Author: Julia Pilkington

Oceans

I used to be so scared of this place–

Its crumbling roars, lethal looking lace, and distaste for calm–

But now, I wither without it.

They say oceans carry negative ions and in our daily lives, we usually are only surrounded by positive ions, only compounding on each other:

ions that certainly charge but don’t enlighten,

until they visit the ocean and fall in love with the negative ions and they elope from us,

the sea air dizzying our balance because we are losing the molecular weight,

and being scrubbed clean, raw,

until all that is left inside of us is the breeze itself,

salt and sunshine slipping through nerves, veins, and muscles,

washing bones, until we can say we believe we are made of sea foam,

bubbling and frothing in the simple spirals of ionic love

and settling amongst the seagrass, shells and tide pools,

to float, to sleep, to dream.

pilkingt@stolaf.edu

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St. Olaf welcomes new theater professor

This semester, the theater department welcomed new tenure-track faculty member Michelle Cowan-Gibbs. The Manitou Messenger sat down with Professor Gibbs for an interview.

Manitou Messenger:What did you do before you came to St. Olaf?

Professor Gibbs: I was a graduate student. Actually, I am still finishing up my doctoral studies at Bowling Green State University. My emphasis is in performance studies, particularly identity representation and race [and] performances of blackness. I am very interested in how the black body has been received in history and is currently being received. So I tend to write from a perspective of that in terms of theater, and then in terms of how that affects our everyday life. So that’s what I was interested in and doing before I came here teaching and working on my doctoral studies.

MM:Why St. Olaf?

PG: Why not St. Olaf? One of my students came in a couple days ago, and he called this place a “castle on a hill.” And I thought “how appropriate is that?” This is the type of institution that really values community. And I am somebody who really values community, particularly among multicultural and diverse audiences. I value that.

There’s lots to do here on the “castle on the hill.” And it keeps the students quite busy! But for the most part, I think that there is something really valuable about the experiences that Olaf students are encouraged to have that I really, really gravitate towards. You are all asked to consider your world – consider Olaf as a community – and then bring something back from it, something that helps percolate [and] helps keep us thinking about life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And that’s really exciting. Experience is awesome, really awesome. So I very much enjoy those two things here.

You guys are really bright. You’re very interested in what’s happening in the world and that’s something that really affects me. It makes me want to raise my game up in the classroom to challenge you even more. Because in a way, you guys get it. You have been blessed with a kind of insight into the world … and that’s exactly where I want to be.

After my teaching presentation – when I interviewed for the position – the room was packed full of students. And I thought “Oh, these students are really, really interested. They want to know who’s going to come into this position and what this person’s going to offer.”

That was so attractive from the very get-go. The room was packed and they were asking such intelligent questions about my research, about my teaching background … they really cared! And you can’t buy that. That’s just ingrained. That’s a cultural thing. You know, that is ingrained in the culture of Olaf itself. And that’s where I want to be.

MM:Do you have a favorite play or musical?

PG: I don’t think I have a favorite play — I like a lot of plays. I did go through this phase where I was about Detroit, because I am from Detroit … where everything I directed had something to do with the city in some way, shape or form.

I am partial to a playwright – her name is Dominique Morisseau – and she has written a three play cycle about Detroit and particularly looking at how history has influenced the ways in which we look at Detroit today … so I tend to really gravitate towards her plays.

I love August Wilson. It is my goal at St. Olaf to do an August Wilson piece. I am going to make that happen. I don’t know where I am going to find the brown people to get it to do it. But that’s going to be my challenge … I think his work is really – especially in terms of African-American history – really valuable to get that perspective of his interpretation of African-American history. And the characters are so richly written that I would love to give students that experience: to challenge them with a meaty text like that. So August Wilson is obviously a favorite playwright of mine.

And you know what, I don’t really have a favorite musical, but I have been wanting to do “Bye Bye Birdie” for a minute. And I mean doing “Bye Bye Birdie.” I mean taking that play apart; I’m gonna deconstruct it from the inside out, and I really want to look at celebrity, at the effects of celebrity-ism on the popular culture. I’ve been wanting to do that play for about three years. I just haven’t quite had the person-power to put up a play like that, especially at the institution I worked at before – we just didn’t have enough men to do that. But at Olaf, we have men! We have many of them to choose from, which is just so exciting and such a great enthusiastic theatre community.

And people are really excited about plays. It is a great time to be here and I’m quite grateful for the opportunity to be here.

MM:Is there anything you would like to say directly to St. Olaf students?

