College of Fine Arts News Archive

September 2020

  • Nieberding to exhibit tintype photographs at Panola College, address British photo group

    Nieberding to exhibit tintype photographs at Panola College, address British photo group

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    Dr. Bill Nieberding’s Caddo Lake tintype is among the artist’s works featured his exhibition “East Texas: A Portrait in Wet-Plate Collodion” showing Oct. 1 through Nov. 6 at Panola College.

    September 28, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    Dr. Bill Nieberding, associate professor in the School of Art at Stephen F. Austin State University, will share his knowledge of tintype photography both locally and abroad beginning Oct. 1 with an exhibition opening at Panola College and a research presentation to the British Royal Photographic Society.

    His presentation to the Royal Photographic Society in Great Britain is titled “A Withering Gaze: Technical Excellence and Aura in Contemporary Wet-collodion Photography.” The presentation will take place on Zoom and will explore intersections between the effect of viewing wet-plate collodion photographs and the concept of aura developed by Walter Benjamin in the 1930s.

    The exhibition is titled “East Texas: A Portrait in Wet-Plate Collodion” and will be shown in the Allison Gallery in the M.P. Baker Library at Panola College in Carthage. The photographs explore a range of East Texas subjects and still-life works and were created using large-format cameras and the antiquated tintype process invented in the 1850s. The wet-plate photographer must coat the plate with chemicals, expose it in the camera and develop it on location – all before the plate dries out, Nieberding explained.

    “It’s a demanding process that produces one-of-a-kind photographs on aluminum or glass,” he said.

    Nieberding’s photographic work includes traditional silver-based black and white portraits, landscapes and figure studies as well as digital work that explores notions of social identity in public contexts. Support for the exhibition and the wet-plate collodion research is funded by a Research and Creative Activities Grant through the SFA Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

    The exhibition runs from Oct. 1 through Nov. 6. Gallery hours are 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7:30 a.m. to12:30 p.m. Friday; and 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday. The gallery is closed on Saturday. It is located at 1109 W. Panola St. Contact the gallery at (903) 693-2052 or visit panola.edu/library/.

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  • SFA’s Music Prep offering Kindermusik education for young children

    SFA’s Music Prep offering Kindermusik education for young children

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    The Music Preparatory Division in the School of Music at Stephen F. Austin State University offers the popular Kindermusik classes for young children starting at birth through 3 years of age.

    September 28, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    The Music Preparatory Division in the School of Music at Stephen F. Austin State University is once again offering the popular Kindermusik classes for young children starting at birth through 3 years of age.

    Kindermusik is the world’s leading provider of music-based education for children. The program uses the power and joy of music-making to help children learn and grow during the years most critical to brain development. Since 1978, Kindermusik has helped millions of children around the world build a strong foundation for a lifetime love of learning.

    “Every Kindermusik class is designed to help your children learn and develop physically, emotionally, cognitively, socially and musically,” according to Emily Ferrell, Kindermusik instructor. “You will be welcomed into a fun and nurturing environment where your child will experience music of varying genres and cultures while interacting with other children and engaging in movement, rhythm and vocal activities.

    “Kindermusik's approach to early childhood education and award-winning, research-based curricula prime children for success both in school and in life,” she added.

    Kindermusik is based on the belief that every child is musical, every parent is the child’s most important teacher, and the home is the most important place for learning, according to information about the program at sfamusicprep.com/kindermusik/.

    Visit sfamusicprep.com and kindermusik.com/studio/57695 to view class schedules and payment options.

    For more information about programs offered by the SFA Music Preparatory Division, contact Director Alba Madrid at (936) 468-1291. The Music Prep House is located at 3028 Raguet St.

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  • SFA’s Fenci hopes to take unique artistic exchange with Mexico university to next level

    SFA’s Fenci hopes to take unique artistic exchange with Mexico university to next level

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    Piero Fenci, professor of art at SFA, lectures at la Universidad Autonoma de Chihuahua about his history with the university and the ceramics program he started there. The background image is a six-foot maquette of a 16-foot bronze sculpture that his father created. It is now displayed in the courtyard of Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. Fenci’s father, Renzo Fenci, came through Ellis Island in 1937. Trained as a sculptor at the Royal Art Institute in Florence, Italy, and with only $12 and no English-speaking skills at the time, he later made a name for himself in the U.S. as a creator of monumental public sculpture and head of the sculpture department at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles.

    September 25, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    As the 2019 fall semester approached, Stephen F. Austin State University art professor Piero Fenci knew it would be a very different yet interesting academic year for him.

    He had decided to take a sabbatical from teaching in anticipation of being busy for several months creating ceramic art for a solo exhibition of his work he had been invited to show at Page Bond Gallery in March in conjunction with the National Conference on Education for the Ceramic Arts in Richmond, Virginia.

    The sabbatical from teaching would also allow him to easily travel to Mexico to take part in a celebration of the ceramics program he helped establish at la Universidad Autonoma de Chihuahua some 15 years earlier. He was also anticipating celebrating his 75th birthday with his university colleagues and friends there. Added to that, officials at la Universidad Autonoma de Chihuahua announced plans to celebrate the start of Fenci’s 15th year of work there by hosting an exhibition in Chihuahua City dedicated to his art and the work of the Mexican students who have studied with him at SFA along with their American SFA counterparts.

    What he did not know at the time was as a result of his continued work in Mexico over the previous years – teaching, demonstrating, building kilns, and acting as a mentor to the students there – the university planned to surprise him during his annual visit by naming a new ceramic studio building after him.

    What he also didn’t know at the time was that the academic year that he was so eagerly anticipating would be marred by a serious personal illness (from which he has recovered), the death of his mother and a worldwide pandemic, which also eventually caused the cancellation of the NCECA conference and the sudden closure his Richmond exhibition, which had just opened the week before.

    The past year did indeed prove to be interesting, with its share of accomplishment and disappointment. But as the fall semester of the 2020-21 year approached, with the pandemic still in full force, Fenci began his 46th year of teaching at SFA.

