Three-day Arts Fest sparked by a collaboration of passion

Kiana Berry, Social Media Editor

Almost two years of preparation, seventeen hundred and seventy five poems, a collection of student art since 1997, chamber concert and tea party encompass the three day Emily Dickinson Arts Fest held in the Eva G. Farris Reading Room this past Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Curated by senior, Emma Rose Thompson, the event sparked from a culmination of present and past student interest and steadfast passion from Dr. Robert Wallace for Emily Dickinson’s mysterious life.

Trailing back to 1994, Dr. Wallace shared that a student asked if he could paint for his Melville and the Arts final in place of a research paper. Open to the idea, Wallace agreed and so began the introduction of the “creative option” to Wallace’s final exams, which he also applied to his Dickinson and the Arts class.

“Love the end of the semester, that’s what it’s all about for me,” Wallace said.

Student’s mirrored Wallace’s enthusiasm.

“My experience wouldn’t have been as enriching in college if it weren’t for this class,” Matt Ruiz said, an English major who graduated in May 2014. Ruiz’s artwork, an illustration of one of his favorite Dickinson’s poems, number 937, is on display in the gallery.

Forty pieces of artwork by thirty-nine students can be found in Steely Library from February 6 – May 1, 2015. Much of the artwork that is on display is on loan, donated or purchased from students by Dr. Wallace.

“Dr. Wallace treats all his students like professional artists,” Thompson said .

Student artwork wasn’t the only subject matter to celebrate the Emily Dickinson’s Arts Fest. Claire Illouz of Cherence,France and Kathleen Piercefield of Dry Ridge, Kentucky joined in with works of their own.

“She’ll (Dickinson) remain a mystery and that’s a part of her charm,” Piercefield said about her choice of adding the silhouette of a face in the folds of Dickinson’s dress in her design.

Piercefield created mixed-media prints for the event, while Illouz chose to create an artist book, of which Steely Library purchased a copy. In addition to the Emily Dickinson gallery, Illouz’s work is on display in the Steely Library Archive.

Starting at 9 a.m. on the second day of the Arts Fest, part one of a marathon reading of Emily Dickinson’s poems began. With ten minute slots available to read, the marathon continued until 4:30 p.m leading into an exhibition walk with curators and student artists who had artwork on display.

“This is a unique opportunity,” Keianna Gregory, an NKU graduate, said “I was used to writing research papers and never felt connected to it.”

Wallace felt by opening up a creative option he got more insightful feedback from students including greater academic success.

“I saw higher grades. People do better stuff when they are personally invested,” Wallace said.

Due to the wide range of majors who choose to partake in Dr. Wallace’s, Dickinson and the Arts class, student artists shared that walking away from the experience they have a broader and deeper understanding of the impact Dickinson’s writing has left behind.

“We would all read the same piece and have radically different views of it,” Megan Beckerich, international studies major, said. “It was really interesting to get so many perspectives.”

The three-day event chose to explore those perspectives by offering a chamber concert in addition to the artwork and writing.

Held in Greaves Concert Hall, assistant professor of voice, Kimberly Gelbwasser and former NKU professor Ingrid Keller performed music by Aaron Copland, Jake Heggie and Kurt Sander.

More than four rows surround the freestanding student artwork by John Campbell and Steinway and Sons concert grand piano. Fractures of light displayed on neutral walls, individuals found their seat on stage, creating the intimate setting associated with chamber music.

“The music is so simple and the words are so honest,” Gelbwasser said.

After the hour and a half song recital, the performers were met with a standing ovation and applause that lasted minutes after Gelbwasser and Keller walked off stage.

“This was a collaboration, I hope students can understand that,” Keller said.

Moving into day three of the Emily Dickinson Arts Fest, part two of the Marathon Reading began with such success, marathon readers doubled back and reread 200 extra poems before concluding and moving onto a panel discussion with six Dickinson students.

“I soaked them in black tea, baked them and then destroyed them with fire,” said graduate, Minadora Macheret, describing the process she chose in replying to Dickinson’s master letters for her creative option.

Each of the six students explained in detail the meaning behind their artwork and the reasoning behind what made it so special to them. Many questions were asked and the audience remained engaged throughout the discussion until the closing tea party was set.

Gingerbread in a basket, Pound cake, black cake, Opera creme, Brown Bread, cupcake art designed after a student’s art piece, Ox Blood Cake, varieties of tea, coffee and numerous other pastries filled the Eva G. Farris Reading room with sweet mouth-watering scents. Presented as a work of art, each dish, adorned with a Dickinson quote and label, laid on the white tablecloth display. Almost all of the dessert items were homemade with Dickinson’s own recipes.

“Love’s oven is warm,” Wallace said, quoting Dickinson as he began the closing event of the Emily Dickinson’s Art Fest.

The panel discussion and tea party were the perfect conclusion to the whole experience shared Wallace. Everyone involved lingered around the delicious treats and shared personal favorite experiences from the three-day event.

“It was everything I hoped it would be,” Wallace said. “I feel this prepares us really well for the Moby Dick Arts Fest. We know our roles and it will be equally interesting and successful.”

The student artwork from Dickinson and the Arts will remain on display until May 1, 2015. Another three day arts fest will be opening April 27, 2015, featuring a more detailed look into Melville and the Arts, another class taught by Dr. Wallace.