Art and Public Space at Vassar and in Poughkeepsie
July 27 and July 28, 2021
To kick off the year-long theme of “Looking Back, Looking Forward, and Opening Better,” the 2021 Summer Institute for the Liberal Arts focused on art and public space at Vassar and in Poughkeepsie.
As Vassar continues to explore the development of the physical space that will serve as the Vassar Institute for the Liberal Arts, the current moment is an exciting time to consider the role art, architecture, and public space play (and have played) in engaging dialogue and building community. Art, broadly defined, has been cited as a pillar of Poughkeepsie’s civic renewal, and this Summer Institute explored unique partnerships between arts organizations in Poughkeepsie and Vassar. The convening of this two-day, virtual event included panels and lectures from scholars, practitioners, community activists, and local art leadership from nonprofit organizations from Vassar, Poughkeepsie, and beyond.
Tuesday, July 27
Welcome and Setting the Stage
1:00 p.m.–1:05 p.m.
Elizabeth H. Bradley, President, Vassar College
Vassar’s Campus: Landscape Architecture as Art
1:05 p.m.–2:15 p.m.
Karen Van Lengen ’73, William Kenan Professor of Architecture, University of Virginia
Frederick Fisher, Partner, Frederick Fisher and Partners
Moderator: Elizabeth H. Bradley, President, Vassar College
Optional Informal Chat in Zoom Meeting
2:15 p.m.–2:45 p.m.
Designing with Nature
2:45 p.m.–4:00 p.m.
Mark Schlessman, Professor of Biology, Vassar College
Richard Jones, Collections Manager, A. Scott Warthin Museum of Geology & Natural History at Vassar College
Adedoyin Teriba, Assistant Professor of Art and Urban Studies, Vassar College
Cara Hunt ’15, Research Data Associate, NYU Langone Department of Population Health
Moderator: Anne Brancky, Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies
Wednesday, July 28
Strengthening Communities Through the Arts
1:00 p.m.–2:30 p.m.
Nicole Fenichel-Hewitt, Executive Director, The Art Effect (formerly Mill Street Loft + Spark Media Project)
Christopher Kroner, Principal, MASS Design Group / Hudson Valley Design Lab
With a Prerecorded Message from Carmen McGill, Co-Founder, Celebrating the African Spirit
Moderator: Bart Thurber, The Anne Hendricks Bass Director and Lecturer in Art, The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College
There are countless examples across the United States of nonprofit organizations working together to help revitalize communities by promoting art, design, and culture as part of their ambitious workforce development, education, and outreach initiatives. These national trends are evident in a number of local case studies—especially those involving children, young adults, and traditionally underrepresented residents—and highlight the power of art to foster greater civic engagement and to encourage more social cohesion. These undertakings reflect an ongoing commitment to broaden and amplify the role of the arts as a catalyst for creative and social justice work.
Optional Informal Chat in Zoom Meeting
2:30 p.m.–3:00 p.m.
3:00 p.m.–4:30 p.m.
In this session we will take a closer look at some public art partnerships between area colleges and community organizations. We will focus on the productive, the challenging, the inspiring, and the uncomfortable in these collaborations.
Moderators: Katherine Hite and Tom Pacio
Celebrating the African Spirit and Colloqate Design
Asho Ashittey, Vassar College, Class of 2023
Bryan Lee, Founder/Design Principal of Colloqate Design
Hudson Valley Performing Arts Laboratory and SUNY New Paltz
Liz Dahmen, Founding Artistic Director, Hudson Valley Performing Arts Laboratory
Kiana Duggan-Haas, SUNY New Paltz, Class of 2023
Vassar and Poughkeepsie City School District
Christine Howlett, Associate Professor and Chair of Music and Director of Choral Activities, Vassar College
Aidan Anderson, Vassar College, Class of 2020
Center for Creative Education & Bard College
Bryant “Drew” Andrews, Executive Director, Center for Creative Education (CCE)
Sakinah Bennett, Bard College, Class of 2021
Moderator(s): Katherine Hite, Professor of Political Science on the F. Thompson Chair and Director of Research Development; and Tom Pacio, Director of Creative Arts & Institutional Grants Innovation
4:30 p.m.–4:45 p.m.
Elizabeth H. Bradley, President, Vassar College
Asho Ashittey ’23
Asho Ashittey ’23 is an International Studies major and a Summer Community Fellow working with Celebrating the African Spirit (CAS). She is a committed member of Vassar’s Black Student Union, Vassar Hunger Action, and a high school mentor through the Exploring College Program.
