VCFA NOW: the official vermont college of fine arts blog

MFA in Film Faculty Member Nina Davenport at Rotterdam Film Festival

Posted by Hannah Morris on Feb 1, 2013 5:42:00 PM

NinaDavenport web"'It begins around the time, when I was 41 and was wondering what to do about my biological clock, feeling it was about to explode any second and run out of time,'" as Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Film faculty member Nina Davenport described to writer Nick Cunningham. Five years ago, Davenport changed her life (as an over-40, single woman) radically by giving birth to a child. She documented the journey in her personal documentary called First Comes Love, currently being screened at the the 42nd Rotterdam Film Festival (January 23- February 3, 2013). Read the full write-up of Nina's film here.

This is an exciting time for Nina and for the newly launched MFA in Film at Vermont College of Fine Arts where Nina is a faculty member. With Faculty Chair Laura Colella and faculty member Till Schauder, the program promises to be nothing less than dynamic. VCFA recently had some great press about the new MFA in Film program. One of Vermont's premiere weekly newspapers Seven Days interviewed VCFA President Tom Greene about the program - read the article here.

Topics: vcfa, vermont college of fine arts, MFA in Film, independent filmmaking, antique photos, filmmaking, screenwriting, independent filmmakers, film makers

Thoughts on VCFA's MFA in Writing Winter Residency 2012-13

Posted by Hannah Morris on Jan 11, 2013 5:25:00 PM

A second contributor in our series reflecting on Vermont College of Fine Arts' Writing program residency that concluded last week, Kris Underwood, Social Media Coordinator at Hunger Mountain, provides an insightful overview of the highlights of this winter's residency. Students and faculty in VCFA's MFA in Writing program once again came from all parts of the globe to our snowy Montpelier campus for an intensive 10-day experience. In the fashion of our innovative low-residency program, they returned home after the residency to continue the six-month semester through discourse with their faculty advisors and students.

Photo © 2012 Anthony Pagani

VCFA MFA in Writing Faculty Kurt Caswell © 2012 Anthony Pagani

Not being a student, I always feel it is such a privilege to attend the residencies at VCFA. I’ve been to a few since I started as the Social Media Coordinator at Hunger Mountain two years ago. They are never disappointing and inspire such a creative rush. They seem to produce some of the best writing from faculty, visiting writers and students. One of the best things about residency readings is hearing works-in-progress or pieces that will be published within a few months or a year. Previously published works are read as well. Another thing that happens with readings during the residency: you want to go out and buy all the books the authors are reading from. Maybe that’s just me. This year, I wasn’t able to go to the last half of the residency, but managed to go to nearly all the readings and a few workshops in the beginning. In previous residencies, I would go to the events, take notes, and then write up a blog post towards the end to be posted on my blog. This residency, I decided to do something different. Rather than sit and listen, I would live-tweet the readings. The response on twitter was amazing! There was so much positive feedback on it. A lot of our followers-alums, in particular- said they loved it because it made them feel as if they were at the residency again. It’s something I will do again in future residencies. Here are a few tweets that popped up:

@HungerMtn has been all over this residency, guys. It's pretty awesome. –@Avant Garcia (Phillip Garcia)

Reading @HungerMtn posts makes me jealous of all my friends at the winter residency. #VCFA #lowres-@reitomsin

The play-by-play tweets from @HungerMtn make me want to go back to @VCFA. Is there any way I can get my MFA over again?-@woodwardwriter (Benjamin Woodward)

Love how @HungerMtn is live-tweeting the @VCFA winter residency & readings. #mfa #lowres-@erikadriefus

