The 2017 Faculty Art Exhibition at WSU Assembles Inspired Pieces from Talented Professors


Suzanne Gainer captures the nesting season of olive ridley sea turtles in Ostianal, Costa Rica


Catherine Wilcox-Titus photographs winter and the ice it creates.



By Grace Ingraham, VPA Marketing Intern

The beauty of nature surrounds us daily, but most of us only see the attractiveness of the world at its surface. At the 2017 Faculty Art Exhibition professors show pieces that take the essence of nature and turn it into a different way of viewing the world around us.

“I want my students to walk away being enthusiastic about art and curious about the world,” said Catherine Wilcox-Titus, director of the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery and Visual and Performing Arts professor at Worcester State University.

The 2017 Faculty Art Exhibition is a collection of the creative artwork of 11 faculty members of WSU, including Cathy. It opens Feb. 16 – March 16 with an opening reception on Feb. 16, 5-7 p.m. Free admission.

Faculty artists narrowed their focus onto one specific project. Cathy chose to focus on her series about the physical properties of water.

“I grew up around water and began to be fascinated with the water patterns,” said Cathy. “My focus is mostly on Massachusetts during the winter and the winter ice it creates.”

To create the still photographs of the different properties of water, Cathy used a basic digital camera and a tripod.

All great artist find inspiration from specific people that influence their work. Cathy’s comes from Andy Goldsworthy, a Scottish photographer and environmentalist.

“I love the way he takes a natural environment and makes it stunning and he doesn’t tamper with it,” said Cathy. “That is what I try to do with my artwork. I find something beautiful in our world and photograph it in its natural form.”

Cathy isn’t the only WSU professor choosing nature as the focus of artwork in the 2017 Faculty Art Exhibition. Suzanne Gainer is also presenting her artwork at the Exhibition.

During her sabbatical, Suzanne travelled to Ostional, Costa Rica to work on her Arribadas series. Suzanne photographed the gathering of thousands of olive ridley sea turtles as they arrived on Ostional’s shores to nest.

Suzanne first learned about the mass sea turtle nesting from visiting Costa Rica with students in the spring. The mating season for sea turtles is in the month of October which is why Suzanne planned this special trip during her sabbatical. She wanted to experience the nesting in real life.

“Photographing Costa Rica and this nesting allows the spectators to see the similarities and vast differences of other cultures around the world,” said Suzanne.

When asked what she hopes her audience takes from her photos Suzanne said, “I want them to be fascinated and recognize the beauty of our planet and see the sense of fragility in this situation.”

You can see Cathy’s, Suzanne’s and many other professors’ artwork from Feb. 16 to March 16 at the 2017 Faculty Art Exhibition in the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery located in the Ghosh Science and Tech building on the Worcester State campus. The opening reception takes place Feb. 16 from 5 – 7 p.m. and includes free refreshments. Regular Gallery hours are Tue. – Fri 11 a.m., Sat. 1 – 5 p.m. and admission is free.

WSU Art Professor combines Native American Pottery with Prose in Grammar School

By Paul Fontaine, VPA PR/Marketing Intern


(Photo: 2015 STARS grant at Columbia Park with Susan Fisher.)

Learning through art is not a new concept. All of us have colored in sheets of math problems, created maps or drew pictures depicting a point in history. Art creates an opportunity to enhance learning.

Through a STARS grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Susan Fisher, VPA adjunct faculty, is taking the intersection of art and learning to a new level. For the third year in a row, Fisher is working with the Columbus Park Preparatory Academy in Worcester, Mass. to work with teachers in absorbing art lessons into the school’s curriculum.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council’s STARS (Students and Teachers Working with Artists, Scientists and Scholars) Residencies are part of the MCC’s Creative Youth Initiative, which seeks out creative learning opportunities for students in and out of school.

The MCC awards STARS grants in amounts up to $5000 and the programs start right after Thanksgiving. For this year’s grant, which is about including art in the standard grammar school curriculum, Fisher is working on a unit of Native American pottery. Students create their own pottery and then write about it.

