The Shoreline Bulletin
Welcome to Shoreline Arts Alliance's blog The Shoreline Bulletin, which is created, designed, edited and managed by our amazing team of high school interns! Stay tuned for new articles every month.
March Artist of the Month - Linalynn Schmelzer of River Valley Dance Project
This month’s Artist of the Month Feature is Linalynn Schmelzer! Linalynn is the owner and founder of River Valley Dance Project, a dance school in Deep River, CT whose mission is “to create a community where individuals feel inspired to explore, create and engage with dance.” She is also a member of SoMA, a creative collective designed to facilitate a connection between art and community. Linalynn holds a B.F.A. in Dance from University of Massachusetts Five Colleges, and an M.S. in Dance/Movement Therapy from Pratt Institute. She is also a practitioner of Dance/Movement Therapy, and is a registered Dance/Movement Therapist with the American Dance Therapy Association. These account for just a few of her many accolades and accomplishments. We had the privilege of interviewing Linalynn, who shared valuable insights with us about dance, and gave us some background on her studio, her personal history, and her connection to her art.
When Linalynn first witnessed a performance of professional dancers, she was immediately "struck by [their] presence." What really moved her, she explained, was their commitment to being fully present in the moment. She went on to explain that this single experience played a significant role in shifting her life path, and it was at that point that she began taking steps towards pursuing dance as a profession. From then on, she focused her energy into this endeavor. As she put it, “The arts became my community.”
In her high school years, Linalynn attended The Greater Hartford Academy for the Performing Arts, where she fostered a strong sense of identity and began to see a vision of a future for herself that she could look forward to. After graduating, she attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. During this time, she discovered how much she enjoys collaborating with other dancers; she described to us how powerful the arts are and how it can encourage teamwork helping to build strong relationships. She moved on to study Dance/Movement Therapy at Pratt Institute, where she learned to see the mental and physical benefits of connecting the mind and body, and bringing them both fully into the here and now.
River Valley Dance Project is a school of dance and movement. Linalynn teaches dance classes to both children and adults, starting at just the age of three. Some of the wonderful classes she offers include: Creative Movement, Fundamentals of Dance, Ballet, Modern, and Joy of Movement. She also has three additional teachers on staff, who offer programs in yoga, fitness and capoeira. Linalynn opened her dance school in June 2021, during the Covid-19 pandemic. She explained that getting new students is challenging, and she has to work hard to reach her community to show them a new way of “connecting to their bodies in a meaningful way.” Her studio welcomes all movers; whether you have a lifetime of experience or are just starting out, everyone is welcome.
We asked Linalynn what the word “art” means to her. “The human experience being expressed and transformed into something beautiful,” she replied. She also elaborated on the positive benefits dance has on the body and mind. “To dance one has to connect their body.” The mind and body cannot be separated, she says, only brought together. Through Dance Movement Therapy, people have the opportunity to explore and reflect on what is meaningful to them, bringing them one step closer to what is important to them. When Linalynn dances, “[she] is connected to [her] body and there is freedom to be in the moment.” It is like meditation, she says, where “the mind chatter and inner dialogue is silenced.”
Linalynn hopes that in 2022, artists will take what they have learned about the importance of the arts and begin an explosion of creativity. Her studio welcomes all and gives people a place to create, connect and build community. River Valley Dance Project's motto is "Movement For Life".
By: Andrew Scotella, Lauren Harton and Anne Brenneman
February Artist of the Month: Briana Benn-Mirandi of Art and Soul Therapy
By: Andrew Scotella, Lauren Harton and Anne Brenneman
February’s Shoreline Arts Alliance Artist of the Month is
Briana Benn-Mirandi. Briana is the owner of
Art and Soul Therapy, a small psychotherapy practice
in Madison, CT. Briana recently partnered with SAA to
launch our newest program, Expressions in Art, and
her help was invaluable to the success of the program,
which focuses on improving mental health through
community participation in the arts. We interviewed
Briana, learning more about her practice and her personal
history, as well as what the arts mean to her.
Before starting her practice, Art and Soul Therapy, Briana received her MA in Art Therapy and worked in Therapeutic Recreation for 13 years. However, she eventually found herself “burnt out” and “in need of healing.” After stepping away from Therapeutic Recreation, Briana was an adjunct professor at Middlesex Community College for college students seeking TRD certification. This experience helped her transition to helping a different population, in a different way, through art therapy. After going back to school to complete her master’s degree and receive two professional licenses, she opened her own private practice. She told us, “That was my personal motivation to begin this path, but as my motivations grew, so did my practice.” The arts have greatly impacted Briana's life and motivated her to help others through artistic expression.
Briana's Art and Soul Art Therapy practice includes a wide range of arts programming and art therapy. We asked about her practice and working with her clients, and she commented saying, "I love to meet my clients where they are, exploring the mediums they would like to work in."' She expressed that she is blessed to accompany her clients on their unique artistic journey. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Briana says that her new motivations are to return to training students and give them access to creative therapies. She explained to us that the arts are a healing instrument for not only clients, but also for herself. When asked about her motivations to begin working as an art therapist, she told us, “My road in art therapy has been a long one, beginning in my roots as an angsty-artsy teen in need of therapy myself.”
On a more personal level, her favorite art is that which has a sense of "wonder and child-like excitement,” Briana expressed to us. Specifically, she loves fantasy illustrations and figure sculpture. When asked to elaborate, she explained, “It's an attribute which has persisted through childhood and now allows me to connect to my younger clientele with similar interests.” Briana explained to us that she is always exploring new things. She expressed her new interest in digital art, commenting, “it's a really amazing experience to be able to take my whole "studio" out into nature, or to be making art at family gatherings, with no mess or cleanup, no drying times- just instant access where I left off in my work.” She elaborated on her love of work done by professional concept artists and animators, saying that the art form “has really ascended to new heights.” In her interview, Briana also discussed her interest in video games, telling us how she loves aesthetically pleasing, story rich games– from horror to immersive fantasy worlds. She said, “It's really exciting to see how the old 2-D animation effects are being married to digital rendering in many games and animation, breathing new life into a beloved art form that sat unused for a decade or so in the wake of more realistic digital art.”
