Tuesday, August 1, 2017

WALL\THERAPY 2017: Lucinda Yrene's mural celebrates motherhood, healing

Posted By on Tue, Aug 1, 2017 at 4:41 PM

Lucinda Yrene's finished mural for WALL\THERAPY 2017. - PHOTO BY REBECCA RAFFERTY
  • PHOTO BY REBECCA RAFFERTY
  • Lucinda Yrene's finished mural for WALL\THERAPY 2017.

Phoenix, Arizona-based artist Lucinda Yrene (aka La Morena) worked through the vacillating heat and rain showers last week to create her mural on a long, low wall at 1112 East Main Street (across Main from The Hungerford). The mural doesn't face the street; it's on the east side of the building facing Minges Alley, but the space created by a grass lot in front of the wall makes the work visible to cars and pedestrians approaching from downtown as you lumber down the hill.

First you peep the deep purple of the mural's velvety sky and hot-hued geometric patterned border, and then like a beacon, a giant snowy owl appears. On the left side of the long painting, a young girl in profile faces right, her face kissed by the full moon as she holds out a bundle of dried sage, smudging the air.

Yrene calls the mural "Pasado, Presente, Futuro" — past, present, future — and the girl in the painting is her daughter.

"She's basically following in my footsteps. I do natural healing," she says. "The sage is cleansing, not just for the space here; we all need it — me, the nation, everyone. People have been coming up and asking what it represents, and they all know what it means. It's a good feeling to know that."

Milky smoke unfurls from the bundled herb and drifts across a space specked with pinpoint stars, back to the owl that's winging toward the girl. She's framed on the left by a big-leafed sage plant, and the whole scene is framed by crescent moons on either side and the bright border along the bottom.

The last bit is a shout out to her heritage. "I decided to put the border in this mural because I am Apache, Pima, and Chicana, and wanted to add a little bit of my culture," Yrene says.

It's a great spot to put a thing of beauty and positivity. The adjacent GP4H neighborhood (named for Garson, Peck, Fourth, and Hayward streets) has a number of condemned properties and vacant lots.

The area is a hybrid — the immediate vicinity of the freshly renovated Rochester Public Market has been undergoing changes these past several years, with added upscale living, art spaces, trendy eateries. So far this change is mostly centered on Railroad Avenue, which is beginning to look and feel like Brooklyn's Bushwick. At the same time, neighboring Marketview Heights has experienced a revitalization from the inside that's made homeowners out of tenants, and the area is filled with community gardens.

GP4H arguably needs some love. But all over the country, Rochester included, attention by developers has a tendency to price people out of their homes and businesses. Street art has an undeniable connection to development and gentrification, but Yrene is neither the face of gentrification, nor an advocate for it. Her next mural project -- to go up this fall in south Phoenix where she grew up -- will be in an area where development is happening due to the expanded light rail. She says there's a group of people trying to ensure that local businesses don't get pushed out by Starbucks and Jimmy John's chains, and that the spirit of her mural is one of protection.

So far Yrene's new mural has been well-received. Along with messages regarding the piece from women — thanking her for being spiritual and representing motherhood — as she was painting, folks from the neighborhood approached her in curiosity to inquire about the painting and its meaning.

"It's just coming from my heart," Yrene says. "Everyone who sees it has their own stories about what it means to them, and that's fine. People have asked me, 'Is this about cleansing the nation?' Yes, absolutely. 'Is this about motherhood because she's your daughter?' Yes, absolutely. 'Is this a good omen for the community?' Yes, absolutely. It's a story for everyone."

And many people have recognized the sage as a cleansing tool, she says.

"At first I wanted it to be a little bit political, because I do a little of both," Yrene says. "I paint about immigration, feminism, community. But I thought I'd go from the heart on this one and be a little more spiritual. Because it doesn't matter what culture you're from, or what race you belong to, we all need a little healing in our lives."

The owl symbolizes a special connection Yrene, and now her daughter, have to the animal.

"To me it's a good omen, I see owls as messengers," she says. "Since I was a kid as young as my daughter, I started seeing white owls. A couple of weeks ago my daughter and I were out driving, and there was a white owl that was flying with us long enough that I woke her up to see it. She's at the same age that I was when I saw my first owl outside of my grandmother's house."

