Middle Coast Film Festival celebrates third year hosting, showcasing film in Midwest

Post courtesy of newsroom intern Amanda N. Marino:

The Middle Coast Film Festival has been redefining what a film festival looks and feels like for the past three years. While more traditional film festivals maintain a buffer between filmmakers and festival attendees, festival director and co-founder Jessica Levandoski said the people submitting work to the festival are easily accessible and excited to be in Bloomington.

By supporting a twofold mission of bringing the best of the best from around the world to Indiana and showcasing the arts community in the Midwest, the Middle Coast Film Festival has become a venue where IU students and alumni can become more involved in the world of film.

Middle Coast Film Fest poster

Official poster for the 2016 Middle Coast Film Fest. Photo courtesy of Claire McInerny.

This year’s festival will consist of 100 films screened at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center, the Back Door, the Blockhouse and the Monroe County Public Library, Levandoski said. Tickets can be purchased on the event’s website.

“We are currently programming at the level of 15, 20, 25 year old festivals and we are only in our third year,” she said. “I believe this to be based largely on our highly curated film selection that takes a look at more than just the film itself and focuses on the filmmaker as a whole, and incubating them in our growing network by connecting them with other filmmakers or producers, actors and actresses.”

Presenting the Midwest

The Middle Coast Film Festival, July 28 to 30 at various venues throughout Bloomington, is heavily powered by IU students, faculty and alumni. Communications director Claire McInerny said that of the seven-person staff, four people have degrees from IU and three are working at the university. Five people from the group are from southern Indiana.

Levandoski said she can see the skills learned inside the classroom reflected in the work done by people like director of administration Jessica Reed, who makes use of her arts administration degree from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs daily.

IU graduates and faculty are also a major presence among those submitting their work. For many alumni who screen films during the weekend-long festival, this is a great excuse to visit the university, McInerny said.

Germanic studies professor Hildegard Keller’s documentary “Whatever Comes Next” tells the story of American painter Annemarie Mahler. 2003 graduate Bears Fonte’s “Roadside Assistance” shows what happens to two strangers who are not what they seem.

Students still at IU also work as volunteers for the event, giving them an opportunity to interact and network with the filmmakers in attendance, McInerny said. Volunteers positions are still open. People interested in volunteering can contact the staff for more details.

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Public discussion to share spirit of Mardi Gras in conjunction with ‘Arts of Survival’ institute

Eileen Julien

Eileen Julien, director of IU’s Institute for Advanced Study, will speak about “Dressing for Mardi Gras: Floats, Balls and Beyond” on July 12 at the Mathers Museum. Photos by Eric Rudd.

What does art do in a world that has suffered?

For three weeks, Indiana University’s Institute for Advanced Study will explore that question by bringing together two dozen university-level educators from around the United States.

The “Arts of Survival: Recasting Lives in African Cities” workshop July 6 to 26 is focused on five cities: New Orleans; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Accra, Ghana; Lagos, Nigeria; and Nairobi, Kenya.

Eileen Julien, director of the Institute for Advanced Study, will co-direct the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded summer institute along with James Ogude from the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Their faculty also includes Akin Adesokan and Oana Panaïté of IU and Grace A. Musila of Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

“Each of us knew one of these cities well,” Julien said.

She conceives of the program as “a workshop among equals.”

“It’s an honor to have these people come,” Julien said. “They have done incredible work already.”

The city of New Orleans

As part of the “Arts of Survival” summer institute, Julien will take the visiting scholars on a whirlwind trip to her hometown so they can see, feel, hear and taste the New Orleans she knows well.

Eileen Julien, director of IU’s Institute for Advanced Study. Photos of her family’s colorful Mardi Gras costumes she will be talking about at a public program at the Mathers Museum.

Eileen Julien is one of five scholars leading the NEH-funded “Arts of Survival” institute at IU.

For members of the community who can’t take that bus, Julien also will share New Orleans stories July 12 at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

Her talk is one of four public programs that will be presented to complement the summer institute’s private daily sessions.

Through family ball gowns and parade costumes, which will remain on display at the Mathers Museum through July 29, Julien will share a glimpse of the Mardi Gras world of times past.

