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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Festival shows art is the ‘Source’

Published: April 30, 2010
Section: Arts, Etc.

source/resource: Brandeis community members were encouraged to bring water-filled buckets to the Michael Dowling “Source/ReSource” installation at the Rose Art Museum.
PHOTO BY Andrew Rauner/The Hoot

Ordinarily rain spoils outdoor events, but Wednesday’s rainy weather felt appropriate for the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts’ opening ceremony, which celebrated the symbolic importance of water as it unveiled a temporary installation by artist-in-residence Michael Dowling.

The festival officially presented Dowling’s “Source/ReSource,” a temporary installation constructed out of copper and stone, to the Brandeis community at the beginning of the opening ceremony.

The installation essentially is a copper bronze fountain. A water trough was placed on the steps of The Rose Art Museum, which in turn leads to a large fountain placed on the museum’s lawn.

Though only temporary, the installation’s warm copper tones contrast nicely with The Rose’s gray façade, with each complementing the other.

Dowling designed the artwork specifically for the festival and sought inspiration from the Brandeis community. Throughout the year, he sat in on classes and also gleaned ideas from the landscape around campus, specifically the Charles River.

“My inspiration is the counting cycle of generations who come to Brandeis—the source—and return to the world as a resource for vision, justice, creativity and social change,” Dowling said in a press release.

The festival also took its theme, “Art is the Source,” from the structure.

The festival actively engaged the community by distributing 2,000 copper buckets across campus. Though there were some reports that buckets had been stolen by students, many students, faculty and staff appeared at the installation’s unveiling with buckets in hand. During the ceremony, attendees were encouraged to dump their bucket’s contents into the fountain in order to establish a stronger connection to art.

The opening ceremony began with a Hebrew language musical performance given by Brandeis students on the steps of The Rose. Immediately afterwards, members of the Brandeis Theater Company gathered around the fountain and proclaimed what their sources in life were, with most declaring at the end that “justice” and “art” were their sources of strength.

In turn, this performance was followed by a presentation given by the Brandeis Chaplaincy—Rabbi Elyse Winick, Father Walter Cuenin, Protestant chaplain Alexander Kern and Muslim chaplain Imam Talal Eid—each spoke about the importance of water in their respective religious texts, with water commonly being presented as a source of renewal.

Another performance piece then started, with a woman singing a spiritual song as Professor Susan Dibble (FA) began dancing gracefully in the pond. This was then followed by another musical performance.

The ceremony, though lasting only 20 minutes, proved an eclectic mixture of Brandeis’ cultural components, with both art and religion playing a prominent role.

The melding of the various performance pieces, however, sometimes seemed a bit off. This was especially true of the dance performance in the fountain. By itself, it would have been fine, but it came across as a bit bombastic immediately after the chaplains spoke.

As a whole, the ceremony took the concept of water a bit too literally—what about the many other components of Dowling’s installation?

Of course, these are minor quibbles, as the festival’s opening proved enjoyable and often captivating. Any celebration of art in a society (and this is true on-campus, as well) where art is increasingly not appreciated is more than fine with me.