A couple of people really stood out for me during various readings: faculty members Richard McCann, Matthew Dickman, David Wojahn and the visiting writer and translator this semester, Ilya Kaminsky. I loved Wojahn simply because he drew from such interesting and varied subjects for his poems. He worked Dante’s “Inferno” (!) into a potent poem in response to the Sandy Hook shooting, addressed to Wayne La Pierre, Vice-President of the NRA. “Decoy Birds” was prefaced with a vivid introduction on the term “stool pigeon” and the origin of it. It wasn’t pretty, but the poem was magnificent. “Study Skins,” a eulogy of sorts for Reginald Shepherd, was prefaced by another strange story about men in dinner jackets/tuxes dissecting ocelots and such. His last poem drew on the origin of the first signature and the Sumerians. McCann’s work is always so emotional, so raw: you feel the pain-both physical and emotional; the longing for situations to turn out different, better. Matthew Dickman read from his new book, Myakovsky’s Revolver. They were all rather dark poems, one brand new, written the day of his reading. He is never dull. I think anybody who was at VCFA during Kaminsky’s reading would agree: he was amazing, almost beyond words. When he was done reading, there was applause, but there was also a hushed silence. Usually, there’s a fair amount of chatter after the last person reading as everyone is readying to go. He was just so intense. Patrick Ross summed it up in his MFA Nugget post: transcendent.

Tweets re Kaminsky: @HungerMtn I've never experienced a reading like that. Remarkable. I'll never forget it.-@waterburyctr (Darren Higgins)

I'm kind of at a loss for words listening/watching Ilya Kaminsky read. #reading #residency #VCFA- @krisunderwood @Hungermtn

Ilya Kaminsky: now that was an experience. #reading #residency #VCFA That's all for now. -@krisunderwood @Hungermtn

No matter which residency you attend, it is always an experience, one of complete immersion; one that connects you to an amazing network of colleagues, friends and mentors that lasts beyond the residency and eventual graduation. Now that the writing residency is over, I’ll be covering the Writing for Children and Young Adult residency that is just getting underway, on Twitter and Facebook. Follow along if you like!

Topics: vcfa, vermont college of fine arts, patrick ross, writing residency, mfa in writing, low-residency, Hunger Mountain, residency, matthew dickman, richard mccann

The Heart and Soul of VCFA's MFA Programs: Picking Your Advisor

Posted by Hannah Morris on Jan 4, 2013 5:30:00 PM

Unlike traditional residential programs, which require students to live near their program of study, Vermont College of Fine Arts' MFA programs bring students together twice each year on the VCFA campus. Our MFA in Writing residency concludes next week. Students have come from every corner of the world to VCFA’S snow-laden campus here in Montpelier, bringing exceptional and diverse perspectives, attitudes, and voices. They'll return home inspired and ready to continue the six month semester through often intense discourse with their faculty advisors. MFA in Writing student Paul Zakrzewski '14W offers the following thoughts on how the advisor-student relationship is the "heart and soul" of VCFA's low residency model

Ellen Lesser, Faculty in VCFA's MFA in Writing program

“I’m a bit of a fatalist when it comes to picking advisors,” says my classmate.

Uh-oh. Does he want to tell me about last semester?

“It went well.” He adjusts his lunch tray just so. “I’m just a go-with-the-flow guy. You know, what happens happens.” He leans back expansively. “Well, maybe not a fatalist so much as an optimistic fatalist.”

If the residency is the connective tissue of low residency programs, then the advisor relationship is its heart and soul. A good match can make you feel exhausted but exhilarated—a marathon well run. But a bad one can make you question why you’ve decided to fork over a lot of hard-earned cash; or the stress of leaving a family, a job, or a life behind.

Like my classmate, other second-semester students I’ve spoken to say they’ll learn a lot whoever they end up with. You might say we’re an optimistic lot because we have to be. After all, until your third (and especially fourth) semesters, you’re not guaranteed to get your top choices for advisors.

Still, it’s impossible not to think about what makes for a good match.

Above all else, I want someone who’ll be generous with both time and spirit. Larry Sutin put it really well in a panel discussion I went to this morning. The thing he liked about teaching was that it gave him a chance to “give the best of myself to students who are trying to do their best.” That sounds like a great formula for being a good advisor too.