Her uncles founded The Jugs Social Club and Krewe of NOMTOC — New Orleans’ Most Talked Of Club — which continues to parade on the Westbank of the Mississippi. Her father was king of NOMTOC in the early 1970s.

Each year Mardi Gras brings rounds of parties and formal balls.

She said the festival clothing, usually worn just once, filled an entire closet in her family’s home when she was growing up.

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The academy’s diverse new Class of 2016 includes filmmaker and IU alum Hannah Fidell

Film director Hannah Fidell was already having a good day. She met with a female studio executive who made it clear that hiring women was a main priority.

When the 2007 Indiana University graduate, now based in Los Angeles, left the meeting and checked her phone, her day became unforgettable.

Hannah Fidell

IU graduate Hannah Fidell has been invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Photo courtesy of Lauren Logan Photography.

Fidell had been invited to join the academy. That’s the academy — the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Oscars.

“I was in shock,” Fidell said. “I had no idea that I had been put up for it, even. It was not something on my radar.”

Last week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it had extended invitations to 683 new members in 2016.

The record number of invitations included 98 Oscar nominees and 28 winners. And notably, people of color comprised 41 percent of the new class, while 46 percent were women. All were deemed by the academy to “have distinguished themselves by their contributions to theatrical motion pictures.”

It was a bold stroke by the academy, a significant response to the #OscarsSoWhite outcry against the 2015 award nominees, the lack of diversity within the organization and its dominance by men.

Good company

Fidell is the director of “6 Years” and “A Teacher.” In 2012, Filmmaker Magazine named her one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film. And now, she is joining the academy.

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Afterword: Indiana University reaches for the stars in 2016 edition of Writers’ Conference


David Crabb wrote the memoir “Bad Kid.” In between provoking fits of laughter, the performer and Moth host shared serious advice about good storytelling. Photos by Chaz Mottinger

The act of writing about writers who have gathering to write is like tip-toeing through the looking-glass world of a mirrored funhouse: Reflections are everywhere, but it’s hard to know where to tread.

The Indiana University Writers’ Conference wrapped up earlier this month after five days of classes, workshops, panel discussions and public readings.

Director Bob Bledsoe first welcomed writers from Bloomington, around the state and across the country with this advice: Pace yourself, it’s a busy week.

Bob Bledsoe

Bob Bledsoe, right, is director of the Indiana University Writers’ Conference.

Bledsoe has shaped the writing conference since 2006. This year, his associate directors were Bix Gabriel and Cherae Clark, both fiction writers in the MFA Creative Writing Program within IU’s Department of English. Together they assembled a diverse and talented team of instructors.

Though science-fiction writer Wesley Chu and novelist Salvatore Scibona were new faces here, most instructors had ties to IU or had passed through Bloomington before.

Gabrielle Calvocoressi, a veteran of the 2015 conference, returned to offer the poetry workshop this year.

David Crabb, who hosted The Moth’s StorySLAM here in November, shared his storytelling expertise during nonfiction classes.

Walton Muyumba, who also taught nonfiction, poet Amelia Martens and fiction writer Dana Johnson are all accomplished authors who once attended graduate school at Indiana University.

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Camp SOUL attracts talented high school students with its mix of music, empowerment

Arieion Ward, a student from Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis, groves to the music as she sings along with fellow Camp S.O.U.L. students on Thursday, June 16, 2016, at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center. The camp invites talented high school students (vocalists, instrumentalists, spoken word artists, dancers) to take part in a six-day program studying African American art forms including blues, jazz, gospel, R&B, soul, funk and hip hop.

Arieion Ward of Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis sings during rehearsals at Camp SOUL Photo by James Brosher

IU Newsroom intern Amanda N. Marino contributed to this story:

On the first morning at Camp SOUL, students in the rhythm section dabbled with their instruments at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.

None of the campers spoke much to the counselors or each other.

Just minutes before, acting director Ignoisco Miles rallied the entire group, telling them to wake up. “It’s time to go. It’s time to work!”

Camp director Ignoisco Miles sings a part back to a lead vocalist during a rehearsal at Camp S.O.U.L. on Thursday, June 16, 2016, at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center. The camp invites talented high school students (vocalists, instrumentalists, spoken word artists, dancers) to take part in a six-day program studying African American art forms including blues, jazz, gospel, R&B, soul, funk and hip hop.