PG: Oh, thank you so much for welcoming me. God bless you. Thank you for being so generous to me and so welcoming. I’ve had many students send me emails to welcome me to the program, not just those who are theater majors, but those who I’ve just run into and said “hi” and exchanged information with. And they sent me an email saying, “we’re so glad you’re here.” And the faculty and staff as well who’ve just been so warm to me. I’ll be honest – it’s kind of scary coming into a role such as this, especially with the expectations I put on myself for what I’d like to achieve. And the St. Olaf community as a whole has been so welcoming to me and my family and it has just been really touching. So I’d like to say thank you so much for the warm welcome. And I’m excited about the future.

pilkingt@stolaf.edu

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Ethical tourism minimizes negative impact

Tourism, at its finest, can be beneficial for other countries as well as the individuals who travel there. However, it is becoming more common that when planning vacations to other nations, travelers take into consideration the potential impacts their presence could have on the places they are visiting. The question many are asking is what, if anything, can be done to mitigate the negative impacts of international tourism?

According to “Rough Guide to a Better World,” “with almost 30% of the world’s untouched landscapes being lost in recent decades and literally trampled underfoot by eager tourists, responsible travel is featuring higher and higher on tourist brochures and in the minds of ethical travelers.”

But what is responsible or ethical tourism? Is it necessary to take ethical precautions while planning every vacation? If you want to take a quick trip somewhere, enjoy a carefree vacation and get back to your normal life, is that really a crime?

According to “Travel Matters,” “Ethical tourism simply means tourism which benefits people and the environment in different destinations. It can offer a better income to families living in the area, by sourcing products and services locally.”

For me, this simplistic definition is not that difficult to achieve for those who have the means to travel abroad in the first place. Suppose a guest came to stay at your house. You welcome them with your food, water, a nice neighborhood and impressive views. If they returned this favor by taking an hour-long shower every day when you have been restricting water usage in order to keep your water bill low, you might feel disrespected. This, in essence, is what ethical tourism is asking us to consider: to remember that we are borrowing resources that really belong to someone else. To abuse this access for leisure is not a sign of relaxation or glamour, it is inconsiderate and in opposition to international law as well.

The United Nations has addressed the matter through the Global Code for Ethics for Tourism (GCET). The GCET is a voluntary treaty, covering the ten core principles meant “to help maximize the sector’s [tourism’s] benefits while minimizing its potentially negative impact on the environment, cultural heritage and societies across the globe.”

The ten principles address human rights in regards to tourism and tourism’s potential for the development of a sustainable economy for the host country. They also include guidelines concerning tourism’s role in fostering respect between cultures and communities, the protection of tourists and their freedom of movement. This treaty was adopted by the World Tourism Organization (WTO) in 1999 and by the United Nations General Assembly in 2001.

The WTO has 154 member states. Establishing these guidelines virtually worldwide.

GCET gives key tips and advice on how best to travel without negatively impacting the people, environments and communities you interact with. They mention maintaining an open mind to other cultures and traditions, ensuring that you are tolerant and respectful of diversity. A guideline that one would hope is self evident, but to many is not, concerns respecting human rights and not partaking in exploitation by any means. This includes tipping waiters, tour guides and housekeeping appropriately. For these workers, tips are often their entire income. The avoidance of exploitation also refers to preserving natural environments and being aware of what endangered plants or animals are specific to that area. Respecting cultural heritage and purchasing locally sourced products are both effective ways to support the community you are visiting.

Along the same lines, GCET encourages travelers to “learn as much as you can about your destination … to understand the customs, norms and traditions” and to “familiarize yourself with the laws so you do not commit any acts considered criminal by the law of the country visited.”

Essentially, these guidelines outline ethical travel quite simply. Don’t take things that are not yours, do not harm others and do not leave the place worse than you found it. That is it. That is ethical tourism. It does not mean you have to swim to the country you plan on visiting to avoid pollution, create zero waste in your time there or start an NGO to support local businesses in the community. In its simplest form, to travel ethically means to respect the people and places you encounter. I think we can all afford to do that.

Julia Pilkington ‘17 (pilkingt@stolaf.edu) is from Santa Barbara, Calif. She majors in english.

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Myswyken production of Middletown muses on life and death

In the shadow of a town’s insecurities, an awkward but honest quest for human affection and affirmation is laced through with humor and wonder at the stars. Ian Sutherland ’18 directed 10 student actors from Myswyken Salad Theatre Company in a production of Middletown by Will Eno.

