Leading Women in the Arts Archive


Meredith Monk

Spring 2011

Meredith Monk, hailed as a "magician of the voice" and "one of America's coolest composers," was the 2011 Leading Woman in the Arts guest artist-in-residence at Mount Holyoke College on April 28 and 29, 2011. Monk presented "Archeology of an Artist," a public lecture and demonstration of her works and techniques, on Thursday, April 28, at 7:00 pm in Gamble Auditorium, Art Building, at Mount Holyoke College. 

A composer, singer, director/choreographer and creator of new opera, music theater works, films and installations, Monk is a pioneer in what is now called “extended vocal technique” and “interdisciplinary performance.”  She creates works that thrive at the intersection of music and movement, image and object, light and sound in an effort to discover and weave together new modes of perception. Her groundbreaking exploration of the voice as an instrument, as an eloquent language in and of itself, expands the boundaries of musical composition, creating landscapes of sound that unearth feelings, energies, and memories for which we have no words. During a career that spans more than 45 years, including a Grammy nomination in 2008 for the CD Impermanence,she has been acclaimed by audiences and critics as a major creative force in the performing arts.

Since graduating Sarah Lawrence College in 1964, Monk has received numerous awards including the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Award in 1995, two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Brandeis Creative Arts Award, three “Obies” (including an award for Sustained Achievement), two Villager Awards, two “Bessie” awards for Sustained Creative Achievement, the 1986 National Music Theatre Award, the 1992 Dance Magazine Award, and a 2005 ASCAP Concert Music Award. In 2006 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and named a United States Artists Fellow. In 2010 she was awarded a Letter of Distinction from the American Music Center. Monk holds honorary Doctor of Arts degrees from Bard College, the University of the Arts, The Juilliard School, the San Francisco Art Institute and the Boston Conservatory.

Monk's most recent works include a new music theater piece, Songs of Ascension, that premiered in October 2008 and soon went on an international tour. WEAVE for Two VoicesChamber Orchestra and Chorus premiered with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in March 2010.  In June, 2010, Monk premiered Education of the Girlchild Revisited in Paris. This evening-length work is comprised of Monk’s legendary solo from Education of the Girlchild (1972) and Shards, a reconfiguration of music, images, and movement from the Girlchild period (1969-1973).  Her music has also been performed by many notable soloists and groups including Bang on a Can All-Stars, Björk, The Chorus of the San Francisco Symphony, Double Edge, Musica Sacra, and The Pacific Mozart Ensemble, among others. It can also be heard in numerous films, including La Nouvelle Vague by Jean-Luc Godard and The Big Lebowski by Joel and Ethan Coen.

Kaija Saariaho

A Conversation with Kaija Saariaho
Spring 2010

World renowned Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho will be the 2010 Leading Women in the Arts guest artist-in-residence at Mount Holyoke College.  She will visit with us from April 9 through April 11, 2010.  Hailed as "one of contemporary music's most powerful voices," Ms. Saariaho will launch her visit with "A Conversation with Kaija Saariaho" on Friday, April 9th.   This public event will afford the opportunity to learn more about both the woman and her music through conversation and live demonstration.   A series of concerts, screenings, and master classes will complete Ms. Saariaho's stay.

As the 2008 winner of the Musical America's prestigious “Composer of the Year” award, Kaija Saariaho was recognized as "among the few contemporary composers to achieve public acclaim as well as universal critical respect."  Her works have many facets to discover, see and hear.  Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed wrote, "Hers is music of transitions, of shifting colors and stunning lyrical beauty."

A composer of immense imagination and creative power, Ms. Saariaho expands the boundaries of melody, harmony, timbre, voice, and sound in her works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, ballet, and opera.  She is fascinated by the idea that the essentially mysterious nature of sound can never be completely encompassed by knowledge and believes that the art of composition implies a constant search for new techniques and forms. Through media such as visual imaging, and computer techniques that combine with melody, harmony, and a classical sound, Ms. Saarihao creates a journey of feelings, senses, memories, and textures which captivates her audience. She has a remarkable ability to create music within different dimensions of seamless sound, melody, and mystical beauty.

