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Arts for All

11/3/21

By Jessica Weiss ’05

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened in early 2020, Lecturer in the Department of Art Mollye Bendell felt a growing anxiety that the last time she would see her loved ones might be on a video call. 

Bendell, who works with electronic media to explore themes of vulnerability, visibility and longing, began to attempt to preserve her friends and family through her work using images of their faces from video chats. 

In her video project “Sketch for Sleepers,” Bendell projects those images in 3D onto stock digital silhouettes of human bodies that float across a screen. 

artwork by Lecturer in the Department of Art Mollye Bendell

The work is on display now until Dec. 3 at the University of Maryland Art Gallery as part of a triennial exhibition of professional work by Department of Art faculty and adjunct faculty. Part of the campuswide Arts for All initiative, which seeks to spark new ways of thinking through collaborations across the arts, sciences and other disciplines, Faculty Exhibition 2021 showcases works from 20 faculty members in a range of mediums. It is the first in-person art exhibition held at the Art Gallery since it closed in March 2020. 

“The exhibition honors faculty work while emphasizing that their scholarship and teaching is grounded first and foremost in an art-making practice,” said Art Gallery Associate Director Taras W. Matla. “Having been closed for 18 months due to the pandemic, this is a terrific way to reintroduce the Art Gallery and art department faculty to the campus community.” 

Professor of Art Foon Sham’s “Covid 19, 2020” wood and acrylic wall sculpture emerged from elements related to his state of mind during lockdown. It’s made of wooden sticks that represent the many people affected by the virus. 

artwork by Professor of Art Foon Sham

“There are various colors of wood sticks and some are stained with red and blue, implying all the damage this virus could do,” he said. 

Many of the works also address socio-political issues and social justice. For instance, Lecturer Julia Kwon’s “Dissent” is inspired by the fight for abortion rights, via the format of traditional Korean object-wrapping cloth with embedded patterns. And Assistant Professor Jessica Gatlin’s “Work Related” is a series of wearable canvas “paintings” that comment on themes of sustainability, labor, consumption and capitalism.   

Assistant Professor Cy Keener, whose work blends art, science and technology, is exhibiting “Terminal Front,” a virtual reality experience that allows people to visit a remote and uninhabitable landscape in Greenland. Using scientific data gathered from the site—via custom laser scanners built by the Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory—paired with detailed drone photography, the VR user can immerse in a massive and detailed landscape of a glacier’s surface. 

art by Assistant Professor Cy Keener

Keener and Bendell are among faculty instructors in the new immersive media design major, co-taught by faculty from the Department of Art and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. The program prepares students to use digital tools and technologies including virtual and augmented reality, digital art, projected imagery, computer graphics, 3D modeling and user interfaces spanning audio, visual and tactile platforms.

Additional participating faculty artists include: Emily Conover, Patrick Craig, Pete Cullen, Brandon Donahue, Wendy Jacobs, Richard Klank, Matthew McLaughlin, Brandon Morse, Irene Pantelis, Narendra Ratnapala, John Ruppert, Justin Strom, Athena Tacha, Jowita Wyszomirska and Rex Weil. 

In addition, an In Memoriam section recognizes the vast contributions to the Department of Art made by longtime faculty members David C. Driskell (1931-2020) and James Thorpe (1951-2021). 

Visit the Faculty Exhibition 2021 at the University of Maryland Art Gallery in the Parren J. Mitchell Art-Sociology Building until Dec. 3, 2021. Free and open to the public, Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 

Photos from top to bottom of page: Visitors at Faculty Exhibition 2021; Mollye Bendell's video project “Sketch for Sleepers;" Foon Sham’s “Covid 19, 2020; " A visitor experiences Cy Keener’s “Terminal Front.” Photos by Thai Q. Nguyen.

10/18/21

By Jessica Weiss ’05

In late 2009, violinist Vijay Gupta got a call from L.A. Times journalist Steve Lopez. Gupta, then 21, had two years earlier become the youngest ever member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, one of the world’s preeminent orchestras. Now a friend of Lopez’s named Nathaniel Ayers wanted a lesson. 

