Sulzer to Serve As Hollins’ Artist-in-Residence This Spring

Andrea Sulzer, whose work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, has been named Frances Niederer Artist-in-Residence at Hollins University for 2023.

Each year, Hollins’ artist-in-residence program brings to campus a nationally recognized artist who produces work and teaches a special seminar. The program honors Niederer, a beloved art historian who taught for many years at Hollins.

Sulzer draws, prints, paints, and mixes these disciplines in an intuitive and free-associative process. Her daily practice reflects a constant pull between building a foundation and dismantling it, always trying to get closer to the underlying impulse for making things.

Her work often lives on the edge between object and image, statement and question, figure and abstraction. She is interested in landscape as both setting and character, and as an archive of human experience. In much of her work, forms shift, dissolve, and reorganize themselves like the fluid and unstable nature of memory. How a singular solution is shaken out of limitless possibilities and the role that chance plays in keeping this process open is also an abiding interest. At the heart of her practice is the deep belief in the need for wonder and discovery.

Sulzer’s multidisciplinary background includes a Bachelor of Arts in French from New York University and a Master of Arts from Columbia University’s Teachers College. She then completed a Master of Science in forest biology at the University of Maine and became a laboratory instructor at Bowdoin College. Fusing her interest in the natural sciences and art, she illustrated a number of books in marine and conservation biology. In 1998, she left Bowdoin College to pursue her art practice.

In 2004 Sulzer received her Master of Fine Arts degree from the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and the Maine Arts Commission, and has held residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the Ucross Foundation, and Surf Point Residency, among others.

Sulzer has exhibited in New York, Colorado, Maine, London, Glasgow, and Munich, and has had solo museum exhibitions at the Portland Museum of Art, Bowdoin College, and University of Maine Museum of Art. She also has recently completed a number of large-scale public art projects for Maine schools through the Maine Percent for Art program.

Her work is included in numerous collections: Portland Museum of Art, Bates College Museum of Art, Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Colby College Museum of Art, The University of Maine Museum of Art, Fidelity Corporation, Syzygy, and numerous private collections in the United States, Great Britain, and Germany.

Sulzer lives in Maine and teaches part-time at the University of Southern Maine.

 


Natasha Campbell ’19 Selected for Prestigious Golden Foundation Residency

Natasha Campbell ’19 has been chosen as an Artist Resident at The Sam and Adele Golden Foundation for the Arts, Inc. She is one of only 18 artists selected for the 2023 Residency Program, including Guggenheim Fellow Deborah Zlotsky and other distinguished artists, from over 600 applicants hailing from around the world.

“The Golden Foundation Residency Program is specifically designed to assist the professional artist in discovering and exploring the many materials and technologies available today,” states the foundation’s website. “Through the Golden Foundation, residents will have the unparalleled opportunity to work with dozens of unique materials and technologies.”

Campbell will spend four weeks next year in central New York State living and working in a 19th century barn that has been transformed into a 21st century artist residency.

“The residency gives a complete survey to Golden acrylic, watercolor, and oil paints and mediums,” Campbell explained. “The first week is full of workshops and demos for said materials to experiment with new ways of using paints and mediums with opportunities to consult with paint technicians. The rest of the program is dedicated to studio time.”

Campbell praised the backing she received from Hollins faculty for preparing her to pursue an art career. “I graduated as an English major with an art history minor, and while I went to Hollins wanting to be a studio art major, I didn’t have the courage to go for it. I felt as though I didn’t have anything worth painting about and I didn’t know how to transfer my interests into tangible work. Of course, you learn that through time paired with painting regularly, but I didn’t want to fail or find out my ability didn’t ‘match’ my passion.”

