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  • Fradiani IDOL Pic Wheaton's Idol

    Nick Fradiani passes American Idol auditions in New York

    Update: On Thursday, February 19, Nick Fradiani was announced as one of the top 24 finalists in the "American Idol" competition! We'll be keeping a close eye on Nick's progress as he moves on through the competition. He's counting on your votes to keep him moving on. Go Nick!

    Nick Fradiani '08 won a golden ticket to Hollywood.

    The professional musician, who graduated from Wheaton with a major in U.S. history, earned a spot on American Idol in an audition in New York City that was broadcast last night.

    Fradiani, a resident of West Haven, Conn., performed the Peter Gabriel song "In Your Eyes" for the television program's panel of judges Harry Connick, Jr.; Jennifer Lopez and former Idol winner Adam Lambert.

    For the Wheaton community, his selection as one of the contestants to start the season in Hollywood, Calif., was probably expected. While he was a student at Wheaton, Fradiani performed regularly in the Loft and the Lyon's Den, on his own and with various student-led bands.

    Since graduation, he has been building up a successful career as a performer with the pop rock outfit Beach Avenue. The ensemble has opened for groups such as Styx, Third Eye Blind, and REO Speedwagon, all while promoting their work on their own. The group caught the attention of a Syco Records talent scout, who invited the band to appear on “America’s Got Talent” this past summer, where they made it to the semi-final round of the competition.

    That experience showed in his Idol audition. Fradiani watched his girlfriend, Yanni Gavrilis, audition unsuccessfully for the program, but then he calmly slung his guitar around and launched into the song that was a radio hit for Gabriel and for Jeffrey Gaines.

    About 60 seconds into his performance, Lopez held up her hand to stop him, saying "That was nice, baby." The judges exchanged a look and Connick told Fradiani, "Your genre is extremely competitive this year."

    A moment later, the Wheaton grad emerged from the audition room, holding a golden ticket and an invitation to perform in the program's competition.

    "I’m feeling kind of lost for words," he told Ryan Seacrest. "It’s a pretty incredible experience. I’m pumped."

    Wheaton fans showed their excitement on social media, too.

    Word has it that Hollywood Week begins February 4, 2015. As the contest heats up, Fradiani may need his Wheaton fans to get in on the voting. You can keep up with Nick and root him on by following #teamfradiani on Facebook or Twitter.


  • 2005-newsmaker-Kunhardt-thumb Seen at last

    Long-forgotten photos of segregation highlighted.

    In 1950, the celebrated photographer Gordon Parks returned to his hometown for LIFE magazine to produce a photo essay documenting African Americans' experience of segregation, but to his chagrin, the photographs were never published.

    Finally, sixty-five years later, Parks's work will be shown at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in the exhibition "Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott," which opens on January 17.

    In a story about the exhibition, Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr. '05, the executive director of the Gordon Parks Foundation, told the New York Times, "Gordon was very disappointed that the story never ran. He was really going back to a place that meant everything to him, and he wanted to use it to say something important."

    The New York Times observed that Parks's powerful pictures of his former classmates from Fort Scott are powerful pictures today "when racial unrest and de facto segregation in many American cities give it a new kind of relevance."

    The new exhibition provides a fresh opportunity to appreciate the work of a photographer considered among the most influential of the 20th century. Kunhardt says that his work shows a mastery of the photo essay form and a deep commitment to seeing and capturing the humanity of others.

    His genius, I think, was based on a respect and trust he brought to the people and issues that he photographed. He spent much time with his subjects, sometimes even living with them—often in the harshest conditions.

    Parks worked at LIFE with Kunhardt's grandfather, and the photographer was a friend of the family and a regular visitor to the home, the Wheaton grad remembers. But Peter's knowledge of the photographer's work runs deeper. He served as co-editor of the five-volume Gordon Parks: Collected Works, which was published in 2013.

    The art history major previously served as a co-editor (with his father and uncle) of Looking for Lincoln: The Making of an American Icon, which was published in 2009 on the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.

  • Student curators at the exhibitions' November opening. Eye-catching exhibitions

    Two fall installations at Wheaton’s Beard and Weil Galleries were positively reviewed in ArtScope magazine.

    Two exhibitions currently on display at Wheaton’s Beard and Weil Galleries received a positive review in the January/February 2015 issue of ArtScope, New England’s Culture Magazine.

