College of Fine Arts News Archive

May 2020

  • Studying abroad presents special challenges during worldwide COVID-19 crisis

    Studying abroad presents special challenges during worldwide COVID-19 crisis

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    Alli Beck

    May 18, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    Finishing spring semester 2020 studies, which have been online, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic would be stressful for any college student. But imagine yourself as a fine arts student who had chosen this academic year to study abroad.

    Separated from family, friends and familiar surroundings, students involved in an ongoing exchange between Stephen F. Austin State University and Rose Bruford College in the United Kingdom have an added set of challenges that comes with being thousands of miles from support systems at home amid overwhelming fear of the unknown.

    The relationship between SFA and Rose Bruford, the leading professional theatre school in the university sector in England, extends more than 25 years. SFA theatre students who spend a year at Rose Bruford have the opportunity to study in Sidcup, Kent, which is just outside of London, Spain, Estonia, Prague and other parts of Europe. Similarly, Rose Bruford students who come to SFA can fulfill American Theatre Arts program requirements here.

    Alli Beck, senior theatre major from Nacogdoches, and Dustin Barnes, senior theatre major from Needville, are in London completing their last few courses at Rose Bruford. Beck describes the past few months as “a whirlwind” amid the worldwide COVID-19 crisis.

    “My studies at Rose Bruford are continuing, but they are the least of my worries during all of this,” she said. “It’s been really hard to motivate myself to be invested in the modules left to finish in the midst of this uncertainty.”

    Barnes describes these past few months as “lonely, more than anything.”

    “It’s hard to go from going to the college every day and being able to see friends, to rarely seeing, let alone interacting with, another person,” he said. “Most days I can keep myself busy by finding online resources that help me continue to learn about things I’m interested in. But some days, I just lie in bed and watch Netflix or Disney Plus.”

    The United Kingdom government began its lockdown on March 23, but due to Barnes’ own health conditions, his doctors had already told him to stay home the week before.

    “So I’ve been at home for about eight weeks now,” he said. “This fell in line with Rose Bruford’s Easter break, so, luckily, the faculty and staff here had about a month to prepare and make the switch to online where possible.”

    From about December to February, Beck was on break and free from classes. In February, her coursework sent her to the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague to do an Erasmus (EuRopean Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) program and study at DAMU (Academy of Performing Arts) until May. But after only a month of being there, the pandemic forced her to return to England.

    “My roommates in London all went back home and I was left alone, so a friend is letting me live with them and their family for the remainder of my stay,” she said. “I’m currently still finishing an Erasmus Project from Prague as well as starting a design module at Rose Bruford. During this time, I’ve had the opportunity to spend my time learning more about my personal interests when I’m not ‘in class.’”

    Rose Bruford theatre student Ruth Saunders, who had begun her studies at SFA only in January, returned home immediately following spring break as a result of the pandemic. Arriving in Texas on Jan. 6, Saunders said she met “amazing people” who helped her move in and navigate the campus. In the two months that followed, she enjoyed exploring a new culture, meeting new people and taking theatre courses at SFA.

    “We got to midterms, and I was so excited to continue the semester while looking forward to spring break,” Saunders said. “I went away on a trip to Eagle Rock Loop and enjoyed every minute.”

    Then, everything changed.

    “My 21st birthday was the 15th of March, and then I was on a plane home on the 16th of March,” she said. “While a complete shock, I was so thankful to my friends who helped me to get packed up and were so understanding. After a week or so, I figured out how best to work from the U.K. while juggling work from Bruford, too.”

    Beck said she’s concerned she won’t be able to return home when she is ready, or that something will happen to her family while she is so far away. She is challenged by “knowing, once I do come back home, it won’t be the same place anymore, and I will no longer be able to enjoy all the things I’ve missed over this year.”

    “My greatest fear has been around my flight home,” Barnes said. “The airline I am using is only giving updates about a month in advance for flights, so I won’t get any information on whether or not my flight home will be on schedule for another month or so. At the moment, I’m finishing up my finals at Bruford, and then I plan to fly back home to Texas in July to take online classes for Summer II at SFA so I can have an easier last semester before I graduate in December.”