Hollins, Campbell said, “definitely gave me more confidence in my work and in my abilities, not just in art but to create anything at all: writing, analyzing, even believing in my own intelligence. I had A LOT of support from [Professor of Art Emerita] Kathleen Nolan, [Associate Professor of Art] Genevieve Hendricks, and [Associate Professor of Art] Elise Schweitzer, and I’m so incredibly grateful to them.” She noted that Schweitzer in particular “pushed me out of my comfort zone in and out of college. Many of the art opportunities I had or learned about were recommended to me by Elise.”

Until recently, Campbell served as fellowship coordinator at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond. “I was in charge of a statewide scholarship that is given to Virginia artists, both students and professionals.” She coordinated three to six solo shows a year showcasing former VMFA Fellows, including an exhibition featuring the work of Professor of Art Emeritus Robert Sulkin. “I wanted the Fellowship to have a larger online presence and more benefits to the artists outside of their shows and scholarship such as studio visits, panels, lectures, and the like. The position and the Fellowship are growing and I’m very grateful to have been a part of it.”

Now engaged full-time in making art, Campbell is hoping to enroll in a graduate program beginning in the fall of 2023. In the meantime, she’s been busy participating in workshops, attending lectures, “and meeting great contemporary artists! I just came back from a fall workshop with Ken Kewley at Mount Gretna School of Art. It was wonderful to say the least!”

Outside of art, Campbell is planning to travel to South Korea for a language program. “I have been learning Korean since 2021, something I had been wanting to do since I was 13, so going to a three-month program there should be exciting.”

The Sam and Adele Golden Foundation for the Arts began its residency for artists working in paint in 2012. An art auction celebrating the Golden Foundation’s 20th anniversary in 2017 helped ensure that moving forward, artists could take part in the residency at no cost. Residents are selected through a competitive juried process by a committee consisting mainly of artists and art professionals. The committee’s criteria focus on the quality of submitted work.

 


Alexander/Heath Contemporary Features New Exhibition of Works by Art Professor Mary Zompetti

Roanoke’s Alexander/Heath Contemporary is presenting “The Lost Garden,” an exhibition of works by photographic artist and Assistant Professor of Art Mary Zompetti, December 2 – 30.

Located at 109 Campbell Avenue, SW, the art gallery is hosting an opening reception for the show in conjunction with downtown Roanoke’s “Art-by-Night” on Friday, December 2, from 5 – 9 p.m.

Zompetti utilizes traditional and experimental analog photographic methods to investigate land, home, and environment. Her recent cameraless photographic work explores the delicate and resilient nature of film emulsion exposed to environmental conditions where she collaborates with light, weather, and time to create unique photographs that embrace chance, mistake, and deterioration.

“My creative process is driven by curious experimentation with analog photographic materials – not in the quest for the perfect, captured moment, but rather for the possibilities that exist when control is relinquished, and chance helps guide both the process and questions being asked by the work,” Zompetti says. “This curiosity excites and drives me to push the medium further, seeing what is possible outside the parameters of traditional photographic processes.”

Zompetti notes that in “The Lost Garden” exhibition, the cameraless photographs “are created by exposing large-format film to environmental conditions over extended periods of time. The physical remains of wildlife and other remnants of the natural world are placed on the film’s surface. The film becomes an imprint of the fragile body, a witnessing of transformation through loss, and a map-like record of time and place during this moment when our natural environment is on the precipice of irreversible change.”

Zompetti holds a B.F.A. in visual arts from Northern Vermont University and an M.F.A. in visual arts from the Lesley University College of Art and Design. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, from Hollins’ Eleanor D. Wilson Museum to galleries in Boston, Brooklyn, and Iceland.

“The Lost Garden” is partially funded by the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

 

 


Hollins Sophomore Explores Link Between Music and Mood in PBS NewsHour Segment

After she began playing the cello as a fourth-grader, Brigitte Bonsu ’25 became fascinated with music’s healing power. As a high school senior, she decided to pursue a position with the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL), and as part of her application she was asked to submit a 90-second video on a topic of her choosing.

“I focused on music and mental health,” she recalled, “and after I was accepted into SRL, they wanted to continue looking into that idea.”

