First ever Art-a-Thon invites students to engage in visual arts

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Art-a-Thon, a day-long event at Baruch College celebrating arts and literature, invited curious students to explore and participate in a multitude of activities, such as marathon novel reading, musical analysis, poetry readings and sonnet dissection. One of the first activities was a lesson in blues music, a session led by Anne Swartz, chair of the department of the fine and performing arts.

Swartz began the event by walking students through the very basics of piano playing on a Steinway & Sons grand piano. These basics included finding Middle C, general hand placement, timing rests and understanding musical measures. As students progressed, Swartz helped them through playing 12 measures from sheet music.

The two hour long event was one of 15 activities featured in the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences’ first-ever Art-a-Thon, which coincided with National Arts Advocacy Day. According to Swartz, the event served to show students, “that they can do anything they want in music.”

“Students love playing the piano, they just really enjoy it. I just want all students to participate in piano, in learning,” said Swartz, who has taught at Baruch since the ‘80s. “I want our students to be happy, and to enjoy their time here.”

As students worked through playing “Heartland Blues” by Eric Kriss, Swartz encouraged improvisation while using repetition in order to drive techniques home. By the time the event reached its halfway point, students were able to successfully play the piece all the way through.

“Being taught and learning from Professor Swartz is going to encourage me to play piano in the future,” said Chen Tang, who had not played the piano prior to the event. “It sounds interesting.”

Weissman Dean Aldemaro Romero Jr. noted that the event was the first of its kind to take place within Baruch College. Romero organized the Art-A-Thon’s events by consulting with department chairs, who in turn consulted with their professors.

“This creates a sense of community and also showcases the artistic abilities of our faculty and our students,” said Romero, who participated in the flash mob by performing a musical piece written by his father.

Swartz’s event was followed by a multitude of events throughout the day, including an improvisational theater session, a marathon reading of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and a flash mob in the 24th Street Plaza. The latter event was live-streamed to Baruch alumni. A video will also be posted on both Vimeo and YouTube.

Professor Allison Curseen hosted a book making event in collaboration with the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences. Held in NVC 7-244, the book making event lasted from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Curseen took students through the process of making their own journals by hand, detailing ways to design the covers, as well as binding the journals with twine or ribbon. Free materials were provided for student use including different types of decorative paper, glue, lace, markers, ribbon, rubber cement and scissors.

While Romero approached the entire English Department for assistance with the Art-A-Thon, it was Curseen’s idea to do a book making session with students. In one of her classes, explained Curseen, she had her students create and bind their own books for a project—an activity that Curseen felt that she could bring to the wider student population.

Radhika Kalani, an event attendee, was drawn to book making because of her love for scrapbooking and arts and crafts.

“It’s nice to see more of this at Baruch because it’s a business school,” said Kalani, an intended computer information sciences major. She further explained that she has been unable to find a club on campus that focuses on making art and appreciated an event where students could express themselves creatively.

“Everything is so not visual arts centered, there’s nothing—besides for [the student literary magazine] Encounters,” agreed Goldie Gross about Baruch. Gross, another event participant and an undeclared major, hoped to make art and meet similar-minded students during the event.

Students were able to take their completed books with them once finished.

Students also gathered in the English Department at the same time as the book making event went on to receive a poem on-the-spot from a typist during Typewriter Rodeo.

Initially, a single typewriter occupied the space, one typist taking requests from the emerging crowd. Halfway through the event, two other writers joined the typist to cater to the crowd.

Benjamin Long, editor-in-chief of Dollars & Sense, manned one typewriter. As interested students trickled in, the typists set to work. Students and passersby requested poems featuring various themes, some as abstract as ultra-violence and others as intimate as beauty.

One student asked typist Gregory Guma, a poetry editor for Encounters magazine, to write her a poem about green peas. Guma responded with a haiku about refusing to eat a meal that had included green peas.

As he hit the keys, Guma wondered out loud whether he had spelled “daisies” correctly. His concentration was broken only by the occasional question or request.

Participant Annie O’Sullivan expressed amazement during the event.

“Is it selfish to ask for one from all of them?” O’Sullivan asked, upon receiving a handwritten poem from one writer. Another student asked one of the writers to sign the poem he wrote for her.

Professor Mary McGlynn, who supervised the event, said the typewriters belonged to Guma, who has collected 12 of them and expects to expand his collection. “He is the perfect person [for this]. It makes me want to have my own collection. They are so gorgeous and sculptural and kind of sexy,” she said.

McGlynn said the English department has its own typewriters to create labels without the hassle of matching programs to ordinary labels printed on computer paper.

Among the Art-a-Thon’s extensive array of available workshops and events was a mosaic canvas painting on the second floor of the Newman Vertical Campus. The event, hosted by Baruch’s Undergraduate Student Government’s Arts Committee, sought to expand club and student interaction with art in a meaningful way that stretched beyond what is normally done on campus.

Nathan Lin and Rebecca Vicente, co-chairs of the Arts Committee, headed the event, marking their presence in the lobby with lively banter, encouraging passing students to contribute to one of the many square spaces allotted on the canvas.

While Art-A-Thon’s activities ranged from book-making to student poetry readings and pop-up makerspaces , the events were largely supervised by faculty members. The mosaic event stood out, however, in its “by students, for students” attitude, which sought to bolster creativity and representation on campus.

Yvonne Duong, one of over 20 contributors to the canvas mosaic, commented on the importance of Art-A-Thon at Baruch and of the mosaic saying, “I think it’s going to bring more color to this school that’s kind of like a dull and business-oriented school. It’s nice because people are actually becoming more and more interested in art now and we now have opportunities to let students see it and actually represent their art.”

 

Vicente explains, “One of the things that [Nathan] and I really try to think about are different ways to create community through the arts. The goal of this project was to create a visual representation of different voices and personalities of the Baruch community. It was a simple way to ask students to express themselves … Each square comes together to create a larger mosaic, which is representational of what we believe community should be.”

 

Other events included in Art-a-Thon were lectures on Edward Hopper, improvisation and theater, with various performances of famous plays such as The Castle and other pop-up exhibitions.

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