It's usually not polite to talk about a woman's age. But for Willem de Kooning's pivotal work Woman, turning 60 is cause for a celebration.
The Weatherspoon Art Museum celebrated her birthday during its annual community day in October, complete with birthday cake, hands-on art activities and live music.
Woman, considered the crown jewel of the museum's permanent collection, wasn't always so revered.
The purchase of the painting by the Weatherspoon in 1954 created something of an uproar in Greensboro. Many people wondered why funds contributed in memory of former arts educator Lena Kernodle McDuffie would be spent on such a garish and aggressive image.
While de Kooning was showing in New York at the time, he certainly didn't have the acclaim he does now in the hierarchy of the most important artists in the 20th century, says Nancy Doll, Weatherspoon Art Museum director. While the UNCG community is probably familiar with the painting, out-of-town visitors typically show amazement when they learn about it.
It was a prescient purchase, Doll says. We hope that we are continuing to add works of art by artists who will attain stature and importance.
Alright, dancers, are you ready? Jenny Braswell, who graduated from UNCG in May, asks seven 3- and 4-year-olds in a studio in the Greensboro Cultural Arts Center.
The little girls in blue, white, purple, pink and black leotards shift their weight from one foot to the other. Parents, some more attentive than their children, sit quietly on folding chairs arranged along one wall. The lesson begins.
The class is one of dozens offered through The North Carolina Dance Project, a nonprofit founded by Jan Van Dyke, head of UNCG's Department of Dance. Two years ago, the non-profit took over the City Arts dance program when city leaders decided they could no longer pay for it.
The Dance Project at City Arts now holds classes in tap, ballet, hip hop, contemporary and African dance for students of all ages. It's a community dance studio with a simple motto: All kinds of dance for all kinds of people.
The program is part of Van Dyke's efforts to nurture dance in Greensboro and throughout the state. The lessons train the next generation of dancers and provide gainful employment for the current generation, many of them dance graduate students and alumni.
Van Dyke wants the dancers who train in North Carolina to have the option to teach and perform here, rather than being forced to chase opportunities in New York or another established dance mecca. North Carolina has great training facilities, she says, but then everybody leaves.
Do you remember the dance rules we talked about? We have to express ourselves without using voices, Braswell tells her students. Sunlight streams in a wall of windows and glints off the polished wood floor.
Can you move just your head? Seven heads bobble.
Can you move just your shoulders?” Fourteen shoulders shimmy.
Can you move just your toes? Seventy toes wiggle.
One girl approaches Braswell. I have a puppy, she declares before returning to her place on the floor.
In addition to offering dance classes, The North Carolina Dance Project includes an annual statewide festival and a dance company, the Van Dyke Dance Group. The North Carolina Dance Festival, now in its 19th year, promotes dance by cultivating audiences, nurturing leadership in the field, and providing opportunities for performance and education.
Let me see your proud walks, Braswell says. Heads up! The girls march around the room, as haughty as girls their age can be.
Let me see upset. Heads and shoulders slump dejectedly. One girl sinks all the way to the floor.
Can you show me a jump for joy? The girls pogo up and down. Those are some good joy dance movements. Good job! Give yourselves a hand!
As her pupils file out of the studio, Braswell chats about teaching and her students, who have included a 66-year-old taking tap dancing lessons. They're all fun, she says.
She understands the 3-year-olds because that's how old she was when she started taking lessons herself. Memories of those lessons continue to inspire her today. I was a mess, a handful, she says. But you never know who's going to find a love for dance.
And the beat goes on
Watch young dancers in motion with a photo slideshow of this class.
Iconic bandmaster John Philip Sousa performed to a full Aycock Auditorium in November 1930, thrilling the crowd with his rousing marches and generous encores.
Generations later, Sousa's music still fills the historic space, thanks to UNCG Director of Bands Dr. John Locke and the UNCG Wind Ensemble.
This fall, the Wind Ensemble presented the concert A Tribute to John Phillip Sousa, replicating the experience that entertained Woman's College students and community members decades ago. Always a community favorite, the concert looked, felt and sounded like those Sousa conducted during the early decades of the 1900s, complete with musicians attired in period uniforms and the university's very own Sousa Locke himself.
The UNCG Wind Ensemble presents the concert about once every five years, and it has a history of standing-room-only crowds. By a long shot, it's the most popular event we have, Locke says.
In the band field, Sousa is an absolute icon, he adds. He's a combination of an incredible composer, a visionary entertainer and an extremely patriotic American.
Fred Chappell, former N.C. Poet Laureate and professor emeritus of English, still manages to innovate, as evidenced by his latest poetry collection, Shadow Box.
Within his Box, he weaves poems into poems, echoes musical techniques and resurrects the Latin Christian hymn. Chappell has in fact invented a fresh form, best described as nesting or embedding. Exploring such universal human themes as love, age, loss and memory, he embeds one poem within the framework or box of another.
Take a look.
The children race now here by the ivied fence,
gather squealing now there by the lily border.
The evening calms the quickened air, immense
and warm; its veil is pierced with fire. The order
of space discloses as pair by pair porch lights
carve shadows. Cool phosphors flare when dark
permits yearning to signal where, with spark
and pause and spark, the fireflies are, the sites
they spiral when they aspire, with carefree ardor
busy, to embrace a star that draws them thence.
Like children we stand and stare, watching the field
that twinkles where gold wisps fare to the end
of dusk, as the sudden sphere, ivory shield
aloft, of moon stands clear of the world's far bend.
Fans of Chappell's fiction should be on the lookout for his newest short story collection, Ancestors and Others, due out in November.
Hearing is believing
Listen to Fred Chappell and his wife, Susan, read Fireflies.
It's a creative job, and somebody has to do it.
Terry Kennedy '99 MFA, poet and associate director of the MFA Writing Program, has been named editor of storySouth, an online literary journal now in its eighth year. The founding editors of storySouth, Jason Sanford and Jake Adam York, handpicked Kennedy and the MFA program to take up the reins.
The well-respected online literary journal didn't really exist until they built storySouth, Kennedy says. For them to choose our creative writing program and us as the new caretakers of storySouth was a great honor. It says a lot about what we've done here at UNCG.
Kennedy is also editor of Spring Garden Press. Several UNCG alumni will assist Kennedy with storySouth. Julie Funderburk '94 MFA will edit poetry; Drew Perry '99 MFA, fiction; and Cynthia Nearman '95 MA, '02 PhD, creative nonfiction. Andrew Saulters '08 MFA will oversee design. The magazine will also add book reviews to the mix.
Visit www.storysouth.com to enjoy the magazine or submit your work online.