World-Renowned Playwright Luis Valdez to Receive the Tower Award

Luiz Valdez at SJSU in for a revival of his landmark play, "Zoot Suit." (photo by Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications)

Luis Valdez at SJSU in 2015 for a revival of his landmark play, “Zoot Suit” (photo by Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications).

Media contacts:
Pat Harris, pat.harris@sjsu.edu, 408-924-1748
Robin McElhatton, robin.mcelhatton@sjsu.edu, 408-924-1749

SAN JOSE, CA — San José State University will present its 2017 Tower Award to SJSU alumnus, activist, playwright and father of Chicano theater Luis Valdez at Inspiration to Innovation, a gala event to be held May 4, 2017, at the SJSU Event Center. Ticket information is available on the university website.

“Luis Valdez is an extraordinary example of the contributions San José State University’s alumni make to our social fabric,” President Mary A. Papazian said. “Drawing on his gifts as a writer and director, Valdez gives us unforgettable stories elevating the real-life experiences of the Chicano community, while exploring universal themes of social justice and human rights.”

The Tower Award, San José State’s highest honor, recognizes service to the university, community and society. Among the more than 40 recipients since 1972 are Susan Hammer; Norm Mineta; Peter Ueberroth, ’59 Business Administration, ’86 Honorary Doctorate; and Bill Walsh, ‘55 BA, ‘59 MA, Education.

The Father of Chicano Theater

Awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama in 2015, Valdez is perhaps best known as the force behind “La Bamba,” the 1987 film chronicling the life of rock-and-roll star Ritchie Valens. The popular movie is just one project from more than a half century of productions drawn from personal experience.

Valdez was born in 1940 in Delano to migrant farmworkers. After graduating from James Lick High School in East San José, he went on to produce his first full-length play and earn a bachelor’s in English at San José State in 1964. The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa shows the absurdity of Mexican American stereotypes and it is an excellent example of the timelessness of Valdez’s work.

Soon after graduating from SJSU, the young playwright went on to lend his talents to a cause he knew well. During the Delano grape strike, he collaborated with civil rights leader Cesar Chavez to produce short skits highlighting the plight of the farmworker.

El Teatro Campesino (The Farmworker Theater) in San Juan Bautista would become Valdez’s lifelong professional home and the inspiration for another timeless masterpiece, Zoot Suit. Commissioned by the Mark Taper Forum, the musical explores the complexities of a real murder trial compromised by racism.

In 1979, Valdez took “Zoot Suit” to Broadway, a first in the history of Chicano directors. He earned Golden Globe nominations for the “Zoot Suit” and “La Bamba” films, both of which he directed. He received an honorary doctorate at SJSU in 1988 and returned in 2015 to stage a revival of “Zoot Suit” with his son Kinan Valdez as director. Valdez remains active in the theater community.


About San José State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing more than 7,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 220,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

 

 

Maxine Hong Kingston to Serve as Keynote Reader at Legacy of Poetry Festival

Maxine Hong Kingston (photo by Alexander Warnow)

Maxine Hong Kingston (photo by Alexander Warnow)

Media contacts:
Pat Harris, pat.harris@sjsu.edu, 408-924-1748
Robin McElhatton, robin.mcelhatton@sjsu.edu, 408-924-1749

SAN JOSE, CA – Iconic author Maxine Hong Kingston will be the keynote reader at San José State University’s 2017 Legacy of Poetry Day Festival to be held from 5-9 p.m. May 3 at the Hammer Theatre Center in downtown San Jose. Kingston will be presented during the main stage reading at 7 p.m. All Legacy of Poetry Day festival events are free and open to the public.

“The event will feature an all-star cast of Bay Area-based Asian American poets. This will extend SJSU’s celebration of National Poetry Month into May, and also kick-off Asian Pacific Heritage Month,” said Alan Soldofsky, professor of English and Comparative Literature and director of SJSU’s creative writing program.

