MSU Fountain Challenge
*Credit: Flint 1890-1960 (2004)
Why not reinvent the idea of the drinking water fountain interlinking potable water with beauty, art, and community space? Why not interlink fountains at schools with education?
I am a scientist who works in water space, specifically linking water quality and public health. But why work on an MSU Fountain Challenge? What prompted me to invest in such an idea? I think about water every day. It is my life work and my passion. Water affects more than agriculture and lush landscapes; it affects people and societies. This was never more evident here in Michigan than with our recent situation in Flint. Certainly, this effected all of us.
I had several opportunities to visit the Flint community over the past year, but on one particular visit I began thinking about when I was a kid drinking from the fountain at school and how good and cold the water always seemed. Looking around at other communities I found out that more schools were testing and finding lead in their water, fountains were poorly maintained, and there was only one fountain per 100 to 300 kids in many public schools around the country.
This thought led me to wonder more about water in community spaces. I felt this was so important that as cities start talking and investing in infrastructure that they also think about bringing the drinking water fountain back in a prominent way. Most people think of fountains as simply decorative but those beautiful fountains that we have seen in pictures from Rome and Vienna were really used to bring water to the community.
In October 2016 I issued a challenge to the MSU students — design the drinking water fountain of the future. Then on April 12, 2017 we announced the winner! I was amazed at all the students work, I really feel if we could give these young people more opportunities that they could solve so many problems that we have created. We have become satisfied with the status quo and so often worn down. Yet their energy and effort was truly fantastic. These young people brought diversity together without thought, brought their ideas together working as a team and added their sparkle to the challenge. If I could I would build all of their designs.
All the students told me they learned something and they found the challenge exciting. As an educator there is no better outcome. They shared their passion through their video, writings, drawings and oral interactions with the jury. Problem solving in teams is what we all need to do more of. These young adults have a great start and it makes me feel less worried about the future of the Blue Planet.
To find out more about the Fountain Challenge and view the top 3 winning designs go to fountainchallenge.msu.edu.
H...2...O...Did you know?
Water. Maji. ماء. Eau. Aqua. Agua. 水. Water is a simple word in most languages. Water is a simple chemical substance...H2O. But despite its simplicity, water is a substance with absolutely amazing physical and chemical properties.
Did you know.... that water is one of only two of the more than 15 million identified pure chemical substances whose solid phase is less dense than the liquid phase?* Because of microscopic cavities present in its pure crystal structure, ice has a lower density than liquid water. This allows ice to float, preserving aquatic life under the surface of frozen lakes during the harsh Michigan winter... or during previous Ice Ages. This property also causes ice to melt when it is pressed, making ice-skating possible. And it's why full pop cans will explode if you leave them in your car in the wintertime!
Did you know...that it takes more energy absorption to heat up water, than any other substance? Much energy input is required to cause the individual water molecules to vibrate. This is the reason why you can't swim comfortably in the Great Lakes until June. It's why early August is the hottest time of the year and not the first day of summer. And it's also why "a watched pot never boils!" Conversely, it takes more of an energy release to cool down water, than any other substance. Once the water molecules are vibrating, much energy must be released to get them to settle back down. This is the reason why early February is the coldest time of the year, and not the first day of winter. And it's also the reason that your piping hot pizza takes forever to cool down before you can eat it without burning your tongue.
Did you know... that a water molecule forms an incredibly strong network of attractive intermolecular forces, called "hydrogen bonds"? These exist between the electrons on its oxygen atom and the hydrogen atoms in two neighboring water molecules, and between its hydrogen atoms and electrons on oxygen atoms in two more neighboring water molecules. Therefore each water molecule can engage in "hydrogen bonding" to four water molecule neighbors. Because boiling point generally decreases for lighter molecules, the boiling point of H2O should be about –100 °C (–148 °F).** But because of the unusually strong intermolecular forces in H2O, the boiling point is actually +100 °C (+212 °F), not –100 °C! If it weren't for the remarkably strong "hydrogen bonding" between neighboring H2O molecules, all water on this planet would be in the gaseous state, and surely life would not exist!
H...2...O. Simply amazing.
*Gallium metal (element # 31) is the other.
** For comparison, the boiling point of heavier dihydrogen sulfide, H2S, is –60 °C (–76 °F).
Water Moves MSU
Growing up in India, I experienced the scarcity of water during my childhood and teen years. Monsoons were irregular, as they still are, and insufficient rains in the catchment areas led to frequent droughts.
I remember having to get up early to stand in line. The water truck would arrive before the crack of dawn and each person in line was doled out a ration of water—two pots per person. To make sure that the water did not run out before our turn, sometimes my parents and I would get in line by 4 a.m. With plastic and metals pots and buckets, we would push and shove as we jockeyed for position.
About a five-minute walk from this morning pandemonium was a serene beach, where the waves from the Bay of Bengal would rise and fall with regularity and without any fuss. Against the rising sun in the east, the shimmering ocean was dotted by fishermen in their small boats. The irony was not lost on us. An ocean of water that seemed utterly oblivious of our plight. In those days, desalination technology was considered but dismissed because it was not viable. Held hostage by the drought, people of the city would turn to the heavens to implore their Gods for mercy. Christians would hold fasting prayers, Hindus would hold special ceremonies and vigils and scientists would try cloud seeding. But nothing excited the heavens as the drought dragged on.
So it went every year, our fate in the hands of the capricious monsoon rains, which could be stingy one year, generous the other and downright violent sometimes. When the rains came, it was near delirium and we would play in the water until we could take it no more. It would pour in torrents and the overburdened drainage system was no match for this deluge. And the monsoons would whip up cyclones, which would bring days of nonstop rain and bruising winds that would knock down power.
We would huddle around a battery-operated transistor radio, listening to weather reports. Lowlying areas would flood and the poor, particularly the fishermen who lived near the ocean in huts and shanties, would lose their homes to the surging waters.
Joy would eventually give way to misery, as malaria and cholera would spread through mosquitos and waterborne pathogens from the stagnant and polluted water.
When I moved to the United States, I was struck the purity and abundance of water. The idea of drinking water with abandon, right from the faucet without having to worry about boiling it first, was liberating. Likewise, I was enamored by the idea of a shower because bathing was often limited to a bucket of water and a little plastic jug to dispense it. A shower was a luxury. Water is also poetry in motion. On a trip to the Tetons and Yellowstone, I was struck by the beauty of the shimmering glaciers. Melting water filled gushing streams that turned into roaring waterfalls. And the turbulent waters under the ground erupted into spellbinding geothermal spectacles.
We take water for granted in the United States and we waste much. Yes, we have experienced our share of droughts, but nothing like the droughts that people experience in other parts of the world. I confess, I am as guilty as the next person for the lack of stewardship of water. Water is inextricably interwoven with life and society. The social, economic, cultural and religious aspects of water touch us personally. Water is also inextricably interwoven with climate change and is a growing global problem.
To make a difference, we need both the sciences and the arts. I believe the science of water is far more advanced than the human will to act upon the scientific knowledge. We should all be better stewards of water and Water Moves MSU is an attempt to animate scientific knowledge into human behaviors of environmental stewardship. And what can move us more than music, art, dance, drama or eloquent words. Join us as we embark on this movement of water at MSU.
Falling Star: A Celebration of Chinese Meteorites and a Reminder we are all Human
One of the reasons I love astronomy is because it is such an ancient science that spans history and cultures. Every culture interprets the sky differently. For instance, the "Big Dipper" is a shape almost every culture recognizes because we can use it to find our way to the North Star. However, in China one interpretation is to use the handle of the big dipper and where it is pointing as a way of calibrating their calendar. How we interpret and use the sky is different across cultures, but it is the same set of stars, same planets, and the same sky. It is something that connects us all and helps make the world feel a little smaller. That is why I wanted to find a way for us to participate in MSU's China Experience.
With the planetarium, we are able to show visitors what different people see in the sky and discuss how interpretations are different. We can also bring the science of the universe down to Earth by "flying" to different planets or places in our galaxy. As exciting and interesting as that experience is (and it's very, very cool), it is still virtual. It lacks the aura and "realness" of physical objects. In astronomy, we have very few things we can show people to examine up close. However, we do have meteorites. These tiny bits of the solar system that fall to our planet to study and marvel at. They fall around the world and I think they can have a similar effect in helping us realize our shared experiences.
At the Abrams planetarium, we have a volunteer, meteorite collector, and historian Craig Whitford that cares for our meteorite collection. As part of his work with us, he created a small exhibit called "Falling Star: A Celebration of Chinese Meteorite" featuring meteorites that were found in China to offer people a chance to see these pieces of space. All of the labels were translated into Chinese by Jianyang Mei, a graduate student in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education here at MSU.
This particular collection Craig organized is very special for a few reasons. We have some rather rare specimens and almost all of them were observed falls, which is not common for meteorites. We are bombarded by objects falling from our atmosphere constantly. They fall rather evenly across the Earth. However, much of the planet is vast uninhabited regions such as the oceans. We don't usually see them falling. When we do find meteorites, we have no idea when they fell. We can do tests to find out that it is really a meteorite – that is a rock from space. But most people who find it would probably assume it is just another Earth rock.
Actually seeing a meteorite fall and gathering it immediately after is a rare event that gives us even more information for science, but also reminds us that we do not live in a bubble. Rather we are part of a dynamic universe. The meteorites in our exhibit were seen by large groups of people to individuals who watched as these large chunks of rock fell in China and they were able to collect the specimens immediately after the fall. For instance, on April 12, 2008 a meteorite broke apart as it fell through the atmosphere and a piece fell through Wang Shulan's house in Zhuhuan. The specimen we have on display is a part of the hammerstone, or the piece that hit the house. It's a small piece, but when contextualized with the story of Wang Shulan, you can imagine how you would feel to have a piece of rock, as old as the universe itself, fall through your own house when it was in space not long before. On March 8, 1976 a massive fireball fell through the sky in Kirin Province in China. The meteorite is known as Jilin. Over 4 metric tons of material fell with this particular fall and the largest piece was 1770 kilograms. It was witnessed by many throughout China. This was such a significant event, it was commemorated by a postage stamp in 2003 representing the path of the meteorite and the area the pieces were strewn about, known appropriately as the strewnfield.
