Autumn and Dominic SP

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Final Projects

Project For One: Mariah Lewis

Mariah Lewis is a 14 year old singer songwriter from Williamstown, Massachusetts. Mariah's love for music began in childhood, when she began to perform original songs on piano and ukelele. Using music as an outlet, Mariah explores themes of self-acceptance, popularity, and love. Pulling from emotional experiences as well as her Jewish culture, Mariah continues to pursue songwriting as a way to provide comfort for herself and others.

Mariah's SoundCloud:

Studio Sessions

As a young musician, Mariah desires a large audience to listen to her music, opportunities to perform, and to wants create music that resonates within and beyond her peer group. Utilizing the resources of Bennington College and our niches as students, we worked with Mariah to produce high-quality recordings and photographs so that Mariah could promote herself and her music career within and beyond her personal circle.

Although Autumn and Mariah had a pre-existing relationship, as a group we put this aside and approached Mariah with a fresh outlook at we began to develop our project together. We planned a day for Mariah to record as well as engage in the facilities of Bennington College. Dominic recorded, edited, mixed and produced three of Mariah's original pieces with great success. He also served as a mentor to Mariah, presenting her with various options to promote herself and develop her music career, including: Facebook, Soundcloud, and YouTube. Dominic and Mariah were also able to talk about some of the technical aspects of writing, performing, and recording music. Autumn worked with Mariah to understand her point-of-view as a musician through conversation and photography.

Post-Studio Work

Since recording and mixing have wrapped, we continue to work with Mariah as mentors, sources of information, and hardcore fans in promoting her work as a musician. Together, the three of us were able to successfully record and mix three tracks, provide Mariah with artist photos, and provide each other with various information on resources for promoting independent musicians.

Bennington Connection

We worked to promote more transparent communication between the college and town, by promoting public events and opportunities. To do this, we created two points of communication: one on the Bennington campus and one in downtown Bennington.

The Board On Campus

(Located in the Post Office/Downcommons)

We wanted to create a physical space to encourage students to interact with the town of Bennington. With the support of Student Life, we created a space on campus to promote the events, opportunities, and businesses in town.

It currently includes:

  • A description of our project and the purpose of the board
  • Current and upcoming town events & opportunities
  • Discounts available to students
  • Business cards & menus
  • Our contact information


The Board In Town

(The entrance way to Fiddlehead at Four Corners.)

Through various conversations in town, we discovered that there is a large interest in campus events and opportunities, but that the information was not always readily available or transparent. This is how we arrived at the decision to create physical boards (as opposed to an online platform).

The Board at Fiddlehead includes:

  • A brief description of our project and the purpose of the board
  • Tear-away links to the online College Event Calendar and Facebook page
  • Current and future public events on the Bennington campus
  • Crossett Library hours
  • Skill5 information
  • Our contact information


The Future

We are currently communicating with the Office of Student Life and the Office of Communications concerning the sustainability of our project. This Spring we will continue a larger conversation with these offices to develop a model for maintaining both boards.

Trials and tribulations 12/3/13

Project For One

We met with Mariah this Sunday from 12:30-4 to accommodate her family and her busy schedule.

  • We recorded 3 songs of hers "Insane", "Gone" & "Self-Destruct" in the VAPA studio.
  • We took 4+ live videos of her playing in a Jennings practice room for her Youtube page.
  • Autumn was taking photos through the process.

We will be meeting once more Friday evening to re-record a two of the songs.

Project For Many

Off campus:

Over thanksgiving break I (Dominic) went into town to talk to businesses about hosting a board. I started at Ramuntos and went down the row. I got a lot of "that's a great idea"s and people seemed to be encouraging in a general sense, but no one volunteered their space. I had quite a few people saying that they weren't the owner/manager and couldn't make that call, so I'll be going back to them hopefully at a time when their owner is there.

I contacted Sam Tymchyn about having weekly public events from Student Life be sent down to the Board in town. She seemed very enthusiastic and said she would look into it.

On Campus

I contacted Sam Tymchyn and Matt Scott about the possibility of putting a message board in downcommons or the Student Center. Matt has yet to respond and he is in charge of those spaces, but Sam was definitely encouraging.

At this point, this project will be set up this term, and then put into action in the Spring.

This term: The physical space found, the boards acquired, the connections made.

Next term, Autumn and I will go to businesses and send out fliers telling them to send their announcements & events to her or me. We will be in charge of printing them out and posting them to the board on campus.

brainstorming final projects 11/8/13

Project For One

Mariah Lewis is a teenager who participates in the teen group at Congregation Beth El. Mariah uses music (singing, guitar, piano, ukelele) as a medium for self-expression, relaxation, and to inspire others with a positive message (positive body image, depression awareness, and encouraging young girls to be more honest with themselves). Mariah would like for others to take her message and her commitment to music more seriously.

