Corine Wegener, cultural heritage preservation officer with the Smithsonian Institution, will present the Dan and Betsy Brown Lecture at WVU, Thursday, Sept. 17, as part of the activities celebrating the opening of the new Art Museum of WVU.

Wegener will speak at 7 p.m. in the Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatre of the Creative Arts Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Her talk will focus on her work with sites around the world where artistic and cultural treasures are threatened by conflict or natural disasters. While in the U.S. Army Reserve in 2003, she played an important role in the recovery of the National Museum of Iraq after devastating looting took place there during the war.

“The need to protect and preserve the artifacts that embody artistic and culture heritage in today’s world is just as urgent as it was during World War II when Europe’s art was threatened with destruction,” said Joyce Ice, director of the Art Museum of WVU. “Corine Wegener has played a critical role in rescuing priceless treasures.”

Wegener was previously associate curator of decorative arts at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and is a retired major with 21 years of service in the U.S. Army Reserve. Her last assignment was in Baghdad, as the Arts, Monuments, and Archives Officer for the 352nd Civil Affairs Command, where her duties included assisting the Iraq National Museum and also acting as military liaison to the Iraqi Ministry of Culture.

She is also founder and president of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, a non-profit organization committed to the protection of cultural property worldwide during armed conflict. For her work with the Blue Shield, she was awarded the 2007 ICOM-US International Service Citation.

She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and has master’s degrees in Political Science and Art History from the University of Kansas.

The Dan and Betsy Brown Lecture Series, administered through the WVU Foundation, brings recognized outstanding individuals from a broad spectrum of disciplines to WVU to give public lectures and to interact with faculty and students.

The Dan and Betsy Brown Lecture Series was endowed in 2002 by a substantial contribution from Daniel and Elizabeth “Betsy” Dougherty Brown. Dan Brown is a 1959 graduate of the College of Business and Economics and Betsy Brown is a 1959 graduate of the Davis School of Agriculture, Forestry, and Consumer Sciences. The Browns’ generous support of WVU has included establishing The Brown Family Faculty Development Fund, as well as a guest room at Blaney House, the WVU Marching Band’s state-of-the-art rehearsal tower and photography and computer-assisted design labs at the Creative Arts Center.

In celebration of the Art Museum of WVU, the Browns have designated the 2015 Lecture Series to topics related to art and museums.

For more information about the lecture, contact the Art Museum of WVU at 304-293-7790.

Three outstanding alumni of the College of Creative Arts will return to the Creative Arts Center to work with students during the month of September.

Matt Connar (Art and Design, 1999), Ethan Clark (Music, 2008), and Scott Simons (Music, 1998) are taking part in the College of Creative Arts Alumni-in-Residence Series. Their talks with WVU students will also be open to the public.

Matt Connar – Thursday, Sept. 10
Matt Connar, who holds a BFA degree in graphic design, will work with students in design classes on Thursday, Sept. 10. He will also give a presentation at 5 p.m. in Bloch Learning and Performance Hall (Room 200A).

A week before he graduated from WVU in 1999, Matt was hired as an in-house graphic artist in the marketing department of MeriStar Hotels and Resorts, which at that time owned and managed more than 250 hotels and resorts internationally. While at MeriStar he developed marketing materials for each of the properties, as well as the food and beverage outlets within them.

He then worked as art director at Chico’s FAS, an upscale women’s retail corporation which operates over 1,000 specialty stores. At Chico’s he played an integral part in national ad campaigns and was responsible for point-of-purchase creative materials for all stores and outlets.

Matt is currently the owner and creative director of Boost Creative, based in Cape Coral, Florida. His specialties include brand identity and advertising concepts.

Ethan Clark – Monday, Sept. 21
Ethan Clark, who graduated with a degree in music education, will visit the CAC on Monday, Sept. 21. He will make a presentation to WVU music education students at 9 a.m. and also during the regular Music Convocation at 4 p.m. in Bloch Hall (200A). Given Ethan’s work with the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), the School of Music is also inviting administrators, teachers and parents to the Music Convocation and it is also open to any interested community members.

Ethan’s presentation to students at 9 a.m. is titled “The Art of Family-School Partnerships.” During this session, music education methods students will explore and discuss the six national standards for family-school partnerships and how they relate to music program goals and other school-wide improvement goals. At the end of the presentation, students will work in groups to develop their own music program strategies for engaging the whole school-community in support of student success.

