Over the course of its first couple seasons, the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at East Tennessee State University has brought in some unusual, exciting and stimulating events and performances — film, music, dance, lectures and various combinations.
“We want to expose people to a lot of things they might not see otherwise,” said director Anita DeAngelis, an ETSU faculty member and visual artist who conceived the whole thing as an arts series with an educational twist.
“We’re engaging students in what we hope will be part of a lifetime process. A lot of our program, the people in the community can benefit from it and enjoy it, but it’s also education.”
As Season 3 starts, things are really taking off. The MBM SotA has found its footing. DeAngelis laughs when she talks about how the series is growing.
“It’s taken over our lives,” she said. “I had no idea it would balloon into something like this. Jim Martin donated the money to get this started, then he liked what we were doing and he gave us more money.”
Martin, a retired Eastman Chemical Co. chemist, gave $1 million to start the series, named in honor of his late wife. Since then he’s given an additional $2 million.
That’s enabled DeAngelis to add some staff to her project and to bring in even better events and activities, and she’s excited about Season 3.
The new season opens Monday with the documentary film “Surviving Hitler.” The fall schedule features nine events — art exhibits, artist’s lectures, animation, music and theater.
Events are free unless indicated; art events in Ball Hall are in Room 127:
— Sept 12, “Surviving Hitler: A Love Story” — Documentary film, 7 p.m., Culp Auditorium. This film tells the story of a teenager in Nazi Germany who discovers she is Jewish, joins the German resistance and meets and falls in love with an injured soldier, and they become involved in the Valkyrie plot to assassinate Hitler. Called “a love story for the ages,” it features original 8mm footage.
“It’s absolutely riveting,” DeAngelis said. “The story is remarkable and the woman in the story, her voice is incredibly powerful. People will be inspired, and it has an incredible happy ending.”
The event is part of the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers and will include a post-film talk with the “Surviving Hitler” director, John Keith Wasson.
“That’s one of the great things about this film series, that the filmmakers get to come talk to people about it,” DeAngelis said.
— Sept 19-Oct. 7, “Wide open spaces and orange juice” — Art exhibition by Lenore Thomas, Slocumb Galleries. A reception is set for Sept. 19 in Ball Hall from 5-7 p.m. with an artist’s lecture to follow at 7.
Thomas is an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburg. Her work here is a melding of observed reality with the imaginary — fantastical, abstract environments via the realm of video games, pop culture, TV and contemporary design. There’s traditional printmaking with digital imaging as well as painting and drawing.
— Sept. 27, Sandow Birk — Artist’s lecture, 7 p.m., Ball Hall. Birk, who has studied in France and England as well as the U.S., works in painting, drawing, sculpture and film, and his works deal with contemporary issues with an emphasis on social justice. He’s touched upon political issues, inner city violence, gaffiti, travel, war and prisoners, as well as surfing and skateboarding.
— Sept. 29, Imani Winds — 7:30 p.m., Culp Auditorium, $20 general admission, $15 seniors 60-up, $5 students with ID. This acclaimed quintet has been going for 14 years and includes flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn and bassoon. Imani Winds has been nominated for a Grammy, been featured on NPR and performed at major venues like Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center and Disney Hall, as well as on numerous major campuses.
They bridge European, American, African and Latin American traditions. DeAngelis calls the music “rich, fresh and crisp, and Imani Winds plays with an enthusiasm that is infectious.”
— Oct. 10, “MARS” — Animated romantic comedy, 7 p.m., Ball Hall. Another of the Southern Circuit films, this one features director/producer/writer Geoff Marslett and is about three astronauts who make the first trip to Mars.
“It’s told as a graphic novel, through animation. It’s kind of a hybrid of different types of animation,” DeAngelis said. “It’s just an odd, interesting movie about traveling to Mars, and love.”
— Oct. 11, Julie Heffernan — Artist’s lecture, 7 p.m., Ball Hall. A painter known for her Surrealist and fantastical conceptions, Heffernan has had work published in The New York Times, Harper’s and The New Yorker and been displayed in London, Zurich and throughout the U.S. Her pieces are lavish, complex, detailed, lush with color and often include social and political themes.
— Nov. 14, “World’s Largest” — Documentary film, 7 p.m., Culp Auditorium. Another of the Southern Circuit films, this one is about small towns across the U.S. that, desperate for tourism, embrace claims of “world’s largest” things they possess — from 40-foot concrete pheasants to 15-foot fiberglass strawberries. Co-director Amy Elliott will be on hand.
— Nov. 18, “The Rivalry” — L.A. Theatre Works production, V.A. Memorial Theatre, 7:30 p.m. $20 general admission, $15 seniors, $5 students. This drama depicts the Lincoln-Douglas debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in the Illinois Senate race of 1858 as the country heads toward civil war. It uses dialogue from the original debate transcripts.
“They’ll perform and they’ll also work with different theater groups in the area,” DeAngelis said, “and it will be recorded for broadcast on WETS.”
n Nov. 22, Ending Bands Concert — Guest conductor Dr. Timonthy Mahr, co-sponsored by the ETSU Department of Music, 7 p.m., Culp Auditorium. ETSU Director of Bands Christian Zembower will conduct, along with Mahr, professor of music at St. Olaf College in Minnesota and principal conductor of the Minnesota Symphonic Winds.
There’s a full spring season scheduled, as well (see website for details). Last season included traditional music legend Doc Watson and storyteller/musician David Holt, fusion funk band Eclectica, printmaker and animal rights activist Sue Coe and dancer/choreographer Daniel Charon.
Martin’s personal favorites were a concert featuring 22-year-old Japanese-American violinist Ryu Goto performing with ETSU’s Dr. Chih-Long Hu, and “Universe of Dreams” with Celtic group Ensemble Galilei, narrator Neal Conan of NPR and images from the Hubble Space Telescope.
While the programming has leaned toward edgy at times, it’s been very palatable for audiences in general. The feedback has been good, DeAngelis said.
“We’ve not really created any controversy, but we’ve sparked some very good conversations. For the most part the comments have been very positive.
“There have been a few negative comments. Usually it’s because it wasn’t what someone expected. But I think people are starting to trust us, to know if they come to something it’s going to be good.
“People were very impressed with the Ensemble Galilei. They developed a performance around photos from the Hubble Spacecraft. It’s an odd combination, of their music and those photos, and it could’ve been disastrous. But it was spectacular.
“People afterward, you could tell they were excited about it,” DeAngelis said, adding, “I think it’s important for our students to come in contact with people and performances that will broaden their horizons”
For more on the series and for ticket information, visit www.etsu.edu/cas/arts, call 439-8587 or email email@example.com.