When Canandaigua native Amber Smith graduated from Keuka College in 2011, she had dreams of the Big Apple.
Forging her own path at the College, Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in management, but fleshed out her concentration in theatre and minor in communication studies by investing time acting in campus plays, serving as president of the Arion Players (drama club) and honing leadership skills. For example, she coordinated special events such as an all-arts or improv night for the Arion Players.
When she graduated, there were three potential career options in mind: acting, hip-hop dance or managing her own business.
Now a New York City resident, the dancer/actress/singer has begun to make her mark in choreography, putting her hip-hop dance talents to use in three music videos and now, serving as co-choreographer for the Bristol Valley Theater production of “Rent,” which runs through July 19 in Naples. She is also a cast member.
“In the ensemble, I sing and dance a lot as I play about six different characters minor to the show. Singing and dancing are what I love to do,” said the Canandaigua native.
As a co-choreographer for “Rent,” Smith has choreographed the tango sequence and dance sequence – two of the biggest numbers – with what she calls a “softer side.” Where other versions of the show have portrayed characters dancing with little thought or intent, Smith’s choreography seeks to echo the lyrics and rhythm of those songs in the physical movement, she said.
Audience members may also see elements of hip-hop in the choreography, a nod to Smith’s dance specialty. Her music videos include two for rap artist D’Chrome Foster and one for the rock band dec3. In addition to dance, Smith has sung backup vocals for Foster, and will return to the Big Apple following “Rent” to record vocals for his next album and then choreograph his next music video.
Smith sees great marketability when a performer can sing, act and dance on stage or screen, so she plans to continue choreographing whenever the opportunity arises. Ultimately, however, she would love to utilize her business skills as a manager in the music industry, she said.
“I’d really like to help guide people in developing their entertainment careers,” she said. To that end, Smith believes her Keuka College education prepared her well for success.
She cited faculty members Mark Wenderlich, professor of theatre, and Ann Tuttle, professor of management, for their guidance and encouragement to pursue her dreams, push herself to success and be confident in her decisions. In addition, the “small-town friendliness” that encompasses the campus community has served her well in New York City, where she said people respond positively when she interacts with them in a warm, open way atypical of big-city residents.
“The atmosphere at Keuka College sticks with you and helps you relate to people on different levels,” she described.
If it takes a little while to build up the business side of her career, Smith is not worried. Meanwhile, she stays busy auditioning for roles, taking dance lessons and more on top of her job at a couture children’s boutique inside the Plaza Hotel.
“If someone offers me a part in a show, there’s no way I’d say no,” she explained. “Who’s going to say no when you can sing and dance and do what you love?”
Eight free and open to the public performances at Keuka College will highlight a summer music camp conducted by the Eastman School of Music July 13-24.
Known as Eastman@Keuka, the camp is an intensive music training experience for students in grades 6-9, which brings together students from all corners of the United States and several countries around the world. They will study classical, jazz, and musical theatre with professionals from the Eastman School of Music and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.
Keuka College is proud to host the Eastman School of Music summer camp and welcomes the community to enjoy their talents at the following free concerts:
Keuka College Associate Professor of Chemistry Andrew Robak has used fine art and photography to educate others about the intricacies of science, and his latest student collaboration showcases another new perspective.
In 2012, Robak collaborated with Kat Andonucci ’13 to produce “The Art of Chemistry,” a unique exhibit featuring chemical experiments often photographed by Andonucci at slow speeds or in low light to highlight the array of colors, shapes and textures within a variety of chemical solutions, reactions and even optical illusions. This time, Robak’s collaboration with biology major Phil Longyear ’14, a Rushville resident, explores the variety of natural elements from the Periodic Table found in and around the Penn Yan area.
Together, the duo visited manufacturing plants like Abtex and Ferro, artisan studios and even retail shops such as Pinckney’s Ace Hardware to document in photographs the elements in their natural or manufactured forms. The resulting images —with each name, two-letter scientific abbreviation, and a brief description of its characteristics and uses —are now on display in many storefront windows along Main Street, Penn Yan, effectively turning Main Street itself into an art gallery for “Elements of the Finger Lakes.”