These just represent a couple of the twelve specimens we have on display. These meteorites all fell through the atmosphere, from our asteroid belt. They can help scientists understand how our Solar System formed and even potentially give us insights into how the Earth formed. They are a tangible piece of space we can look at up close. Meteorites fall everyday all around the world. The ones in "Falling Star" are specifically specimens recovered in China, but they can and do fall here in Michigan as well. There are no boundaries for meteorites when they fall. It is a matter of chance where they end up. They are still space rocks in a universe that contains everyone on Earth. They remind us that we are on a large rock traveling through space, together.
The exhibit "Falling Star: A Celebration of Chinese Meteorites" is on display at the Abrams Planetarium until September 2016, at least. You can also learn more about each meteorite and see images of them here: http://www.abramsplanetarium.org/ChineseMeteorites/chinesemeteorites.html
Falling Star Exhibition Photo Gallery
Click photos to enlarge
Walking in Love
When I am walking in love, there is no fear.
My grandma, an 87-year-old woman in Ningbo, China, has mastered the art of re-purposing our family's old clothing into the fabric of beautiful embroidered shoes that she gives away to loved ones. She has created these shoes for me since birth and continues to make them today, even as her eyesight grows dim. These handmade shoes are her special way to express love to me. No matter where I am, I always have my grandma's handmade shoes with me. They make me feel close to home, helping me to be brave and confident when I travel life's valleys. She is my artist of love.
I also believe my grandma is not the only "artist of love" in this world. Along those lines, "Walking in Love" is an interactive art project that encourages more people to become an "artist of love" to others, while also reminding people to appreciate the "artists of love" already at work in our lives. Through this project, I hope that I can collect as many "artist of love" stories as I can, which I'll eventually compile into a larger documentary to encourage people around the world.
This year, I'm cooperating with the MSU Museum, which is currently displaying my "Walking in Love" interactive art project. The exhibition includes an artistic showcase of my grandma's handmade shoes, on display from February 7th to May 1st, 2016, and two video showcase events followed by director Q&A sessions (02/07/16 and 05/01/16). On Chinese New Year's Eve (Feb. 7th, 2016), I screened Walking in Love's video component for the first time at the museum. The auditorium was packed. After the video, people from all over the world started to share their own stories with tears in their eyes, with stories about woodcarving, handmade clothing, quilting, storybooks and photo albums. Each of these unique "artists of love" has together created the most wonderful art piece in this world: love. Because the human heart is their canvas, their art shines forth a light into our lives.
Walking in Love Exhibition Photo Gallery
Click photos to enlarge
Immerse yourself in the MSU's Year of China through opera and song
We're calling it a perfect synthesis.
Not only is 2015-2016 the Year of China at Michigan State University, it's the year that marks the 10th anniversary of the MSU-China Vocal Exchange Program. Since 2005, American and Chinese voice students have spent time together in both countries performing and learning about each other's music and cultures. The program involves the MSU College of Music and the Chinese Conservatory of Music in Beijing, and came from an idea forged by two friends: myself, Richard Fracker, and Haijing Fu of the New York Metropolitan Opera.
Over the last decade, more than 100 students from the MSU College of Music have collaborated with their counterparts in China on dynamic performances of Western and Chinese operas. We've also explored traditional Chinese music and American song through this non-credit immersion program. Performances take place at premier opera venues in China, at MSU recital halls and performing art centers and at choral leadership conferences and events across Michigan. Our goal is to foster musical excellence and cultural understanding while also acquainting students with the challenges of international performance and production.
This year, we're leveraging the energy and excitement of MSU's Year of China to stage a major event—both here and in China. On the consult of Professor of Voice and Director of MSU Opera Theatre Melanie Helton, we decided to merge our Vocal Exchange Program with our Spring Opera production for this year only. The result is a two-part program consisting of a traditional Chinese opera as well as an exploration of the theatre music of the legendary Leonard Bernstein. The performance of "The Savage Land" and "Bernstein Sings America" will be an astonishing and memorable event for our community as well as for our Chinese counterparts in Beijing.
The exchange will involve 26 dedicated students—13 from MSU and 13 from the Chinese conservatory. Four College of Music faculty members—myself, Professor Helton; Director of Choral Programs and Associate Dean and Professor of Music David Rayl; and Instructor and Vocal Coach Elden Little—will also be involved. Faculty members will travel to China on February 28, and be joined by MSU students on March 3. We'll rehearse for a week, and then perform for three days. Two of the performances will be at the Chinese Conservatory of Music, the third at the National Theatre of China. It's a venue we've never experienced before, and one that is the equivalent of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. It's an incredible opportunity for our students and takes our program from the concert level to one of national and international prominence.
After performing in China, students and faculty from MSU and China come to East Lansing on March 13 for the second half of the exchange. Once here, we'll begin rehearsing for four performances in Fairchild Theatre on March 23, 25, 26, and 27. Our MSU Symphony Orchestra will provide the instrumental score, led by David Rayl and MSU Alumnus Youqing Yang, who is conducting professionally in China.
Just like in China, the 1920s opera of classical and Chinese folk music will be sung entirely in Chinese. The Bernstein revue will be sung in English and feature pieces from "On the Town," "Wonderful Town," "West Side Story," and "Trouble in Tahiti." Both shows will include Chinese and MSU students.
While our vocal exchange program is truly an intense undertaking, it is one that unleashes the creative power of diverse viewpoints and contributes to the inclusive culture of our university. Both our faculties and students also agree it is a wonderful opportunity to "bring a little bit of home" to the Chinese community here as well as to the American community living and studying in China.
For more information on Spring Opera or for tickets
Residential and Hospitality Services China Theme Year Events for MSU students, faculty and staff
This year's China Theme Year Events are scheduled to take place in the Spring 2016 semester. The Division of Residential Hospitality Services (RHS) is excited to partner with the Office of International Students and Scholars, along with Chinese international students and other campus partners, to bring you some outstanding events in celebration of Chinese culture.
First, we are excited to celebrate the Lunar New Year with an extraordinary Temple Festival that will take place on Friday, February 5, 2016 in Shaw Hall from 3pm – 8pm, with dinner available in Shaw Dining from 5pm – 8pm. Festivities will include authentic Chinese cuisine, traditional attire, decorations, and other cultural practices. This event is open to MSU students, faculty and staff. Admission to Shaw Hall Dining with MSU meal plan or $9.99 plus tax.
Next, MSU students, faculty, and staff are invited to attend the Taste of China events scheduled for February 12, 19 and 26, 2016 from 7pm – 8:30pm in the Wilson Hall Auditorium. During these events, MSU RHS chefs Jason Strotheide and Kevin Cruz will discuss their experiences during their visits to China, present excerpts from the film series "A Bite of China," and demonstrate how to prepare one of the recipes featured in the film series. After the presentation guests will have an opportunity to sample the demo recipe during Late Night service at Wilson Hall on those dates. Admission to Wilson Hall Dining with MSU meal plan or $9.99 plus tax.
Finally, we are looking forward to the arrival of our visiting chefs from China and Beijing Normal University, who will partner with chefs from MSU in several events around campus to prepare and serve some traditional Chinese favorites that might be found in a dining hall at Beijing Normal University. Our guests will arrive on March 19, 2016 and will remain with us until March 24, 2016, sharing their knowledge and experience in Chinese cuisine as well as learning new techniques from our own Culinary Services chefs. Samples of their delicacies can be found at the Brody Square and Shaw Hall Dining facilities. Admission to Brody Square and Shaw Hall Dining with MSU meal plan or $9.99 plus tax.
We are very excited to plan this year's China Theme Year to share food, culture, and warm friendships with MSU students, faculty and staff. We hope that you will consider joining us.
Sharper Focus/Wider Lens "Seeing China" featured unique MSU faculty perspectives
There is a book I have at home titled "The Bedside Baccalaureate." In the book are five or so disparate topics, and each chapter delves into a different aspect of these. I've read the book two or three times now, and each time I'm amazed that I come out making connections between all these different things.
The same is true for my experience at the Honors College's Sharper Focus/Wider Lens forums. Since 2011, the Honors College has hosted forums featuring Michigan State University faculty. The faculty come from all over campus – usually four of five – under an umbrella topic. The connections made between disciplines through these TED-style talks are always fascinating.
This was indeed the case at our last forum of Sharper Focus/Wider Lens "Seeing China." The faculty panel assembled included: Howard Bossen, Ph.D., School of Journalism and MSU Museum; Andrea Louie, Ph.D., Department of Anthropology; Jiaguo Qi, Ph.D., Department of Geography and Center for Global Change and Earth Observations; Simei Qing, Ph.D., James Madison College; and Pamela C. Rasmussen, Ph.D., Department of Integrative Biology and MSU Museum. My college's dean, Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore, Ph.D., moderated the panel, which looked at China through the lenses of climate change, wild bird species, photography, Confucianism, and child adoption.
You can see for yourself how interesting this panel was by viewing a video of the event on the Honors College YouTube channel, or by listening to podcasts of the individual faculty talks.
Our next Sharper Focus/Wider Lens "The Nature of Inequality" will take place at 7 p.m., Monday, January 25 in the MSU Union Ballroom.
Quilts in Southwest China, a nationally touring exhibition opened Sept. 27 at the MSU Museum
What does a bedcover made for the wedding of a Zhuang couple, a patchwork-adorned VW bus in Beijing, a One Hundred Good Wishes quilt given to an American family adopting a Chinese child, a quilted carpet made c. 100 BCE and found in the tomb of a Scythian chieftain near Mongolia, and the 2015 China Suzhou Cultural and Creative Design Industry Trade Fair - International Handmade Patchwork Art Exhibition have in common? The answer is that each represents a link to the production and use of textiles in China that incorporate similarities of construction techniques and materials to create large textile pieces that have had sometimes similar, sometimes different meanings and functions in various contexts through time in other places in the world.
The exhibition Quilts of Southwest China: Research in Progress that had its world debut at the Michigan State University Museum on September 27, 2015 (the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival), is one result of a multi-faceted, bi-national project that has had several important goals.