Fisher teaches the program over three classes and reaches every single class in grades K-6. In the program, students are first exposed to actual Native American pottery and create their own pottery piece. Once the pottery is created, students paint their pottery using authentic Native American designs. Lastly, students write a story about their pottery.

Brianna Howe, a 2015 Visual and Performing Arts graduate of Worcester State, assists Fisher on the project. Howe has worked with Fisher on all three STARS grants. “She is an asset to this program on every level,” Fisher said.

In addition to Howe’s assistance, Fisher works with classroom teachers in implementing the program. She also collaborates with Columbus Park’s art teacher in putting on an art show of the students’ work at the end of the year.

“The art show reinforces the concepts that we each teach in our programs,” said Fisher.

Fisher targeted Columbus Park in Worcester for two specific reasons. Columbus Park is a low-income school where enrichment programs play a role in enhancing the curriculum and because she knew the principal, Siobhan Dennis, who was one of Fisher’s former students. The two have collaborated on the STARS grants for three years in a row.

Fisher hopes the Columbus Park students will learn to express their ideas visually and see how their prose and their art affect each other. She also hopes students see how learning crosses academic disciplines and how that enhances the learning process.

“This project promotes self-expression and creative thinking,” Fisher said. “It also encourages students to think about the indigenous people of the United States.”

What do Uptown Funk and Old Time Gospel Have in Common? WSU’s Chorale.


By Paul Fontaine, VPA PR and Marketing Intern

Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars. Pure Imagination from Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Old time gospel. Holiday classics – and so much more.

This selection of music seems not to have a lot in common — except maybe one thing — all were performed at the Dec. 4 concert of the Worcester State University Chorale.

“We try to be eclectic in the choice of music we sing,” said Chorale director, Prof. Christie Nigro. “The situation we are singing in dictates our musical choices.”

On Dec.4, the Chorale performed the above selections and more at Our Lady of the Angels Church. On Dec. 11, the group performs in the meeting house at Old Sturbridge Village, joining OSV’s Christmas by Candlelight event for the 15th year in a row. Plus, on Dec. 10 at 8 p.m., the Chorale performs with other area colleges at the Holiday Pops Concert with the Mass. Symphony Orchestra in Mechanics Hall.

In addition to performing locally, the group also sings outside the Unites States. “The Chorale group has been going on international tours since 1993 when we went to Austria and the Czech Republic. We’ve toured abroad every other year since then,” said Nigro.  ‘We have been to Spain, Ireland, England, Scotland, almost every country in Europe except France.”

This spring, the Chorale travels to Italy. It is visiting the island of Sicily from May 15 to 22. “Everybody in the Chorale is allowed to go, but some members will not be able to make the trip,” she said. “In addition to the Chorale, we usually have an entourage of non-singers who come along on each trip.”

The total cost of the trip to Sicily is about $60,000. Students pay about $1100 of their own money and raise the rest through a variety of fundraisers.

“Students pay for about a third of the trip on their own,” said Nigro. “The rest of the money comes from fundraisers, which the students work on for two years.”

Two popular fundraisers are their fall leaf raking event where Chorale students earn money raking leaves for homeowners. Another fundraiser happens around Valentine’s Day where people hire Chorale singers to serenade that someone special.

With the holiday season approaching, area organizations often call on the group to perform at an event. “We receive lots of calls to perform during the holidays,” Nigro said. “We sing as much as we can, but we don’t charge for everything.”

The Chorale group was originally formed in 1989 when Nigro first joined the WSU faculty in the Visual and Performing Arts Department. “I kind of started it,” she said.

The Chorale started with four voice students and 12 non-students. Since then, the number of WSU students in the Chorale has grown to 33 members.

“Most members of the Chorale are students and WSU alumni,” said Nigro.”Everyone who wants to join must audition first. Currently, the Chorale is looking for a couple of bass vocalists to join the group before traveling to Sicily.”

Students interested in being part of the Chorale sign up for MU 300, a one-credit course offered through the VPA department.

“Students who take the class aren’t in it for the credit, they take the class because they love to sing,” said Nigro.

Student Pamella Saffer Contributed to Babel, Now on Exhibit in the Gallery


Students in AR350, Undisciplined Art –
Left to Right: Pamella Saffer, Julie Marshall, Sam Brower, Amber Cannalonga,
Prof. Cathy Wilcox-Titus, Mia Koutoulas, and Phong Diep.

