Visual, performing arts intersect in final B.F.A. projects by Sweet Briar seniors

Posted on September 13, 2017 by Janika Carey

"Early," Kollin Kirven “Early,” Kollin Kirven, 2017

Bachelor of Fine Arts candidates Rachel Rogers and Kollin Kirven will present their final projects at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19, and Wednesday, Sept. 20, in the Upper Dance Studio in Sweet Briar’s Babcock Fine Arts Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Kirven, a creative writing major with a minor in studio art, says hers is “a culmination of work documenting the densely populated — and usually deteriorating — neighborhoods inhabited mainly by indigent, often minority groups” in her native Lynchburg. Kirven will exhibit a number of photographs, and attendees will be able to listen to recordings of interviews with people who have personal knowledge of the history of some of Lynchburg’s predominantly black neighborhoods.

“In this body of work I attempt to elaborate on a theory of ethnic concentration and economic activity as being characteristic of these neighborhoods, while further examining the effects of gentrification on residents,” Kirven explains. While the inspiration for the project came mostly from what she witnessed in her own town, some part originated in a Los Angeles housing project — or rather, in a Dutch photographer’s observations of it.

Photo by Kollin Kirven “Untitled,” Kollin Kirven, 2016

“Although Dana Lixenberg wasn’t a direct inspiration for this work, after seeing her body of work, ‘Imperial Courts,’ I decided what I was doing was necessary,” Kirven says. “Lixenberg photographed life on the periphery in Los Angeles’ housing projects, but ‘Imperial Courts’ seemed only to amplify the problem of black exploitation, and white voyeurism, or surveillance.”

In Lynchburg, Kirven was inspired by the recent changes that were made on Federal Street — including extensive infrastructure, two health centers, a Family Dollar and the hipster Fifth & Federal Southern whiskey bar — as well as “the influx of white people to the historic Daniel’s Hill Neighborhood and surrounding areas.”

A resident of Lynchburg since she was 4, Kirven came to Sweet Briar because it was close to home, and because she loved the campus. Like so many students, she found her voice early on: Sophomore year, she was president of the Minority Student Union, and its historian the next. This year, she is serving as the inclusivity liaison on the College’s Student Government Association.

From the interdisciplinary freedom the B.F.A. program allows her to the creative writing program’s faculty, Kirven is passionate about many aspects of her Sweet Briar education. Women artists — and professors in particular — have made a profound impact on her academic career, she says.

“My favorite professors are [nonfiction professor] Nell Boeschenstein, [poetry professor] Lindsay Hill, and [studio art professor] Laura Pharis,” she says. “I don’t think I could express how rewarding it’s been to be a student in the classes of each of these women. I owe many thanks to Nell, who introduced me to memoir, and the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates; to Lindsay for making the poetry of Mojave-American poet Natalie Diaz known to me; and to Laura who helped me to realize a passion for studio arts like mono-printing. I am indebted, as well, to Professor [Deborah] Durham, for having made the class read an excerpt from ‘The Poetics of Military Occupation’ by Israeli anthropologist, Smadar Lavie, which was formative to my photographic work.”

Kirven plans to attend graduate school for photography. “I’m really enamored with VCU’s M.F.A. program,” she says.

Fellow B.F.A. candidate and studio art minor Rachel Rogers is putting her focus on the dance floor. The New Kent native, who also minors in business, has planned choreography that will express her “love for movement and what got me to where I am today.

“When I dance, it makes me feel alive and blissful,” Rogers says. “I want my show to reflect that passion.”

Rachel Rogers. Photo by Andrew Wilds Rachel Rogers on the aerial hoop. Photo by Andrew Wilds.

Much like Kirven, Rogers came to Sweet Briar because she “fell in love with the campus and the people here.” And, adds the dual varsity athlete, “As a prospective student, I was told I could do it all, and my fourth year in, I believe I have done it all.”

Now in her fourth year of field hockey, Rogers also played softball for two years, participated in several tap clubs and has taught after-school dance classes in the dance program.

Her experience at Sweet Briar has been “unforgettable,” Rogers says.

“My sisters and my professors have helped me create and shape my story. [At Sweet Briar,] you learn to find your voice, and you are cultivated to be a strong woman with a can-do attitude.”

Dance professors Mark and Ella Magruder, she says, have been encouraging as well as critical, providing “real-world-like toughness” through her education. Field hockey coach Hannah Lott showed her “what it meant to be a leader,” while softball coach Danielle Delude pushed her to “be the best [and] reminding me that I can do it all.”

It’s the kind of confidence Rogers will take with her when she graduates in May, certain there is a place for her ambitions — even if she’s not quite sure where yet.

“I have a passion for dance and a few job opportunities,” she says. “I plan to follow wherever dance takes me — whether that is a company, a studio, or opening my own — I’m ready for anything.”

For more information, contact Mark Magruder at 434-381-6150.