    Upon returning to the U.K. and juggling the demands of online classes, Saunders has found it difficult to stay in contact with her new SFA friends. “Working online was difficult, but that wasn't the hardest thing,” she said. “I was so challenged in not seeing my friends who I had spent the last two months getting to know.” She hopes to return to Texas in the next year or two.

    Like most of the world today, Beck isn’t sure what the future holds for her academically and professionally.

    “Our directing project, which was supposed to be over at the end of June, is now possibly being pushed into July or August, if we can meet in person by then,” she said. “I’ll either be coming home in June or August based on this decision. Until then, I’ll be spending my days reading, listening to podcasts, exercising and studying.”

    Amid all the challenges and uncertainties, the students said there are some valuable lessons to be learned. Saunders said she cherishes the short time she was at SFA, the new friends she met and what she learned about theatre in different parts of the world … “seeing how the same industry can look so similar, yet be different.”

    “For me, the most valuable lesson has been to make the most of each day you’re able to go to class, be with friends and family, or even take a trip to the store,” Barnes said, “because you never know when all of that may just go away.”

    “I’ve acquired a whole new perspective on society, the government and the lengths – or lack thereof – that humans will go to keep each other safe,” Beck said. “This experience has been one of personal growth.”

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  • SFA graduate Castillo accepted into prestigious art program at Texas Tech University

    SFA graduate Castillo accepted into prestigious art program at Texas Tech University

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    Madeline Castillo, right, recent graduate in the SFA School of Art, pictured with Lauren Selden, professor of metalworking and jewelry in the School of Art, has been accepted into a prestigious M.F.A. program in art at Texas Tech University.

    May 13, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    A Stephen F. Austin State University art student and a recipient of the Ed and Gwen Cole Dean’s Award in Art has been accepted into a highly competitive Master of Fine Arts program at Texas Tech University, where she has also been awarded several scholarships.

    Madeline Castillo, art major from League City who recently earned a B.F.A. with a concentration in metals-jewelry and a second concentration in sculpture, will pursue an M.F.A. in metalsmithing with a second emphasis in sculpture at Texas Tech, from which she received the Diversity Graduate Recruitment Fellowship, Helen Jones Foundation Scholarship, TTU School of Art scholarship and a teaching assistantship.

    “I am extremely excited and grateful to have received such a great scholarship from TTU,” Castillo said.

    “Madeline was our top candidate in jewelry design and metalsmithing at Texas Tech University,” said Robly A. Glover, professor of jewelry design and metalsmithing at TTU. “Based on her portfolio and interview, we were able to put together a significant fellowship and assistantship package of support for her.”

    Through the TTU Graduate School, Castillo was one of the first students to receive a travel and research scholarship, Glover added. “This will help Madeline expand her research efforts and support her development of a nationally competitive M.F.A. portfolio,” he said. “Madeline is an intelligent and personable student who impressed everyone who met her. We look forward to working with her in the fall of 2020.”

    Castillo said her time studying art at SFA helped prepare her for this next chapter of her education.

    “I am immensely grateful to the wonderful professors at SFA,” she said. “Their guidance, patience and enthusiasm for teaching have allowed me to develop the skills I need to feel confident as an artist going forward after graduation. The bonds I made with my mentors and peers led me to grow, not just as an artist, but as a person. I want to thank my professors at SFA for all that they have done for me. Their constant support and belief in me always inspired me to do my best. I will always remember their lessons and continue doing my very best at TTU.”

    In the future, Castillo hopes to apply to artist residencies to further develop her concepts and learn from new environments.

    “Ultimately, I want to be in a position where I can teach others,” she said.

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  • Boerne artist Gonzales wins 2020 Texas National

    Boerne artist Gonzales wins 2020 Texas National

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    Three works by Texas National first-place artist Victoria Gonzales.

    May 11, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    The winning artist in the 2020 Texas National Competition and Exhibition at Stephen F. Austin State University is Boerne artist Victoria Gonzales.

