Alumni News

Syndicate content

Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Camille Keedy Malmquist '96

Send by email
Pastry chef

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

When most people think of creative arts, they often overlook the culinary arts. It is a realm of unlimited imaginative (and edible!) possibilities. Camille Keedy Malmquist ’96 works in one of the most demanding of the culinary arts, pastry-making—and she does that in Paris, where the best pastries in the world are made, in one of the best pâtisseries in that city.
 
Camille first moved to France to teach English after college, but what she loved best was cooking and baking. Back in the States, she pursued training in culinary school in California, and worked in restaurants and bakeries in Dallas. She and her husband then moved to Paris, with no jobs in hand. Every bake shop wanted experience in France, but finally the family-owned Pâtisserie Couderc took a chance on Camille. There she’s honed her pastry-making skills, and now she’s learning the art of chocolate.
 
“The recipes in the traditional French pastry shop where I work are based on classic techniques, practiced over and over. I have developed some new flavors for the chocolates, but mostly my creative outlet is cooking at home and writing my blog,” says Camille. “Creativity is very important in the pastry arts, though. Once you understand how the ingredients work and how they work together, you can start creating your own desserts with the flavors and textures you’re after.”
 
Camille doesn’t plan to live in Paris forever, and she’s contemplating opening an ice-cream or chocolate shop when she returns to the U.S. But for now, Camille enjoys the daily work in her corner of Paris, making food that makes people happy: “It feels good to produce something tangible with my hands every day. I love starting the day with crates of eggs and cream and flour and sugar, and finishing it with enough cake to serve hundreds of people. People serve desserts to mark important events, and it’s nice to feel that in some way, I’m part of the celebration.”
 

“My Catlin Gabel teachers Josée Overlie and Marie Letendre instilled in me a lifelong love of France and the French language. I went on to major in French literature in college, and my French language skills were a big part of the reason my husband and I decided to move to Paris.”

 

Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Jason Wesche '92

Send by email
Digital artist for animated movies

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

A love of theater, film, and architecture led Jason Wesche ’92 to a career in the movies.
 
Jason’s interest in theater flourished at Catlin Gabel, and he thought he’d pursue a path as a performer or director. But the film world called to him, and after college he moved to Los Angeles to work in the film industry. He worked for a feature film director, and then in the writer’s office of a TV show. When the show ended, Jason pursued his interest in design by earning a graduate degree in architecture. He used that experience to get a job designing not buildings, but movies, working in previsualization first at Pixel Liberation Front (on Iron Man and others) and now at Dreamworks Animation on films such as Megamind and Madagascar 3.
 
As it turns out, architects—and people with design backgrounds— are just the ones to work in previsualization. Previz, as it’s called, is a part of filmmaking that brings spatial reality into the 3D computer environment to efficiently plan shots and special effects. It creates a sort of low-resolution version of the movie.
 
It is an immensely creative phase of movie-making, appealing to people with many different skills. “I like it better than doing the final product,” says Jason. “We start with a storyboard, or sometimes just a general concept that we brainstorm. We set it up in the computer, animate the shots, try different things, show it to the director, and fine-tune the sequence—we get to go down a lot of paths before it goes into final animation.”
 
“It really fits how my creative process works, I feel likes it’s the perfect convergence of all my skills and interests.” he says. “We love feeling that we’ve helped make the movie better. If we can stand back and look at a final scene and see even one moment or beat that we’ve added, we feel very proud.”

"Catlin Gabel gave me space to explore and a foundation to build on. I can still trace a lot of my creative inclinations to my time there. My graduate school thesis grew out of interests I developed my freshman year in Robert Medley’s class."

 

Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Bianca Bosker '04

Send by email
Technology editor, Huffington Post

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

When news breaks about technology—Google, Facebook, security breaches, killer apps, Twitter—Bianca Bosker ’04 reports on it, day or dead of night, for web-based news site Huffington Post. The stories she loves best are the ones that haven’t been told before—the ones that tell people something they don’t know about the fast-moving and increasingly personal world of technology.
 
“People are faced with a lot of content on the web, and they can be choosy. I have to challenge myself to bring fresh information and a fresh perspective they didn’t have before,” she says. “I have to use language in powerful and compelling ways, to grab the reader’s attention so my idea can reach its full potential.”
 
The Huffington Post is leanly staffed, and Bianca exercises enormous creative control over her stories: she comes up with an idea, writes the story, chooses the accompanying image, writes the headline, and figures out how to tweet it and post it on Facebook to attract readers. Her best stories, she says, are about things that have made her wonder. That kind of curiosity, linked with good instincts and equally good writing skills, have made her a rising star in the media landscape.
 
Bianca was interested in writing and journalism from a young age. She co-wrote a book on the history of bowling when she was still at Catlin Gabel, and she’s written from Asia for the Wall St. Journal and the Far Eastern Economic Review. She’s working on yet another book, about the trend in China to create residential developments that are oddly inexact replicas of iconic cities around the world. And she loves her work. “I’m lucky to have a job where I want to keep teaching my readers something and keep learning myself,” she says.
 

“Catlin Gabel gave me the ability to write, one of the skills I’m most thankful for. I couldn’t do what I’m doing without Art Leo and Ginia King having been such supportive, honest critics of my writing.”

 

Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Peter Bromka '00

Send by email
Design researcher

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

As a human factors researcher at design firm IDEO, an award-winning global design firm, Peter Bromka ’00 thrives in an atmosphere where creativity is expected. IDEO’s mission is to help its clients innovate, from government agencies to consumer product manufacturers to schools and more.
 
Peter’s work in human factors is a perfect fit for someone with a degree in anthropology. His understanding of human behavior, combined with fluency in the arts, make Peter’s work greatly satisfying for him. “Human factors is about understanding how to make things that work well for people. It’s about how design impacts people’s lives,” says Peter. “How do they experience things in their day-to- day lives?”
 
