documentary film on the culture and cult of beauty and femininity, including a documentary about an eating disorder treatment clinic. She showed many of these photos and clips of films during a Friday night presentation in the Performing Arts Center. 

On Saturday morning, Greenfield screened her 30-minute film Beauty CULTure, which was featured in an eponymous exhibition at The Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles. She spent the rest of the morning with the OSAI film and photography students, answering questions and discussing her work. 

Greenfield told students that one of the goals of her filmmaking is to reveal "how we are all complicit in promoting the culture we all live with.” She explained that the extreme characters she profiles also serve to reveal some of the ways each of us engage in less dramatic versions of the same behaviors.  

She recommended that students take advantage of the opportunities afforded by participating in OSAI, calling it “something that can kind of lift you over the next 10 years.” She challenged them not to rely on a particular company or position, but instead to “build your own community of support.”

Greenfield's work has earned her an astounding amount of honors and grants, including the designation by American Photo magazine as one of "The 25 Most Important Photographers Now." It is a huge honor to have her at OSAI this year. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Students Learn Ballroom Dance at OSAI

by Victoria Harrell, OSAI PR Counselor

Each year, the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute offers an extracurricular class that every student attends during the first week. These classes give the students more opportunities to meet people from other disciplines, while loosening everyone up for their classes and other activities.  Students at Quartz Mountain this year are taking ballroom dance, taught by returning instructors Alee Reed and Rainer Trubere.

In one session, the lead dancers stand in a circle, facing their partners, who have formed a circle inside the circle of lead dancers. The students dance through a given set of steps and then switch partners, the outer circle rotating counterclockwise. As the class progresses, the students' moods visibly brighten as they get comfortable with the variety of dances and new partners.

Ballroom dance is a valuable class for every student, whether they are experienced dancers or just starting out.  Not only does this class give the students more confidence in their classes and in interactions with each other, but it will also give them confidence and skills that will be valuable later in life. Students can now boldly go out on to any dance floor and just maybe show the other dancers a thing or two.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Creative Writing, Acting and Ballroom Dancing Instructors Give Evening Presentations

by Catherine Roberts, OSAI PR Counselor

Students had a chance to get in on the action for the Wednesday evening faculty presentation and showcase. Presenting were creative writing instructor Sherwin Bitsui and acting instructor A. Dean Irby. 

Bitsui is the author of two books, Flood Song and Shapeshift. He is from White Cone, Arizona on the Navajo Reservation and is the recipient of an American Book Award. 

Bitsui included his students in his presentation by expanding the performance space to include the bridge to the Performing Arts Center. The students stood at intervals along the bridge, reading their own original poetry as the audience crossed. 

Another writer, Allison Hedge Coke, whom he called a mentor and collaborator, performed with him. Taking turns reading from their respective works, the poets placed their two pieces in dialogue with one another. 

After reading, the pair took questions from the students, including one about how they know when a poem is finished. Both indicated there isn’t really a way to know for sure, that "a poem is never finished, only abandoned." Coke mentioned that she even changed lines from her work as she was reading that evening. 

Dean Irby has numerous acting and directing credits to his name, including a role in a Broadway show as well as several years serving as an acting coach on The Cosby Show. He spoke about his career, and then asked for volunteers from the audience to demonstrate a basic acting exercise.

He gave each volunteer a “script” consisting of two words: “Yes,” and “No.” The challenge was to come up with a reason to switch from saying the first word to the second and back again.

On Thursday evening, the ballroom dance instructors were on display. Alee Reed and Rainer Trubere first screened the documentary film Mad Hot Ballroom, about the American Ballroom Theater’s Dancing Classrooms program, in which both have been involved. The pair then took questions from students and gave a brief demonstration of "The Hustle." This year at Quartz Mountain, students are participating in ballroom dance classes in between sessions of their primary discipline.

Friday, June 21, 2013

OSAI Faculty Presentations Continue

by Catherine Roberts, OSAI PR Counselor

Evening faculty presentations continue at Quartz Mountain. The second and third evening programs were filled with insights from ballet instructor Brian Reeder, film instructors Elisabeth Haviland James and Revere La Noue, drawing/painting instructors Jose and Cynthia Rodriguez, and orchestra conductor Scott Parkman.

Brian Reeder and one of his students. 
Brain Reeder’s distinguished performance background includes dancing for New York City Ballet, William Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt and American Ballet Theatre. He has been a choreographer since 2002, and currently serves as a teacher and choreographer for The Manhattan Youth Ballet and as adjunct faculty at Vassar College.

His OSAI students assisted with his presentation, demonstrating the basic barre warm-up exercises that dancers use to prepare for center-floor combinations and choreography. 

Film instructors Elisabeth Haviland James and Revere La Noue are a couple who met during the production of their first collaboration, a documentary about former Florida State head football coach Bobby Bowden. James and La Noue both have extensive experience in documentary filmmaking, with work appearing in various venues across six continents. The pair emphasized the importance of artists also being skilled at business. 