In 2012, Yrene began curating underground and pop-up shows in Arizona. "I didn't know how to get my foot in the door, and that's how I met a lot of artists. But it wasn't until 2015 that I started facilitating mural projects. That's how I met some artists from Just Seeds," including fellow WALL\THERAPY muralist Jess X Snow.

Yrene has also collaborated on mural projects with artist Mata Ruda, but for the past few months she has been creating solo murals. "Pasado, Presente, Futuro" is her largest solo mural.

In addition to WALL\THERAPY volunteers, Yrene was assisted by her mural-making mentee, 19-year-old Hector Castellanos, who lives about an hour from Phoenix in Casa Grande.

"He's been a fan of me and Mata Ruda for about a year and a half, and he's just starting out in art," Yrene says. "His parents are migrants from Honduras, and so they live in this barrio. He sees it as a hard life, and he's just trying to get out and do something. He's inspired by art."

Castellanos reached out to ask Yrene about six months ago, asking her to mentor him, she says, and he was persistent.

"I've been working with him for the past four months, and he drives all the way out from Casa Grande, she says. "I thought it would be good for him to come here with me so that he can see the potential of where he can go with his art, if he works hard for it. He's very intelligent, and is like a sponge, soaks up all the information."

EDITOR'S NOTE: The author lives in the GP4H neighborhood.


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Monday, July 31, 2017

WALL\THERAPY 2017: Jess X Snow, Chrysanthemum Tran, and the Queer Mother Earth

Posted By on Mon, Jul 31, 2017 at 4:39 PM

Rochester just got its first mural that spotlights queer identity. Located on the lot-facing wall of the Kaleidoscope Collective space at 936 Exchange Street, the piece is by Brooklyn-based artist, poet, and filmmaker Jess X Snow. Snow was in town participating in this year's WALL\THERAPY muralism festival, which wrapped on Sunday.

The massive wall features a portrait of Snow's friend Chrysanthemum Tran, a transgender Vietnamese-American poet. Snow and Tran attended school together and were reunited in Rochester last year when they took part in Rachel McKibbens' poetry retreat for women of color, The Pink Door.

Along the right side of Snow's mural are lines pulled from Tran's poem, "Biological Woman" --

I transcend biology / I'm supernova / an extraterrestrial gender / I drink all the water on Mars & rename that my blood

"Chrysanthemum turns to imagery of the magic and the cosmic to describe her gender and self care journey. The magic of her words in the face of transphobia and misogyny is what directly inspired the mural," Snow says.

Tran "takes all of the imagery of outer space and uses that to kind of affirm her gender expression and gender journey," Snow says. If trans people "are seen as such a threat to this heteronormative society, then they must have some kind of magic and they must be extraterrestrial."

Using gentle contours and vibrant colors, Snow presents Tran gazing steadily off to the right, her hair transforming into the black silhouettes of tree branches scratching at a velvety aubergine sky. The red planet peeks from behind Tran's head, and a monarch butterfly clings above one ear like a hair clip.

In one of the best incorporations of mural-interrupting windows I've ever seen, the wood between the panes of glass in the windows flows into the black veins of the butterfly wings, and at night the burned yellow glow through the window becomes almost a stained-glass element in part of the painted wing.

"The Earth and outer space becomes part of the vocabulary of this particular mural and a lot of the murals I do," Snow says. "I wrote a poem about how the idea that queerness is against nature doesn't make any sense, because if you look at the natural world -- leopard slugs, clown fish, parrot fish, and oysters -- a lot of them are transgender or mutually penetrative, so they have both parts. There's lesbian lions and bonobo apes that are polyamorous and solve conflict with queer sex. So basically, the Earth is super queer, and I'm kind of reclaiming the imagery of the Earth from a queer lens. And the butterflies represent the transformation and the fluidity of gender."

Tran "represents the Mother Earth, but a queer and trans Mother," Snow says. "I imagine the Earth as a fluid and colorful motherhood that encompasses all the different ways that animals and plants mate, and transcend gender in the animal kingdom. I believe Mother earth has been resisting colonization and heteronormativity for four and a half billion years."

The lines of Tran's poem, paired with the imagery, speak of the push and pull of trans identity in human culture; of knowing you are natural but being made to feel alien.

"I'm a queer person in the Asian-American community, and I've never seen the stories of queer Asians represented on walls and public space or even in films, or books," Snow says. "They're a little bit more represented in terms of poetry, but in mediums like film and public art -- it's more male-dominated and you have to have access to money, walls, or space to tell those stories. When I found my voice more as a public artist and started getting these opportunities, I realized it was important for me to represent my own communities on this scale."