    “It’s not like I’m winding down,” Fenci said. If anything, he’s moving forward faster than ever, instructing in-person and virtually and embracing new technologies and innovative ways to teach his students to be successful artists in a very different world than the one that existed just a year ago. Fenci is also in the midst of a three-year endowed professorship, awarded by the College of Fine Arts Dean’s Circle. And, he’s been invited to be the keynote speaker at the Mexican National Ceramic Conference in October.

    While COVID-19 has affected his in-person work in Mexico, it cannot stop the legacy started years ago, when in 2004, then-SFA President Tito Guerrero asked Fenci to visit la UACH in an effort to improve academic relationships between Texas/U.S. and Mexico. Fenci’s efforts resulted in the creation of the first university program in contemporary ceramic art in the state of Chihuahua. The relationship has continued to grow, and last year, Chris Talbot, the director of the School of Art, traveled to Chihuahua with Fenci to meet with Dr. Roberto Ransom, the provost at la UACH, to start an official exchange between the two universities which would involve not only graduate students but undergraduate students.

    “It took 14 years for this to happen, and I was overjoyed that Chris and Dr. Ransom are so supportive of the idea,” Fenci said. During that visit, he attended the extensive exhibition of his work and that of his students, enjoyed a surprise 75th birthday party in his honor and witnessed the unveiling of a plaque bearing his name on the new studio building at the university.

    Because SFA offers an M.F.A. in art, which is the equivalent of a Ph.D, SFA had been a magnet for Mexican students who want the terminal degree in visual art. Just this year, UACH instituted an M.F.A. program. After earning an M.F.A., Mexican students can go on to land a tenure-track job at an American university or earn a high-ranking position at a Mexican university.

    Fenci has recruited Mexican graduate students who have gone on to lead top ceramic programs in both Mexico and the U.S. Adan Saenz is a tenured professor running the program Fenci started at the University of Chihuahua. Kira Enriquez is a tenured professor and head of the ceramics area at Indiana State University in Terra Haute. Gabriela Hijar graduated with her M.F.A. last year and landed a prestigious residency in Mexico City then accepted a position as an adjunct with the promise of landing a tenure-track position at la UACH. Aldo Ornelas, from Chihuahua City, and Erik Ordaz, from Mexico City, earned their M.F.A degrees this past year. Ornelas is a studio assistant for Elizabeth Akamatsu, a Nacogdoches-based sculptor. Ordaz is a full-time adjunct instructor at SFA this fall. Homero Gutierrez, from Chihuahua City, matriculated last semester and is one of Fenci’s graduate assistants this fall.

    In addition to featuring his and his students’ exhibitions, the celebration of Fenci’s 15 years of work in Mexico showcased a dozen shows, including work by his former la UACH art students who are ceramicists, painters, drawers and printmakers, in addition to his own exhibit.

    Fenci’s dedication to the Mexican students goes beyond the classroom. He has helped them in various ways to feel secure in their relocation in the U.S. and at home at SFA so they may concentrate on their work and studies.

    “It is important to explain that the students from Mexico all come from working class families, all of whom I’ve met and know,” he said. “Family is huge in Mexico, so they make it a big deal to have me to dinner to meet everyone – that way they have a personal connection with me and can put their mind at ease when their child comes across the border to study in my program at SFA.”

    To help the cause, Fenci has worked to attract donors who established scholarships and endowments. But his American students are just as important, and many have enjoyed success over the years. Among them are Gregory Elliott, director of the School of Art at UT San Antonio; Jenny Couch, head of the ceramics area at the University of Alabama in Huntsville; Jen Herzberg, head of the ceramics area at Lee College in Baytown; Renee Wilcox, who runs the ceramics area at the University of Hawaii in Oahu; John Donovan, who runs the ceramics area at the Art Institute of Tennessee in Nashville; and Matt Burton, who runs the MT Burton Gallery on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, recognized by the New York Times as one of the leading ceramic art galleries on the East Coast.

    Fenci’s impact continues to be far-reaching, raising SFA’s profile in the art world and recruiting students. He instituted a visiting artist program in ceramics the year he arrived at SFA, and it has continuously brought internationally known artists to demonstrate for his students, creating a network that has resulted in many of his undergraduate students earning admission to graduate school programs and, likewise, enticing students of the visiting artists to attend SFA.

    Although he is the recipient of numerous awards, among them the SFA Foundation Award for Teaching and Research, and the Texas Master Award from the Houston Center of Contemporary Art, which also hosted an exhibition of his artwork, Fenci considers teaching and seeing his students succeed as his greatest accomplishment.

    Bringing order out of chaos is a key concept in Fenci’s personal philosophy of art and life, and the pandemic may put that concept to its greatest test. But he’s determined that a pandemic will not dilute his efforts to recruit talented art students from Mexico. As the keynote speaker at the Mexican National Ceramic Conference in October, he will make his presentation via Zoom talking about the importance of the artistic relationship between SFA and Mexico and the “stellar careers in the field both here and south of the border” that have resulted from the collaboration.

    “All of my Mexican students who have graduated from the M.F.A. program here will play a part in the conference by speaking about their work and the influence SFA has had on their careers,” he said.

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  • SFA School of Theatre to present ‘Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead’

    SFA School of Theatre to present ‘Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead’

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    The SFA School of Theatre will present Bert V. Royal’s “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” in live in-person performances at 7:30 nightly Oct. 6 through 10 in Kennedy Auditorium. Performances will also be live streamed. Cast members are, clockwise from top left, Crayten Clendion, Cypress junior; Caleb Gaddis, Conroe sophomore; Jordan Berezi, Houston junior; Zach White, Buffalo senior; Mariano Aguirre, Little Elm freshman; bottom, Astrid Maldonado, Katy freshman; center, Drake Willis, Cushing sophomore; and Ryleigh Compton, Terrell junior.

    September 25, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    When Cleo House Jr., director of the School of Theatre at Stephen F. Austin State University, began looking at scripts to include in this year’s Mainstage Series of plays, he wanted a storyline in which themes were “timely and would speak to a young adult audience.”

