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Exhibitions and Performances


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.


As part 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, the College of Arts and Humanities presented violin prodigy and social justice advocate Vijay Gupta as part of the 2021–22 Arts and Humanities Dean’s Lecture Series. Gupta spoke to a crowd of students, faculty and staff at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s Gildenhorn Recital Hall on October 21, 2021.

Gupta, who in 2007 became the youngest violinist ever to join the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has emerged as a leading voice for the role of music to heal, inspire, provoke change and foster social connection. A 2018 MacArthur Fellow, he is the founder and artistic director of Street Symphony, a nonprofit that presents musical events and workshops to Los Angeles communities disenfranchised by homelessness, poverty and incarceration. His lecture was followed by a Q&A with Associate Dean for Arts and Programming Patrick Warfield.

In addition to his lecture, Gupta worked with students from the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra. The event was co-sponsored by the School of Music.

View the full photo gallery here.

If you are a UMD student or UMD faculty/staff member, you can login to watch the recording at this link.

Read more about Vijay Gupta in a Q&A about his visit. 

Photos by David Andrews. 


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.


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.


President Darryll Pines Signature

Darryll J. Pines
President, University of Maryland




Even as many stages remain dark, adventurous new forms of theater are emerging from the pandemic—and Jared Mezzocchi is at the center of it.

The associate professor of multimedia design for dance and theater has helmed 20 virtual productions since COVID-19 struck, including the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies’ groundbreaking online version of Qui Nguyen’s fantasy “She Kills Monsters” and Diversionary Theatre’s take on the musical “Cancelled,” about a high school’s online scandal.

The New York Times recently named Mezzocchi one of five people or entities agitating contemporary theater, and his digital work “Russian Troll Farm,” featuring memes, animation and virtual backgrounds, was honored as a Times Critic’s Pick. He talked with Terp about the thrilling state of theater—and how TikTok musicals might represent one new frontier.

How do you approach all-virtual productions?
My philosophy has been to do as much as possible live. Even if it’s a little messier, our craft as theater-makers is about being live in front of an audience. For “She Kills Monsters,” we rehearsed start to finish; the actors knew what filters to turn on and off, when to turn on and off their cameras. Everything the audience witnessed that night was live. Everyone was very emotional that we achieved that.

What makes a virtual production successful?
Right now, (success) means being fearless, taking risks. I’d love to see monumental falling on one’s face because even then, at least we’re trying to do something live (rather) than not try at all. Working through something is really exhilarating to me; when you commit to risk-taking, unexpected outcomes occur. That has deep impact for an audience member.

How would you describe this period of reshaping performing arts?
Accessibility is a huge part of it. By being online, “She Kills Monsters” had 5,000 viewers in one night from multiple countries. The families of our international students were able to see their performance live for the first time. We’re only scratching at the top of that surface.

How does the lack of live audience affect performance?
What makes live performance so evocative is the give and take of energy between viewer and maker. That’s just not as present (with digital performances) in the way that we were used to, but engagement can still occur—just differently. I think about TikTok’s viral “Ratatouille” musical—that is an audience and a maker exchanging energy in a really exciting way. That’s engagement with the younger generation that theater needs.

What about the future of theater most excites you?
Theater-making always forces new ways of looking at what we’re doing. I’m excited to not just depend on physical stages, but think outside the box of how and where theater can exist.


By Jessica Weiss ’05

From aboard a fixed-wing Cessna airplane, Associate Professor of Art Shannon Collis got a bird’s-eye view of some of Canada’s largest mining projects last year. 

That aerial footage—which includes open-pit mines, waste ponds and refineries—is among the elements of her new installation, “Strata,” a multi-sensory experience that allows visitors to travel “above and through” the areas surrounding Fort Hills Suncor Oil Sands and Syncrude Oil Plant, the third-largest known crude bitumen reservoir on the planet. That’s where millions of barrels of oil are dredged up each day from beneath thousands of miles of boreal forest. 