Peter first thought advertising would be the right career for him—until he read about IDEO. But breaking into the field turned out to be a challenge: IDEO rejected his first application. So he studied product design for a summer at the Rhode Island School of Design: “It showed that I wasn’t afraid to sketch, and that I could strategize. I redesigned an umbrella, and stitched it together by hand.” That class, plus years of experience at another firm, ultimately led him to land a job at IDEO.
 
“In my role here I conduct the research and strategy for projects,” says Peter. “I work to understand people’s behaviors and identify opportunities for design.” For instance, he recently worked with a bank in Brazil—a country dubious about online security—to bring its online banking and customer interface into the present and future.
 
“Doing what I do, I’ve come to appreciate how much things could be better, and how much design can improve these situations, but also just how complex these challenges really are—how many people it takes to get something done successfully,” Peter says. “It’s changed the way I look at the world.”

“As a Catlin Gabel lifer, I’ve done art forever and gotten great exposure to art and design. Good art teachers teach you not to reject art in your life, even if you’re not perfect at it.”  

 

Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Joan Livingstone '66

Send by email
Artist and art educator

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

 “I understand the world through my body,” says artist Joan Livingstone ’66. Growing up in Portland, and going on camping trips with her family, she came to appreciate the Pacific Northwest’s rich, sensual landscape and the feeling of always knowing where she was in relation to the mountains and the ocean. Joan’s physical consciousness provides the underlying sensibility for her celebrated works of sculpture, which she creates mostly of felt and other tactile materials. Her compelling and complex works allude to skin, the body and its organs, and how we feel and experience time and place.
 
Becoming an adult in the turbulent 1960s, Joan appreciated how teachers at Catlin Gabel helped her become a rigorous thinker who could consider all sides of a question. She studied art at Catlin Gabel and worked at the Portland Art Museum during summers and on weekends. But it wasn’t until she was in college that she truly committed herself to becoming an artist.
 
Joan became involved in agit-prop theater in Portland with a group that performed Shakespeare as a protest against the war in Vietnam. She thought about how bodies relate to space and made huge woven or tiedyed cloth hangings that provided a big, physical landscape for the actors to navigate. Joan’s theater work reinforced her sense of the physical, and she has continued throughout her career to refine and translate that sense. “I continued making bodyscapes, creating an experience for viewers as they move through the gallery. It’s about providing forms with the qualities of skin, and privileging the sense of touch and the sense of the body being immersed in a space that is intimate,” she says.
 
Feminism was another powerful influencing force for Joan in its challenge to the visual art hierarchy. “When I was in graduate school at Cranbrook Academy, the language of the time in art was about minimalism and reduction. I challenged the status quo, which was about big, heavy metal works. My works were in a human scale rather than a monumental scale. I incorporated qualities of skin and hide and the physical body. It went against the grain,” she says.

 

 

 
“I moved to forming shapes that made you think of the body, that were shapes abstracted from the body,” says Joan. “I would suspend felt in an exoskeleton until a shape formed, and impregnate it with resin. It became a process of developing patterns cut from the felt that, when stitched under tension, would curve in space. This gave it the sensuous qualities of the body. I would then sand the surface so the nubby, hairy texture of the felt emerged. From a distance the forms looked hard, but soft when viewed up close, which created a contradiction.”
 
Joan moved to New York in the early ’70s, allied herself with artists doing free-form fiber sculpture, and began exhibiting her works in galleries. She immersed herself in the art scene there and has done so in all the places she’s lived and worked since. “It’s important for an artist to develop a community of trusted artists around you. Isolation is a myth,” she says. “Art is a dialogue—a conversation—between artists that happens every day to share new ideas and propositions. Critiques are really important and will trigger your thinking. That’s why I like big cities: you’re exposed to many points of view.”
 
“And then I was seduced into teaching,” Joan says. After a stint as visiting artist at the Kansas City Art Institute, she was invited to return and take over the fiber department for a year. That stretched into four years, and Joan found that she loved teaching. Her art also matured in Kansas City, thanks to cheap studio space to create large pieces and a steady income, as well as inspiration from a lively faculty and art community. After Joan’s time was up in Kansas, Cranbrook Academy in Detroit called her to chair its fiber arts department for two years and work with graduate students. When that position ended in 1982, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago recruited her as visiting artist. She continues there today as a tenured faculty member of the fiber and material studies department. “I couldn’t be in a better place,” she says. “With my colleagues we have developed one of the strongest fiber programs in the world, for both graduates and undergraduates. It’s extremely rewarding to find parallel intellectual stimulation with my studio practice.”
 
Joan has just finished her sixth and last year in SAIC as dean of undergraduate studies. She plans to take a sabbatical year and make her fifth visit to India, a place that has always fascinated her, to study, do a residency, and make art. “In India there’s an extensive history of textiles and a long trade in them. I’m interested in the way the people there pay attention to the gods on a daily basis, the rituals, the amazing spaces, the maximal decoration, the earthiness of the culture, and the ubiquitous presence of the body,” she says.
 
During her many years teaching, Joan continued to produce works in her studio, show her work in galleries and museums, and earn significant awards and critical attention. As dean at SAIC she didn’t have much time to spend in her studio, and now she’s eager to get back to work and excited about the possibilities.
 
“So now I choose to return to the studio. I’m a little nervous about it. I need to do art daily. I live in an environment of art and have been drawing and making some prints,” says Joan. “I read enormously and voraciously. It’s a creative act for me. I write in my journal. Art is about responding and reflecting on the times in which we live. It’s about paying attention to who and where we are in the world. Paying attention is a fundamental part—not just in your studio but in your community and in the huge international world. Being able to absorb, internalize, and respond is what artists do. They show us the world in which we live.
 
“As I return to the studio full time, I’ll ask myself how to bring all this rich information back into it. I think I’ll take some risks and allow myself to play. It’s a huge risk to have no goal, to let the work evolve from the tip of my nose to the corners of my eyes. I’m not abandoning where I was. My new work will be an extension of where I’ve been. I’ll probably look at where I live and the skins of my neighborhood. But I’m also itching to make forms. I want to do casting, and I also want to engage other materials. I will continue to stay engaged with the body and the world.
 