Ayers, a talented musician in his own right, had been diagnosed with a severe mental illness and ended up homeless on the streets of Los Angeles. He was the subject of Lopez's bestselling book “The Soloist” as well as a subsequent movie starring Robert Downey Jr. as Lopez and Jamie Foxx as Ayers. 

Gupta had never taught before, but he didn’t hesitate. He began visiting Ayers in Skid Row, the largest community of unhoused people in the United States, where the two Juilliard-trained musicians bonded over Beethoven, scales and technique.

Gupta also wondered how many others in Los Angeles’ homeless population were like Ayers—brilliant and talented but disenfranchised due to mental illness, addiction or simple bad luck. Gupta didn’t know how, but he knew he wanted to offer music to Skid Row.

A year later, Gupta founded Street Symphony, a nonprofit that brings music to homeless and incarcerated communities in Los Angeles through workshops, events and educational opportunities. He is also a co-founder of the Skid Row Arts Alliance, a consortium of arts organizations made up of people living and working in Skid Row. For his work “bringing beauty, respite and purpose to those all too often ignored by society,” Gupta was the recipient of a 2018 MacArthur Fellowship. 

Ten years since its founding, Street Symphony’s roster of artists—made up of professionals and community musicians—now numbers 90. They’ve presented some 1,200 events, reaching well over 10,000 people. Gupta, who left The Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2018 to devote himself to Street Symphony, seeks to share widely his message that art is an offering of love, justice and connection that has the power to heal entire communities. To date, his TED Talk, “Music is Medicine, Music is Sanity,” has garnered millions of views. 

Under the banner of Arts for All, a campuswide initiative leveraging the combined power of the arts, technology and social justice to address the grand challenges of our time, Gupta will speak Thursday at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center as part of the 2021–22 Arts and Humanities Dean’s Lecture Series. But before that, he talked to us about his journey to activism, learning from those he serves and the responsibility of the artist to work for justice. 

You’ve performed as an international recitalist, soloist, chamber musician and orchestral musician for over 20 years. But you also studied biology in college, and are now a nonprofit leader. How do you manage being so multidisciplinary? 

I feel like my role as an artist, as a citizen, as a nonprofit leader, as a spouse, all comes back to finding the truth. And the iterative process of applying oneself to a question to find the truth, and trying something and failing at that something, is both scientific and artistic and a deeply spiritual pursuit. I would love for us to throw away externally imposed certificates of expertise and rather think about multidisciplinary connections of gifts, because that places us into the framework of curiosity. Whether it’s an artistic pursuit, a scientific pursuit, a relationship, an act of civic engagement—I think we always need to stay curious. 

You started Street Symphony at the age of 22 while a musician in the Los Angeles Philharmonic. How did you do that? 

After I met Nathaniel I knew there was a possibility there could be other people like him out there, but I didn’t know how to reach them. So, I just started cold calling people. And there was a lot of failure. I called hospice workers who thought I was a prank caller. I called a lot of people who didn’t take me seriously. Eventually I started calling social workers working for Skid Row and they said “Yes, we’ll set aside our lunch hour and get an audience together and have a concert.” And my colleagues in the Philharmonic really rose to the occasion and they went with me. I didn’t start Street Symphony alone, I was never alone in this work. I had colleagues who gave their hearts, talents and gifts continuously with very little expectation of anything in return. And there was never an idea to create a nonprofit. Somebody handed me a check at a TED conference. I didn’t know what to do with the money so that’s when I thought to start a nonprofit at least to have the money in a bank account. 

How would you recommend people begin to make a difference in their own communities?  

The first thing you need to do is to take inventory of your gifts—what feels good and what you love. Basically, what makes you come alive? The second step is to find a way to apply that in the world—any way. If you like it when someone laughs, then make a daily practice of making somebody laugh. Find a way to give and receive what makes you come alive. Third, create a lab. Find your peers, find your tribe, who are willing to ask questions and apply them in the world in a similar way. Fourth, offer it to the world. Show up with curiosity and not with judgement, and serve. When we take these four steps, we’re identifying our values. If you start with your values—your why—the how and the what will come next. 