First, a consortium of Chinese and US museums, led by Michigan State University Museum, sought to develop a project pertaining to traditional cultural heritage that would be of interest to all parties and would have multiple dimensions – fieldwork and collections-based research, development of an exhibition and publication, and professional exchanges. The hope was that by engaging in such a project together, the parties would learn from each other about the cultural, institutional, and professional practices and policies of each institution and how those differed by institution or by country. The goal was that the resulting knowledge of how collaborative work could best be done would strengthen institutional and personal relationships and position the museums to pursue other future work with each other as well as with other museums in both China and the U.S. In other words, learning "the how" of working together was an important element of the Quilts of Southwest China project.
Secondly, the collaborators endeavored to advance new knowledge about a specific aspect of intangible and tangible cultural heritage and to make that knowledge accessible to worldwide audiences. The project team members focused on investigating traditional bedcovers - a form of textiles in China for which little research had previously been done but which had strong similarities in terms of construction techniques, styles, and uses to the quilts of Western European origination. Because there were already tens of thousands of individuals in other countries engaged in aspects of quilt production, and because a body of scholarship on quilt studies already existed, it was hoped that the results of the Quilts of Southwest China study would be of great interest to this pre-existing audience and that the exhibition and publication will foster interests in deeper and wider investigations of the production and use of bedcovers in China.
This exhibition is, then, one result of these aims and the good work of many individuals in China and in the U.S. The exhibition, curated by Dr. Marsha MacDowell (MSU Museum curator and professor, Department of Art, Art History and Design, MSU) and Dr. Lijun Zhang (Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Guangxi Nationalities Museum) situates the exploration of the quilts of southwest China in broader frameworks of quiltmaking around the world, the production and meaning of clothing and textiles in southwest China, and the challenges of investigating an aspect of traditional culture that is endangered due to cultural globalization. A companion publication with articles by U.S. and Chinese scholars will be issued in spring 2016.
The exhibition will continue at the MSU Museum until April 30, 2016 after which it commences its national tour; currently it is scheduled at the Mathers Museum of World Culture, Indiana University; International Quilt Study Center and Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; and Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe. The MSU Museum will have a number of educational activities during the exhibition run in East Lansing. For more information about educational activities, museum visiting hours, parking, and more, call 517-355-2370 or go to http://museum.msu.edu/index.php?q=node/1312.
Submitted by Marsha MacDowell, Ph.D., curator, Michigan State University Museum and Professor, Art, Art History, and Design, MSU.
Photographs courtesy of Pearl Wong, Collection Coordinator, MSU Museum
'Feathered Dragons' Nest at the MSU Museum
The new exhibit at the MSU Museum "Land of the Feathered Dragons: China and the Origin of Birds begins with Archaeopteryx – the first feathered raptor fossil discovered in 1861 by scientist Hermann Von Meyer in southern Germany. He discovered the fossil beautifully preserved in 150 million year old limestone.
In a visually compelling way, the exhibit lays out evidence that Archaeopteryx and the small carnivorous theropod dinosaurs now popularly called "raptors" share a long list of skeletal features. The exhibit notes that many scientists were skeptical about the connection between dinosaurs and birds into the 1990s, however, the discovery of China's feathered dinosaurs effectively ended the debate over the ancestry of birds.
In 1996, the scientific world and the public were astonished by the discovery of feathered 'raptor' dinosaurs in China dating back to 110 – 130 million years ago. Here was the conclusive 'smoking gun' evidence for the origin of birds – feathers found on the most bird-like group of dinosaurs!
The exhibit goes on to clearly state that birds are dinosaurs, the only dinosaurs that escaped extinction at the end of the cretaceous period. In addition to fossils, the exhibit features contemporary research by Dr. Pam Rasmussen who co-curated the exhibit with Dr. Michael Gottfried. Dr. Rasmussen was part of a team of ornithologists who recently described a new species from Central China, the Sichuan Bush-warbler. She has contributed to the discovery of ten new species, as featured in MSU Today. Currently Dr. Rasmussen is ranked first for most newly discovered species of birds in Asia and is tied for the third-highest total in the world.
Birds in Chinese Culture are the focus of the East wall of the exhibition. One of the more fascinating examples is the swiftlet nests. The swiftlet is the most economically important wild bird in the world valued for its saliva! Instead of making nests out of twigs the swiftlet lays down one spittle strand after another, which hardens into a crescent-shaped nest glued to a cave wall. For hundred of years swiftlets have created the key ingredient of the Chinese gastronomic delicacy know as "golden nests." The nests are used in soups, drinks, and candy. Consuming birds' nest products is thought to promote youthfulness and work as an aphrodisiac, among many other alleged health benefits.
The exhibit also features examples of Pheasant feathers that are highly valued in Chinese Opera, and a short video illustrating the grace and beauty of the Fairy Crane, who is revered in Chinese mythology as the prince of all birds, and the bird that carries departed souls to heaven on its back.
Although the exhibit is small, located in the Entry Hall of the MSU Museum, it reaches around the world exploring both science and culture. It is a must see: on display through November 25, 2015.
The MSU Museum is the science and culture museum at Michigan State University and the state's first Smithsonian Affiliate. The museum features three floors of special collections and changing exhibits and is open seven days a week free of charge (donations are encouraged). The museum is located on 409 West Circle Drive next to Beaumont Tower on the MSU campus. Hours are Monday – Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, 10a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sunday, 1-5 p.m. Visitor parking is available at metered spaces at the Grand River Ramp, one block away at the corner of Grand River Avenue and Charles Street. For more information, call (517) 355-2370 or see museum.msu.edu.
Stephanie Palagyi is currently the Production Assistant at the MSU Museum.
Greetings from Hong Kong
It's a slow season here at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, but it's not hard to imagine how its many shady nooks and patios might be filled during the school year with lively groups of students and their boisterous and intense conversations. A compact, green, elegantly-designed campus, its covered walkways - protection against both blazing sun and torrential rain - link academic and service buildings. These surround an open quad of burbling fountains and pools that are home to carp and to full-throated frogs that sound off nightly. But at this time of year, there seem to be as many cats in residence as students.
I'm here teaching a summer course called The Presence of the Past: Monuments and Memorials in the Department of Visual Studies. I have a good group of twelve students from a variety of departments, including English, Translation, Business, and Science (these two are visiting students from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology), as well as Visual Studies.
Instruction at Lingnan is conducted in English, though almost all the students are from Hong Kong and their first language is Cantonese. There are also some students from mainland China; their mother tongue is Mandarin.
One of the liveliest classes we had so far took place the day we discussed historic preservation and the thicket of ideas about heritage in Hong Kong. This topic has emerged as a focus of attention only relatively recently, for reasons I mention below, and many of my students are clearly deeply engaged in identifying meaningful ways to connect to their complex past.
Lingnan University is located on the western side of the New Territories, the large northern landmass of Hong Kong that physically connects this archipelago of 250 islands to China. An incredibly efficient public transit system allows for swift passage to the downtown areas of Kowloon, on the southern tip of the peninsula, and of Hong Kong Island, across the harbor
Lingnan University in the New Territories
Downtown Hong Kong and Kowloon
Lingnan University's relationship to Hong Kong as a whole reminds me of that between my home college, the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, and MSU. Lingnan's intimate scale and calm environment complement the bustle and dynamism of Hong Kong's multifaceted districts in a way that is analogous to the balance between the RCAH's small-scale, convivial living-learning community and the broader curricular and co-curricular menu that the wider campus offers.
This year's candlelight vigil in the heart of Hong Kong honoring the participants and victims at Beijing's 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations.
They are similar, too, in that they are far from cloistered; both play active roles in their societies through civic engagement projects and curricular emphases. Students and faculty at Lingnan, just like many of their fellow Hong Kong citizens, have been motivated to reflect on and act to shape the new relationship that is forming between this former British colony and China. British control ended in 1997, at the expiration of its 99-year lease on the New Territories, when it "handed over" Hong Kong to China, within which Hong Kong is now a Special Administrative Region (SAR). Since then, Hong Kong people have been examining what it is that defines them as a society and a culture. Having had such different historical experiences from mainland Chinese, the idea of merging into that society is not a comfortable one for most Hong Kong people. Their search for their own footing also takes the form of struggling to create democratic institutions in the face of China's unwillingness to permit them. This led to last fall's Umbrella Revolution and to this June's somewhat vexed vote in the Hong Kong legislature to reject China's plan for restricting electoral choices.
In this regard, as in many others, Hong Kong provides a front-row seat in the theater of contemporary globalization. A nexus of international trade and finance, Hong Kong's future will be shaped - in ways that defy prediction - by economic and social relationships and their impact on evolving political arrangements.
Meanwhile, daily life here continues at a frenetic pace. Against the backdrop of steep green hills and mountains that otherwise command the landscape and shape its settlement, towers and high-rises dominate Hong Kong's skylines. Every valley has been filled in with dense clusters of skyscrapers, climbing the hillsides as far as it's feasible. The downtown business core is a bristling band of corporate towers crowding from nearly vertical hills to the harbor's edge, a limit that's always being pushed by expanding the buildable landmass with fill.
The global circulation of goods and money that drives Hong Kong's economy has its counterpart in the seamless transit networks that speed people through the city. These are video games come to life, the actualization of virtuality, functioning in a real fourth dimension where space meets time. Surface roads plug up with traffic, but beneath and above ground long expanses of train and subway cars run at three-minute intervals. Trams and buses, many of them double-decker, and mini-buses travel for shorter distances. Aerial walkways enable pedestrians to move independently of surface congestion and protected from the weather; they create a geography that's separate from the street plan we read on maps. Shops line many old streets, but almost every newer building includes a mall, each one another node among the interconnecting walkways. People must circulate so that goods can.
And so it's with a bit of relief that I return after a day of exploring the city to the relative calm of the campus and the syncopated bellows of the frogs.
A member of the chorus, maybe
Carolyn Loeb is Associate Professor of Art and Architectural History and Associate Dean in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities. She is teaching a summer course at Lingnan University through the auspices of MSU's Office of the Associate Provost for University Outreach and Engagement. Lingnan University is a relatively new, small, liberal arts university in Hong Kong, though its roots lie in pre-revolutionary Guangzhou.
