Posts in: Kudos
By Montana Bass ’18
In a mix of creativity and innovation, Alec Sarche ’17 has reinvented the theatre experience with his audio dramas. Inspired by post-modern designers who weight their work more to the audience’s experience than actors’ performances, Sarche created a situation in which the audience becomes the actor, participating in his theatre themselves, all without their sense of sight.
Sarche says he was inspired to create an environment where the audience could witness and interact with art. “Art is becoming more and more ‘make of it what you will,’ or ‘it’s your thing not ours;’ I wanted to take that as far as I could and make something completely designed by my audience,” Sarche says of his original idea to create the audio drama. He decided to take away sight and designed a soundscape that would guide witnesses, a term he ironically coined to describe the participants in his theatre. While witnesses listen to the soundscape, blindfolded, Sarche and his facilitators move physical objects with which the witnesses interact at specific moments dictated by Sarche and his soundscape.
His first audio theatre, “Shore and Woods,” led witnesses towards a fan with the sound of ocean waves playing in their ears. As they moved through the room, Sarche brushed them with branches. The branches acted as an axis prop, the object Sarche uses as the center of his drama. “I tend to write these based around the tactile experience,” he says. “I think about what would be interesting to touch without seeing. If you touch a tree and feel bark and branches, can you picture it?”
The answer turned out to be a resounding “yes,” as witnesses reported seeing vivid scenes in their mind’s eye. “They came up with this incredible rich environment in their heads,” Sarche explains. Even more interesting: the vast difference in the scenes witnesses described, exemplifying the variety of ways their minds interacted with Sarche’s invented world. “Even though you know the script,” says Tinka Avramova ’17, who worked as a facilitator on Sarche’s set, “it changes every time because each new person relates to the directions differently. There is such a rush when something goes right, when someone lets out a laugh or smile. There is this whole world that I get to see as the operator, but somehow I can’t help but feel that the blindfolded audience is actually seeing even more in their imagination.”
During Block 7, Sarche’s final audio drama of the year, “New Season,” pushed the possibilities of this new approach to theatre even further by including two witnesses who move their way through two different, intertwined audiotracks simultaneously. “One track was more optimistic, the other more pessimistic,” says Sarche. “They thought they had the same experience while they listen to the soundscape, but then when talking together, they realized they had this completely different idea of what they thought was the same thing.”
The differing impressions of the two witnesses highlight the powerful psychological results of Sarche’s work. Just as these witnesses were awakened to the misguidedness of their assumption that the other participant would finish with the same perceptions, so future audio dramas can be used to awaken witnesses’ abilities to recognize others’ viewpoints. “I think it could be a really effective tool in social justice,” says Sarche. He plans to gear his next work towards experimenting with that concept. Look out for his thesis, coming out Block 1 next fall.
By Montana Bass ’18
Tay Wiles ’08 recently got her big break in a journalism career, sparked here at CC, with a feature-length story in High Country News, where she is an editor.
“I was a winter start,” Wiles says of her introduction to both CC and the start of her journalistic career came during her first year at CC when, “I saw a copy of the Cipher. I remember thinking immediately, ‘I want to work for that.’” And that’s exactly what she did. Wiles went on to become editor-in-chief of the Cipher during her senior year, preparation for her later success. That year, the team received a grant and Wiles was able to help transform the magazine from an extremely radical publication to the more balanced, literary reportage it provides today. “I love that in college publications, there’s a lot of turn over. It makes it difficult, but it also makes for a huge range of alumni who feel invested in it,” says Wiles.
She also worked in both the news and music departments at KRCC during her time as a student. Jeff Bieri, KRCC program manager, hired Wiles as his assistant when he worked as music director. He says she “was absolutely eating up the experience of learning here at CC, getting involved in every opportunity that came her way to gain experience.”
A recent feature for HCN, “Sugar Pine Mine: The Other Standoff,” was Wiles’ first feature since her years at CC, the first in her professional career, and it has received national recognition. The publication of the story aligned fortuitously with national media attention to developments in the conflict. HCN capitalized on the spike in national interest, posting new updates and teasers from Wiles’ feature on the website in the days leading up to its release. “It sort of dovetailed,” says Wiles. “It was really exciting to me because I felt that all the work I’d been doing over the previous year really came to fruition.”