What do you feel like you and your fellow professional musicians have learned through this decade-long interchange of ideas? 

That there is more that is similar about us than is different. The conversation around service and engagement and outreach often has this pernicious myth around the redemption story, that we can save people. And I feel like that’s a perfectly fine place to start but it becomes hubristic if that’s our only motivation, because it maintains a separation of us and them. Even if we’re showing up out of charity it could still be in the mode of judgment and not in the mode of curiosity. It could still be in the mode of expertise and not experience. So, I feel like I have thrown every bit of dogma or rule or some judgments I’ve had about “those people” out. I’ve also learned from my colleagues in Skid Row that we don’t have to let the worst thing that’s happened to us define us. Forgiveness is choosing to take our identity from something more than the wound. We really do get to choose our lives. We really do get to choose our perception and the way we go about paying attention to the world. 

Do you believe artists have a unique responsibility to engage in social justice work? 

I see justice as an artistic practice. There is no end to justice. The same way there is no end to reconciliation and there is no end to love and there is no end to learning. These are all practices. And the truth is, what artists know more than anything is how to practice. We already have what we need to change the world. So, yes. I think we actually have an obligation to be engaged—to heal and inspire through our artistry but also to provoke change.

Gupta will be at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center October 21, 2021 from 5:30-7 p.m. Reserve tickets here. He will also sell and sign copies of his recent album “When the Violin” in the lobby after the event. This event is co-sponsored by the School of Music.

9/30/21

By Christine Zhu

The University of Maryland is debuting an immersive media design major this semester, the first undergraduate program in the country that synthesizes art with computer science.

There are two tracks available in the program: an art track leading to a bachelor’s of arts degree from the college of arts and humanities, and a computer science track leading to a bachelor’s of science degree from the college of computer, mathematical and natural sciences.

The program works with creating virtual and augmented realities, offering a wide variety of courses for whichever track a student wants to take. 

One of the classes, Introduction to Immersive Media, covers history and research in the field. Its projects involve sensors, augmented reality and virtual reality.

Another class, Introduction to Computational Media, teaches students about the computing that’s required for each type of media. For example, imagery deals with computer graphics and sound deals with synthetic audio.

“We’re investigating ways to use modern technology and media to take the place of information that you would perceive with your senses in a natural environment,” said Stevens Miller, an adjunct lecturer in the department of computer science. 

As a result, students can create artificial environments where they control interactions with the senses — sight, sound and even touch and smell in some cases.

Studio arts lecturer Mollye Bendell used the Artechouse, an art center in Washington, D.C., as an example of a virtual reality experience that uses immersive media design. 

“[It’s] a gallery that specializes in the intersection of art and technology,” she said. “[An example is] an augmented reality application where you’re looking through the camera on your phone and … you see a 3D model appear.”

An immersive media design exhibit was held at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center as a part of NextNOW Fest in mid-September. About 15 students displayed their projects, Bendell said. 

In one student’s project, people were able to play chess remotely with others around the world, Miller said. 

“Instead of being limited to a two-dimensional point and click-with-your-mouse way of interacting with the chessboard, you actually saw a three-dimensional chess set in front of you that you could manipulate even though it doesn’t actually exist,” he added.

While all immersive design students need to have coding ability, the computer science track covers more of the technical components while the art track focuses on the perceptive side, Miller said.

Sophomore Maggie Letvin, a studio art major and hopeful immersive media design major, is planning on the art track. She’s used to approaching projects from the angle of an artist, and said that programming was hard for them.

“[With] programming, you have to know what you want to do ahead of time,” she said. “I approach art from a standpoint of, ‘I have the materials, I’m just gonna work with my hands and figure out what happens,’ but you can’t exactly do that with coding.”

In later years, students from the art track are paired with students from the computer science track. As a result, students are able to work with a partner from a different background and learn more from each other.

9/22/21

BY 

This is not a manifesto for digital theatre. Theatre has used digital technology on- and offstage for over a century, so can we please move on? This is a manifesto for the future of anti-racist, anti-oppressive, accessible theatre with the assistance of creative digital practices. The emergence of digital platforming over the pandemic provides us the opportunity to redefine and recontextualize space, gathering, inclusion, and connectivity that tears at the fabric of gatekeeping. Not all of these practices are effective, but they are irrefutably expansive.

