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All Hands on Deck

The exhibition “All Hands on Deck,” opening Friday, May  13, 2016, will feature recent acquisitions to the Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell College Art Collection.

The exhibition takes its name from a series of seven powerful prints created by St. Louis-based artist Damon Davis in response to events in Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere.

The prints depict the raised hands of all kinds of individuals — old and young, black, white, and brown — inspiring others to rise up.

““It is crucial to comprehend that Damon Davis’s work is not merely inspired by the Ferguson uprising, but a part of it, and of its effect on the arc toward justice,” says Dan Strong, associate director of Faulconer Gallery.

“The hands in ‘All Hands on Deck,’ hard-edged against a stark background, appear from the perspective not of the oppressor, but of the demonstrator,” Strong added. “Photographed by Davis, scanned and commercially printed at Wildwood Press in St. Louis, these hands first proliferated as street art on the boarded-up storefronts of West Florissant in November 2014, to show solidarity with the people of Ferguson.”

The Faulconer Gallery acquired the prints for its permanent collection in honor of the late Vernon E. Faulconer ’61 graduate and life trustee of the College who was best known as founder of the Faulconer Gallery, along with his wife, Amy Hamamoto Faulconer ’59.

The “All Hands on Deck” exhibition also highlights other recent additions to the Grinnell College Art Collection:   

  • Seven large drawings made from the carbon of candle smoke by South African artist Diane Victor, who created the drawings while in residence at Grinnell in 2011
  • Prints from the “Chinese Library” series by Chinese artist Xie Xiaoze, who holds a named chair at Stanford University
  • The Lenny Seidenman Collection of late 19th-century French prints and posters, including 10 works by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

The exhibition will run through Saturday, June 19, in Faulconer Gallery at the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, 1108 Park St., Grinnell.

Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, and admission is free. The Gallery will be closed on Memorial Day.

 Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Bucksbaum Center for the Arts has accessible parking in the lot behind the building north of Sixth Avenue. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations and Events.

Commencement 2016

It’s been a beautiful day for the 170th Commencement of Grinnell College, celebrating the class of 2016.

Commencement exercises began at 10 a.m. at the amphitheater on Central Campus, and are now complete.

The ceremony featured an address by internationally renowned novelist Zadie Smith and the awarding of honorary degrees.

Join us as we celebrate our newest graduates. You can:

  • See a copy of the live stream on YouTube. (Higher quality video will be available later.)
  • Follow and join the conversation on Twitter: @GrinnellCollege #Grinnell2016
  • Share your photos on Instagram: #GrinnellCollege or #Grinnell2016
  • Follow us on Facebook and YouTube for highlights from the day.
  • Check out the story on Snapchat: username grinnellcollege

About Zadie Smith

Zadie SmithNovelist Zadie Smith was born in North London in 1975 to an English father and a Jamaican mother. She read English at Cambridge, graduating in 1997. Her acclaimed first novel, White Teeth, is a vibrant portrait of contemporary multicultural London. The book won many honors, including the Guardian First Book Award, the Whitbread First Novel Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best First Book), and two BT Ethnic and Multicultural Media Awards (Best Book/Novel and Best Female Media Newcomer). Smith’s The Autograph Man, a story of loss, obsession, and the nature of celebrity, received the 2003 Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize for Fiction.

In 2003 and 2013 Smith was named by Granta magazine as one of 20 “Best of Young British Novelists.” Smith’s On Beauty won the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction. Her most recent novel, NW, was named as one of the “10 Best Books of 2012” by The New York Times. A tenured professor of creative writing at New York University, Smith writes regularly for The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. She published one collection of essays, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, and is working on a book of essays titled Feel Free.

About Honorary Degree Recipients

Zadie Smith will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at Grinnell’s Commencement exercises.

Grinnell also will confer honorary degrees upon two alumni and a renowned educator.

Thomas Cole ’71 will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws. He is U.S. Representative for Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District, serving since 2002. Cole, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, is the fourth-ranking Republican leader in the House. He is currently one of only two Native American serving in Congress and was inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame in 2004.