Working with producer Eli Kintisch, Bonsu and segment cohost John Barnes (an undergraduate at the University of Virginia) interviewed experts, explored the latest research, and reflected on their own personal musical odysseys. They created a five-minute-plus story on the link between music and our moods that premiered online in the PBS NewsHour Classroom on September 16 and was broadcast nationally October 24 on PBS NewsHour as part of CANVAS, the newscast’s arts and culture series.

Bonsu, Barnes, and Kintisch started putting the piece together at the end of Summer 2021. “So, throughout my first year at Hollins, that’s really when I was working on it,” Bonsu explained. The result is a lively, entertaining, and informative story punctuated with humor and animation. As cohosts, Bonsu and Barnes have an engaging rapport that underscores how much the project resonated with them.

“John plays guitar, but he didn’t actually pick it up until his senior year in high school. He was self-taught,” Bonsu said. “The fact that he went from not having traditional lessons to performing now in band, that shows how you can get to the point where this hobby can really become a part of you in a way where you can just express yourself.”

Bonsu hopes viewers come away from the segment understanding that virtuosity and perfection are not prerequisites for enjoying music’s benefits. “Sometimes when we look at music, we think we can’t touch it unless we meet particular criteria or reach certain heights. Anyone can connect with music. You can always play or listen to it. We can use music in our daily lives and it can help us during distressing times.”

Playing the cello, Bonsu said, not only helps her stay disciplined, but also offers her a creative space that ensures a healthy balance with her academic responsibilities. “When I began in fourth grade, I didn’t expect to keep pursuing it to this point. But, I’ve grown really close to it. I’ve made learning and performing my own thing.”

Bonsu recently declared English as her major and intends to keep playing the cello throughout her undergraduate career. For the upcoming January Short Term, she is seeking a Diplomatic and Consular Services Retired Archives internship in Washington, D.C., focusing on equity and inclusivity. After Hollins, she wants to pursue graduate school in both English and music and eventually become a professor and a writer. Wherever her plans take her, she is certain what she learned from working with SRL will continue to be impactful.

“One thing I took away from SRL is that there are different ways to use what we already know and the skills we already have to create something very accessible and relatable to give back to the world. I never thought I could make a video about music and mental health, see it published, and have it help others. I really do like how a lot of people have been able to connect to it.”

 

 


Hollins, Roanoke College Present 2022 Kendig Awards 

The Perry F. Kendig Awards, which celebrate the people and organizations that support excellence in the arts in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, were presented during a ceremony at Hollins University on October 11. 

The awards are co-sponsored by Hollins University and Roanoke College, and they are awarded annually in three categories: Individual Artist, Arts and Cultural Organization, and Individual or Business Arts supporter. Recipients are selected from a group of nominees who live or work in the counties of Roanoke, Botetourt, and Franklin, the cities of Roanoke and Salem, or the town of Vinton. The awards are named for the late Perry F. Kendig, who served as president of Roanoke College and was an avid supporter and patron of the arts. 

“Roanoke College is happy to again join with Hollins University to present these Kendig Awards, and it is our privilege to carry on the tradition of this event in President Kendig’s name,” said Roanoke College President Frank Shushok Jr., who joined Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton to present the awards. 

This year’s nominees were Seth Davis, resident musical director at Mill Mountain Theatre; Michael Hemphill, founder and host of the inspirational Blue Ridge PBS and YouTube show “Buzz4Good”; Michael Mansfield, an actor and director who has worked with multiple local arts organizations; Douglas Jackson, arts and culture coordinator for the city of Roanoke; Sandra Meythaler, executive director of Roanoke Ballet Theatre; and the Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir. 

The 2022 Kendig Award winners are: 

Individual Artist Award 

The recipient of the Individual Artist Award for 2022 was Seth Davis, Mill Mountain Theatre’s resident music director. For nearly a decade, Davis has inspired more than 4,000 children and teenagers by helping them find joy and fulfillment through music. His students develop leadership and talents they can apply to their studies and future careers. “Teaching is Seth Davis’ passion; music is his language,” said one of the nominators. 

