Introducing the OpenGrounds Arts and Environmental Action Student Scholars

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As the culmination of its Changing Views: Arts and Environmental Action initiative, OpenGrounds has selected four exceptional students, pursuing three projects, to work with faculty mentors to develop and implement new ideas at the intersection of art, research and scholarship.

With funding from The Jefferson Trust, the $10,000 Art and Environmental Action scholarships are the pilot for the OpenGrounds Student Scholars program. The funded projects will take place in 2014, and will include participation in the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities’ Emerging Creatives Student Conference at Stanford University in January.

The rich array of student proposals for the first OpenGrounds Student Scholarships created a welcome challenge for the multidisciplinary jury, with the selected projects showing the promise of design and the arts in advancing the cultural understanding of complex issues.

The selected students and projects are:

Gwendolyn McGinn and Rachel Vassar,Master of Landscape Architecture candidates, “The Infrastructural Wild,” an urban landscape project.

Rachel Vassar is a Master of Landscape Architecture student at the University of Virginia. Prior to attending graduate school she received a Bachelor of Arts degree from New York University, and worked for PennFuture, an environmental non-profit, where she coordinated an urban sustainability campaign to enhance Philadelphia’s environment, strengthen neighborhoods and increase the city’s economic competitiveness. Her research is centered on urban infrastructure and how it can play a multifunctional role in the landscape. She has explored this in course work on urban wilds (with Professor Julie Bargmann), in Howland Fellowship research on how active infrastructure is repurposed for ritual functions in the Jewish spatial practice of eruv (with Isaac Cohen and Isaac Hametz, MLAs 2013), and in the Art + Environmental Action Scholars work on the ecologies of abandoned infrastructure that she is currently undertaking with Gwendolyn McGinn (MLA 2014).

Gwendolyn McGinn studied at the Rhode Island School of design before attending the University of Virginia to peruse her Masters of Landscape Architecture. As a William R. Kenan fellow, she is researching the ground condition of the Academical Village by tracing the different plant roots that have altered and shaped the site. This study of the ground developed from her previous work as a research assistant, where she developed prototypes through parametric modeling of alternate approaches to site specific slope stabilization. Her work often includes documentation of the quotidian as a method to explore the ways subtleties of the vernacular alter one’s perception of the built environment. This has included studies of puddles, alleyways, sidewalks, and plant roots.

Jon Bellona, a Ph.D. candidate in composition and computer technologies, “Carbon Feed,” a new media project.

Jon Bellona is an intermedia artist specializing in digital technologies. Jon’s work explores the musicality of data-driven instruments. Because data-mapping techniques have not been culturally codified, new works may alter our pre-conceived notions about performer and performance. Jon’s approach is to develop expressive models for instruments through cognitive perception, dynamic coupling of parametric sound elements, and the generation of music that values narrative and form over exposition and the eccentric. Jon’s music and intermedia work have been shown internationally including KISS (Kyma International Sound Symposium); SEAMUS (Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States); IMAC (Interactive Media Arts Conference); SLEO (Symposium on Laptop Ensembles and Orchestras); and FMO (Future Music Oregon) concerts.

Erik DeLucaa Ph.D. candidate in composition and computer technologies, “Community Listening in the Isle Royale National Park,” a music project.

Erik DeLuca makes music that moves from being influenced by 90’s rock and the New York School of composers, to listening in quiet places. His dissertation, “Fieldworks: a Path to Composing” entwines the boundaries of acoustic ecology, audio documentary, anthropology, and electroacoustic music composition. In 2013 “Winter”—a piece for orchestra, voice, and recordings of silence—premiered in Denali National Park by the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival Orchestra and “Community Listening in Isle Royale National Park”, a multi-media sonic ethnography, was featured on a panel at the Society for Ethnomusicology Conference. Erik is a PhD candidate at the University of Virginia.

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For more information about their projects, visit the OpenGrounds website.


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