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Cellist Collaborates with Printmakers for Unique Aural and Visual Presentation

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Tania Pyatovolenko, Kelsey VanHorn, Kristina Davis

School of Music graduate student Tania Pyatovolenko is used to carting her cello around campus. But one morning early in the fall semester, she took it to a place where she had never performed before—a printmaking class. Pyatovolenko played excerpts from pieces from her recital, including works by Beethoven, Bach and 20th-century composer George Crumb. The printmaking students listened intently—and then got to work.

The resulting artwork, inspired by Tania’s cello playing, was exhibited in the lobby of Esber Recital Hall for her solo recital on November 14. This unique collaboration was initiated after Pyatovolenko, as part of her summer internship duties in the College of Arts and Architecture’s development office, talked to printmaking faculty member Robin Gibson about an endowment she had created in Penn State’s School of Visual Arts (SoVA). Their project was funded by an Institute for the Arts and Humanities Graduate Residency Grant.

“When I first started talking to Robin, she asked me about myself, and then we began talking about collaborating,” said Pyatovolenko. “This project has become a vital learning experience and significantly impacted students by developing their creative mind and imagination.”

According to Graeme Sullivan, director of SoVA, the collaborative project allowed artists in different disciplines to see their work in new ways. “Printmakers are a unique community of artists bound by a passion and knowledge that allows them to continually explore new ways of working. The collaboration with Tania Pyatovolenko began with mutual fascination with each others’ craft and the outcome is a compelling narrative of sight and sound.”

Tania performed for and spoke with students in an introduction to printmaking class, taught by Gibson, and an artist’s book class, taught by visual arts graduate student Kristina Davis. Following her performances, she answered questions from the students, who were interested in the composers and other historical background of the music.

“It was very eye-opening to discover what interested the printmaking students,” Pyatovolenko said. “It helped me understand how people outside music think. And it was inspiring, in a sense, because I learned what type of information I need to explain to the general public about my music.”

The Esber exhibit will include lithographs by 10 students, and a single artist’s book with seven folios, including pages created by Gibson and Davis. Mark Rizzo, a woodworker and SoVA staff member, constructed the book’s wooden box. The entire piece measures 11 x 13 x 3 inches.

According to Pyatovolenko, it’s crucial for students in the College of Arts and Architecture to make connections between departments. “My level of creativity increased through this collaboration,” she said. “I was able to explain why I love playing the cello, and I think this helped the printmaking students appreciate the music in their own way.”

Gibson said she hopes for more interdisciplinary collaborations in the future. “Without a doubt, we want to do more of this. It’s a way of breaking down boundaries,” she noted. “The art students were definitely challenged, and had to move outside their comfort zones. But they were excited about the project.”

For Davis, the collaboration served as a catalyst for her to contact departments outside the College of Arts and Architecture about working together. She currently has projects in the works with the film/video and acoustics programs.

Click here for images, by Alex Bush, of the lithographs and artist's book.