Presented as a multi-screen projection with surround sound, “Strata” is currently at the Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College in suburban Philadelphia. “Strata” is a reference to layers in the ground, or what happens when earth is being excavated.

The project “reveals the human imprint on the region and the range of its social, economic and environmental implications,” Collis said. “And it invites visitors to contemplate and process these issues at a time of unprecedented environmental urgency.” 

Collis, who is from Canada and now lives in Baltimore, was awarded a $10,000 Rubys Artist Grant through the Baltimore-based Robert W. Deutsch Foundation to travel to the oil sands in western Canada in early 2020 to capture digital video, drone cinematography and sound recordings of the area. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Collis was forced to return to the United States in the midst of her field research. So, she began to explore possible ways to collect footage from afar. She found a number of collaborators in Fort McMurray Aviation and the local YMM Angel Flight Club, who helped her gather additional video footage. 

“I initially felt defeated and disappointed, but I realized that some of the work could be done remotely with the willingness and support from others in the industry and beyond,” she said. “I was really excited about this possibility, which opened my eyes to new research methods.”

Collis is a faculty member in the new Immersive Media Design (IMD) major at UMD, a unique collaboration between the College of Arts and Humanities (ARHU) and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS), which allows students to learn to create their own immersive media. 

Being forced to shift course in light of the pandemic was a challenge, Collis said. But ultimately, it expands future possibilities both for her and her students. 

“The whole experience has truly redefined the way I think about my research—and the immersive nature of my work,” she added. “I think this could make future research richer.”

“Strata” is currently only available to a small number of Ursinus students and faculty, but plans are in the works to implement ongoing virtual programming and virtual visits of the gallery space.   

Learn more here

Award-winning author and social justice scholar discusses the criminalization of Black girls in schools.

Date of Publication: 

By Lexi Gopin

The trailer for the documentary PUSHOUT: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, begins with a viral video of a young Black girl being pulled out of her desk at school and slammed to the ground by a school officer. The video is both horrifying and infuriating, but it is not an isolated incident. Dr. Monique Morris, an award-winning author and scholar, joined the University of Maryland’s education and arts and humanities colleges as a part of a lecture series Tuesday night to discuss her documentary, based on her 2015 book PUSHOUT.

Morris spoke about the documentary, the research methods within the film and what people can do to end the criminalization of Black girls in schools. The webinar cut across the intersections of race and gender in the education system and brought to light an important way to uphold justice: showing up as your authentic self without being a savior.

To contextualize the issue, Morris explained how the U.S. Education Department originally organized the school-to-prison pipeline data by race and sex separately, which ignored the major injustices Black girls face in school. 

“We heard cases that included 6- and 7-year-old Black girls arrested for having tantrums in their classrooms, or Black girls getting suspended for wearing head wraps during Black History Month, or thrown around by school resource officers,” Morris said. 

These stories weren’t the main focus of the conversation surrounding the school-to-prison pipeline, and they were treated as isolated incidents. It wasn’t until the UCLA Center for Civil Rights analyzed this data and brought to light a problem many already knew was true: that Black girls were facing more expulsions than boys.

Morris pointed to a study from the Georgetown Center of Poverty and Inequality that said Black girls are more likely to be suspended than white girls, even for minor violations. Despite this, the conversation at that time still focused on boys and men.

This is why Morris’ documentary is critical within the conversation of justice and equality in the education system for Black girls.

A large part of the film is interviews with young Black girls about their personal experience in which they are looking directly into the camera. Morris said this was intentional. 

“We wanted girls to directly engage the viewer to call upon an element in the viewing of the film that would invite the viewer to be much more engaged and not a passive person experiencing this film, but to actually feel as if they’re in conversation with her,” she said. 

The interviews were included in the film to highlight the experiences that back up the numbers, facts and statistics we often see in documentaries. 

Morris reflected on one story of a 16-year-old girl she worked with who had been sex trafficked and was in foster care. 