Mariah's SoundCloud:

Dominic and I are going to work with Mariah to record a 3-4 song EP and to take some promo photos. Mariah would like to use this experience as creative outlet. The resulting EP and promo photos will be a valuable resource for Mariah in her larger goal of playing more gigs.


Mariah's explicit needs are:
- play more gigs
- and spread her talent, music, and messages to new listeners.
- She wants people to be able to "have her music"

Mariah's implicit needs are:
- Increased sense of self-confidence, self awareness
- The need to feel as though she is heard
- would like for others to take her experiences and dedication to music more seriously.

Why Recording and Photoshoot Vs. setting up live gigs for her?
- Sustainability after this class finishes. We aren't giving her the finished product of where she wants to get (playing gigs for many people). We are giving her the tools (a press kit) to then be able to create that final product on an ongoing basis.
- Part of the trouble she faces as a young artist is the fact that she is not taken seriously. A professional-grade recording can help to bridge that gap.

Project For Many

While I really like the dance thing, we feel like it is more reliant on me (Dominic), and that's unfair to Autumn as an artist and doesn't afford her as many opportunities. I also don't think we're going to find a way to fix the problems that we would encounter in putting that event on.

In preparing and following up on our project for many, we kept running into the problems of participation, communication and engagement. So instead of pushing through with a project that would be more likely to fail than succeed, we decided to tackle these new problems head-on. In Autumn and my conversation with Catbird, our first time going into town, Charlie, Kitty and Sarah made an acute observation that there was no easy way to know what was going on at the college and if people from town were invited or allowed to attend. And the same was true in reverse, what events in town were happening and could college students attend?

Goal: To make two central points of communication: one on the Bennington Campus, and one in downtown Bennington. Message boards?

Questions: Where?

Posters get hung by student life every week, could we ask them to send an extra copy down to the site?

Club/organizations always state whether they are open to the public or specifically to the college. Those open to the public should be broadcasted.

Maybe have the posters checked so events in town could be put in coffee hour minutes?

Autumn's Trip To Town

I took some time to talk to the ladies at Crazy Russian Girls and baristas at South Street; I also talked to people on the street and people eating at Crazy Russian Girls, South Street, and shopping at Spice N' Nice. Some interesting points:

  • People are interested in events on the college campus (particularly concerts, plays, performances, art shows, etc).
  • People do not like looking for this information online / do not think it is easy to find
  • A physical space that is regularly maintained is preferable to an online space (I saw examples of physical spaces with town / area events in almost every local business I went into today)
  • People from the town do not always feel welcome / like they belong at campus events-- if there was a place they could find out about events open to the public they would feel more comfortable going
  • Although it would be nice if more students tom the campus attended events in town, people front the town believe students from campus who are interested in these events are capable of finding them out and attending them (like those who want to go to town events find a way to go)

So a breakdown:

  • physical space
  • clearly stating what events are open to the public
  • maybe reaching out to more student son campus about town / area events would encourage attendance

prior endeavors

So I have this theory. My theory is that human beings are happiest when having positive social interactions. This is nothing more than a hunch gained from some self-reflection on class assignments this term and my observations of others. My other observation is that the society that we live in (American contemporary) has a series of social rules that often-times inhibit or prohibit the possibility for many of these interactions to occur.
Today people require an external excuse to be part of a positive social interaction. It’s like they have shame to admit that they get joy from these activities unless someone else initiates it. I think it comes from the continually pushed concept of self-sufficiency that is so desired within our culture. If someone admits that they really need/want something that they can’t alone provide, they are no longer the perfect self-sufficient machine.

There are several things that must be implemented so as not to trigger people’s sense of “uncool non-self-sufficiency.” Yes I made up those phrases, but I think you understand.

  • Spontaneity: The use of the unexpected is one of the most powerful tools. If someone knows that this interaction will be taking place beforehand and plan to show up to the event, they will fear people’s judgment. What would people think? Planning for an event full of positive social interaction is basically admitting that you want/need it and that can’t be allowed. But if one stumbles across this event, no one can mistake their presence for need and they can keep their dignity.
  • Social Pressure: Now that they are standing there with their dignity, what makes them participate instead of just watching idly? Every person is different, but the overall concept will be the same. Social pressure from individual to individual. Many times it will be between them and the artist: as in when someone both enthusiastically and respectfully asks you if you’d help them do something, you feel at least partially socially obligated to take do so. Another example: if you are a guy who noticed that a pretty girl is already taking part in the event, you might want to take part in hopes of meeting or having an interaction with her. I could continue but I wont.
  • Genuine curiosity in the activity: As in “I just always wanted to know how to do a basic waltz step” or “I haven’t played cooperative games since I was a kid, let me try it again.”

