Luminescence III, mixed media, Mylar paper, Acetates, 2017 Serge Marchetta and Masha Ryskin

As many as 400 artists a year enjoy residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Fellows, as they are known, frequently visit classes, and each month, the Center hosts an evening Salon Series, in which two or three Fellows are invited to campus to present their work to the community in the Reahard Gallery of the Cochran Library, which is equipped with a grand piano as well as suitable technology for showing visual images.

Writers, visual artists, and composers have given a wide range of presentations. For instance, Ailís Ní Ríain, an Irish contemporary classical composer, performed works created for the Brontë Parsonage in England, essentially a sonic accompaniment to a tour of the facility, including sounds that would have been present to the Brontës when they were living there, such as the ringing of a hammer on stone from the cemetery nearby, birdsong, or falling rain. Another composer, Andrea Clearfield, shared her work recording the last royal court singer of Lo Monthang in Nepal, a remote and restricted region near the border of Tibet. Those recordings are part of the World Oral Literature Project of Cambridge University, dedicated to preserving endangered languages. She also composed music influenced by the Tibetan music she heard, so her presentation and performance were intended to interest students studying music composition and performance, ethnomusicology, anthropology, religious studies, Asian studies, and world music, for example.

Composer Andrea Clearfield performs
Composer Andrea Clearfield performs at a Salon evening. Photo by Medford Taylor.

Occasionally, the Salon takes the form of a performance. In the spring of 2019, filmmaker Amy Jenkins showed her remarkable documentary Instructions on Parting, an exquisite and moving record of the year she lost three members of her family to cancer and also gave birth to her first child.




Artists who have appeared at the salon series include:

  • Andrea Clearfield is an award-winning composer of music for orchestra, chorus, chamber ensemble, dance, and multimedia collaborations. She will show original footage from her Tibetan music documentation and discuss a new body of work —much of it composed at VCCA —that was inspired by that fieldwork. With anthropologist and ethnomusicologist Katey Blumenthal, Clearfield recorded the last royal court singer of Lo Monthang, Nepal, a remote and restricted region near the border of Tibet. Their recordings are part of the World Oral Literature Project of Cambridge University, dedicated to preserving endangered languages. She will discuss how this ancient culture has influenced her life and music and perform examples of her Tibetan-influenced compositions.
  • Born in Ukraine and currently working in Brooklyn, NY, Luba Drozd earned a BFA from Pratt Institute and an MFA from Bard College. Her video and audio installations have been exhibited at the Bronx Museum, LUBOV Gallery, UIMA Chicago, Jamaica Center for Arts and Language, Carver Center Gallery, Ukrainian Museum in New York, Apexart, BRIC, Smack Mellon, Anthology Film Archives, the New York Video Festival at Lincoln Center and Art in General. She is the recipient of a MASS MoCA Visiting Artist Residency, a VCCA artist residency, a Millay Colony residency, an Eastern State Historic Site Grant for New Work, a BRIC Media Arts Fellowship and the Bronx Museum AIM fellowship. She will present two video and audio installations. Motivated politically, the works subtly layer how intangible spaces within us —such as memory space, knowledge, and perception of time — are controlled and regimented.
  • Rose Skelton is a fiction writer and journalist who lived in and reported on west Africa for fifteen years. Her articles have appeared in the International Herald Tribune, The Guardian, the Observer, the BBC, the Independent and others. She has an MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, and is currently working on a collection of short stories entitled Homescar, set on the Scottish Hebridean Islands. She trains African journalists in investigative reporting, and is a member of the Tobermory Lifeboat crew, which rescues people at sea. She will read a story, “Heartwood,” about the friendship between a man and his neighbour, a shepherd, after the death of the man’s wife. The story is set on the Isle of Mull, where she lives.
  • Katy Mixon is a visual artist working in painting, sculpture, quilting and photography. She earned her M.F.A. from The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and her BA from Davidson College. She is an alumna of The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Mixon is a recipient of a 2017 Working Artist Grant and a 2015 Ruth and Harold Chenven Foundation Award. She was a finalist for a 2016 William and Dorothy Yeck Young Painters Award and a 2015 VCUarts Fountainhead Fellowship. Mixon was an artist-in-residence at VCCA, The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, The Hambidge Center, AICAD Studio Practice Residency and Byrdcliffe Art Colony. Select exhibition venues include The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, N.C.; Ackland Art Museum, N.C.; Spartanburg Art Museum, SC; Target Gallery, Va; Ceres Gallery, N.Y.; Rubber Stamp Project, Fla; Allcott Gallery, N.C.; and 701 Center for Contemporary Art, S.C. Mixon lives and works in Orangeburg, S.C., and Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Idris Anderson’s second collection of poems, Doubtful Sound, was selected by Sherod Santos for the Hollis Summers Prize of Ohio University Press and was published in March 2018. Her first collection of poems, Mrs. Ramsay’s Knee, was selected by Harold Bloom for the May Swenson Poetry Award. She has won a Pushcart Prize (2010) and the New York Yeats Society Poetry Prize and has published poems in AGNICrab Orchard ReviewThe Hudson ReviewMichigan Quarterly ReviewThe Paris ReviewPlumeSouthern Review and other journals. She was born and grew up in Charleston, S.C. and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area two decades ago, when she was awarded an NEH Teacher-Scholar grant to study Greek and Greek tragedy at Stanford University.
  • Ailís Ní Ríain is an Irish contemporary classical composer who aims to produce work that challenges, provokes and engages. She composes in a variety of forms, including musical theater, concert music, opera and site-specific installation music. In 2016, she was awarded the prestigious Paul Hamlyn Award for Artists, the largest individual artists’ award in the UK. Her music has been performed at the Southbank Centre in London, The National Concert Hall in Dublin and Carnegie Hall in New York. Her debut album, a Brontë concept album, Linger, was released in 2015 alongside a music installation for the Brontë Parsonage in Yorkshire. Although her formal artistic training has been in classical music as a composer and pianist, Ríain is also a writer. She is published by Bloomsbury and Nick Hern Books, and her plays have been produced in Europe and the U.S. Desolate Heaven was long-listed for the James Tate Black Award, and The Tallest Man in the World was short-listed for the prestigious Eugene O’Neill Playwright’s Conference USA. Ríain is deaf. She is a passionate advocate for the arts and disability sector in both the UK and Ireland, where her work has been supported and commissioned by leading arts and disability organizations, including Unlimited, DaDaFest, Art & Disability Ireland and Sound and Music, the UK’s national new music organization.
  • Sarah Goodyear is the author of the novel View from a Burning Bridge, published by Red Hen Press. As a journalist, she has published articles and essays in dozens of venues, among them Psychology Today, The Village Voice, Ms. Magazine, and the CityLab website, which is part of The Atlantic. As a performance storyteller, she has made appearances at Lit Brooklyn and the Shed in New York City. She is also a songwriter who has performed at venues in New York including the Mercury Lounge and Rockwood Music Hall. She lives in Brooklyn with her wife, her teenage son, and their two dogs. will read from her novel in progress, which is called Stand Clear. It’s the story of Alice, a teenage girl growing up and running wild in the New York City of the late 1970s. When her mother almost dies in childbirth, has a nervous breakdown, and loses their apartment, Alice has to figure out how to make it on her own in a city that is having its own kind of collapse. The book is funny, sad, and ruthless — like Alice herself.
  • Director/Producer/Writer Laurie Kahn is devoted to bringing the lives and work of compelling (yet overlooked) women to the screen. Her films have won major awards, been shown on PBS primetime, broadcast around the world, screened at prominent museums, and used widely in university classrooms and community groups. Her first film, A Midwife’s Tale, is based on Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book.  It won film festival awards and a primetime EMMY for Outstanding Non-Fiction. Her film TUPPERWARE! won the George Foster Peabody Award and was nominated for the primetime EMMY for Nonfiction Directing.  Her most recent film, Love Between the Covers, has received glowing reviews worldwide and five stars at Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes. In 2000, Laurie produced an award-winning interactive website, Before founding her own production company, she worked on Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965, The American Experience, Frontline‘s four-hour series Crisis in Central America, All Things Considered, and Time Out. She is a Resident Scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University. Laurie will show excerpts from her films Love Between the CoversTUPPERWARE!, and A Midwife’s Tale, and  discuss her new project, a feature film about the 13 intrepid female pilots who aced the “right stuff” tests at the dawn of the space age but were told that space is only for men. Her films are informed by a deep interest in telling history from the bottom up, especially the stories of women.