Cynthia Rodriguez explains one of her pieces. 

Drawing and painting instructors José and Cynthia Rodriguez, also a married couple, displayed many of their works for students and described their respective paths to becoming professional artists. José was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and traveled across Asia and Europe with his family as a young child. He spent many years as a tenured professor of printmaking at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque before leaving academia to concentrate on studio production. Cynthia grew up in Western Oklahoma, and has taught all ages in Oklahoma in New Mexico. Her works can be found in private collections in many countries.

Scott Parkman discusses his career. 
Orchestra conductor Scott Parkman also briefly described his career, including one of his proudest achievements, founding American Century Music, a non-profit organization dedicated to performing the works of 20th Century American composers. He gave students an overview of some of the notable names, works and ideas behind that period in American music and culture. 

The OSAI Orchestra will perform this weekend with the Chorus June 22 at 7pm, at the Performing Arts Center. The concert is free and open to the public. 

Students Expand Horizons at Quartz Mountain

by Victoria Harrell, OSAI PR Counselor

Here at Quartz Mountain, things often start in the wee hours of the morning.  As soon as the sun begins to peek over the horizon, you can see small groups of students and staff going on hikes up the mountains, walking to Pilates class, or dragging their instruments across campus to get a jump on the day's rehearsal.

Wednesday morning, in front of the long, familiar bridge that leads to the Performing Arts Center, the modern dance and photography classes met for a collaborative project.  Modern dance instructor Daniel Squire and photography faculty Troy Word, Konrad Eek, and Ben Long joined their students to take advantage of the unique opportunity for multidisciplinary experiences that OSAI can offer.    

In what must have seemed a very odd request, modern dance students were asked to bring haz-mat suits with them to Quartz Mountain, which will be used in their final performance, but also came in handy in this early morning project. 

At the end of one of the many trails that spring from the OSAI campus, the modern dance students slipped on the white, hooded suits. As the sun came up, the natural lighting changed constantly, giving the photography students endless inspiration. 

 In the first set of pictures, Squire gave the dancers a sequence of hand motions to perform while walking in a row along the trail, setting up a scene for the photographers.  Meanwhile, Word instructed his students on placement, having them imagine they are paparazzi who need to get shots of celebrities walking down the red carpet. 

For the next set of pictures, the photography students broke out into groups with the dancers. Some groups ventured up the mountain, while others chose to stay along the trail, each letting the dancers use one another to create different forms and positions as they posed.    

One of the most exciting things to witness at Quartz Mountain is students stepping out of their comfort zones. They try new things and take advantage of opportunities to be creative. While the two disciplines collaborate, you can see students’ minds working. Each student gives input, coming up with completely different concepts than what any of them had previously imagined. The creativity that OSAI cultivates is the “magic of the mountains” at its finest.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

An Afternoon with OSAI Photography Students

by Catherine Roberts, OSAI PR Counselor

Fashion and celebrity photographer and filmmaker Troy Word has photographed some of the world's most important leaders and celebrities, including (to name a few) Barack Obama, George W. Bush, King Abdullah of Jordan, Matt Damon, Dolly Parton, John Stewart and Heidi Klum.

On day two of his OSAI photography class, Troy had his students work with somewhat less auspicious subjects: hard-boiled eggs.

Each student was given an egg and was told to use light to express an emotion. No drawing faces on the eggs—the one tool the students were given was light. Some used the professional lighting equipment inside the photo pavilion, while some chose to use the natural light of the outdoors.

The theory? Troy says that eggs aren’t so different from people—lighting has a similar effect on both when it comes to conveying emotion and mood. 

As camp progresses, students will move into taking portraits, using many of the same techniques they used on the eggs.  If you’d like to see the students’ work on display, visit the Art Gallery during ONSTAGE Weekend. The Gallery Opening Ceremony takes place at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 29 in the Amphitheater at the Quartz Mountain Arts & Conference Center. If you can’t make it out to Quartz Mountain, catch the Tour de Quartz exhibition when it comes to a museum or gallery near you. The Tour de Quartz is comprised of one piece of artwork from each of the 2013 OSAI drawing/painting and photography students, and the exhibition schedule will be posted on our website soon.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Daniel Squire and Troy Word Give Evening Presentations

by Catherine Roberts, OSAI PR Counselor

Every evening at Quartz Mountain, students attend lectures, performances and demonstrations by faculty and students. This year, the evening presentations debuted with returning faculty member Daniel Squire, modern dance instructor, and Troy Word, photography instructor.

Daniel Squire, formerly a featured dancer for Merce Cunningham, performed with modern dance accompanist Indigo Street. The two read a transcript of a dialogue between them, with Daniel reading Indigo’s part and Indigo reading Daniel’s part. This dialogue revealed both artists’ career paths and artistic interests.