Schedule of events

The 7 p.m. main stage program will include poets, spoken-word artists and musicians including: Santa Clara County Poet Laureate Arlene Biala; California Poet Laureate emeritus Al Young; award-winning San Francisco poet Barbara Jane Reyes; Metro columnist, SJSU Steinbeck Fellow and poet Gary Singh; poet/performer Genny Lim, accompanied by pianist Jon Jang, percussionist Jimmy Biala and saxophonist Francis Wong of the Pan-Asian Arkestra; San Jose spoken-word artists and poets ASHA, Lorenz Dumuk and Quyhn Nguyen. And musicians P.J. and Roy Hirabayashi, founders of San Jose Taiko.

The event will begin at 5 p.m. in the Hammer Theatre Center lobby with readings by SJSU President Mary Papazian and Senior Vice President and Provost Andy Feinstein. They will be joined by other SJSU officials, alumni, students, faculty members and staff poets. President Papazian’s appearance will be one of several public programs she will take part in during her official inaugural week beginning May 1. The SJSU readings will feature works from SJSU’s long legacy of poetry, going back to Edwin Markham (1852-1940), and including other acclaimed SJSU alumni and faculty poets spanning 150 years.

Sponsors

SJSU’s 2017 Legacy of Poetry Day Festival is sponsored by: Associated Students of SJSU, Poets and Writers Coalition, College of Humanities and the Arts, Department of English and Comparative Literature, the MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center, and the SJSU Office of the President. The festival is produced in association with co-sponsors CATS (Contemporary Asian Theater Scene), the 2016-17 Santa Clara County Poet Laureate, Poetry Center San Jose and Poets & Writers, Inc.


About San José State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing more than 7,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 220,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

 

 

Celebration of Life Set for Dr. Gus Lease

Dr. Gus Lease, a beloved faculty member of San Jose State University who taught music for 66 years in the College of Humanities and Arts School of Music and Dance, passed away on Sept 4. He was 93.

A celebration of life for Dr. Gus Lease will be held Saturday, Oct. 1, at 1 p.m. in the Concert Hall (Music 176) at SJSU.

“Gus loved San Jose State University and his students, so much so that he simply didn’t want to leave or ever retire,” said Janet Averett, the associate director of Music and Dance at SJSU.

Even after his retirement and attainment of emeritus professor status, Lease continued to teach in the School of Music and Dance, as well as the history department.

Averett first met Lease in 1986, when he was chair of the music department. Lease had hired her straight out of graduate school from the University of Michigan. Averett said that she was young and felt alone after her cross-country move.

“I was very appreciative of the hospitality that he and his wife Lois displayed in having me over for dinner at their lovely home in the east San Jose foothills,” she said. “He was always very supportive of me.”

Before coming to SJSU in 1950, Lease taught vocal music at the University of Colorado and the University of Oklahoma. He earned his bachelor’s degree in music from Morningside College, a master’s in music from the University of Colorado, and his Ed.D. from the University of South Dakota.

Throughout his years at SJSU, Lease was dedicated to expanding musical opportunities on campus. He organized and directed a 350-voice chorale ensemble in 1950, which performed many oratorios and cantatas. In 1955, he founded the first Men’s Glee Club at the university. Lease served as chair of the Department of Music from 1982-1989.

Lease raised many Spartan spirits with his rendition of the alma mater “Hail, Spartans Hail,” along with the national anthem, through the years. He performed as vocal soloist at more than 63 homecoming football games and 65 commencement ceremonies.

“Gus was a loyal Spartan who was dedicated to enhancing SJSU through music,” said Provost Andy Feinstein. “He always brought a smile to my face when I saw him because of his enthusiasm and his good-natured sense of humor.”

The Director of the School of Music and Dance, Fred Cohen, added, “Gus was a direct link to the storied and proud past of the Department of Music at SJSU. He often shared memorabilia from his days as professor and chair, from newspaper articles about the new music building in the 1950s to his personal minutes from faculty meetings in the 1960s-70s. Gus always had a story to tell, and I inevitably walked away from a conversation with a greater sense of the wonderful and life-changing accomplishments achieved during the long history of music at SJSU.”