The Taiwan Film Festival and the CAL Global Film Series
This spring I curated two film series related to China Experience—the College of Arts and Letters Global Film Series and the Taiwan Film Festival. The turnout was phenomenal, averaging 50 people per film. The total headcount was over 350. Many people from the community attended besides MSU students. The events were therefore rather successful as outreach efforts.
Other than one film shot in mainland China directed by a Chinese director now based in New York, the other films were all recent productions from Taiwan. This was intended as a way to introduce students and the public to the cultural diversity within the Chinese-speaking world. The Taiwanese films dealt with a wide range of themes: the Japanese colonial legacy and Taiwan's search for identity; the reinvention of the centuries-old practice of matchmaking in the contemporary world of high divorce rates; the haunting memories of the 1950s White Terror period; the increasing interaction and potential rapprochement between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait; and the acceptance of foreign brides from Southeast Asia in the context of Taiwan's changing demographics. Together, the films paint Taiwan as a multiethnic and multilingual society that still retain many traces of her aboriginal cultures and the traditional Han Chinese culture while absorbing copious influences from Japan and other parts of Asia besides the West.
In total six films (including two cross-promoted between the two series), three Q/A sessions with film directors, and one academic lecture were presented. They were:
- March 18: The Road to Fame (documentary, China, 2013), dir. Hao Wu, screening and Q/A with Wu.
- March 30: Kano (drama, Taiwan, 2014), dir. Umin Boya, screening.
- April 1: Let's Fall in Love (documentary, Taiwan, 2009), dir. Tai-jen Wu, screening and Q/A with Wu.
- April 2: "From Taiwan New Cinema to Cape No. 7: Auteurism and Beyond," public lecture by Prof. Hsiao-yen Peng (Academia Sinica).
- April 6: Super Citizen Ko (drama, Taiwan, 1995), dir. WAN Jen, screening.
- April 8: It Takes Two to Tango (drama, Taiwan, 2014), dir. WAN Jen, screening.
- April 20: The Golden Child (drama, Taiwan, 2012), dir. She-wei Chou, screening and Q/A with Chou.
The outreach, communication and marketing experts of the College of Arts and Letters, especially Tina Newhauser and Mike Jenkins—coordinated the Global Film series. The popcorn machine brought in by Tina provided fresh pop corn—definitely a hit. Josh created attractive flyers: http://www.cal.msu.edu/globalfilmseries
Meanwhile, I worked closely with the Asian Studies Center director and staff—Siddharth Chandra, Julie Hagstrom, and Julia Grimm, on the Taiwan Film Festival. Our planning meetings started as early as last December! Lorenza Centi designed the main flyer as well as individual flyers: http://asia.isp.msu.edu/events/46961/taiwan-film-festival-super-citizen-ko/ Tessa Raymond kept the events calendar up to date while my research assistants Nick Ferguson and Fang-yu Chen helped with room setups.
Although everything went like clockwork, we did have to do a last-minute substitution, replacing A City of Sadness with Kano as the opening film for the Taiwan Film Festival due to a technical issue. Kano turned out to be an excellent choice, as this popular baseball film raises interesting questions about Taiwan's search for identity in both the Japanese colonial past and the present. The Q/A sessions conducted by Tai-jen Wu and She-wei Chou were fantastic. Wu talked about her decision to be self-reflexive and performative in her documentary, while Chou discussed women's strong roles in the family in Taiwan's patriarchal society and her decision to incorporate experimental cinematography, such as unusual camera angles, and surprising narrative twists to unsettle the audience's preconceived notions about communal and national boundaries. The two films by director Wan Jen were also well-received. Super Citizen Ko is a hauntingly beautiful classic from the second phase of the Taiwan New Cinema movement while his latest film It Takes Two to Tango is a romantic comedy with a political satirical edge. Prof. Peng's public lecture traced one of the origins of the auteurist tendencies of Taiwan New Cinema to the French New Wave and concluded with a critical appraisal of the latest return to storytelling in films such as Cape No. 7 and Kano.
My heartfelt thanks to all the sponsors—the College of Arts and Letters, the Asian Studies Center, the Department of Linguistics and Languages, the Film Studies Program in the English Department, and Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities. Last but not least, thanks are due the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Chicago and the Taipei Cultural Center in New York.
China Initiative from 2005-2015
Ten years ago, in her inaugural speech, President Lou Anna Simon called for "a new land-grant revolution, the next bold experiment—the land-grant university for the world," which became a vision for MSU's role in defining its covenant with a now-global society for the 21st century. To be a great international university in the 21st century, MSU must be engaged across the missions of research, teaching, and outreach in strategic countries around the globe. With this long-term strategic vision in mind, President Simon launched MSU's China Initiative in 2005 with the aim of developing a new template for our strategic international engagement.
The China Initiative was designed to expand the University's already considerable presence and outreach in China through academic, research, and economic development programming, strategic global, national and local alliances. The near-term action agenda of the China Initiative was to develop joint research programs, develop joint education programs, and promote technology transfer/consulting services in the areas of education, environmental and ecosystem services, and food and agricultural production systems.
Ten years have passed since MSU launched its China Initiative, and the turn of the calendar makes this an especially appropriate time for a quick glance over the Initiative before continuing the charge forward. We are delighted to see significant progress in developing joint research and educational programs as well as consulting services in multiple MSU colleges, departments and centers. This positive progress reflects the hard work and collaborative efforts of our faculty, administrators and students.
The most significant contribution of China Initiative is the expansion MSU's presence and influence in China. In 2004, there were 44 Chinese undergraduates at MSU, making up just 4.4 percent of MSU's undergraduate enrollment from abroad. In fall 2013, 3,458 Chinese students comprised 76.5 percent of that population. Each year we have more 10,000 high school students from China applying to be admitted to MSU.
Here are some highlights of the China Initiative:
- We developed first joint education program on turf grass management with four Chinese universities in 2003. By May 2014, 354 students have graduated from this program and have become the backbone of China's growing turf grass industry. In its 150 more years' history, MSU, for the first time, conducted its graduation commencement in a foreign country – Beijing, China.
- We had extensive cooperation and collaboration in research with our Chinese partners. As a result of these cooperation, we jointly held many educational symposiums, seminars and workshops in China and at MSU, including but not limited to, Global Food Safety Forum (2004, Beijing), International Symposium on Supermarket and Agricultural Development(2005, Shanghai), International Forum on Online Education ( 2006 Beijing), International Symposium on Certification and Traceability for Food Safety and Quality (2008, Beijing), HVRI-MSU Joint Conference on Virology and Immunology (Harbin 2014), and CAAS-MSU Joint Workshop on Biotechnology (2014, Beijing).
- We provided training programs to hundreds and thousands of Chinese professional at MSU and in China. These training programs ranged from agricultural production technologies, food safety, extension service, to higher education administration. A few notable ones include: Food Safety Training Program for Coca-Cola Company (2009, Shanghai); Venetia-Macau Executive Training Program (2008, Macau); and Workshop on US Health Care System and Its Reform (2011, Beijing).
- We helped China to build a portable athletic field for its 2008 Olympic Games. MSU was the only foreign university that provided technical consultation for the construction of the national stadium-the famous "Bird Nest". It was one of the most recognized and successful technology transfer project in MSU history.
Much has changed over the last decade, on campus and around the world. But through our joint efforts, we have laid a solid foundation for future development. We built strategic partnership with a few key universities and research institutions in China, such as Sichuan University, Zhejiang University, China Agricultural University and Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Projects and programs already in motion set the stage for future discoveries and long-term dividends. It has been a successful 10 years for China Initiative. In 2005, when the Office of China Programs first established, we set up the following goals: build strategic partnerships with key Chinese research and educational institutions; increase MSU's visibility in China through launching transformative projects and programs, expand on-campus commitment and capacity for China programs; build cultural, economic, and civic bridges between China and the State of Michigan. Today, we can proudly announce that all these goals have been met or exceeded.
University campus like military camp barracks, students come and go as well as faculty members. In China, there is a famous saying" in the Yangtze River the waves behind drive on those before". Time makes it inevitable that in every profession the rising generation is worthier than the former one. I am extremely confident that the future of China programs at MSU will excel its potential limitless.
JOIN US—BECOME INVOLVED IN THE CHINA EXPERIENCE!
Did you know that a new museum opens every day in China? While much is written about the dramatic economic expansion and rise of the middle class in China, what is not as well known is the major investment that China is making in the safeguarding and presentation of China's historic and living cultural heritage. In Beijing three new national museums are being built, the Chinese National Museum of Intangible Cultural Heritage, the National Museum of Craft, and the National Museum of Ecology. These museums, and many other museums—and festivals—are being developed in response to the loss of both tangible and intangible cultural resources.
The museums at MSU have been actively engaged in China now on a number of different levels. The MSU Museum is a partner in an international collaboration with three museums in the U.S. and three museums in China entitled, U.S./China Folklore, Intangible Heritage, and Museums funded by the Luce Foundation and the Asian Cultural Council. This has led to a series of six international conferences, professional staff exchanges, and collaborative museum exhibition projects.
Currently on view at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum is the exhibition, Future Returns: Contemporary Art from China, which has served as the preview and signature exhibition of the MSU China Experience: An MSU Exploration of Arts & Culture Organized by Broad MSU Adjunct Curator, Dr. Wang Chunchen, who also serves as the Head of Curatorial Research at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Bejing, the exhibition traces the profound socioeconomic changes that have taken place in China over the past three decades through the lens of contemporary Chinese artists in a variety of media, including painting, photographs, installations, and digital art. Generous support is provided by the College of Arts and Letters with additional funding provided by Dr. Linda Nelson; Beijing Caissa Culture Communication Co. Ltd.; the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China, China Arts Entertainment Group; and the Broad MSU's general exhibition fund.The exhibition will be on view until March 8, 2015. In conjunction with Future Returns, five documentary films that portray contemporary life in China will be presented with a dialogue facilitated by Film Studies faculty member Dr. Swarnavel Pillai and other MSU faculty members who are engaged in the study of China. For a full schedule of screenings, visit: http://broadmuseum.msu.edu/programs/films-and-documentaries
Opening January 19, 2015 at the MSU Museum will be Seeing China: Photographic Views and Viewpoints, an exhibition showcasing the work of six contemporary, non-Chinese photographers, and stereographs, made in China between 1901 and 1905. Based on a selection of works from the MSU Museum's collection, this exhibition challenges viewers to consider the effects of environmental change and political responsibility, rapid urbanization and economic expansion, human and civil rights, and cultural diversity and change. Seeing China will be on view until August 30, 2015. Shirley T. Wajda, MSU Museum Curator of History, will be giving a Curator's Talk, "China Through the Stereoscope," at 12:30 p.m. on March 23, 2015 at the MSU Museum Auditorium.