Finally, we asked Briana what the arts mean to her. She said, “The arts have been a way towards healing, both for myself, personally, and what I teach my clients.” She explained that art can help us ponder the deepest questions in life and help us have reflection in life. But it can also be lighthearted and silly. Art can capture people’s emotions and express it to others in a creative way. “I also love the arts that transport us into another world entirely, for a matter of hours at a time.” In a way, art is thought of as an escape from the world around us and pressures of life.
Briana’s work has a tremendous impact on people in need of mental therapy and she guides those individuals as they seek out alternate, creative ways to not only cope, but to thrive. There are limited creative therapy programs like this around, and it goes without saying that what Briana is doing for our community is vastly important. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, her work has been more crucial than ever. Briana has helped both herself and her clients through the arts, guiding everyone she works with to help them express themselves and their challenges through artistic expression. Briana’s final statement to us was, “It’s important to remember that although our challenges in this world seem to be mounting, so, too, are our cures."
Benn-Mirandi with a young student
IMAGES - Connecticut's Oldest Photography Contest
By: Andrew Scotella
Every year, IMAGES -- a state-wide juried photography competition and exhibition -- is hosted by Shoreline Arts Alliance. It is Connecticut's oldest annual photography competition. The exhibition began in 1980, and gives talented photographers from all across Connecticut the opportunity to display their work and have them appraised by a jury of professionals. Last year, we had over 1000 submissions from all across the state. The jurors had to make some hard decisions, and ultimately choose 132 photos from those submissions. This year will be the 41st annual exhibition for IMAGES.
For the past two years, IMAGES has been hosted completely virtually due to Covid-19. This year will be different -- IMAGES is now going hybrid! Though the jury and submission process will be remaining virtual, the exhibition will be in person at Sill House Gallery at Lyme Academy of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, CT. Alongside the in-person exhibition, all work will also be published in a virtual gallery on the Shoreline Arts Alliance website from November through December. We are thrilled to be stepping back into some sort of normalcy -- finally!
IMAGES has a very diverse community of photographers. Whether it be digital photography, film photography, or even historical or alternative methods of photography. Without these talented artists, IMAGES could not go on. Each individual has a unique background, and all are inspired by different things. This creates a singular vision that you can see in each of their works. Each artist submits an artist's statement with their work, which helps the jurors and the audience understand the story and inspiration.
Even during this pandemic, people have still found ways to branch out and find inspiration to express themselves and show their talent. IMAGES is a way to display that talent to people in the community. This exhibition is a show of talent and hard work from these individuals!
Go check out IMAGES on our website to submit and for more information: https://www.shorelinearts.org/images. Contact Whitney at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, or concerns. Hope to see you there at the in-person exhibition in November!
Interview with Sarah Gavagan - Juror in Visual Arts
By: Andrew Scotella
Recently I interviewed Sarah Gavagan, juror in the visual arts category. Sarah has been into art since a young age and has been experimenting with many different medias and forms of art. She pursued art in college and graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in Illustration.
AS: What were you looking for in the submissions?
SG: I was looking for participants that showed openness and passion for experimenting with different techniques and styles of art as well as the dedication to different perspectives that were not their own.
AS: What were some upsides/downsides to this program being virtual?
SG: An upside was that during the interviews the participants, since they were virtual the participants were more comfortable and felt less anxious and reduced their stress.
AS: Do you view artwork differently when you are creating it versus judging it?
SG: Yes, you need to have a different set of eyes for when you are creating it versus judging it. You may not see certain things in your own work when creating it, that other people may see when viewing it. That different point of view can give the viewer the ability to see the potential in the work that the artist cannot see.
AS: How do you feel this program has an impact on its participants?
SG: It gives the artist the opportunity to start to think how their work affects people around them and gives themselves more exposure.
AS: What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to aspiring artists?
SG: Be open to trying new things, do not let yourself tunnel yourself to one particular type of art. Be willing to try different styles and experiment with different medias.
AS: What do you feel when you see all these high school students submitting their work for this program?
SG: It reminds me of when I was in high school. Trying to get as much support as I could from the community around me.
AS: Thank you so much!
New Program Expressions in Art Open for Registration
By: Andrew Scotella
In this past year, high school students, in particular, have been overwhelmed, and some of them will be looking for an outlet as the new school year begins and new challenges arise. Inspired by the post-pandemic needs of the artistic community, Shoreline Arts Alliance has developed a new program for high school students called Expressions in Art, a virtual collaborative arts program in which students will work together to create digital art and express themselves through their art. This program is designed to facilitate a creative, low-pressure environment that focuses on community building and mental wellness, and to alleviate feelings of isolation through artistic expression and interpersonal connection. Expressions in Art is open to all high school students on the shoreline in Connecticut.
Recently, I spoke with Whitney Lorenze, Program and Marketing Director at Shoreline Arts Alliance, about the new program. When asked how this program impacted the community and helped high schoolers, she said, “I think there is a huge gap in programming for high school students that are not centered around college prep. You go from being in middle school and playing on your local soccer team for fun to worrying about making the cut for JV or Varsity as a freshman because you feel your future could be on the line. The same goes for the arts. High school students are under a tremendous amount of pressure; we’re hoping to not only remind these students that they are allowed to relax and enjoy themselves, but to actively provide a space to do so,” adding that “high school can be such a psychically demanding time. Teenagers – like all of us – deserve to participate in extracurricular group activities for the sake of pure enjoyment. That sentiment is at the core of Expressions in Art.”
The program will be held virtually through Zoom and Magma Studio. Students will be broken up into two groups, one group on Tuesday at 7 pm, the other on Wednesday at the same time. There will be two five-week sessions: August 17th through September 15th, and September 28th through October 27th. Each week, students will work collaboratively to create digital artwork with other participants and a facilitator for an hour and a half. Tuition is $115 per student. No visual arts experience is required, nor is a touch-screen laptop or tablet.