Art is a crucial part of our emotional well-being, Snow says, and murals have the power to affect the daily lives of the people in the neighborhood and the community that lives there.

"In any community, whether it's Rochester or anywhere else, there is a resilient underground queer and trans population but it is rare that they are given many opportunities to explore their identities in public space," she says. "When it does happen, a queer mural gives the rest of the queer community permission to celebrate our identities in public without fear. It's a personal responsibility that I feel when I'm given a wall or a space to create."

Snow says she discovered poetry and art around the same time, but only recently began combining the two through mural-making. As a young child growing up in Canada, her parents divorced and she and her mother moved to the US. She developed a stutter in middle school, and as a result, found that writing poetry and drawing were more comfortable means of expression.

Art was how she reclaimed her voice, and now she uses it to bolster the voices of her blood and chosen family and community.

"I'm carrying the weight of all of the queer people who I've known in my life, who wanted nothing more than to see themselves visible," she says. " I have a lot of queer and trans friends who have contemplated suicide, who have been outed by their entire families, who are products of homophobic diasporas and have had to translate for their parents, resist assimilation, and fight for their gender affirmation and queer identity journeys on top of all that. I think taking a baby step toward a world that is queer- and trans-inclusive is to have our faces, lives and words on a monumental scale in public art . I hope this mural of Chrysanthemum can begin this journey."

Much of Snow's other work -- notably for Just Seeds and for the O+ Festival -- addresses migration. Her mural for the Kingston, New York, O+ Festival features a woman whose flowing tresses transformed into the waves of the Pacific Ocean, with ships and birds crossing it.

"Migration and queerness are natural phenomena that are as ancient as the earth itself," she says.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

WALL\THERAPY 2017: Todd Stahl takes a focus on Syria

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 4:00 AM

Although WALL\THERAPY organizers set a theme of arts and activism for this year's festival, they left the specifics up to the individual artists. Todd Stahl, a teacher at Webster Thomas High School, began working Sunday at 59 Pennsylvania Avenue, assisted by a few of his students. His mural features an oversize portrait of a young Syrian girl amid loads of symbolism and patterns that are characteristic of his work.

"I wanted to focus this year on Syrian refugee children," Stahl says. He's been following the civil war and refugee crisis, but not very closely until recently. "I had heard about the atrocities that were happening, but because there's so much happening in America, I didn't really focus on it," he says. "It's so far away. My wife and I love to watch documentaries, and we happened upon one on Frontline called 'Children of Syria.' It follows this family with three kids of varying ages, from high school down to five, and a husband and wife."

Despite the exodus, the family stayed in the city because the father began working with a group of resistance fighters. The kids homeschooled themselves. And walking around the city is a gambit -- there are snipers in the buildings.

"It was really eye-opening," Stahl says. "I have a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old. Our lives are so comfortable, even on days when we think, 'Oh, life is hard.' I don't have to worry about snipers. Their city was in shambles."

Stahl's mural was specifically inspired by a scene in the documentary when the children -- the family having finally escaped the city -- encounter the sea for the first time. Their sense of freedom and relief was amazing, Stahl says. "I live close to Lake Ontario and drive by it all of the time -- you take it for granted."

Central to his mural is a larger-than-life portrait of a Syrian girl, who is surrounded by a barren landscape, but pulling the tide of the ocean up close to her heart, like something precious.

The reference photographs for Stahl's piece are sourced with permission from a Syrian documentary photographer named Manar Bilal, who was excited about Stahl's project.

Off to the right of the girl, the sky is filled with silhouettes of World War II era bombers -- chosen because they are such an iconic war plane -- transforming into birds, like an M. C. Escher tessellation.

It wouldn't be a Todd Stahl piece without text. A sign behind the girl points to Damascus in one direction and Baghdad in the other, both city names appearing in blocky English characters and flowing Arabic script. Bold red and white diagonal stripes allude to "caution" signs as well as the American flag and our decades-long presence in the Middle East.

While wall hunting with the WALL\THERAPY team, Stahl's mural location changed a few times before the current spot was agreed upon. He's painting on two garage doors, one of which have the wooden-assemblage look of much of Stahl's studio work. The left door features a giant hand throwing a peace sign and painted barbed wire snakes across the surface, which has one or two broken windows. These were left unrepaired, as they subtly reference the broken-down infrastructure of war-torn cities.

