Planting the Seed: Inter-arts meeting grows fresh creativity

SAALIK KHAN | Staff Photographer
Oliver Dow, managing director of the School of Music, outlines the inter-arts programming various artistic departments will undertake this summer. Dow, his School of Music colleague Diane Economakis, VACI’s Don Kimes and Chautauqua Theater Company’s Vivienne Benesch spoke to students Monday in McKnight Hall.

Oliver Dow, managing director of the School of Music, described the inter-arts collaboration meeting on Monday evening as “planting a seed.”

“We’ve done these huge productions for three years, but now is the time to sort of ratchet it back and go back to the seed and its inception,” Dow said.

At 10 p.m. Monday evening in McKnight Hall, 41 students from various disciplines — the Music School Festival Orchestra, Voice Program, Piano Program, Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution and Chautauqua Theater Company — met to hear the leaders of their respective programs speak about their task. This collaboration is focused on using different art forms as a method of communication, and the participants were given nearly zero rules regarding how to do that.

Dow, along with CTC Artistic Director Vivienne Benesch, Festival Administrator Diane Economakis, and VACI Artistic Director Don Kimes, broke the students up into 10 groups, where they were faced with a simple — but at the same time very complicated — challenge. They had to combine their art forms and create something that could be presented at the Inter-Arts Show and Tell at 10 a.m. Sunday, July 26 in McKnight Hall.

This project dovetails with, and is in addition to, the “huge” inter-arts collaboration Dow referenced. For the past two years, Chautauqua’s arts programs have come together in the Amphitheater for a one-night-only production. In 2013, it was The Romeo & Juliet Project. Last year, it was the original Go West! This summer’s collaboration is Carmina Burana, on July 25 and Aug. 15.

“The thing that came up from the Program Office was, ‘What if we don’t get a good response?’ ” Dow said of the smaller collaborations.

The managing director estimated some groups would fail to create something, others would have experiences to share and some would see a final product come to fruition.

“I think that’s probably right,” Economakis said. “Some of the enthusiasm I got in email replies was exciting, though: ‘I would love to take part in this.’ ”

Whitney White, a 2015 CTC Conservatory actor, said she wanted to take part to make new friends.

“It sounded cool, you know? Fresh and open,” White said. “I just want to meet new people.”

H. Friedman, a student in the School of Art and a member of White’s group, said she wanted to participate for the artistic experience.

“A new renaissance is coming in our generation, and it has to do with collaboration,” Friedman said.

Benesch said student collaboration on this smaller level is still in the testing stages. At Chautauqua, the hardest challenge will be to find the time to work together, she said.

“It’s thrilling that there are this many people doing it this year,” Benesch said to the students. “You are a beta test group — in a good way. We’re putting it in your laps now and saying, ‘OK, you figure it out.’ ”

About 20 percent of students enrolled in each of the five disciplines opted to participate, and Benesch gave them some advice: Respect each other, respect ideas, participate and listen.

“A bad idea is often the seed of a good idea,” Benesch said. “No idea is a bad idea — you just don’t know what it’s going to spark.”