“During my education and during the feminist movement I was deeply influenced by the notion that I could do work as a woman and as a woman in the world. I keep that close. But the phenomenological aspects of how we know the world—through senses, touching, and materials—is what’s critical. I’ve been an artist now for a long time. I know I’m not really afraid. Learning to trust myself and take risks is the most important part.”
 

"I am indebted to Catlin Gabel. It was better than my college education. It was about learning to ask the right questions and not accepting preconceptions, finding areas of inquiry, and pressing on the status quo. It made all of us hungry to learn."

 
Images of Joan Livingstone's artworks: Top: At Capacity, 1998-2001, felt, stain, epoxy, resin, rubber, pigment, metal. Bottom: From Migrations installation, 2004, mixed media, courtesy Laura Russo Gallery
 
For more about Joan, visit joanlivingstone.com

 

Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Valerie Day '77

Send by email
Jazz singer

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

Underneath the recent rap song “Buzzin” by Mann and 50 Cent are a catchy bass line and vocals that you will never get out of your head. Although the music is new to some young folks, that sample of timeless dance-pop was lifted from a 1986 megahit, “I Can’t Wait,” which has taken on a life of its own. In 2009, according to Billboard, the song played somewhere on earth every 11 minutes. The group that recorded it was Nu Shooz, and the singer was Valerie Day ’77.
 
Valerie and her husband, John Smith, won quick fame and were thrust into its attendant whirl after “I Can’t Wait” exploded onto the European and American charts. They earned a Grammy nomination for best new artist in 1987. But fame doesn’t last, and it’s not pretty. “We worked really hard to get where we were, and fame turned out very different from what we had expected,” says Valerie. “It’s taken me a long time to sort it all out.”
 
What she figured out is that an artist has to evolve—and she’s never stopped refining her art and her skills. Valerie has evolved into a compelling and breathtaking singer and performer who has played solo, with bands, as a session musician, and with her latest project with John, the Nu Shooz Orchestra.
 
Along her path, Valerie has become a wise observer of her own and other people’s creative processes, a philosopher as well as a practitioner of the arts. “I’m a perfectionist by nature, so I’ve learned that you have to enjoy yourself and delight yourself. Being able to be flexible and be in the moment is important, even if you know it’s going to go away,” she says.
 
One of Valerie’s recent projects was “Brain Chemistry for Lovers,” a product of her curiosity and ability to connect disparate ideas and disciplines. She studied the neuroscience of different phases of love and presented it in a performance, interwoven with songs exemplifying the emotion of those phases, from steamy torch songs to melancholy breakup songs. “People think that creativity means the arts, but this project made me realize that scientists are just as creative as musicians. They have to look outside the box—or expand it completely.”
 
Although she’s worked in many musical genres, Valerie started out in jazz, and that’s her favorite place to be. “Jazz is satisfyingly complex,” she says. Right now she’s working with a team to create a vocal jazz degree program at Portland State University, and she’ll teach students to become contemporary vocalists.
 
Valerie is also a prominent activist for arts education in the schools: “There’s so much evidence about what a positive effect the arts have. I think everyone can be creative, but learning an artistic discipline in school teaches you to look at things in a different way throughout your life.”
 
As a longtime singing teacher, from beginning through professional, Valerie is particularly sensitive to what her instruction means to her students. “Learning to sing teaches you to be brave. Once you face your fears and do what you’re compelled to do, that leap of faith expands your world,” she says. “I teach professional singers how to value internal measurement in their lives—what they feel compelled to do, what they love, how they want to improve—not how people measure you externally. Music is not easy as a vocation, but it’s worth it.”
 
“Learning how to work with others successfully in music is a huge learning experience that can be applied to other vocations,” says Valerie. “Lots of doctors and scientists and business people use arts as a balance in their lives. Music and art can be a prescription, and there’s a different prescription for every person. The arts can help you find your voice and nourish you. It’s definitely medicine for the soul.”
 

“Catlin Gabel was a big part of my being creative. I was interested in telling a story through dance, music, and visual arts, and I got that all at Catlin Gabel. I learned how to think and ask questions and not just go along with someone else’s program. You only have one life. To make the most of it is a creative act in itself.”

Valerie Day portrait by Sherri Diteman

 

 

Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Frank Boyden '60

Send by email
Visual artist: ceramics, prints, sculpture, public art

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

The art of Frank Boyden ’60 derives its considerable soul from his powers of observation and thoughtful response to his environment. His particular environment happens to be spectacular—where the Salmon River flows into the Pacific Ocean in Otis, Oregon. The ocean-battered wood, the tracks of sea birds, the motions of fish, the gulls both alive and skeletal, the wind-swept trees and their gnarled roots all find their way into his huge body of work, from prints to ceramics, sculpture, and public art.
 
Frank’s works have earned him an international reputation as a ceramics master and an artist who conveys beauty, wit, and a keen sense of place. During his long career in the arts he has also garnered a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and an Oregon Governor’s Art Award, and his work can be found in museum collections worldwide. He brought all that attention right back home when he founded the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology in the place he loves. Walks on these local beaches, marshes, and tidal flats inspire Frank and lead him to think about art and creativity, and how we teach our children.
 
“While I walk, I observe what’s around me and try to be continuously cognizant of color, pattern, the density of darks and lights, what I’m about to trip over. I never know what I might find that’s worth exploring. Young learners automatically have that kind of attention, which you must reinforce and reinforce,” says Frank.
 

Vase by Frank Boyden '60
“You have to ask young learners, ‘Why did you pick up that stone? Was it because it was spiky, or smooth, or translucent?’ It’s because something inherent in you says that these surfaces or colors are important to you in this moment in life. A good teacher asks a child, ‘How do you translate what you’re seeing and feeling into a statement that allows you to speak about what you’re seeing and feeling about this object, or about the sky, or about the water?’
 
