Fine Arts Summer Intensive builds community connections

a female dancer in rehearsal

Things are getting intense at York University this summer.

High school and university students, emerging professionals, established artists and educators are converging on campus for the Fine Arts Summer Intensive (FASI), an ambitious new community outreach and continuing education initiative by the Faculty of Fine Arts.

a female dancer in rehearsalAs diverse in scope and practice as the Faculty itself, FASI features dynamic workshops in dance, design, visual arts, film, music and theatre for people of all backgrounds and levels of experience. Participants are encouraged to unleash their creativity, hone their skills or explore an untapped interest with offerings ranging from urban dance to cello performance and screenwriting. Workshops range from two-day intensive training sessions to three-week boot camps designed to whip participants into creative shape.

“FASI lets us offers an experiential learning framework outside of the traditional curriculum,” said Professor Elizabeth Asseltine, chair of the Department of Theatre, who initiated the program together with Department of Film chair Amnon Buchbinder. “Reaching out to people with a wide range of interests and expertise, these workshops open new possibilities for collaboration and mentoring. Ultimately, they deepen the channels of engagement between the University and the wider community.”

FASI launched in May with a two-week workshop on lighting design for performance tailored especially for high school students.

“The lighting workshop brought more than 35 high school students from York Region to campus to engage with our instructors, our state-of-the-art facilities and our philosophy as a school of the visual and performing arts,” said FASI coordinator Derek Gringrich (BA ’12). “It was a great success.”

The intensives are led by outstanding professional artists and educators, many of whom are faculty members or alumni of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. Sessions continue through July, with workshops taking place in the Fine Arts complex at York’s Keele campus.

Line and Form, running July 9 to 20, is a boot camp for high school students who want to expand their technical and conceptual understanding of contemporary drawing and sculpture. It’s led by artist Roch Smith (MFA ’03), who teaches clay modelling and plaster casting and serves as the foundry/metal studio technician in the L.L. Odette Centre for Sculpture in York’s Department of Visual Arts.

Young movers can find their groove in the Street Dance Boot Camp, a five-day intensive on the practice of freestyling, Students will gain a basic foundation in urban dance styles such as hip hop, house, b-boying/b-girling, waacking and popping, plus the experience of creating choreography for a final public showcase concert. The boot camp, running July 9 to 13, is led by contemporary/urban dance specialist and educator Vanessa Kimmons (BFA, BEd ’08).

Upcoming intensives for aspiring filmmakers include the Digital Filmmaking Boot Camp, directed by Igor Drljaca (BFA ’07, MFA ’11) and Film Oneshots Boot Camp led by Rafal Sokolowski (MFA ’11), running July 9 to 20 and July 16 to 27 respectively. While Drljaca’s bootcamp focuses on digital technology and the professional execution of ideas, Sokolowski’s emphasizes self-expression and gives high school students the opportunity to produce their own film.

Sokolowski, artistic director of Blind Dog Films, is an accomplished director for screen and stage, who has previously presented his workshop at Canada’s National Theatre School. Drljaca’s most recent production, the short experimental documentary The Fuse: or How I Burned Simon Bolivar, premiered atthe Toronto International Film Festival and is currently touring the international festival circuit.  His previous short, Woman in Purple, screened at 25 fests around the world, including the prestigious Telluride Film Festival.

Music Professor Karen Burke, founding director of both the Juno Award-winning Toronto Mass Choir and the massively popular York University Gospel Choir, leads a five-day Gospel Workshop July 16 to 20. Designed to give both the novice and experienced gospel singer an opportunity to enjoy learning new repertoire, the intensive will culminate in a concert featuring all participants, supported by professional musicians.

Veteran stage and screen performers and Odyssey Studio co-directors Melee Hutton (MFA’05) and David Matheson (MFA ’05) lead a four-day intensive for university students and emerging professionals on Acting for Film and Television. Running July 17 to 20, the full-day, hands-on sessions introduce the skills needed to perform – and audition – for the camera.

Strengthening connections with those who teach the fine arts is a key aspect of the FASI programming.

One of several intensives targeted to educators is Shakespeare and Friends Out Loud!, a three-day exploration of an active approach to teaching Shakespeare to young people. The workshop, June 25 to 27, is led by Michael Kelly (MFA ’95), a seasoned actor, director, producer and teacher who has earned international recognition for his innovative work in Shakespeare education. Kelly, an instructor in York’s Department of Theatre, is the founder and artistic director of Shakespeare in Action, arguably Canada’s leading classical theatre company for young audiences.

Dance and the Child, running July 3 to 13, is a professional development workshop for dance educators at all levels. Led by Professor Mary-Elizabeth Manley, a specialist in children’s dance and community arts practice, the intensive presents theories, models, tools, strategies, practical resources and applications for teaching dance to young students from kindergarten to Grade 8.

“Our educator-focused programming gives teachers the opportunity to expand their knowledge and understanding of their field of focus, and keep in step with advances in fine arts pedagogy and research,” said Gingrich. “The best learning is experiential learning, and all of our workshops for educators have a strong practical component.”

On the student side, FASI is attracting interest from inside as well as outside York. Freshly-minted alumna Felicia Mittica, who has just completed her BFA in music with a concentration in classical vocal performance, sees FASI as an opportunity to extend her creative horizons.

“I’ve been able to expand my training, learning about movement and acting to enhance and support my education in classical voice,” she said. “Later this summer, I’m taking part in the FASI gospel music workshop, to continue stretching myself beyond my classical voice background. I’m finding it a very engaging and valuable experience.”

FASI is supported by York’s Academic Innovation Fund. For full program details and registration information, visit the Fine Arts Summer Intensive website.