Through his work at Mill Mountain, Davis has challenged and encouraged children through conservatory classes and stage productions. “I really love what music can do to increase a child’s confidence,” Davis has said. “Students come to us not sure where they even fit in life. Teaching is an opportunity to provide that sense of belonging through music.”  

At the ceremony on Tuesday, Davis said he was pleasantly surprised by the recognition. 

“I’m grateful for the chance to work with kids and folks of all ages on something that brings them so much joy,” he said, “and it is mutual, because it also brings me joy.” 

Arts and Cultural Organization Award 

The Arts and Cultural Organization Award was presented to The Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir (RVCC). For 35 years, RVCC has met the needs of young people across the Roanoke Valley, providing an artistic and in-depth study of voice in a choral setting. The choir currently has 130 singers aged seven to 18. It is divided into a “Little Singers” group for children ages 4-6, three training choirs, and a concert choir. Children move up through the groups as their development and aptitude deepens.  

Weekly rehearsals culminate in community performances that help students develop vocal techniques, confidence, leadership and teamwork. Each choir participates in an annual regional, state, national or international honor performance, giving the students an opportunity to travel. The choir also collaborates on performances with professional organizations such as the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra and Opera Roanoke. Susan Smith, chairwoman of the RVCC Board of Directors, accepted the award on behalf of the choir. 

“We are proud to have served the Roanoke Valley as a world-class choral program for 36 years,” Smith said. “If you know, you know: There is no sound quite like the choral sound of children’s voices.” 

Individual or Business Arts Supporter Award 

The Individual or Business Arts Supporter Award was presented to Douglas Jackson, arts and culture coordinator for the city of Roanoke and capacity development specialist for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Jackson is a long-serving and faithful ally of the arts in Virginia’s Blue Ridge who is invested in finding ways to make the arts compelling and accessible to all. He has done that through community initiatives such as BOOK CITY and Roanoke’s Year of the Artist.  

“Doug’s belief in the power of the arts to strengthen community in all its diversity, and to build trusting relationships, is contagious,” a nominator said.  

Roanoke’s Year of the Artist, Jackson’s recent effort to secure and distribute funding for the arts, has empowered and validated the existing creative community and has helped to bridge the gap between working artists, arts organizations, and city government. Beginning in 2013, Jackson helped create the Parks and the Arts program, which brought the best of Roanoke’s arts and culture experiences to neighborhood parks and community centers.  

“The arts are how I was able to get involved in Roanoke and feel a part of the community,” Jackson said. “The arts can give us agency.”  

Named for the late Perry F. Kendig, who served as president of Roanoke College and was an avid supporter and patron of the arts, the Kendig Awards program was established in 1985 and presented annually by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge through 2012. Hollins and Roanoke College have now partnered for 10 years to bestow the honors. Kendig’s sons, Bill Kendig, a 1980 graduate of Roanoke College, and John Kendig, attended Tuesday’s event to represent their family. 

“We so appreciate the fact that Roanoke College and Hollins University honor Dad with that award,” John Kendig said. “He would love to be here. He would be in his element.”  

 

Photo caption (from left to right): Roanoke College President Frank Shushok Jr.; Michael Mansfield, actor/director; Sandra Meythaler, executive director of Roanoke Ballet Theatre; Seth Davis, resident music director at Mill Mountain Theatre; Susan Smith, executive director of the Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir Board of Directors; Douglas Jackson, arts and culture coordinator for the city of Roanoke and capacity development specialist for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development; Michael Hemphill, founder and host of the Blue Ridge PBS and YouTube show “Buzz4Good”; and Hollins University President Mary Dana Hinton.

 


Wilson Museum Presents “Seeds from the East: The Korean Adoptee Portrait Project”

The Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University is featuring the exhibition “Seeds from the East: The Korean Adoptee Portrait Project,” September 29 – December 11.