Bryant “Drew” Andrews
Bryant “Drew” Andrews is the longtime Executive Director of the Kingston, NY-based Center for Creative Education (CCE), a non-profit organization whose mission is to enrich the social and cultural awareness of children, youth and community through arts, wellness and education. Drew has dedicated his life to working and mentoring in the community through arts education and wellness, strongly believing that these can both strengthen family bonds and nurture legacies of personal confidence, strength, integrity, and intelligence.
CCE provides innovative programs in dance, music, fitness, theater, spoken word, computer arts technology, chess, and the visual arts, with a special emphasis on serving low income, minority and at-risk children and youth. CCE envisions every child having access to high quality programming in a fun, safe space where young people are mentored from early childhood through high school and beyond. The programs are offered at CCE’s main site in midtown Kingston, as well as in Poughkeepsie and in several Hudson Valley school districts.
Drew is also the founder and choreographer of the award-winning Energy Dance Company, whose focus on Hip-Hop, Latin Dance Fusion, high-energy dance style and rich hard-hitting choreography has won national and international recognition. He is also the creator of DXF®—Dance Xross Fitness®, a community-based, fun, energetic, intergenerational fitness program. In addition, Drew facilitates a weekly radio show, “Drew’s Energy Radio”, a music and talk show that also highlights local events, healthy living and thinking, and artists and businesses of the Hudson valley.
Sakinah Bennett is a 22-year-old native of Douglasville, Georgia. At Bard College, she received a full tuition scholarship from the Posse Foundation and co-founded Sister-2-Sister, dedicated to mentoring young women of color in her community and eventually around the world. Sakinah is also a teaching artist at the Center for Creative Education. She began dancing at the age of 5 and hasn’t stopped since.
Liz Dahmen is the founding artistic director of the Hudson Valley Performing Arts Laboratory. As a director and writer, Liz’s work has been seen at The NY International Fringe Festival, Dixon Place, and The Knitting Factory. Since moving to the Hudson Valley in 2014 Liz has focused on community-engaged devised work. In 2020 she directed a site-specific devised piece called “Performing Art” for the Dorsky Museum at SUNY New Paltz. In 2021, Liz adapted her devising techniques online and created a 9-episode soap opera shot entirely in quarantine called “Hawk’s Landing.” Acting credits include Varya in The Cherry Orchard at The Classic Stage Company, and Stella in Ex-Antwone at PS 122. She has a BFA in Acting from the Tisch School of the Arts and an MA in Educational Theatre from Steinhardt/NYU.
Nicole Fenichel-Hewitt, The Art Effect, Executive Director, began her work in this community fifteen years ago as the executive director of Children’s Media Project. In January 2017, Nicole became executive director of both Mill Street Loft and Spark Media Project, and then in 2018 led the two organizations through a merger to officially become The Art Effect. She has since worked with her team to create an even stronger, more focused arts education organization that deepens the impact on local youth and advances a shared mission, including operating a youth-led gallery space (known as The Trolley Barn).
Cara Hunt ’15
MA, Science, Technology and Society, Vassar College
Ms. Hunt is a research associate in the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone’s Department of Population Health. She earned her undergraduate degree in science, technology, and society at Vassar College, after which she taught robotics and engineering to K-5 students. She then worked in the Education Department at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Her role in these seemingly disparate fields has been to educate and translate complex issues—be they engineering, design, or bioethical—for audiences who might be unfamiliar with the subject matter.
BA, Political Science and BA, Fine Arts, Washington State University, Master’s Certificate in Science Communication, University of California Santa Cruz.
Rick Jones has conducted his professional career as a series of woven threads, combining exploration and observation—as a teacher, a freelance illustrator, and fine artist. Current work includes a meditation in drawing and painting on materiality in the home as well as environmental projections to alter physical spaces.
Chris Kroner, MASS, Principal, leads an award-winning architectural design practice team and serves as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Urban Design at Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation and Planning, as well as in the Pratt Institute’s Graduate Architecture and Urban Design program. Through teaching urban design, Chris first met and joined MASS to co-found the Hudson Valley Design Lab in 2017. In addition to design work, he leads all Poughkeepsie-based community outreach work, serves as a design consultant to the local Planning Board, and volunteers on a number of community and regional coalitions.
Kiana Duggan-Haas (she/her) is an actor and creative originally from WNY studying Theatre Arts and Linguistics at SUNY New Paltz. She is currently performing in Shakespeare in Delaware Park’s traveling production of Shakespeare & Love as Juliet, Helena, and other Shakespearian lovers. Some favorite past roles include: Arviragus et al. in Cymbeline at SUNY New Paltz, Romaine Patterson et al. in The Laramie Project at SUNY New Paltz, and Sive in Sive at Irish Classical Theatre Company (Artie Award Nomination, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play). She has enjoyed working with the Hudson Valley Performing Arts Laboratory on both iterations of Performing Art with the Dorsky in 2020 and 2021.