Jared Mezzocchi performs “Someone Else’s House.”

You see, the term “digital theatre” does not propose a new form of theatremaking. It instead refers to a vision of technological extensionism that can aid the dismantling of white supremacy and oppressive practices that the industry is now belatedly reckoning with. Can we, the theatre industry, allow these newly discovered digital resources to expand our audiences, democratize our processes, create a sustainable discipline amid climate change, and revitalize our gatherings and civic duties as theatre practitioners in a (hopefully) post-pandemic, technologically saturated culture?

That is the question digital theatre asked our industry over the last 18 months of this multifaceted plague. In March 2020, the live theatre industry shut down due to COVID-19. It was a moment of subtraction and erasure for those who were currently working in the field. It also was a great equalizer, as those who once could create theatre were suddenly just as shut out as those who never could. In this moment of pause, technologists stepped forward with innovative opportunities to create, collaborate, and connect once again. They took a technologically foreign, ever-expansive frontier and helped define it into an accessible, site-specific platform: the digital online. Their work raised the question: Does theatre need an in-person venue to maintain its identity as theatre?

Answers came in many forms. Geffen Playhouse produced seven fully digital online shows (including my show, directed by Margot Bordelon, Someone Else’s House) as a part of their Stayhouse Series, which brought in live audiences to nightly performances who were mailed a package as a participatory element that was interactive. Joshua Gelb’s Theater In Quarantine produced several livestreams from a closet in his apartment (winning a Drama League Award). Fake Friends’ This American Wife and Circle Jerk (a Pulitzer finalist!) were live, studio-style experimental performances, blending livestream and Twitter as means of engaging their audiences in real time. In addition to Someone Else’s House, I helped create live works like Sarah Gancher’s Russian Troll Farm (co-directed with Elizabeth Williamson through Theatreworks Hartford, TheatreSquared Arkansas, The Civilians), Caryl Churchill’s What If If Then (co-directed with Les Waters through NAATCO), and Manic Monologues (an interactive web portal with performances by 20-plus actors, directed by Elena Araoz through Princeton University and McCarter Theater). Many of these experimented with live performance, live design, live audiences both visible and hidden, and with various forms of interactivity. Many more offered on-demand streaming, allowing audiences to view the work in an asynchronous way as well. 

As these digital works were shared, a debate began. Many argued that the identity of theatre inherently belonged to a live, in-person engagement among gathered audiences and storytellers within a shared space. Many argued that digital theatre was not that.

Taking these one by one: If liveness is the essence of theatre, the digital can maintain this identity by livestreaming. If gathering is the essence of theatre, the digital can maintain this identity through myriad softwares and forums: Zoom, Twitch, Discord, Unity, Virtual Reality, Vimeo, Twitter, TikTok, etc. 

Mia Katigbak in ‘Russian Troll Farm.’

The argument that shared space is essential to theatre is closer to the heart of what splinters the theatre community. Many feel that theatre is defined by bodies—those of artists and audiences—occupying the same physical space. This argument is centered around the importance of the ability to experience a live event in the same room as others. In 2017, the University College of London published a study presenting that when we witness a live event together, our heartbeats synchronize, and everyone in the room is, in a sense, feeling the same thing together. This powerful phenomenon is often referred to as “sacred” and “vital.” As a theatregoer myself, I agree: It is very much sacred and vital to share a space with other heartbeats that become synchronized with my own heart as actions play out in front of our eyes in the same room at the same time. It is profoundly moving.

But digital theatre does not refute that, nor does it threaten to diminish that profundity with its own unique existence. The question for live, in-person theatre, though, is this: If theatre’s identity has mostly to do with bodies in the same physical space, what of those who are prohibited from or unable to share that space at any given time for various reasons? Inaccessibility takes many forms: the lack of availability, affordability, physical ability, cultural reference, proximity. What is the answer of the theatre field to this challenge? Theatre venues can lower the barriers to that physical space by complying with ADA requirements, hosting “relaxed” performances, pay-what-you-can evenings, etc.