Averett said, “I especially admired the fact that nothing ever seemed to get him down,” noting that he bounced back after a serious car accident left him with hip injuries that affected him for the rest of this life. “He proudly walked to his office and classroom every day he was on campus, even with the aid of a walker, always with a smile.”

Beyond campus, Lease remained active in his craft. He was a member of the San Francisco Opera Company, and for 17 years he produced “The Gus Lease Show,” which performed on military bases throughout the world. He was the music director of the San Jose downtown Kiwanis Club for more than 50 years, and served as music director at many churches.

Lease’s community service extended beyond music. He was past president of the Tennessee Ernie Ford Chapter of the Air Force Association and past vice president of the Santa Clara County Navy League. His awards include “National Outstanding Professor” from Vector Marketing, as well as awards from the Department of the Army. He was active in the California Faculty Association, California State Employees Association, California Teachers Association, California State Retirees, and the National Education Association.

For more information about the celebration of life scheduled for October 1, please call the School of Music and Dance Office at 408-924-4673.

 

Students Make Downtown San Jose a Better Place to Live, Work and Play

San Jose State University will launch the Paseo Public Prototyping Challenge and Festival on 6-8 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Hammer Theatre Center

San Jose State University will launch the Paseo Public Prototyping Challenge and Festival on 6-8 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Hammer Theatre Center.

SJSU Media Relations contact:
Robin McElhatton, 408-924-1749, robin.mcelhatton@sjsu.edu

SAN JOSE, CA – San Jose State University will launch the Paseo Public Prototyping Challenge and Festival on Wednesday, September 21 from 6-8 p.m. The launch takes place at the Hammer Theatre Center, 101 Paseo de San Antonio Walk, San Jose. This event is free to the public and open to all ages.

Through partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and under the leadership of the College of Humanities and the Arts, the Paseo challenge asks San Jose State University students, “What will you create to make the city of San Jose an incredible place to live, work and play?”

The Paseo Prototyping Challenge is designed to incubate solutions to pressing social and environmental problems through multidisciplinary collaboration and technological innovation.

Following competitive review by SJSU faculty experts and industry professionals, 25 multidisciplinary student teams will be selected, mentored, and provided $1,000 in seed funding to develop prototypes for public presentation at the Paseo de San Antonio Public Prototyping Festival – an arts, culture and technology festival held on the Paseo de San Antonio corridor at the site of the Hammer Theatre Center in spring 2017. The Hammer is operated by SJSU.

A public opinion survey gave students insight on what issues need to be addressed in downtown San Jose.

“Homelessness, safety, and transportation were top concerns among San Jose residents,” said Corinne O. Takara of Okada Design, which conducted the survey. “Residents provided such thoughtful, forthcoming feedback and were so appreciative of being heard. I hope this information will help students build impactful prototypes that will address some of the residents’ concerns.” A short collection of audio survey results is available online.

The San Jose State University’s Paseo Public Prototyping Challenge and Festival is funded by the Knight Foundation and Intel, with sponsorship support from Microsoft Civic Engagement and The Tech Museum of Innovation.


About San Jose State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing more than 8,900 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 250,000 alumni, 65 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

 

 

Francisco Jiménez to Receive Steinbeck Award

SJSU Media Relations Contact:
Pat Harris, pat.harris@sjsu.edu, 408-924-1748

SAN JOSE, CA – Educator, author, and advocate for social justice Francisco Jiménez will receive the John Steinbeck Award at 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.) on Wednesday, September 28, in the Student Union Theater at San Jose State University. A highlight of the university’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, the event will feature a conversation between Jiménez and Chicano political cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz.

Proceeds from the event benefit SJSU’s Cesar E. Chavez Community Action Center. Camino Arts, a non-profit arts initiative, is a pro bono co-producer of this event. Tickets ($20 general, $10 student) are available at the Event Center Box Office (408-924-6333) or at ticketmaster.com.