“A mature artist makes a sequence of work, one feeding into another, and another. Maybe we go and do something crazy that we haven’t done before. Maybe it’s an accident and we can see that it’s important for our work right now. That’s how we grow as artists. The work gets deeper and denser, so you can express ideas in a more encapsulated way, in a way that’s less complex, with a stronger statement.
 
“If you live someplace and want to creatively experience that place, you need to be as responsive as possible about it and highly observant. You have to look at what’s going on, what the causes and effects are of the dynamics of that space, whether it’s a city, a valley, or a kitchen. I base a lot of my work on how these things I observe work together. How can I use my experience to say something about the relationships or the object or the space that is new?
 
“It’s like poetry. A great poet will take an idea and express it with a set of words we all know, but you don’t have any choice but to see the idea in a different light. That’s what artists do. By painting or drawing in a certain way you demand that people see an idea in a brand-new light. You made it look new because you tried hard to understand it. You’re broadening people’s abilities to perceive. That’s the mission of building an arts center. You’re teaching kids to widen other people’s perspective on the world.”

"Catlin Gabel exposes people to all sorts of possibilities. To be versed in math or science you have to know the rules, but in the arts you don’t necessarily have rules. What we do have are ways of granting permission to students to think outside of what’s normally expected of them."

 

 

Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Tom Bussey '87

Send by email
Technical director of unique environments and events

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

Think big. Really big. Like Y2K New Year’s Eve in Manhattan, New York City’s September 11 “Prayer for America” memorial at Yankee Stadium, Disney’s international tour of Tarzan. These gigantic events have one thing in common: Tom Bussey ’87 was technical director for all of them.
 
As founder, principal, technical supervisor, creative facilitator, and producer for his company Production Glue, Tom and his crew’s work encompasses installations, live broadcasts, Broadway theater, corporate events, meetings, what they describe as “spectacles and extravaganzas,” and more. For all these Tom draws on his extensive background in theater—which started back in his days at Catlin Gabel.
 
Tom flourished doing lighting design at Catlin Gabel. He tried to escape theater at Pitzer College, but he realized it truly was his passion. He went on to graduate school at the Yale School of Drama (where he has since taught as guest lecturer). The next step for Tom was working in Broadway theater.
 
From there Tom progressed into industrial or corporate theater. “It fueled my passion, and it helped us create our company,” he says. “In legitimate theater I had more responsibility on the technical side of realizing a vision. In the corporate world I have more vision and more input.
 
“What’s exciting about what we do is that we get to create unique experiences and environments. We take existing technology and elements such as lights and stages, and we put them together, from a technical standpoint, in new ways.”
 
The work is intensely creative and collaborative. “Depending on the project, either we bring our design side or work with the company’s designers,” says Tom. “We have input collectively to create the sets. There’s so much involved, including physics and math, and artistry. Every project is always different. Back to what Robert Medley always said, a good theater tech is a jack of all trades and a master of none.”
 

"Catlin Gabel’s theater arts program and Robert Medley’s guidance gave me the foundation for my professional life. At CGS I learned the value of learning by doing. It’s a principle that still holds true for me."

 

Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Jennifer Choi '92

Send by email
New music and classical violinist

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

As a young girl, Jennifer Choi ’92 diligently practiced classical music on her violin. But when she’d go to the symphony with her parents, the unique, contemporary works were the ones that got to her. At home she’d pick out odd, atonal music on the piano, and revel in its coolness. That unconventional ear of hers has set the pace for her career as one of the most skilled and adventurous performers on the international classical and new music scene.
 
Playing in student groups at Oberlin and Juilliard, Jennifer continued to savor the works of new composers such as John Corigliano and John Adams, and innovative figures such as John Zorn and Wadada Leo Smith, who sought her out to play their works and honor her with solo pieces. Working with living composers brought a freshness and depth to her performances: “Being able to work closely with a composer so that you understand the sound concept he or she has in mind, and its meaning, creates a special bond,” says Jennifer. “After understanding a work so closely, the performances become more meaningful and animated.”
 
Jennifer’s career and critical acclaim continue to grow as she performs worldwide, both solo and with ensembles. The works she plays often demand that she break the bounds of conventional technique, often incorporating electronics and improvisation—the most exciting part for her. “Improvisation is the most creative thing a musician can do because it’s all about creating music in the moment and making it work.”
 
Jennifer is relieved that she finally acknowledged her natural gift for the avant-garde, after first struggling to embrace it, and glad to have avid listeners for the challenging music she plays. “Audiences have become much more open-minded and accustomed to multiple and cross genres, and as always appreciative of great art and great music,” she says.
 

“Catlin Gabel had a big influence in my musical choices: any project I take on has to be musically rewarding and at the same time enrich my life.”

 

Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Eric Edwards '71

Send by email
Cameraman (aka director of photography, cinematographer)

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

The emotion of a film, the way a viewer is pulled in or made to feel a distance, has a lot to do with the way it looks. Imagine film noir in cheerful, gleaming light, or a feel-good movie done in dark, forbidding tones. The director of photography, working with the director’s vision, determines the look of a film. Eric Edwards ’71 is known for the skillful and creative way he interprets that vision, ranging from small indie films to big-budget studio features.
 
Eric loved photography and art while he was at Catlin Gabel. He and his good friend Gus Van Sant ’71—now a famed director—had the freedom to take over a room in the art department and produce screenprints together, including an eight-page centerfold for their yearbook. They did several short films together, including a 20-minute short for Winterim. Eric and Gus both went on to the Rhode Island School of Design, and after two years in photography Eric joined Gus in the film department. “My interest in film had something to do with my interest in cameras: I liked the mechanical as much as the aesthetic aspect,” says Eric. “And I remember Gus and me sitting in a cinema in Providence watching A Clockwork Orange and Mean Streets. In the early ’70s we watched lots of European films and cinema vérité and witnessed the greatest cinema you could look at. My attention to lighting and photography came from the Europeans.”
 
