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Arts in Action: 10 Highlights From a Blockbuster Arts Season

Dec 26, 2014 |

During the fall semester at the University of Virginia, the creative spirit was clearly evident across Grounds in a multitude of arts exhibits, talks, performances, projects and initiatives – from Kevin Spacey’s address at John Paul Jones arena to students rehearsing backstage at a drama production.

Here are 10 highlights from the many arts events enjoyed by the University community this past semester.

Kevin Spacey Shared His Experience in the Arts 

Kevin Spacey – Academy Award winner, world-renowned stage actor and current star of the hit Netflix series, “House of Cards” – spoke Oct. 18 about the arts and surviving college in the second installment of the President’s Speaker Series for the Arts. It was first anticipated that 5,000 people would attend Spacey’s speech at the John Paul Jones Arena; in the end, about 12,000 tickets were distributed.




2014 Virginia Film Festival Drew Record Crowds


The cast of ‘Big Stone Gap’ appeared during the film’s premiere on the opening night of the Virginia Film Festival. (Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University of Virginia)

With a made-in-Virginia focus, the 27th Virginia Film Festival, presented by U.Va., kicked off with the world premiere of the homegrown “Big Stone Gap,” which attracted a star-studded audience. Prior to the screening, a press conference featured the film’s stars – Ashley Judd, Jenna Elfman, Patrick Wilson, Paul Wilson and Jasmine Guy – as well as writer-director Adriana Trigiani. 

This year, the festival broke all records: It posted nearly $175,000 in ticket sales, issued 28,609 tickets and sold out 41 screenings. 

Many of the local and national celebrities as well as University faculty, staff, students and alumni who were in attendance for the film’s debut later made their way to the opening night gala, held across the Downtown Mall at the Jefferson Theater.



Berlin Wall Symposium Celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Historic Fall


President Teresa A. Sullivan, right, and Vice Provost for the Arts Jody Kielbasa, left, stand with Berlin Wall panel donors Robert and MeiLi Hefner. (Photo by Dan Addison, University of Virginia)

During the Berlin Wall Symposium, lectures, panel discussions, theatrical and dance performances, art projects, film screenings and photography exhibits combined to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall from Nov. 3 through 9. The culmination of the events was the 25th Anniversary Ceremony and Moment of Remembrance at the Berlin Wall exhibit on Grounds on Nov. 9. As part of the symposium, architecture professor Karen Van Lengen shared her memories of the Cold War landmark’s destruction with artifacts and original film footage.

In April, U.Va. unveiled four panels from the Berlin Wall loaned by Oklahoma City based art collectors Robert and MeiLi Hefner, founders of the Robert & MeiLi Hefner Foundation and The Hefner Collection.

The history of the four panels of the wall are as great as the panels themselves. Measuring a total of 16 feet in length and 12 feet in height and weighing 8,818 pounds, the sections feature graffiti murals titled the “Kings of Freedom,” by West German artist Dennis Kaun..




James Salter Served as First Kapnick Distinguished Writer-in-Residence 

This fall, acclaimed author and master stylist James Salter served as U.Va.’s inaugural Kapnick Distinguished Writer-in-Residence. The new program, patterned after William Faulkner’s legendary residencies on Grounds in 1957 and 1958, will host writers of international stature for a semester to teach and engage with U.Va. students and the literary community.

During his residency, Salter shared his love of writing with students and the community, taught a graduate-level course in creative writing, gave three well-attended public talks on “The Art of Fiction” and delivered a public reading of his work on Veteran’s Day. 

In a Q&A with UVA Today, Salter talked about his writing process, his time at U.Va. and why he doesn’t write film scripts anymore. 