Theatre venues can also embrace digital. In October 2020, JCA Arts Marketing published findings that digital theater attracted 43 percent new audiences to theatre. Nearly half of the audiences who clicked on events were distinct from those who regularly attend in-person performances. This is a very powerful discovery. Moreover, the demographics of these clicking audiences have shown a wider diversity in class, race, gender, and age. By liberating ourselves from the location of a venue at a specific time with often prohibitive ticket prices, digital accessibility has the potential to crack open a wider demographic of theatre patrons in a profoundly expansive way. 

Another overlooked equity unique to online performance is in the audience’s live response to the work. Digital performance allows some viewers to be verbal and active, others to be silent, some to watch in groups and others alone. This allows the work to meet the viewers in individualized ways simultaneously, without compromising the experience of other audience members. The audience member who likes to actively talk back to the stage with their lights on won’t disrupt the experience of the audience member who seeks silence and darkness when consuming live theatre. And while some in-person theatres offer sensory-friendly performances, ASL, and closed-captioned performances, digital platforms allow these viewing preferences to be offered simultaneously, which diminishes the “othering” effect of specially set aside in-person performance dates.

This accessibility is not only liberating to the viewer, but to the artists’ ecosystem as well. Over the last 18 months, many underrepresented artists were able to mobilize globally to share and develop their stories in immediate ways. With a demand for new work that could speak to the current cultural climate, online platforms not only made this immediacy possible, but responsive, efficient, and sustainable. Without the pipeline of annual season planning, digital platforms revealed how quickly we can gather when no longer limited by highly unsustainable means of travel and lodging. 

We also saw budgets dramatically adapt to the needs of each unique project, as well as sliding ticket sales that opened up dialogue around pay-what-you-can ticket pricing. In this way digital theatre became a speculative model for in-person performances. Organizations were able to experiment with ideas in a venue-decentralized manner, which in turn have inspired new budgeting and pricing structures for in-person performance as it returns. 

Haskell King and Mia Katigbak in ‘Russian Troll Farm.’

As this dialogue evolves, however, some would clearly prefer to shut it down. As theatres have begun to eye a return to in-person, venue-centric theatre-making, many would seek to erase the progress we saw during the pandemic. Indeed, some seem to associate digital innovation with the pandemic itself, and now that the emergency is (almost) behind us, they’re openly relieved to see digital recede.

“Thank goodness it’s over!” they say.

“We can let go of the placeholder!” they say.

“We’re back!” they say.

This perspective is steeped in the comparison, instead of extension, of digital to in-person theatre. What this rhetoric exposes is the way able-bodied, well-off audiences take for granted the option to go to a venue. As we saw in statistics during the pandemic, there is an entire community holding a different comparison: digital theatre vs. no theatre at all. This blind spot has effectively created a Theatre of the Able as our default, on the assumption that everyone has this choice. Closing the proverbial door on digital theatre for those unable to attend in-person events shuts out an entire artistic ecosystem that we have glimpsed over the past 18 months, and may never encounter again without further investment. This does the opposite of protecting our discipline; it instead freezes an opportunity for contemporary growth.

From our venue-centric vantage point, where we assume in-person theater is theatre for all, we assess digital theatre as “lesser than,” in a way that dangerously erases these communities, artists, and stories for audiences who may experience the digital differently than us. For some, digital is the only means to gather. And yes, I said gather: Digital technology can no doubt appear isolating to some, but it is also unquestionably a shared space for many. Keeping this door open may uncover and share entirely unique perspectives, told in digitally original ways. Joining this potential with the statistics around diverse new audiences, we can see that this is one form of inclusivity and allyship for which we should be fighting.