    Referring to the college’s extensive Permanent Collection and spacious galleries, the article calls Wheaton “a perfect setting for the training of future art curators.”

    “Tracing the Thread,” an exhibition curated by students enrolled in the Exhibition Design course, and “Goya and Beethoven: Finding a Voice Out of Silence,” an exhibition curated by students in this year’s Wheaton Institute for the Interdisciplinary Humanities courses, are on display through February 13.

    The reviewer calls the two shows “concurrently imaginative and scholarly” and writes: “By combining visual objects with music and substantial textual content, along with supplemental in-depth podcasts, Wheaton’s student-curators in partnership with their professors and college staff have created two information-heavy innovative shows worthy of anyone’s attention and close study.”

    The Goya/Beethoven course connection and exhibition were also recently highlighted in an episode of Lyons Lunch, a live chat with President Dennis Hanno.

  • The poster for Michael Kristy's short film, "Evasion." Film premiere

    Michael Kristy ’18 will present his short film “Evasion” in January in his hometown of Sandwich, Mass.

    Michael Kristy ’18 will premiere his short film Evasion this month at the town hall in his hometown of Sandwich, Mass., according to an article published January 1 on CapeNews.net.

    The film, which tells the story of a high school student living with the military draft during World War II, began as a senior project while Kristy was a student at Sandwich High School. The film features Kristy’s Sandwich High classmate, Tim Titcomb, as the main character, as well as other student and adult actors.

    A first-year student at Wheaton, Kristy intends to major in computer science and film and new media studies.

    Check out Kristy’s trailer for the college’s fall production of Soldiering On.


  • Caspersen Sharing good news from Africa

    Beth Ann Caspersen ’96 wrote an editorial in two local newspapers about positive efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    In an op/ed piece published in January by the Boston Herald and Providence Journal, anthropology alumna Beth Ann Caspersen ’96 writes about unsung heroes and the good work being done in Africa.

    Having returned recently from her second trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Caspersen says these positive stories need sharing and that “the constant drumbeat of only bad news actually badly misinforms us about a vital and vibrant part of the world.”

    “Africa is huge and diverse, and its people are so much more than what the headlines imply,” Caspersen writes in the editorial.

    She highlights the work being done by the Panzi Hospital, which provides obstetrics and gynecological care to women in the DRC, and its founder Dr. Denis Mukwege, as well as the efforts of Congolese coffee farmer Joachim Munganga, who founded a farmers co-operative in the same region.

    The Tiverton, R.I. native is a coffee expert for Equal Exchange, working with farmer organizations throughout the world, including in the DRC, Ethiopia and Uganda.

    Caspersen first traveled to Africa while studying anthropology at Wheaton, living and studying in a village in rural Kenya. She has since returned to the continent a dozen times through her work with Equal Exchange.

    Read her editorial on the Providence Journal site or at BostonHerald.com.

  • Painter Jonathan Ralston '92 is a Featured Artist on ArtsyShark.com. Featured artist

    The paintings of Jonathan Ralston ’92 were highlighted on ArtsyShark.com.

    Painter Jonathan Ralston ’92 was recently a featured artist on ArtsyShark.com, a blog that highlights the stories and portfolios of various artists.

    Ralston, who lives on Martha’s Vineyard, specializes in oil paintings of architecture, a subject matter he says “chose me.”

    “I find endless fascination with the intersection of light, geometry and material (usually stone) that make up my subject matter,” Ralston says in the blog feature. “The strong sense of pattern has also remained constant. The way a series of columns, stairs, or arches will repeat across the canvas, all the while changing in scale and color captivates me.”

    Ralston said he became interested in painting architecture while at Wheaton, where he based his senior project on "a mix of color theory and abstracted architecture."

    He was also featured in the 2012 book 100 Boston Painters by Chawky Frenn.

  • Professor of English Michael Drout Talking Tolkien

    English professor Michael Drout discussed the final installment in the ‘Hobbit’ film trilogy in an article published on Smithsonian.com.

    With the December 17 release of the third and final film in director Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy, Smithsonian.com reached out to a pair of Tolkien scholars, including Wheaton’s own Professor of English Michael Drout, to find out how the movie measures up to the original book.

    In the article, titled “The Tolkien Nerd’s Guide to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” Drout discusses the film’s similarities and differences to the book.