During the interview, I also asked Whitney about any challenges they faced due to the program being virtual. “We haven’t yet had the opportunity to determine what snafus we might encounter with a virtual program like this, but we will be running a test program in early August with a group of interns to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible. There are pros and cons to virtual interaction, like anything else. I definitely prefer to see people in person, generally speaking, but the great thing about this is that it will be accessible to a lot more people.”
Students can sign up for the program or apply for a scholarship on the Shoreline Arts Alliance website: https://www.shorelinearts.org/expressions-in-art. Contact Whitney at email@example.com with any further questions, and make sure to spread the word about this program to your community!
Shoreline Arts Alliance is collaborating with Art and Soul Art Therapy and Innovative Counseling to make this program happen. Thank you to our sponsors: Branford Community Foundation, Community Foundation of Middlesex County, Guilford Foundation, Guilford Savings Bank, and The Madison Foundation. Our Community partners Cilantro Specialty Foods, The Marketplace at Guilford Food Center, Breakwater Books and The Buttonwood Tree have agreed to let us hang printed and framed student work in their respective establishments at the conclusion of the program, making student artwork visible to the community.
Interview with Julie Fitzpatrick - Juror in Theatre
By: Andrew Scotella
Recently I spoke with Julie Fitzpatrick, juror in the theatre category. Julie has judged Scholarship in the Arts for the past three years, and mentored Mary Darin who won the vocal music scholarship in 2019. Julie is an actress, writer, and acting coach. She studied at UPENN undergrad and then American Conservatory Theatre where she received her Master of Fine Arts degree.
AS: So to start off, what were some upsides/downsides to judging Scholarships in the Arts virtually this year?
JF: The audition and interview experience was different from the past years I have judged the program. It was definitely easier to judge in person. Virtually, we are not working with the participants in real space, which makes it harder to judge. The participants sent in recordings of their performance along with their essays, which were reviewed ahead of time before interviewing the participants.
AS: What were you looking for in the submissions?
JF: In the recordings of the performances, I was looking for participants who embodied the character they were portraying. To personalize the character and be expressive with it. In their essays, I read for the participants conscious of their talent and challenges they faced. Reading, I also looked for passion, joy and empathy towards theatre. It was also great to see how all these participants were committed to their work.
AS: How do you feel this program has an impact on its participants?
JF: I think the program has an impact on its participants because we are able to see and talk to the participants and validate their artistry. It gives them a good feeling to have people applauding their talent. The participants were very perceptive and thankful for the work us judges did, and our commitment we showed to them. It was good to see them have that feeling that people are rooting for them.
AS: What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to aspiring performers?
JF: To commit to your work. Give yourself over to the material, allow yourself to be obsessed with your work. Don’t hold back, and allow the artist within to come out. Practice and don’t just wing it. Know your work and honor it.
AS: Thank you for your time!
For more information about Julie Fitzpatrick, visit her website at https://www.juliefitzpatrick.com/.
Interview with Faith Anderson - Winner in Dance
By: Anne Brenneman
Faith Anderson is the winner in the dance category of Scholarship in the Arts. She has been a dancer her whole life, and plans to attend the dance program at Skidmore College this fall. She will soon be starting a mentorship program with Diane Harris, where she hopes to develop her choreographing skills, as well as develop professional skills for a future dance career.
AB: So, to get started, how did you first get into dance?
FA: Well, I was a little kid, so I can barely remember at this point, but my sister took gymnastics and we knew someone who went to the studio I've been my entire life. And I was always a very independent kid, I guess, so just dancing around without my mom worked for me. And I just remember whenever we got to not follow the teacher and... improv, as you call it, was like my most fun, I love just dancing and doing whatever, and then I just carry through it. And of course, there's been rough points, like, "Do I really want to keep doing this?" But I still love it at the end of the day.
AB: Alright. And what style of dance do you do?
FA: Mainly ballet, but I've learned modern, contemporary, a little bit of jazz, musical theater, but I'd say ballet and modern are my strong points.
AB: And what's your favorite thing about dance?
FA: That's hard. I feel like it depends on what I'm doing. If I'm choreographing, it's kind of the freedom of the movement, but especially when I'm performing, which I think has to be one of my favorite parts. It's bringing out the character in your character; is it really just a ballerina or does she have a story? You're like, why is she dancing and being able to fill in that character.
AB: Do you choreograph often?
FA: I try to. I've choreographed pre-professionally before, and I really love it. Right now I'm doing my sister's wedding's first dance. I feel like subconsciously whenever I listen to a piece of music, I start choreographing it in my head, and sometimes it doesn't always get out on paper or out on other bodies, but I always keep my mind active.
AB: Alright. For your application, you were allowed to choreograph. Did you choreograph for your application?
FA: I did partially. I did a pre-choreographed piece. It's called The Dying Swan from Carnival of the Animals. And I kind of interlocked it with my own choreography to the same music. So I don't know if you'll see the video, but there's the variation, which is what you call it, and then my choreography in between in a different style. So it was ballet and modern.
AB: All right. And obviously the submissions were different this year, like you mentioned the video. How did you adapt to the digital application process?
FA: Yeah, it was hard because normally for dancers, you have to show off your technique and kind of what you've learned your entire life when you take a class with them. Whereas just with a video, you kind of have to think, what have I been working for my entire life and how can I showcase it in less than three minutes? And I really thought like, okay, I love choreography and I love ballet, classical technique, whatnot. So how can I combine the two? And my dance teacher suggested the idea of creating two pieces within one, and then we went from there.
AB: Was there anything that you found, particularly, like, especially better or worse, about the digital format?
FA: I think it's harder because you can't meet people in person, especially with the interview. There was a delay when we were talking, so I was really nervous because when I finished talking, they would still be nodding and then they would smile a couple of seconds later, but it was like, "okay, I didn't do anything wrong." So I think just being in person can make things so much better because you get that connection. And you just get a better feel for people when you're in person. But I think you didn't really miss anything out online.
AB: Alright, it was a struggle for everyone to adapt to that whole thing, especially for a lot of art programs, it's better in person. And then you won, congratulations!
FA: Thank you.
AB: What does that mean to you?
