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Collaborative Education, Leadership, & Innovation in the Arts
An Ohio Center of Excellence at Wright State University
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CELIA continues to develop and support significant ongoing programs and special projects at the regional and national levels through its PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM.
CELIA’s partnership program seeks to establish collaborative relationships on both the public-private, and the public-public levels through special projects and ongoing programs. For instance, Wright State has collaborated with Dayton arts organizations for years, including the Dayton Art Institute, Dayton Public Radio, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, FilmDayton, and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, among others. “The performing arts departments at Wright State are among the gems of Dayton’s arts community. I never cease to be impressed with the quality of performances by Wright State University students,” said Neal Gittleman, music director for the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. “Wright State performing arts students are well trained and perform as poised young professionals. They’re a great addition to Dayton’s lively arts scene,” he said.
Existing public-private partnerships for 2012-13 include ARTSGALA, the 4th annual Music and Medicine Symposium, and the STEAM3 multidisciplinary education program.
Often cited as the inspiration for CELIA, Wright State's annual ARTSGALA offers patrons a night of unparalleled entertainment, with proceeds providing scholarships to students in the arts. Student talents were on display throughout the Creative Arts Center and guests were treated to a dizzying array of food and fun. In its first 13 years, ARTSGALA has raised more than $1.3 million to fund student scholarships in art, dance, motion pictures, music, and theatre.
STEAM3 incorporates the creative arts to teach science and math. The class combines the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics with art and music, and even medicine! In STEAM3, teams of students teach science or math units at area schools using art or music as the methodology. Angela Nation, a fourth and fifth grade science and social studies teacher at Charity Adams Earley Academy for Girls, said the art and music activities helped her students make connections among the different disciplines. “They got a whole realm of different things they could talk about. It helped them understand that science is everywhere and can relate to anything,” said Nation.
CELIA’s newest partnership initiative includes Localore, a radio documentary series featuring interviews with area workers affected by the Great Recession, sponsored jointly by CELIA, WYSO and NPR.
Past Partnership Success
The Last Truck
One of the first special projects completed under the CELIA umbrella was The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant, a documentary on the final days of General Motors Corporation’s last Dayton-area plant. The Last Truck was the creation of Julia Reichert, professor of theatre arts and motion pictures at Wright State, and alumnus Steven Bognar, ’86.
Like other Reichert/Bognar productions, the making of The Last Truck involved numerous students, alumni, and faculty from Wright State’s filmmaking community. “The support we received from the Wright State film department helped us hugely, on so many levels,” said Bognar. “The demanding shoot called out to the Wright State film community for help, and the students and alumni answered that call, braving day after day of freezing cold to shoot the film and bear witness to this major local event. It was an opportunity for the Wright State community to see firsthand the impact the economy has on the lives of real people.”
In May 2011, audiences got a once-in-a lifetime chance to see the most complex and controversial work of composer Leonard Bernstein in a production in Dayton’s Schuster Center for the Performing Arts that boasted nearly 200 of Dayton’s most talented performers, including more than 100 Wright State students and faculty.
Bernstein’s MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers fused the talents of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra (DPO) and the Wright State University’s Departments of Music and Theatre, Dance, & Motion Pictures.
“This was really a major event for the Dayton region,” said DPO Music Director Neal Gittleman, who pointed out that patrons from at least 10 states came to the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center for the performances.
The piece uses the structure of a Catholic Mass to tell the story of a personal spiritual journey. Though portions of the show are sung in Latin, English lyrics by Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin, Godspell) provide much of MASS’s humor and irony. It was first commissioned by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy for the opening of the national arts center named in honor of her late husband, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The work premiered as part of the Kennedy Center’s opening festivities on September 8, 1971.
MASS is rarely performed in its entirety due to its massive scope. The Schuster show featured a chorus of 60 singers, 19 actors in a “street chorus,” 10 dancers and a 19-member children’s choir. Musicians included a 90-piece orchestra, a five-piece rock band and a three-piece blues band.
“It was a huge challenge logistically to put it all together,” said W. Stuart McDowell, chair and artistic director of Wright State’s Department of Theatre, Dance, & Motion Pictures.
Pulling off a production of such epic proportions required a creative team from several disciplines. DPO’s Gittleman conducted both sold-out performances. Wright State’s faculty involvement included choral direction by Hank Dahlman of the Department of Music, as well as stage direction by Greg Hellems, choreography by Gina Gardner-Walther and scenic designs by Pam Knauert, all of the Department of Theatre, Dance, & Motion Pictures.
The production also included the Kettering Children’s Choir under the direction of Natalie DeHorn and noted tenor John Wesley Wright in the crucial role of “The Celebrant.”
“Even though MASS was written in the ’70s, there’s not anything in the show that isn’t relevant today,” said Hellems. For example, he pointed to a lyric about “oiling the seas,” recalling how eerie it is in the wake of the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
While MASS gave Wright State students an excellent chance to perform with a professional arts organization, it also gave them a rare opportunity to work with their fellow students.
“The music and theatre departments are both so busy that we don’t get the chance to work with each other very often,” said Dahlman. “This is probably the largest collaborative effort between the two departments, at least in my memory, and I’ve been here 20 years.”
“When different facets of the arts come together, it makes for a truly unforgettable experience,” said Samantha Helmstetter, a musical theatre major who performed in the show’s street chorus. “MASS was unlike any other performing experience I’ve ever had, and I’m grateful to have been part of it.”
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Wright State and the greater Miami Valley are a great place to live and work, but we can do more! CELIA’s mission is to improve the quality of life and the economic health of our region and state by providing programs and projects that touch the soul and excite the imagination.