“Seeds from the East” showcases the work of A.D. Herzel, an internationally recognized artist, educator, designer, and writer who lives in Blue Ridge, Virginia. She is also a Korean adoptee who explores her identity and creates community through her art.

“This exhibit presents graphite portraits of Korean adoptees accompanied by silhouettes executed in gold ink and drawings of flowers, seeds, spirals, and other imagery specific to each portrait,” explained Wilson Museum Director Jenine Culligan. “Herzel offers her art as a way to help process grief and trauma, as well as to join the larger conversation about place and belonging in immigrant communities across the globe.”

In 1970, Herzel was among three Korean children (two girls and a boy) who were adopted by the Holt family, who also sponsored about 50 other children for adoption. She noted, “It has taken me 50 years to give light to the shadow of my adoption story. This current flowering moment, rooted and wrapped in the tendrils of history, is seeded by the currents of global, religious, and political history. My story, though textured with facets, divets, and spikes, is just one story in the Korean diaspora and one of the many American immigration stories worth telling.”

In conjunction with the exhibition, Herzel will deliver an artist lecture at the Wilson Museum on Saturday, October 1, at 2:30 p.m. A reception will follow. In addition, she will present a youth workshop entitled “Identity Development through Writing and Art Making” on Saturday, November 12, from 2 – 5 p.m., also at the museum. The workshop is intended for young adults ages 12-22 and delves into concepts of self-discovery through art and writing. Herzel will guide participants through investigative processes to help understand and clarify questions of belonging and becoming, especially for youth in adoptive or foster families. Registration for the workshop is required; contact Kyra Schmidt at schmidtka@hollins.edu or 540-362-6496.

The Wilson Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. Admission is always free.


Hollins Professor’s Latest Film Earns Prestigious Sponsorship from Women Make Movies

The new production from a Hollins University film professor is receiving major support from the world’s leading distributor of independent films by and about women.

Associate Professor of Film Amy Gerber-Stroh’s Hope of Escape has earned official sponsorship from Women Make Movies (WMM), a nonprofit media arts organization based in New York City. For 50 years, WMM has backed women directors and producers in an effort to promote a diverse and inclusive filmmaking landscape.

“Hundreds of films by women have been made with the help of WMM’s Production Assistance Program,” Gerber-Stroh explained. Along with fiscal sponsorship, the program “offers professional development, nonprofit tax-exempt status, consultations, and workshops. Films and filmmakers supported by the organization have won Academy Awards, Emmys, and prizes at major film festivals worldwide.”

Currently in post-production, Hope of Escape is based on the true story of the journey of an enslaved mother and daughter who must escape before they are sold and separated forever. Their only hope is to connect with their free relatives in the North and convince the most powerful abolitionists of their time to help them.

Hope of Escape champions the enslaved American heroes and abolitionist allies who, leading up to the Civil War, were willing to take on immense risk in order to combat the wretchedness of slavery,” Gerber-Hope of Escape PosterStroh said. “As a descendant of slaves, I wish to add a different perspective to the lesser-known story of our collective historical memory by shining light onto the ‘above-ground railroad’ where slave masters were paid ‘ransoms’ (much like how Frederick Douglass gained his freedom) by families, mostly in the North, in order to free their enslaved relatives.”

Gerber-Stroh noted that “it ‘took a village’ to fundraise and emancipate a slave. Hope of Escape shows how my own family depended on a complex network of abolitionists, both inside and outside the United States. We see how, even though separated for many years and by thousands of miles, families (both free and enslaved) managed to keep their connections, holding onto hope that their circumstances would change for the better.”

Researching and making Hope of Escape has been a profoundly moving experience for Gerber-Stroh. “It has taught me that the women in my family, as well as women in scores of other families, did indeed resist with fierce hope in their hearts during slavery times. They courageously persevered so that their descendants (like me) can keep fighting and hopefully someday escape the national nightmare of institutional slavery and its lasting consequences. In a small way, my film is part of that fight.”