    He found that in Bert V. Royal’s “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead.” It’s a play about a teenage boy, CB, who begins to question the existence of an afterlife after his dog dies. The School of theatre will present the show at 7:30 nightly Oct. 6 through 10 in Kennedy Auditorium on campus. It will also be live streamed.

    While the play contains some universal themes, many slant more toward “this generation of teenagers on the cusp of adulthood,” House said. “But it also provides an opportunity for reflection for older folks.”
    “It’s just a very entertaining, funny and thoughtful show,” he added.

    Unable to find solace from his friends after his dog's death, CB turns to an artistic classmate, but their rekindled friendship pushes the bounds of what CB's friends are willing to accept, forcing CB to consider who he wants to be. “Dog Sees God” is a touching and thought-provoking play about being different in a school filled with people who all pretend to be the same.
    The show in many ways is inspired by Charles Schultz’s “Peanuts” cartoon characters, but in an “unofficial capacity,” House said, adding student actors have to consider how much they want to reference Schultz’s comic strip.

    “The references are definitely there in the play,” he said. “But the challenge for the actors and the designers is to use the comic as inspiration, but not as source material. In the end, at least in my directing philosophy, inspiration must mostly come from the script.”

    Among the challenges of performing any play in the near future, in addition to the obstacles the COVID pandemic has presented, is that the School of Theatre cannot perform in its traditional space of Turner Auditorium. Because of the ongoing renovations to Griffith Fine Arts Building, theatre students are performing in alternate venues, which primarily means Kennedy Auditorium, for the next two years.

    “This temporary space has a lot of limitations and challenges, some that we already know about and others we’ve yet to discover,” House said. “Ultimately, I’m not overly concerned, because we do have a great team of collaborators working on the show, and I’m sure the kinks will be worked out smoothly.”

    Beyond performance space, House thinks the biggest challenge for student actors “is mental.”

    “There is a lot stress and trepidation as it relates to COVID-19,” he said. “Naturally, we are taking precautions in rehearsals with sanitation and mask wearing. However, students’ excitement to finally be doing theatre again has been a ray of light for them, and they are all very happy to present the show for an audience.”

    The “Peanuts” comic strip features essentially an all-white group of kids except for one, and his character isn’t included in the “Dog Sees God” script. But the SFA presentation of the play has “an extremely diverse cast of Black, Hispanic, Latinx and white” characters, House said.

    “We are employing a casting practice known as non-traditional/cross-cultural/multi-cultural casting,” he said. “In this practice, we make casting decisions based on an actor’s talent, first, and their racial makeup, second. It doesn’t mean in casting that we ignore what race people look like, but we are thoughtful about it.”

    House said there is a current movement toward accountability in American theatre as it relates to diversity and representation.

    “There’s no reason why a character in the show that is inspired by one the ‘Peanuts’ characters cannot be portrayed by a student of color,” House said, “but when I research online, I don’t see it. So I’m very happy that the School of Theatre is being actively progressive in this way.”

    Because of social distancing requirements, seating in Kennedy Auditorium will be limited for each performance. Patrons are required to wear masks. Actors on stage will not wear masks while performing. However, performance areas are more than six feet away from patron seating.

    “I would encourage those who want to see the shows in person to contact the box office and get their tickets as soon as possible,” House said. “Otherwise, we will have the live streaming option, as well, which was very successful this summer, and people from out of state were able to see shows and support their loved ones.”

    House said “Dog Sees God” is for mature audiences and would likely be rated R in movie terms, mostly due to language and subject matter. He believes the show is “great for anyone who loves the theatre.”

    “I hope the show makes people think; I hope they are moved,” he said. “I hope that they feel something, and I hope that they are entertained. But most of all, I hope that they see the resilience of theatre and its intrinsic value to our community and the university.”

    General ticket prices are: adult, $15; senior (62+), $10; non-SFA student, $10; SFA faculty/staff, $7.50; youth, $7.50; SFA student, $5; virtual access, $15. Live virtual access is available for all performances. Purchase tickets/access at boxoffice.sfasu.edu or call (936) 468-6407. For questions about the play, contact the School of Theatre at (936) 468-4003.

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  • SFA Percussion Ensemble to present virtual concert

    SFA Percussion Ensemble to present virtual concert

    September 24, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    The Percussion Ensemble at Stephen F. Austin State University will perform works by Nathan Daughtrey, David Friedman, Armand Russell and other noted composers in a virtual concert at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2.

    In its first concert of the fall semester, the ensemble, directed by Dr. Brad Meyer, associate professor of percussion at SFA, will also perform works by Joe W. Moore III, Korry Friend and Rüdiger Pawassar.

    Daughtrey’s “Shock Factor,” which uses “tension-building ostinatos, hammer-like blows, and vocal contributions in which participants whisper, speak and yell,” according to John R. Raush in “Percussive Notes.” He also describes the piece as “dramatic” and “hard-driving.”

    Friedman’s “Nyack” is one of his more complex works, showing the contrast between the improvised (or written) solos between the vibraphone/marimba duo, according to a description at steveweissmusic.com. Each "voice" is able to speak distinctly, while remaining within the framework of the piece.

    Friend wrote “Moxie” as a master’s student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro while studying with Dr. Eric Willie. The piece is in two sections, both primarily utilizing a minimalistic approach, according to the composer. The first section has a heavier sounding, more hip-hop based style, and the second section is more subdued and melodious. “This work was written as a gift to Dr. Eric Willie and the UNCG Percussion Ensemble, where the most valuable lesson I learned was to have ‘Moxie,’” Friend wrote.

    Pawassar describes his “Sculpture 3” as “almost a classical sounding work, but resembles many harmonic structures found in ’70’s and ’80’s jazz.” The composer comments that when writing this work, it resembled to him “the making of a wood sculpture where, in drafts, many parts were cut off, added again, shifted and intertwined with one another.”

    To access the live concert free of charge, go to https://youtu.be/3F3eVf9x5Qw. For additional information, contact the School of Music at (936) 468-4602.

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  • SFA’s Kantorei choirs to present ‘The Joy of Singing’ concert

    SFA’s Kantorei choirs to present ‘The Joy of Singing’ concert

    September 23, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    The Kantorei Purple and Kantorei White choirs at Stephen F. Austin State University will perform a virtual concert at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28, that will feature works from the Renaissance era along with favorite hymns.