Nearly 60 elements of the Periodic Table’s full 118 elements were found; the full collection of images can also be viewed at the Lightner Gallery at Lightner Library on the campus of Keuka College. An opening reception will be held from 4 – 5:30 p.m. at Milly’s Pantry, 19 Main Street on Wednesday, June 10. Milly’s is one of many local shops featuring works from the “Elements of the Finger Lakes.” The exhibit will continue through July on Main Street and through August on campus.
“The project really helps people understand what chemical elements are, where they come from, how we use them and where they are [found],” Longyear said. “I like the fact that it will bring science to the masses in a way that they can understand.”
According to Longyear, the “field trips” he and Robak took last fall to companies like Ferro or Coach and Equipment proved how common many of the elements truly are. Ferro, the former Transition Element Company (TransElCo), manufactures an array of pigments, powders used to make computing materials, polishing applications for lenses, polymers, plastics and more. Coach and Equipment produces small to mid-size transit buses using elements including lead (Pb), Fluorine (F), lithium (Li) and argon (Ar) in its engineering process.
At Ferro, workers take basic elements like carbon (C), titanium, (Ti) and tungsten (W), and refine them for an industrial use. So the up-close-and-personal views offered at Ferro for the exhibit educate participants beyond just a logo or company tagline, Longyear said.
“This is more than the sign on the front and [the product] that comes out the door. This is what’s in-between and that was really interesting,” he described.
According to Robak, a project such as this serves to merge science with the community. Not only will participants learn a little more about chemistry, but they’ll learn more about the community where they live and work too.
“The Periodic Table can be hard to relate to … but in its simplest sense, it’s a list of the essence of every material that we can touch, see or interact with in our daily lives,” Robak said, adding that many people may not realize just how many elements could be in their own homes, too.
“This project would not have happened without those willing to let us ask questions, give tours or shoot photography inside their businesses,” Robak said, noting that many company staffers actively tried to find elements in use or suggest others for Robak and Longyear to document. Community participation for the exhibit has also been high, Robak added, thanking the numerous business owners along Main Street who agreed to display the poster-size images in storefront windows or indoor displays. A trifold brochure will also be available at many participating businesses so pedestrians can learn about the project as they stroll Main Street.
Artisans such as Pete Knickerbocker of Spider’s Nest Pottery or Keuka College Professor Emeritus Dexter Benedict of Fireworks Foundry were also part of the exploration. Benedict sculpts works of bronze, using oxygen (O), aluminum (Al) and lots of copper (Cu) in the process. Meanwhile, Knickerbocker makes use of elements including cobalt (Co), iron (Fe), chromium (Cr), and also copper (Cu) in his pottery.
“I had no idea that a potter could tailor and design not only his or her own glazes, but the clay itself, and (Pete) was able to manipulate those elements in order to set himself apart in his field,” Longyear described.
While Longyear served as primary photographer, a few elements, such as hydrogen, posed a challenge to shoot because they can only be seen when reacting with another element, he said. In those cases, it was a challenge to “tell the story,” he said.
But Mother Nature also offered a few elements as well, which the duo incorporated into the project, including images of bones for calcium, the night sky (space) for hydrogen, and a sunset at Montezuma Wildlife Refuge to represent helium, Longyear explained.
“Every day we use elements from the earth. You can look at the Periodic Table and see a number and a name, but if you really dig into it, it’s really cool,” Longyear said.
Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art at Keuka College, has added to her growing portfolio of public and commissioned works, and can now boast the 2015 Fact Book cover for Yates County, distributed by the Chronicle-Express/Ad-Viser newspaper.
According to Gwen Chamberlain, editor of the Chronicle-Express, each year the newspaper tries to utilize the cover of the Fact Book to highlight an element of life in Yates County and this year the editorial team wanted to shine a light on the arts and Yates County artists. However, the publication was nearing deadline without a work to grace the cover.
