As we develop the OSU Museum of Art, one of our primary goals is to create programming that engages our communities—students, Stillwater residents, alumni, regional visitors, and others—and that permanently enriches them. Thanks to the generosity of donors Ken and Mary Ann Fergeson, we have created a visiting artist program that brings nationally- and internationally-recognized artists to Stillwater to work with OSU students. Our inaugural visiting artist is Brooklyn-based Yatika Starr Fields. An accomplished artist who is particularly well-known for his murals and live painting events, Fields’s practice was the genesis of a collaborative student workshop this spring, which involved students from Music and Studio Art. The workshop culminates this Friday, April 5, in a live painting and music performance at the Student Union Plaza. The performance begins at 6pm, and is free and open to the public.
I met Yatika Fields for the first time last fall; I was approaching him about the possibility of creating a mural for the Postal Plaza Gallery. He was interested in the project, but he asked if he could work with students as well. I’d already been thinking about the visiting artist project, although it hadn’t occurred to me to combine the two ideas. Coincidentally, Brant Adams, head of the Music Department, had recently asked me about placing art in the Seretean Center—and so the mural workshop was born.
Student participation in the painting workshop was limited to 20. In the Music Department, the decision was made to coordinate with the Frontiers Ensemble, the department’s contemporary music group. In total, about 45 students are participating in the workshop. I have been very grateful for the support of faculty in both departments, notably Angie Piehl, professor of painting and new media, who has been helping me plan and supervise the painting process, and Michael Kirkendoll, professor of piano and conductor of the Frontiers Ensemble.
Although it doesn’t look like much space, the white walls on either side of the Seretean Center’s concert hall foyer are over 80 linear feet of emptiness. Our goal is to fill them with a dynamic, synesthetic mural cycle.
Students began by creating ten four-by-six-foot canvas panels, cutting canvas, stretching it over frames made by the Department of Art, Graphic Design and Art History’s adjunct faculty member and studio technician, Morgan Robinson, and priming each canvas so that they were ready to paint.
We began to visualize the mural by dividing students into groups of 2 or 3 for each panel. Listening to recordings of the composition selected by Professor Kirkendoll as a starting point (Terry Riley’s “In C“), they strove to concretize the sounds they were hearing in visual form.
With sketches in mind and hand, we visited the Frontiers Ensemble rehearsal in early March. Listening to the musicians in the ensemble develop their own understanding of Riley’s composition, the art students gained a deeper understanding of the structure of the piece and how it might relate to their process, as well as their imagery.
Students had been working on individual panels for several weeks when we met just before Spring Break to assess our progress. Our focus was once again on building connections and continuity between the panels, which we anticipate being about 80% complete by the time we begin the live painting performance on April 5th.
The week after break, Yatika arrived in Stillwater. Until this point, he had been working with students over Skype and in a Facebook group, sharing tips, ideas, and feedback, and answering questions.
The project has been attracting attention from media across the state, and a photographer from the Oklahoman was at our first group meeting with Yatika. You can read the full article and photo essay on their website.
For more information, contact Jordan Griffis at (405) 744-4143, or visit the museum website.