    The concert’s theme, “The Joy of Singing,” is designed to showcase the importance of choral performance in a COVID world that silenced voices for a period of time, according to Dr. Tod Fish, associate director of choral activities at SFA.

    “Our global society has been deprived of hearing people sing for nearly half of this year,” Fish said. “This is a sort of ‘mini-concert’ to jumpstart the students’ semester and to give folks the opportunity to hear choirs sing again.”

    The two Kantorei choirs were previously the SFA Women’s Choir. “We decided, as a vocal/choral faculty, that it was time to change the names of our choirs to make them less gender exclusive,” Fish said. Dividing the choir into two units was a result of COVID guidelines restricting large gatherings.

    The concert features Grant Peterson, first-year graduate student in choral conducting from Wylie, and Greg Simmons, graduate collaborative pianist from Tyler.

    Kantorei Purple will sing the great Renaissance composition, Orlando di Lasso’s “Adoramus te,” conducted by Peterson. Kantorei White will sing Gustav Holst’s “Hymn to the Dawn” from Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda op. 26 Set 3.

    Both choirs will come together to perform arrangements by composers who are friends of Fish.

    “The choir will sing a setting of ‘Give Me Jesus’ by my dear friend and proud SFA alum Reginal Wright, who is the head choral director at Mansfield High School,” Fish said. “They will also perform Dr. Brian Bondari’s setting of ‘Amazing Grace.’” Bondari is professor of theory and composition at Trinity University.

    To access the live concert free of charge, visit music.sfasu.edu. For additional information, contact the School of Music at (936) 468-4602.

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  • SFA’s Singin’ Axes to perform Lewandowski’s ‘Enosh’

    SFA’s Singin’ Axes to perform Lewandowski’s ‘Enosh’

    September 23, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    The Singin’ Axes at Stephen F. Austin State University will present a virtual concert that features German composer Louis Lewandowski’s setting of “Enosh” when the choir performs its first concert of the fall semester at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29.

    “The tenor-bass choir is performing my dear friend Dr. Douglas Helvering’s arrangement of Louis Lewandowski’s beautiful setting of ‘Enosh,’” said Dr. Tod Fish, associate director of choral activities at SFA and the choir’s director.

    “The text is from Psalm 103: 15-17; these verses discuss the fleeting nature of our lives,” Fish explained. “The pandemic has reminded us all to cherish our lives and our health for as long as we are able to do so.”

    Graduate choral conducting student Grant Peterson from Wylie will conduct “Enosh.”

    The Singin’ Axes is the new name for what used to be the SFA Men’s Choir. The name was changed to make it less gender specific, Fish said.

    Dr. Scott LaGraff, professor of voice at SFA, will join the choir to sing “O Isis und Osiris” from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Die Zauberflöte” (The Magic Flute). “We are thrilled to have Dr. LaGraff join us,” Fish added. “We are equally thrilled to have the opportunity to work with our fantastic collaborative pianist, Dr. Thomas Nixon.”

    The choir will also sing an original composition by Dr. Brian Bondari, professor of theory and composition at Trinity University, entitled “Lamb of God.”

    To access the live concert free of charge, visit music.sfasu.edu. For additional information, contact the School of Music at (936) 468-4602.

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  • SFA theatre students learning valuable lessons through virtual performance delivery

    SFA theatre students learning valuable lessons through virtual performance delivery

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    Alexis Beck

    September 23, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    A select group of theatre students at Stephen F. Austin State University have embraced performing virtually as the chosen delivery form for their art as they present the first play of the School of Theatre’s 2020-21 Mainstage Series, and they are learning some valuable lessons along the way.

    Students will present a virtual-only performance of Jean-Paul Sartre’s play “No Exit” Sept. 24 through 26. Not knowing what COVID restrictions might still be in place in the fall, the play’s director, Dr. Inga Meier, assistant professor of theatre at SFA, planned for the show to be virtual from the beginning. Taking place in hell, “No Exit” can actually benefit from the virtual setting, she said. And the students who earned roles in the play couldn’t agree more.

    “It is surprising to me how easy it is to become invested in the scene, even though you aren't in the room with your scene partners,” said Nacogdoches senior Alexis Beck.

    “No Exit” finds three strangers encountering one another in a strange room and trying to make sense of their new surroundings and the lives that have led them to this place. While the play lends itself to virtual delivery, there are aspects of live theatre that cannot be replicated online.

    “I think what has been the biggest adjustment to make for me personally is the lack of physical interaction with everyone involved,” said Colby Green, Carthage senior. “I’ve always been someone who enjoys the non-rehearsal related parts of rehearsal as much as the actual work that goes into the production, meaning the connections made with cast mates and conversations during breaks before and after rehearsal … the normal moments of interaction and connection that you don’t really realize are happening at the time. They’re still there but are much harder to replicate in a virtual setting.”

    Fellow actor Triston Haq, Baytown junior, echoed Green’s comment.

    “The most glaring difference for me is the connection between actors,” he said. “Usually, in an in-person production, the way that actors make up life onstage is through connection, such as really looking at your partners and acknowledging their presence. It's different in the virtual setting, because in order to look like you're looking at the other actors, you usually have to look away from them and send your intent in the opposite direction. It's definitely challenging and different. But I like to think of it as a sort of training. I mean there are professional actors in film who now have to stare at tennis balls with faces drawn on them and give million dollar performances because of CG (computer generated imagery).”

    One of the most surprising aspects of presenting this play in this format “is the heightened sense of confinement that the camera brings,” Haq said. But the camera serves a unique purpose in “No Exit.”

    “For the most part, we're staying fully within this square of what the camera can see, and we can only act within that confined space,” he said. “I think that sense of confinement and the ‘eye’ of having the camera constantly looking at you helps facilitate the dread and the feeling of being in a kind of social hell.”