Prior to HCN, she earned a degree in religion with a journalism minor from CC. “A lot of why I was interested in religion was that I really like to try to understand how people perceive their world, how they understand the forces that put them where they are, and how they fit into society,” she explains. Her intense curiosity translated well into her work in investigative environmental journalism with HCN.
The year after she graduated, Wiles completed a fellowship with Mother Jones magazine in San Francisco, which she credits for her precise editing skills. “They really go after environmental justice — hard. I was always fact-checking, meeting with editors, making sure that stories were air-tight so we wouldn’t come under fire.”
The “Sugar Pine Mine” story was a part of the “Sagebrush Rebellion” issue, and drew on those skills. Wiles expertly reports the story of a mining dispute between the radical Oath Keepers and local government in Josephine County, Oregon, which caused a standoff that threatened to erupt into an armed battle.
Wiles continues to prove herself as an excellent journalist by landing the editing position at HCN, a publication she cares for deeply, just over five years after completing her fellowship. “I love that it’s a small, tight-knit team,” she says of working at HCN, “We really try to pick ideas that mean something to people. We get people calling who say ‘Hey I’m calling from Idaho. This is what’s going on for me,’ and if it’s good we’ll write it.”
By Montana Bass ’18
The next time you pick up a copy of CC’s alumni magazine, the Bulletin, realize that not only are you learning about the awesome lives of CC graduates, you’re also holding a publication that is truly environmentally responsible.
The Bulletin has a long history of being green. Sappi Opus, the paper used for printing, is made from 30 percent post-consumer recycled fiber. It is certified by both the Forestry Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which means it is approved by two of the most influential forest management and sustainability foundations. It’s also green-e certified, meaning that renewable energy is used in the paper production.
How could it get any greener? Enter PrintReLeaf. Tracking the amount of paper that clients order and consume, PrintReLeaf equates that data to the amount of trees used, and then plants the same amount of trees in areas where forests have been degraded or depleted. Felix Sanchez, CC’s creative director, says a representative from Triangle Printing in Denver where the Bulletin is printed, introduced him to PrintReLeaf.
“It was fairly easy to join the PrintReleaf program,” says Sanchez. “We have been a part of PrintReleaf for the past two issues of the Bulletin. An online account and a customized dashboard show how much paper we have used for each issue and how many trees have been planted based on our consumption. It’s a fun, interactive, and transparent way to understand our impact, not only in paper usage, but in global sustainability efforts, too.”
This system makes responsible paper usage and reforestation efforts highly tangible. The PrintReLeaf certificates and dashboards actually allow CC to follow the growth of trees planted in honor of paper used for the Bulletin.
“Right now, we are helping to replant trees in Brazil through the We Forest project, which is working to combat the progressive loss of biodiversity in the Upper Paraná Atlantic Rainforest Ecoregion. This helps contribute towards the restoration of some of the best and most extensive examples of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil,” explains Sanchez. “PrintReLeaf’s goal is to replant 700,000 to 1 million trees every year. It makes me feel good to know that we are contributing to this honorable endeavor.” From paper consumption of the past two editions of the Bulletin, CC has helped We Forest replant 431 trees.
CC’s partnership with PrintReLeaf doesn’t have to be limited to the Bulletin. Sanchez promises efforts are being made to work with other print vendors to enroll in PrintReleaf to monitor paper consumption for most printed publications in the Office of Communications.
Sanchez encourages students interested in seeing their everyday paper usage equated to reforestation efforts to push for PrintReleaf’s expansion. He adds, “students have a strong voice in the college’s sustainable efforts — in fact, most of the sustainable efforts at the college would not exist if it were not for the demands or activism of students.”
By Monica Black ’19
CC’s prestigious Public Interest Fellowship Program (PIFP) has produced scores of young leaders who go on to develop the nonprofit sector in Colorado and beyond. One such impressive fellow is Lizzy Stephan ’11, who was recently named director of New Era Colorado, an organization dedicated to increasing political participation among youth in Colorado.
“I work at New Era because I believe in the power of democracy to create change, and I believe in the power of young people to accelerate that change,” says Stephan. “I’ve long believed that young people deserve a real seat at the table.”
