At Arts Emerging, the Arts Return In-Person to George Mason

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Arts Emerging raised more than $155,000 to support the arts at Mason.

Homepage photo: Jazz Studies student Dominique Bianco performed jazz standards. Photos ©Sean Hickey.
School of Dance students performing Pause: Reset on Holton Plaza. Photo ©Sean Hickey.

A welcome return to live, in-person arts performances and exhibitions was celebrated September 25 at the George Mason University Center for the Arts.

Arts Emerging: A Celebration of Renewal brought more than 300 people to the Fairfax Campus on a Saturday evening for a festive event that pulsed with artistic energy and the spirit of community.

Combining outdoor and indoor performances by students, faculty, and alumni, art exhibits, film screenings, hands-on activities, and more, Arts Emerging launched the 2021-22 Center for the Arts season, while also marking the 20th anniversary of the university’s College of Visual and Performing Arts.

“The arts have become one of Mason’s signature tools for the university to engage with its community,” said Rick Davis, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “Arts Emerging is a powerful example of that in action.”

A highlight of the outdoor performances presented on Holton Plaza was a performance of Pause: Reset, delivered by School of Dance students and choreographed by faculty member Shaun Boyle D’Arcy. One performer, senior dance major Hadiya Matthews, reflected afterward on the challenges of the past year and how students have rallied. “During Covid and everything that was happening in the world, it was pretty heavy and kind of sad,” Matthews said. “I think that when we had discussions and ‘collabbed’ and really talked about how we felt, a big thing that kept us strong was community, and how—no matter what we’re going through—we’re all related to one another. That’s something that we can come back to, so building this piece of community was really special.”

Meanwhile, in the adjacent Buchanan Hall Atrium Gallery, viewers enjoyed a major exhibition, Women of the Same Blood, combining photography and family history by Zia Palmer, BFA Photography ’19, with the opportunity to meet and talk with the artist. Buchanan Hall also hosted screenings by Film and Video Studies alumni, and an interactive virtual reality experience by the Computer Game Design program.

Later, inside the Center for the Arts, Mason President Gregory Washington welcomed a mix of students, supporters, and Mason faculty and staff. “The arts are the front door to the university,” Washington said. “Many of you found that great big front door and you came through it to become involved with our College of Visual and Performing Arts. And then that introduced you to the larger university.”

Guest appearances on the Concert Hall stage included a duet by Green Machine alumni Chelsea Mohindroo, BS Mathematics ’16, MS Operations Research ’20, and Brandon Showell, BA Music and English ’14, both of whom have been contestants on NBC’s The Voice. They were followed by School of Theater alumni Garvey Dobbins, BFA Theater ’20, and Lauren Fraites, BA Theater ’20, and a finale performance by current Dewberry School of Music opera students. Members of the Green Machine, led by associate professor of music and director of the Green Machine Ensembles Michael W. Nickens (Doc Nix), also played throughout the event.

Finally, School of Dance alumna Sasha (Hollinger) Henninger, BFA Dance ’09, who made her Broadway debut in Hamilton as #thebullet, spoke about her career and her time at Mason. “I was blessed to spend 11 years in New York making a living doing what I love. I toured the country, I toured the world, and I spent my last few years there performing in two incredible shows on Broadway—easily one of my biggest dreams come true,” Henninger said. “My time, my teachers, my peers here at George Mason prepared me for that. My time at George Mason prepared me well.”

Henninger presented a special merit scholarship to current Film and Video Studies senior Taj Kokayi, whose film Woken From a Dream won the Best Student Film Award at the London Web Fest. Kokayi was a producer on the short film The Vine, which premiered during Saturday’s event. The Vine featured current Masters in Arts Management student Bobby Lacy, BA Music ’16, in a stirring spoken word performance inspired by the question of what it means to be an arts manager.

Sandy Spring Bank returned as the event’s presenting sponsor for the fourth consecutive year. “By sponsoring events like this we’re literally helping the students you saw tonight on stage realize their hopes and dreams, or give them an opportunity to,” said Jay O’Brien, executive vice president for commercial and retail banking at Sandy Spring. O’Brien has three daughters currently attending Mason—two graduate students and one undergraduate.

Arts Emerging raised more than $155,000, with proceeds supporting CVPA student scholarships, the Mason Community Arts AcademyGreen Machine Ensembles, and the Great Performances at Mason season at the Center for the Arts. The event was co-chaired by Arts at Mason Board members Steven Golsch, a vice president at NowSecure, and Annie Bolger, a bank officer at Sandy Spring Bank.