Stahl will continue to work on his mural throughout the week. See the slideshow below for some visuals, and follow us on Instagram @roccitynews for more pictures and videos.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

WALL\THERAPY 2017: Notes from the weekend

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 4:00 AM

WALL\THERAPY over the weekend announced its 2017 mural locations, which span a swath of Rochester on both sides of the river.

A brief recap of the weekend's progress follows, and stay tuned for individual artist spotlights and interviews coming this week. See the slideshow below for some visuals, and follow CITY on Instagram @roccitynews for more pictures and videos.

This is a female-centric year for WALL\THERAPY. Seven of the 10 muralists are women, and every mural that has been started so far features women.

SARAH C RUTHERFORDhas made quite a dent in the work on her massive mural at 548 West Main Street, which features a woman holding a small child, surrounded by Art Nouveau flourishes and colorful flora and fauna. In addition to joining WALL\THERAPY's lineup this year, Rutherford's mural is part of her series, "Her Voice Carries."

LUCINDA YRENE (aka La Morena)began work Sunday on her wall at 1112 East Main Street, on the west side of Minges Alley. The painting includes a portrait of her daughter holding a sage smudge stick, and an owl floating aloft.

AUBREY ROEMER, working on a huge wall at 936 Exchange Street, is creating a vibrant, mixed-media painting featuring a central woman holding a child, with three figures in the background, all surrounded by vibrant plant-life.

TODD STAHL also began working Sunday at 59 Pennsylvania Avenue, next to Thievin' Stephen's "Stock Lives" mural. A teacher at Webster Thomas High School, Stahl has six students assisting him this week. His mural, featuring a young Syrian girl amid loads of symbolism and patterns, is inspired by international politics and the refugee crisis.

JESS X SNOWworked into the wee hours of Monday morning, projecting her sketch for her portrait of a transwoman poet at 936 Exchange Street (located to the right of Aubrey Roemer's wall). It can be tricky to design around windows, but the leading of the window on this wall lines up perfectly with the wing markings of a butterfly in the subject's hair.

Given the rain in the forecast, it's uncertain how much painting the muralists will accomplish on Monday. Barring weather issues, IAN KUALI'Iis set to begin painting at 40 Greenleaf Street, and ROC PAINT DIVISION(featuring Nzinga Muhammad, Etana Browne, and Kaori-Mei Stephens) will begin work at the Flying Squirrel, 285 Clarissa Street.

SEAN 9 LUGOwill arrive in Rochester Tuesday night and begin painting on Wednesday, July 26. Instead of one wall, Lugo will create a series of wheatpaste murals to form a story throughout the city. CITY will update you with locations as they are available.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Submissions to 2016 Fringe open Wednesday

Posted By on Tue, Mar 15, 2016 at 4:00 AM

The process to submit a show to the 2016 Rochester Fringe Festival will open Wednesday, March 16, beginning 9 a.m., online only at rochesterfringe.com. The submission window will close at midnight on Saturday, April 30.

Producers, artists, and arts organizations can submit a show of any genre for consideration at any of the Fringe's venues. Those venues will then book their own lineups for the Fringe -- the Fringe itself only curates headliners and free entertainment. There is no fee to apply. But once a show is accepted and a contract is finalized with the venue, there is a registration fee: For venues with 99 seats or less, the fee is $50 for a single performance or series of free shows, and $75 for multiple, ticketed performances. For venues with more than 99 seats, registration fees are $100 (for a single performance) or $150 (for multiple performances).

The Fringe will host a submission launch party Wednesday, March 16, at Black Button Distilling (85 Railroad Street), from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Those interested in applying a show for the Fringe can learn more.

The 2016 Rochester Fringe Festival will take place Thursday, September 15, through Saturday, September 24. For more information, check out rochesterfringe.com.

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Friday, March 4, 2016

First Friday preview: March 4

Posted By on Fri, Mar 4, 2016 at 11:31 AM

Cure your cabin fever with a dose of culture. Here are just a sampling of the art openings and receptions taking place tonight; for more art related events, check out our calendar or visit firstfridayrochester.org.