The Music Convocation presentation is titled “It Takes a Village” and will focus on new research and updated policies supporting arts education to help advocate for more music in the schools. Those attending will discover how they can collaborate more with their community by exploring the music education ecosystem, including school partners, players and policymakers, and take home best practices for collective impact.

Ethan joined National PTA in September 2012. He oversees the development and implementation of educational programs and partnerships that help PTAs to work with school leaders on improvements to the school that enrich the educational experience for all children.

Prior to joining National PTA, Ethan worked with the Arts Education Partnership on projects such as the State Policy Database and ArtsEdSearch. From 2010 to 2011, he worked with a number of arts organizations, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Future of Music Coalition, and the Washington Choral Arts Society. Ethan began his career as a high school director of bands and a music teacher in Pennsylvania’s public school system.

In addition to his bachelor’s degree from WVU, Ethan has a master of arts in arts management from American University, Washington, DC. He lives in DC and volunteers for a variety of service organizations including the DC Trust, DC Commission on the Arts and the Humanities, and the DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative.

Scott Simons – Monday, Sept. 28
Scott Simons, who graduated with a degree in music composition, will speak with students during the 4 p.m. Music Convocation on Monday, Sept. 28, in Bloch Hall. He will also work with students in the Music Industry program while visiting the CAC.

Scott currently lives in Los Angeles, where he works as a songwriter, performer and recording artist. As a songwriter and producer, he has worked with many writers and artists all over the world. As a performer, he works behind the scenes and occasionally in front of the camera on “America’s Got Talent” and “The X Factor.” He has been musical director for Nickelodeon actor-turned-musician Drake Bell, “X Factor” finalist Chris Rene, “The Voice” finalist Chris Mann and “American Idol” finalist Megan Joy. He has played keyboards for Leona Lewis, Aimee Mann, Lucy Woodward, Robert Schwartzman, Toby Lightman and has also appeared on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” “Anderson Cooper Live,” “Ellen,” and The Brazil Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. Simons also sings the Emmy-nominated theme song for Nickelodeon’s “Paw Patrol,” Netflix/Dreamworks “Veggie Tales in the House,” and Esquire Network’s “Lucky Bastards.”

He is currently part of the duo TeamMate, whose music has been heard on ESPN’s Wimbledon coverage, NBC’s Sunday Night Football and various commercials. RapperWiz Khalifa also sampled TeamMate’s song “LA Winter” for the first track of his last full length album “O.N.I.F.C.”

For more information about the Alumni-in-Residence Series events, contact the College of Creative Arts at 304-293-4359.

George Lilley & Mavis Grant

The Art Museum of WVU, which officially opens on August 25, has received its first funding for educational programming.

Mavis Grant and George Lilley, Jr., of Morgantown, have pledged $10,000 to establish the Grant and Lilley Educational Fund to support the educational outreach mission of the museum.

“The fund advances the educational mission of the Art Museum and makes possible programs and projects that enhance the student experience at WVU,” said Director Joyce Ice. “It supports learning in the galleries as well as in the classroom.

“We are very grateful to Mavis and George for their generosity.”

Grant and Lilley have been involved with the Art Museum of WVU since it was in the planning stages and they are charter members of a group called Friends of the Art Museum.

“When we learned of the formation of the Friends of the WVU Art Museum group, we were immediately drawn to this opportunity to both support the museum and to advance our own knowledge and appreciation of the arts,” they said. “We became charter members of the Friends group and have enjoyed the many opportunities and activities associated with it.

“It is our hope that visitors of all ages will be enriched through their experiences in programs funded in part or wholly by the Grant and Lilley Education Fund at the Art Museum of WVU.”

Mavis Grant grew up in rural Illinois and George Lilley, Jr., is from the Philadelphia area. Both have long been interested in the arts.

They first met professionally in Morgantown when George was the Chief Executive Director of Valley HealthCare System, the regional comprehensive mental health center, and Mavis was the Director of Community Health at the Monongalia County Health Department. Married in 1998, they have three children and two sons-in-law, all in their early 40s, as well as four grandchildren, ages two to six years old. They also have an adopted African family living in Nebraska.

Retired for almost ten years, they spend their time between volunteering, traveling and grandchildren. Both enjoy being involved in new initiatives. George chairs the local Coordinating Council on Homelessness and is active in the Morgantown Rotary, the Community Living Initiatives Corporation (CLIC), and the Morgantown Pedestrian Safety Board. Mavis founded Empty Bowls locally in 2007, serves on the Board of the Mon County Youth Services Center, and is helping to develop the membership of a new non-profit organization called The Women’s Giving Circle of North Central West Virginia. Both are actively involved in the Presbyterian Church (USA) locally and regionally.