FA: I think it just means being recognized for not only my ability, but my passion for the arts in general, because it's not just a dance scholarship, it's a scholarship with Shoreline Arts Alliance, which also isn't just from my town. It's a Shoreline company, basically. So I think to me it kind of meant that I have a place in the dance community that wasn't just my dance studio, and then that I could be recognized because there's always that self doubt, especially since I've only danced at one studio. Am I really actually good or am I only good here? So getting that scholarship assured me that. No, like, you are qualified and you're doing this well, and it assured me, and it made me so hopeful for the future and what I can do with it. With encouraging words from the judges and my soon-to-be mentor.
AB: Yes. And of course you got your mentorship. Do you know who your mentor is?
FA: Yeah, I do. Do you want to know?
FA: I have Diane Harris.
FA: So I've actually taken classes with her before and her son is in my grade, so I know her. Yeah, she's a great teacher. She's a great person. I think she was one of the first teachers that I was actually... not scared of, but shocked by. She would not have us bring our water bottles into the dance studio, which seems like a strange thing, but it's just one of the first teachers to take me out of my comfort zone and keep pushing me. And I think that's really important to have as a student, and not get too comfortable. I'm excited to see how she will push me further. And also she doesn't do just dance, she always talks about nutrition, and how to be a better dancer and how to bring dance outside of your life. I'm remembering, I had a back injury in middle school, and I went to doctors and the physical therapist, and they're like, "we don't know what's wrong with you," and I actually met with her, and - I think it's called the holistic healing - and she was like, "so you have some scar tissue here, here some stretches to work it out." And that was just a moment of clarity for me.
AB: And you've obviously learned with her before. Have you started your mentorship?
FA: I just got the email yesterday, so I am emailing back.
AB: Do you anticipate it being different from previous lessons you've taken with her? And how so?
FA: The last time I took a lesson with her was many years ago.
AB: So it will definitely be a difference.
FA: Yeah, so I think there's a big difference in that. And also the fact that it won't be a class, like, I think she'll help guide me and how to get out there as a dancer, and how to take my career forward, rather than just being someone in the studio taking classes, which I love, but I'd love to also take my choreography out there, and start auditioning for places. And I think she'll really be good about how I do that and who I should look for. And I'm excited to see all the wisdom she gives
AB: Absolutely. And one of the best parts about these mentorships is that they help teach artists good professional skills. Do you see yourself becoming a professional dancer?
FA: I would love to. I'm really superstitious, I got them from my dance teacher. So if I put it out there, it's putting it out in the universe, I don't want to jinx it, I really hope so, and I think part of the reason I hope so is because I still don't know what direction I want to take it in. And of course, I can do everything. But I don't know if I just want to focus on being a choreographer, or focus on being a dancer. And then there's different avenues, like the Rockettes, or a ballet company. I think that's something Diane can help me with. But that's what I'm excited to learn, especially going into college, and with a mentor, and just learning more experiences outside of our small town.
AB: Absolutely. And while you're figuring all that out, what's your next step? Like you said, you're going to college, what place are you going, or are you applying?
FA: I’m going to Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. They have a pretty strong dance program, from what I’ve been told. Unfortunately, I was unable to see a class, which is what I would have liked, because of Covid, but they have a residency - New York City Ballet has a residency every single summer, so there’s definitely avenues there, working with New York City Ballet. And I think from there, I want to try and find a studio in Saratoga Springs that I can teach at, because I love teaching, I’ve been teaching at my studio for the past couple of years, and I think really just seeing in a more academic sense what works with me maybe I’ll find out that [unclear], or maybe I’ll figure out that I don’t actually like performing, which I doubt will happen. But I think it’s really just seeing what’s in the big open world, and what opportunities are there for me to take.
AB: You talked a bit about what kinds of different paths you can take in dance, which is so great, that there’s a lot of places you can go, but do you have a specific biggest goal in dance, even if it’s completely unrealistic? If you could do anything, what would you do?
FA: My dream growing up was always to be a prima ballerina, even though I feel like that notion has gone away in a sense. But I’d say… there’s Tiler Peck from New York City Ballet, and I think she - kind of like she was very popular, and she’s still very popular, but she was kind of coming into her role when I was in middle school, and I’d love to follow in her footsteps of being a dancer at a company, and also being like a resident choreographer, because I love the idea of having my artistic vision out there, and also since I love teaching, with choreography you’re teaching but you’re also performing, and my dream would be to choreograph for the likes of New York City Ballet, or even Broadway or Rockettes.
AB: Anything else you want to say, anything you’re doing next?
FA: I think I’m good. I’d say… another thing about Diane Harris, and my start to dance was, I was in elementary school, and in fourth grade, I’d always look forward to it, Diane came and during math and science class period, we’d learn a dance with her and she explained to us as fourth graders dance isn’t just silly moving around, it can teach you new ways to think about math, about science, how you can turn, how you can count differently, and as someone who hasn’t always been the greatest math student, or, I kind of have a harder understanding of numbers, having her say there’s other ways to think about it, other than the way they’re teaching you, was really helpful ,and I would love to bring that to other elementary schools, and be able to tell kids ‘you can dance, and you can think in other ways and that’s fine.’
AB: That was great, I love that. Alright, well, it was great talking with you! I can’t wait to see what you do next, I’m sure you’ll be a big success!
FA: Thank you.
Interview with Gaby Onorati - Special Recognition Awardee in Theatre
By: Anne Brenneman
Recently I spoke with Gaby Onorati, the Special Recognition award recipient in the theatre category, and soon she will be starting a mentorship program with Stephanie Gibson. Though she is not currently involved in any productions, she is looking forward to getting back into the theatre world as it gets back up and running in a post-Covid world.
AB: So to start off, how did you first become interested in theater? When did you start doing it?
GO: I started doing theater when I moved to Connecticut in fourth grade and I started acting with a local community theater. And ever since then, I've just been wanting to do as much of it as I can.
AB: Right. What community theater do you do?
GO: Kids Connection in Clinton.
AB: Do you have a favorite production that you've been a part of, that you've participated in?
GO: Yeah. My favorite show I've done is James and the Giant Peach at Barrington Stage Company.