New Era’s work includes developing innovative solutions to voter registration problems and advocacy work to bring preregistration and online registration to the state of Colorado. The organization made headlines in 2013 when it spearheaded an effort in Boulder to engage youth in a movement to divest from coal and switch to renewable energy sources, pushing back against the energy monopoly in the city.
“New Era is celebrating our 10th anniversary this year, and we’re now one of the largest young voter mobilization programs in the country,” said Stephan. Stephan was named director this March, and she’ll be taking over as the nation heads into the election season. “We’re poised to run our largest statewide voter registration, education, and turnout efforts to date.”
Stephan was a sociology major at CC, co-chaired EnAct for a year, and interned in the Office of Sustainability. She was also always involved in politics, participating in the 2010 midterm election campaign efforts and pushing the school to make responsible investments.
These activities also inspired her career. “Studying sociology at Colorado College made me impatient with and unaccepting of ‘the way things are,’” says Stephan. “At New Era, we’re more driven by ‘the way things could be.’”
Stephan was a two-time fellow through PIFP. “My first PIFP placement showed me that it was possible to make a career out of the full-time pursuit of social change.” Stephan later worked at the Bell Policy Center, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing opportunity for all in the state of Colorado. Through these fellowships, she developed a passion for politics as the vehicle for change.
To this day, Stephan loves her job: “I feel more like I’m obsessively pursuing a hobby than anything else.”
By Monica Black ’19
Gretchen Hammer ’94, currently Colorado’s Medicaid director, has been spearheading change for a healthier Colorado via the nonprofit sector for decades.
The board of the Public Interest Fellowship Program (PIFP) recently selected Hammer as the recipient of the 2016 Livesay Award for Social Change. The award is given to alumni who have contributed significantly to the nonprofit sector in their dedication to social change and mentorship.
“Colorado College graduates do so many amazing things in the world,” says Hammer upon receiving notice of the award. “I am humbled to be considered a contributing member of this community.”
Hammer, upon graduating with a master’s in public health from the University of Washington, worked as a consultant for nonprofit and other public-serving organizations for 10 years, where she first got acquainted with the world of public interest. During this time, she also worked on a number of boards for nonprofits. Then she took on the role of director for the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved, fulfilling a goal to direct a nonprofit that she says was inspired during her time at CC.
Lani Hinkle ’83, director of PIFP, says Hammer’s strong advocacy role was one reason she was selected as recipient of the award. “Her work has included a strong commitment to mobilizing coalitions, a vital role as a thought leader and advocate for health equity, and a passion for mentoring younger members of the nonprofit sector,” says Hinkle.
Hammer has now moved into the realm of state government with her work in Colorado Medicaid. She remains focused nonetheless on programs and social services that will help the most vulnerable members of the state. “People with injuries who can’t access needed medical services can’t work, can’t attend school, and can’t take care of their families,” says Hammer. “These are challenges we can solve if we are willing to collaborate across all sectors of society and keep the needs of those we serve at the center of what we do.” Hammer will be honored at the annual PIFP dinner in May.
By Montana Bass ’18
Through a partnership between EnAct and the Palmer Land Trust, CC collectively raised over $2,900 to support land conservation as part of Colorado Springs Independent’s annual Give Campaign.
Sierra Melton ’18 and Laurel Sebastian ’16 spearheaded fundraising efforts on behalf of EnAct, CC’s club dedicated to environmental activism. Melton, a new co-chair this year, had heard of PIFP fellows working on fundraising for the Palmer Land Trust in past years, and reached out to expand efforts. “It was really driven by her,” Erica Oakley-Courage, development director for Palmer Land Trust, says of Melton. “It was really cool to see her and Laurel come to us with ideas and follow through. I could see their excitement and desire to push this issue.”
Together, the three came up with different methods to gain participation from CC students. As a club, EnAct conducted multiple outreach events, asking for donations from students. “We set up informational tables to collect donations almost every day during third and fourth block,” Melton says. They also threw a festival in November, complete with student bands and plenty of food. The State of the Rockies Project joined the fundraising push as well, providing posters featuring photography by the Geology Department’s Steve Weaver for any students who donated more than $10 Additionally, students who donated more than $20 received a hat from Palmer Land Trust.