Gerber-Stroh has written and directed independent films, which focus on the intersection of memory, culture, and history, for over 30 years. Her films have won honors at numerous national and international film festivals. She chairs the film department at Hollins, where she teaches production, animation, and film studies.

 

 


Hollins Professor’s Photographic Work Is Showcased in Bridgewater College Exhibition

Assistant Professor of Art Mary Zompetti will exhibit “The Lost Garden” at Bridgewater College’s Beverly Perdue Art Gallery from August 22 through September 27.

An opening reception will be held on Monday, August 29, from 5 to 7 p.m. with a talk at 5:30 p.m.

A photographic artist, Zompetti utilizes traditional and experimental analog photographic methods to investigate land, home, and environment. Her recent camera-less photographic work explores the delicate and resilient nature of film emulsion exposed to environmental conditions where she collaborates with light, weather, and time to create unique photographs that embrace chance, mistake, and deterioration. “The Lost Garden” series is created by exposing large-format film to environmental conditions over extended periods of time. Wind, rain, ice, and snow alter the film, leaving time- and place-specific impressions.

“My creative process is driven by curious experimentation with analog photographic materials – not in the quest for the perfect, captured moment, but rather for the possibilities that exist when control is relinquished and chance helps guide both the process and questions being asked by the work,” Zompetti said. “This curiosity excites and drives me to push the medium further, seeing what is possible outside the parameters of traditional photographic processes.”

Zompetti received an M.F.A. in visual arts from the Lesley University College of Art and Design in Cambridge, Mass., and a B.F.A. in visual arts from Northern Vermont University. She is a recipient of the 2020 Vermont Arts Council Creation Grant in support of new analog, camera-less photographic work, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including at the Photographic Resource Center in Boston, the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University, the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, Mass., the Mjólkurbúðin Gallery in Akureyri, Iceland, and the A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn, N.Y. Zompetti has attended artist residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and at the Gil Residency in Akureyri, Iceland, and her work is also held in several collections, including the artist book libraries at Yale University and the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity.

The exhibition, opening reception, and artist’s talk are free and open to the public. The gallery, located on the main floor of the John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons, is open from 7:30 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; and noon to midnight on Sunday.

Zompetti appeared on “The Mike Schikman Show” on WSVA Radio in Harrisonburg to talk about the exhibition.

 


Hollins’ Dance M.F.A. Program Moves European Study to Bulgaria’s Cultural Capital

Hollins University’s M.F.A. in dance program is relocating its European Study component to a new home.

Beginning in the summer of 2022, students will travel to Plovdiv, Bulgaria, which is considered by many to be the nation’s cultural hub and in 2019 was named a European Capital of Culture.

“We will have the opportunity to access festivals and arts programming,” said Jeffery Bullock, professor and chair of Hollins’ dance program. “I am excited for our new journey.”

Boyan Manchev
Boyan Manchev

European Study will be organized and curated by Boyan Manchev and Ani Vaseva. Manchev has been a part of the European Study component since it began in Frankfurt, Germany, in 2014, teaching Dance History, Theory, and Criticism. He is a philosopher and professor at New Bulgarian University in Sofia and at Berlin’s HZT – UdK. He has lectured widely at European, North American, and Japanese universities and cultural institutions, and is the author of seven books, including The Body – Metamorphosis (2007), which deals extensively with contemporary art, performance, and dance.

Ani Vaseva
Ani Vaseva

 

 

Vaseva is a theatre director, a playwright, an author of critical and theoretical texts on dance and theatre, and holds a Ph.D. in performance studies from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Her 2017 book, What Is Contemporary Dance, explores the complex processes and conflictual ideologies that stand behind the concept of contemporary dance. Between 2015 and 2018, she taught history and theory of theatre and literature at New Bulgarian University and the Luben Groys Theatre College.