When the new Art Museum opens, it will enhance opportunities to learn about art locally and it will be a place for students from all fields of study to enjoy.

“Right now, students and members of the community have to go to 75 miles away to Pittsburgh, or to Washington, D.C., or Cleveland to see major museum collections,” Dr. Ice said. It’s important to have the presence of art here on campus, not only for the University, but for Morgantown and the surrounding region.”

Ice said the museum collection offers a great resource to teachers and their students, who can explore a wide range of subjects through the visual arts.

The Mavis Grant and George Lilley, Jr., gift to the Art Museum of WVU was made in conjunction with “A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University.” The $1 billion comprehensive campaign being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2017.

For more information about the opening of the Art Museum of WVU in August, see the website:

The College of Creative Arts is pleased to announce its success during the “State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University,” the comprehensive capital campaign conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of WVU. Thanks to the generosity of alumni, faculty, and friends, the College of Creative Arts has raised $17,453.434 of its goal of $23 million.

“On behalf of the faculty, staff, and students of the College of Creative Arts, I express thanks and appreciation to donors and friends who continue to invest in the arts and arts education. We will be excellent stewards of your generosity,” said Dean Paul Kreider.

“The college’s previous State of Minds goal of 13.5 million was surpassed and the new goal of $23 million was set when the campaign became extended,” he said.

The impact of donor generosity on the College of Creative Arts and its programs includes:

• Gifts totaling nearly $600,000 in support of the Art Museum Capital Project, Museum Store, and Museum Education
• Acquisition of three new Boston Steinway pianos for the School of Music, as part of its effort to become an All-Steinway school
• Endowed scholarships supporting art education, music therapy, music, and art education through planned and major gifts
• Gifts supporting the “Pride of West Virginia’s” travel to Atlanta, Georgia, and also McDowell County, West Virginia
• Creation of a Classical Music Touring Fund
• $200,000 in support of research activities for faculty in the School of Art and Design
• New camera and lighting equipment for the School of Theatre and Dance
• Gifts of artworks in support of the Art Museum of WVU

“A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University,” the $1 billion comprehensive campaign being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University, runs through December 2017.

Kofi Opoku

WVU graphic design professor Kofi Opoku was recently in Ghana, West Africa, on a three-week visit, and gave a presentation about the design process to a digital and software development firm known as DreamOval. The one-hour session, which took place on June 11, covered several topics including: Content Strategy, Wire Framing, Mock-ups, Prototyping and User Testing, just to name a few. He also spoke about how to foster better relationships with clients, and streamline the workflow between designers and developers. DreamOval is a leading software development firm focused on “Making-Life Simple’ by creating and selling relevant innovations. They are located at Accra, Ghana. See the website at

Kofi Opoku 2
Kofi Opoku, center, with designers and software developers at DreamOval

Visual arts therapy, a field that is growing rapidly across the country, uses the creative process of making art to enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages, especially children and adolescents.

The School of Art and Design in the College of Creative Arts is now offering a Graduate Certificate in Visual Arts Therapy. The new certificate will be available to students beginning in the summer of 2015, through the Art Education program.

The program integrates face-to-face and online learning, making it accessible to students not only across the state and the nation, but globally as well.

“As an interdisciplinary program, Visual Arts Therapy will help art teachers encourage emotional growth and enhance relationships with their students,” said Dr. Terese Giobbia, who is coordinator of the Art Education program at WVU.

Visual Arts Therapy is useful to many people, but it is especially valuable to children and adolescents,” she said. “By employing a variety of art media and resulting artwork, the program helps adults, adolescents and children to explore their feelings, reconcile conflict, manage their behavior, reduce anxiety and develop social skills.”

Individuals certified to teach art in the PreK-21 classrooms and who currently hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree are eligible to apply for the VAT certificate program without applying to the Master of Arts degree program.

Students may also earn the Graduate Certificate in Visual Arts Therapy in conjunction with a Master of Arts degree in Art Education.

Requirements for the graduate certificate include 15 credit hours of online coursework and hands-on art-making activities and participation in on-campus workshops.

Students must also complete approximately 100 hours of observation within a practical setting, culminating in an individual research project. They are expected to maintain a GPA of 3.0.

“The foundation of Visual Arts Therapy is the belief that art-making and works of art have the capacity to offer hope, usher in calm, dignify sorrow, expand one’s imagination, and stretch one’s powers of empathy to lead to greater self-awareness,” Giobbia said.