    The announcement was made recently on the SFA School of Art website, which also features a short walk-through video of this year’s exhibition in The Cole Art Center @ the Old Opera House, SFA’s historic downtown art gallery. Annette Lawrence, professor of studio art in the College of Visual Arts and Design at the University of North Texas, judged the entries with the assistance of a video.

    “Our juror for this year’s Texas National has taken a slightly different approach in making awards,” said John Handley, director of SFA galleries. “Rather than choosing individual works of art, she chose instead to make the awards to individual artists who have pieces in the exhibition – a nice switch, I think. So please welcome the virtual awards video posted on our website.”

    Second-place artist was Chelsie Murfee of Nixa, Missouri, and third place went to Linda Reymore of Stuart, Florida. Honorable mention awards were presented to Mick Burson of Albuquerque, New Mexico; Amy Broderick of Jupiter, Florida; and Richard Parker of Pasadena, California.

    The video can be accessed on Facebook at SFA Art Galleries & Cole Art Center and at http://art.sfasu.edu. A different artist is featured periodically on Facebook, showcasing their images, titles, medium and the artist statement, if provided. A brief video of Lawrence announcing the winners is also featured on the Facebook page.

    For more information, call (936) 468-1131.

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  • YouTube videos fill SFA Art Academy void

    YouTube videos fill SFA Art Academy void

    May 6, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    For East Texas students who look forward to participating in the Art Academy each summer at Stephen F. Austin State University, news that the current COVID-19 pandemic had forced the academy’s cancellation this year was disappointing.

    But, to fill that void, SFA art education students put their talents to work creating art instruction videos that highlight art and cultural and historical art traditions.

    Several videos were created immediately following spring break to launch the series of tutorials, and new ones are continuously being added as an alternative to the School of Art’s summer academy. Many of the tutorials require materials that can commonly be found around the house or easily obtained.

    To access the art lessons, visit the YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtbqUvPzKL16lvAFzR788Zw.

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  • SFA School of Music presents ‘Quarantine Concert,’ sends virtual message to students

    SFA School of Music presents ‘Quarantine Concert,’ sends virtual message to students

    May 1, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    The Stephen F. Austin State University School of Music continues to explore innovative methods to reach out virtually to its students and music-loving audiences.

    A virtual “Quarantine Concert” will feature pre-recorded performances by students in the Sound Recording Technology program at 7 p.m. Monday, May 4, on the School of Music’s YouTube Channel.

    After learning they would not return to campus this semester, SRT ensemble directors collaborated with their students to produce the playback concert, according to James Adams, assistant professor of music and SRT director.

    “Each student recorded their parts at home and uploaded their audio to collaborative sessions,” Adams said. “Ensemble directors (SRT faculty) assembled all the parts to produce the recorded performances. They sound wonderful.”

    Adams directs the Contemporary Ensemble, while James Taylor directs the Commercial and Popular ensembles. They were assisted by graduate teaching assistant Scott Hanson. Two of the ensembles also produced music videos of their tracks.

    The concert covers many popular and commercial music genres and features songs made popular by Harry Styles, John Mayer, Radiohead, Adele and others. Several of the works were selected by the Contemporary Ensemble because of the opportunities allowed for infusion of various performance technology into the curriculum. Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek,” for example, is a work for solo voice with vocoder accompaniment, while Adele’s “Skyfall” is a piece for voice with orchestra and band accompaniment. “We selected that piece so that we could attempt a virtual orchestra performance with six students playing the orchestra parts on MIDI keyboards,” Adams said.

    The concert can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xSGMWmz81w or accessed at SFA SRT Concert.

    “This is yet another example of our students and faculty being innovative and overcoming the hurdles of our remote learning situation,” Adams said. “Although they signed up for live performance groups initially, students adapted to the new stay-at-home situation and helped evolve a format for us to still make music together. The SRT area has an amazing community, and it shined brightly during this creative process. What they and the faculty were able to achieve without ever being in the same room is astonishing. We are very proud of our students and hope that everyone enjoys the music.”

    To view a humorous yet heart-felt message from SFA music faculty to their students, visit the School of Music website at music.sfasu.edu.

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