AB: That's fun! Is that a play or a musical, I think I've heard of it.
GO: A musical.
AB: Yes. I think I've heard of that. I think the middle school did that a few years ago in my school district, it's very fun! What part did you have for that?
GO: I played The Lady Bug, and I was also in the ensemble.
AB: Awesome. Alright. And for Scholarship in the Arts, obviously, things have been very different this year because of COVID. Everything's been digital and - in particular for a theater, a big part of that is a live audience - so was that different? Did that affect you in a negative way or a positive way?
GO: It was definitely very different at my school. We did recordings of our shows, which was way more time consuming, but it was a fun new experience and a learning experience as well.
AB: Alright. And for your submissions, you were required to prepare two contrasting monologues. Do you want to talk about that a little about that?
GO: Yeah. I use the same monologues I used for my College auditions, so it wasn't that difficult of a preparation.
AB: You used them for College applications; do you know where you're going or where you hope to go?
GO: I'm taking a gap you this year. I had a change a heart closer to my first, and I wanted to spend more time with my family, so I decided to take a gap year.
AB: You got the special recognition award program which comes with a mentorship with someone in your field. Has that started yet?
GO: No, it hasn't. I just got my mentor yesterday. So.
AB: Well, are you looking forward to it?
GO: I definitely am; I think that's going to be super fun.
AB: And do you think it's going to be a very beneficial experience? What you hope to gain from it?
GO: I think it will absolutely be beneficial. I just hope to learn as much about the industry and what it needs to be professional and what it's like to work in the industry.
AB: Absolutely. And who is your mentor?
GO: Stephanie Gibson.
AB: Alright. So you're taking your gap year this year. Do you plan on doing anything theater related during that?
GO: Yeah, I am taking acting, singing, and dancing lessons. And I hope to get internships that I'll be applying for.
AB: Do you hope to be a professional in this career, like an actor?
AB: And how do you see that path going? Where do you hope you'll end up?
GO: Well, right now, my short term goal is taken to College somewhere. I will see and get my BFA or my MFA and then hopefully be able to, over time, start working regionally.
AB: Alright. And next question: if you could play any part in any piece, what's your dream role?
GO: Oh, I have so many... either Anastasia in Anastasia or Cathy from The Last Five Years.
AB: Awesome. Alright. Do you have anything else you want to talk about or mention - any plans, anything that you want to just get out there?
GO: As of right now? Not really. It's just hard through a screen, so...
AB: Hard to do things in live theater when everything's digital right now. Though, things are starting to open up soon. Do you know if you're going to be doing anything once things start getting reopened?
GO: Audition and try and get out there.
AB: You mentioned before when you started, you were in that community theater program. Are you still involved in that program? Do you do anything else?
GO: I'm not. They are a children's theater, so no.
AB: Do they do any branches for older theater?
GO: I believe they do. I haven't acted with them since my freshman year of high school because I started doing my school shows.
AB: All right, well, Congratulations on your special recognition. Thank you and good luck with your mentorship. I hope it goes very well and you learn a lot!
GO: Thank you.
2021 Scholarship in the Arts
By: Anne Brenneman, Andrew Scotella
Since 1981, Shoreline Arts Alliance has been proud to grant numerous scholarships in a wide variety of artistic disciplines to high school juniors and seniors in the Scholarship in the Arts program. This juried scholarship competition offers winners $1,000 scholarships to winners in categories like creative writing, dance, instrumental music, musical theater, theater, visual arts, and vocal music, as well as professional mentorships and a performance and exhibition for all the winners and special recognition awardees.
Congratulations to all of this year’s winners and special recognition awardees! In instrumental music, Rosalie Coleman (winner) and Malin Nystrom (special recognition). In vocal music, Noah Sonenstein (winner), Brooke DellaRocco (special recognition), and Caleb Harris and Maddie Keithan (honorable mentions). In dance, Faith Anderson (winner), Grace Pendleton (special recognition), and Brooke DellaRocco (honorable mention). In theater, Spencer Stanley (winner), Gaby Onorati (special recognition), and Alex Bunis (honorable mention). In creative writing, Sina Takyar (winner), Brian Girardi (special recognition), and Carlin Steere (honorable mention). In visual arts, Emmy Skiles (winner), Samuel Stein and Heaven Hakai (special recognitions), and Marina Melluzzo, Olivia Schaedler, Artemisia Trowbridge-Wheeler, and Matthew Johnson, (honorable mentions), as well as Joyce Huang, winner of the Jeffrey Dobbs Scholarship for Excellence in Painting. In the coming weeks, the Shoreline Bulletin will be publishing highlights on many of these artists, as well as the jurors of the competition.
Scholarship in the Arts 2021 closed applications on May 6th with many incredible submissions. We at Shoreline Arts would like to extend our sincerest congratulations to all applicants; this year saw a great number of challenges, and all of the participants overcame those additional obstacles and still created great art. Thank you for sharing your art with us, everyone who applied should be proud of what they have accomplished.
Shoreline Art Alliance's 37th Future Choice Awards
By: Grahm Reynolds, Anne Brenneman, Andrew Scotella, and Sushant Kunwar
As a competition for high schoolers, Future Choices allows growing artists to display their work, and connect with experienced members of the artistic community. It provides for these young artists a unique opportunity, one which fosters creativity and artistic development. This year, students whose art was accepted into the exhibition have images of their work displayed in an online gallery for three months. In addition, participating high school are recognized for positioning the arts as a staple of their curriculum.
Submissions are reviewed by a panel of professional judges, which provides an excellent opportunity for growing artists to get high quality feedback on their work from experienced, knowledgeable artists. Having their artwork displayed in a gallery is only the start for many applicants.There are also additional opportunities for artists who submit their work to become part of the committee that assists with producing the show. For other artists, five painters a year receive an invitation to apply for the Jeffrey Dobbs Scholarship for Excellence in Painting. This is a part of Shoreline Arts Alliance’s program "Scholarships in the Arts".