Like the Joad family in Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath, the Jiménez family came to California looking for a better life but found mostly hardship and struggle. Born in Mexico in 1943, Jiménez spent much of his childhood moving around California with no permanent home or regular schooling. Against incredible odds he went on to earn a Ph.D. and become a professor at his alma mater, Santa Clara University. His accolades include the CASE/Carnegie Foundation Professor of the Year in 2002.

His critically-acclaimed books for young readers, including The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child, have given voice to families like his and introduced a generation of American children to the plight of migrant laborers in our country.

More information is available on the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies’ website.

SJSU Names 2016 Outstanding Seniors

Erin Enguero and Anna Santana are the recipients of SJSU’s 2016 Outstanding Graduating Senior Awards  in recognition of their scholarship and contributions to the community. Both will be recognized at Commencement, beginning at 9:30 a.m. May 28 in Spartan Stadium.

Erin Enguero

Erin Enguero

Erin Enguero (photo by Inderpal Kaur)

Since age 11, having a hearing loss has influenced how Enguero identifies herself academically and socially. She has evolved from a self-described “cautious pre-teen to an ambitious young woman striving for excellence” in her educational and community endeavors.

Carrying a 3.796 GPA, she has earned numerous scholarships and has been recognized as a CSU Trustee Award winner, SJSU Salzburg Scholar and 2016 American Kinesiology Association Undergraduate Scholar.

While Enguero’s hearing loss has taught her to adapt using her existing strengths, she says she is proud “not just for overcoming my disability, but for finding the courage to explore my identities as a student, leader and, ultimately, an agent of change.”

Enguero graduates in May with a bachelor’s in kinesiology. In fall 2016, she plans to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy at California State University, Fresno.

Anna Santana

Anna Santana with civil rights activist Dolores Huerta (photo courtesy of Anna Santana)

Anna Santana with civil rights activist Dolores Huerta (courtesy of Anna Santana)

At age six, Santana transferred schools three times in less than a year in search of a bilingual teacher. This daughter of former farmworkers says this was just part of the struggles that “have shaped my dreams and aspirations.”

Today, Santana advocates for the education of migrant families through the Apoyo Campesino project, which seeks to change a state regulation that forces students to move to a different school after each growing season ends.

In addition, Santana is the founder of the College Awareness Network, which has been integral in bringing students from marginalized schools to university campuses to promote a college-going culture.

A double major in sociology and Spanish, Santana will receive her bachelor’s degree in May. As a McNair Scholar, she maintains a 3.9 GPA and has been accepted to Stanford University for graduate school.

 

SJSU Receives $4.8 Million Gift from Late Professor for the Steinbeck Center

Martha Heasley Cox

Martha Heasley Cox

Media contact:
Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations, 408-924-1748, pat.harris@sjsu.edu

SAN JOSE, CA – San Jose State University has received a $4.8 million bequest from the estate of Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature Martha Heasley Cox. The gift will support the Center for Steinbeck Studies that bears her name. Cox’s total lifetime giving to SJSU is $5.5 million, the largest total ever for a faculty member.

“An Arkansas native, Martha Heasley Cox came to California and was immediately taken by the opportunities she found here,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Andrew Hale Feinstein. “She dedicated her career to research on one of our region’s most iconic writers, John Steinbeck. Through this work, she sought to inspire a new generation of writers and scholars.”

Shortly after arriving, Cox began collecting Steinbeck materials. The collection grew to become so extensive and well respected that it was incorporated into plans for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, opened in 2003. The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies is the only university research archive in the world dedicated solely to Steinbeck’s life and work. Cox was active in Steinbeck Center affairs throughout her 34-year SJSU teaching career and after her retirement. She died in September 2015 at the age of 96.

Impact

Cox leading a tour of Cannery Row (photo courtesy of Greta Manville).

Leading a tour of Cannery Row (photo courtesy of Greta Manville).

Professor Cox provided financial support for the collection from the very start, and she continued to do so as the center grew into a multi-faceted organization with many related programs. Her bequest means the center and its work will reach more students than ever before in an array of fields, from humanities and the arts to science and mass communications. For example, the Martha Heasley Cox Steinbeck Fellowships will receive $3.1 million from the bequest.