Enter Karen Morris, the paper’s publisher, who knew Newcomb through previous work together on the Keuka Arts Festival steering committee. Morris mentioned a mixed media of Newcomb’s the committee had seen during the process of selecting art for the Festival’s annual poster. It just so happened Morris still had a copy of Newcomb’s work when she and Chamberlain met for another discussion on the Fact Book cover.
“It was really kind of magical how it all came together within a matter of minutes,” Chamberlain described.
It’s not the first major piece which Newcomb has had showcased to the public.
In 2011, the Marathon Engineering company in Rochester commissioned her for a 6-foot by 8-foot pen-and-ink mural of the Frederick Douglass – Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge along the Genesee River on Route 490 in Rochester. The enormous work was completed in 2012 and is on display at the company’s offices.
In 2014, Newcomb was asked to illustrate several pages of a historic novel written by Timothy Munn of Shortsville, Newcomb’s hometown. Published by Lightning Press of New Jersey, the book came out in print in April 2014 and features both a cover designed by Newcomb as well as numerous line drawings throughout the chapters. The author commissioned Newcomb to illustrate historical retellings of the days when baseball and the railroad intersected at the historic Roundhouse (a railroad mechanism which moves engines via a circular turntable) in Shortsville. According to Newcomb, Round House 9 is the third book on shelves containing her drawings or photographs.
Munn previously commissioned her in 2004 for illustrations and in 2008 for photography on projects related to local history, published by the Ontario County Historical Society in Canandaigua.
According to Dr. Jennie Joiner, division chair of the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts and associate professor of English, commissioned works for an artist are the equal of publications or conference presentations in other academic disciplines.
“The goal of faculty is to be active in innovation—new ideas or new ways of seeing, being, or interacting with the world. Within the cover, Professor Newcomb created an artistic frame and visual representation of the beauty of Yates County, and she literally frames the landscape with artistic tools and other artifacts (the flowers, bottle, coffee mug) from the area. Thus, her artwork gives us a new way of seeing Yates County.
“Additionally, Professor Newcomb is modeling the way in which artists continually have to seek out and create opportunities to both showcase their work and create an audience for their art,” Joiner added. “Her work and active practice of her art further demonstrates to students the tangibility of the artistic process as a profession. She doesn’t just teach, she creates!”
Another potential commission may be in the works as officials at UR Medicine’s Thompson Health recently met with Newcomb to explore a possible commission for artwork to decorate select locations within its Canandaigua hospital. However, such a project is still in exploratory stages and nothing official has yet been decided.
For her part, Newcomb said she is excited when interest is taken in her personal art creations, and she is thrilled for new opportunities to share her art with others in the community.
“Commissions involving murals, or even publications open so many doors to networking with new people whom I may have not met otherwise. This allows for relationships to be built in different areas! Each opportunity happened because these people believed in me and supported my development as a professional artist.”
“With these opportunities, I’ve also been able to grow as an educator, since the variety of artistic practices enables me to bring a knowledge of skill sets to prepare students for the business side in a world hungry for art and design.”
“My advice to art students and graduates in the field is to use your creative thinking skills, be uncomfortable, and face your fears,” she said. ”If you can do that, then you can achieve anything.”
Come next Monday, Robert Lonie will get a taste of the Hollywood experience when he attends the official screening of a documentary featuring his success on the Keuka College campus, at a special film event on inclusive college learning programs at Rochester’s Little Theatre. It’s the latest achievement in a remarkable life that has seen him become an inspiring advocate for inclusive education.
The “movie premiere” of a 7.5-minute micro-film documentary on Lonie himself will be part of a three-film screening that starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Little Theatre, 240 East Avenue, Rochester on Monday, May 4. Two other short films on inclusive learning will be screened and Lonie will also be part of a panel discussion after the showings. (Screenings take place in Theater 5, Winthrop Street entrance.)
“This is big. Robert’s going to have a limo and all that. He’s all excited,” said John Luppino, director of the DRIVE program, which stands for Diversity, Responsibility, Inclusion, Vision and Experiential Learning.