In addition to exhibitions, The China Experience will explore China through diverse programs and activities including film, music, performances, planetarium shows, lectures, events, and festival programs. The MSU Cultural Engagement Council is coordinating The China Experience: An MSU Exploration of Arts & Culture to create dynamic programming through events and dialogues that will run from February 20, 2015 to August 30, 2016 throughout the MSU campus and surrounding community. By inviting guest speakers on China to the MSU campus including artists, scholars, authors, musicians, scientists, and filmmakers, we seek to explore a country that is rich in history and contemporary art...and to learn more about our own Chinese students and to learn from them. Our goal is to enrich the student experience, global inclusiveness, and engage the community in the exploration.
Join the Conversation: A Year-long MSU Community Conversation on Civil and Human Rights
In 2014, Michigan State University is presenting an historic opportunity for our campus and community to participate in a rich array of community conversations on civil and human rights. This year marks the anniversaries of two watershed events occurred in 20th century American history which continue to have significant impact on American citizens of all races, genders and cultures today. These events changed the way people live, work, are taught and interact in American society. 2014 marks the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education and the 50th anniversary of the passage and signing into law of the Civil Rights Act. The 1954 Brown decision was the beginning of the end for segregation in America's public schools on the basis of race. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made unlawful major forms of discrimination. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public.
The arts and cultural programs at MSU are taking an active role in presenting stimulating exhibitions, performances, educational programs, and community conversations that will inspire reflection and foster new conversations on diversity and inclusion. It will be an unprecedented chance to educate one another on the personal, domestic, and global implications on these issues.
A brief sample of arts and cultural programs planned include: Ruby Bridges, Brown v. Board of Education and Civil Rights History in Lansing (MSU Museum exhibition); Ahmed "Kathy" Kathrada: A South African Activist for Non-Racialism and Democracy (MSU Museum Exhibition); Showtyme @ MSU Featuring Mary Lambert (Wharton Center Performance); Slavery to Freedom: An American Odyssey (Wharton Center Lecture Series); The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (Wharton Center Performance); and "The Road to Brown (MSU College of Law Film/Discussion. There are also a variety of student performances and educational programs planned by colleges, departments, and community organizations across the campus and in the broader local, state, and global communities. Visit the Project 60/50 Website for a calendar of events and more information on the remarkable year of activities.
Plan on joining the conversation—share your perspectives, learn from one another, and build a strong future for our campus and communities.
C. Kurt Dewhurst, Ph.D.
Director of Arts and Cultural Initiatives, University Outreach & Engagement
Director Emeritus and Curator, Michigan State University Museum
Professor of English
Member of the 60/50 Leadership Team
Project 60/50 is a university-wide initiative coordinated through the MSU Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives commencing January 2014. The intent of the year-long initiative is to link academic exploration and study, public commemoration and remembrance, laced with a multitude of cultural expressions. Special programs are designed to engage students, campus visitors, and our local and global communities.
There's Lots to Like On WKAR Radio These Days!
What is the "current state" of the mid-Michigan community? WKAR Radio listeners are finding out on Current State (Weekdays at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.; Saturdays at 11 a.m.; Sundays at noon). The daily talk show focuses on a broad range of topics related to the mid-Michigan community, many of which center on the arts.
Since the show launched in January, listeners have heard about the MSU Museum's 3-D exhibit, a new book from MSU Press, and plenty of shows at Wharton Center, along with features on the MSU Symphony, the Department of Theatre's production of "U.P." and much more. When it comes to the arts and cultural activities, Current State has a wealth of material right here in the MSU community, whether it is research, performance, literary endeavors, music or exhibits related to natural history or modern culture.
Other topics included in Current State range from state and city government issues, business, sports and features covering a broad range of topics. The show is hosted by Mark Bashore and produced by Joe Linstroth. Emanuele Berry is the weekend host of Current State. Al Martin, who recently joined WKAR as sports producer and host of Current Sports with Al Martin, provides updates on sports with in-depth reports on more topical issues.
The talk and information of Current State is complemented by WKAR Radio's classical music schedule, which has recently expanded its community focus. In addition to the local hours hosted by Mark Schwitzgoebel and Jody Knol, WKAR Radio Station Manager Peter Whorf hosts What's New at WKAR, a weekly program looking at new releases across a variety of classical music styles. Both this and the 90.5 Community Concerts, which are heard Tuesday nights on 90.5, will have repeat broadcasts on Saturday afternoons.
During the academic year, WKAR offers the MSU Faculty Recital series. These programs, along with WKAR's daily 90.5 Classical content will frequently include selections from Michigan State University College of Music orchestras and soloists, along with others from the mid-Michigan community.
Reaching out to the cultural community has long been part of WKAR's focus. With the launch of Current State, there are new opportunities to highlight the rich cultural diversity in mid-Michigan and spotlight many of the musical and theatre ensembles in the area. The series has provided WKAR with new opportunities to create partnerships with various campus departments as well.
To share stories with the Current State team for consideration on the broadcast, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org describing the idea and including contact information.
Sample arts and culture from MSU at the Current State Links below.
The Value of Art
Art is everywhere at MSU. We see it in the symmetry of Beal Gardens and the Student Organic Farm. It's embedded in the terra-cotta of the original Sparty statue that stands guard at the entrance to the Spartan Stadium Tower, and in the mosaic of recycled glass that Tim Whaley crafted into the green and white floor beneath it. It's expressed in the beauty of human performance on the Wharton Center stage and in the practice rooms at the Music Building. It hangs from the ceiling above the Brody Square staircase and is reflected in the diverse architecture that makes up our campus. It's ingrained in the numerous global cultures, oral and written languages taught in Wells Hall.
In the Winter 2013 issue of the MSU Alumni Magazine, we spotlight the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum as the newest groundbreaking example of artistic expression. But hidden in the Zaha Hadid architecture is the brilliance of the artist who made it all possible. Eli Broad is that artist.
Stefanie Lenway, the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Dean of the Broad College of Business, would agree that woven into the numerics and physical processes of commerce is the art of execution. So would Dean Satish Udpa at MSU's cutting-edge College of Engineering. His students turn the prism to see the laws of nature in new ways, putting them to work to solve the world's most complicated problems. Dean Marsha Rappley at the College of Human Medicine inoculates the art of the "bedside manner" into every future Spartan doc. Our graduates understand that a diagnosis isn't just based on what appears on a microscope slide. And Joe Hotchkiss, director of the our best-in-the-nation School of Packaging and Center for Packaging Innovation and Sustainability, teaches every one of his future leaders about the creative artistry that takes Spartans beyond convention and into the realm of innovation.
Perhaps art is best inculcated into Spartan minds in the classroom. Talk with a Spartan and the names of gifted professors, past and present, flow like the Red Cedar rapids. Jill Spiekerman Bonham points to Dr. Kirk Heinze, as an outstanding practitioner of the teaching art. "With his guidance, we discovered our talent, learned new skills and reached for the sky," she says.
Erika Olson Myers' imagination was fired in Lucinda Davenport's classroom. "She is one of the smartest people I have ever met," says Erika. "To this day, I still use what she taught about good writing, attention to detail and telling both sides of the story."
Kevin Smith and Dan Redford were touched by Michael Schechter. "A brilliant mind with great research chops," Kevin notes, "but a mentor who cares deeply about teaching undergrads and was very skilled at it."
"He had a way of expressing that he wasn't totally satisfied with what I had handed in," Dan adds, "yet made me so motivated to improve and to come up with better ways to stand by what I believe in."
Alumni Career Services counselor Dave Isbell points to the multi-dimensional artistry of John Mooradian. "Not only does he know his stuff (because he actually practiced/practices in the field) but it is evident that he truly cares about his students," explains Isbell. "He goes out of his way to help his students really understand the content. Beyond that, he makes everyone feel valuable as the individual learners they are. He is willing to admit when he is wrong and has an artist's way of calling you out, making you feel thankful for his always-constructive criticism. Dr. Mooradian embodies MSU's community engagement imperative!"
I receive literally hundreds of these messages of admiration for the men and women who helped each of us to understand the most complex ideas, challenging us to stretch them, reinvent them and pass our knowledge on.
This is what Spartans do.
From our inception, MSU has been a testament to the confluence of art and science. We teach the rigor of research and analysis, but we also celebrate the interpersonal magic that lives in the right brain. This is the secret of the Spartan Life. It teaches us to contemplate both the beauty of the world around us and to seek to understand the fundamental laws that make it spin.
As you turn the pages of the Winter 2013 issue of the MSU Alumni Magazine, you will see amazing examples of both art and science. This is the essence of the MSU experience and the elements within us that make Spartans uncommonly successful.
Building Sustained Arts and Cultural Partnerships between MSU and China
While the world media continues to focus on the remarkable economic growth of China on the world stage, there is another stage where strong partnerships are emerging. It is now acknowledged that arts and culture are essential to build strong communities and that they play a critical role in economic development, job creation, fostering cultural understanding, and societal wellbeing. MSU has much to contribute to the growing ties between Michigan and the U.S. with China. With approximately Chinese 4,000 students on the MSU campus now the interconnections between China and MSU are flourishing — including collaborations in arts and culture. As we begin our planning for a special MSU thematic year focused on China in 2015, it is a good time to begin sharing examples of growing arts and cultural initiatives.
Some MSU Museum, College of Arts and Letters, and University Outreach & Engagement collaborations continue to expand. MSU professors and MSU Museum curators Kurt Dewhurst and Marsha MacDowell made presentations at the third China-US Forum on "Intangible Cultural Heritage on Productive Protection" at Central China Normal University in Wuhan in November 2012. The series of forums is funded by a grant to the American Folklore Society from the Henry Luce Foundation to bring together academic and public education institutions in China and the United States in an effort designed to chart, compare, analyze, and communicate widely about tradition-based cultural expressions, and efforts to document, support, and sustain those expressions, in our two countries.