This year's Future Choices was a resounding success, and as always demonstrated the incredible talent of Connecticut’s high school artists. All artists could submit up to seven works, and hundreds of incredible paintings, drawings, ceramics and more were received. The exhibition, which began on March 31st, remains open on the Shoreline Arts Alliance website. A virtual awards reception was hosted on Zoom on April 5th.
In an interview with Nicole Stevens, first place winner of the painting category for her painting Portrait, Stevens told us how she started seriously getting into art at the age of 13, following her mom and sister’s example. Beginning with an interest in photography, she began to draw subjects from her photographs. Her subjects are often people, as people were the first things she started drawing. Stevens shared that creating art gave her a sense of peace, calming and quieting her mind. When Stevens looks at one of her finished pieces, she feels accomplished, and hopes other people enjoy the piece and are moved by it.
“When I won I was excited. It meant so much and gave me a boost when thinking about my future as an artist,” said Stevens. She advised aspiring artists to “pursue your dreams, don’t stop trying, just keep growing.”
Hailey D’Alessio, first place winner of the photography category, has a similar story to Stevens. She started photography freshman year, though she has been interested in art since she was a little kid. Her favorite subject to photograph is also people, and she feels relaxed and proud when she looks at her completed work. “Without art I wouldn’t be a fully-functioning person in society,” joked D’Alessio.
For D’Alessio, winning Future Choices “felt good.” She recommends all artists considering applying to do so. Put anything in everything you can,” said D’Alessio. "To aspiring artists, D'Alessio advises perseverance. "Can't give up, keep doing," she says.”
The judges also have an important perspective on the competition, and their input and participation are integral components to the annual event's success. John Tintori, film juror for 2021 Future Choices, said that when judging the various films, he looks into these videos from several different angles. First with a view of an audience member, and then a second and third time with a more critical and analytical view. Trintori looks for a storyline, for the emotions being communicated, and a journey to the film, in addition to analyzing the pace, the sound, and the visuals.
“It is exciting seeing people’s interest in film,” said Tintori. Tintori explained that film is a different form of art and unique in its own way. When asked to give a piece of advice to aspiring film artists, Tintori said, “Tell stories about what you’re interested in, don’t assume what other people want to see.”
When asked what Future Choices meant to him, Tintori said that it is a great program. It encourages young artists and grants them recognition and feedback from professionals. The program also allows people in the community to see and experience films made by their peers. He loves seeing all the talent and how good the work is. When asked about the program itself, and how it was different this year due to Covid-19, he said that it was not any different for him, as most of it is watching videos on a screen, whereas it is different and harder for judges in other categories. For example, it is better to judge sculptures in person, rather than through a picture.
This event is made possible through the tireless efforts of the talented team of jurors and the many applicants who submit their work. The applications and winners from this year’s Future Choices Awards can be viewed at: https://www.shorelinearts.org/future-choices.
Though there was an additional hurdle of a virtual setting, the nature of the competition remains the same. At its core, Future Choices is an outlet of creativity for students in the Shoreline community. Though it is a competition, the main focus is not one of rivalry. Instead, Future Choices seeks to foster the growth and development of the artistic spirit, and to inspire young people of our community to pursue their love of the arts.
Recently, Shoreline Arts Alliance announced the winners and honorees of our 2021 Future Choices Competition and Exhibition. This is a multimedia art competition open to all high school students in our 24-town region in Connecticut. Shoreline Arts Alliance has held 36 of these competitions in the past, and marked it’s 37th this past March. This was the second year the event was held virtually. The competition includes many artistic categories, such as ceramics, drawing, mixed media, painting, photography, prints, sculpture, digital art, and video.
1st Place Printmaking/Drawing & Best in Show- The Puppeteer, Olivia Bartlett
Shoreline Arts Alliance's 'IMAGES' in the Virtual Environment
By: Grahm Reynolds, Anne Brenneman, Andrew Scotella, and Sushant Kunwar
Every year, Shoreline Arts Alliance is proud to host IMAGES, Connecticut's oldest and largest juried photography competition. IMAGES has occurred annually since 1980, and even Covid-19 couldn't break the tradition, as IMAGES simply adapted to a virtual setting. This year is the second time the competition will be hosted virtually.
IMAGES allows talented photographers from across the state to display their photos and have them entered into a juried competition, fostering and uplifting the creative spirit of our local communities. This year's juror’s panel was composed of accomplished photographers Johnnie Chatman, Kristi Odom, and J. Sybylla Smith.
Nothing, not even COVID-19, was going to stop IMAGES from happening this year. As it was in the previous exhibition season, IMAGES was adapted to a virtual platform due to the pandemic. Luckily there was a silver lining to this. IMAGES being virtual enables people from across the state to more easily submit their photographs, and our jurors were able to judge the submissions from the safety of their homes -- one of whom lives all the way out in Colorado. Out of a total of nearly 1,000 submissions, our judges pulled out 132 works to display in a virtual gallery available on our website.
IMAGES is nothing without the many talented people who submit their work, and is a testament to the variety of backgrounds that very talented photographers can come from. We had the opportunity to speak to Maureen Goss and Susanne Brandt, both First Honors winners this year. “I started my photography in a high school darkroom photography class. I continued my studies at Alfred University where I majored in Fine Art,” said Brandt. Goss had a different journey, “I was a model in New York City. I moved there when I was 21.” she explained “I was with Ford Models for about six years, five years, so I learned photography as a model.” She has been a photographer since 1981.
IMAGES has a wide variety of winning photographs, and Brandt and Goss both demonstrate this. We were lucky to have Brandt share a bit of her process with us, and discuss how she made her winning photograph. “The infrared photograph augmented by a hand applied stylus, entitled Ensemble Sur la Glace, was taken at the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada during their ‘Winterlude Holiday’...the bird's eye photograph was taken from a bridge near the beginning of the skateway. The cyanotype photograph titled “Cyano-Ice” was created this summer on the shore in Ogunquit, Maine utilizing the natural found materials such as seaweed, sea grass, salt water, [and] dried foliage, [in addition to other organic materials] said Brandt.