Fred Hersch ’77 will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. A pianist, composer, and one of the world’s foremost jazz artists, Hersch was described as “one of the small handful of brilliant musicians of his generation” by Downbeat magazine. His accomplishments include a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship for composition and numerous Grammy nominations. He is a member of the Jazz Studies faculty at the New England Conservatory.

Claudia Swisher will receive an honorary Doctor of Social Studies. She was an English teacher for several decades at Norman North High School in Norman, Okla., where she was admired for going above and beyond in her efforts to connect with students. She saw education as something that should be formed around the children, and not that the children and their interests should be manipulated to conform to education.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Information on commencement ceremonies is available at Grinnell’s Commencement Web page. For any further information on commencement, please call 641-269-3178.

Photo of Zadie Smith by Dominique Nabokov

The Scoop on Shovel Knight

Although millions of people around the world enjoy playing video games, not many people have the talent or motivation to make a game of their own. For David D’Angelo ’08, however, the spark, the drive, and the talent were all there.

D’Angelo was heavily involved in music while at Grinnell, participating in the orchestra and serving as president of the acapella ensemble G-Tones. He was also an avid gamer and had always been interested in the process of making video games. After a short postgraduation stint writing commercial jingles, the dual music and computer science major moved to Los Angeles and began to pursue a career in video game design.  

He got a job as a video game programmer at WayForward, a work-for-hire video game company that produces games at the request of companies like Warner Brothers, despite the fact that the economy was crashing for many other industries. “Video games are kind of recession-proof for some reason,” he says.

After working on retro-style 2-D games like “Double Dragon Neon” and “Contra 4,” an idea began to bud in D’Angelo and a few of his coworkers. In 2013, they broke off from WayForward and began their own video game company, Yacht Club Games.

“We wanted to create a retro game that was the first in a new franchise rather than a continuation of an old series,” D’Angelo says. “We were looking at ‘Zelda II: The Adventure of Link’ and observing the underused down-thrust attack of Link, and we just thought ‘How cool would it be to base an entire game around that simple mechanic?’”

After much debate over what kind of weapon would work best for flipping enemies over and attacking their underbellies, the team decided on a shovel. “Then we thought that ‘knight’ is the funniest word you could put next to ‘shovel’, so we wound up with a game called ‘Shovel Knight,’” D’Angelo says.

D’Angelo and his team started a Kickstarter campaign to fund the game, in which they had 30 days to reach their monetary goal through online donations. To get the word out, they went to conventions to show off the game, released live-streamed video updates on the project daily, and communicated heavily with their fans.

“We streamed ourselves making the game, we streamed ourselves talking to our fans, we responded to every single email and comment we received,” D’Angelo says. “We wanted people to see how passionate we were about this game.”

The Kickstarter campaign was launched in the middle of March 2013 with a goal of $75,000; they reached that goal in just a few short weeks. By the end of the campaign in mid-April, the team had collected a total of $311,502 for the development of the game. The game was released in June 2014, and has since sold more than a million copies. It can be now purchased for Wii U, 3DS, PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox One, Windows, Amazon Fire TV, Mac, and Linux.

When it came to the designing and marketing of “Shovel Knight,” D’Angelo says his Grinnell experience has been a valuable asset to his work. “I didn’t learn how to make games at Grinnell, but I did acquire the knowledge and tools needed to face any programming problem, and my music background helped me create and implement sound in our games,” he says. “Even the course I took in Japanese literature has come in handy as I draw on Japanese art and customs when engaging with our partners there in preparation for the game’s release.

“You get a taste of a little bit of everything at Grinnell, and that has been so important in what I do. I think the best thing you can do is to explore all your options while you’re there, because you just never know what skills you’ll end up using later on!”

For the Love of Food

From a young age, Ami Freeberg ’10 was in touch with where her food came from. “I grew up in Fairfield, Iowa, and there were a lot of people running sustainable farms there,” says Freeberg. “My mom fed us organic food from our garden and my sister, my mom, and I even set up a kind of farm-to-table café at the farmer’s market while we were in high school.”

