Artists, faculty discuss creative arts teaching avenues

Four creative artists came to Central New York in late May to explore ideas for creative teaching with faculty from SUNY Oswego and Onondaga Community College. Each artist will return in March to perform and meet students at the two partnering colleges.

Poet Li-Young Lee, filmmaker Katja Esson, choreographer Alex Escalante and klezmer musician Lorin Sklamberg presented selections from their work and discussed its relevance to important issues in many fields of learning.

“The premise of the workshop is that the arts engage students on a different level than lectures and readings,” said Mary Avrakotos, coordinator of SUNY Oswego’s Artswego Performing Arts Series.

“Seeing how a Mexican-American dancer expresses on stage his experience of borders, boundaries and passports can make visceral connections to classroom studies from immigration policy to the psychology of identity,” Avrakotos explained.

Each of the artists presented work related to a common theme, “The Arts, Identity and Diaspora.” Through poetry, film, dance and music, they offered individual perspectives
on diaspora, or population movements in the modern world that result from war, poverty and other disruptive circumstances, Avrakotos said.

Esson, for example, shared segments from a new documentary with the working title “Poetry of Resilience.” The film explores the stories of six writers who escaped atrocities in their countries of origin.

Sklamberg, lead singer of the popular Jewish roots band The Klezmatics, traced the movement of Yiddish music from Europe to America and performed selections to illustrate its continued influence and development on both continents.

College teachers of English, economics, political science and many other disciplines took part in the two-day event at the SUNY Oswego Metro Center in downtown Syracuse. They have nine months to craft teaching plans that build upon these cultural opportunities before the artists return in March.

For information about these and other arts programs at SUNY Oswego, visit

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CONTACT: Mary Avrakotos, 312-4581 or

(Posted: Jun 03, 2009)