“This new program is designed to provide art teachers with a foundation of the healing dimension of the creative process.

Students who pursue this certification can also go on to earn the credentials and licensure to become professionals in Visual Arts Therapy.

For more information about the Graduate Certificate in Visual Arts Therapy or the Art Education program at WVU, go to or contact Dr. Teri Giobbia, at


The Art Museum of WVU is scheduled to open to the public in late August with a number of programs and activities planned for the campus and community during a week-long celebration.

Designed by Stanley, Beaman & Sears of Atlanta, the building is located next door to the Creative Arts Center, facing Patteson Drive.

It will be home to WVU’s collection of nearly 3,000 works of art, as well as visiting exhibitions—all open to the public with free admission.

The building has two galleries totaling 5,400 square feet, a classroom seating 25 students, collection storage, and a collection research room.

“The Art Museum is a beautiful place for people to see and experience art,” said Director Joyce Ice.

The WVU art collection has been assembled for more than 40 years and includes everything from Korean pottery of the Silla Dynasty to 19th- and early 20th-century landscapes and prints, African masks and sculpture, to works of art created just recently by contemporary artists.

The collection has strong Appalachian roots with works by West Virginians such as woodblock artists Blanche Lazzell and Grace Martin Taylor, and gifts from the Appalachian collection of Ramona Lampell, which highlights self-taught artists throughout the region.

But the collection also houses works by names almost everyone is familiar with, including Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Ansel Adams. And there is a substantial collection of African art of more than 300 pieces.

See the schedule of events for the opening of the Art Museum below. All events are free and open to the public!

Tuesday, Aug. 25, 1 p.m. – Dedication ceremony at the Museum Education Center. Reception following.

Tuesday, Aug. 25 – The inaugural exhibition opens. Titled “Visual Conversations: Looking and Listening,” it highlights connections among the works of art in the WVU collection and presents the work of dozens of different artists.

Tuesday, Aug. 25, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., “WVU Student Evening at the Art Museum,” with music, food, games and tours for WVU students.

Wednesday, Aug. 26, 5 p.m., Bloch Hall (Room 200A), Creative Arts Center – Dan & Betsy Brown Lecture by Sean O’Harrow, Director of the University of Iowa Museum of Art: “What does an Art Museum have to do with University Education?”

Thursday, Aug. 27, 7 p.m., Bloch Hall (Room 200A), Creative Arts Center – J. Bernard Schultz Lecture by Roger J. Crum, Professor of Art History at the University of Dayton: “Renaissance Florence as Prequel to the Art Museum of West Virginia University.”

Friday, Aug. 28, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Opening Party with tours, live music and DJ, food, door prizes and art activities.

Saturday, Aug. 29, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., “Family & Community Day at the Art Museum” with hands-on art activities, tours, music and refreshments.

For more information, see the Art Museum website at or call 304-293-7790.

Mellert gift

Thanks to a gift of more artworks by West Virginia artist Grace Martin Taylor, presented by her daughter, Lucie Mellert, the new Art Museum of WVU now has an example of each of the prints Taylor created in her lifetime.

Mellert recently donated an additional 78 small prints created by her mother, as well as the blocks that were carved by Taylor to create those prints, to WVU’s permanent art collection, to be housed in the new Art Museum that officially opens on Aug. 25.

According to Robert Bridges, curator of the Art Museum of WVU, Mellert has made several donations of her mother’s works in the past.

“Lucie has been actively working with me on building a one-of-a-kind collection that shows all facets of Grace Martin Taylor’s art,” he said.

The recent gift adds to the complete collection of Taylor’s white-line prints donated by Mellert in 2011 and the 49 additional works she donated last year.

“Within this new group is an example of each of the other prints Taylor created in her lifetime—small linoleum and woodcuts printed in black and white, as well as a rare small color white-line woodblock print,” Bridges said.

“We are very grateful to Lucie Mellert for her generosity and dedication to preserving her mother’s artistic legacy.”

Grace Martin Taylor was born in Morgantown in 1903 and graduated from WVU in 1928 before embarking on her career in art, becoming one of America’s innovative printmakers of the second quarter of the 20th century. She also studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts with American Modernist Arthur Carles in the 1920s and received her master’s degree in Art from WVU in 1949. She continued post-graduate study at a number of prestigious art schools and was particularly known for her white-line, color woodblock prints.