DRIVE is a collaboration between Keuka College, the Yates County ARC, and the Penn Yan Central School District. In the program, Keuka College students serve as peer mentors to young adults with intellectual disabilities as they assimilate into the college environment and explore their personal goals. Upon completion, DRIVE students receive an Award of Higher Education at Commencement. Lonie graduated from DRIVE in 2013.
He was the first DRIVE student to live in a campus dorm, and during his course of study, provided clerical support part-time in a number of offices across campus. Since finishing the DRIVE program, Lonie still rotates weekly to those offices, and has continued to volunteer in DRIVE classrooms, Luppino said. He also serves as an advocate for the DRIVE program, and for inclusive learning on other college campuses. In 2013, he received the New York State ARC (NYSARC) Self-Advocate award for his leadership and personal growth and for positively influencing the lives of others.
“Robert’s vision is just amazing. He’s always about five years ahead of us with his thoughts and where he’s going—lots of self-direction,” Luppino said, describing how Lonie and his mother Cheryl Lonie, were living in the Elmira area when they first saw a news article about the DRIVE program. Soon after, the two moved to the Penn Yan area so Robert could attend.
“His film is so great because it covers all the things we know about Robert and all the aspects [of what makes our DRIVE program successful],” Luppino said, referring to Lonie’s micro-film, part of “The Opportunity Project,” created by the Institute for Innovative Transition at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education, with funding from the Golisano Foundation.
According to Luppino, Lonie was involved in the decision-making of how his documentary would be crafted, chose each of the people who would be interviewed, and made the decision not to speak himself until the end of the film.
“It’s very telling about what he’s done here,” Luppino explained, adding that Robert is something of a celebrity on campus, because “everybody knows Robert and Robert knows everybody. Robert’s always wanted to go to Hollywood and do this kind of thing. That’s one of his dreams.”
A second micro-film documentary features the personal success of Monroe Community College student Cori Piels, and the two films on Lonie and Piels will be paired Monday with the 25-minute national film “Rethinking College.” Produced by Think College, “Rethinking College” showcases students with intellectual disabilities attending inclusive programs at campuses across the nation and the success stories emerging there and here at home.
A discussion panel, moderated by Martha Mock, an associate professor who directs the Institute for Innovative Transition at the Warner School, follows the screenings and will include Lonie, Piels, Meg Grigal, co-director of Think College and Dr. David Basinger, chief academic officer at Roberts Wesleyan College. The discussion is intended to provide insight into the positive impact and outcomes that access to higher education provides for students with intellectual disabilities. The film screenings and discussion are part of the “Move to Include,” initiative, a collaboration of WXXI and the Golisano Foundation.
While the call for increased inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities may have yet to gain concerted traction nationwide, Keuka College has been ahead of the curve with its DRIVE program.
“I stress to my students that although inclusion is our norm, what we take for granted here is not necessarily the norm all over,” said Assistant Professor of Education Alice Harnischfeger, who teaches two Keuka College courses requiring education majors to log eight to 15 hours in service to DRVIE students on campus or with the intellectually disabled at local ARC sites. At the end of each course, a written reflection is required.
“Numerous students report that while they were worried about logging enough hours in the beginning, by the end they wanted to put in more,” she described, adding that many continue working as DRIVE mentors after their time in the class has ended.
“I try to teach them that they will take their inclusive-mindedness out to the community,” Harnischfeger said.
Affection for Lonie runs deep in Strong Hall, where the Division of Education is housed.
“Robert’s always over here and he feels like a part of our building. Everyone on campus knows him. So we’re excited about this,” she added.
To that end, the Division of Education is sponsoring a bus to Rochester Monday and thus far, Harnischfeger said she’s heard from 22 interested faculty and students eager to cheer and support Lonie at his film premiere. Luppino also expects his staff and others to attend as well.
Each film shown as part of the “Move to Include” screening will be open captioned and a sign language interpreter will be provided for the discussion. For questions about the event, please contact the Institute for Innovative Transition at 585-275-2454 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To find each of the three films online, search the Institute for Innovative Transition’s YouTube channel. For more information on the Institute itself, visit nytransition.org