Campus arts initiative at BGSU gives trustees a song & dance

Voices of BGSU Women's Choir

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

When William Mathis was discussing arts on campus as he sought to take over as dean of the College of Musical Arts there was a lot of talk about “creating a culture of the arts” at Bowling Green State University.

Looking around, though, he came to realize that there is a culture of the arts. “It does permeate through the campus,” he said, and beyond.

Mathis, who in addition to his duties as dean has been called on to coordinate the arts, presented an educational session to the BGSU Board of Trustees at their May meeting.

He came with numbers – 1,500 students have arts majors on campus and incoming arts majors have an average ACT score of 26, “so they’re academically prepared.”

Jabri Johnson (center) and Adam Rawlings (right) perform for the BGSU trustees with Jared Dorotiak on piano.

Mathis noted there are 32 student organizations related to the arts. Last year more than 800 events were staged on campus. He didn’t leave it there.

The arts programs are mostly in two colleges, the College of Musical Arts and the College of Arts and Science, the home for the School of Art, the Department of Theatre and Film, and the Creative Writing Program. (Dance is located in the School of Human Movement, Sport, and Leisure Studies.)

He brought some of those numbers with him to do the talking and singing.

The women’s chorus of Voices of BGSU, a gospel choir, was first up, led by Christopher Carter, the student who founded the choir in 2013.

Carter is a Trustees Leadership Scholarship winner. The Voices, he said, have been, along with other campus groups, his home at BGSU. Carter, who has added a music minor to his studies, said: “I’m so grateful for the environment that’s allowed Voices to flourish.”

He noted the diversity of the dozen singers who entertained the trustees. They are students not only of different races, but from different places, and studying a range of disciplines. “I’ve learned some of the greatest lessons from these people.”

“Our goal is to create connections across campus,” Mathis said.

Kim Young, a graphic design instructor, told the board about a video game project she and a team of students are developing in collaboration with the Toledo Opera, to introduce children to opera.

The game uses Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” Young said that was the first opera she heard live. Her parents took her to a production at BGSU.

The team brings together students from several programs. On hand were Heather Monaghan, a digital design student, Cole Wilson, a music composition student who is charge of adapting Mozart’s music for the game, and Kenjo Bungo, a computer science major.

Bungo said he was thrilled “to get to work with a team doing absolutely amazing work to make an amazing masterpiece of the game.”

In order to get the game to work, he had to develop a new system.

He’ll get a paper, which he hopes to have published, out of the project.

The project “changed myself and the entirety of the team,” he said.

Michael Ogawa, the founding vice president of research and economic engagement, said this is an example of the kind of project that benefits students as an educational experience and also has commercial potential.

Young said she wasn’t sure when the game would be ready to launch.

Painter Paul Vermell, also spoke about how his experience at BGSU gave direction to his life. He graduated with an Associate Degree in Art from Owens Community College, and then went to live in Los Angeles. After two years of hanging out, looking for a job, and wanting to paint and draw, he returned to Northwest Ohio.

He enrolled in BGSU, but still wasn’t sure, so he took a single course, Concepts in Contemporary Painting. It gave him the direction he needed.

He would spend his weekends in the painting studio working. Faculty members saw him there, looked at his paintings, and encouraged him.

He enrolled full time. Earlier this year, he won best of show for a painting in the Undergraduate Art and Design Show. This summer, he’s headed to the Chautauqua Arts Institute in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State, where he’ll work on pieces he hopes will be on display in the spring BFA exhibit.

“I’m grateful to be here, and be able to work every day,” Vermell said.

Mathis said that the arts reach in to the community in a variety of ways, from graduate students leading music programs in parochial schools to art students painting murals in Toledo neighborhoods.

They must also figure out to reach the general audiences in the area, Mathis said.

The educational session ended with some song and dance number by musical theater student Jabri Johnson and Adam Rawlings accompanied by the program’s musical director Jared Dorotiak.

When they ended, Board Chair David Levey said: “We haven’t had that many board meetings that are this entertaining.”

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