Taylor worked in Provincetown, Massachusetts, for 28 summers and also dedicated her life to teaching art in West Virginia, where she is credited with perpetuating modern art and abstraction. She was head of the art department and also president (1955-56) of the Mason College of Music and Fine Arts in Charleston, West Virginia. In 1956 Mason College joined with Morris Harvey College, which is now the University of Charleston.

Since her death in 1995, Taylor’s art has been exhibited throughout the United States, most notably at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Academy of Design, the Smithsonian Institution, the Baltimore Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, Virginia Museum of Fine Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, ACME Fine Art in Boston and the British Museum.

Lucie Mellert is a photographer whose work appeared for many years in “On the Town,” a regular column of the Sunday Charleston Gazette-Mail in Charleston, West Virginia.

Mellert’s gift to the Art Museum of WVU was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $1 billion comprehensive campaign being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2017.

For more information about the opening of the Art Museum of WVU in August, see the website:

Four new faculty members will join the WVU College of Creative Arts in August 2015, in the areas of voice, music theory & composition, music education and the new music therapy program. In addition, two interim music faculty members will also be returning next year.

“I am excited about our newest crop of faculty in the College of Creative Arts,” said Dean Paul Kreider. “They bring an extensive array of professional and academic credentials that will most assuredly contribute to the excellence that exists among our faculty ranks. We are extremely proud to have recruited this group of outstanding talent to WVU.”

Robert Chafin

Tenor Robert Chafin will join the School of Music as assistant professor of voice. A native of Virginia, Chafin has garnered accolades for his dramatic interpretation and versatile creativity on the international opera, concert and recital stages. He has more than 70 operas in his repertoire and has performed as a guest artist at New York City Opera and at Carnegie Hall. He has performed internationally in Berlin (the Deutsche Oper and Philharmonie), Paris, Salzburg Summer Festival, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Vienna, Frankfurt, Brussels, Madrid, Milan, Leipzig and in Israel (Tel Aviv and Jerusalem). He has critically acclaimed recordings of the operas of Franz Schreker (“Flammen” and “Christophorus”), Richard Strauss (“Die Liebe der Danae”), Leonard Bernstein (“Candide”), and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Upcoming engagements include concerts in France and Germany. In March, Chafin sang “Das Lied von der Erde” with the Ensemble du Monde in New York. He will be returning to the faculty of the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh and also the international Napa Opera Festival in Napa, California, this summer.

Dena Register

Dena Register, formerly of the University of Kansas, will join the School of Music as coordinator of the new Music Therapy program in Music Education. Register earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the Florida State University and previously worked as a private practice music therapist in Florida, providing services to early intervention programs, students with special education needs, bereaved children and battered women and children. Her research interests include music therapy in early intervention and literacy skill development, as well as working with early childhood educators on incorporating music in their classrooms. In 2009, she was awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant to teach and conduct research at Mahidol University, Thailand. She has trained more than 100 professionals, initiated numerous clinical sites and offerings and consulted on research projects across Thailand. She continues her work there as a consultant for the first music therapy training program in the country.

Matthew Heap

Matthew Heap, who is joining the School of Music as assistant professor of Music Theory and Composition, is an internationally performed composer whose music has been featured in several American and English cities and on WQED and WCLV radio. He is also very involved in the theater community as an actor, director, and writer. Matthew received his BFA from Carnegie Mellon University, MMus from the Royal College of Music in London, and doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh. His theory interests center around the analysis of mid- and late-20th century works. Recent projects include a full analysis of Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia with a focus on the narrative function of various elements within the work. Currently, he is researching how theories of perception can be applied to works of current composers such as Matthias Pintscher. His compositions range dramatically from completely atonal concert music to musical theater. One of his most recent works, “Loki,” for orchestra, was selected by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for a reading.

Lindsey Williams headshot

Lindsey Williams joins the Music Education faculty as associate professor. Williams earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Kansas and his doctoral degree from Florida State University. His public school teaching has included experiences in elementary, junior high, and high school instrumental and choral music in Kansas, Florida, and Georgia, and he has served in various leadership roles within professional music organizations. Williams is an active performer, conductor and clinician for music educators and young musicians throughout the United States and Southeast Asia. In 2012, he was named a Fulbright Scholar and he continued his work with music educators in Thailand in spring 2013. His research interests include musicians’ focus of attention, musical complexity, life-long learning and music teacher training. He is a founding co-editor for the ASEAN Music Journal and is on the editorial boards for the International Journal of Music Education and the Missouri Journal of Research in Music Education.

In addition to the four new music faculty members, two other interim faculty members will be returning to the School of Music next year.