By Paul Fontaine, VPA PR and Marketing Intern

“Babel is a timely –and creative – response to the national elections which have had the atmosphere of a circus, or maybe a bad novel,” said Pamella Saffer, a perennial student and artist who she has been taking classes at Worcester State University for over four years. This semester marks the first time she worked with others to create a work of art, the Babel sculpture.

“Babel” is a sculpture composed of electronic junk, sheets of paper text and boxes. It offers a commentary on the chaotic communication of the recent election as well as the rapid obsolescence of modern electronic technology. The sculpture was created by students in AR 350 Undisciplined Art and is on display in the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery from November 17 to December 8.

Saffer readily identifies with the concepts expressed in the Babel exhibit. “The exhibit is apropos of our times and the presidential election,” she said.  She also enjoys working with the other students on the exhibit.

“I love the idea of working collaboratively on construction and three-dimensional design,” Saffer said. “It’s an opportunity to experiment artistically.” Although she has worked with murals and children’s art projects in the past, the Babel exhibit is the first time she has actually “built” a work of art.

“There’s something beautiful in working together. Building on everyone’s strengths,” said Saffer.

Participating in the art class also taught her some valuable lessons. “It’s knowing when to let go of an idea you have when the group doesn’t agree with you,” said Saffer. “Working on this project has provided us an opportunity to express ourselves in a positive way, using humor and creativity.”

“In the greater context of the massive babble of the election campaign, we have shared ideas, learned to work together, and learned to appreciate and respect each other’s strengths,” said Saffer. “These are lessons that can be applied anywhere.”

The exhibit includes styrofoam boxes covered over with written text on paper. Some of the texts are printed in multiple languages including English. “We are using calligraphy from several different languages: Korean, Vietnamese, German, even Aramaic,” said Saffer.  She has mostly worked with paper as an art medium in the past.

Saffer officially enrolled at WSU through the Intergenerational Urban Institute, a program offered by the Urban Studies department, which offers community service opportunities to students of all ages. “I was taking classes before that, but I wasn’t enrolled,” Saffer said. “I’ve learned a lot from all my courses. I love learning to learn.”

Although Saffer has been taking classes at WSU for several years, graduation is not her goal. “I’ll probably be still taking classes,” she said. “Worcester State has a very rich learning environment. The Visual and Performing Arts Department is an excellent addition to the university. The professors show a high level of professionalism.”

When she’s not taking classes at WSU, Saffer is across the street at WSU‘s Inter-Generational Garden, where she works as the director. In the garden, WSU students enroll in a one-credit practicum at the garden. Before directing the garden, Saffer ran her own dying and weaving textile business and acted as a docent at the Worcester Art Museum.

VPA Professor Adam Zahler Directs A Midsummer Night’s Dream

By Paul Fontaine, VPA PR/Marketing Intern


“No student should leave Worcester State University without experiencing Shakespeare,” said Adam Zahler, VPA Department chair and director of the upcoming Worcester State Theatre production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The play, which opens Nov. 17 – 20 in Fuller Theater, is part of Worcester State University’s commitment to produce Shakespeare’s plays every three years.

For students, participating in and experiencing a Shakespeare play is an essential part of an education in the visual and performing arts. It’s also an essential part of learning the craft of theatre. “If you want to do great theatre, go and see great theatre. Trust Shakespeare. He gives you so much to work with,” said Zahler.

While this is Zahler’s first time directing A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he has performed in it. “I’ve acted in the play twice, over twenty years ago, and played two of the mechanicals.” Zahler directed the last two Shakespeare plays on campus, the comedy, Twelfth Night, and tragedy, Julius Caesar.

As a director, Zahler added his own twist to this upcoming production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The set traditionally takes place in the forest, but Zahler brought the story to a new place.

“The set is made up to look like a 1920’s nightclub,” said Zahler. The set is designed in Art Deco style and the costumes reflect 1920’s era clothing. To add ambience to the Art Deco décor, 1920’s and 30’s jazz music plays during the show.