“Her vision was to bring together a group of scholars drawn from the disciplines Steinbeck practiced—including fiction, drama, journalism and marine biology,” said Nicholas Taylor, Steinbeck Center director and an associate professor of English and Comparative Literature. “Over the last 15 years, SJSU has welcomed 36 writers and scholars to campus, at a rate of two or three per year.”

“The bequest will allow SJSU to expand the program significantly, bringing 10 or more fellows to campus each year,” Taylor said. “Steinbeck Fellows typically visit several classes during their residencies, but with only two or three fellows on campus at a time, the number of students they could reach was limited. Having a larger annual cohort of fellows will allow the program to touch many more students.”

Entrepreneur

Receiving the Tower Award (photo courtesy of the Steinbeck Center).

Receiving the Tower Award (photo courtesy of the Steinbeck Center).

The bequest will fund two more programs she founded. The Martha Heasley Cox Lecture Series will receive $1 million and the Cox-Manville Steinbeck Bibliography of everything Steinbeck will receive $690,000. Those who knew Professor Cox described her as an entrepreneur of arts and letters, offering a ceaseless stream of ideas on how to grow the Steinbeck collection and use its resources to encourage others to follow in the author’s footsteps.

“Martha made her fortune the old-fashioned way, through hard work as an ambitious academic author and careful investment in stocks and real estate,” said Paul Douglass, Steinbeck Center director from 2005 to 2012. “A child of the Great Depression, she wanted every dollar, like every moment in life, to count. She was a practical woman who wrote practical books: texts on writing, critical studies and guides for readers, and bibliographies useful to scholars of American literature.”

Martha Heasley was born in Calico Rock, Arkansas, in February 1919. She graduated with a bachelor’s in English from Lyon College, Arkansas, and received her doctoral degree from the University of Arkansas. In 1955, she moved across the country and joined the faculty at SJSU, where she taught for 34 years. She and her husband Cecil Cox divorced but remained lifelong friends. In 2000, she received the Tower Award, SJSU’s highest recognition for service to the university.

“Martha’s case for John Steinbeck was difficult to resist. Her colleagues in the Department of English weren’t exempt from service to the cause,” said Professor Emeritus Arlene Okerlund, who was new at SJSU when she met Cox. The two worked together on pioneering Steinbeck conferences and remained friends in retirement. Cox recruited graduate student Greta Manville, ’75 BA ’78 MA English, to create the Steinbeck bibliography that came to bear both of their names.

Steinbeck Award

With Steinbeck Award recipient Bruce Springsteen (courtesy of the Steinbeck Center).

With Steinbeck Award recipient Bruce Springsteen (courtesy of the Steinbeck Center).

In 1996, musician Bruce Springsteen reached out to the Steinbeck family with a request: he wanted to name his upcoming album and tour after the “Grapes of Wrath” protagonist Tom Joad. “Professor Cox’s warm relations with Steinbeck’s widow and literary agency led to an inspired idea,” Douglass recalled, the formation of the John Steinbeck Award: “In the Souls of the People.” The award became another way to honor Steinbeck’s legacy while supporting those who were following in his footsteps.

Now a regular fundraiser for the Steinbeck Center, the award brings to campus writers, artists, thinkers, and activists whose work captures Steinbeck’s empathy, commitment to democratic values, and belief in the dignity of people who by circumstance are pushed to the fringes. Recent recipients include civil rights icon Ruby Bridges, novelist Khaled Hosseini and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

About San Jose State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 145 areas of study with an additional 108 concentrations – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 32,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing more than 7,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 220,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

 

Student Aims for Cannes With “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Photo: Christina Olivas

Kourosh Ahari, ’16 Radio, Television and Film, director of “The Yellow Wallpaper” (Photo: Christina Olivas).

Armed with a Cannes Film Festival nod for his short film titled “Malaise” and now two films premiering at Cinequest, a San Jose State student filmmaker has already accomplished more than he expected — and he hasn’t even graduated yet.