Many people I’ve talked to look for shared aesthetic. Classmates want help in shaping their vision, someone who’s travelled further down the same road you now find yourself on. Personal chemistry matters too, just like it does in most relationships in life.

Some recommend that you read a potential advisor’s books. Others say pay attention to reputation. If someone is known as being tough and you know that’s what you want, then maybe this is the right person for you.

Semesters matter too. For example, in your third semester, when you’re focusing on a critical thesis, picking an advisor who you think may help you shape that project (as much as your creative work) could be important.

And still other times you have a very specific thing you want to accomplish creatively in a term. This is where I find myself right now. After a fall semester in which I had a lot of personal as well as creative challenges, I’m trying to figure out just what I’m writing. Essays? Memoir? Maybe something in between? More than the question of genre, it’s figuring out what I want to say—intention—that’s a big area of focus.

Effective essays and memoir are often about those experiences that feel particularly shameful or humiliating—“pressure points,” as they’re politely called in workshops. In my writing, I’m trying to unpack more of those in effective, unpredictable ways. I want to dig deeper, show more vulnerability, sink into those pressure points in my family story that scare me.

A couple of days ago, those of us in our first and second semester found ourselves in the midst of faculty interviews. I kept trying to figure out the best way to ask the questions foremost in mind: what will you bring to the role of advisor? And what do you like from me?

I sat down in front of one teacher. He was on my list, but not a top pick. I trudged ahead anyway.

“Well,” he laughed in a way I immediately liked. “I want vulnerability. Receptivity. That’s what I look for in a student. As for me”—he paused—“I’m an attentive reader. I look for intention. ‘What’s really going on for this writer?’ Then I try to help her get there.”

Which is how I found the advisor I want to work with right now.

Visit Paul Zakrzewski '14W’s site here.

Follow the VCFA Twitter feeds for live coverage of the MFA in Writing residency lectures, talks and events.

Topics: vcfa, vermont college of fine arts, mfa in writing, Montpelier, vermont college

VCFA Artist-in-Residence Wu Tsang in New York Times “Twelve for 12”

Posted by Hannah Morris on Dec 10, 2012 3:27:00 PM

VCFA MFA in Visual Art February 2012 Artist-in-Residence Wu Tsang was featured in The VCFA MFA in Visual Art Artist-in-Residency Wu TangNewYork Times Sunday “Twelve for 12”. The Los Angeles based artist and filmmaker explores issues of transgender identity through personal films and video installations. These films have been shown at MoMA, where Wildness will screen on December 16, and as part of both the 2012 Whitney Biennial and 2012 New Museum Triennial. (Tsang was the only artist to appear in both prestigious surveys.) Tsang identifies as transfeminine, which carries plenty of complicated social and political meaning.

Wu was a recent artist-in-residence here at Vermont College of Fine Arts during the February 2012 Visual Art program residency. Artists-in-residence come for the entire residency, working alongside faculty critiquing and working closely with every student. Wu premiered Wildness for the first time in front of a public audience at the residency.

VCFA's MFA programs offer the best kind of learning, as composer and MFA in Music Composition faculty chair Rick Baitz described: "ultimately the most effective learning is experiential: one learns by doing, and one teaches by example." We're pleased to have artists like Wu Tang share their talent and vision with our students, pushing boundaries and challenging limitations in a truly effective and supportive learning environment.

Topics: vcfa, vermont college of fine arts, Wu Tsang, mfa in visual art

Top 5 Reasons to get your MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts

Posted by Hannah Morris on Nov 26, 2012 3:10:00 PM
VCFA MFA in Visual Art 
(Hint: Virtually guaranteed transformation)

Why choose Vermont College of Fine Arts, nestled in the heart of Montpelier, Vermont, as the place to pursue your graduate school dreams? We've got a few answers for you to consider.