Eric returned to Portland and shot local indie films Property and Paydirt. A director named Eagle Pennell noticed his work at the 1982 Sundance Festival, and Eric shot two films for him that got a lot of press. Then Eric got an important break: he was invited four years in a row to the Sundance Institute June laboratory in Utah for intense workshops in filmmaking with actors and directors. “It was a heady experience for me, like summer camp with a dream team of seasoned people you’ve admired in film,” he says. “I got to witness the process thoroughly and deeply. After that, I was ready to move on with my career.”
 
Eric’s career did bloom after Sundance. Gus asked him to shoot My Own Private Idaho in 1991. “People hired me because of My Own Private Idaho,” says Eric. “It was a seminal film. I used natural light and timelapse photography, before a lot of other people used it, and extreme use of close-ups. My Own Private Idaho was Gus’s vision, but I responded to that. You’re only as good as your director and the people you’re with.”
 
Since that film Eric shot two more for Gus, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and To Die For. Many of the films he shot brought critical attention, and his reputation began to grow. Eric has since become accepted by Hollywood studios and in the past five years has shot enormous features such as The Break-Up and Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up, in addition to the small films he continues to enjoy. “In indie films you get to be original, stylistically explore different attitudes, and fail on a smaller level. But all my work is really creative,” he says.
 
“I’m driven by the directors I work with, and somewhat by the technical challenges. Every director speaks a unique artistic language. They’ve all been amazing and interesting on every level. It’s all still fascinating to me.
 
“I’m relied on to make judgment calls all throughout the making of a film. Lighting is an aesthetic choice, but it’s also technical,” Eric says. “But art in itself is technical. Every artist works through some kind of technology. It’s all a gamble, even with the guy with a paintbrush.”

"Catlin Gabel had a definite influence on what I do now. We learned a lot, especially from art teachers Kim Hartzell and Susan Barr Sowles."

Top photo: Eric Edwards '71 on the set of The Change-Up, directed by David Dobkin. Photo: Bob Mahoney/Universal Pictures

Arts Are at the Core

Send by email

By Nance Leonhardt

From the Summer 2011 Caller

In these troubled times “arts are at the core” are fighting words. My morning commute is peppered with reminders of the campaign to save the arts in schools. From the Campfire billboard offering to paste back what has been cut in schools, to my neighbor’s Subaru packed to the gills with supplies she’ll need to teach her son’s after-school art class, the evidence is clear: we are blessed to be at Catlin Gabel School.
 
Arts have been at the core of Catlin Gabel’s philosophical and pedagogical underpinnings since day one.
 
From Priscilla Gabel’s earliest writings: Let him daily tell or write or sing or dance or act or paint all that he has seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted. We aim to develop in each child an inquiring mind that wants to search out facts and truths about the world in which we live.
 
To Lark Palma’s current charge: We want to create conditions that support students to know the power of their own ideas, develop new-to-them ways of doing things, and be able to think inventively.
 
The arts are inherent to the culture of teaching and learning across this campus. The approach leaves an indelible signature on our alumni, many of whom may never set foot in a ceramics studio again, but when faced with a professional dilemma will conjure the memory of wrangling a shapeless mass of mud and water into a sleek vessel under Judy Teufel’s watchful eye. They will remember how the idea was so clear in their mind and slipped away so easily once the wheel began turning. The feel of the clay veering determinedly off course and then, with persistence and a steady hand, the sense of it righting itself as the circuit came to a close. They will not only remember the success, they will remember the journey and the dividends its lessons paid.
 
For some alumni, their Catlin Gabel arts education sparks something more, a lifelong commitment to the creative process. In addition to those profiled in this Caller, notable alumni include filmmaker Gus Van Sant ’71, opera director Elizabeth Bachman ’74, painter Margot Voorhies Thompson ’66, Broadway lighting designer Carl Faber ’01, and Pixar animator Nathan Matsuda ’03. We send an increasing number of students to colleges with exceptional (and competitive) arts programs: last year that list included the Rhode Island School of Design, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the California Institute for the Arts, the University of Southern California Schools of Music and of Cinematic Arts, and Cooper Union. Our faculty would never claim these achievements as personal trophies, but like any parent we can certainly feel pride in our ability to cultivate talent and act as stewards of the values that enable these kinds of minds to grow and thrive.
 
Our 15-member arts department attests: from preschool through 12th grade the arts are alive and well at Catlin Gabel. Following Priscilla Gabel’s directive, we weave creative habits of mind into the daily experiences of our student body. Students learn to know themselves and the power of their ideas through our various disciplines. We identify with our students and have the unique opportunity to collaborate with them.
 
Last February I had the pleasure of sitting with my colleagues and devoting two days to exploring our professional practice. Rob and Elizabeth Whittemore, professors and parents of CGS alumni, led us through a series of discussions and reflective writing activities to help tease out our core values. We asked ourselves the big questions: What is the essence of what we do? How do we scaffold this individually and as a department? How do preschooolers with pipe cleaners and pine needles evolve into regional and national Scholastic Gold Key art award winners? How does the shy and awkward 6th grader leap on to center stage as a junior in The Fantasticks? In a program as rich and varied as ours, what are the universal truths behind our diverse methodologies and media?
 

Create , Perform, Respond

 
CPR are three little letters that communicate our directive to revive the imagination day after day, year after year. Our program is about process, the cycle of inspiration leading to action leading to reflection. Like the wheel in the potter’s studio, ideas follow a circuit, and results emerge before our eyes. We guide students’ explorations of the tools and skills needed to perform, and we offer prompts from various sources (art history, current events, poetry, student-generated themes) to draw out their unique points of view as thinkers. More specifically, we agreed that regardless of medium (instrumental music, film production, oil painting, woodworking, lighting design) we shelter our students’ development under the following core values:
 
Community building and trust
Creative problem solving
Collaboration
Risk taking and resiliency
Finding voice
Valuing process
 
How this plays out at the classroom level is as varied as our subject areas. In the Middle School, every student participates in a full complement of arts offerings annually, including instrumental music, fine art, theater, woodworking, and media and graphic arts. Our Upper School program offers more than 30 electives in the realms of drama, technical theater, narrative and documentary filmmaking, painting, printmaking, chamber choir, jazz band, photography, ceramics, and more.
 