Clearly this isn’t the catch-all solution, but it helps move the needle into a more equitable position. Digital theatre, it should be said, still struggles with its own inaccessibility issue: broadband and wifi connectivity aren’t universal or free. In September 2020, Vox published a report showing that, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 21 million Americans don’t have access to quality broadband internet. While still a substantial issue, it is not comparable close to the high gates of inaccessibility erected by in-person-only performance. In fact, if the live performance community put its muscle behind the cause of equity in broadband access, they could help an entirely new audience and market form. Vox’s report tracked efforts in cities like Chattanooga, Tenn., where, in 2010, the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, the city-owned utility known as EPB, “began offering ultra-high-speed internet to all of its residents after building out fiber to the city for a smart grid.” As theatre continues its discussion of accessibility, the nationwide conversation about broadband access should be central. As live performance advocates, we could be the powerful voice of change and equity that this movement needs.

Through these efforts, we can connect new audiences and inspire new artists worldwide. These efforts do not need to remain exclusively online, but can become a conduit to new processes and collaborations for in-person hybrid experiences as well. Inviting more voices with diverse perspectives serves the vitality of theatre. Theatre practitioners had been in an artistic rhythm for decades, broken by the last 18 months, which forced a fresh examination of what we all took for granted and assumed was unchangeable. As this wider net of artists join our ecosystem, it will be crucial to welcome them into a neutral gathering forum, uncontaminated by the hierarchical structures of long-standing in-person practices. The only way to make radical change in these structures is by neutralizing the power relationships within assumed processes.

Digital platforms have already shown they can be part of this solution. As disembodied creative ensembles, we witnessed how our disparate environments influenced the ways we communicate, collaborate, and progress. Thrown off balance from our usual way of working, digital theatremaking has demanded authentic patience, empowered every participant to hold space in their own ways, and allowed for a democratization in creative problem-solving without a hierarchical power structure. Working in digital required us to ask each participant about their individual experience; it required us to literally meet each of us in our intimate living quarters and truly listen to everyone’s needs. These needs and requirements are no less relevant for in-person theatre, but working in a digitally disembodied way taught us to communicate less hierarchically, and to be more honest with our experiences, since there were no other participants experiencing the work from our unique location. These conversations led us to realize something we should have always had in mind, including for in-person performance: that everyone experiences the world uniquely.

The future of theatre is at a fraught intersection as we prepare for reentry. We have the choice to move forward or to go back. This is a plea for us to join forces and embrace the remarkable progress digital theatre has made in dismantling hierarchical assumptions, able-bodied biases, and the racism and classism that in-person theatre perpetuates by its gatekeeping. Digital theatre is not a symbol of the plague. It is a symbol of the resilience of artists. The past 18 months required us to use our bodies in a disembodied space to engage in risky, innovative, inclusive, democratized experiments. And when we celebrate the work of digital theatremakers, we encourage the theatrical community to hear this as extensionism, not replacement; addition, not subtraction. We can be allies, not rivals.

So as many return to venue-centric performance making, let’s also celebrate and incorporate the necessary strengths of the digital world we unlocked in the last 18 months. Let’s divorce these discoveries from the trauma of the pandemic and expose the strengths we unearthed in the experimental processes we just experienced online. Because these experiences, to many, were also sacred.

Jared Mezzocchi is an Obie-winning multimedia theatre director and designer. He is an associate professor of multimedia and projections at the University of Maryland, and is producing artistic director of Andy’s Summer Playhouse.

9/17/21

William Robin (musicology) was awarded the Society for American Music’s Sight and Sound Subvention to help fund seasons two and three of his podcast, “Sound Expertise.” The critically-acclaimed podcast, which features interviews with important scholars in music studies about their research, has received more than 29,000 downloads to date. The first two seasons are available for free online, and the third will air in 2022.

9/17/21

By Jessica Weiss ’05

Students learning classical violin usually have to wait until a session with a music teacher to get personalized feedback on their playing. Soon they may have a new tool to use between lessons: an app that can observe them play and guide them toward better posture and form—key elements both for sounding their best and avoiding overuse injuries.

Two University of Maryland researchers are drawing on very different academic backgrounds—one in classical violin and music education, the other in robotics and computer science—to develop this virtual “teacher’s aide” system powered by artificial intelligence (AI) technology. In addition to expanding the market for violin instruction, it will allow students who may not have access to private lessons to receive feedback on their playing.