“The school captured her as a girl who was constantly in fights and never showing up to class,” she said. “And what they were missing were all of these life traumas that were informing why she was absent, why she was fighting, why she felt disconnected to her learning space.”

This story brought up an important point for Morris; by bringing her “full self” to the conversation, she was able to connect and understand the experience of this young girl. 

“No one had asked her about her educational goals until I stepped into that room and was the first person to talk to her about what might be possible for her,” she explained. 

Morris said that is the best way to take part in the movement and to keep young girls in school and away from the juvenile court system. Morris also said it’s important to aid the healing process instead of disciplining young girls. The experiences of the girls Morris has worked with showed her “how dire it is that our schools become locations for healing so that they can become locations for learning.” 

Morris is the executive director for the organization Grantmakers for Girls of Color that works to advance conditions for Black, Indigenous and other girls of color. She is also the founder of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute and started a COVID-19 response fund, as well as the Black Girl Freedom Fund

“Our function is not to save Black girls, but rather to help them pull out the wisdom that already exists in their bones, and remember who they are, and structure our engagement with them in the development of tools that will help them be whole to live just and liberated lives,” she said. 


By Sala Levin ’10

A young woman and her lover murder her husband, leading to a media monsoon as reporters and photographers follow the case. Eventually, the woman finds herself seated in the electric chair. 

The sensational real-life events behind Sophie Treadwell’s 1928 play “Machinal” take on a new glow nearly a century later as the UMD’s School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies premieres a high-tech digital version tomorrow night incorporating at-home green screens, virtual projections onto a central set, and actor-operated lighting rigs. 

“This is research,” said Director Brian MacDevitt, lecturer in dance/theatre design and production, and a five-time Tony winner for lighting design. “This is exactly what we should be doing at the school.”

Tech behind "Machinal" performance

“Machinal” will be TDPS’ fourth virtual main-season show since the COVID-pandemic stopped most live in-person performances nationwide nearly a year ago; the school has focused on creating innovative ways to present productions with casts, crews and audiences at home. 

Treadwell was working as a journalist in 1927 when Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray were convicted of killing Snyder’s husband, Albert. Her observations about the trial and the publicity surrounding it inspired her to write “Machinal,” in which the main character, a stenographer, is “trapped in the machine of her life without ever having the experience of her own thoughts or ideas,” said Ebie Prideaux ’21, who plays the main character, known simply as “A Young Woman.”

“It’s really interesting, as much as it was written in 1928, how much it connects to today, especially in conversation with mental health and specifically anxiety,” said Prideaux. 

The play may have fresh relevance in the wake of the documentary released last week, “Framing Britney Spears,” which has prompted a national conversation on how the media and public treat young women. Prideaux pointed to another piece of popular culture that influenced her understanding of the work: “I binge-watched ‘The Crown’ with my mom over winter break, and every single day in rehearsal I’d say, ‘This is Diana’s story,’” she said. 

The costumes, designed by Madison Booth MFA ’21, reflect the idea of finding one’s place as a woman in a world run by men: Many of the women’s outfits incorporate menswear, often oversized to suggest that the person wearing it doesn’t quite fit in.

The virtual production tasked all 19 actors with becoming their own crew and hair and makeup team. Each member of the cast, performing from home, received a green screen to set up, as well as a lighting package of six channels operated via individual switches; when the lighting needs to change for a new scene, it’s up to each actor to make that happen. Film of a model set will be projected onto the screens during the performances. During one scene that takes place in a speakeasy, for example, each actor will perform in front of the speakeasy’s set, zoomed into their homes.

“As an actor, you (typically) have the privilege of not having to worry if anything technically goes wrong,” said Prideaux. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, if anything goes wrong, it’s completely my fault,’ but that mindset quickly went away right when we started working with all of the grad students and professionals we brought in.”

The School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies will present “Machinal” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Reserve free tickets on the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center's website. Electronic tickets include a link to the event.

Dress rehearsal photo by David Andrews; behind-the-screens photo courtesy of Rochele Mac MFA ’21.


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