Perhaps nothing espouses the value of community building and trust more than the Middle School theater program, developed by traditions of St. George and Gilbert and Sullivan, Middle Schoolers perform in more than 14 productions yearly. Deirdre Atkinson creates a safe, energetic environment that allows students to tackle everything from 20-minute renditions of Shakespeare to developing their own plays through a method called devising. When devising, an anything-goes approach allows students the creative space to brainstorm theme, share ideas on visual and auditory components, and physically construct a representation of their thoughts on the chosen topic. Whether it’s a piece on immigration, cyber-bullying, or gender identity, the students proudly step forth in front of packed audiences to share their message and engage the community in a wider dialogue.
 
In the Upper School, students in Laurie Carlyon-Ward’s honors art seminar engage in a three-semester quest to produce a portfolio of work that reflects the development of their voice as an artist. Visitors to the gallery in the Cabell Center foyer in May see the culmination of this process with displays that include self-portraits, figure drawing, journals, and a personal statement. Whether it’s Mary Bishop 11’s use of line and color to depict her musings on women’s Western attire, or the fleshy graphite textures of Kashi Tamang ’11’s portrait subjects, their voices are etched in the gallery space as distinctly as fingerprints on glass.
 

The Space to Collaborate and Connect

 
As colleagues we deeply value the collaborative avenues opened by the artistic process. For the Middle and Upper Schools, physical proximity places limits on the depth and frequency of our and our students’ opportunity to mingle creatively. We have moments of incredible synergy—like when a student in Mark Pritchard’s music composition class works on a score for one of my student’s films or sound design for one of Deirdre’s plays. Collaboration is a core value, yet restrictions of time and distance push these moments to the periphery.
 
As education theorist Heidi Hayes Jacobs observes, the most authentic integrations are those driven by the students themselves. Picture the student dance group working in conjunction with photographers to build a multimedia performance for the Diversity Conference, the painter developing a mural for the math building based on mathematical algorithms, a group designing sustainable furniture for community partners. Our students are already making these things happen—we’ve fostered that habit of mind in spite of limited physical space. The legacy of Priscilla Gabel is most alive in these moments. Imagine the future where our core values move to the physical core of our campus—a space where the creative process can be witnessed by our community at large, where distinct voices of student artists and musicians meld into a dynamic cacophony of inspiration, and where collaboration and creative risk-taking can thrive, unbridled.
 
Nance Leonhardt teaches Upper School media arts.  

 

A Campaign for Arts & Minds

Send by email

From the Summer 2011 Caller

In this issue you will meet some of our most creative and talented alumni, all of whom found their time at Catlin Gabel important to their creative development. Creative freedom takes place in the science lab as much as it does in the painting and drawing studio. The way the robotics team comes together to map out their technical strategy for competition is akin to drama students coming together to write, cast, stage, and perform their annual one-act plays. And the thought process a student uses to troubleshoot a buggy line of code in computer science class involves the same set of synapses as when that same student tries to figure out why her timing is off in her original film score.

Exercising the creative mind is at the core of a Catlin Gabel education. We are currently in the leadership phase of a capital campaign to raise the necessary funds to elevate this commitment to our students and their education. Catlin Gabel’s Campaign for Arts and Minds has two components: building our endowment, with special emphasis on financial aid, and building a new Creative Arts Center for the Middle and Upper Schools.
 
The campaign began quietly in the fall of 2007 and has picked up momentum during the past year. Our most loyal and engaged donors have stepped up to the challenge of investing in our students, their creative minds, and their bright futures.
 

THE ENDOWMENT

As the campaign continues, we will tell you more in future issues of the Caller about the enormous effect that our various endowed funds have on our community. With an emphasis on building endowed funds for financial aid and for general purposes, this campaign effort experienced strong growth over the past year with a lead gift from Phil and Penny Knight. As of June 30, all of our endowed funds were valued at $21,800,000.
 

THE CREATIVE ARTS CENTER

“The arts are a core of Catlin Gabel’s philosophy and are key to a well-rounded education. In no other discipline do critical thinking, problem-solving, predicting outcomes, analyzing, re-assessing, and creativity come together as they do in the arts. . . . The intellectual challenges posed by visual art, music, and theater facilitate learning in all other disciplines. These vital pursuits help make our children more thoughtful, interesting, and well-rounded—and create a life of more profundity and beauty for all of us.” —Lark Palma, head of school
 

As you’ll discover in this issue, Catlin Gabel alumni have the creative bug. They credit their time on campus, their teachers, and their progressive education for influencing their ability to create and innovate in life and in work. If organizations should play to their strengths, then Catlin Gabel’s commitment to building a creative arts center for the Middle and Upper Schools is our way of demonstrating how fundamental creativity is to our educational philosophy.
Above: Creative Arts Center facade; right, aerial view; below, lobby.

 

CREATIVE ARTS CENTER HISTORY

Catlin Gabel has dreamed about a creative arts center, one that consolidates the visual, music, and drama classrooms scattered around campus, for the last 20 years. In the late 1980s, then-headmaster Jim Scott spoke seriously about bringing all the arts under one roof. And ever since current head Lark Palma set foot on campus in 1995, it was abundantly clear to her, a veteran drama teacher, that the arts facilities needed updating.
 
And the need has continued to grow. During the past two decades, the school and our arts offerings have grown, but the square footage per student dedicated to the arts has decreased. The lack of adequate space for teaching the arts has been singled out as an important area for improvement in our last two accreditation reports by the Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools.
 