Associate Professor of Violin in the School of Music Irina Muresanu, who is collaborating with Cornelia Fermüller, associate research scientist in UMD’s Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, said the technology will be revolutionary for a field rooted in tradition.

“While I believe that traditional methods are still the best way to pass on to our students the legacy and heritage of the classical music world, I am excited to explore ways in which artificial intelligence can be integrated as a feedback mechanism into daily practice—the central experience of any musician’s life,” she said.

The project is part of Arts for All, a new initiative to expand arts programming across campus and bolster interdisciplinary offerings through a fusion of the arts, technology and social justice.

Muresanu and Fermüller were recently awarded a $115,000 Phase I Maryland Innovation Initiative award by the Maryland Technology Development Corporation to support the project. The award, a partnership between the state of Maryland and five of its public universities, is designed to help propel research ideas from the lab to the commercial market.

An internationally renowned Romanian violinist, Muresanu has spent the last decade working at the intersection of music and technology. She previously collaborated with Amitabh Varshney, dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, on “Four Strings Around the Virtual World,” which embedded Muresanu’s solo violin project in famous global locales including concert halls, cathedrals and outdoor spaces.

When the COVID-19 pandemic made in-person teaching impossible, Muresanu began seeking new ways to allow violin students to continue learning remotely. Last year, she partnered with UM Ventures, a joint technology commercialization initiative of the University of Maryland, Baltimore and University of Maryland, College Park, to explore high-tech approaches for enhancing remote lessons.

Fermüller was a natural fit for the project. A researcher of computer vision and robotics, she works to enable computers to understand and enhance what people are doing in their daily activities.

In the Autonomy Robotics Cognition Lab, Muresanu and Fermüller, along with computer science Ph.D. student Snehesh Shrestha, are studying human-robot interaction in the context of playing the violin and how to integrate AI into the learning process. The technology they are producing—which will enable computers and phones to derive information from digital video—will let music teachers customize the type and amount of feedback students receive and survey the results.

Fermüller said the technology will be a major step forward in using AI for music education, and could potentially be applied to other instruments.

“The platform we are currently working on provides feedback to students based on their specific needs, and this is very novel,” she said. “I believe this is the future of AI-supported education.”

9/13/21

By Jessica Weiss ’05

Dean Bonnie Thornton Dill has announced the appointment of Professor of Musicology Patrick Warfield as the Associate Dean for Arts and Programming in the College of Arts and Humanities, effective October 4, 2021.

The position is new to the college, responsible for supporting visual and performing arts units and programs, directing the new campuswide Arts For All initiative and administering programming across the arts and humanities.

“It’s a hugely important and exciting time for the arts at the University of Maryland, and I am so thrilled to have Patrick at the helm,” said Dean Thornton Dill. “He brings a strong record of research and teaching, a variety of administrative experiences and, most importantly, a deep belief in the power of the arts to address grand challenges.” 

Working closely with the dean, faculty and administrators, Warfield will provide administrative oversight, coordination, management, advocacy and facilitation of the creative, performing, visual and digital arts in the college and promote and represent the accomplishments and needs of the arts within the Office of the Dean, on the campus and beyond. 

As director of Arts For All, the new campuswide arts initiative and one of President Darryll J. Pines’ five bold actions to “move Maryland forward,” Warfield will work to expand arts programming across campus and galvanize collaborations between the arts, technology and social justice. In this position, Warfield will connect and facilitate activities of participating partners; support and ensure implementation of all aspects of the initiative; promote and amplify the visibility and impact of the initiative on campus, locally and nationally; and refine and elaborate the vision for the initiative over time. 

Warfield called the new role a “dream come true.”

“I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and building the faculty, staff and student coalitions that will allow the arts, the humanities and the sciences to flourish on campus, connect with one another deeply, and create a meaningful and positive impact on our world,” he said.

Warfield has taught musicology, the historical and cultural study of music, at the University of Maryland School of Music since 2009. He has also served as director of graduate studies and associate director in the School of Music, as well as on a number of campuswide committees. In the School of Music he helped to create the Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Access committee, establish the Collington residency program, which sends two graduate students from the school to live and work as artists-in-residence at the nearby Collington Continuing Care Retirement Community, and worked to create partnerships with Prince George’s County Public Schools, including programs that helped to strengthen teacher training and provide virtual lessons during the pandemic.     