The funds raised by the campus community surpass the $2,000 needed to steward a property through Palmer Land Trust for a year. Because of CC students’ participation, Palmer Land Trust came in fifth place out of 88 nonprofits in the Youth Involvement competition. “It was totally a shock to us,” Oakley-Courage admitted. “We generally don’t have a lot of young donors. I was sitting at the fundraiser when we found out we won and a couple of trustees were behind me. I could hear them saying, ‘What? We really won?!’”
Going forward, this campaign can continue to be a source of environmental education and collaboration for the CC community. “I really enjoyed engaging CC students in the local nonprofit sector,” says Sebastian. “I got to explain a lot of these issues and how they relate to land spaces students here use so frequently, like Bear Creek Park and Red Rocks Open Space.”
“I think we could use this idea to collaborate with even more groups on campus,” Melton says. “Land conservation is related to environmental recreation, food, cultural heritage, and so many other issues.
Esther Chan ’16 is sharing an inspiring message of struggle and empowerment. For her thesis project, she spent months gathering video footage and conducting interviews. Now, through a multimedia presentation, she will highlight the lives of three young people in Colorado Springs who overcame adversity to incite change in their community.
Chan’s thesis project is a culmination of an innovative, independently designed major – visual media, and social change. It follows Miguel Roacho, David Atencio, and Danielle Atencio in their daily lives, focusing on their work at Meadows Park Community Center. The thesis event will take place Friday, March 4, from 4-8 p.m. at Cottonwood Center for the Arts, 427 East Colorado Ave., in Colorado Springs.
The three individuals featured in Chan’s film all grew up with MPCC as a major influence in their lives. “It has always been their safe space and home and where they’ve found comfort,” says Chan. “Their story is of growing up in low-income Colorado Springs. It has a lot of violence, struggle, and drug use. It’s defined by the strength to break the cycle and make Colorado Springs better.” MPCC’s main goal is to empower youth to overcome the adversity they face, and have a successful and functional adult life. “Brian Kates ’93, the MPCC director, calls it organized chaos,” adds Chan, laughing. “Kids just get to run around and play.”
Chan volunteered at MPCC during her sophomore year as part of a youth empowerment class. Later, as she thought about her thesis, the lasting impression MCPP left on her sparked an idea. “I wanted to use a sociological research method called ‘photovoice,’ where you give cameras to kids in the community, then base the research on the videos,” she explains.
Filming began in September and Chan has continued once or twice a week ever since, gaining over four months of footage for her final documentary. “I just told them, ‘whenever you’re doing something, let me know,’ [so I could document it]. Mostly, I’m at MPCC where they work and hang with the kids,” says Chan. “They’ve totally let me into their lives and shared special moments with me.”
Shuttles to Cottonwood Center for the Arts will leave from the south side of Worner Campus Center continuously between 4-8 p.m. on Friday, March 4. There, attendees can watch the short documentary, view a gallery of photos from MPCC children, catch live music from student band Ominous Animals, and enjoy food provided by Mobile Meals.
From the rooms of Packard Performance Hall, Susan Grace, artist-in-residence and lecturer in music, is making waves. At CC, she’s known as Susan, director of the Summer Music Festival and talented professor of piano. Recently, though, she’s been receiving recognition for her work outside of the school as well. The London Sunday Times recently named her as a contributor to one of the top ten contemporary recordings of 2016 for her recording “Stefan Wolpe – Music for Violin and Piano,” and that’s just one in a long line of acknowledgments. To name a few formidable awards, she was nominated for a Grammy in 2005 and received the Spirit of the Springs award in 2014.
Grace, a pianist, has led a diverse career: she performs collaborative music, chamber music, in duos, and concertos. “I’m not stuck to one thing,” says Grace. While she loves the variety her career offers her, she acknowledges that it can be overwhelming. “I do a lot of recording,” she says. “It can be challenging to balance [my career and my teaching], but most of my students are pretty advanced and work hard.”
Grace is a mainstay in the CC Music Department. Beyond teaching classes, she directs the Summer Music Festival, an annual event that attracts advanced music students and faculty from all across the nation to participate in a month-long workshop. “I feel really fortunate to be a part of the community here,” Grace says. “The faculty development and possibilities are great.”