In addition to staging the show in Art Deco, Zahler also faces the challenges of coordinating and creating what happens on the stage and behind the scenes. “Shakespeare is always a challenge and always a big production,” said Zahler. “There are huge demands on everyone involved – the director, the actors and the designers. There are so many set and costume changes.”

“It’s all about the students in the end,” said Zahler. “You have to commit to the students. The students do everything involved with the production.”

Zahler admitted sometimes putting on a play can be intimidating, even terrifying, experience. “I’ve never directed anything that hasn’t scared me,” he said. But regardless of the fear, an actor or director must not give into it.  “If you fear something, that’s an indication you must run towards it, not from it,” he said. “An artist learns to recognize that the art endeavor that scares them is the one we have to do.”

Zahler revels in the ongoing popularity of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “Shakespeare understood what audiences wanted. We understand the characters in the play because we’ve all been there,” said Zahler.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream has it all: low comedy, high comedy, love, and magic.”  Low comedy uses action and high comedy uses word and wittiness. “I’m a low comedy kind of guy,” Zahler said.

The show runs Nov. 17 – 19 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 20 at 2p.m. Purchase tickets at the Fuller Theater Box Office in the Administration building, email, or call 508-929-8843.

“With A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the two productions in the spring, ‘Almost Maine’ and ‘Boeing, Boeing,’ we plan on a more entertaining season than we had last year,” said Zahler.

Lancers in the Limelight: Student Actors Share their experiences in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”


By Paul Fontaine, VPA Marketing and Public Relations Intern
Photos by: Herman Servatius, VPA Visual Media Intern

Worcester State University freshman Brett St. Onge has been dancing for the past 16 years. WSU Senior Kim Collazo has been performing in theatre and television since she was five-years-old. These two students draw upon their experiences and those of the cast and crew as they hone their roles in the upcoming Worcester State Theatre production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream which opens Nov. 17-20 in Fuller Theater.

Coming to WSU from Holyoke Catholic High School, St. Onge was involved in the performing arts throughout his high school years and is now a Visual and Performing Arts major. “I specialized in theatre,” he said.

This is his first Shakespeare performance, though he is familiar with Midsummer Night’s Dream. “I read the play in English class and I really enjoyed it,” he said.

St. Onge plays the role of Demetrius, a young nobleman betrothed to marry Hermia. “Demetrius thinks he’s got it made,” St. Onge said by way of describing his character. “He is all set to marry Hermia and has her father’s approval. Demetrius is convinced he has everything Hermia could ever want. He is very smug and arrogant.”

With his role in this production, St. Onge looks to gain personal growth and professional experience. “I hope to better myself as an actor and expand my knowledge of Shakespeare and other playwrights,” he said. “I love working on this play, the whole experience. You get to work with so many different people, with different backgrounds.”

Kim Collazo came to WSU from a different path. A native of Puerto Rico, she moved to Massachusetts five or six years ago. Before coming to WSU, she attended Quinsigamond Community College and Clark University. Collazo appeared in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in spring of 2014.

With two roles in this production, Collazo faces the challenge of playing both Titania, wife of Oberon and queen of the fairies, and Hippolyta, an Amazon queen.  “Titania is a spirit of nature and is very powerful, in a scary kind of way,” said Collazo. “She can do whatever she wants because she’s queen.”

According to Collazo, Hippolyta is similar to Titania and yet different. “Hippolyta is a very strong woman who loves Theseus,” she said. Collazo also sees Hippolyta as being strong because she comes from the world of the Amazons, yet she’s trying to fit into the realm of mortals.

Playing two characters gives Collazo a challenge. “It’s fun. I like a challenge.” Collazo said. “I try to divide them as two separate characters. Yet with all the preparation I do, it’s never easy.”

In addition to studying her characters, Collazo is also increasing her knowledge of Shakespeare, improving her English, and performing better. Director Adam Zahler plays a key role in her development.

“Professor Zahler is really cool,” she said. “He really pushes you to think beyond your character.”

Collazo also enjoys the experience of working with other cast members. “It’s a wonderful experience,” Collazo said. “There is so much variety with so many people. Being in theater is like being in a family.”