Kym Scott

Kym Scott, interim director of the Choral Program, graduated from Queensland Conservatorium of Music in 1997 and was a member of the state committee of the Australian National Choral Association, and on the organizing committee of a national male voice festival. She also worked with Stephen Leek and The Australian Voices, facilitating both national and international tours. In 2010, she received a Master of Music degree from the University of Queensland and taught choral music at the Brisbane Girls Grammar School and contemporary music and theory at the Metropolitan South Institute of TAFE. Scott is currently completing her Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Choral Music at the University of Southern California. While at USC she conducted the USC Thornton Oriana Women’s Chorus. In 2013, she conducted members of the USC choirs in several performances with The Rolling Stones during their “50 and counting” world tour. She also went to China and South Korea in 2014, performing with the USC Thornton Chamber Singers.

Robert Lauver

Robert Lauver, who came to the School of Music as visiting professor of horn last year after the death of long-time Horn Professor Virginia Thompson, will continue as interim horn professor for the next two years. Lauver received a bachelor’s degree from The Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University and studied at Northwestern University. He has performed professionally with the Chicago Chamber Brass and the Austin, Alabama, Columbus and St. Louis Symphony Orchestras. In 2000 he began his tenure with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, where he is currently second horn. He has toured worldwide in South Africa, Europe and Asia, including a special performance at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II. Since 2000, he has spent his summers performing in the Grand Teton Music Festival, and occasionally the Sun Valley Summer Symphony. He also teaches privately at his home in Pittsburgh and has taught at Southern Illinois University, the University of Missouri, Carnegie Mellon University and The Barry Tuckwell Institute.

What's Your Story?

Charlene | June 1, 2015

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Dan Fisher (MFA, Technical Theatre, 1986)

Dan Fisher, a graduate of the School of Theatre and Dance, who is currently a property master for some of today’s best-known films and television shows, visited the Creative Arts Center in April to speak to students about his career.
The talk was part of the College of Creative Arts Alumni-in-Residence Series, in which outstanding alumni of the College return to work with students.

Dan attended WVU from 1982 to 1986, graduating with a BFA in Technical Theatre. After graduation, while living in Beckley, West Virginia, he was hired to work as a Set Dresser on the John Sayles film “Matewan” and soon afterward moved to New York City to continue working in film and television production. For almost 30 years, Dan has been involved in props and set decoration on productions including “Mississippi Burning,” “The Adventures of Pete & Pete,” “Men in Black,” and “Law & Order.” In recent years, he has worked exclusively as a Property Master on feature films including “Black Swan” and “American Hustle” and on television productions including Season One of HBO’s “Girls” and TNT’s upcoming “Public Morals.” Dan has been married to Helene Eisman Fisher for more than 20 years and they have two teenage children, Augustus and Phoebe Fisher. He said his children are his proudest accomplishment.

“I grew up in Middlebourne, West Virginia, population around 800,” Dan said. “From an early age, I was enamored with movies, TV, and comic books. I decided to go to WVU when I was offered a full academic scholarship. My dad was not thrilled that I chose Theatre as my major, but since my tuition was free, he felt that I had earned the right to study whatever I wanted.”

Some of the professors who were most influential to Dan when he was a student at the CAC from 1982-86 included Jon Whitty, Angela D’Ambrosia, and Frank Gagliano.

“I came in believing I would emerge as an intense method actor, but by my senior year, I felt more encouraged to write and stage plays, courtesy of Frank Gagliano,” Dan says. “But I would also say that my peers in my classes were as influential as anybody. We had a very talented, interesting class. I felt competitive with them, but also inspired by them.”

Dan’s most memorable experience at the CAC was being part of the cast of Harold Pinter’s “The Homecoming,” playing the part of Joey, a boxer.

“For that part, I had to lose 15 pounds, adding muscle as I learned how to box, perfect a Liverpool accent, and be part of a steamy, controversial sex scene,” he said.

“The big thing I would like all WVU Theatre students to be aware of is how many opportunities are out there for them in the ever-expanding world of show business.

“With a gazillion TV channels, streaming-only films and shows, and an international appetite for all American entertainment, there are more opportunities than ever before for people with a background in the creative arts.

“I want them to know that, at age 51, I am still learning, still trying to figure out how to do what I do better than I did it the last time. I have experienced success, but I have also made plenty of mistakes along the way. I get up every day and I go out there hoping I will have learned from the mistakes and to not linger too lovingly on memories of success. Every day is, and always will be, an opportunity to prove myself.”