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Celebrating the New, the Foreign, and the Experimental at Wesleyan

Looking back isn’t something Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts is much interested in doing. 

During this 40th Anniversary Season, instead of reflecting on the past and patting itself on the back for four decades of innovative and non-traditional arts programming, CFA chose to celebrate with business as usual.

That means engaging audiences in less that’s familiar, repetitive, or comfortable, and more in timely visits from new visionary artists and performers -- global rock stars of the experimental art and performance world.

Credit Margo Moritz
Margaret Jenkins Dance Company in "Times Bones."

Credit Ellen Appel / The Cliburn
The Cliburn
Vadym Kholodenko, Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Gold Medalist.

According to CFA Director Pamela Tatge, "Art is a way of knowing and understanding the world, like no other." It’s through this long-time CFA mission, that the experimental programs on this campus aim to utilize artistry for discovery, deeper thinking, and life changing education.

Over the years, CFA has welcomed with open arms those creative ground-breakers who also thrive on engaging directly with the community, often working closely with Wesleyan students in academic and workshop settings that lead to experiences that open both mind and heart. The work and collaborative curriculum ideas by performance artist EikoOtake, a CFA regular whose work revolves around the impact of the atomic bomb, comes to mind.

Credit Ben Jimenez
Performance Artist Eiko Otake with Wesleyan students.

The performances and collaborations this season couldn’t be more spot on-target with CFA's mission, including Performing Arts Series visits by the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company of San Francisco, London’s Juice Vocal Ensemble, pianist VadymKholodenko, the Ignacio Berroa Trio, Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion, and guitarist VieuxFarkaTouré, among others. 

Credit Carrie Schneider
Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion

The CFA season has also included numerous programs and performances within its Outside the Box Theater Series, the Navaratri Festival, Wesleyan performing arts department offerings, and gallery exhibitions in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, including "The Alumni Show II" as part of the 40th anniversary.

Credit Rose Eichenbaum
Dan Froot and Dan Hurlin: "Who's Hungry," from the Outside The Box Theater Series.

To capture the big 4-O party, our television crew made numerous visits to the Middletown campus beginning in October, tagging along with Margaret Jenkins and her mesmerizing dancers, the three  extraordinary vocal talents of Juice—Anna Snow, Kerry Andrew, and Sarah Dacey—and artist Juliana Romano, whose work contributed to "The Alumni Show II" exhibition.

We also had a chance to talk in depth about experimentation and collaboration with CFA Director Pamela Tatge. Her perspective on the history of CFA, includes insights on the creative process and the purpose of art. She said, “There’s always a need for abstraction, for work that cannot be put into words; but I think there is also a place for art to affect people, to move people to action.”

All combined, this feature web segment offers an in-depth showcase on one of the most experimental and interactive university arts programs in the nation. 

Ed is an Emmy Award-winning producer and arts writer.

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