Goss also shared how her winning photograph was made “This particular model came up on the train and we did it in my backyard” she said “I don’t remember what her name was, but it was done in the 80s, it’s a beautiful, black and white portrait, very strong, and when I pulled it out I just - she had on a lot of jewelry, and it was in black and white, I just started to gingerly color it and then I got bolder and bolder and bolder, and that’s how I created it. It’s very pandemic inspired.”
Susan Cappezzone is another artist who won an award at IMAGES this year, interestingly, however, she doesn’t choose to describe herself as a photographer. “I really don’t consider myself a photographer” she explained, “I am a graphic designer and use the images as part of my design process.”
As a graphic designer, Cappezzone’s submission to IMAGES is a result of years of work. “ The photo was taken a few years ago, but the collage was created the night before,” she said.
Winning IMAGES means something different to everyone. To Cappezzonne, it’s confirmation that she is on the right track. “Winning gives validation of my talent. I was surprised to get in. When I learned about the award I sat quietly for many minutes in shock! I must be honest, I needed the ego boost. However, the work is subjective. Another judge could pick another piece. So, I try not to let it go to my head,” said Cappezzone.
Of course, one of the most important parts of IMAGES are the jurors: the people that actually judge and look over the submitted photographs. When asked what is looked for in all the submissions, juror J. Sybylla Smith said the impact of each photograph. Photos must show that unique voice that each photographer has, and must demonstrate the relationship between photographer and photo.
“Layered intentionally,” is what Smith says describes a great photo which stands out from the average submission. Everything in the photograph must be detailed, from the smallest little object to the main focus; all must be equally important to the composition as a whole.
However, jurors are not just looking for a technically proficient photograph. According to Smith, the photographer's experience, passion, and relationship to the photo are all equally important to the process. IMAGES is host to a variety of applicants, and the photographs demonstrate that. “I enjoy the expansiveness in entries,” Smith said.
Judging pictures virtually is very different than judging them physically. It brings up lots of questions, such as backlit vs printed, matte vs glossy, and paper vs fabric. “Seeing it digital is different than seeing it in person,” said Smith. “Photographs are meant to be held,” she added. “Should [a photograph] be framed?” Smith said, demonstrating just how specific the questions pertaining to this issue can be.
Even in these uncertain times, people are inspired to take up new ways to express themselves. When asked if she had any advice to aspiring photographers, Smith said “Listen to the process and what is in the photograph. Follow what lights you up.”
IMAGES may be different from years past, but at its core it remains the same thing: a photography competition for many talented photographers across the state. Competitions help to further develop the process of each artist, and IMAGES is no different. From the many great applicants to the knowledgeable jurors, IMAGES is a product of the hard work and immense talent of many individuals, and the Shoreline Arts Alliance is proud to host it. This years applicants and winners of IMAGES can be viewed here: https://www.shorelinearts.org/images-gallery-2021
Historical Pandemics and Art
By: Anne Brenneman
In 1918, Egon Schiele began an oil painting entitled The Family, featuring himself, his wife, and his unborn child. Before he could complete it, his wife, six months pregnant, died of the Spanish Flu. His own life was taken just three days after, by the same disease.
Though the Spanish Flu is often overridden in contemporary thought and collective memory by World War I, the pandemic did not go unnoticed by artists. The disease ravaging the globe in 1918 exacerbated feelings of chaos, upheaval, and meaninglessness, and these feelings were reflected in the art of the time.
Some of the most well-known pieces regarding the Spanish Flu were portraits.
Egon Schiele painted a portrait of his mentor, Gustav Klimt, from a morgue in Vienna after he died of complications related to the flu. Edvard Munch made two self portraits, Self-Portrait With the Spanish Flu and Self-Portrait After the Spanish Flu, depicting the artist’s experience surviving the disease. However, the influence of the disease was felt on a much broader scale. For example, prominent Dadaists endeavored to combine art and design to create simultaneously artistic and useful objects. Notably, architect Walter Gropius designed several pieces of furniture that -- unlike the heavy upholstery common at the time -- were minimalistic, and made of wood and steel. Historians believe those choices were heavily influenced by the flu, as their lightweight and moveable design met the new standards required for cleaning and sanitization.
During the Spanish Flu, collage also became a popular medium. The strategies of cutting, reassembling and remixing were appealing to artists coping with the hopelessness and absurdity that characterized the epoch. It was a time in which the Spanish Flu, World War I, the rise of communism, and many other globally significant events were combining to create an atmosphere of chaos and upheaval. The Spanish Flu killed at least 50 million people.
A pandemic that is more deeply entrenched in art history is of course the Black Death. Much of the imagery that is so firmly entwined with the ideas of death and disease stem from outbreaks of this disease. Michael Wolgemut’s Danse Macabre was a product of this plague. The iconic visage of a plague doctor, wearing a long beaked mask and heavy robes, also stems from this era. And in fact, it was popularized by artistic imagination, rather than by widespread use. Paintings of mass burials were common, like the piece by Pierart dou Tielt depicting the people of Tournai burying victims of the Black Death in 1349.
An interesting aspect of artwork of the Black Death is that there are no depictions of actual people suffering from the disease; likely because the sick were quarantined and artists were wary to get too close. However, this is largely unique in pandemic history. The art from this era dealt strongly with the inescapable pervasiveness of death. The Black Death killed between 75 and 200 million people.
Painting by Cassady Fullbright, senior at University of North Georgia. "I was able to glimpse into my peers' worlds. It was a portal into a different place with our own personal styles," she says.
Better Days are Coming, by Ruby Silvious, part of her COVID Blues series, 14 pieces over a 14-day self-isolation period
This last painting on the left is a depiction of Dr. Edward Jenner performing his first smallpox vaccination in 1796. Smallpox was the first viral epidemic that was ended by vaccine. On the right, we have a photograph of Margaret Kennan, the first person in the world to receive the vaccine for Covid-19. When we are faced with a worldwide death toll of over 2 million, it is easy to look at the imagery of the Spanish Flu and the Black Death and feel that sense of helplessness, to relate to the depictions of quarantines and social isolation, hospitalisations, deaths, and loved ones affected by disease. These images stand out as a glimmer of hope.