This love of good food and interest in agriculture led her to pursue an internship with Cultivate Kansas City (formerly known as the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture) during her second year summer at Grinnell. She got funding from the Center for Prairie Studies so that she would be able to afford an unpaid internship. As it turns out, that experience was hugely important for her future.

Getting Her Hands Dirty

“I just fell in love with the organization and the work,” Freeberg says. “I had known I was interested in food and sustainable farming, but that internship really solidified those interests.”

As an intern, Freeberg worked on a program called New Roots for Refugees, a partnership between Cultivate Kansas City and Charities of Northeast Kansas to help refugees learn the skills necessary to establish successful farm businesses in the Kansas City area.

“We were working with people from all over the world who were resettled refugees, and they came with a lot of knowledge and experience in farming but didn’t have access to land or resources,” Freeberg says. “So we provided land and training and support to help them gain the skills they needed to graduate off of our training farm and start their own farm businesses.”

After graduating from Grinnell, Freeberg began working full time for Cultivate Kansas City as a program assistant. Over the years, she has transitioned into a variety of roles focusing on community outreach and communications in the organization. In February, she began working as the community organizer for the organization’s most recent project, the Westport Commons Farm, which is set to open in the next few years.

Cultivating the City Center

The Westport Commons Farm will be run as a farm business but will also have many opportunities for community engagement, participation, and education. The farm will be in the city center of Kansas City, Mo., in a field that used to belong to a school.

“It’s really exciting because we’re putting urban agriculture right in a highly visible place, in the middle of the city,” says Freeberg. “Our vision is to create a beautiful urban farm that gets people thinking about their food and gets them engaged with where their food is coming from.”

Because of the organization’s pursuit of this vision, Freeberg has thoroughly enjoyed working for Cultivate Kansas City for the past six years. “It’s always interesting and different. I’ve been able to progress and learn and develop my own skills in a context that I feel is really important,” Freeberg says.

“I have always valued good food. I think it’s the foundation of being a healthy, happy person, and I want other people to be able to experience that.”

Geek Out on Policy

“I want to do foreign policy,” says Misha Gelnarova ’18, an international student from the Czech Republic who spent part of spring break in Washington, D.C., with the Rosenfield Program’s second annual industry tour. “Seeing it through the lens of the American side is really interesting.”

Gelnarova, an independent major in international relations and communications, was one of 20 Grinnell students, out of nearly 60 who applied, to participate in the policy-oriented industry tour March 29 through April 2. The trip helped students explore their interests in policy issues, network with alumni, and further their career goals.

The 2016 tour included visits with alumni at the U.S. Department of State, the Arms Control Association, the Heritage Foundation, Verizon, Politico, and the National Association of Manufacturers. They also visited the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

New View on Journalists

Students on an subway escalator, with two closest women smiling while looking at one's phone“I loved the visit to Politico,” Gelnarova says. “It was easy to connect with the young alum [Ben Weyl ’07, formerly with Congressional Quarterly]. He talked about how he got internships through Grinnell — both were in D.C. and in journalism. Even though Grinnell doesn’t have [journalism as a major], he was able to find a job quickly.

“I have this idea that reporters are going to break your leg to get the story,” Gelnarova says. “[Weyl] was the most calm and peaceful and intelligent person. He talked about the relationships he’s got on the Hill. He’s able to engage with members of Congress in a very friendly manner. So this relationship is beneficial to both of them because they can say what they want and he has a firsthand source. It can actually work in a nice manner.”

Foreign Policy from a Personal Perspective

Gelnarova is deeply interested in her home country’s international relations. While the Grinnell students were in Washington, D.C., the president of the Czech Republic hosted a visit from the president of China. “It seems to send a huge message since we’re such a small country and we’re having this very official visit,” Gelnarova says. “The whole Czech Republic transformed to welcome the Chinese with flags everywhere. This kind of shows how the Czech Republic is leaning toward the East rather than to the Western powers.”