Christine Howlett conducts the Vassar College Women’s Chorus, Vassar College Choir, and teaches music theory and voice. Her choruses have sung at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall and have toured overseas in Cuba, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Turkey, and Uganda. The Vassar College Women’s Chorus performed at the National Collegiate Choral Association and ACDA Eastern Division Conferences. She is a regular guest conductor and chorus master for the Hudson Valley Philharmonic. Her edition of Francesco Gasparini’s Mass for Five Voices was published in 2019 by A-R Editions.
Howlett served as Chair of the Music Department from 2016–2020 and will return as Chair in Fall 2021. Under the Dean of Studies office, she has served multiple terms on the Committee on Leaves and Privileges and the Fellowships Committee since 2009.
Christine Howlett is the Artistic Director of Cappella Festiva, an auditioned choral ensemble with a 45-year history of performing in the Hudson Valley. She is the Past-President of the New York American Choral Directors Association, which supports over 600 choral directors statewide. A supporter of contemporary music, Howlett has commissioned and premiered choral works by notable composers, including Libby Larsen and Tarik O’Regan. In collaboration with Patrick Wood Uribe, violin, and Holly Chatham, piano, the trio released Love Raise Your Voice which contains commissioned works for soprano, violin, and piano by Carson Cooman, Tarik O’Regan, Richard Wilson, and others.
She studied Vocal Performance at the University of Toronto and earned a Master’s Degree in Early Music Voice Performance and a DMA in Choral Conducting from Indiana University.
Bryan Lee is an architect, educator, writer, and Design Justice activist. He is the founder/Design Principal of Colloqate Design, a nonprofit multidisciplinary design practice, in New Orleans, Louisiana, dedicated to expanding community access to design and creating spaces of racial, social, and cultural equity. He is a Design Critic at Harvard GSD and has led two award-winning youth community design programs. Bryan is a founding co-organizer of the DAP (Design As Protest) Collective and Dark Matter University. He was most recently honored as one of the 2018 Fast Company Most Creative People in Business, a USC Annenberg MacArthur Civic Media Fellow, and the youngest design firm to win the Architectural League’s Emerging Voices award in 2019.
Carmen Marchaline McGill
Carmen Marchaline McGill, Celebrating the African Spirit, Co-Founder and Board Chair, is a retired admissions counselor and personnel administrator. She is an advocate for the rights and justice of all people, particularly sensitive to the needs of people of color. During her 45 years in Poughkeepsie, she has been active in the Kwanzaa Committee, Poughkeepsie City Schools PTA, Board of Education committees, the Black History Project Committee, the Dutchess County Historical Society Board, NAACP, AAUW and others, and she is a mentor to many people in the community.
BS Biology Colorado College, MS and PhD Botany University of Washington.
Mark Schlessman is an evolutionary biologist who loves plants. His research focuses on plant sex, in particular the ways that flowering plants adjust their gender by distributing stamens and pistils among their flowers in order to specialize more on either the female or the male component of reproductive success. Over 40 years at Vassar, Mark has taught a wide variety of courses in Biology, the College Course Program, Environmental Studies, American Studies, and Native American Studies, always striving to increase his students’ appreciation of the importance of plants and their value as research organisms. Mark co-chairs the College Arboretum Committee and oversees our class tree program.
Bart Thurber, The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center Director and Vassar College Lecturer in Art, is committed to expanding public access to the resources and programs at the Loeb. Since arriving in the summer of 2019—even during the pandemic—Bart and the rest of his team have fostered a more inclusive approach by partnering with local schools and organizations to diversify the range of its activities and outreach initiatives, including distributing art supplies to over 800 households with school-aged children last fall.
Assistant Professor of Art and Urban Studies; Bachelor of Architecture Federal University of Technology Minna, Nigeria; Master of Architecture University of Oklahoma; PhD Modern Architectural History Princeton University.
Adedoyin is an architect, artist and historian of modern and contemporary architecture and urbanism. Recent topics of research include: architecture, enculturation and assimilation of the African diaspora into modern Western African societies; as well as the triangular relationship between metaphysics, place and architecture. He offers courses on the experience of architecture and space in the modern era; “critical regionalism” and architecture; and modern and contemporary architecture in West Africa, as well as industrial design’s connection to modern and contemporary architecture.