Kourosh Ahari, ’16 Radio, Television and Film, premiered his 80-minute feature-length adaption of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s story “The Yellow Wallpaper” at the grand re-opening of the Hammer Theatre Center on March 2. The event was held in collaboration with Cinequest. The film will be shown again March 12.

Ahari, an Iran native, sowed his passion for directing during his time producing short films, with “Malaise,” his first directing job, premiering at SJSU’s Campus Movie Fest last year.

Ahari enjoys the process of connecting with actors and delving into the depths of human emotions in his role as a director, but wouldn’t have gotten his start in film had he been accepted in SJSU’s impacted animation department.

“‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is something I’ve always wanted to bring to life as a film, as a motion picture,” Ahari said. “I read the book in college and I was really fascinated with the story itself, like what was happening to women at that point in time when they were overlooked.”

Photo: Christina Olivas

Amy Roberts, ’16 Radio, Television and Film, screenwriter of “The Yellow Wallpaper” (Photo: Christina Olivas).

The story, originally set in the 1800s, chronicles a woman named Eleanor and her struggle to overcome postpartum depression. Living in a newly bought Victorian mansion with her husband, she quickly loses her sanity while locked in her bedroom. There, she begins to become obsessed with the changing patterns of the yellow wallpaper.

Ahari pitched this story as part of his advanced special projects class last spring. SJSU Director of Theater and Film Production Barnaby Dallas suggested Ahari work with a female screenwriter to adapt the story in order to maintain an authentic women’s perspective of how postpartum depression was just one of many issues ignored by society during that time.

“The best writer I had in my screenwriting class was Amy Roberts,” Dallas said. “I introduced Kourosh to Amy and said ‘well, you guys have two or three weeks till the deadline to work on something,’ and they cranked out the script.”

Roberts, who will graduate this year with a bachelor’s in Radio, Television and Film, decided to adapt the script to a more contemporary 1950s setting so themes of female subjugation could still ring true with audiences.

“That’s what impressed me, to have a male student so moved by the story itself and choose to go forward with it,” Roberts said.

During the one-month pre-production phase, Kourosh and his crew built the yellow bedroom set, cast the actors, obtained permits for the Victorian house set and launched into principal photography.

“The shooting part of it was seven days,” Ahari said. “It required working 14 to 16 hours every day.”

(Photo: Jessica Perez via Department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre website)

Behind-the-scenes building the yellow bedroom set (Photo: Jessica Perez courtesy of Department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre)

Despite the grueling hours, Ahari said work ethic of his cast and crew is the reason he was able to complete the shooting portion in just a week.

Dallas, who often supervised production days as part of his mentorship role with Spartan Film Studios, said the student crew’s dedication was astounding.

“I’ve been there for 12 hours at a time and see how happy and hardworking these students are,” Dallas said. “If a student director like Kourosh is great like that, it sets the right tone.”

Cinequest is showing Ahari’s film not just once, but twice, with the second showing scheduled for March 12.

“When I heard that our film was the first show premiering (at the Hammer Theatre) it was really exciting and very nerve-wracking because you know it has to be good, so I’m hoping I can get more feedback on the next screening,” Ahari said. “For me, audience is what matters, and when I make a film, I make it so it can resonate with audiences and normal people, and really focus on the human condition.”

Ahari hopes to complete “The Yellow Wallpaper” by May 2016 so he can submit it to Cannes Film Festival.

(Photo: Christina Olivas).

Kourosh and his crew on stage at the Hammer Theatre (Photo: Christina Olivas).

Following the Cinequest premier of the film, Kourosh and his crew took the stage and invited the audience to critique the film.

A handful of viewers questioned the choice to focus on the mental health theme of the 1892 story, as opposed to the feminist interpretation found in other adaptions.

“Women’s mental health was not something that was faced with any type of gravity,” Roberts responded. “The whole mental issue and the feminist side aren’t completely separate because it all has to do with recognizing an individual’s actual needs.”