Finally, in 2007, Lark and the board of trustees, with input from the Catlin Gabel community, decided we could not put this off any longer. Planning for a new Creative Arts Center began in earnest that spring, led by a committee of staff, faculty, alumni, and trustees. The arts department faculty developed a set of needs and a vision for the art curriculum. Committee members visited peer schools up and down the West Coast and gathered data on best practices. All of this good work informed the original building design presented to the community in the fall of 2008 (see that issue of the Caller). Unfortunately, efforts fell short of the mark, and this initial Arts Center design did not fulfill all the programmatic and aesthetic requirements.
 
As the designs were being finalized, fundraising began in early 2008 just as winds from the looming “Great Recession” began to stir. The weak economic conditions of 2008 and 2009 exacerbated the tepid community response to the initial building design, forcing the school to make the hard yet courageous decision to pause the project so we could reevaluate and regroup.
 
In early 2010, with a year passed and time to reflect on the initial launch, the school brought the project out of hibernation. The recession had officially ended, and both enrollment and the Annual Fund were healthy. This renewed economic outlook served as a signal for the school to refocus on the project and explore new opportunities.
 
With a chance meeting between former trustee Jim John and world-renowned Portland architect Brad Cloepfil (see “Allied Works,” at right), a new phase to the project began. Brad had just finished high-profile arts projects in New York City, Montreal, and Dallas and was looking for a project back on his home turf. Jim, a seasoned developer and builder, thought that Brad would be just the person to reignite our Arts Center with a fresh and inspired design. We hope you’ll agree, when you see the design renderings, that Brad and his team delivered the right design at the right time.
 

MORE ROOM FOR CREATIVE ARTS

For US visual art, US choir, US media arts, MS drama, MS music, MS visual art
Current Square Footage: 6,786
Future Art Square Footage: 20,000
 
Creative Arts Center Layout Main Level
Gallery
Courtyard (outdoor)
Media Arts
Theater Control Room
MS Visual Arts
US Visual Arts
Shared print room
3D Studio
 
Lower Level
Black Box Theater (two levels)
Theater Tech Space
Drama Classroom
Instrumental Room
Choir Room
Music Laboratory
Practice Rooms
Instrument Storage Lockers  

GROUNDBREAKING

We expect to break ground in the fall of 2012, and the project will take about 15 months to build. This timeline is dictated entirely by how quickly our community raises the funds for design and construction. The overall project budget is estimated at $6.9 million. Prudently, our board mandates that we raise 80% of projected costs in pledges in order to break ground. As of June 30 we are just shy of having raised half of this amount, with approximately $2.3 million to go. We will look toward leadership donors this summer and fall to get us there. Please contact development director Eileen Andersen, 503-297-1894 ext. 306 or andersene@catlin.edu, to to learn more about our fundraising efforts. Catlin Gabel funds major capital projects entirely through contributions.
 
The board and administration’s conservative fiscal management has positioned the school with zero outstanding debt after completing the major construction projects of the past 20 years. The Murphy Athletic Complex, Warren Middle School, the Beehive, and most of the Upper School buildings were built without incurring debt. While this is unusual in the sea of heavily financed cultural projects throughout the city and region, it’s a distinction that makes us proud and contributes to the school’s financial health.
 

LAUNCH OF THE NEW PROJECT

The original project phase used a “design-build” strategy, where the school would contract with one firm that managed both the design and construction processes. This contractor, the Arts Center design committee, and the greater Catlin Gabel community vetted and chose the original designer after a thorough series of design proposals and presentations from a long list of architectural firms. When this second phase of the project began in early 2010, all the criteria and specifications for the building established by the committee and arts faculty in 2007 could be transferred to the new architect. This streamlined the hiring of the current designer, Allied Works Architecture. More important, this allowed us to save on the normally high costs of the schematic design phase and significantly shorten the project timeline. With the new project phase ready to launch, the school sought more project control and opted to engage both the contractor and architect directly, using separate contracts. The new arrangement encourages a healthy tension between our builder and architect by forcing both parties to balance the budget.
 

James E. John Construction

James E. John Construction (JEJ), the project general contractor, is a subsidiary of C. E. John Company, Inc., a diversified real estate development and management firm founded in 1947. Although JEJ is known for its Class A office and retail projects, it became clear early in the process that the firm not only had the talent and the resources to build a Brad Cloepfil building, but a keen understanding of how the new classrooms and spaces fit the needs of students and teachers. Current parent and former trustee Jim John, the project principal, provides close and careful management.
 

Allied Works

We are privileged to have our building designed by a world-renowned museum and creative space architect. Brad Cloepfil and his Allied Works Architecture team developed what has been overwhelmingly received by our community as an inspired, practical, and beautiful design. Portland native Brad Cloepfil studied architecture at the University of Oregon and earned an advanced degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture. In fact, his teacher and mentor at Oregon was Thomas Hacker, the principal architect and master planner for much of the Upper School you see today, including the Miller Library and Hillman Modern Languages buildings. Since Brad founded Allied Works in 1994, he has won commissions for some of the highest-profile cultural projects across the country, from the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis to the adaptive reuse of Manhattan’s Museum of Arts and Design on Columbus Circle. His West Coast projects include the renovated headquarters of Wieden + Kennedy in Portland’s Pearl District, the Seattle Art Museum, and a recently completed expansion of the Pixar Animation Studios headquarters in Emeryville, California. Allied Works’ art education facilities include the award-winning Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas (alumnae include Nora Jones, Edie Brickell, and Erykah Badu), the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and the Caldera Arts Center in Sisters, Oregon. “Catlin Gabel’s project for the new arts building means a tremendous amount to me,” says Brad. “To build on that beautiful campus, with the legacy of great architecture by John Storrs and Thomas Hacker, is a true gift. We have worked with faculty and students to create a building that will be a beautiful catalyst for creativity, not only in the visual and performing arts, but for the entire curriculum of the school. It truly is a laboratory, one that will encourage the students to develop new ideas and forms of expression.”
 