Upon graduation, Collazo plans move to Los Angeles to further her acting career. “I want to keep working as an actress and eventually become a director,” Collazo said.

Prof. Parker Illuminates on Her Art at a Recent Exhibition


By Paul Fontaine, VPA Publicity and Marketing Intern

Worcester State University Visual and Performing Arts Professor Stacey Parker recently created and displayed a series of a unique three-dimensional objects titled “Luminaries” as part of a multi-artist exhibition at the Aurora Gallery, on 660 Main Street in Worcester. The exhibition ran from Sept. 9 to 30, 2016.

Parker and five other artists who participated in the exhibition, titled “Material Needs,” were all given $600 in grants from ArtsWorcester to create works of art to display. Parker used the grant to purchase art supplies and simple materials for the creation of the art works.

The art pieces symbolize Parker’s reaction to observing the constant overload of information directed at individuals every day. Each piece is illuminated from the inside to highlight text placed on the outside of the piece.

“There is a lot of information coming at us, and so much of it is false, twisted, full of agendas and just plain wrong,” she said. “This body of work takes some of that information and cuts it up, removing it from its original context and reorganizing it, then illuminating it to highlight the absurdity of it.”

Parker created the artworks from wood, plastic, basket making reeds, white tissue paper, Elmer’s glue, lighting kits and newspaper text.

“I work with all types of materials making all types of art,” she said. “I choose the materials and the type of art depending on the idea.”

“I find inspiration everywhere, from current issues to things I see,” Parker continued. “Sometimes my work is personally motivated and sometimes it’s more motivated by outside issues.”

When asked how she measures success as an artist, Parker said, “Success as an artist is complicated to break down. For me, I find success when I create art that makes people talk about it, that people connect to, that makes them question.”

Parker advises all current and future students to continue to learn and not to expect success with their first art project.

“You have to make multiple things, screw up, get frustrated and move past it to learn discover, and grow as an artist,” she said. “Being an artist isn’t easy, but for those who have to create, it is the most rewarding thing in the world.”

Students in AR350 Create Babel: A Sculpture Made from Recycled Materials

By Paul Fontaine, VPA Marketing and Public Relations Intern

Exhibit opens Nov. 17 in the Gallery

A modern sculpture exhibit, using recycled materials and other items usually considered “junk,” takes shape in the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery in the Ghosh Science and Technology Building. Eleven students in AR350 Undisciplined Art Class, along with Art Professor Catherine Wilcox-Titus, spearhead the creation. The exhibit, titled “Babel,” opens on Nov. 17 in the Gallery.

“We haven’t used the gallery as a studio before, and many students have never used repurposed and recycled materials to make a sculpture,” said Wilcox-Titus. The exhibit’s construction includes a wide variety of recycled materials, including styrofoam packing boxes, plastic milk crates, electrical cables and wires, as well as obsolete computer and telephone parts.

Wilcox-Titus stressed the exhibit is one large, inter-connected sculpture rather than a series of individual ones. “This is a collaborative project among all the participating students,” she said. “Everyone in the class has a say in how the exhibit is created.”

“This exhibit is unique in we are using things which otherwise might end up in the trash,” said Wilcox-Titus. The project also incorporates several working speakers that broadcast sounds, drowning each other out, and increasing the element of confusion illustrated as part of the exhibit. To add to the communication overload, students are pasting pages of old books onto boxes in the sculpture – more words, more chaotic communication.

Working on this exhibit is a departure from a standard VPA art class. Normally, a student creates several sculptures over the course of the semester. For this class, all the students work together on a single presentation.

When asked what her favorite part of working on the project is, Wilcox-Titus said “My favorite part of the project is seeing the students problem-solve their way through the challenges posed by creating a large sculpture in a short period of time. I also enjoy seeing them come up with their own ideas about the kinds of materials to include in the sculpture.”

Wilcox-Titus received some inspiration for the sculpture from observing the 2016 presidential election. “In this election, people are not communicating or listening to each other,” she said. “Language has become dysfunctional.”

Students in her class also emailed her art exhibit pictures titled “Babel” for additional inspiration.