 

Civil Rights Icon Ruby Bridges to Receive Steinbeck Award

SJSU Media Relations Contact:
Pat Harris, pat.harris@sjsu.edu, 408-924-1748

Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges today (photo courtesy of Ms. Bridges).

SAN JOSE, CA – Civil rights icon Ruby Bridges, the first black child to attend an all-white elementary school in Louisiana, will be on campus Feb. 24 to receive the John Steinbeck Award.

“An Evening with Ruby Bridges” is slated for 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.) in the Student Union Ballroom. The award presentation will culminate an evening featuring an onstage interview of Bridges by KQED’s Joshua Johnson. This event is sold out.

Ruby Bridges has been called the youngest foot soldier of the civil rights movement. In 1960, the NAACP selected a six-year-old girl to break the color barrier of an all-white elementary school in New Orleans. White parents removed their children from classes, and angry protesters jeered at Ruby as she walked the steps of William Frantz Elementary School surrounded by federal marshals. For months, Ruby sat alone in her classroom, instructed one-on-one by Barbara Henry, a white teacher from Boston. John Steinbeck was moved by Bridges’ courage and wrote about her in his 1962 book “Travels with Charley.”

More information is available on the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies’ website.

 

Community Music Institute Receives $10,000 from 50 Fund

Photo: Mathew Imaging

Gustavo Dudamel, who will perform at this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, has been a key figure in the launch of YOLA, a youth orchestra in Los Angeles, California. SJSU is developing a similar initiative. (Photo: Craig T. Mathew/ Mathew Imaging for LA Phil).

An SJSU initiative inspired by the success of Super Bowl 50 halftime performer Gustavo Dudamel has received a $10,000 gift from a game-related charity and could receive $10,000 more with your help.

All you need to do is go to the StubHub Fan Fair website, scroll down to “StubHub Gives Back to the Bay Area,” and vote for the SJSU Community Music Institute before Feb. 5. The five organizations that receive the most votes will get an extra $10,000.

The winners will be announced Super Bowl Sunday.


Inspiration

Coordinator of Music Education Diana Hollinger founded the Community Music Institute in 2006. A branch of the SJSU School of Music and Dance, the program provides musical instruments and lessons to children.

Hollinger’s inspiration, and the subject of her dissertation, is Venezuela’s El Sistema music education program, which offers a classical music education to disadvantaged youth. Dudamel, the exuberant musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is among its best-known alumni. He will perform at this year’s halftime show.

“SJSU resides in a diverse, creative, and vibrant local cultural life, yet many of our resident urban schools have high levels of student poverty and little or no music education. We hold that every child deserves a complete and quality music education, and that this improves the lives of children and their communities,” Hollinger said.

Projects

The Young Musicians’ Project is one of CMI’s initiatives. It pairs music majors with local elementary, middle, and high school musicians for one-on-one lessons. Now, Hollinger would like to start a String Project, focusing specifically on string instruments.

SJSU student gives a one-on-one violin lesson to a boy.

Photo: Brian Stanley, ’16 Journalism

“The first $10,000 finances the instruments. The extra $10,000 would allow us to provide stipends to the SJSU music students who will teach on these instruments. This is an important piece, as so many of our own students struggle to pay tuition and living expenses,” Hollinger said.

These projects provide the SJSU music majors with hands-on teaching experience, while offering private lessons to young people who would otherwise lack access to such opportunities.

Approximately 15 SJSU students worked with 30 children on the Young Musicians’ Project last semester. There’s room for growth. With more than 100 music education majors, SJSU is one a top provider of music teachers and band directors to Bay Area schools.

Changing lives

Hugo Garcia, ’17 MA Music Education, is the program director for the Young Musicians’ Project. He’s motivated by personal experience.

I come from a low socioeconomic background, and I didn’t have much of a music education because the majority of opportunities to get a good quality music education were and still are very expensive. However, I loved music, and I found that it helped me learn and it helped me find my focus,” he said.

“I think that if I had more of an opportunity to study music, my schooling would not have been as difficult as it became. I had to overcome a lot of obstacles to get the music education that I now believe should be free.”