During a visit with U.S. State Department alumni, Gelnarova presented her concerns to Aubrey Carlson ’82, director of the Office of Central European Affairs, including the Czech Republic. “I was wondering how he sees it,” Gelnarova says. “Does it degrade the Czech Republic in his eyes? He said they have great cooperation with the prime minister [the actual head of government]. They understand that the president [head of state] is leaning somewhere else than the republic and the people. So it kind of settles me down.”

Receptive to Questions

The tour also included a visit with Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former governor of Iowa. He was going to give an overview of the USDA, Gelnarova says, “but he believes Grinnell students already know that, so we went straight to questions. It was pretty fantastic to see that he was really comfortable sitting down with us for an extensive amount of time [45 minutes] for a person in such a high position and just answer whatever we had to ask.”

Alumni Network

Students were invited to alumni’s homes as well as meeting them in their workplaces.

“I feel like the whole alumni network at Grinnell is golden,” Gelnarova says. “They had the same experience in the middle of cornfields. Being able to interact with them and see that they are doing incredible stuff but also that they’re so approachable and so easy to connect with.”

The alumni presented policy as well as career issues. “You can watch today’s students imagining how they can get to different paths,” says Sarah Purcell ’92, director of the Rosenfield Program and professor of history.

Washington, D.C., is such a rich place with many alumni volunteers, Purcell says, that the Rosenfield Program’s third annual industry tour will return there in spring 2017 with a focus on technology and human rights.

Grinnell students, faculty, and staff on Rosenfield Program DC tour

Misha Gelnarova ’18 is from Ostrava, Czech Republic. Her independent major focuses on international relations and communications. Photos courtesy of Gelnarova.

Advocating for Men’s Health

While life events have helped Ryan Brown ’16 shape his aspirations, he has largely carved out his own path toward fulfilling them.

“My dad is a pediatrician, so I was raised thinking I was going to be a doctor one day,” Brown says. “I didn’t really know where I wanted to go with that until my mom got breast cancer and I realized I really wanted to do something about it.”

Originally recruited from the Chicago area to play baseball for Grinnell, Brown is a biological chemistry major who’s become intensely focused on oncological research. He has spent the past three summers interning at University of Chicago research labs that deal primarily with late-stage prostate cancers.

“More specifically, cancers that don’t respond to the normal androgen deprivation therapies,” Brown says. “Our lab works with different genetic manipulation approaches to establish models for various stages of prostate cancer progression.” 

Motivated by Coach

Thankfully, Brown’s mother is a success story. Brown’s inspiration to study men’s cancers came from another survivor — Grinnell pitching coach Casey O’Rourke (2008-2013). An all-conference phenom in his first year at the University of Iowa, O’Rourke was sidelined as a sophomore by testicular cancer.

“[O’Rourke] kind of refined my interests into men’s cancers and testicular cancer,” Brown says. “After working with him in my first year I had this motivation to work with male cancers. I just cast the net out to cancer labs that were close by me and the prostate lab was one of them.”

Early Lab Experience

Brown’s efforts to secure an internship were entirely self-directed. He sold himself as a candidate for an unpaid internship in his first summer, and he returned in a paid capacity after his second-year science classes provided the requisite knowledge.

“My first summer in the lab I really knew nothing about biology and it was pretty difficult to catch up on what everyone else knew,” Brown says. “After my second year I came back and everything made sense.”

Brown also successfully advocated for two other Grinnell students, Matt Godinsky ’16 and Shane Comiskey ’18, to work in the lab — one in each of two consecutive summers.

Creating Awareness

Last November, Brown organized a group of 20 Grinnell students and staff to join with the lab’s Moustaches in Movember team in raising funds for men’s health issues through the Movember Foundation. Grinnell’s contingent raised $1,751 of the lab’s total of $6,816.