A scholar of American musical culture, primarily American music of the 19th and 20th centuries, Warfield is the author of two books on John Philip Sousa, an American composer and conductor known primarily for his band music and marches; he is currently working on a book on the United States Marine Band. His publications have appeared in The Journal of the American Musicological Society, American Music, The Journal of the Society for American Music and Nineteenth-Century Music Review.

Warfield is also an affiliate faculty member in the Department of American Studies.

He earned a Ph.D. and M.A. from Indiana University, both in musicology, and a B.M.E. in music education from Lawrence University. 

9/13/21

University President Darryll J. Pines sent the following email to the campus community this morning:

Today, we officially launch Arts for All, a campuswide initiative that seeks to humanize the world’s grand challenges and integrate the arts more fully into conversation with the sciences and technology, enriching all.

There is transformational power at the intersection of the arts and the sciences. Solutions to some of today’s most pressing challenges—structural racism, gender inequality, climate change, global health disparities and others—need the arts and humanities to help us understand the historical, cultural, linguistic and artistic expressions that shape our world and to discover people-centered solutions.

Arts for All will create new curriculum, including the new undergraduate program in Immersive Media and Design co-developed by the Department of Art and the Department of Computer Science that debuted this semester, and the Maya Brin Institute for New Performance will prepare students for emerging fields in webcasts and virtual reality performance. These exciting new initiatives will inspire artistic and technological makers to investigate and create new connections that activate social change.

In the spirit of bringing art and culture to a wider audience, an expanded NextNOW Fest, presented by The Clarice, launches today. Throughout the week, NextNOW Fest events will occur in venues across campus as well as in College Park. Under the theme of “Where Creativity and Community Converge,” dozens of free events will celebrate imagination and creative expression.

I would like to invite every member of our campus community to be a full participant in this expanded arts programming. At the heart of the Arts for All initiative lies a deep commitment to providing interdisciplinary opportunities to make connections in and out of the classroom that empower all of us to address complex problems in new and meaningful ways.

Some highlights from NextNOW Fest 2021 and future Arts for All programming include:

  • Immersive Media Design Showcase (Sept. 16-17; Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering): Students in the new Immersive Media Design major showcase projects that push the boundaries of reality and break barriers in the arts.
  • NextNOW Fest at The Hall CP (Sept. 19, The Hall CP): A day-long celebration of the arts featuring workshops, interactive installations and live performance from campus and community artists and arts organizations.
  • American Landscapes (Sept. 9-Nov. 19; David C. Driskell Center): A new exhibition that highlights overlooked Black artists in American artistic tradition. In conjunction with this exhibition, a symposium will be presented on Oct. 28, with opportunities to attend in person and virtually.
  • Arts and Humanities Dean’s Lecture Featuring Vijay Gupta (Oct. 21): The College of Arts and Humanities presents violin prodigy and social justice advocate Vijay Gupta, who in 2007 became the youngest violinist ever to join the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and has emerged as a leading voice for the role of music to heal, inspire, provoke change and foster social connection.
  • Hookman (Nov. 13-21): Lauren Yee's Hookman tells the story of Lexi, a college freshman who is haunted by the sudden death of her childhood best friend—all while navigating the pressures of being a young woman entering adulthood. Directed by Nathaniel P. Claridad ’04, the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies' production brings the horror film genre to the stage, inviting audiences to explore themes of grief, trauma and guilt in an up close and personal way. This is the inaugural production of the Maya Brin Institute for New Performance.

Our world needs artists whose work helps us address grand challenges and explore the complexities of the human experience. Together, let’s celebrate the power of creativity—music, theater, dance, visual arts, design, creative writing—to improve the lives of all humankind.

Sincerely,

President Darryll Pines Signature

Darryll J. Pines
President, University of Maryland
He/Him/His

 

Wednesday, November 03, 2021 - 9:00 AM to Friday, November 05, 2021 - 5:00 PM

Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) hosts its annual conference Sharing Stories: The Case for Art.

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