Amberlyn Mathis and Jennifer Randall, who are collaborating on a dance program, have experienced similar challenges with the small size of Reed's dance program. "People come here for a more well-rounded atmosphere," explained Randall. "They got involved with dance before coming to Reed; they want to dance but they come here because of the academics."
Receiving a scholarship has helped Mathis and Randall enjoy greater dance opportunities. "We probably would have made a piece without the scholarship, but it couldn't have been of the same scale," said Randall. "It would have been much smaller, much less of a production." They created a dance, 20 to 30 minutes long, for six to eight dancers. Described as "non-linear, with no particular theme," this classically influenced modern piece explores choreographical methods and variance of styles. The scholarship allowed Mathis and Randall to pay for costumes and rehearsal space, and also to boost their morale. "The people on the committee really seem to care about the scholarship," said Randall. "They were very supportive and excited about the project."
Mathis and Randall had taken dance classes together, and were both interested in working on a large-scale project but didn't want to do it alone. The collaboration has been a productive one, although Mathis noted that "the most hectic part is yet to come." The piece will not be performed until Reed's winter dance concert in December. "It's forced us to be organized," said Randall. "But it's an incredible opportunity as far as future scholarships andgrants."
Michael Knutson, professor of art, teaches painting and drawing and has chaired the scholarship selection committee for the past two years, taking over from Kaspar Locher. He feels that the arts at Reed are thriving despite the relatively small size of departments in the arts. "There are weekly music recitals and concerts, several faculty and student theatre productions each semester, two major dance concerts, numerous poetry readings, and student exhibitions around campus, as well as major exhibitions in the Cooley Art Gallery. There's more to see and hear than I have time for."
In its first incarnation in the '60s there were extracurricular courses and no creative art majors at the college, and the summer scholarships provided a unique alternative experience. "When the program was revived in the '80s, courses and majors in the visual arts, creative writing, music composition, theatre, and dance had been established. It has served to reassure our sometimes uncertain majors that there is indeed institutional and peer support for what they do, but it should also be noted that the recipients have been almost equally divided between majors in the arts and non-majors."
The selection committee usually receives more than 40 applications for the scholarship each spring; four awards are given. While there are no specific criteria set forth for judging applications, Knutson said that specificity is extremely important. The submissions include a short description of the proposed project, along with a statement explaining the student's ability to complete it in the time allotted. Two recommendations by people who can affirm the applicant's ability to carry out the project and examples of previous work related to the proposed project are also required. Of the 40 applicants, the selection committee interviews about 12, looking for the projects that seem practicable but that also contain a certain spark. "I look for the ones that seem most deeply fun," said Knutson.
"Although there are always more strong proposals than we can fund each year, we somehow manage to agree on the finalists. Then the hardest part is informing the others of our decision," Knutson admitted. But many students who don't receive a scholarship end up producing a version of their planned work anyway. "Those who have the desire keep writing, painting, composing regardless," says Knutson. "Several students who were denied funding one year kept working and on the basis of that work have received funding in following years. The scholarship frees up time that would otherwise be spent on summer jobs and allows them a bit more flexibility to travel and soak up experiences."
Jennifer Randall '98
at work on her dance