 

A New Creative Arts Center– Now is the Time

Send by email

By Lark P. Palma, head of school

From the Summer 2011 Caller

Our alumni will tell you: Catlin Gabel taught them habits of thinking and new ways to question their world—and new ways to practice and develop their innate creativity. These skills of thinking and creating serve them well as the basis for fulfilling careers and satisfying lives. And in fact these days, as the world quickly changes, creativity is fast becoming the skill that colleges, graduate schools, and employers look for first. In a time of rapid change, those who adapt and flourish best are those flexible thinkers who are not afraid of innovation.
 
There is no discipline better than the arts to encourage and develop creativity. Our classes in music, theater, visual art, media art, and woodshop call upon our students to stretch themselves, take enormous leaps, and learn to express themselves through mediums that are often unfamiliar, and scary at times. A blank canvas, a role in a play, an assignment to make a music video, an instrument they’ve never played before—all demand courage and a connection between brain, hand, and heart.
 
We’ve done amazingly well at Catlin Gabel over the years in providing places for creativity to take hold. But we can do better. You’ll read in this issue about our plans to build a new creative arts center. And I couldn’t be more thrilled to present these plans to you. I believe that this is what Catlin Gabel needs most right now, and I hope that my conviction and enthusiasm for this project will grab you, too.
 
As you walk our campus, you see students of all ages benefiting from the facilities we’ve built, such as our light-filled Miller Library, our Warren Middle School with its wonderful gathering space, the well-loved Lower School Art Barn, and Upper School science labs where authentic, original research is taking place. But our Middle and Upper School arts programs sorely lack the facilities they need to best help our students expand their creative skills.
 
We all gladly do what we can with what we have on campus. But it makes my heart sink to see our Middle Schoolers performing in the tiny, dilapidated Chipmunk Hollow, or watch Upper School students painting, printmaking, and drawing in a room that can’t accommodate a large work of art. It’s time for us to provide something more in keeping with our ambitions for our students.
 
By providing a center for creativity, we will send our students out in the world prepared to navigate a new landscape. Last year Newsweek published a feature story about the creativity crisis, noting that the U.S. is losing its status as the nation of ideas that others imitate. Fortune 500 companies must know it, because many now administer creativity tests to future employees. Colleges and universities realize this: among others, Princeton, Brown, Pomona, and Stanford are also building creative arts centers. Important discoveries in science, exceptional business models, and successes of all kinds are born from the wellspring of creativity—the new, the great idea.
 
In our new creative arts center, the free flow of thought, creative energy, and mixture of all the arts in true collaboration will help forge the kinds of minds that generate big ideas. Our students will build on those habits of creativity and confidence to be poised for innovation—in fields that include science, math, technology, and engineering. We have to make sure that our children can create jobs for themselves that don’t even exist yet, and that they have the fire and drive, fueled by creative thinking, to make a difference in this world. Let’s give our students the creative boost they need to succeed.

 

 

Summer Programs has a few spaces available

Send by email
Classes begin Tuesday, July 5

Classes for kids of all ages!

Review our catalog (below) for course descriptions. 

Enroll today! Tell your friends!

Contact Len Carr, program director, for additional information.

Summer Programs ~ our difference is learning

Thanks to all: Annual Fund reaches goal

Send by email

We did it! The Annual Fund reached its $935,000 goal!
Thank you to everyone who participated and gave so generously this year.

For additional information about annual giving, please contact:
Sara Case
Annual giving program director
8825 SW Barnes Road
Portland OR 97225
503-297-1894 ext. 423
casesa@catlin.edu

Catlin Gabel students help Michelle Obama fight AIDS in Botswana

Send by email

Catlin Gabel students helped paint a mural to welcome First Lady Michelle Obama to Botswana. The First Lady visited the Botswana-Baylor Centre for Children’s Excellence to highlight the organization’s efforts to develop a new treatment and counseling facility for HIV+ teens.

Thirteen students assisted local artist Lesedi to sketch and paint traditional Botswana figures, designs and backgrounds on a 30m concrete wall. The group also developed educational play activities for HIV+ youth awaiting treatment and counseling appointments.

In addition to the Baylor Centre, Catlin Gabel students provided support to the Maru-a-Pula Orphans and Vulnerable Children Fund, SOS Children’s Village, a health clinic in Thabala, and high school students in Gumare. Students met with Dr. Ava Avalos of the Ministry of Health and Thobo Mogojwe of PING (Positive Innovation for the Next Generation).

The Botswana-Baylor Centre is one of many partnerships between the Ministry of Health and international organizations, part of a coordinated, national effort to combat AIDS. Approximately 30% of all adults in Botswana are infected with HIV.

Each year, Catlin Gabel welcomes one Maru-a-Pula exchange student to Oregon. Catlin Gabel students are currently traveling through Botswana as part of the school’s global education program.

Further information:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13910916
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/24/us-obama-botswana-idUSTRE75N6DA20110624
http://www.bipai.org/
http://botswanateenclub.wordpress.com/
http://maruapula.org/support-map/orphans-vulnerable-children-bursary-fund
 

Angel Foster '91 thanks school from Tunisia

Send by email
Listen to Angel's remarks

Dr. Angel Foster '91 received the Distinguished Younger Alumni Award for her leadership in the field of reproductive health. Angel, who was unable to attend the awards ceremony because she was in Tunisia, sent her remarks digitally.

The Distinguished Younger Alumni Award is granted to Catlin Gabel graduates or former students who have achieved much in the arena of professional accomplishments or social service before the age of 40.

Audio: 

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

Alumni Weekend 2011 Photo Gallery

Send by email
June, 17, 18, 19

On Friday evening we honored award recipients Brenda Miller Olson, David Shipley '81, Roz Nelson Babener '68, and Angel Foster '91 followed by a festive dinner in the Barn. Unfortunately, Angel Foster was unable to attend the event, but she accepted her award via audio recording sent from Tunisia.

Despite steady rain on Saturday, the alumni soccer game in honor of retiring coach Mike Davis drew a crowd of players and fans. Lunch in the Barn was a drier affair.

Members of the class of 1946 came together for Sunday brunch in the Dant House.

Click on thumbnail to view images at larger size and download pictures.