Arts

And the Oscar for Best Picture goes to...

On Campus • February, 2008

When five Vassar filmmakers set out to make a movie in 24 hours, they had no idea that their work would leave such a lasting impression. For Apple's 2007 annual Insomnia Film Festival, Ben Rutkowski '09, Brian Paccione '09, Lauren Rubin '10, Woodrow Travers '09, and Sebastian Weinberg '09 headed down to New York City in October to write, cast, edit, and score their film, Hobopus — all in a single day.

"Knowing that you have to make something in 24 hours really gets the creative juices moving, and it forces you to think in a totally different way," says Rutkowski, who, since high school, has made nearly 20 films with time constraints (the other filmmakers also had prior experience). The group quickly brainstormed the plot on the drive down. Then, when the clock started ticking at 9:00am, they met over breakfast to hatch a plan to create the story of a young musician (played by Rutkowski's friend) struggling to compose a new piece of music. When an idea finally strikes, he quickly records it, only to have the pages fly out his apartment window as he sleeps. He later encounters a homeless man (the same man he had previously ignored outside his apartment) playing his composition in the subway. Rutkowski based the story on an incident that actually happened to a friend of his father's. The filmmakers decided to run with the idea, filming Hobopus in a friend's apartment while incorporating several of Apple's required elements (a specific camera angle, narrative device, and dialogue) in the three-minute film.

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And the Oscar for Best Picture goes to...

Vassar Band Takes off with a Bang

On Campus • October, 2007

After a year of performing on street corners, The Powder Kegs, an oldtime string band that formed at Vassar, got their first break last March when they were called as finalists at A Prairie Home Companion radio show's People In Their Twenties Talent Show. "We didn't know what to think," recalls Sam McDougle '09, one of three Vassar students in the quintet. "We actually recorded the CD at the end of last summer in two days, in a room in Skinner Hall of Music, and unbeknownst to us, Pete's mom sent it to the show."

After discovering that they were one of six finalists, the Kegs (whose members were spread out between three states) rushed to rehearse before heading to Minnesota's Fitzgerald Theater in April. "We were in awe of the whole thing - the swanky hotel, all expenses paid, and talking to Garrison Keillor," he says. The Kegs performed in front of their largest audience: 1,500 people for the dress rehearsal and 4.5 million during the radio show. The contest, which initially drew nearly 700 entries, concluded when 11,000 listeners cast their votes, declaring The Powder Kegs their resounding favorite. "We didn't believe it at first. It was all so surreal," recalls McDougle. "It suddenly legitimized us in a way that was so helpful for getting gigs. In less than a year, our CD sales shot up, selling 1,400 copies."

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Vassar Band Takes off with a Bang

Making Noyes

On Campus • June, 2009

When Art Professor Nick Adams and Vanessa Beloyianis '08 set off on a treasure hunt through the cavernous basement of Main Building in 2007, they had no idea if the rumor they heard was true. Acting on a tip from a student that the basement held noted architect Eero Saarinen's original model of the Emma Hartman Noyes House, the duo scoured every corner before making the discovery. "We found it on its side in an empty room, not part of a proper storage area," recalls Adams. "With some real excitement and enthusiasm, we carried it back to Taylor Hall." Beloyianis was particularly intrigued by the discovery, having studied Noyes for Adams' course on the college's modern architectural history. She eventually wrote her thesis on Saarinen's work at Vassar.

The model, which was found damaged with pieces missing and covered in brick dust, was sent to two conservationists from the Museum of Modern Art. After six months of cleaning, rebuilding, and re-creating missing parts, the only surviving record of Saarinen's design was returned to Vassar.

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Making Noyes

Paradise Lost

On Campus • June, 2007

Utopia: a perfect and ideal place or society, where there's a collective dream of the peaceful and harmonious. Sir Thomas More coined this phrase in 1516, and we've been dreaming and constructing our own utopias ever since — the perfect vacation, a gated suburban community, or a commune free from the rules and order of society. The latest exhibit at FLLAC, Utopian Mirage: Social Metaphors in Contemporary Photography and Film, reflects these dreams of perfection, examining utopian ideals from the past, present, and future, and exposing the inevitable truth — that such places are unobtainable and flawed, and that, ultimately, utopia translates into "no place."

Many of the scenes represented in the series of 50 large-scale color and black-and-white photographs are familiar: a father and son grilling in the suburbs, a forest stripped for a row of McMansions, or an abandoned city building. Some of these images seem benign at first glance, but look closely and there are signs of pollution, materialism, violence, and decay. "These artists are suggesting that the sinister side of suburbia is lurking within, not from the outside," explains Mary-Kay Lombino, the art center's Emily Hargroves Fisher '57 and Richard B. Fisher Curator.

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Paradise Lost