The Yunnan Nationalities Museum in Kunming and the Michigan State University Museum in East Lansing are leading the next phase of work that will compare and analyze best practices in public education about tradition-based culture through museum activities, and create a bilingual online exhibition on the folk textile traditions of China and of the U.S. based on this partnership, these two museums aim to serve as portals that will foster expanded collaborations among folklore, cultural heritage, and museum professionals for other museums in China and the U.S. This project is co-creating training opportunities for collection management, public education, on-line exhibitions, and increased digital access to museum collections in the U.S. and China.
The MSU team also were able to participate in programming connected to "The Sum of Many Parts: 25 Quiltmakers from 21st-Century America" is an exhibition of quilts by contemporary American artists touring throughout China from 2012 to 2014 at major cultural institutions in the cities of Nanning, Changsha and Dalian. "The Sum of Many Parts" is a program conceived and sponsored by the United States Embassy-Beijing. The exhibition and its tour have been jointly developed and managed by Arts Midwest and South Arts, and the MSU Museum's Great Lakes Quilt Center.
An MSU Museum team also met with Mr. Qu Shengrui, deputy director general of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection, and Director General Mr. Lu Zhangsheng of the National Museum of China to discuss shared interest in policies and practices for the documentation, presentation, and protection of intangible cultural heritage in both nations. Notably, both of these Chinese colleagues, who were on campus in the spring, have children who are MSU alumni or have children here now!
Clearly, the ties between the state of Michigan are also a priority of our governor and the new Broad Art Museum has a curatorial commitment to presenting Chinese art. I invite you to share your experiences as we build sustained relationships for MSU with China.
MSU Friends of Theatre Trippers' Club Says Mid-Michigan Theatre Worth the Trip
On October 6, 2012 the Friends of Theatre Trippers' Club set off on their first of three trips, enjoying an afternoon of fine dining and professional theatre in Mid- Michigan. Thirty one theatre lovers, two MSU faculty members, and seven MSU theatre students rode a bus to Chelsea, MI, conversed over lunch at The Common Grill restaurant, and attended Superior Donuts by Tracy Letts at The Purple Rose Theatre Company.
The group also attended a talk back session with Guy Sanville, the director of the production, and most cast members. This trip to Chelsea was the first of three trips this year offered by the MSU Department of Theatre's Friends of Theatre group. Next, we will be attending Ebenezer by Joe Zettelmaier at Williamston Theatre on December 15, 2012 and having dinner at The Red Cedar Grill. In February we will dine at Tirami Su' Ristorante in Northville, and attend Looking by Norm Foster at Tipping Point Theatre.
These trips not only offer insight into what is going on in the professional theatres here in Mid- Michigan but also build camaraderie, and provoke insightful conversation among the participants. On the Chelsea trip, MSU theatre faculty member Dan Smith offered some background information about Tracy Letts and spoke to the group about the history of the play on the bus ride down to Chelsea. At dinner, the group enjoyed conversing with the students and learning about their interests and future plans. The talk back part of the afternoon is also very integral to the depth of this shared experience, and the participants always enjoy learning about the production from the actors, directors and designers.
The Trippers' Club is one of the many facets of the Friends of Theatre group at MSU. We are fortunate to have these theatre supporters and lovers engage with us!
If you are interested in learning more please contact Dionne O'Dell at MSU Department of Theatre 517-355-6691.
"Campus and Community" on our Nation's Front Lawn
As we mark the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Morrill Act, it offers us an opportunity to reflect on the original purpose of the Morrill Act and the contributions of the land-grant university movement to our state, nation, and the world. It is also worth noting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was established the same year.
Over the past year I have had the honor as serving as the national chair of the Research and Planning Committee and the Co-Curator of a special Smithsonian Folklife Festival program (http://www.festival.si.edu/) entitled, Campus and Community: Public and Land-grant Universities and the USDA at 150 (http://www.festival.si.edu/2012/campus_and_community/), celebrating 150 years of partnership between universities, the USDA and communities.
The Festival takes place Wednesday, June 27, through Sunday, July 1, and Wednesday, July 4, through Sunday, July 8, on the National Mall-unofficially known as our nation's Front Lawn, between Seventh and Fourteenth streets. All events are free. Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, with special evening events such as concerts and dance parties beginning at 5:30 p.m. The Festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service. Over one million visitors attend the festival every year-making it the largest annual Smithsonian program.
The original purpose of the Morrill Act signed in 1862 was "without excluding scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such a manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions of life."
Revisited, renewed for the 21th Century
Today the land-grant movement is evolved for the twenty-first century context. During this past year, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities have renewed their commitment for public universities to:
- contribute to the democratization of higher education,
- drive economic growth,
- enhance agricultural and industrial productivity,
- improve the quality of life,
- address pressing societal needs at home and abroad, and
- balance the mission of access and affordability, public service, and innovative research for national competitiveness.
Arts and culture promote innovation, solutions
Arts and culture are very much at the center of the twenty-first century land-grant movement. President Simon has led the transition of MSU from what she has described as a land-grant to a world-grant university. Central to this shift is her sense that we need to break down our disciplinary boundaries. In Embracing the World Grant Ideal: Affirming the Morrill Act for a Twenty-first-century Global Society, President Simon wrote, "Solving problems of global proportions requires the combined thinking and actions of the natural sciences, the humanities, and a blend of professional disciplines." The MSU Cultural Engagement Council continues our efforts to cross the disciplinary silos of the past to forge innovative educational experiences for our students and new solutions for society as a whole.
Listening and working together
One of the forces of the land-grant movement has been to apply the expertise of the university to community needs—by listening and working together. This approach has evolved in a world-grant university sensibility as President Simon has stressed, "A university in the World Grant model is one that sees citizens not as just the beneficiaries of its knowledge but also as partners in its co-creation. The World Grant Ideal works from the bottom up-from the grassroots-just as concertedly as it does from the top down." In this same way, we are using our campus arts and cultural resources to engage communities by co-creating collaborative partnerships. We build our collaborative partnerships in response to community needs—by building on local cultural assets and connecting them to university talent and expertise.
The Campus and Community program at the Smithsonian will bring exemplary university partnerships to life though demonstrations, discussions, performances, and hands-on activities.
From Washington, D.C. to East Lansing
If you are not able to attend the festival in DC, you will be able to see a smaller version of this program that will feature only MSU initiatives, at the MSU Museum's Great Lakes Folk Festival (http://www.greatlakesfolkfest.net) on August 10-12, or in the form of a traveling exhibition that will be featured in our campus neighborhoods during the coming academic year. I invite you to reflect on our pioneer land-grant heritage and to realize the vision of a world-grant university.
See: Lou Anna Kimsey Simon, President, Michigan State University in Embracing the World Grant Ideal: Affirming the Morrill Act for a Twenty-first-century Global Society, 2011. (http://worldgrantideal.msu.edu/)
Learn more about MSU, the pioneer land-grant university, and the sesquicentennial of the Morrill Act: http://msu.edu/morrill-celebration/.
Art in the Library
Would you rather study in a purely functional environment - blank walls, industrial carpeting - or in a well-designed setting graced with works of art? At the MSU Libraries, we're aiming for the latter. Of course, our top priority has to be buying materials we need for the collection, staffing our service points, and keeping up with the back-office work that makes the library run smoothly. But whenever possible, we try to bring art into the library, whether it's donated or on loan from another campus unit. Now, the library has an endowment to fund the acquisition of artwork. And best of all, it's designed to support student artists: the Irene B. Arens Endowment in Support of Student Arts in the MSU Libraries. Thanks to Mrs. Arens, we're now holding the second annual Student Art Competition.
Winning entries by one undergraduate artist and one graduate student artist will be selected by a committee. Each will receive a $500 prize, provided by the Arens Endowment, and the MSU Libraries will acquire and display the artwork.
The winning entry from 2010, "Things Are Being Hidden" by Steven Stradley, can be seen in the Main Library reference area. Entries for this year's competition are due Friday, March 16. And, watch for the Student Art Competition award reception - with unveiling of the winning artworks - at the Main Library in April!
Yes, we're on Facebook, too!
Did you know that Arts and Culture at Michigan State University not only has its own calendar at artsandculture.msu.edu (that's the part we know that you know, 'cuz you're here already), but it also has its own Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/MSUartsandculture?sk=wall&filter=12
That's right, there are two places to catch the latest in arts and culture at MSU! Some recent samplings include events from the Arabic Language Instruction Flagship; MSU Romance and Classical Studies; MSU College of Music; WKAR and the MSU Museum; the Department of English, and more.
My personal favorite (until February 27 anyway) is the 23rd annual MSU Museum Chocolate Party: http://museum.msu.edu/index.php?q=node%2F521 The event runs from 1:30 – 3:30, Sunday, February 26. Tickets are $30 for the general public and $25 for MSU Museum members in advance, and $35 at the door. A special "Premier Chocolatier" ticket for $75 offers an advance preview of Chocolate Party creations and a year-long MSU Museum membership.
So, why not take a few seconds, come on over to Facebook, and "Like" us? We already have 628 people who have done so. Maybe you can help us top 1,000. There are links to our YouTube account: some photos of arts and culture events at MSU; links to sign up for our SMS and/or RSS feed; and, of course, the opportunity to chat online with others who like MSU arts and culture.
Click, now: http://www.facebook.com/MSUartsandculture?sk=wall&filter=12
Write your own novel — and have it printed at the MSU Main Library!
Are you in NaNoWriMo? More than 200,000 people around the world — several thousand in Michigan — are taking part in this year's National Novel Writing Month, a 30-day literary extravaganza for aspiring novelists.
All you have to do is sign up ... and then write 50,000 words during the month of November. "The 50,000 word challenge has a wonderful way of opening up your imagination and unleashing creativity," explains Chris Baty, who started NaNoWriMo with friends in 1999. Each year about one in five writers makes the 50,000 word mark — and everyone has a great time.