SJSU connected with StubHub through the 50 Fund, which provided SJSU the initial $10,000 gift. The 50 Fund is the signature philanthropic initiative of Super Bowl 50. Its goal is to help close the opportunity gap that exists for Bay Area children, youth, and young adults living in low-income communities.

 

“The Blue & the Beyond” Captures Film Festival Audiences

A film produced by Animation/Illustration students–on their own time outside the classroom–has succeeded in capturing the attention of film festivals across the United States and Canada.

Youri Dekker, ’15 Animation/Illustration, originally proposed “The Blue & the Beyond” as a capstone class project for his bachelor’s of fine arts program.

When his instructors took a different route, Dekker hunkered down in an empty classroom with nine classmates, re-worked the story, and began sketching.

“There was a level of excitement because this project was so big and no one in our program had ever done anything like this before, to this scale, and with so many characters,” Dekker said.

Help from 117 classmates

Photo: Courtesy of Youri Dekker

Photo: Courtesy of Youri Dekker

Part way through, Dekker went back to his instructors for advice on the story, production process and managing everyone coming on board, including a good portion of the Shrunkenheadman club.

One year and one day later, in August 2015, they completed the 9.5-minute animated short, with help from 117 classmates total, inspired by Dekker’s vision.

Described as “the story of a young, imaginative man named Charlie, who is searching to find someone like him in a world where he is different in every way,” the film was shown at the Barrie Film Festival Oct. 17 in Ontario and SPARK Animation 2015 Oct. 25 in Vancouver.

Bay Area audiences will get their chance at the Pictoclik film festival and Bay Area Women in Film & Media 2015 Shorts Showcase this November in San Francisco.

Gratitude

Photo: Courtesy of Youri Dekker

Photo: Courtesy of Youri Dekker

Kimberly Mucha and Samia Khalaf, who also graduated with BFAs in Animation/Illustration this past May, served as producers.

A Netherlands native raised near Fresno, Dekker plans to pursue a career in animation. He interned with Pixar on “The Good Dinosaur.”

But for now, this recent graduate’s just feeling grateful for this dream come true, made possible by his friends at San Jose State.

“I told our crew, ‘We’re making this for an audience,’” Dekker said. “‘We’re making this so not only we can enjoy the film, but so other people can enjoy what we created and made.’”

 

Faculty Member Re-Creates Antiquities Destroyed by ISIS

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications

Morehshin Allahyari (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications).

SJSU lecturer and artist Morehshin Allahyari is using technology to save art from the past for the future.

She started her latest project, “Material Speculation: ISIS,” after seeing images of ISIS fighters destroying ancient artifacts at the Mosul Museum in Iraq. Not only does the Iranian-born artist have a personal interest in re-creating the 3,000-year-old art work, but her research lies at the nexus of 3-D technology, art and activism.

“I think there’s a lot of interest around ways you can use new technology to resist something political, but also how, as artists, you can respond to social, cultural and political events of our contemporary way of life,” Allahyari said.

3-D printers

One of the four miniature artifacts destroyed by ISIS. (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications)

Using 3-D printers, Allahyari produced miniature versions of four of the artifacts destroyed by ISIS. The reproductions are miniature, plastic replicas of the original pieces.

“Getting accurate information about the artifacts was one of the most challenging aspects of the project,” she said. “So I included a flash memory card inside these artifacts, where I think about this idea of a time capsule. So in 20 to 30 years, people can take out these artifacts and have access to the information.”

The 3-D pieces are on display in Florence, Dallas, Istanbul, and soon, New York. Allahyari is traveling to each city to speak about her work. She’s also planning on re-creating five or six more artifacts that were destroyed by ISIS.

Art and history

As a new media artist, Allahyari believes we are entering an era of having access to certain kinds of artifacts, and having more affordable high-tech tools as a way to document and archive history.

“I think it’s really, really interesting to see in 10 years how that will change the whole landscape of museums, digital and physical archiving, and our role in general, as humans, to save, reflect back, or think about concepts related to history,” Allahyari said.