    “At first I was extremely apprehensive about the whole ‘being on camera’ part of this production,” Green said, “but it is turning out to be much less of an issue than I thought. I was worried that my personal discomfort with having the immediate feedback that comes with seeing yourself as you’re working would present a huge hurdle that I had never really worked with before. But I think the issue of self-consciousness, and the need to work around it in order to adjust to this new normal that is the theatre world right now, has really allowed me to confront some things that have been holding me back as a performer. I believe that, in the long run, working on this particular show and this character, especially through the lens of my own issues with self-perception, is allowing me to work a lot more deeply than would have been possible otherwise.”

    The students have yet to encounter the challenge of performing without a live audience. Green said she is one of “those actors” who loves live theatre. “But I’m definitely very excited and grateful for the opportunity to challenge myself as an artist and push the boundaries of my comfort zone a little bit,” she said.

    Being flexible and able to adapt quickly are requirements in live theatre, and the limitations that COVID has placed on live performance have reinforced that.

    “Theatre has always been and always will be a constantly evolving art form, and its ability to adapt is one of the most amazing things about it,” Green said. “The world of entertainment has had to make some drastic adjustments in the past several months. Even with so many innovations that we’ve already seen, we’re making new discoveries and finding new solutions at every rehearsal. It’s a very valuable opportunity to grow as an artist. This virtual process has taught me that we are more than capable of working through problems and of making discoveries that we wouldn’t have made otherwise had we not been presented with these circumstances.”

    “I think exploring new ways to do theatre is always beneficial,” Beck said, “and because of all this chaos, we now know that yes, indeed, theatre can be anywhere!”“I'm just excited to tell stories and act again,” Haq said, “and I hope that everyone who watches us has as much fun as we've had rehearsing it all.”

    The virtual performance is at 7:30 nightly for the three-night run. To purchase online access, which starts at $7.50 with additional donations accepted, visit boxoffice.sfasu.edu or call (936) 468-6407 Monday through Friday for online purchasing questions. Livestream access sales end at 1 p.m. daily during the run, and links are emailed after 4:30 p.m. each day. For more information about the School of Theatre, visit theatre.sfasu.edu.

    You may also be interested in the following related article:

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  • SFA Symphony Orchestra to perform works by Wagner, Mozart in virtual concert

    SFA Symphony Orchestra to perform works by Wagner, Mozart in virtual concert

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    Dr. Gregory Grabowski conducts the SFA Symphony Orchestra in this file photo. The orchestra will perform works by Richard Wagner and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in a virtual concert at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22. To access the live concert free of charge, visit https://music.sfasu.edu

    September 10, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    Stephen F. Austin State University School of Music will present the SFA Symphony Orchestra performing works by German composers in a live-streamed, virtual-only performance at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22.

    The program will feature performances of Richard Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll” and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 36, according to Dr. Gregory Grabowski, director of orchestral activities at SFA and the Symphony Orchestra conductor.

    “In general, the program is definitely on the lighter side,” Grabowski said. “Wagner composed the piece as a gift for his wife after their son was born. It was performed on Christmas morning on the stairs of their villa.”

    The Mozart symphony, which will close the concert, is subtitled “Linz” and was composed during a stopover on Mozart’s way back home to Vienna from Salzburg.

    “The Mozart is a C major symphony, and you can’t get much more joyful than that,” Grabowski added.

    To access the live concert free of charge, visit music.sfasu.edu. For additional information, contact the School of Music at (936) 468-4602.

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  • SFA School of Theatre to present virtual performances of ‘No Exit’

    SFA School of Theatre to present virtual performances of ‘No Exit’

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    Virtual rehearsals for the SFA School of Theatre’s presentation of “No Exit” are underway. The play’s director, top left, Dr. Inga Meier, assistant professor of theatre, and stage manager, top center, Dallas senior Yanelly Vargas, work with student cast members, top right, Baytown junior Triston Haq; center from left, Wharton sophomore Cole Skinner; Houston junior Fatimah Green; Rosenberg junior Myles Sands; bottom from left, Nacogdoches senior Alexis Beck; and Carthage senior Colby Green. The virtual-only presentation of the play is at 7:30 nightly Sept. 24 through 26.

    September 8, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    Virtual-only performances of Jean-Paul Sartre’s play “No Exit” Sept. 24 through 26 will open the 2020-21 Mainstage Series presented by the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Theatre.

    “No Exit” finds three strangers encountering one another in a strange room and trying to make sense of their new surroundings and the lives that have led them to this place, according to Dr. Inga Meier, assistant professor of theatre at SFA and the play’s director. She said she selected “No Exit” last spring to be included in this year’s Mainstage Series lineup for a number of reasons, the most important of which being the uncertainties of the pandemic and the ability of the play to translate well into a virtual format.

    “Not knowing what the state of the pandemic would be in the fall, I wanted to err on the side of caution and plan for the show to be virtual from the beginning,” she said. “I also wanted to make sure that if students elected to not return in the fall, they would still have an opportunity to audition and participate in the season.”

    In having made that decision, Meier began looking for shows that could not just work in a virtual setting, but that would actually benefit from one.

    "‘No Exit,’ which is set in hell, proved a perfect choice, as the virtual space can actually function to enhance the play's setting,” she said, adding that she was also influenced in selecting the Sartre play by two recent television shows – “The Good Place” and “Upload” – the first of which was inspired by “No Exit.”

    “Both define hell in interesting, innovative ways that defy expectations,” Meier said. “Placing the characters within the confines of a zoom setting, I think, will open up similar opportunities.”

    Even with the strides made in recent months to teach and perform in remote environments, making the technology of a virtual performance work the way you want continues to be a challenge.

    “Obviously, we're going to have to wrestle with technology in innovative ways,” Meier said. “However, the Festival of New American Plays in the spring, and ‘The Tempest’ in the summer (both of which were presented virtually), made some really great inroads in this regard that we hope to build on and develop further.”

    Meier said that the performance style required by Zoom and YouTube is different from a theatrical one. There are always going to be differences when you introduce a camera, “especially if that camera is attached to a computer,” she added.

    “On the other hand, the camera itself will also constrain the acting space itself, which will also impact the performances,” Meier said.

    Finally, because theatre is essentially based on the fundamental premise of the interaction between actor and audience, actors' performances tend to rely on audience feedback, whether it be laughter, silence or something else, Meier explained.