“It’s an awareness-type thing,” Brown says. “You see a guy with a ridiculous moustache and people are likely to say, ‘Hey, what’s up with that?’ You say, ‘Sorry, I look like an idiot, but it’s for a good cause. I’m raising money for men’s health issues through Movember.’ It’s awesome. It opens conversations.”

A Better Understanding

After graduation, Brown will be working full time in the lab where he’s interned the past three summers, driving his own projects and working to publish them. He says he’ll concentrate on research for a couple of years before applying to medical school.

“I want to be a translational physician scientist,” Brown says. “A physician who’s able to translate work between the lab and exam room gains a much better understanding of what their patients experience, as well as issues that interfere with treatment.”

Ryan Brown ’16, from Chicago, Ill., is a biological chemistry major with a concentration in neuroscience.

2016 Creative Writing Contest Winners

The winners of this year’s creative writing contests are:

Nick Adams Short Story

Nelson Ogbuagu ’16, winner — $1000 for “Playing It Safe”

Grace Lloyd ’16, honorable mention — for “Crush”

James Norman Hall '10 Aspiring Writer Award

Alejandra Rodriguez Wheelock ’17 — $2000 for “The Basic Principles of Long Distance Running”

Selden Whitcomb Prize

Clara Trippe ’18, winner — $500 for “The Year of Cicadas; Lechuguilla Cave; Atmosphere; and Yours: Flesh and Ground”

Maya Elliott ’18, 2nd prize — $100 for “Bruises, CHURCHGOING, A HYMNAL?; and The Physicality of Atheism”

Emma Soberano ’17, 2nd prize — $100 for “Mi papá me llama ‘chile’; Duloxetine, 30 mg; Bruises are like post-it notes; and Cielito Lindo”

Henry York Steiner Memorial Prize for Short Fiction

Emma Soberano ’17, winner — $500 for “Sex”

Josie Sloyan ’18, 2nd prize — $100 for “Long Way Out”

Emma Thomasch ’16, 2nd prize — $100 for “Hold Your Peace”

Lorabel Richardson Prize, Academy of American Poets

Maya Elliott ’18 — $100 for “Witchblood: A Fantasy”

Film Screening: Called to Walls

Dave Loewenstein ’88 is returning to campus — along with co-directors Nick Ward and Amber Hansen — for a panel discussion and film screening of Called to Walls. The free, public event will begin at 7 p.m. Friday, May 6, in ARH Auditorium, Room 302.

Called to Walls is "part road-movie, part inspirational small town drama, and part art documentary" that chronicles the making of giant murals in the city cores of places like Newton and Joplin, Mo.

For Loewenstein, there’s more to creating a mural than just painting the side of a building. He designs political activism prints and specializes in community-based collaborative public art projects. He’s worked on murals all over the United States, including Grinnell, as well as in Korea, Northern Ireland, and Brazil. In his experience, making a piece of public art has encouraged conversations (and offers of help) from passers-by, resulting in what he calls an “improvised gathering space.”

The events are sponsored by Alumni in the Classroom and Artists@Grinnell.

Dave Loewenstein ’88

Dave LoewensteinDave Loewenstein is a muralist, writer, and printmaker based in Lawrence, Kansas. In addition to his more than twenty public works in Kansas, examples of his dynamic and richly colored community-based murals can be found across the United States in Missouri, Oklahoma, Arizona, Arkansas, Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Iowa, Chicago, New Orleans, and New York City, and in Northern Ireland and South Korea.

Loewenstein’s prints, which focus on current social and political issues, are exhibited nationally and are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Yale University,  and the Center for the Study of Political Graphics in Los Angeles. He is the co-author of Kansas Murals: A Traveler’s Guide, a 2007 Kansas Notable Book Award Winner, published by the University Press of Kansas; and the co-director of the documentary film Creating Counterparts which won Best Documentary at the 2003 Kansas Filmmakers Jubilee.