Creators of the Award-Winning 'Les Miserables' Took Center Stage

Sponsored by the McIntire Department of Music, lyricist Alain Boublil and composer Claude-Michel Schönberg visited U.Va. to discuss their Tony Award-winning “Les Misérables,” considered to be the most popular stage musical of all time. Since the musical opened in Paris in 1980, more than 70 million people have seen it, and it remains the longest-running musical worldwide, receiving more than 100 major awards. Schönberg and Boublil shared their experience and creative insights with students, faculty, staff and the Charlottesville community on Sept. 30 at the Culbreth Theatre. 



Gordon Parks Exhibit at The Fralin Re-Examined Classic Photo Essay 


A visitor examines the Gordon Parks exhibit at the Fralin Museum of Art. (Photo by Dan Addison, University of Virginia)

In 1948 – and for the next 20 years – Gordon Parks was the only African-American staff photographer at a major U.S. magazine or newspaper. Curated by John Mason, associate professor in the Corcoran Department of History, the Parks exhibit at The Fralin Museum of Art told the story of the Life magazine spread that launched his career – and his own ambivalence toward his experience at a major publication.

The exhibition was curated and organized by Russell Lord, Freeman Family Curator of Photographs at the New Orleans Museum of Art. The items in the exhibition have been made available through the generosity of The Gordon Parks Foundation. 

Mason also wrote an essay for Time about the exhibit how the original photo essay came to be. 



U.Va. Launched Arts Magazine, Capturing Creative Spirit of the University

In the new U.Va. arts magazine published this month, Jody Kielbasa, U.Va. vice provost for the arts and director of the Virginia Film Festival, clearly states its intention in an introduction:

“We know at the University that the impact of the arts is hardly limited to the artists themselves. The arts add vibrancy to all of our lives and impact people in every walk of life. You never can predict where inspiration might come from – or how it might shape a person’s future.”

The first issue of the large-format, colorful magazine includes features on The Fralin Museum of Art’s Clinician’s Eye program and the Berlin Wall; a tribute to donor and arts lover Ruth Caplin; highlights and stories from every U.Va. arts department; and, of course, great photos and art.

Copies have been distributed across Grounds. In early 2015, the magazine will also be available as an interactive site with downloadable pdf copies.



Department of Drama Presented Award-Winning Play ‘The Rimers of Eldritch’


Directed by associate professor Doug Grissom, “The Rimers of Eldritch” depicts the story of a once-prospering mining town that suddenly becomes home to a scandalous murder trial. Grissom described the award-winning play as a “perfect theatrical machine” since it conveys its story in a mosaic structure by fragmenting time.

In keeping with the play’s structure, a photo essay showing moments backstage just prior to the performance captured the behind-the-scenes excitement of the play’s opening night at the Ruth Caplin Theatre. 



Kluge-Ruhe Hosted Aboriginal Multimedia Sculptor for Three-Week Residency

This fall, Ricardo Idagi, a multimedia artist from Melbourne, Australia, helped U.Va. students learn Australian Aboriginal art firsthand and gain appreciation for its origins. His residency and exhibition provided many opportunities for U.Va. students and faculty to meet the artist and learn about his culture, artwork and the creative process that Idagi described as “making his spirit visible.”

The third resident artist at the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Museum and Study Center under its grant from the Australia Council for the Arts, Idagi worked with U.Va. students on creative projects in various courses, including two sculpture classes in the McIntire Department of Art.

In addition, “Gurari – Saltwater Drinker,” an exhibition of Idagi’s artwork at the museum, brought together his works from the last five years that served as a visual memoir of his homeland.  




Band Prepares for 2015 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Appearance

Sreated in the spring of 2003, the Cavalier Marching Band has become an integral part of every home football game and other sporting events on Grounds. Led by director William Pease, the band is highly regarded for its high energy and crowd-pleasing performances. 

This year was no exception. During the fall season, the band performed at Scott Stadium for tens of thousands of fans during home football games, and began to prepare for its Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade appearance in 2015.

“All these people come together to make this piece of art, and it comes together in such a perfect way,” bass drummer Marcellus Wright said. “To be able to go to sleep knowing that I did that – and that we did it together – it’s an amazing feeling.”

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