Connecting with Community and Making a Difference

College of the Arts students apply their talents to benefit communities both on campus and off

College of the Arts students, both past and present, have been putting their talents to use for the greater good. Read how some are making a difference in our communities, both on and off campus. 

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Department of Art and Design

Reflecting its continuing efforts towards civic engagement, the Department of Art and Design this fall launched a credit-bearing course exclusively for military veterans. The course “Combat Paper” is based on the Combat Paper Project, a veteran-led program that uses the ancient art of handmade papermaking to help veterans explore the physical, psychological and emotional effects of military experiences.

College of the Arts’ adjunct professor and alumnus David Keefe ‘09 (MFA in Studio Art) initially brought the Combat Paper NJ project to campus last year for three days, coinciding with September 11. Keefe, who directs the project, based at the Printmaking Center of New Jersey, is a veteran himself, having served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2002-2009 and completing a tour of combat duty in Iraq from 2006-2007. The project involved cutting up military uniforms and making them into paper, onto which veterans would record their personal stories through image and text.

"We provide an intense and unique class that gives all veterans the tools and language to express and share their stories through papermaking and printmaking,” Keefe explained. “The class uses a ‘classroom-as-community’ and ‘peer-to-peer’ approach to building a sense of camaraderie among student veterans, who all share similar experiences.

“This strengthens community and ultimately manifests in a confidence for veterans to face some of the worst experiences in their lives, and express those stories through art. This can begin to teach us how veterans function in this world, create culture around craft, fine art, and story-telling, and it can be a profoundly transformative experience.”

Keefe and printmaking Prof. Cathy Bebout worked with Denise Rodak, coordinator of Veteran and Military Resources at Montclair State University, to evolve the Combat Paper project into a 15-session course which was launched this fall.

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BFA in Industrial Design majors –Arielle Cardone, Noemi Nagy, and Pablo Moscoso – contributed winning ideas for improving car and road safety conditions for motorists. Cardone, Nagy, and Moscoso, a freshman, had won first and second place, respectively, at the 2013 World Traffic Safety Symposium’s Designs for Safety Competition last spring. The competition drew industrial design students from many prestigious institutions including Montclair State, with scholarships awarded for the winning designs at the New York International Auto Show, Jacob Javits Center, NYC last spring. Students in the program have placed in the competition for four consecutive years, and Cardone and Nagy’s first-place win marks the second year in a row that the top prize has been awarded to a Montclair State student. (Read more about the trio and the 2013 competition here.)

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Another BFA in Industrial Design student, Andres Lesmes, placed second with his Student Merit Award presentation, “Intuitive glucose monitor for the blind,” at the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) 2013 Northeast District Design Conference, Hartford, Conn. Lesmes also gave his presentation at Montclair State’s subsequent Student Research Symposium.

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BFA in Graphic Design majors Meghan Dougherty, Carlos Norat, Lusine Katrjyan, Charles Leenstra, and Juan Villanueva, won the Art Directors Club of New Jersey’s (ADCNJ) statewide student Design Derby Competition in October 2012. Graphic design students from schools across the state competed to create a designed identity for the Morning Glory Shop, a resale store in Randolph. Sales from the Morning Glory Shop go to assist victims and families of domestic and sexual violence in Sussex County. The ADCNJ gives out two awards at the competition – Best Design and Best Presentation – and, for the first time ever, both awards were presented to the same team and school. (Read more about the award-winners here.)

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A team of undergraduate and graduate Fine Art students – Laken Whitecliffe (BFA in Fine Arts/Studio), Ariel Williams (BA in Fine Arts), and Jeremy Bell (MFA in Studio Art) – partnered with Montclair Township to complete and install the mural, “Painting Adversity.” This mural, the third installed as part of the Department of Art and Design’s Mural Project partnership with the Township, was inspired by Partners for Women and Justice, an organization that provides free legal help to victimized women and children. The mural can be seen in the 600 block of Valley Road in Montclair. (Read more about the “Painting Adversity” mural project here, and also here in an article in “The Montclair Times.”)

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John J. Cali School of Music

For the last three years, students in the Cali School of Music’s Preparatory Center for the Arts have participated in a satellite instrumental music program at the Watchung Elementary School in Montclair. The instrumental program offers violin, woodwind and brass instruction in a group setting. The elementary school’s instrumental program had been cut several years back due to budgetary restraints. Cali School of Music alumna Emilie Kartika, then-senior Chryselle Angderson and then-junior Jason Weinstein taught third-, fourth- and fifth-grade woodwind, brass and violin students over the course of the 2012–2013 academic year, in coordination with the school’s P.T.A. and current music instructor, Henry Boote.

