Spring Summer 08

The Core


Off to the Races

Practice Makes Perfect

Portraits of the Artists


Editor's Note

Vox Populi

Irrefutable Fun

Broadened Horizons

The Searchers

Fair Trade

Diamond Anniversary

Project Help

From Maroon to Marine

Dinosaur Discoverer

Go Ask Alumni

Editor's Note

Art À la Chicago

We’re hearing a lot about the arts at the University these days. The new Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts is in the works, and the University recently named its first deputy provost for the arts, Romance languages associate professor Larry Norman. For our photo essay in this issue (p. 18), contributing editor and house photographer Dan Dry and I tailed three very different College artists as they plied their mediums: choral singer Christine Buras, visual artist Victoria Liu, and director-actor-playwright August Lee Praley.

These talented students and their work made for a striking photo essay, but to do justice to their stories and their thoughts about making art in an intellectual hothouse like the College, we needed more space. So this editor is using this note to tell the rest of the story.

Buras entered the College as an intended science major with a passion for early music, until her first-year music theory classes opened her eyes to an analytical approach to music that fit her interests and abilities like a glove. “A lot of musicians don’t like music theory at all,” she says. “They like the artistic side of it. Music theory is very analytical, and the fact that I’ve been interested in math for a long time made me like it a lot. It came really naturally to me.”

Asked about the connection between her coursework and her singing, Buras lights up. “I’m writing a term paper on a Bach chorale tune right now,” she says. “Bach harmonized it in eight different ways and used it in several works, and my paper is about those different harmonizations. I’ve sung three of the works, and it’s really exciting to analyze it, listen to it, and then sing it knowing why it sounds different. I think it’s just really cool.” And it is.

The College’s most popular major is economics, with hundreds of students enrolled. Fourth-year Vicky Liu is one of them—with a twist. Her second major in visual arts is unusual, and suits her unusually well to explore concepts from economics in three-dimensional works of art. Take her scale model of a fountain for a social sciences building; it borrows the graceful curves of an Edgeworth Box, which plots different distributions of resources between two entities. The curves, for her, represent compromise overcoming conflict.

Liu chose her double major so she could pursue her artistic interest with full steam while preparing for a less fickle future in arts administration. “I’m interested in multiple things at once,” she says, “in things that are multifaceted. I like to be in a process of continual discovery.”

Ask Augie Praley how many hours a week he spends at University Theater and you get a simple answer: “I do three hours a night for rehearsal.” So, 15 hours a week. “And then if there’s a light hang or a build I usually stay at least two extra hours to do that,” he adds. “And UT Committee is an hour, and then I also do a lot of work on the shows outside of rehearsal....It seems like a lot more now that I’m thinking about it.”

It’s a consuming business, and UT doesn’t even account for all the theater Praley does. At last year’s Around the Coyote arts festival in Wicker Park, he premiered his play Progress. It was one of several outside festivals where he’s workshopped his plays, which tend to be in a comic vein.

Before participating in these festivals, he thought that Chicago students took themselves pretty seriously. By taking his work off campus, he expected to find audiences more willing to let loose, but actually found the opposite was true: “I was surrounded by some artists that just took themselves so seriously. I thought, ‘You should be laughing at this. We’re here to laugh, this is funny.’ Sometimes there is such a thing as analyzing a text to death. But I can’t remember when this has happened—I haven’t seen it here.”—L.D.