During their reading, a video of several dancers was projected on a large screen. Daniel later explained that this footage was taken of one of his latest projects, a modern dance performance he curated in conjunction with an exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Dancing Around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg, and Duchamp.

Photography instructor Troy Word followed with a presentation detailing his career as a noted fashion photographer. An alumnus of OSAI who was inspired by his Quartz Mountain photo instructors David Fitzgerald and Richard Avedon, Word cited OSAI as the inciting event that ultimately led to his successful career. His subjects have included dozens of notable names from Matt Damon to Barack Obama.

An Afternoon with Acting Students

by Catherine Roberts, OSAI PR Counselor

Students’ days at Quartz Mountain are packed with activities, and with upwards of five hours of class per day, they have plenty of time to explore different areas of their discipline.

Acting students receive instruction and individualized attention from two instructors—A. Dean Irby and Rena Cook.  Irby has acted on Broadway, and his television credits include The Cosby Show, Another World, and numerous television commercials. He also served as acting coach for several television shows, including four years with The Cosby Show.  Cook is professor of voice at the University of Oklahoma, and she also serves as voice coach at OSAI.

During the early afternoon of the first full day of class, acting students work on voice. Cook instructs the students to draw a picture of their voices—first, as they are now, and second, as they want their voice to be.

She has them write a poem, addressed to their voices.

A few of the lines:

“You are small, you are sweet, you are mine.”

“I didn’t ask for much but wholesomeness.”

She asks them to read the poems aloud once, then again, this time, in between posing as a group.

“Don’t apologize,” she instructs. “Speak the words as if Shakespeare wrote them.”

“In you, warm comfort and cold temper abound.”

“Make some noise that’s truly profound.”

“You could be so smooth and round, and I wish you would.”

“Open up, show some weakness—at least try.”

The classroom buzzes with energy as the last poem concludes, and Rena prompts them to reflect on the exercise. Several say it’s helpful to articulate the differences between their voices in the present and the ideal. One poem focused on creating vulnerability, and Rena encourages all the students to “find power without effort” in their voices.

Acting instructor A. Dean Irby takes over, and has the students form a circle and lay down on the ground. He leads them in guided meditation. 

Though the room is calm now, it’s still buzzing with as much energy as when the students were discussing their poems. Dean slowly brings them out of meditation and has them begin to repeat a line from their audition monologues—a significant line “that describes who that character is.”

“I won’t survive if you run away from me.”

“But what was a girl to do?”

“And yet for this he’s supposed to go to heaven.”

For the first week of camp, the acting students will workshop the monologues they used to audition for Quartz Mountain. The audition required one humorous and one dramatic monologue; students have chosen one to workshop with Dean and the class.

Irby hasn’t decided yet what the students will do for their presentation during ONSTAGE Weekend. He’s waiting to see how the class evolves and if a theme or motif presents itself.  If you’d like to see the acting students showcase their work, please join us on Saturday, June 29th at 2:30 p.m. at the Robert M. Kerr Performing Arts Center at Quartz Mountain. Click here for the full performance schedule. Please keep in mind that classes are taught at a collegiate level, and some performances may be inappropriate for children under age 14. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Spotlight on Safety at Quartz Mountain

by Catherine Roberts, OSAI PR Counselor

On the first evening of the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute, about 350 students, faculty and staff—that’s the entire Quartz Mountain family—made an easy trip underground for an all-camp tornado drill.

A mechanical room under the Robert M. Kerr Performing Arts Center (PAC) boasts foot-thick concrete walls and plenty of space for keeping safe during an emergency.

“It’s a great safe location here should there ever be the need to use it,” said Julie Cohen, OAI President & CEO.

“Safety is a priority at the Arts Institute,” she explained, “and we have detailed plans in place. Because of the recent severe weather in Oklahoma, we wanted to make sure that our plan to take everyone to the PAC underground shelter would be successful.”

And so it was. From the seating in the PAC, all drill participants made it into the shelter in under nine minutes.

“Everyone did a great job,” Cohen said. “Everyone stayed quiet, and the students showed they took the drill seriously by being on their best behavior.”

During the week before students arrive, OSAI counselors receive training in safety procedures for both fire and severe weather emergencies. With these measures in place, the students have peace of mind and the freedom to focus all their energy on immersing themselves in their art. 
Staff, students and faculty head underground for an all-camp tornado drill. 

OSAI 2013 is in Full Swing!

by Catherine Roberts, OSAI PR Counselor

The 2013 Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute begins! Students have arrived and are already hard at work at the mountain.

Shortly after arrival, this year’s group of students met the staff and faculty and had time to get acquainted with their colleagues.

Staff members who have been here for a week readying the facilities are excited to see students already flourishing. With a full schedule of evening faculty showcases planned for the week, students will have every opportunity to immerse themselves in their own disciplines as well as to learn from the others.

Follow our blog over the next two weeks as we take you inside classrooms, along to evening performances, and all over the mountain for two weeks of learning and fun.

Students gathered in the Performing Arts Center for faculty introductions