If you've always wanted to participate in Rochester Contemporary's annual 6x6 show and sale, but never seem to dedicate the time to make an artwork, come to the First Friday 6x6 Party Month Kickoff. The event will be held tonight at RoCo (137 East Avenue) from 6 to 9 p.m., featuring art-making workshops with The Large Artist and the Print Club of Rochester, a special appearance of The Drawing Booth, a cash bar and live music. Make 6x6 artworks and submit them on the spot (the deadline is April 17). The annual 6x6 opening party event will be held on June 4. Admission to RoCo is $2 and free to members. For more information, call 461-2222 or visit rochestercontemporary.org.

While you're there, check out "Makers & Mentors," which is on view through March 13. This iteration of RoCo's annual series, which features the work of artist-educator Sheldon Berlyn and a small group of artists who benefitted from his tutelage. Berlyn is a celebrated abstract painter, and his featured former students include Russell Floersch, Juan Perdiguero, Kathleen Sherin, and Gerado Tan.

Don't forget RoCo's LAB Space, which is currently showing "One Cubic Foot: The Genesee River" by award-winning photographer David Liittschwager. Through more than 60 images, Liittschwager illustrates the biodiversity of the Genesee River. The exhibit is the result of Liittschwager's tenure in Rochester, in partnership with the Seneca Park Zoo. Read more about his project here.

The Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley recently moved to a new location at 100 College Avenue, in the spot that formerly housed Lumiere Photo. The new spot features an exhibition space, Gallery Q, which is currently showing "together/apart," a showcase of five artists who each consider themes of companionship, loss, and the search for meaning within our relationships. Participating artists are Gretchen Arnold, Randall Cook, Meredith Davenport, Dan Larkin, and Scott McCarney. The show will remain up through March. See the show tonight, 6 to 9 p.m. Admission is free. For regular hours and more information, call 244-8640 or visit gayalliance.org.

Writers & Books (740 University Avenue) will host a Choose Your Own Adventure themed event from 4 to 6 p.m. Start in the bookstore and let your intuition guide you through a series of passages taken from real Choose Your Own Adventure books. Enjoy snacks and A Wide Open Mic that begins at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call 473-2590 or visit wab.org.

Shane Durgee's MFA Thesis Show, "Snakes in the Nest," is part of a wider exhibition of graduate work at RIT's Bevier Gallery. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Shane Durgee's MFA Thesis Show, "Snakes in the Nest," is part of a wider exhibition of graduate work at RIT's Bevier Gallery.

Check out the work of a set of talented emerging artists at the 2016 Grad Thesis Exhibit for the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. An opening reception will be held tonight, 4 to 7 p.m., at RIT's Bevier Gallery (73 Lomb Memorial Drive, Henrietta). The show of Emily Bellinger, Shane Durgee, Sarah Jean Taavola, Abiose Spriggs, Matt Mroz, Mike Strobert, and others. Admission to Bevier Gallery is free and hours are Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m; Monday through Thursday, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 1 to 4:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 2 to 4:40 p.m. Visitor parking is available in lots E and F. For more information, call 475-2646 or visit cias.rit.edu/bevier-gallery.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

RIT Industrial Design students to collaborate with Poppin

Posted By on Thu, Feb 4, 2016 at 9:41 AM

RIT's School of Design announced Wednesday that office furniture and supply firm Poppin is the industry partner that participating students will collaborate with for this year's Metaproject. The class of 22 senior ID students gathered in University Gallery for the reveal, buzzing nervously and making guesses at what type of product they would be asked to create.

Now in its sixth year, Metaproject is an elective design studio course offered to seniors in RIT's Industrial Design program, which sees students work in collaboration with a different industry partner each year. The students are asked to design a product that solves a specific problem or works within a set of parameters, and work toward this goal throughout the semester.

Professor Josh Owen introduces design firm Poppin as this year's Metaproject industry partner. - PHOTO COURTESY A. SUE WEISLER/RIT
  • PHOTO COURTESY A. SUE WEISLER/RIT
  • Professor Josh Owen introduces design firm Poppin as this year's Metaproject industry partner.

The course offers the students a taste of real-world experience, connections with design professionals, and the possibility of having their design put into production.

This year, the design topic is "Work Happy," which is also Poppin's slogan. The students are tasked with designing "innovative accessories for Poppin's furniture that accent, improve, or add to their use," says professor Josh Owen, who developed Metaproject and leads the course.

