Artist-in-Residence program continues to expand students' creative palettes

March 29, 2017

Lisle, Illinois ~ It’s the same challenging story for K-12 schools and universities across the country. When budgets get tight, visual and performing arts programs are among the most likely programs to face cuts.

But at Benedictine, we have been fortunate to find ways to keep the arts alive and well.

One program in particular—the Artist-in-Residence program—continues to encourage the growth of creative expression on campus by providing students opportunities to engage in disciplines not regularly offered through the University’s Music, Studio Art, English Language and Literature, Writing and Publishing or Graphic Arts and Design programs.

Since the Artist-in-Residence program was established 11 years ago, the University has brought practicing musicians, printmakers, dancers and professionals with expertise in a range of art mediums to provide arts enrichment to students.

“The Artist-in-Residence program raises the profile of the arts at Benedictine overall,” said Bill Scarlato, professor and chair of the Department of Art. “It seeks to attend to the gaps in our programs, which have allowed us to offer courses in a variety of diverse cultural experiences.”

A committee composed of representatives from the Departments of Art, Music, Communication Arts, and Languages and Literature selects each visiting artist and appoints them as part-time instructors for eight weeks.

Each artist is expected to teach one 3 semester credit-hour course, offer several workshops and/or master classes, and present an exhibition or performance of their own and their students’ work at the end of their visit.

Last year, Kat Pleviak, professional puppeteer and founder/artistic director of Sea Beast Puppet Company, gave a performance and directed students on their own original performance. Both events were free and open to the public to attend.

Other past artists-in-residence have included choreographer Emily Stein, consummate jazz guitarist Jim Kanas, the internationally renowned founder of the slam poetry movement Marc Kelly Smith, bluesman Fruteland Jackson, Chicago writer Billy Lombardo and lithographer Cynthia Archer.

Earlier this month, students began taking classes with this year’s artist-in-residence, Jamil Khoury, a playwright, filmmaker, essayist and founding artistic director of Silk Road Rising. Khoury’s course, “EPIC Empathic Playwriting 1” offers students the opportunity to experience interactive theater lessons while learning playwriting, and focuses on bridging gaps between personal experience, imagination and the act of writing a 10-minute play.

Khoury and his company will perform a staged reading of his play, “Mosque Alert,” which tells the story of three fictional families whose lives are interrupted by a proposed Islamic center, at 7:00p.m. on Tuesday, April 18, in Goodwin Hall, Room 321. A student performance will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, May 1, in the same location.

Students in the program not only benefit by expanding skills in areas outside of their curriculum of emphasis, they gain valuable connections and learn more about what it means to be a working artist.

“It expands the possibility of what is culturally possible at Benedictine,” Scarlato said. “Since many of the artists we hire are local, this program really helps to connect our students to the diverse network of artists throughout the Chicago area.”

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 Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 9,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. A 2016 PayScale Inc. report ranked BenU one of the top 10 colleges in Illinois for return on investment and in the top 20 percent nationally. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, admissions@ben.edu or visit ben.edu.

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