Historically, the art created during these historic pandemics are what we see when we think of these periods. However, often the instances were not widely recorded by artists. Throughout Covid-19, many artists all over the world have worked on their creative pursuits to create a lasting image of what our lives were in this time, when we were feeling hopeless and meaningless and nihilistic, when our lives were full of turmoil and uncertainty, and so many have worked to create a message of hope. Everyone has been adapting to this new normal, and the tireless work of artists demonstrating the capacity of art to bring hope and joy in a time where these are so sparse, the unmistakable role of art in social movements and the passion it can inspire, has been a shining light in these challenging times.
That is what makes the art of this pandemic different from the art of past plagues. While we have unprecedented understanding of the physical symptoms of this disease, rather than focusing on the turmoil and death surrounding the issue, artists have been working to create a message of hope, unity, and strength in the face of fear and adversity.
Street art honoring health care workers, @iamfake on Instagram.
Egon Schiele's The Family, 1918
Michael Wolgemut, Dance of Death, leaf from The Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493
Ernest Board, Dr Jenner performing his first vaccination, on James Phipps, a boy of 8. May 14 1796.
90 Year old Margaret Keenan receiving the first Covid-19 Vaccine in the UK.
We spoke to Steve Van Ness -- owner and founder of Impact Arts -- last month. He started in 1989, he tells us, doing events at ski resorts in the off season. Before that, he worked for the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs in Boston, and came back later to manage Concerts on the Commons. Eventually, he went on to become one of the founders and original producers of the nationally-known music festival Gathering of the Vibes, and more generally speaking, the go-to person for a range of events. So with a breadth of experience in the industry, Van Ness is no stranger to an unpredictable business environment. Even before the pandemic hit, the rise of large corporations like LiveNation had already shifted the economy of the industry in a huge way, hurting smaller event management businesses in the process.
“So COVID comes along, and I lose a big year... [I had already] planned all kinds of events, and it all went away” said Van Ness. He was working to grow and diversify the reach of Impact Arts Events Group in Connecticut. The rise of COVID-19 had severely hindered these plans.
After hunkering down with his guitar for a month -- he is also an avid songwriter -- Van Ness realized he needed to find a way to continue working towards those yearly goals he had previously set for his company. It was a major challenge, but after some time, he started to revisualize how he could work around the pandemic safely. And with the help of Shoreline Arts Alliance, he was able to pivot the focus of his group from producing traditional events to virtual ones.
“After that month of not doing anything, I called Eric [Dillner, CEO/Executive Director of Shoreline Arts Alliance] and he told me how they were starting to do conference calls with artists and arts organizations in the community” said Van Ness. He joined Let’s Chat, which was eventually to inspire Shoreline Arts Alliance’s Reopening CT Arts Venues Webinar Series and other pandemic-response programs, and helped to brainstorm ways to safely get the arts sector back on its feet. By helping to guide others in these workshops, Van Ness quickly realized the extent of the demand, and he began to reimagine the ways in which events could go on. “I’m an idea-person, I think outside the box, and that’s what got me to start pivoting. So we put this series together with [SAA] called Reimagining Events Virtually, with the goal of bringing the arts back to our communities,” Van Ness said.
“I worked with the New Haven Choral Event Team to help them remage their in person gala into a Virtual Gala, that's the role I play as a virtual event producer,” said Van Ness.“We do the LOEB awards – which is basically the Tony awards for business and journalism. It’s usually done in NYC, [but this year] we did the entire show virtually, with people from all over the world coming in.”
Virtual events aren’t just different in the format, an in-person awards show and a virtual awards show are two completely unique things. “The level at which you have to interact with your audience in a virtual event makes it a lot different, and we did that in the workshops with [SAA].” said Van Ness.
“At an in person event, people might be bored or start disengaging, but it’s unlikely they’re going to get up and leave. When they’re in their own homes – there’s really nothing stopping them. So it creates a bigger imperative to keep people engaged, and in that way virtual events are changing a lot of things for the better.” Van Ness said. “That’s part of reimagining everything. You have to completely think outside the box, and be willing to do things you’ve never done or seen done before.”
Taken at face value, having to cancel in-person events in favor of an online alternative seems like simply one of those unfortunate realities of COVID-19. But it’s becoming more clear that there are ways to not only make these events a success, but to create new possibilities for arts events in the future.
“There are some really great silver linings. Being virtual we could have people from all over the world join, because it’s not just in a ballroom somewhere. You lose the in-person element, but you can make it personal.” said Van Ness. His adaptive attitude is immediately clear, and as one listens to him it makes sense why these virtual events produced by Impact Arts have been so successful.
In fact, a lot of these events might continue to take place in a virtual environment, even when the pandemic is over. “All the events we do going forward are probably going to be hybrid,” predicted Van Ness.
“And when I’m talking to people who need to host these virtual events I tell them ‘Look, you’re artists, you’re creative by nature, this just forces you to be creative in a new way,’” Van Ness said. The artistic community is one of creative problem solvers -- Impact Arts Events Group and Shoreline Arts Alliance approach reopening with this in mind.
Van Ness cares deeply about our community, and wants to give back. He concluded his interview with a poignant message, “If there are people that are reading this and I can help them, reach out. Nevermind getting new clients, we’ve just gotta give back. We all have to take the skills that we have and share them. I think part of my success can be attributed to my willingness to do that.” We couldn’t agree more, Steve! Our devotion to “Transforming Lives Through the Arts” means that in times like these, helping our community is of the utmost importance.
To learn more about Impact Arts Events Group or to contact Steve Van Ness, please visit www.impactartsevents.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
From the way people go to work to the way children attend school, COVID-19 has touched all aspects of our lives. The arts are no exception. The change to a virtual environment has been quite an adjustment for many in the industry, and Shoreline Arts Alliance is proud to have assisted many local businesses in adjusting to this new world. One of those is Impact Arts Events Group.
Steve Van Ness, Owner of Impact Arts Events Group
Shoreline Arts Alliance and Impact Arts Events Create the Model for a New Normal
By: Grahm Reynolds and Sushant Kunwar