Boote sang the program’s high praises. 

“It’s been wonderful,” he said. “One, the students get exposed to an instrument they’ve never been exposed to and, second, it gives them an opportunity to pursue their lessons further as they enter middle school.”

Boote said the sessions -- half an hour, once a week -- are held during the school children’s lunch-and-recess period. He said the program is a hit with the school’s students.

“I think the students enjoy it very much,” he said. “Since the lessons are offered during their lunch break, the kids eat their lunch and give up the rest of the period to come and learn.”

Statistics bear out Boote’s observations: Program participation has mushroomed from 12 students in the 2010-’11 school year to 30 students in the fall of 2012. 

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School of Communication and Media (SCM)

In related news, last spring two students from the School of Communication and Media traveled to Washington to lobby Congress on behalf of arts education at the elementary- and secondary-school level.

Broadcasting majors Jack Smith IV and Kaitlyn Schoeffel, accompanied by TV and Digital Media Prof. David Sanders, met with U.S. Senators Barbara Miklski (D-MD), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and several members of the House of Representatives in conjunction with Arts Advocacy Day (April 8-9). Sanders said the mission of the trip was to impress upon lawmakers the benefit of supporting arts education in schools.  Sanders is director of the National Music Council of the United States, an umbrella organization made up of more than 40 national music organizations, and a national co-sponsor of Arts Advocacy Day, organized by Americans for the Arts.

“I go down to D.C. most years for it and, this past year, I thought it would be interesting to bring a few students to get an inside look at Capital Hill and the lobbying process,” Sanders said.

“This year we focused on the importance of music education and the need to support arts education in public schools,” he added.

Although both students were Television majors, one was also a dancer and the other a musician. 

“They spoke about their personal experiences with arts in school,” Sanders said. “Both had strong arts education as part of their public school experience, and felt it had a great impact on their lives.”

Their efforts drew mixed reactions from the lawmakers, some of whom showed support, while others proved “a tough sell,” Sanders said.

Despite not getting any credit or other reward for their participation, Sanders said the students, nonetheless, felt that the experience was very valuable. So much so, in fact, that the trip resulted in the creation of a new course offering at Montclair State.

 “[The course] will meet five times during the semester to discuss advocacy research and techniques and will culminate with a trip down to D.C. for Arts Advocacy Day. The class is open to all students interested in the arts and aimed particularly at students in the College of the Arts,” Sanders said.

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Students in the University’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter, under the direction of Prof. Larry Weiner, hosted a Fundraiser for Autism New Jersey on April 29 at Memorial Auditorium.  The event featured actress Moira Kelly, the voice of "Nala" from Disney's The Lion King, and “Karen Roe" from the hit TV series One Tree Hill; comedienne Sunda Croonquist; and musician Alan Grant. Proceeds from the event were donated to Autism New Jersey, a nonprofit agency that provides information, support and advocacy for families and professionals to ensure that all people with autism receive appropriate, effective services to maximize their potential.

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SCM students, with Prof. Sanders and Prof. Steve McCarthy, are working collaboratively to produce a promotional video and video profiles for Hayatuna Amman, an arts-outreach program for orphans and refugees in Jordan run by Swedish NGO Spiritus Mundi. The project and faculty have received extensive funding from Spiritus Mundi and the Global Education Center. (Read blogs published in “The Montclarion” from students participating in the project here.)

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Department of Theatre and Dance

In the Department of Theatre and Dance, Justin Campbell and Tracy Dunbar (Class of 2013) were invited to teach for the Indigenous Pitch Dance Program, a collective of ethnically diverse Philadelphia- based dance companies whose goal is to create and perform works of artistic excellence to assist, educate and nurture children affected by natural and/or socio-economic disasters. During the two-week program, held last June, the two taught dance and art to children between 6-17 years old.    Campbell and Dunbar were discovered by members of the Pitch Dance Program when Montclair State dancer majors performed at the Northeast Regional American College Dance Festival at Hofstra University in March 2013.

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For the Greater Good

Whether through travel, competitions or lending a hand to neighbors next door, the College of the Arts continues to seek opportunities where faculty and students can contribute ideas, scholarship and, ultimately, make a difference, in the lives of citizens worldwide.