Event Details

Date: Friday, April 9
Time: 5:00 p.m.
Speaker: Kaija Saariaho
Place: McCulloch Auditorium, Pratt Building, Mount Holyoke College
Free and open to the public.

Student Leadership Seminar
Beyond Notes: Orchestrating Leadership for the Twenty-First Century
Saturday, April 10
12 Noon – 2:00 pm

Students are invited to a luncheon seminar with Kaija Saariaho, highlighting the preparation, practice, and work of leadership in the arts.

Preregistration required.

Jeannine Oppewall

On Finding the Art in Industry: A Case Study
Spring 2009

Jeannine Oppewall, our 2009 Leading Women in the Arts guest artist in residence will be at Mount Holyoke on Thursday, April 2 and Friday, April 3, 2009. Ms. Oppewall's visit will include a public lecture on Thursday evening, a Friday leadership luncheon with students, master classes, and small-group conversations with faculty. Ms. Oppewall's lecture, entitled On Finding the Art in Industry: A Case Study, will take place at 7:30pm in Gamble Auditorium, Art Building on the campus of Mount Holyoke.

One of the few women production designers in the film industry and a four-time Oscar nominee, Ms. Oppewall describes her work as a multi-faceted and intensive quest. “I find, I manipulate, I create environments for characters—settings for stories to be told on film," she says, "I collect and relentlessly process images in my search for the perfect settings for the stories I choose to help tell. The perfect settings are precise visual metaphors for the emotional content of the stories. I design from the same deep and private place out of which a writer writes, a painter paints, or an actor acts.”

Ms. Oppewall’s long career began in Venice, California, in the early 1970s when she began work in the studios of the legendary designers, Charles and Ray Eames. Ms. Oppewall is a graduate of Calvin College and received her master’s degree from Bryn Mawr College. A production designer of over thirty films, she has broad experience as an art director, set decorator, and set designer. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Design for L.A. Confidential (1997, Curtis Hanson, director), Pleasantville (1998, Gary Ross, director), Seabiscuit (2003, Gary Ross, director), and The Good Shepherd (2006, Robert De Niro, director).  She won the Excellence in Production Design Award for the film, Catch Me If You Can (2003), and was  nominated for the same award for the films L.A. Confidential, Pleasantville, Wonder Boys, Seabiscuit, and The Good Shepherd.  She is a member of the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and serves as a committee member of the Art Directors Guild. 

Event Details 

Date: Thursday, April 2
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Speakers: Jeannine Oppewall
Place: Gamble Auditorium, Art Building, Mount Holyoke College
Free and open to the public.

Student Leadership Seminar
A Liberal Arts Education in Action: Reflections and Conclusions
April 3, 12:30 pm

Students are invited to a luncheon seminar with Jeannine Oppewall, leading production designer in the film industry, highlighting the preparation, practice and work of leadership and the arts.

Rachel Rosenthal

"What's Luck Got to Do with It?":
The Extraordinary in Art and Life

Spring 2008

Rachel Rosenthal, the acclaimed artistic director and founder of The Rachel Rosenthal Company, innovative and revolutionary performer, and bold animal rights activist, will deliver the third annual lecture in the Leading Women in the Arts series and the final lecture in the 2007-2008 Bearing Witness lecture series of the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts. Rosenthal believes in the power of interdisciplinary, change, and the bold unpredictability of forms, bodies, sights, and sounds. She has been hailed by critics as a "monument and a marvel" for her pioneering performance techniques.

Rosenthal is known widely for developing a performance technique that is revolution for its integration of elements. She blends text, movement, voice, choreography, improvisation, inventive costuming, dramatic lighting and wildly imaginative sets in ways that produce "an unforgettable 'total theater' experience." In the last two and a half decades, she has presented over forty full-scale performance pieces nationally & internationally. Critics celebrate her performance triumphs and she has been ranked alongside Robert Wilson, Ping Chong, Richard Foreman, Meredith Monk and Laurie Anderson.

In her Spring 2008 Leading Women in the Arts lecture, Rosenthal, who asserts, “who are you and what you make cannot be separated,” will deliberate further on her perspectives on the inextricable links between the personal and the political, and reflect further on the extra-ordinary nature of art and life. In addition to the public lecture, Rachel Rosenthal's guest residency will include a movement workshop, discussions with students and faculty in the arts, and a leadership lunch with students from all disciplines.

