Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Art meets science

Exhibitions explore interdisciplinary connections

Artist Nathalie Miebach (right) talks with a student in front of her sculpture “To Hear an Ocean in a Whisper.”

Artist Nathalie Miebach (right) talks with a student in front of her sculpture “To Hear an Ocean in a Whisper.”

Michele L’Heureux ’88 is a constant observer. As a professional visual artist and gallery director of Wheaton’s Beard and Weil Galleries, she approaches art with the eye of a lifelong learner. So when the college’s Mars Center for Science and Technology opened, inspiration for a fruitful curatorial opportunity took hold.

“I’ve had a long-standing interest in the intersection of art and science,” said L’Heureux. “It’s really fascinating territory, and the presupposition of many people is that artists and scientists are different ‘animals’ that don’t engage in the same kinds of practices and questions.”

In 2012, she invited faculty across all disciplines to bring their students to the galleries and got a great response.

Computer science professors Mark LeBlanc and Tom Armstrong coordinated with L’Heureux to have artist Chris Abrams lead an interactive lecture for students (particularly those interested in computer science and engineering) as part of the galleries’ “New England Animation All-Stars” exhibition. Professor of Chemistry Elita Pastra-Landis took her “Advanced Organic Chemistry” students to “Sitelines,” a nature- and landscape-themed group exhibition that included a drawing by Kysa Johnson utilizing pollutants’ molecular structures.

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A debut worth the wait

9 Concert-5628Orchestra performs music by Class of 1933 alum

We all could learn a lesson or two from Mary Louise Miller Spang, Class of 1933.

She overcame great adversity in her life, forging her own path after divorcing her husband in 1946, at a time when divorce was still a damaging social stigma for women, and working to support two young children on her own while pursuing her passion for music at Juilliard.

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Mary Louise Miller Spang ’33 in 1962

From 1946 until around 1959, Spang, who was an art major at Wheaton, was a prolific composer and published poet. Her musical career was cut short in 1959 when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which led to her decline and death in 1975 at age 64.

On Dec. 6, 2013, she had her long-overdue chance in the spotlight. The Great Woods Chamber Orchestra honored her during a concert by performing one of her musical compositions for the very first time. The orchestra debuted Spang’s “The Selfish Giant,” a musical interpretation of the children’s story by Oscar Wilde, in the Weber Theatre.

“Each section in ‘The Selfish Giant’ corresponds to a scene in Wilde’s story,” noted Delvyn Case, assistant professor of music and orchestra director. “The music is very colorful, depicting the giant by using the timpani and brass, and the children with the piccolo and other woodwind instruments. The composition uses beautiful, rich harmonies reminiscent of jazz, though the style of the piece is certainly classical.”

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Smart vacation choice: summer courses

Assistant Professor of Mathematics Rachelle DeCoste goes over information during last year’s summer session course “Introductory Statistics.”

Assistant Professor of Mathematics Rachelle DeCoste goes over information during last year’s summer session course “Introductory Statistics.”

Last summer, Sydney Gillis ’16 could have spent her break relaxing in front of the television or going to the beach. Instead, she was sitting in Room 1141 of the Mars science center four days a week learning about hypothesis testing, linear and multiple regression, and variance analysis in Professor Rachelle DeCoste’s “Introductory Statistics” course.

More info:

A full list of summer session courses

And she had plenty of company. Gillis, who took the course to fulfill a requirement, was one of many students who jumped at the opportunity to take courses during Wheaton’s first summer session. The session was started as a pilot program to allow Wheaton students and others to take classes to make up a credit; to fit in coursework that they can’t accommodate in their regular schedule during the academic year; or just to enjoy a subject of interest during a quieter time on campus.

The program was so successful that it will be offered again this summer. Wheaton faculty members will teach a wide range of full-credit courses during an intensive four-week term from May 19 through June 13.

“I really liked that I was able to concentrate on only one class, and it was nice to know that I was getting a class out of the way in the summer so I would not have to worry about it during the year,” Gillis said. “I think that if students take advantage of it, they will feel a lot more at ease during the regular semester knowing that they took an extra class in the summer.”

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Commencement speaker national museum director

Photograph by Franko Khoury National Museum of African Art Smithsonian InstitutionJohnnetta B. Cole, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., will deliver the keynote address at Wheaton’s 179th Commencement on May 17.

Cole is a scholar, author and activist for social and economic justice. As director of the National Museum of African Art since 2009, she oversees a collection of more than 10,000 objects of various media and art forms.

Previously, she was president of Bennett College and Spelman College, making history in 1987 as the first African American woman to lead Spelman. She also was the first African American to serve as chair of the board of United Way of America, from 2004 to 2006, and the first woman on the board of Coca-Cola Enterprises.

She currently serves on the scholarly advisory board for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the construction of which will be completed on the National Mall by 2015. She also is chair of the board of the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute at Bennett College.

Cole, who started college at age 15, has a master’s degree and doctorate in anthropology from Northwestern University. She has held teaching positions at several schools, including Emory University.

She has been awarded more than 50 honorary degrees and has received numerous awards, including the Joseph Prize for Human Rights, presented by the Anti-Defamation League, and the Otis Social Justice Award from Wheaton in 2010. That year she also was named one of Ebony magazine’s 100 most influential African Americans. The American Council on Education awarded her the Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award in March 2013.

In May, Cole will receive an honorary degree at Commencement, as will Ronald A. Crutcher and four of Wheaton’s distinguished alumnae/i: [Read more...]