1) However sleepless you may be, you'll walk away with an outstanding and well-earned MFA degree. You will find yourself immersed in rigorous, demanding, and rewarding graduate programs. See how guest Tweeter Nicole Valentine on @WeAreVCFA, a student in the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program, answered the question: is it possible to work full time and get your MFA? A resounding YES, although you might “give up sleep and weekends for two years.” 

2) You will make breakthroughs. As described by MFA Visual Arts Program Director Danielle Dahline, our programs provide “virtually guaranteed transformations.” What artist or writer doesn’t want to break on through to the other side?

3) You will join an immediate and long-lasting community. Alumni writers, artists, musicians, and designers forge sustaining bonds lasting well beyond their two-year journeys. From writing groups to conversations on Twitter, current students and alumni keep each other motivated and inspired in their creative endeavors. 

4) You will drink great coffee and micro brews, eat excellent local food, attend theater performances and art house movies, and wander the streets of downtown Montpelier, one of the literary hubs of the Northeast, as coined by VCFA President Thomas Greene. The community you experience on campus and in the program is reflected in the town itself: generous, welcoming, and outstanding. 

5)  You will make your creative process a full-blown feature of your life. You will your journey into unexpected places; Yukiyo Kawano (MFA in Visual Art) received the prestigious Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant for her research on the effect of the Hiroshima bombing on her grandparents and their village. 

Are you intrigued? Maybe you’re already filling out an inquiry form right now. In the meantime, follow @WeAreVCFA and hear first-hand what our current students, alumni and faculty have to say about their experiences at VCFA. Our guarantee? A life-changing experience that all starts on this hill with your willingness to take the first steps.

Topics: vcfa, vermont college of fine arts, vermont college, writing community, low-residency mfa, low-residency, vermont, low residency graduate school

Talk with Rick Baitz, Faculty Chair MFA in Music Composition

Posted by Ann Cardinal on Nov 1, 2012 4:37:00 PM

Thursday, December 6, 2012 
5:30 to 6:30 pm ET 

Join well-known film and television composer, Rick Baitz, Faculty Chair of the MFA in Music Composition at Vermont College of Fine Arts for a lively, informative and not-to-be-missed live audio conference on November 14th at 5:30 pm.                                                                                              
Rick will talk about how this unique educational model offers emerging and established composers a chance to define their own creative paths in a curriculum that embraces five areas of focus:
  • Contemporary Composition
  • Electronic Music
  • Music for Media (Film, TV & Game scoring)
  • Songwriting
  • Jazz 
Benefits of Attending:
  • Learn about how our talented and diverse faculty work across multiple platforms.
  • Find out how you can focus in one area or work across musical genres.
  • Discover this unique educational experience and hear first-hand how a low-residency MFA can work for you.
  • Understand how we can help you achieve your creative and professional goals as a composer.
Join us November 14th for a live audio conference with Rick Baitz and Assistant Director of Admissions, Phillip Robertson.  It is a great opportunity to explore this unique graduate program and have your questions answered.     
It's free and all you need to participate is your phone.                                  
Sign up to get your questions answered and learn more about VCFA's MFA in Music Composition Program.   


Topics: rick baitz, music composition, low-residency mfa, MFA in Music Composition, low-residency

VCFA MFA in Music Composition Faculty Performances

Posted by Ann Cardinal on Oct 24, 2012 2:59:00 PM

It’s a busy time for MFA in Music Composition faculty, several of whom have upcoming performances, including: Diane Moser, Michael Early, Andy Jaffe, and Jonathan Bailey Holland.

 peace concert image

Diane Moser’s Composers’ Big Band performs at Trumpets Jazz Club in Montclair, NJ on Wednesday, October 24 at8:00pm. The “Peace Concert” and Tribute to Daniel Pearl/Daniel Pearl World Music Days features the following guest artists: vocalist Marcelino Feliciano, poet Kirpal Gordon, turntablist Chad Moser,composers Russ Vines and Michael Early (also a member of the MFA in Music Composition faculty).


