University of Kansas: Partnerships

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Partnership was a central component of the Tree of Life project. A key consideration in defining our project theme was that it be one in which different individuals and areas of the campus could feel invested because the theme would be in line with current areas of knowledge and research conducted on campus. Participation and engagement was sought from academic areas, resident artists on campus, and Lied Center artists to ensure that the theme was articulated in such a way that individuals from all disciplines felt they could contribute to the exploration.

The key non-faculty artistic partnership was with David Balakrishnan and his ensemble, the Turtle Island Quartet. Having co-commissioned work previously with them, we knew the group to be not only extraordinary composers and musicians, but also of good temperament and with an interest in returning and committing to a project of this nature. We also brought into the project a newly formed campus research partnership, The Commons. The Commons is a KU partnership between the KU Biodiversity Institute, the Hall Center for the Humanities, and the Spencer Museum of Art. The Commons mission, to explore the relationships between nature and culture across the sciences, humanities, and arts, was perfectly aligned with the Creative Campus project.

Artistic Partners

  • David Balakrishnan (composer, violinist) – participated in the interdisciplinary research project, composed the music for the final work, and performed the final work with his fellow members of the Turtle Island Quartet and the KU Wind Ensemble
  • Dennis Christilles, PhD, (KU associate professor of Theatre and Film and resident designer for the University Theatre)  was a colloquium presenter and wrote the text used during the final commissioned work
  • Muriel Cohan (associate professor of Dance)“ co-choreographed the final work
  • Matt Jacobson, MFA (associate professor of Theatre and Film)  was the video media artist for the final work
  • Mark Reaney, MFA (professor of Theatre and Film) provided scenic design for the final work
  • Delores Ringer, MFA (head of Theatre Design and associate professor of Theatre and Film)  designed and created costumes for the final work
  • Del Unruh, MA (professor of Theatre and Film) – designed lighting for the final work
  • Scott Weiss, PhD (director of KU Bands and the KU Wind Ensemble)  rehearsed and conducted the wind ensemble during the final work
  • John Staniunas, MFA (associate professor and chair of Theatre and Film)  taught a theater class during which students created the theater components of the final work, and was the performance’s director
  • Patrick Suzeau (professor of Dance)  co-choreographed and performed in the final work
  • Karen Lane Christilles, MA (Lied Center associate director)  was the Creative Campus project director, involved in catalyzing and coordinating the many participants in the project and working on the presentation aspects of the final performances
  • Turtle Island String Quartet performed in the final work, provided some community programs
    • David Balakrishnan, violin, baritone violin
    • Mads Tolling, violin
    • Jeremy Kittel, viola
    • Mark Summer, cello

Campus Partners

(responsible for funding and project implementation)

  • Hall Center for the Humanities – provided the Simons Public Humanities Fellowship for David Balakrishnan to be in residence on campus, was active in project development, and sponsored the year one Tree of Life Faculty Colloquium series of presentations and discussions, and a seminar series in year two.
  • The Commons  provided a venue for interdisciplinary interaction, hosted faculty brown bag lunches to explore implementation of Creative Campus at KU, and developed an Honors Creativity Lecture Series
  • University arts departments  the University Theatre, University Dance Company, Department of Music and Dance, KU Wind Ensemble, and the Department of Theatre and Film, all provided in-kind support through the involvement of faculty and the use of facilities, were partners in project development, and worked throughout with the visiting artist to conceive of and creative the final production.
  • Kansas Space Grant Consortium  provided in-kind support in the form of a graduate student to do computer programming that created the virtual reality element of the final work.
  • Center for Science Education  developed and executed a summer workshop for regional teachers and students on creative approaches to teaching evolution.
  • KU Office of Institutional Research and Planning  worked with the Lied Center to develop, administer, and analyze the faculty survey.
  • Spencer Art Museum mounted an exhibition  Trees & Other Ramifications: Branches in Nature & Culture to coincide with the Tree of Life project; also engaged sculptor Patrick Dougherty as artist in residence to create a tree-branch sculpture at The Commons.

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