Suggested areas of exploration include -- but are not limited to -- storage, organization, desktop real estate, cable management, power accessibility, comfort, privacy, and sound isolation.

While designing, students must take into account certain trends in modern offices that present challenges. These include shrinking or shared work spaces as companies grow in number of workers but not square footage, the need for privacy (for meetings or phone calls) in open-plan offices, and the increasing popularity of standing at elevated desks rather than sitting.

The materials, technologies, and processes that students will use to create their finished products are part of the plan they'll have to come up with, Owen says, and they will have to match the manufacturer's abilities and goals.

In addition to the industry partner and project reveal, the students watched a presentation by Poppin professionals that introduced them to the company's philosophy and aesthetics.

Poppin creates simple, elegant, and elemental products that "eschew unnecessary details," says Jeff Miller, Poppin's VP of product design. The company is also known for offering nearly every product, from stapler to filing cabinet, in every hue from its bright, cheerful color palette.

Students then got a hands-on look at select Poppin products that will remain on hand throughout the semester for reference. These include the company's Series A Double Desks formed into a long conference table, Max Task office chairs, and Limber LED Task Lamps.

Poppin's VP of product design, Jeff Miller, explains the company's philosophy and aesthetics to RIT Industrial Design students. - PHOTO COURTESY A. SUE WEISLER/RIT
  • PHOTO COURTESY A. SUE WEISLER/RIT
  • Poppin's VP of product design, Jeff Miller, explains the company's philosophy and aesthetics to RIT Industrial Design students.

Past Metaprojects had students partner with Wilsonart, The Corning Museum of Glass, Areaware, Herman Miller, and last year, with both Kikkerland and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Through Metaproject, students make contacts in some of the most prestigious design-based companies in the world, and have the opportunity to exhibit their products each May during Design Week in New York City.

Metaproject is an interdisciplinary assignment -- as part of this project, Industrial Design students will team up with professor Adam Smith's New Media Design students to develop an experience around the ID projects that will be part of the product showcase in New York City.

Past students have designed products some companies have taken into production. For example: James Paulius's 2013 design for Metaproject 03 (in collaboration with world-renowned avant-garde accessories manufacturer, Areaware). Paulius's "Blockitecture" subsequently went into mass production, and is available at the MoMA gift shop. He has since created a second iteration, Blockitecture Garden City.

"James' career has really been kickstarted by this Metaproject," Owen says.

Some of Poppin's office furniture is on hand for Industrial Design students to explore and consider. - PHOTO COURTESY A. SUE WEISLER/RIT
  • PHOTO COURTESY A. SUE WEISLER/RIT
  • Some of Poppin's office furniture is on hand for Industrial Design students to explore and consider.

About 14 weeks remain in the semester, and students will work on projects for about 12 of those weeks. The last couple of weeks will be spent on judging the products to determine which ideas will be polished up and brought to New York City.

"Winning design concepts will be chosen for their ingenuity, usefulness, aesthetic refinement, and coherence within the rest of Poppin's product assortment." Owen says.

The kick-off of Metaproject 06 follows on the tails of the third annual T-minus, a one-week project challenge the ID department undertook last week. Learn more about T-minus here.

The students will continue work on Metaproject 06 through the end of the semester. City will follow up on this story and their projects a bit down the line. Watch RIT's video about the Metaproject 06 reveal here. To learn more about Metaproject, visit metaproject.rit.edu.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Geva names new executive director

Posted By on Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 4:58 PM

Geva Theatre Center today announced Christopher Mannelli will be the next Executive Director and co-CEO with Artistic Director Mark Cuddy. Following Geva's national search, Mannelli comes to Geva from Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago -- a 41-year-old, Tony Award-winning institution dedicated to new plays and playwrights, where he served as managing director for five years.

Mannelli will start full-time at Geva Theatre Center at the end of February.

During his tenure, Mannelli led the reorganization of the Chicago institution and was responsible for the strategic planning, fundraising, and audience development initiatives that created the theater's new business model. Under his leadership, Victory Gardens has seen numerous award-winning productions, increased contributed income, and launched innovative membership and audience engagement initiatives.

Prior to his work with Victory Gardens, Mannelli served as deputy director at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, one of the largest nonprofit theaters in Chicago. Before moving to Chicago, he was the managing director for HotCity Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri. He grew up on Long Island and began his career as an actor and a musician, touring nationally and internationally. He holds a B.A. in opera performance from the SUNY Geneseo School of Performing Arts, an M.F.A. in Arts Leadership from DePaul University.