Daniel Pearl World Music Days was created in response to the 2002 kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl at the hands of extremists in Karachi, Pakistan. Daniel Pearl World Music Days is an international network of concerts that use the power of music to reaffirm our commitment to tolerance and humanity. Since 2002, Daniel Pearl World Music Days has grown to include the participation of more than 8,900 performances in 119 countries. Daniel Pearl was a talented musician who joined musical groups in every community in which he lived, leaving behind a long trail of musician-friends spanning the entire world. Commemorating Danny’s October 10th birthday, World Music Days uses the universal language of music to encourage fellowship across cultures and build a platform for ‘Harmony for Humanity.’”


BSO Concert UseOn Friday, November 2 at 8:00pm the Berkshire Symphony will perform Andy Jaffe’s Every Day Blues, a tribute to Professor Ernest D. Brown, who was a colleague of Andy’s at Williams College. Andy is a well-known jazz performer, arranger, composer, and author of seminal studies of jazz music theory. In Every Day Blue he blends African, American, and European traditions and remembers Prof. Brown in this piece by using the initials EDB both to construct and name the composition.


The Radius Ensemble will perform the world premiere of Tracing Lines, a sextet for winds and drums that they commissioned from Jonathan Bailey Holland. Five separate performances will take place at locations throughout Boston between Monday, October 29 and Friday, November 16, including:

Three free concerts sponsored by the Free for All Concert Fund which will take place along the #1 bus route:

Monday, October 29, 6:30pm at Dudley Square Branch of the Boston Public Library

Monday, November 5, 6:30pm at Cambridge Public Library

Thursday, November 8, 6:30pm at Harriet Tubman House at the United South End Settlements

As part of a program called Kin on Saturday, November 10, 8:00pm, at the Longy School of Music of Bard College

In a second performance of Kin on Friday, November 16, 7:30pm in the newly renovated Razzo Hall at Clark University in Worcester, MA.


Finally, Jonathan Bailey Holland’s Motor City Dance Mix will be performed on Sunday, November 18 by the Bryan Symphony Orchestra of Cookville, TN, currently celebrating their 50th season, as part of an all-American program.


Topics: music composition, low-residency mfa, MFA in Music Composition, low-residency, jonathan bailey holland

MFA in Visual Art Alumnus Wins New Mexico Public Art Commission

Posted by Ann Cardinal on Oct 17, 2012 11:42:00 AM

Model of Nicolas Gadbois MuralVermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Visual Art alumnas Nicolas Gadbois was awarded the public art commission for the University of New Mexico in Los Alamos.  

Nicolas' design is a bas relief mural that will be fabricated from reinforced concrete tinted a terra cotta color. His paint box of materials will include fused glass tiles and ceramic discs. LED light fixtures will provide illumination at night.  The design also includes a stone retaining wall, a flagstone walkway and native landscaping. The mural will be 8 feet tall and 18 feet wide. “The mural faces east and the iridescent glass will be reflected and produce an illuminated effect as you drive along Diamond Drive in front of the campus,” Gadbois said. “You’ll see the sparkle move along the piece as you drive.”

detail of winning mural designGadbois took inspiration from ancient petroglyphs, but he decided on the symbols his design incorporates by spending time in the UNM-LA library. “I wanted to see what the students are looking at—the symbols and imagery is the language being spoken,” Gadbois said. “I’m very attracted to symbols. They are very interesting visually.”

one of the precast samples Nicolas presented to the committeeSymbols from mathematics such as Pi are included. Gadbois uses the binary code that underpins computer function as a textual element—almost like wallpaper patterning.

Nicolas told VCFA the installation of the panels will happen in spring of 2013. 

Nicolas currently lives and paints in Santa Fe. He has also been teaching encaustic painting at Santa Fe Community College through continuing ed. His work is being shown in Red Dot Gallery and he’s been applying for new public art projects, including the Spaceport Project in New Mexico.  