    “The Zoom space does not allow for that direct interaction, and actors will face challenges navigating the absence of that feedback,” she said. “All of that being said, students who earn degrees in theatre may later find themselves working in film or television, and this show provides an excellent opportunity to help them develop some of those skills.”

    Although the play explores mature themes, “No Exit” will appeal to a wide audience, Meier said.

    “The play is set in hell, so the characters are obviously flawed and perhaps best understood by audiences that would be considered PG,” she said, “but the questions it explores regarding the lies we tell ourselves are universal ones.

    “Ideally, theatre entertains, enlightens and teaches us something about ourselves,” she added. “I think this play has the capacity to do all of those things. However, with so much going on in the world right now, I also hope that it provides a respite for people to be transported for one to two hours.”

    The virtual performance is at 7:30 nightly for the three-night run. To purchase online access, which starts at $7.50 with additional donations accepted, visit boxoffice.sfasu.edu , or call (936) 468-6407 Monday through Friday for online purchasing questions. Livestream access sales end at 1 p.m. daily during the run, and links are emailed after 4:30 p.m. each day. For more information about the School of Theatre, visit theatre.sfasu.edu.

    You may also be interested in the following related article:

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  • SFA College of Fine Arts Dean’s Circle to recognize 2020 award recipients

    SFA College of Fine Arts Dean’s Circle to recognize 2020 award recipients

    September 7, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    The Stephen F. Austin State University College of Fine Arts Dean’s Circle will recognize outstanding students during the presentation of the annual Dean’s Awards at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, in Kennedy Auditorium on the SFA campus.

    Two new awards were added this year – the John N. and Margaret Staley Scholarship in Fine Arts and the Ruth Buzzi Honorary Dean’s Award in Filmmaking – to bring the total of Dean’s Awards to six, according to Dr. A.C. “Buddy” Himes, dean of the College of Fine Arts.

    The Staley award was given in memory of Nancy Delaney, daughter of John and Margaret Staley. Her husband, Creighton Delaney, was formerly the chairman of the art department at SFA.

    “Although this is actually an endowed scholarship that will rotate among the disciplines of art, music and theatre, we decided to include it the in the ceremony, since the amount of $3,000 is the same as the Dean’s Awards, making this equivalent to the highest award a student can receive in the College of Fine Arts,” Himes said.

    The Buzzi Dean’s Award in Filmmaking was provided by the Nacogdoches Film Festival to honor Ruth Buzzi, most well-known for her work on the TV series “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,” which aired from 1968 to 1973. Buzzi now lives with her husband, Kent Perkins, on a ranch near Stephenville. She starred in the 2017 SFA summer feature film “Glenn’s Gotta Go!” The School of Art film was produced by Brad Maule. Buzzi will present the award via video.

    Award recipients include Mason Cullen, art major from Cypress; Kurt Swisher, music major from Tyler; Jasmin Limqueco, music education major from Plano; Bayley Owen, theatre major from Royce City; Jose Homero Gutierrez, art major from Chihuahua, Mexico; and Daina Phillips, filmmaking student from Wylie.

    Award recipients are selected annually by the faculty of their respective schools on the basis of their potential to further develop their artistic goals and serve as role models, according to Himes. The Dean’s Awards not only recognize the recipients for what they have already accomplished, but the awards are also designed to inspire them to reach deep from within to aspire to a higher level of excellence, Himes explained. The awards were established by the Dean’s Circle, an external support organization of community members founded in 2008 and “dedicated, in part, to nurturing potential young artists within the College of Fine Arts,” Himes said.

    Cullen, who received the Ed and Gwen Cole Memorial Dean’s Award in Art, is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a focus in photography and a minor in printmaking. He is president of the SFA Photography Club, which has participated in public events such as the Día de los Muertos Festival. Since coming to SFA, he has participated in two study abroad programs. In May of 2019, he and 12 other students studied Italian Renaissance art in Florence and Rome. Previously, he was among 10 students selected to attend an artist’s residency at the Baer Art Center in Iceland. This residency resulted in the exhibition “Radljost” in which participants’ artwork was displayed. In 2019, Mason’s work was selected from 1,000 entries to be among 51 artists’ work to be displayed in the Texas National exhibition at Cole Art Center. Mason is a recipient of the Academic Excellence Scholarship and has stayed on either the Dean’s list or President’s list since his first semester at SFA. Upon graduation, he intends to either attend graduate school or pursue a career in teaching.

    Swisher, who received the Dean’s Circle Dean’s Award in Music, is a junior music education major specializing in percussion and studying under Dr. Brad Meyer and Dr. Ben Tomlinson. He has been on the Dean’s list or President’s list every semester while at SFA. He has been a member of the Wind Ensemble, SFA Symphony Orchestra, Swinging Aces Jazz Band, Percussion Ensemble, Steel Band and Lumberjack Marching Band. He has performed at TMEA as well as at the chamber competition at Percussive Arts Society International Convention. Kurt is a member of the Honors College and is a Smith-Hutson Scholar. He has been a member of the Drum Corps activity with Genesis Drum and Bugle Corps and the Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps. He has taught with various East Texas drumlines is currently techs for Hudson High School’s indoor drum line and marching band. Kurt has served as drum captain and section leader for Lumberjack Marching Band.

    Limqueco, who received the Sidnell Memorial Dean’s Award in Music Education, is a three-year member of the Wind Ensemble and the SFA Symphony Orchestra, currently serving as principal flute in both. Jasmin also participated in various chamber groups, such as the SFA flute choir and Extempore duo, and she played piano as a student accompanist for two years. She is a member of Tau Beta Sigma, an organization dedicated to serving bands, and has been a music theory tutor for two years. Jasmin has been the recipient of additional awards, such as the Academic Excellence and Lumberjack Leverage scholarships, a band scholarship, the Colvert Family Scholarship, and she recently won first place in the Denise Jennings undergraduate division flute competition. She has also been on both the Dean's and President's lists since her first semester at SFA.