    He also shares his overall view of the series: “I was bored out of my mind with some of the repetitive fighting, but my son was totally into it,” he told Smithsonian.com. “If that was [Jackson’s] target demographic, then he completely nailed it.”

    And Drout hints at possible future adaptations of author J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, such as a Middle-earth amusement park or an HBO version of The Silmarillion, much like the popular series Game of Thrones, based on the best-selling books by George R.R. Martin.

    Drout directs the Center for the Study of the Medieval at Wheaton and has written numerous books and articles on the works of Tolkien.

  • mahlonpic Sports startup success

    A sports apparel company started by Mahlon Williams ’95 was profiled in the Boston Globe.

    Boston Sports Apparel Co., a venture started by Wheaton alum Mahlon Williams ’95, is getting some attention now that a major retailer has begun carrying its merchandise.

    Williams, who played on the Lyons men’s basketball team, talks about the company he started in 2008 in a recent Boston Globe article titled “Boston’s sports (apparel) underdog no more.”

    In the article, Williams talks about leaving a job at Fidelity Investments in 2010 to focus on his T-shirt company, which made its mark about a year ago when national retailer Sports Authority began selling its T-shirts in stores.

    Williams credits his father, a professional football player and police officer, with sparking his entrepreneurial interest, saying that as kids he and his sister went door to door selling snowflakes crocheted by his dad.

    Williams was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013 and was a Season 2 winner on the Spike TV reality show “Pros vs. Joes,” in which sports fans compete against professional athletes.

  • Professor Ann Sears All about Bing

    Professor Ann Sears shared her thoughts on the “White Christmas” crooner in an article about the 60th anniversary of the film’s release.

    Professor of Music Ann Sears talks about the cultural impact of Bing Crosby in a Sun Chronicle article about the 60th anniversary of the release of White Christmas.

    The film, which Paramount Pictures premiered in 1954, is being screened at select theaters nationwide this holiday season.

    Sears, whose research interests include American musical theater, is writing a book about Fred Astaire, who starred with Crosby in the films Holiday Inn and Blue Skies. She told the Sun Chronicle she was a big fan of Crosby, calling him “an amazing and complex man.”

    “He was a great singer who also pioneered advances in music technology as well as being a savvy businessman,” she told the newspaper.

    A live version of White Christmas will be staged at Boston’s Wang Theatre December 16–28.

  • Taylor Wilson '16 Informed opinion

    Junior Taylor Wilson ’16 had her essay on media portrayal of Muslim culture published on the website freearabs.com.

    An essay written by Wheaton junior Taylor Wilson ’16 for her Mediating Islam class was recently published on the website freearabs.com.

    The essay, titled “America’s Unfounded Islamophobia,” discusses the role popular media plays in “reinforcing harmful stereotypes and broad generalizations” of Muslim people and culture. In it, Wilson mentions an article she read on a Christian news site about a middle school father who removed his son from school after discovering the boy was learning about Islam in class.

    Wilson argues that learning about various cultures and religions in school actually benefits children and helps to counteract the negative way these cultures are portrayed in the media.

    “The broad generalizations used by newscasters, headlines and other outlets cause one radical Muslim or organization to represent over 1.6 billion people across different nations and cultures, sects and beliefs,” Wilson writes. “We have never used the KKK to represent Christians or Americans, but somehow we do the same for a marginalized population that we simply do not know much about?”

    She warns against engaging in this type of “polarizing discourse” about Islam.

    “I ask that as intellectuals and active media consumers, we be mindful of the skewed messages we receive and challenge them to create an informed consensus of our own as opposed to a preconceived notion skewed by the countless American media outputs and their hidden agendas,” she writes.

    Wilson is an anthropology major with a concentration in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies and a minor in peace and social justice. She will be studying abroad in Jordan during spring semester.

    This fall, Mona Damluji, the Mellon Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellow in Art and Art History, encouraged students in her Mediating Islam class to submit editorials written for class to websites and newspapers they read. At least two of her other students have submitted essays to be included in the Wheaton Words project this spring.

    “I've gotten a lot of feedback from different people who both agree and disagree with my point and have been able to have some interesting conversation about the topic,” Wilson said of her essay. “Regardless of individual opinions, I am glad I've sparked some conversation about something I believe is very important to discuss.”