Through the sculpture, Wilcox-Titus and her students offer a commentary regarding consumerism and the short life span of modern consumer electronics. “The consumer life cycle has sped up, especially when it comes to modern electronic communications,” said Wilcox-Titus. “Things we consume become outdated very quickly.”

The Babel exhibit opens on the first floor of the Ghosh Science and Technology building, in the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery, on November 17 and runs until December 8.  A reception takes place on opening night from 5 to 7 p.m. The Gallery is open Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturday 1 to 5 p.m.. Admission is free. For further information call 508-929-8651 or go online at and join VPA on social media: Facebook/VPAatWorcesterState, Twitter and Instagram @WSUVPA.

Limelight on 2016 Senior Art Thesis Art Exhibition

By Bobby Costanzo

IMG_0640The spring 2016 Senior Art Thesis Exhibition opened Thursday, April 21, highlighting nine works of senior that reflect the knowledge and technique gained in four years working toward their Visual and Performing Arts degree.

At the Exhibition’s opening night in the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery in the Ghosh Science and Tech building, the excited, yet nervous buzz could be felt throughout the building as many friends, family and lovers of the arts came in and viewed the captivating collection. The artists attended and answered questions from the crowds with grace and maturity, explaining their motive for each piece of work and the detail in the techniques.

One piece in the exhibit that really stood out because of its size, placement and visual impact was by Rebeca Ruiz expresses the troubles of boarder walls and how they separate families. Words written in red on the gray surface of pieces of concrete blocking laying at the base of the wall express feelings families face trying to get to their desired country. The words express hopelessness and fear. The wall is a symbolic barrier for many future immigrants and those who may never enter the country where they want to start a better life.

From cut paper collage, to this expressive block wall, each piece in the gallery explains a story with deep meaning that can be felt by looking at it. Just sitting in the gallery, looking at the beauty, it must be an amazing feeling for each senior to know to see their pieces and recognizes how much they’ve grown during their four years at Worcester State.

The Gallery is open until May 13 on Tuesdays through Fridays from 11-5 p.m. and on Saturdays, 1-5 p.m.

With these seniors ready to graduate, it will be their last undergraduate work displayed, so make sure to visit the Gallery.

Limelight on CitySpeak: CitySpeak Sparks Interest from the Media

complete stageBy: Bobby Costanzo

The Interdisciplinary event CitySpeak, created by students and faculty from multiple departments of Worcester State University, has been the buzz of the city, after articles were published in several Worcester sources.

The Worcester Telegram and Gazette’s Bonnie Russell interviewed the Visual and Performing Art’s department chair and director of CitySpeak, Adam Zahler. Also interviewed was an actor and Worcester local Eddie Sanchez who expressed the goals of the event to Russell.

Another article came from Worcester Magazine and was written by Joshua Lyford.  Lyford got in depth with director Adam Zahler, talking about how CitySpeak was pieced together, included creativity from the students involved and how the devised piece worked as whole.

The importance of CitySpeak is the conversation. Opening the doors to interaction between those who live in a city and those who run the city. The coverage from Worcester Magazine, Worcester Telegram and Gazette, WSU News and the New Worcester Spy form just the beginning of the conversation.

Zahler’s schedule with the media looked similar to that of a movie star, especially when he added his third interview with Noah Goldfarb, a member of the New Worcester Spy. Goldfarb interviewed Zahler and Department chair for the Urban Studies Department, Thomas Conroy. Conroy and Zahler worked side by side, along with VPA Professor Sam O’Connell, throughout the development of this production, guiding the production toward completion and ensuring the use of the arts as a way to tell the story of the city.

In addition to the podcast, Mike Dery, writer for the New Worcester Spy, added his voice to the CitySpeak media buzz with “CitySpeak Catches Fire.”

Through hard work, collaboration and a TON of creativity, this theatrical piece created a fistful of buzz in the Worcester media and on April 7. 8, 9 and 10, the audiences will leave with ideas and plans to fix problems in their communities and overall make their communities better.

Make sure to see CitySpeak April 7-9 at 8 p.m. and April 10 at 2 p.m. Purchase tickets in advance by contacting the Box Office at 508-929-8843 or at Tickets are also available at the door.