Visiting professional artists have long played an important role at the Department of Theatre, Film and Dance. A $1 million gift from Carol Epstein '61 will help ensure that the department will continue to have professional artists available to teach and mentor students.
The new "Performance and Media" model being developed for the department will encourage an environment that promotes engagement in multiple creative arts, through performance and study, and gives students opportunities to use this experience and knowledge in their own work. Teaching and mentoring from resident professional artists will be critical to this experience.
"Carol Epstein's gift comes at a crucial time for our department, as we emerge from severe budget cuts made as a response to the financial crisis," said Amy Villarejo, chair of the Department of Theatre, Film and Dance. "Her gift, which testifies to her commitment to the student experience, helps us to renew our collaborations between Cornell students and working professionals across the areas of theater, performance, cinema, media and dance. We are heartened by Carol Epstein's generosity and faith in the model for our department that puts students at the center of creative activity combined with rigorous scholarly training."
The Carol B. Epstein '61 Artist in Residence is the first endowment to support entertainment industry professionals who come to Cornell under the new department model.
"Through Carol's Epstein's generosity and visionary ambition, our students will have multiple opportunities to engage in artistic practice and endeavors for years to come," said Beth F. Milles, associate professor of acting and directing.
The Epstein guest artist will work closely with students as they study the theory, practice and history of performance and media. They will also help students create original work, whether as an actor in a play, a choreographer of a dance piece, an editor of a film or the designer of sets, costumes or lights.
In a phone interview, Epstein, who recently retired as an attorney for the U.S. Department of State, expressed enthusiasm about the new possibilities for student learning offered by the artist in residence program. "It gives the students some real life, hands-on experience with people who have been out there in the world doing it," she said.
Epstein commented that the resident artist program is just one of many improvements made since she was a student, when the department was called Speech and Drama and rehearsals were held in Rand Hall. "I wish I could come back and take my major all over again now," she said.
Linda B. Glaser is a staff writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.