Topics: Pi, low-residency mfa, mfa in visual art, Nicolas Gadbois, Public Art, University of New Mexico

VCFA Alumni Focus: Pamela Post-Ferrante, Writing and Healing

Posted by Ann Cardinal on Oct 5, 2012 12:53:00 PM

Pamela Post FerranteGraduates and students of VCFA’s MFA programs can attest to how vigorous and challenging the programs are, but imagine doing it while battling cancer?  MFA in Writing alumna Pamela Post-Ferrante, ’97, knows all too well what that’s like.   


Pam began VCFA’s MFA in Writing Program after her second surgery and radiation treatment for breast cancer. The cancer reoccurred while she was in the midst of getting her degree. Pamela survived four bouts of cancer and eight surgeries and treatments over five years. 


The critical thesis she produced while in the MFA in Writing program was titled "Writing and Healing."  By the fourth diagnosis, Pamela "vowed that if I lived, I’d do what many have done before me, help others who have experienced cancer." As a result, she went on to create Writing and Healing workshops specifically designed for cancer survivors and has been leading the workshops in Boston hospitals and other venues in the Boston area for 13 years. As Pamela says, "Writing helps you to know who you are; what has happened in your life, and what it means to you. It helps you to heal it."

writing and healing book cover


Random House recently published the culmination of this work: Writing & Healing: A Mindful Guide for Cancer Survivors (Hatherleigh/Random House, May 29, 2012). The book, aimed at cancer survivors and health professionals, offers 12 writing sessions that encourage readers to become active participants in their own healing. The lessons use creative writing prompts and guided meditations (CD included) within healing themes what does this mean? rephrase.


Not surprisingly, Pamela has found success with her book. Journalist, author and cancer survivor Cokie Roberts (Senior News Analyst for NPR; Commentator for ABC;) said, “Writing and Healing is a practical, yet beautiful, how-to. As you read, it becomes quite clear why healing comes with the writing and the sharing of stories.”



Topics: healing, mfa in writing, low residency graduate school, pamela post-ferrante, cancer, healing and writing

VCFA Sponsored Event: Celebration of Writing/Young Writers Project

Posted by Ann Cardinal on Sep 25, 2012 3:31:00 PM
Bridget Iverson.YWP slam web

Vermont College of Fine Arts is teaming up with Young Writers Project (YWP) to hold day of workshops and readings to celebrate the publication of YWP’s latest anthology.


Mark Saturday, Oct. 27 on your calendars and join the Celebration of Writing 2012, a collaboration of VCFA and the Young Writers Project. The event, which begins at 10 a.m. on the VCFA campus in Montpelier, features a day of workshops, readings and release of YWP’s newest anthology of best student writing.


YWP logo stacked paper

Beginning at 10 a.m., prominent writers and artists, including several VCFA graduates, will present intriguing workshops on humor, character development, revision, the musicality of poetry, dialog, critiquing and finding the story. Each workshop is 50 minutes long and will be free. Lunch will be provided but donations will be appreciated.

Headlining the event is VCFA board member and award-winning author Katherine Paterson. Her presentation begins at 3:30 and will be followed with readings by 10-12 young writers whose work is being published. A reception and formal release of Anthology 4 will follow.


Workshop leaders include: actress/writer Robin Fawcett, comedic writer/actor Rusty DeWees, poet Reuben Jackson, novelist Sarah Stewart Taylor and Vermont College alums and students Kate Bayerl, Cindy Faughnan, Peter Langella, Tam Smith and Mima Tipper.



About the Young Writers Project:

Young Writers Project is a nonprofit dedicated to building a generation of better writers. Each year it publishes 1,000 students’ work in 21 newspapers and on Vermont Public Radio. This year’s anthology was drawn from 12,000 writing submissions and 2,000 pieces of visual art.


Topics: vcfa, vermont college of fine arts, young writers project, katherine paterson, young writers

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