    Owen, who received the George and Peggy Schmidbauer Dean's Award in Theatre, is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree with an emphasis in performance and a minor in marketing. During his time at SFA, Bayley has acted in several productions, including "Tartuffe," "Biedermann and the Firebugs," "Oklahoma!," "Tales of Neverland," "Titus Andronicus" and most recently "Pride and Prejudice." He has also worked as an assistant hair and makeup designer for "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," wig master for "Titus Andronicus," and he coordinated publicity for more than 15 School of Theatre productions. Bayley received Irene Ryan Acting Nominations from Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for his roles in "Oklahoma!" and "Titus Andronicus." Bayley is a member and officer of the Beta Phi Cast of Alpha Psi Omega, the National Theatre Honor Society. He is also a member of the School of Theatre Peer Mentor program.

    Gutierrez, who received the John N. and Margaret Staley Scholarship in Fine Arts, is an exchange student who previously was a student at the Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua (the State University of Chihuahua), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in sculpture and ceramics. He also studied as an exchange student at the University Center of Art, Architecture and Design in Guadalajara, Mexico, searching for new technical approaches in the field of ceramics. While studying in Chihuahua, Homero participated in exhibitions featuring ceramic art, drawing, engraving, sculpture and woodcarving. In 2018 Homero was awarded the Mexican 2018 National Prize for Ceramic Sculpture. Homero is now pursuing an M.F.A. degree at SFA with a concentration in sculpture and ceramics. He is a graduate assistant under the tutelage of Piero Fenci, head of the ceramics program.

    Phillips, who received the Ruth Buzzi Dean’s Award in Filmmaking, is a senior specializing in editing and camera operation with a minor in mass communications, focusing on radio and television. She began school at SFA in 2016 with plans of graduating in December 2020. She has been on the President’s Honor Roll list for the past three semesters. Daina has worked as video director and editor for Her Campus SFA magazine and briefly for the Pine Log campus newspaper and KSAU 90.1 campus radio station. She has worked as a crew member for numerous SFA film productions, including the graduate film, “Alone in the Dark,” a music video vignette “Genius of Love,” and her own short film, “Remedy of the Parallel,” which she wrote, directed and edited. Daina enjoys being a part of creating motion pictures and can’t wait to create more in the future.

    The student awards are made possible because the Dean’s Circle believes in investing in the future and is willing to contribute and raise the money needed to fund these $3,000 individual awards each year for a total of $18,000, Himes said. For more information about the Dean’s Circle, contact Himes at himesac@sfasu.edu or at (936) 468-2801.

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  • SFA School of Music using latest research to teach voice students amid COVID concerns

    SFA School of Music using latest research to teach voice students amid COVID concerns

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    SFA voice students Kayla Luptak, senior from Bullard, and Gisselle Gonzalez, senior from Houston, check the temperature of Antony Pham, Houston sophomore, prior to A Cappella Choir rehearsals.

    September 4, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    Vocal instruction in the COVID-19 world has taken on a new look, and choral instructors and voice students at Stephen F. Austin State University are following the newest guidelines that have emerged from scientific studies worldwide.

    Over the summer, the SFA School of Music voice faculty closely monitored emerging studies and best practices from all over the world, according to Dr. Michael Murphy, director of choral activities at SFA. In late July, the results of a long-awaited study – Reducing Bioaerosol Emissions and Exposure in the Performing Arts: A Scientific Roadmap for a Safe Return from COVID19 – were made public.

    “The results from that study gave us a blueprint in producing safety protocols for both faculty and students,” Murphy said.

    Students are being asked to take their temperature before leaving their residences each morning. Students will wear appropriate Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-approved face masks when arriving on campus as well as in the voice studio and rehearsal rooms, Murphy said. For ensembles like a Cappella Choir and Chamber Singers, each student’s temperature is taken again before rehearsal begins.

    Faculty studios and rehearsal spaces have been reorganized to follow the recommended 6-to-10-foot distance. High touch surfaces are sanitized regularly. All teaching studios are equipped with HEPA filter air purifiers, and each large space will be regularly sanitized with room sanitizing foggers. Indoor rehearsals will stop after 30 minutes to allow for one-to-three air changes, and outdoor rehearsals will stop at 30-minute intervals for a five-minute period for aerosols to disperse.

    The A Cappella Choir and Chamber Singers collaborated with Dr. Dan Bruton, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, who made face shields for each singer to wear in addition to their face masks when indoors, Murphy said.

    “For students, a variety of delivery modes are being used for instruction, including face to face, hybrid and utilizing Zoom,” Murphy said. “The greatest challenge in music is not to lose the community and connectedness that is inherent when studying the arts.”

    Murphy thanked the College of Fine Arts and School of Music, along with SFA President Dr. Scott Gordon and his leadership, for providing large tents for outdoor rehearsals.

    The music-making at SFA will not stop, but live musical performances open to the public – with the exception of singular student recitals with limited audience seating – have been put on hold for the time being.

    “Ensemble performances will be live streamed without an audience,” Murphy said. “For vocalists who are giving their recitals, only family and voice faculty will be in attendance. Most students are planning to live-stream their concerts and recitals to allow for more friends and family to take part in these great accomplishments.”

    Live streaming can be accessed free of charge at the School of Music website at music.sfasu.edu.

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  • SFA School of Theatre to present diverse, adaptable season

    SFA School of Theatre to present diverse, adaptable season

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    The SFA School of Theatre Mainstage Series 2020-2021

    September 3, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    Although the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way live performances are presented worldwide, the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Theatre has planned a diverse and adaptable season for 2020-21 that will bring live theatre to the stage and inside East Texas homes.

    “These are certainly interesting times in which we live,” School of Theatre Director Cleo House Jr. said. “While we have made plans for virtual and in-person performances this year, life continues to be ever-changing in this new COVID world, so our plans remain fluid and adaptable. But we’re bringing you more opportunities than ever before to ‘visit the theatre.’”

    Theatre faculty and students learned a lot in presenting the Festival of New American Plays virtually last spring and even more in the remote presentation of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” this past summer.

