Educational opportunities abound for over 25,000 visitors annually at UF's Mazza Museum, which is home to the world's largest and most diverse collection of original picture book artwork (nearly 14,000 pieces of art and growing). As part of its textual and visual literacy outreach, the Museum, which is open to the public at no cost, offers tours with enthusiastic docents; hosts conferences for educators that invite renowned artists, illustrators and authors to speak and teach (more than 400 attended last year's conferences); offers Funday Sunday and Tails for Tots events; and provides other periodic special programming with visiting artists. Spaces for this year's weeklong Young Artists Workshop quickly filled, welcoming a record 62 3rd-8th graders. In 2020, construction will begin on the Museum's interdisciplinary Joseph and Judith Conda STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics/medicine) Education Center.
Also publicly accessible for free, the Dudley and Mary Marks Lea Gallery near the Mazza Museum in the Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion showcases as many as 10 fine art exhibitions each year. This past school year, the gallery hosted juried and individual exhibitions featuring faculty, staff, and student works. Other artists lend diversity and inspiration to the space. Leslie Nichols showed word art pieces she creates with manual typewriters, Brandon Briggs exhibited works focused on interesting aspects of mundane objects.
Hollywood artist Armand Baltazar captivated guests of all ages in January. Works from his epic science fiction novel, “Timeless: Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic," which features adolescent protagonists on rescue mission through space and time and is now being developed into a film, were exhibited in the Lea Gallery. Baltazar also gave a free presentation and a live digital illustration demonstration at the Mazza Museum. The northern California artists and storyteller has worked as a visual development artist and art director for DreamWorks Studios, Walt Disney Feature Animation, Image Movers Digital, and Pixar Animation Studios. Learn more here.
The 5th annual Enchanted Brush exhibition, titled “Inspired," invited world-renowned artists to create original works that paid tribute to an existing work of art, an artist, or a work of literature. Mazza Museum curator Dan Chudzinski, who organizes the popular annual show, intended the exhibition to incentive inspiring future artists. Some of the pieces included Audrey Benjaminsen's haunting portrait of Vincent Price and a fabulous mermaid sculpture by Rich Klink titled “From the Tideless Sea." Over the years, the exhibition, “has grown from a modest gallery display to an extraordinary collection of some of the world's most exceptional fantasy artists," Chudzinski noted.
Music Bach's Concert Series, presented in the Alumni Memorial Union by Student Activities Board, provides free lunch-time musical entertainment events. Performing artists from all over the country express themselves through instrumentation and vocal arrangements, much of it derived from original compositions. This past year's performers included Columbia University graduate Matt Beilis, soulful vocalist David Davis, bilingual singer Amanda Vernon, jazz historian Galen, and East Coast sensation Jason O'.
Tony Award-winners and other masters of stagecraft put on memorable shows at UF as Donnell Broadway Concert Series guest artists. Norm Lewis, the first African-American Phantom in Broadway's “The Phantom of the Opera" and Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League and Outer Critics Circle award nominee, and “Mamma Mia!" star Judy McLane, who captured the Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Musical and the Drama League Honor for Distinguished Performance for her role as Vienna in the Off-Broadway version of “Johnny Guitar," provided performances for 690 community members. Both artists were accompanied on piano by Grammy-nominated Phil Reno, who served as the musical director and vocal arranger for the smash hit, “Something Rotten!" Learn more here.
Over 3,565 music lovers indulged thanks to nine UF concerts held during the year. Marching Oiler Brass' Sounds of the Stadium concert offered selections from the 2017 musical “The Greatest Showman" and traditional tunes such as “Hang on Sloopy" and “Sweet Caroline." In November 2018, a “Serenade to Music" included UF's Concert-Choral, University Singers, and Community Singers. Selections from “West Side Story" and Christmas classics were featured during the December 2018 orchestra concert, which also included the Hancock County Children's Choir. A Disney-themed Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble Pops Concert was held in February. “A Salute to Jazz Masters" was the theme of the March Jazz Ensemble show. The Symphonic Band and Jazz Ensemble combined forces in April to present “Through the Narrow Gate – The Road to Salvation" in celebration of the human spirit and spirituality. Leopold Mozart's 300th birthday was celebrated in April with a “Father and Son Mozart" choir concert. UF's Orchestra rounded out the spring semester with songs from beloved musical such as “Fiddler on the Roof" and “Phantom of the Opera."
Comedy Jam, known as “the funniest night in Findlay," provides much-needed laughs in the middle of harsh midwestern winters. In January, the 17th annual event at Marathon Center for the Performing Arts featured stand-up stars Nate Jackson, Warren B. Hall, and Lucas Bohn. After the show, which was organized by UF's Student Activities Board, the comedians met with fans, took photos, and signed autographs. Learn more here.
The 2018/2019 theatre season at UF, which set aside convention, was characterized by creativity, risk-taking, and educational outreach. “The Misanthrope" illustrated how hypocrisy can be hilarious in this comedy about French aristocratic societal norms. The dramatic Depression-era story “Mother Hicks" was told through poetry and sign language via theatre-in-the-round seating, and was complemented by a public presentation about deaf cultural awareness and situated. “Disney's Newsies," the spring musical, aimed for authenticity with costuming and by partnering with The Courier newspaper for special printings. And in April, students and crew members collaboratively created from scratch “The Devised Project," an original production that focused on how love and fear intersect. In total, 4,270 individuals enjoyed these theatre and musical performances.