Event Details

Date: Thursday, April 10
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Speakers: Rachel Rosenthal
Place: Gamble Auditorium, Art Building, Mount Holyoke College
Free and open to the public.

Student Leadership Seminar
Finders and Keepers: (Re)Inventing Self and Art
April 11, 12:30 pm

Students are invited to a luncheon seminar with Rachel Rosenthal, performer and artistic director of her own theatrical company, highlighting the practice and work of art.

Ann Hamilton

Perspectives in Art
Spring 2007

Ann Hamilton, an accomplished and extremely versatile contemporary visual artist, will deliver the second lecture in the Weissman Center’s Leading Women in the Arts series. Hamilton, who has been hailed as one of America’s most provocative contemporary installation artists, will be in residence during Spring 2007. During her time at Mount Holyoke, she will deliver a public lecture on her work, participate in discussions with senior Studio Art students as well as students from across the Arts, and be the guest of honor at a leadership seminar for students from all disciplines.

Ann Hamilton is renowned for her site-specific works and provocative uses of materials and medium.  In 1999, she was chosen to represent the United States at the historic Venice Biennale.  Her presentation, which focused on American slavery and oppression, incorporated the use of Braille and vivid red powder that rendered words and language of the exhibit visible. Her commissions include the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Allegheny Riverfront Park which received the Progressive Architecture Citation Award, Corpus for Mass MoCA North Adams, Massachusetts, and commissioned works for the San Francisco Public Library, the Seattle Central Library, and the University of Minnesota.

Student Leadership Seminar
Art, Imagination, and Action
February 13, 2007

Students participated in a leadership luncheon with renowned installation artist Ann Hamilton and alumnae guest speakers. The gathering featured engaging conversations about art, academia, exhibitions, and professions. Alumnae guests included Jane Fleck Eccles ’54, Susan Mohl Powers ' 66, and Maura Kehoe Collins ‘83.

Alumnae Biographies
Jane Fleck Eccles ’54, a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, began her Mount Holyoke years studying philosophy.  Eventually, though, she immersed herself in art history and flourished as an artist while working with Edward Corbett, a California abstract painter who taught at the College from 1953 until 1962.  Recently, she was invited to exhibit her handmade paper at the prestigious Biennale Internazionale dell’Arte Contemporanea in Florence, Italy.  She is working now with pastel chalks and oil paints from her home on Cape Cod.

Susan Mohl Powers ' 66 studied studio art, astronomy, and physics during her years at Mount Holyoke.  After participating in the M.F.A. sculpture program at the University of Minnesota, she completed the M.F.A. degree in Visual Design at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.  The New York Times hailed her first solo exhibition at the Squibb Corporate Headquarters in Princeton, N.J. as “striking for its adventurousness and its emphatic presence.”  Her work is part of numerous public and private collections, and her studio is located in a nineteenth-century granite mill in Fall River, Massachusetts.

Maura Kehoe Collins ‘83, graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a B.A. in Art History and a minor in Asian Studies.  She has two decades of experience in conservation and arts administration, and is the founder of Artiphile, an independent art advisory firm.  As an undergraduate, she worked as a curatorial assistant in the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, and as acting registrar in 1980 initiated a project to computerize the Museum's catalog.

Trisha Brown

Set and Reset
Spring 2006

Trisha Brown launched the Leading Women in the Arts series with an illuminating guest residency that featured a public lecture, master classes, and recitals. She offered compelling reflections and analyses of dance, the body, design, and choreography. Brown focused especially on Set and Reset, a masterpiece created first in 1983 that established her as a pioneering force in postmodern dance and a leader in abstract choreography. Set and Reset, one of Brown’s most compelling and well-known pieces, has been hailed for its explorations of visibility and invisibility, its flirtations with the boundaries of the stage, and its evocative costumes.

Set and Reset is an innovative project of restaging that provided student dancers with intriguing opportunities for immersion into Brown’s choreographic process. Members of the Five-College Dance Department performed the piece and experienced first-hand the challenge and transcendence of Brown’s artistic vision.