 

 

“We will be in great hands with Boyan and Ani,” Bullock said. “They are both amazing artists and radical thinkers.”

Hollins’ M.F.A. in dance is an innovative program in which students immerse themselves for five weeks during the summer in the intimate learning atmosphere on the Hollins campus, followed by three weeks of international study and immersion in Plovdiv. The program provides students with a wide range of opportunities, mentorships, and exposure to others in the international dance field, and features three tracks: Year Residency, Low Residency – Two Summer, and Low Residency – Three Summer. M.F.A. students and faculty establish a unique community of committed artists/scholars who range in ages and experiences and are working to sustain their careers and deepen their relationship to dance.


Playwright Wendy-Marie Martin M.F.A. ’14 Returns to Hollins as Theatre Department Chair

Talk about a homecoming! Wendy-Marie Martin, who earned both an M.F.A. (2014) and a Certificate in Directing New Work (2017) from the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University, returned to her alma mater earlier this year to become chair of Hollins’ theatre department.

“I love this place—I was very excited to come back,” said Martin, a successful playwright, educator, and current Ph.D. candidate in interdisciplinary arts/theatre at Ohio University. “The students at Hollins are great,” Martin said. “They’re interested in things that aren’t necessarily mainstream, which aligns really well with my aesthetic.”

Martin took over for Ernie Zulia, who stepped down last spring after helming the department for 17 years. She recalled that one of the big takeaways from her time as a Hollins grad student was the program’s  encouragement to try new things and learn from failure. “We live in a very perfectionist society,” said Martin. “It’s difficult to give yourself permission to go outside of what you know will be right or successful. We’re in the process of adopting the same attitude in the undergraduate program so that process is seen as equally important to product/performance because we can’t know what’s possible until we give it a shot, and there’s always risk involved.”

Although Martin officially became the new chair this fall, she guest taught a couple of classes in the spring as a part of a gradual transition into her new role. Because of this, Martin had the opportunity to meet with students one-on-one and hear what they were hoping to get out of their time in the program. “One of the things that came up often was more demand for women playwrights,” said Martin. “They also wanted more contemporary work, which is great. That’s right up my alley.”

Martin isn’t exaggerating, either. In her doctoral work at Ohio University, she is focusing on feminist theatre and 20th and 21st century women playwrights, and all theatre productions at Hollins this year will be by non-binary or female-identifying writers.

Speaking of those plays, this semester’s season kicked off back in September with a staged reading of The Orphan Sea by Cardid Svich, which was directed by undergraduate resident professional teaching artist Michelle LoRicco. The next performance to catch will be The Skriker, which will be performed on Hollins Theatre’s Main Stage October 21-24. This 1994 play by Caryl Churchill, which tells the story of the titular fairy Skriker, begins with several pages of nonsensical language. “I was very concerned that the students weren’t going to get through the first three pages because it’s challenging,” said Martin. “But they were all ridiculously excited about it. The students have just been on top of it with offers and ideas on what they want to suggest for the play, which is really exciting.”

Looking even further ahead, Martin’s hoping to expand the theatre program in two different areas. First, she wants to develop a scholarship arm of the department, i.e., getting students to write analytical/critical papers that can be potentially published or presented at conferences for financial aid or scholarships. Second, Martin is seeking to embrace more original work. She plans on doing this by commissioning a play from the Playwright’s Lab and developing it with undergraduates over the course of two years all the way to live production. “That’s one thing that we’re going to try to start doing next year: developing new work over a long period of time,” said Martin. “We have the structure here to do something ambitious like that.”

Martin’s also heavily focused on diversifying the theatre department. That means more diversity training and inclusion as well as an eclectic lineup of guest artists to expand the cultural perspective of the program and better serve its students of color. “Right now that’s where most of my energy is,” said Martin. “It’s a very exciting group of students here who are willing to try new things, and I love that.”

Jeff Dingler is a graduate assistant in Hollins’ marketing and communications department. He is pursuing his M.F.A. in creative writing at the university.