By JOHN S. McCRIGHT
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College has long brought an infusion of art and culture to people living in Addison County, but this week the college arts community has pulled out all the stops to bring a panoply of music, dance, theater and visual arts unrivalled in recent memory.
“There probably hasn’t been as much going on since we dedicated the (Center for the Arts) 15 years ago,” said Middlebury College Director of the Arts Glenn Andres.
From Thursday through Sunday the college will host a dedication of the Kevin P. Mahaney ’84 Center for the Arts and celebration of the center’s 15-year anniversary. More than 20 events are open to the public — most are free — including lectures, exhibitions, performances, films and a symposium the history of art and architecture.
The centerpiece will be the formal dedication of the Center for the Arts in honor of Mahaney on Saturday at 7 p.m. Luminaria will line the walks to the center and the building will be lit inside and out by search lights. In addition to being open to the public, the college sent out 1,700 invitations to people who have shown an interest in the arts at Middlebury.
Following the dedication at 8 p.m. the center will host three performances: the Dick Forman Jazz Group in the Concert Hall; the Middlebury College Theater Program’s cast of alumni and students in “Curtain Up” in the Seeler Studio Theatre; and Leyya Tawil and Dance Elixir contemporary dance in the Dance Theater, for which tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for seniors. The Dance Elixir performance will be repeated at 8 p.m. on Sunday.
The night culminates with a 10 p.m.-to-midnight celebration gala in the style of a classic beaux-arts ball throughout the lobbies of the Mahaney Center, accompanied by two student bands: first up is Market Zero, a Celtic-Jam-Rock fusion band, then the Sound Investment Jazz Ensemble takes over.
All the arts departments at the college got together last spring to start planning the 15th anniversary celebration and the event just kept growing and growing. (For a complete list of activities visit www.middlebury.edu/arts.)
The theater department, for instance, solicited participation from alumni and had 20 prominent graduates volunteer to come back to campus and participate in Saturday’s performance and other activities. They will join with students for crash rehearsals on Friday evening and Saturday morning before the evening performance.
“We took over a block of hotel rooms to put up all the alumni who are coming back, and faculty are hosting some people in their homes,” Andres said.
Even the college’s career services department has gotten into the act. They have put together week of panels featuring college alumni to talk with current students about how they started and have sustain their careers in arts.
Jule Emerson, an artist in residence in theater design, assigned members of her 3D costume course to create the “ultimate” ball costume for Saturday night’s Beaux Arts Ball.
“I told them I wanted them to design something so far away from a pretty dress to wear to a party that it is on a different planet,” Emerson said.
Taking a cue from the original Beaux Arts Ball thrown by a group of New York architects who in 1931 came dressed as the buildings they designed, Emerson took her class around the Center for the Arts to gather ideas. What they have come up with has impressed her.
“They’re more runway in scale, large scale,” Emerson said, stretching to find words to describe the concoctions. “One is, how would your describe it? It is very musically graphic … Another uses that amazing sculpture (made of sticks by Patrick Dougherty) in front of the center.”
Liza Sacheli Lloyd, one of the organizers, said the events, while drawing some out-of-town artists, are designed to showcase the depth and breadth of the college’s own arts community.
“We’re not celebrating the 15th anniversary of the center by purchasing the perfect arts performance from the fanciest places on the four corners of the earth,” she said. “We’ve focused inward to get the best on our campus… We’re taking the best of the things that have an organic connection to Middlebury.”
Andres pointed to the scope of arts offerings this week — from the performance of a string ensemble in an art gallery to a show of student studio art works — as an example of a strength of the college that isn’t always appreciated.
“People never look at the whole picture, they don’t realize how the whole is the sum of the parts when it comes to our arts offerings,” Andres said. “This week we’re trying to throw it at them at all at once and saying, ‘This is an important part of the community.’”