  • Paige Critcher holds a BFA  from Ohio University and an MFA from VCU. She has worked in photography since 1984, first as a part of a commercial studio, and then as a fine art printer and gallery owner. She also worked in the early digital world at a service bureau, and taught photography at VCU, at Sweet Briar College, and for Semester at Sea. She has spent the last three years traveling and writing grants for a Women’s Shelter in Petersburg, Va. Paige will show images from the last three years of travel to seventeen different countries, and she will read briefly from her travel journals.
  • Cheryl Davis is a recipient of the Ed Kleban Award for her work as a librettist, and her musical Barnstormer, written with award-winning composer Douglas J. Cohen, received a Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Award, under the auspices of the Lark Play Development Center. Her play Maid’s Door was produced at the Billie Holiday Theatre to excellent reviews and received seven Audelco Awards; it was also presented at the 2015 National Black Theatre Festival. Her play Carefully Taught was performed at the Astoria Performing Arts Center. Her new musical, Bridges, was produced by the Berkeley Playhouse in February 2016. Cheryl is a musical theater librettist and lyricist and an alumna of the Advanced Workshop of the BMI/Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. She has a degree in English and a Certificate in Theatre and Dance from Princeton University and has studied playwriting with Jean-Claude Van Itallie and Jeffrey Sweet. She is a former Dramatists Guild Fellow, having been mentored by playwright/librettist Alfred Uhry. She is an alumna of the Playwrights’ Lab of the Women’s Project and Productions, of the River Writers Unit of the Ensemble Studio Theatre, and the Milk Can Theatre Company, and is a member of the Dramatists Guild. She is the Vice President of Theater Resources Unlimited, a producers’ networking organization, and is General Counsel for the League of Professional Theater Women. She is a practicing attorney in Manhattan and is General Counsel of the Authors Guild.
  • David B. Wohl composes music for theater, multimedia, dance, television, and concert hall, and has received 16 ASCAP Special Awards for his works. He is the composer and arranger of the widely performed A 1940s Radio Christmas Carol (Samuel French, publisher), sequel to the popular The 1940s Radio Hour, and is the composer and lyricist for the multi-award winning musical, Jed. David is a musical director and keyboardist for numerous productions and ensembles (jazz, rock, swing, funk, classical, and theatrical), and has played keyboards on the national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar.  He is also a composer, producer and arranger for artists and corporate clients. His upcoming CD to be released is entitled Awakening Path. His music degrees come from Roosevelt University (B.M), Northwestern University (M.M.), and McGill University (D.Mus).
  • Composer and lyricist David Wohl and writer Cheryl Davis are the creators of the new musical Jed, based on the Coretta Scott King Award-winning book and Reading Rainbow favorite, Uncle Jed’s Barbershop written by Margaree King Mitchell and illustrated by James Ransome. They will offer a presentation on the collaborative process of writing a musical, theatrical structure, and the nature of theater songs. Wohl will perform a few excerpts from the show.
  • Serge Marchetta is a native of Montreal and holds a BFA in Painting from the University of Quebec, Montreal (1995). Masha Ryskin lives in Providence, RI and is a political refugee from the Soviet Union. She holds a BFA in Prinmaking from Rhode Island School of Design (1995) and an MFA in Painting/Mixed Media from University of Michigan (1997). Marchetta and Ryskin met at CAMAC Art Centre in France in 2009 and, in parallel with their individual practices, have been collaborating since then, producing drawings, photographs, videos, as well as gallery and open-air installations. They have participated in a number of artist residencies in the United States, Norway, Iceland, Finland and the Netherlands, and together have exhibited in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Their work stems from research on light, and recent projects are explorations of ambiguity of space through light, layered imagery, and shadows. They are also intrigued by the transformation of a static work as a result of light, as well as projected video and animation sequences.
  • Emily Maloney is the author of the forthcoming book Cost of Living (Flatiron Books, 2020), about health care in America seen through the lenses of both patient and practitioner. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The New York Times, Glamour, Virginia Quarterly Review, the North American Review, and the American Journal of Nursing. She has worked as an ER tech and EMT, dog groomer, pastry chef, general contractor, tile setter, catalog model, and has sold her ceramics at art fairs. She has also worked in middle management at a multinational pharmaceutical company and many of her experiences there have fed into her current book project. Her essay, “Cost of Living,” which originally appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review, was selected for Best American Essays 2017, edited by Leslie Jamison. Next up is a memoir about growing up with nonverbal learning disability.
  • Over the course of one tumultuous year, artist and director Amy Jenkins confronts the cancer diagnoses of her mother, sister, and brother, and also welcomes her first child to life. Crafted in a unique visual style, the film weaves breathtaking vignettes of nature unfolding with cinéma vérité family footage to lead us to a bold and daring acceptance our own mortality. Weaving cinéma vérité family footage with breathtaking vignettes of nature unfolding, Instructions on Parting tells an elegiac story about transformation, grief, and the essential nature of the collective human journey. As Jenkins welcomes her first child into the world, she also must negotiate the cancer diagnoses of her mother, sister, and brother, all of whom fall ill within the same year. Crafted from Jenkins’ video journals and narrated through archived answering machine messages, Jenkins, a visual artist, turns her camera to interrogate loss. Her vulnerability leads us to a bold and daring acceptance of our own mortality and a reverence for the fleeting beauty of life. Instructions on Parting had its World Premiere in New York at the Museum of Modern Art Doc Fortnight Festival in February and its International Premiere at the Sydney Film Festival, AU, in June. The film won Best Documentary at the Athens International Film and Video Festival, OH. The film had its New England Premiere at the Independent Film Festival Boston in April, and was also screened at Montclair Film Festival, NJ and the Greenpoint Film Festival, Brooklyn, in April/May.

Read More about the VCCA Salons