Loewenstein has been recognized widely for his work, including the 2001 Lighton Prize for Arts Educator of the Year from Kansas City Young Audiences, the 2004 Tom and Anne Moore Peace and Justice Award given by the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice, a 2006 Phoenix Award from the Lawrence Arts Commission, a 2007 Kansas Press Association 1st Place Columnist Award for his column “Blank Canvas,” and in 2014 he was named one of the founding Cultural Agents for the new U.S. Department of Arts and Culture. His most recent studio project is Give Take Give, funded by the Rocket Grants program.

Woodland Wildflower Hike at CERA

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 - 4:45pm to 6:15pm

 

Join CERA Manager Elizabeth Hill on a 1.5 mile spring ephemeral wildflower hike at CERA. Wear sturdy walking shoes and long pants to explore the spring ephemeral wildflowers at CERA!

Van leaves from Rosenfield Center drop-off zone at 4:15 p.m. Hike starts 4:45 p.m. at CERA, meet at Environmental Education Center.

Email Elizabeth Hill to reserve transportation.

Artistic Collaborations Online

Sasha Middeldorp ’18 and Arch Williams ’18, both members of Grinnell Singers, are helping launch a new project called the Grinnell Virtual Choir. In the project's most recent video, 25 singers used the technology to perform a movement from Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil.

In a virtual choir, each participant records one or more individual singing parts of a particular song, and the videos are then synchronized and combined into a group performance.

In the current video, Middeldorp and Williams are among the singers testing virtual choir technology and demonstrating how it works. It’s the first step in introducing both a testing tool for better choir singing and a new opportunity for musical interaction among alumni and current students.

User Friendly

Middledorp says she found her initial singing experience to be “simple and straightforward” from a technological standpoint. “I only had to practice once or twice to figure out some of the logistics,” Middeldorp says. “I was in a practice room, and I just recorded it on whatever video recorder is built in on the computer and watched John [Rommereim] conduct on the same device.”

Williams did the same “after finding a quiet spot in my house where I could sing,” he says. “I did a couple of takes before submitting my video. I adjusted based on the recordings of my own voice and as I got a better handle on the music.”

Taking Ownership

One of the goals of the virtual choir project is to develop innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Using videos to record individual parts may provide a better way to test and evaluate the contribution of singers and improve their accountability in the chorus.

“Often in choir you think you know your lines but you’re just relying on the person next to you,” Middeldorp says. “When it’s just you singing alone you really take ownership over the music. One of the great benefits of this is that you know if you’re truly solid on your part independently.”

The Grinnell Singers have already begun putting virtual choir technology to the test as a rehearsal tool. They are using it to practice Duruflé’s Requiem for a combined concert with the Grinnell Oratorio Society later this spring.

“I think that using virtual choir capabilities will be an exciting experience and will help us learn the music in a new, cool, and different way then we normally do in class,” Williams says.

Learning the Technology

Austin Morris ’15, a mathematics major and Grinnell Singers alumnus, is the talent behind the scenes. He says learning to synchronize audio and video files from various devices has been challenging but worthwhile. Innovation Fund support for the project helped secure dedicated equipment for his work.

“Once we get the videos from all the people that we contact, it’s my job to put them all together in the final project,” Morris says. “My goal is to make it look as good and complete as possible.”

Fun and Inspiring

“The main goal of the Grinnell Virtual Choir is to create an online platform that facilitates choral performances that are connected virtually,” says John Rommereim, Blanche Johnson Professor of Music. “It’s a way to engage alumni in an artistic way so they can collaborate with current students and with each other.”

Current singers and alumni are invited to contribute additional vocal parts on All-Night Vigil and other works via the website. In addition to instructions for accessing the score and conducting video, the site offers musical and technical tips for getting a workable recording.

Essentially, singers can make it as simple as putting on earbuds and singing into their phones or laptops.

“We want it to be fun and a little inspiring,” Rommereim says. “We’re hoping it will blossom into a significant artistic endeavor.” 

Sasha Middeldorp ’18 is an anthropology major from Northfield, Minn. Arch Williams ’18 is a chemistry and political science double major from Minneapolis.