The first act introduces Mary Swanson (Avery Evangeline Baker ’19), a lonely but optimistic newcomer to the town, as she strikes up a close friendship with John Dodge (Chaz Mayo ’18), a talented but anxious handyman with the mind of a philosopher. Their relationship is framed by other characters who seek to define the reason behind reason.

Early on, these quests into the absurd are accompanied by colorful projections of star clusters and the aurora borealis that hover above the characters as they wonder at what it means to be alive. Two people sitting on a bench are juxtaposed against the enormity of the night sky, then that gaze is inverted when an astronaut (Will Ibele ’18) spends his time in space thinking of the messy beauty of the earth and simple memories of Middletown. His rocket ship is a cardboard box drawn over in childlike crayon drawings.

In act two, Baker and Mayo’s characters lie on parallel cots in the hospital. Mary is about to give birth, and John has been hospitalized after a suicide attempt results in an dangerously infected wound. Mary names her child John. She asks her doctor, “What should I do?” to which the doctor replies with one of the core messages of the show: “Love is all — give him love… and be forgiving of his nature.” As this is said, Mayo, whose character is afraid of dying alone, is writhing on a cot with a fever and difficulty breathing.

John Dodge dies on stage at the same time as Mary’s baby is handed to her. Between this spectrum of life and death is a black wooden box, which earlier in the show was said to be the only monument in Middletown. The monument was formerly called “sad and beautiful” by tourists and was deemed proof of the intimacy and continuity of life.

In the final scene, the mechanic (Katie Howrey ’19) who admitted that her greatest desire was to be loved and feel beautiful, smears primary colored paint onto the black box, creating a circle of blended waves that match the colors of the projected image of a sunset of wolves. When the mechanic is caught painting the monument, she simply raises her messy arms and remarks that she feels beautiful. In that moment, the audience can finally understand the humanity behind the the words of the librarian (Annika Isbell ’19): “The secret to living is to learn how to live in the middle of ideas.”

The production left many determined to show grace to and hug those around them, because ultimately everyone is looking for someone to tell them they’re not alone.

pilkingt@stolaf.edu

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Senior art majors to end year with double-show

On Sunday, May 8, senior art majors will have their final pieces on display throughout Dittman Center during “Lasting Legacy” and “The Senior Art Show.”

There are more featured artists than ever before this year, with 38 studio art majors and 10 art history majors participating.

“We are breaking out of just the two galleries. We are using this entire corridor and even spilling downstairs so three artists are showing their work on the lower level, too,” said Jane Becker Nelson, director of the Flaten Art Museum.

The Senior Art Show is the capstone project for the studio art major. While some begin their formal preparations in their second semester of senior year, others begin the journey much earlier.

“Most of us have been working towards this since freshman year. It may not show in the quantity of the work, it’s more like the quality,” Aliya Anderson ’16 said. “Specifically my style – I didn’t start drawing the way I do until I came to college. It just feels natural, and I’ve been trying to get better at this specific graphic style. This is showcasing all of that.”

The inspirations for the final collections vary greatly. For Renato Barrazza ’16, his red photobook was the result of prayer.

“One of the ways I feel like God speaks to me is really in paying attention to everyday interactions and moments, and I love paying attention to details. So with photography, it’s like a way that I can take a snapshot of those little details and give that to people and show that to people,” Barrazza said.

After taking photos for a year and perusing an antique store for furniture to rent for his display, Barraza finished his vision with a rug, wooden rocking chair, side table and lamp so that people have a space to sit and reflect on what they take away from his snapshots.

For others, inspiration came from following what artistically felt good.

“I made shadow boxes, like 3D frames, and made these aquatic ink drawings to go in them. They’re like 3D scenes. It uses a lot of pattern and is inspired a lot by adult coloring books and that design… I just put on music and started drawing and ‘Octopus’ Garden’ by the Beatles came on so I just started drawing and just went with it,” Anderson said.

And for some others, the exhibits are a way to start meaningful conversations. Jaynee Purchase ‘16 shot portraits of peer volunteers who opened up about their thoughts and experiences with mental health and mental illness.

Lasting Legacy, for its part, is the art history major counterpart to the Senior Art Show.

“They choose an object from our collection, research it and interpret it and write on it, and that show gets assembled and is on display in the Print Study room at the same time,” Becker Nelson said.

The opening reception for the exhibits will be May 8, noon to 3 pm, and the exhibits will be up until May 29. Normal museum hours apply for visitation and it remains free.

pilkingt@stolaf.edu

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