And if you do finish that novel, now you can have it printed right here on campus! The MSU Libraries have purchased an Espresso Book Machine® — a print-on-demand installation which can print and bind a paperback book at the press of a button. It was recently featured on WKAR.
The EBM uses a high-speed Xerox copier to print a book's black & white interior and an Epson printer for full-color covers. Robotic machinery from On Demand Books assembles the interior, applies glue, attaches the cover, trims the book to size and delivers it. For a 150-page book, the entire process takes about five minutes.
Prices are reasonable, starting at $13 to check over the files for a 100-page book and print one copy. And if you haven't written your own novel, you can choose from the 3.3 million books digitized by Google.
Visit the Main Library Copy Center for a demonstration or make an appointment with the EBM coordinator to plan your project. And get to work on your novel!
October is American Archives Month, an opportunity to raise awareness about the value of archives and archivists. That said, the two questions I get asked most frequently are "What are archives?" and "Why would I want to celebrate them?"
Archives are places that preserve our history and heritage. Archives act as the memory keepers. Here at the Michigan State University Archives we preserve the history of MSU. What happened when MSU first opened its doors back in 1857? What was campus life like back in the 1960s and 1970s when students were protesting a variety of causes? You can find out the answers to those questions and more in the archives.
This year is important to historians because 2011 is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the U.S. Civil War. We have many collections of Civil War letters and diaries available for people to come in and read. You can get lost in the training, daily life, and battles of the men (and some women) who lived through the Civil War. Read in their own words how soldiers felt and what they thought. I don't know about you, but knowing that those things are still out there and available to us is pretty special to me.
Each year during October we hold an MSU trivia contest open to all members of the MSU community—faculty, staff, students, and alumni—and to members of the greater Lansing community. We give prizes to three winners chosen at random from the correct entries. This year's prize is a set of beverage coasters featuring historical MSU images. Our 2011 trivia contest is available online through October 31.
Good luck to everyone who plays our trivia contest.
Art and democracy
I voted today.
It wasn't a political vote; it was a vote for art. Today was the last day to vote in ArtPrize, one of Michigan's — no, one of the world's — biggest art competitions.
In its third year, ArtPrize brought the crowds. Thousands of artists from around the world showcased their works, which will be up until Oct. 9 — maybe even longer — in Grand Rapids.
Where else — possibly in the world — can you see art overtake a city for 19 days? Where else can you change an artist's life so significantly with one click?
This year, many of the ArtPrize artists were Spartans. From alumni to faculty members to staff, Spartans represented dozens of works.
One of those Spartans is a faculty member in my home college. Henry Brimmer presented "Touch Wood," an interactive 2D/3D exhibit at the Grand Rapids Art Museum featuring an animated "Barkman" nestled in a pile of wooden houses, a giant tree mural and some 15,000 miniature wooden houses that resembled Monopoly play pieces displayed on pedestals. So many miniature houses, so many reactions. I watched visitors stack the houses, talk about them, smell them, take them, etc. Children were especially drawn to the exhibit, and seemed to be the most eager to dive in and build their own "homemade" works. What I loved best was that Brimmer's exhibit — like others' in ArtPrize—emphasized getting everyone involved.
The interactivity is social too. At ArtPrize, many artists interact with the public, to listen, absorb, share, explain, strike an artistic conversation and, of course, ask for your vote.
I voted, did you?
Did you visit ArtPrize this year from East Lansing? What were your favorite memories? Email us at email@example.com.
Enriching Our Campus Through Public Art
Have you noticed the growing colorful presence of public art on the MSU campus? Our MSU campus is nationally recognized as one of the most beautiful in the nation. It is distinguished by the care taken to create a "campus park" where the landscape design and campus plan are perhaps more central to its reputation than a campus possessing iconic architecture.
In fact, the vernacular built appearance of the campus is the visual unity of areas of architectural styles rather than one of cutting-edge architecture (note: this will surely change with the addition of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum). However, look around you; in the past 12 years, thanks to a new commitment to public art, over 50 new works have been placed on campus with the guidance of the Public Art on Campus Committee, working in consultation with the resident faculty and staff from the new projects that have been completed.
In December 1999, the Michigan State University Board of Trustees (BOT) established a new committee to advance the presence of public art on campus. The Public Art on Campus Committee (PAOCC) "is charged with making recommendations to the Provost and the Vice President for Finance and Operations and Treasurer regarding the acquisition, placement and maintenance of public art on the MSU campus." Since the PAOCC was formed, Michigan State University has been dedicating 1⁄2 of 1% of the cost of major renovations or new buildings to public art, up to a maximum of $250,000 per project. One of the first installations was of a bronze replica of The Spartan ("Sparty") by Leonard Jungwirth, and a growing rich collection of art that now enhances our campus park.
Take some time this spring to create your own public art walking tour of the MSU campus. Learn more about the artists who now have work displayed on our campus. Share your reactions and thoughts with friends and colleagues or do it here. Celebrate the endless pleasure our campus gives to those who study on, work on, or visit our remarkable creative environment. More information is available at the PAOCC website, http://publicart.msu.edu
C. Kurt Dewhurst, Director of Arts and Cultural Initiatives/Senior Fellow, University Outreach and Engagement; Curator, MSU Museum and Professor of Engllish. He is the co-author of MSU Campus: Buildings, Spaces,and Places, MSU Press, 2005.
Jeff Kacos, Director of Campus Planning and Administration, also serves as the Chair of the Public Art on Campus Committee.
Art Is All Around Us
When WKAR decided to produce a concert performance series, the station didn't have to look far for Michigan artists to perform. Now in its second season on WKAR, "BackStage Pass" (Thursdays at 10 p.m.; seen on public television stations nationwide), has far more musical groups from which to choose than even a 52-week series could handle. In fact, WKAR already has a large enough band list to produce the series for ten years.
Art is all around us. While "BackStage Pass" performers would probably welcome a Grammy Award and the enthusiastic crowds major concert venues provide, all of them are creating their own music and sharing it with those in their communities.
Artists don't stop making art because they aren't famous. They create because they must – and it doesn't matter whether they are singers, dancers, actors, photographers, sculptors, painters or from a myriad of other artistic disciplines.
"BackStage Pass" has featured performers from Michigan State University, East Lansing and Lansing, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Detroit and other Michigan cities. Some started jamming as students at MSU; others found one another playing local bars and clubs. Some have jobs that help pay the rent between gigs; others are now full-time musicians.
Students who work with WKAR staff to produce "BackStage Pass" "perform" on a small stage, too. In doing so they are honing their skills, working with professionals who have chosen to stay in mid-Michigan. These students may one day work in broadcasting, cable or film. Right now, their efforts bring them a valuable "credit" on a national program and the tools to help them grow.
Students and musicians share passion, creativity and joy in bringing their art to the public.
Art is All Around Us.
Visual artists are featured at shows taking place in libraries or office buildings. Long before one may hit the big time with a gallery exhibit or as an illustrator for a major publication, work is shared on flickr.
Art is All Around Us.
Actors perform in university and community theatres as well as professional ones. They perform in street theatre, tiny studios, at schools and for service organizations. Look about you! If all the world is a stage, you'll find actors honing their craft in any available space — Tony Award or Oscar.
Art is All Around Us.
Young filmmakers cut their teeth on YouTube or in university programs like MSU's Telecommunications, Information Studies and Media department where comprehensive internship programs (like that of "BackStage Pass") or production of programs like "Environment" for the Knight School of Environmental Journalism help build skills. Film programs combine talents of those at Michigan State University, University of Michigan and Wayne State University.
Art is All Around Us.
Drive through area neighborhoods and revel in a variety of architectural styles, some by noted architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Darius Moon. And look up – on many buildings you'll find sculptural elements that dazzle.
Sculpture greets you on Grand River Avenue and in downtown Lansing. From graffiti. to elegant gardens — complex thoughts evolve into a space or structure of grace.
Art is All Around Us...
Art sometimes gets a bad rap as being inaccessible, expensive or something others "do" and "we" see. But look deeper. That sixty-year-old quilt at the foot of the bed, made by Grandma may not hang in the Michigan State University Museum's quilt collection – but check those tiny stitches and intricate quilting. It's art.
So is the wall hanging your neighbor is weaving. The poem your colleague places on a blog. The sketch a friend creates. The song a lovelorn boy writes to impress a girl.
Some quibble at calling these efforts "art," recognizing that the term itself is subjective and there are various levels of skill that move one from tentative dabbler to enthusiastic amateur to seasoned artist.
But it must begin somewhere – whether it is in a garage band in St. Johns or a classroom in Okemos.
Look around you – see art everyday. It may make you smile or cry. But when it makes you "feel" – you'll know you have found it.
Who are you behind the mask?
At the Michigan State University Museum, a major program for 2011 is "MASK: Secrets and Revelations". This year long suite of events will devolve from a major exhibit in our temporary exhibit gallery. Drawing on hundreds of masks from the MSU Museum collections, MASK is an object-rich exploration of masking in cultures around the world. Yet its focus will not be primarily on the countries or cultures of origin. This is not a 'masks of the world' exhibit.
Instead, we explore the commonalities of masks, how masks link humanity in shared expressions that are artistic, spiritual and psychological. The exhibit is about the mask as artwork, cultural icon and metaphor. From the villages of West Africa, to the carnival of Venice, to the superheroes of comic and screen, MASK traverses a world of creativity and imagination. Ultimately, "MASK: Secrets and Revelations" is about identity and perception - how we perceive ourselves, how we want others to perceive us, and how we perceive those around us.
MASK is based on a variety of cross-campus collaborations. We want the exhibit and related programs to actively involve faculty and students - as contributors and as participants. The creative energy at Michigan State University is rich and abundant, and on display in full force in MASK.
It includes multimedia presentations and projection audio-visual works; performance pieces; related sessions in creative writing and poetry; talks and workshops; and various elements of outreach that will take MASK around the campus and into the community. We are working with faculty curators and their students to make MASK a multidimensional experience. Our partners include Mark Sullivan (Music and RCAH), in developing original performance pieces and linking schools of Lansing with masks and creativity; Alison Dobbins (Theatre) for interactive mask-wearing activities for visitors; and Anita Skeen (Residential College Arts & Humanities) in mask-inspired poetry. [And a footnote: how fitting that programming used by Theatre students for the MASK was also adapted for the spring production of The Wizard of Oz.]