Ignoisco Miles coaches vocalists during a rehearsal at Camp SOUL Photo by James Brosher

Then the music began. Body language relaxed. Eyes widened and faces filled with light.

This was why they came.

“It feels like home,” Terry Golden said. The high school junior and bass guitarist from Winfield, Ind., was attending the Indiana University camp for a second time.

Playing music might be fun, he said, but playing at camp with these counselors was an amazing opportunity. His father told him he would meet people at Camp SOUL who shared his passion and could help him improve his skills. “I’m trying to get where I need to be,” he said.

The heart of SOUL

The high school students arrived at Camp SOUL with significant musical talent. They had auditioned for places in the camp, which is operated by the African American Arts Institute and supported by IU’s Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs.

Charles E. Sykes, executive director of the African American Arts Institute, described the institute’s three performance ensembles to the group: “This program is a gem. There is no other university in this country or any other country that has a program like this.”

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Campus tour reveals Indiana University’s story stone by stone during Limestone Month


As part of the celebration of Limestone Month in southern Indiana, Brian Keith led several recent tours of the IU Bloomington campus. Photo by Chaz Mottinger

“I’m not a historian. I’m not an architect. I’m a limestone geologist.”

With these words, Brian Keith began a walking tour of Indiana University Bloomington as part of Limestone Month, an annual celebration in Monroe and Lawrence counties featuring special events such as exhibitions, carving demonstrations and quarry visits.

Keith’s tours June 3 and 10 offered not only expert insights on limestone in its many forms but a wealth of other information about IU’s history and architecture.

limestone owl carvings

These are just a few of IU’s limestone owls.

The group first met at the Sample Gates, which have become so emblematic that it’s hard to believe they have only been standing since 1987.

Keith then spent two hours winding through a college campus that is routinely named one of the country’s most beautiful. His main focus was Old Crescent, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

At Indiana, limestone is a part of the appeal. It is the bedrock and building block, the business and the beauty. It is both the layer cake and the icing.

And Keith knows his limestone. He spent his career working for the Indiana Geological Survey at IU.

He explained that Indiana limestone is some of the finest in the world. The stone once deep below the surface now soars into the sky at The Empire State Building, Biltmore and the National Cathedral. And here, it built IU.

On his tour, Keith pointed out details that could escape even the most astute observers.

He showed the difference between the fine, uniform grain of Salem limestone, the coarser variety of Salem used in foundations and the Ramp Creek stone used in freestanding walls.

Keith discussed how stone was dressed and how it was laid. He contrasted Maxwell Hall’s “rough face” or “rock face” stone with the flat, even blocks of the Student Building. He distinguished between window and door details found in different styles of architecture, the round Romanesque arches and more pointed Gothic parts.

He located inscriptions, symbols and carvings.

But more than anything, he encouraged people to look — and to notice.

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New ‘Basically Baker’ recording project will celebrate jazz legend, fund scholarships

David Baker left an enormous legacy in jazz.

The performer, composer and distinguished professor who founded the jazz studies program at Indiana University died in March at the age of 84.

Now, a new recording of Baker’s big band music will add to his rich legacy, thanks to the efforts of fellow musicians, friends and his widow, Lida.

“Basically Baker Volume 2” will be recorded later this month by the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra as a celebration of Baker’s life and music.

David Baker

“Basically Baker Volume 2” is devoted to the big band compositions of jazz giant David Baker (1931-2016). Photo by Kendall Reeves Spectrum Studios

“This project represents the passion and loyalty of a musical family that David headed for decades,” said Brent Wallarab, the orchestra’s co-founder and an associate professor of jazz studies in IU’s Jacobs School of Music. “To those of us involved, his influence and mentorship cannot be overestimated and we are honored to play a part in honoring his legacy as a composer and educator.”

Wallarab said that he was first approached by David and Lida Baker more than 10 years ago.

Yesterday, during a radio appearance on WFIU with David Brent Johnson, Wallarab said: “With all of the great recordings that David has, most of them are his classical pieces… His big band music has never been recorded and released as a professional, actual, legitimate jazz release.”