Manelli has more than 20 years of experience in the theatre industry, says Joanna Grosodonia, Chair of the Board of Trustees for Geva Theatre Center. "He has a proven track record of strategic thinking, leadership, and marketing that will benefit and promote Geva as this area's premier regional theatre."

"I am thrilled to be joining the team at Geva Theatre Center and honored to have the opportunity to serve as Executive Director," Mannelli says. "When I began my career as a performer, it was at Geva where I had my first professional role. It's incredibly special to come back, nearly 20 years later, and have the privilege to partner with an inspiring leader such as Mark Cuddy."

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Airigami announces 'Journey on the Genesee' build

Posted By on Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 1:12 PM

Airigami announced today the theme of its first "Airigami Balloon Adventure" build as well as details about events surrounding the installation. Around 60 artists and volunteers will help construct "Journey on the Genesee," a five-story, 50-foot sculpture made from more than 40,000 compostable balloons, inside the Sibley Building atrium.

"Journey on the Genesee" will be Airigami's seventh local installation (formerly titled "Balloon Manor") and its third in the Sibley Building (250 East Main Street). Construction will begin Monday, January 25, and will open at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, January 29. The sculpture will remain on display through Sunday, February 7, when everything will be deflated during a popping party.

Both the build and the installation will be on display for free, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily.

"We are incredibly excited to recreate nature with balloons -- the river, waterfalls, animals, plants -- inside, in the middle of winter," says Larry Moss, Airigami artistic director and founder. "And we're doing it all in an environmentally sound way, generating almost no waste, and composting the remains." For more information about Airigami, this year's installation, and some of the events that will be surrounding the build, visit airigamiadventure.com.

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Star-crossed artists

"Marcel Dzama: Une Danse des Bouffons (A Jester's Dance)"

Posted By on Thu, Dec 31, 2015 at 4:09 PM

Art history nerds: gather 'round! Through January 24, a beautiful, surreal film currently screening in Memorial Art Gallery's Lockhart Gallery (500 University Avenue) provides a great opportunity to play a little game of art "I Spy." Canadian artist Marcel Dzama's 2013 "Une Danse des Bouffons (A Jester's Dance)" is chock-full of references to the work of Marcel Duchamp, Francisco Goya, Francis Picabia, Joseph Beuys, and others, as well as allusions to Duchamp's life.

This exhibition is atypical for The MAG's Lockhart Gallery, which is usually utilized for great shows of works on paper. It's nice to see it transformed into an open, darkened space for the screening of a contemporary film.

The 30-minute, continuously looping, 2013 work is a fictionalized account of the ill-fated affair between Dada artist Duchamp and Brazilian sculptor Maria Martins. A tale told twice, back-to-back and with subtle variations, the strange and exciting Dadaist love story is conveyed through a collision of themes, including death and rebirth, multiple identities and doppelgängers, false prophets, lost love, the corruption of power, and the fragility of truth.

Using a recreation of Marcel Duchamp's sculptural installation, "ÉtantDonnés," a trickster figure summons the character of Maria Martins (played by Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon and Hannelore Knuts) from the sculpture. Maria discovers her lover (a captive Marcel Duchamp, played by Jason Grisell) bound and at the mercy of a group of tormentors.

Her efforts to rescue her love are reminiscent of Alice's bewildering trip down the rabbit hole to a dark and mad wonderland populated by a monstrous assortment of beings. Decked with bizarre paint, costumes, hoods, and masks, the various players are forced to perform on a television program for a truly menacing-looking judge (also played by Grisell).

At times, the scenes and tone read a bit like Bosch's "Musician's Hell" come to life; at other moments, the sabre-wielding, masked terrorists trigger associations with current events. The production -- a silent work, save an engaging musical score by Will Butler, Jeremy Gara, Tim Kingsbury, and Dzama -- is full of eerie and intense theatrics. Here, buffoonery is an entertainment, and cruelty a performance.

The MAG will be closed New Year's Day. Regular hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursday until 9 p.m. Admission is $5-$14 (free to members and kids age 5 and under; half-price admission on Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m.). For more information, call 276-8900 or visit mag.rochester.edu.

Fair warning: this exhibition contains nudity and suggested violence.

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