One current international element is "The Radiation Series" by Swedish photographer Magnus Westerborn. Curated by Howard Bossen (Journalism), this exhibit of black and white images of radiology masks reveals both the personality and the anonymity of cancer treatment. This juxtaposition of so many exuberant festival masks with serious and pragmatic medical masks gives us another poignant way to understand the role of masks as protectors.
We want everyone to find a story that resonates for them in MASK. Given how ubiquitous is the practice of masking, and its near universal application to the human persona, we feel confident that anyone will be able to engage with the program in some way. The exhibition runs through January 2012, so we have plenty of time to develop new collaborations and new ways to experience arts and culture at MSU. I welcome your ideas and suggestions for more MASK programs, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about MASK: Secrets and Revelations
A complex and inspirational world
In the same way the world is complex so too is the unit I serve at Michigan State University. As the communications director for International Studies and Programs, my primary objective is to share the value and contributions we make to the research, teaching and outreach of the university.
We hope to reach faculty and staff and build affinity with corporations, foundations and institutions that share MSU's resolve to solve some of the world most pressing issues.
One way we share our message is through an annual news magazine called MSU International. I usually start the process of producing the magazine by making a list of ideas, concepts, and themes that not only define the mission and vision of our international programs, but also are evident in our news stories, events and happenings.
Making the magazine is a creative undertaking. We start by looking at the complex problems in the world and MSU's involvement in solving some of the problems.
Identifying the stories is an easy part of the process, the challenge comes in how we show the essence of collaboration, advancing ideas or the rich global context within which we operate.
When I looked at the past forms of communication I found diagrams, organizational charts, timelines, digital photographs, reports, pie charts, journal articles, websites and more lists. These conventional forms of communicating ideas were strong but not able to capture the complexity of the situation effectively. And the contexts from which these ideas sprang was often lost.
These additional pieces of information are important parts of our story. Parts that can help us connect with people who share our values and goals. We knew we were onto something... but we didn't yet have a way to share these pieces in a vibrant and meaningful way.
Hunting for Inspiration
The challenge of communicating complex ideas is as ubiquitous as language itself. So I kept myself open to inspiration. We needed something that showed the dynamic nature of hard work and the process of evolving ideas. I thought I would eventually find a photo or see a story from abroad that would inspire a design thread for our magazine.
I intentionally looked for inspiration beyond academic institutions.
The inspiration I was looking for would not be found by following a peer or mimicking another's message but, maybe, in an art museum, or by reading material outside our discipline.
I dedicated myself to reading blogs. I looked at material written by other creative problem-solvers. I followed links and lost myself in the Web.
Then on a Saturday, I went shopping with my daughter. And there it was in Urban Outfitters. A pillow. An illustration. An idea. (Figure 1.)
Figure 1. A pillow for sale at Urban Outfitters with an illustration by Nate Williams.
Getting from Inspiration to the Work
I was successful. I found something that offered true strategic separation—this was definitely different. What I saw in that pillow was expressive, interesting, and a beautiful way to tell a story.
But inspiration is one thing. Being practical and applying it to your problem—that takes another set of skills. I had created a new set of problems for myself.
Would these drawings appeal to others? I needed to know if illustration would be an accepted form of communication and be seen as a viable way to express complex ideas within the serious topics that would be covered in the magazine such as food security, global health, climate change and education. The subject matter was not playful material.
I did a little more research. I found the illustrator behind the work on the pillow, Nate Williams was an accomplished illustrator and printmaker with an impressive list of clients like Coca Cola, Dell, HarperCollins, United Airlines, Microsoft, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Wired magazine.
I had a lot of questions. How would I convince others that this would work? Can an illustration help us demonstrate our impact across campus and the world? Would it help us tie the sciences, culture and the humanities together? Do illustrations make our message more accessible or do they simplify it too much? Would it be possible to work with Nate Williams? Is this too risky?
I contacted a graphic artist by the name of Jennifer Weaver, an owner of a small design firm in Fenton, Michigan. We made a mock-up using Nate Williams' illustrations. (Figure 2. and Figure 3.)
Figure 2. Cover concept for MSU International using Nate Williams' illustrations
Figure 3. Concept for MSU International magazine inside page spread using Nate Williams' illustrations.
The Editorial Takes Shape
With a graphic model of the magazine and an editorial outline in hand, I scheduled a meeting with Jeffrey Riedinger, dean of International Studies and Programs.
I found our conversation to echo the visual ideas represented in the illustrations— the effects of rising complexity in the world and the need to communicate the impact of our research using bold creativity, and in terms that connect with people in new and imaginative ways. He confidently gave his go-ahead.
Dean Riedinger had one request. Our illustrations needed to be based on the writings and reports prepared by leading strategist from around the world. He asked me to study the issues and our involvement in addressing and understanding them.
I contacted a freelance journalist by the name of Mike Emery and he and I discussed the concepts and editorial thread that would be needed to hold the copy and illustrations together. Mike and I decided to collaborate on magazine's copy.
It was a lot of work, but eventually I was able to prepare short paragraphs in the form of a creative brief to share with Nate Williams. These illustrations needed to represent a thoughtful approach to some of the world's most intractable problems. We all felt this was a tall order.
From sketches (Figure 4.), to color studies (Figure 5.) to final artwork (Figure 6) we worked through the ideas and eventually produced something that reasonably represented the dynamic work of MSU International Studies and Programs.
Figure 4. Nate Williams' sketch for internationalizing the campus.
Figure 5. Nate Williams' color studies for internationalizing the campus.
Figure 6. Final artwork for internationalizing the campus
Figure 7. Nate Williams' sketch for food security.
Figure 8. Nate Williams' final illustration for food security.
We now have an amazing publication (Figure 9.) and it is reaching more people than ever.
Figure 9. Cover art for MSU International
Not every graphic requires a story. Some are simply beautiful to look at and others, if they are really special, can approach fine art. We, however, had an intended purpose and goal for our graphics beyond their beauty. The art in our magazine was pushed to present meaningful information and in the context of big ideas and problem solving. During the process we parsed, filtered, mined, represented and refined information. Our small team worked closely together to understand and interact with the information, illustrations and copy. In the end, we found ourselves occupied in the art of storytelling.
We have had a great response to our magazine. Both on and off campus stakeholders have engaged with us, opening new doors to conversations about MSU International Studies and Programs.
Anxiously, I am looking for the next source of inspiration.
Arts, Culture and Meaning
Creating, discerning and negotiating meaning – both in and out of context – lie at the core of all arts and culture. What is/are the artist(s) attempting to communicate and in what context? Is the meaning of a play, a song, a dance, a symphony, a design, a painting, a poem or passage from a novel, or an example of some other art form discernible or is it open to conjecture? How does a performer or a speaker influence meaning and inform his/her message, and how does the chosen context help determine this meaning? What is a playwright, screenwriter or director trying to say in a piece of theatre or film? What are they trying to communicate (or what do you think they are trying to communicate?), and how does it vary from person to person or when the context changes?
Where Humans Turn
Throughout the ages, arts and culture is where human beings turn when they want to expand their minds and their horizons. Negotiating subject matter and discerning meaning, more often than not, is left to each of us to decide. From early childhood, lying on our backs looking up at the clouds and deciding what shapes we saw; to standing in front of a hieroglyph-covered wall, a Rembrandt, a Picasso, or a Jackson Pollock marveling at their complexity of color, shape and messaging; to experiencing live theatre or music; to lying in bed reflecting back on 70, 80 or 90 years past and the very meaning of life, our journey as life students is driven by the desire to find meaning in and about our lives.
What Sets Us Apart
The same can be said for our life's work. Who does not strive to find meaning in what they are doing, as well as context among the masses? It is what sets us apart from all other species, even as it brings us together and creates a sense of community. Critical thinking, curiosity, a drive to understand people and things, the intelligence to change our minds and adapt, and the ability to place ourselves within our universe and create meaning regardless of context – these are valuable life skills indeed.
Arts and culture bring meaning to life, in the truest sense of this statement's dual meanings. They help bring meaning into our lives, even as they infuse and breathe life into meaning.
Questions for YOU!
Given that, what do you believe are the most valuable skills and capacities that we can develop to help us negotiate and discern meaning for ourselves? How do you, personally, go about it? If you are in the creative arts, how do you go about creating meaning? We would love to hear from you!
Building Creative Capital: MSU's Investment in Culture and Creativity
While we are living through a difficult and historic economic recession, when looking at the "big picture" one can see some truly notable MSU investments in educational programs and facilities for our university, community, and state. In the past few years we have witnessed the development of two new colleges devoted to the arts and humanities. The new Residential College of Arts and Humanities was created with a deep commitment to community engagement. Our nationally recognized School of Music is now a College of Music with innovative programming such as the Jazz Studies Program and the Community Music School (including a new campus in Detroit). The College of Communication Arts and Sciences and College of Arts and Letters has reaffirmed their commitments to the arts and design work. WKAR Broadcast Services has expanded their collaborative involvement in the Greater Lansing area.
In the past year, the Wharton Center opened a new addition and the new Center for Arts and Creativity. In addition, Wharton Center has new partnerships with the VanAndel Center in Grand Rapids and the Traverse City Opera House. Wharton's highly successful partnership with the Stratford Festival of Ontario brings to campus theatre professionals and artists to our campus community.
Ground-breaking was held in March for the iconic new Eli and Edythe Broad Museum of Art --designed by the internationally recognized architect Zaha Hadid. This facility, like the Wharton facility and other campus programs are the direct result of generous donors and strategic planning that will help remake the cultural life of our campus, community and state.
There are many other significant cultural developments including the Michigan State University Museum's recognition as Michigan's first Smithsonian Affiliate Museum; the Theatre Department's stimulating new productions; the Breslin Center's lively concerts; and the Department of Art and Art History's Saturday Arts Program. And the list goes onit is clear that culture and creativity are visible all around us at MSU!
C. Kurt Dewhurst, Ph.D.
Director of Arts and Cultural Initiatives, University Outreach & Engagement