Her most recent accolade for the Stefan Wolpe was the fruit of a recording done in Packard Hall for Bridge Records. Her co-musicians on the recording were renowned violinists Movses Pogossian and Varty Manouelian. Her recording company had asked her to record Wolpe. “I had never even heard of Wolpe,” said Grace, “but I found the music really interesting.”
In addition to another Wolpe piece, she continues work with her piano duo, Quattro Mani. Grace is also preparing for an August recording of “Poul Ruders for Harpsichord and Piano,” a performance at famous venue National Sawdust in Brooklyn, N.Y., and a Quattro Mani performance at Bargemusic, also in Brooklyn.
Whether or not you’re in need of a new pair of jeans, take a look at the Levi Strauss and Company “Modern-Day Pioneers” webpage, which last month featured CC graduate Scott Bryan. Bryan, who graduated from CC as an economics major in 2001, is now the president of Imagine H20, a company that supports startups with promising solutions to current water challenges.
As he mentions in the article, Bryan’s interest in water was sparked during his years at CC. He cites professors Mark Smith and Walt Hecox as especially influential on his education. During Smith’s environmental economics class, Bryan visited the Glen Canyon Dam, where he studied the system of water delivery to farms in Colorado and New Mexico. In his classes with Hecox, Bryan says, “I spent a lot of time in the San Luis Valley learning about the conflict between ranchers and water developers.”
Taking advantage of the opportunity for interdisciplinary study that CC offers, Bryan took an environmental sociology course, which he remembers as pivotal in developing his later dedication to address the strain on water resources. That class also spent time in the San Luis Valley. Bryan explains, “that is where we learned about the acequia [or communal irrigation] systems and the potential threat from logging headwaters.”
Today, Bryan recognizes the great impact his CC education has had on his life. “At CC, thanks to the block program, I really learned the value of diving into an issue or topic. This has been critical in my professional career,” he says. “It’s been fun to work in the water innovation space and connect with other Tigers. Andrew Fahlund ’91 is a deputy director at the California Water Foundation, which supports Imagine H2O. Jim McDermott ’91 founded a very successful water tech business called NanoH2O.”
In his interview with Levi Strauss, Bryan delves into the mission behind Imagine H20, his personal involvement, and what he sees for the future. Check it out.
“I really want people to be able to see the power of music and of art, and the way it works in so many different people’s lives,” says Kendall Rock ’15 of her film “God’s in the Garage.” She’s sharing her work with the world, on the big screen at the 2016 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Montana Feb. 19-28.
The documentary short explores the interactions and conflicts between faith and music. Featuring Seattle artists Allen Stone, Zach Fleury, Noah Gundersen, and Galen Disston (Pickwick), the film also follows Colorado musician Brian Wight as he chooses between his artistry and the prospects of a comfortable lifestyle guaranteed by a church job.
“I was raised in the church in Seattle, but had a lot of issues with it as I got older and went to college. I started paying attention to the type of music I was listening to and realized that a lot of the artists I liked had a similar Christian background,” Rock says of her inspiration for the film. “Struggles with faith was a theme in their music, and I wanted to know more about how they processed that struggle through their art. For a lot of these musicians, music was their religion or their higher power, and I was really interested in learning about that.”
“God’s in the Garage” was Rock’s thesis film as a film and new media studies major at CC. After debuting the film on campus last May, Rock was contacted by Doug Hawes-Davis, who was on campus as a visiting professor. He invited her to show the film at the Big Sky Festival in Missoula, Montana. Since then, she’s had to keep the film under wraps until the screening at Big Sky in February.
While Rock says it’s scary to share such a personal and sensitive project with the masses, she’s thrilled to be included in such a major festival. “I’ll get to go to see films and attend the filmmaker parties. I’ll be mingling with real filmmakers; I’m excited. Then I can finally put it online, and move on.”
Rock has several other projects already in the works, including a film she shot over the summer while working with a conservation group in Alaska. That will be released soon on Rock’s blog. And, she has plenty of ideas to pursue. “I want to do more with music, the best part of this film was working with other creative people and talking with them about the way they process their lives through their art. At the same time I was making my art, going through my own process, so I want to do more of that.”