The “Basically Baker Volume 2” collection is scheduled for release in September by Patois Records, which also has IU ties. Jacobs School professor of practice Wayne Wallace — a Grammy-nominated arranger, composer and performer — is head of the label.

All proceeds from the sale of “Basically Baker Volume 2” will go directly to the David N. Baker Scholarship Fund, which assists students entering the jazz studies program in the Jacobs School.

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Creative team returns to IU to present their premiere musical, ‘The King’s Critique’

Co-writer and musical director Nat Zegree, center, works with Robert Toms and Emily Rozman during a rehearsal for "The King's Critique" on Thursday, May 26, 2016, at the Wells-Metz Theatre.

Nat Zegree, center, works with Robert Toms and Emily Rozman at a rehearsal for “The King’s Critique.” Zegree is the musical director and co-writer. Rehearsal photos by James Brosher.

Post courtesy of newsroom intern Amanda N. Marino:

Nat Zegree comes alive when he plays the piano. Already full of energy, the upbeat song he is banging out on the keys has a little bit of him in it, much like the rest of “The King’s Critique.” He is, after all, its co-writer and musical director.

The musical will premiere this month as part of the IU Summer Theatre season at Indiana University’s Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance.

IU Summer Theatre, formerly known as IU Festival Theatre, will feature four productions in 2016, starting with “The King’s Critique” June 8, 9, 10 and 11.

In “The King’s Critique,” performers must band together to bring art and laughter to audiences in spite of a king’s decision to name himself head theater critic in the empire. Unlikely comrades must band together to put a monarch in his place and prove a woman can do anything a man can do.

Musical teamwork

While Zegree was studying musical theater at IU, he met Eric Holmes during the 2012 workshop for the musical “Alamo.” Holmes, another IU alumnus, wrote the musical with Timothy Noble, distinguished professor of voice at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

Eric Holmes

Eric Holmes studied playwriting at Indiana University and is now based in New York City.

Holmes and Zegree clicked. The two stayed in touch and began collaborating right away.

Zegree said once he moved to New York City, their writing process began to show results.

Holmes said their creative relationship is an unconventional one. The playwright could tell Zegree what a character was feeling or thinking and instantly Zegree would be playing what Holmes heard in his own head.

Holmes said he can’t really explain how their partnership came to fruition, but he was always dazzled by Zegree’s talent. “I was so overwhelmed and truly impressed with what he did,” he said.

Before he knew it, Holmes said they were writing the musical together in a near constant back-and-forth process. Where one of them left off, the other would pick up and continue writing music, dialogue or lyrics. “The King’s Critique” is a combination of what they both love about musical theater.

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Association for Recorded Sound Collections returns to roots with Bloomington conference

When the Association for Recorded Sound Collections held its first conference in Bloomington back in 1967, audiocassettes were new technology.

The association is now celebrating its 50th anniversary at a conference that began May 11 here at Indiana University.

While media formats have changed over the years, the nonprofit organization has the same mission: It is dedicated to the preservation and study of sound recordings, in all genres of music and speech, in all formats and from all periods.


Patrick Feaster is an expert in early sound media and media preservation specialist for IU’s Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative.

If these aims sound similar to Indiana University’s commitment to media preservation, it should be no surprise that more than 30 IU students, faculty members and staff are participating in the conference.

IU’s Patrick Feaster, media preservation specialist for the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, serves as president of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections. Brenda Nelson-Strauss, head of collections/technical services at the Archives of African American Music and Culture, is the conference manager and a past president.

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Graduating IU students honored for their work at national technical theater conference

Post courtesy of newsroom intern Amanda N. Marino:

The United States Institute of Theatre Technology recognized three IU students during their annual conference as part of the Young Designer’s Forum. The conference, held in March in Salt Lake City, Utah, gave these students an opportunity to showcase their technical work for professionals and fellow students alike.

The three students were Kelsey Nichols, a third-year M.F.A. student in costume design, Kristen Martino, a third-year M.F.A. student in scenic design and Aaron Bowersox, a third-year M.F.A. in lighting design.

“It’s fairly major for us to have all three disciplines recognized,” said Drew Bratton, managing director for the Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance.

Bratton compared the event to a basketball national championship, an event where the best of the best come out and showcase their skills.

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