    “We’re using that new-found creative knowledge to bring you an exciting virtual performance of ‘No Exit’ by Jean-Paul Sartre as our season opener,” House said. “This existentialist play, written and first performed during World War II, explores the afterlife and the relationships that bind us to one another.” The performance runs Sept. 24 through 26 and is recommended for mature audiences.

    After the first Mainstage virtual performance, live performances are planned in Kennedy Auditorium, but patrons have the option of purchasing live virtual access for watching all shows. Live performances are at 7:30 p.m. on scheduled nights.

    The first live Mainstage show, “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” by Bert V. Royal, is a play about a teenage boy, CB, who begins to question the existence of an afterlife after his dog dies. “Dog Sees God” is a touching and thought-provoking play about being different in a school filled with people who all pretend to be the same. Recommended for mature audiences, the play runs Oct. 6 through 10.

    Theatre patrons will want to get onboard for “Rideshare/Overshare” by Ian McWethy and Carrie McCrossen. When Mike and Elaine each call a car to get to their blind date, they find themselves paired with the weirdest drivers on the road, from a "semi-licensed" therapist, to a thief engaged in a high-speed chase, to a rapper more concerned with sharing her original music than obeying the rules of the road. The play is PG-13 and runs Nov. 10 through 14.

    In the spring, join the School of Theatre for “The Maids,” a play inspired by an actual murder case. Written by Jean Genet, “The Maids” shows the title characters, Solange and Claire, entertaining violent and sometimes sadomasochistic fantasies about murdering their employer. “It is difficult to tell exactly what is ritual, what is hallucination and what is reality,” House said. Recommended for mature audiences, “The Maids” runs Feb. 23 through 27.

    A new offering this season is the Devised Theatre Project, in which the School of Theatre will create a show from start to finish that will showcase the talents of student performers, faculty, designers and technicians.

    “The audience, moving through the space and surrounded by the performance, will experience an adventure that will be entertaining and might just change your idea of what theatre is and can do,” House said. The project runs April 1 through 3. The performance venue will be announced at a later date.

    The final show of the season is based on the novel by Mark Haddon and adapted by Simon Stephens. “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” is the winner of the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play. With an extraordinary brain, Christopher is exceptional at mathematics but ill-equipped for everyday life. Suspected of murdering his neighbor’s dog, Christopher is determined to solve the mystery of who killed Wellington, but his detective work turns his world upside down. With a rating of PG-13, the play runs April 20 through 24.

    “No Exit” livestream access sales start at $7.50 with additional donations accepted.

    General ticket prices for other play performances are: adult, $15; senior (62+), $10; non-SFA student, $10; SFA faculty/staff, $7.50; youth, $7.50; SFA student, $5; virtual access, $15. Live virtual access is available for all performances. Livestream access sales end at 1 p.m. daily during each show’s run, and links are emailed after 4:30 p.m. each day.

    Purchase tickets/access at boxoffice.sfasu.edu or call (936) 468-6407. For questions about the plays, contact the School of Theatre at (936) 468-4003.

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  • Exhibition to feature works by SFA School of Art M.F.A. alumni

    Exhibition to feature works by SFA School of Art M.F.A. alumni

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    Works by Keisha Brathwaite, Erik Ordaz and Aldo Ornelas can be seen in “T3RNION: In Hindsight: Non-Visible Patch Points, Surface Levels, Journey & Connections” showing Sept. 1 through Oct. 3 at The Cole Art Center @ The Old Opera House. The artists earned their M.F.A. degrees from the SFA School of Art last year.

    September 2, 2020—Robbie Goodrich

    Stephen F. Austin State University will present the work of Keisha Brathwaite, Erik Ordaz and Aldo Ornelas in “T3RNION: In Hindsight: Non-Visible Patch Points, Surface Levels, Journey & Connections.”

    All three artists earned their M.F.A. degrees from the SFA School of Art last year. The show is open Sept. 1 through Oct. 3 in The Cole Art Center @ The Old Opera House.

    Ordaz, from Mexico City, is an adjunct faculty member in the School of Art. “In Hindsight: Non-visible Patch Points” is the result of his research and work with the concepts of balance, space, form and connection. It is also the result of his experience “working with modular synthesizers, finding similarities in the way I work with such instruments and the thoughts behind this series,” he said.

    “The exhibition is composed of seven ceramic vessels that present a sequence of movements and marks that speak to the history of their literal journey in becoming an object,” Ordaz said. “Visible circular shapes refer to connection points that create a nonlinear map of relationships between the work.”

    Brathwaite, a native from the Caribbean, describes her collection “Surface Levels” as “depictions of unobserved and imperceptible realities of many phytoplankton exteriors.”

    “The exhibition explores various structures, textures and repetitious forms from microscopic surfaces of objects that cannot be seen with unaided eyes,” she said. “Electron microscopy is used to perceive and analyze these otherwise unseeable surfaces in depth. Magnifications provide a reference in creating three- and two-dimensional works that are minimalistic and abstract at a visible level. This abstract 3D/2D image collection is translated into material expressions using acrylic sheets, acrylic ink and wood as the main media for construction of individual works. Collectively, they serve to make the invisible visible.”

    Brathwaite is a freelance graphic designer and intends to continue teaching graphic design and media arts at the tertiary level.

    Ornelas, who is from Chihuahua, Mexico, is a full time studio assistant in the School of Art. He describes his “Journey & Connections” collection as “a series of work comprised of ceramic sculptures that explore my personal experiences in relation to the human figure, immigration and nature, as well as experiences influenced by my continuous travels between my country of origin and the United States.”

    “This exhibition is composed of a wall installation and a series of three sculptures that resemble monoliths, strong and expressive figures of spiritual origin that represent important figures in life, sources of wisdom and stelae that connect to the earth,” Ornelas said.

    SFA art exhibitions are free of charge. Sponsors include the Friends of the Visual Arts, William Arscott and the Nacogdoches Junior Forum.

    The Cole Art Center is SFA’s historic downtown art gallery located at 329 E. Main St. Gallery hours are 12:30 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cole Art Center patrons will be required to wear a mask, practice social distancing, comply with designated entrance and exit routes and follow all other CDC guidelines, including maximum capacity restrictions.

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

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