Now the theories listed above can be viewed as conceptual and can arch into many different artistic incarnations. But from this point I’m going to talk specifics in relation to one project idea.

Setting: Inside a grocery store or other large store with relatively large traffic flow. 12-5pm on a Saturday. Why you ask? A grocery store because there’s a rather large traffic of people from all kinds of economical & cultural perspectives/backgrounds. 12-5pm on Saturday because there will be the most people out shopping for ingredients for their Saturday night dinner, but more importantly they will not be in as much of a rush as they would Monday-Friday. They don’t have work to get back to and if they aren’t in a rush, participation is much more likely.
Participation in what you ask? Participation in a short partner-dance.

Let me rant on dance for a second. Social dancing is, at its foundation based on physical conversation between two people.
It not only encourages but actually requires trust both ways. I trust that my partner is physically “listening” to me and I will do the same in order to make this dance work.
It develops responsibility: in led dances, the leader who thinks of and initiates the moves is then responsible for their outcome. You can’t fake it, you can’t blame it on anyone else if it doesn’t work out. He or she will have to assume responsibility. The follow has the responsibility of response, which is perhaps even harder. It is one thing to think up a move, it is another to physically respond to a leads initiation and continue the conversation.
Remember what I said about people actually really needing and wanting positive social interactions? That is why dancing is fun. It’s a natural aspect of human nature, an unavoidable inclination when listening to compelling music. So expressing such a fundamental aspect of our humanity in conversation with somebody else, feeling as if you are being heard, and finding a pure way to listen to somebody is fun. When broken down like this, it becomes less convincing as “fun” but it is.
Dances: Swing, Waltz, Salsa. I don’t have an intellectual reason for this. These decisions are purely practical: they are what I know and can teach in an efficient and compelling manner. Actually I do have a partly intellectual reason: each of these particular dances appeal to different people because of their type of expression. Swing is very high energy, waltz is more subdued. Salsa’s sexy, swing’s goofy, waltz is romantic. Swing’s complicated. Waltzing is simple.
There will be several options for participation based on your comfort level:

  • Dance with somebody you are with/know. Many people go places in pairs or groups. This option would be about deepening or reinterpreting the social relationship between two familiars. Too often we take our existing interpersonal relationships for granted.
  • Dance with me or one of the event hosts. There will be several event hosts in addition to Autumn and myself. These will be others that know how to dance each of the above dances and can help teach/direct. Why? Because if the event is popular and we have a lot of drop-in interest, I cannot teach everyone. So participants will have the option of dancing with one of us experienced dancers. Hopefully not the person that directly taught them, as the relation dynamic, while interesting, would be skewed.
  • Dance with a stranger- the real meat and potatoes of this event; dancing with a stranger is the purest form of unbiased communication. When you know something about the other person you’re dancing with, whether it’s your best friend or it’s someone you know can already dance, it has some effect on the way you act and react physically during the dance. However if the person is a stranger, it requires a greater trust and greater responsibility from both individuals because your actions are pure unfiltered you.

things to think about:
neither of us has a car (so we must consider proximity)
no one is really coming to mind instantly for either of us
"secret" project; we do not want / expect reciporication
using mail as a medium? // through the postal service? or rather an anonymous letter-in-the-mailbox (so it is even less trace-able)
is it someone we know? or is it someone we don't know?
What about contacting the nursing home?
yard care?

reaching out to a lonely, elderly person (anonymously) via Cora @ Vet's home or Fillmore Pond; showering person with dozens of holiday cards.

Reach out to Cora to find elderly individual (Autumn)
Determine a timeline (Autumn & Dominic)
Find individuals to make cards (Autumn & Dominic)
Autumn & Dominic
Headstart kids
Autumn's Hebrew School Children / teens
Dream kids
Other college students
Social practices class
collect cards (Autumn & Dominic)
Get cards to Cora for delivery to individual (Autumn)

project for many:
compliment board (kinda like missed connections for town, but positive and not skeevy)
Facilitating interactions between strangers (giving them an excuse to break their own barriers) ((kind of how the surrender control was our excuse to break outside of ourselves))
Dominic playing music, to get people to dance with each other
Dominic is a swing dance instructor (could we reach out to the swing club)
Swing club meets at: Saturday 7pm @ upstairs dance studio
Autumn is a photographer (we could document these interactions)
Several kinds of dance options (waltz, salsa, swing)
Finding a local band / musician to play live music (to foster even more connections)
We could do this on main street, or try to reach out to a location (doing open every week, using that as an opportunity to take over)
SPONTANEOUS DANCING, not an event that people plan on; so we do not need to promote this; and people do not have time to build up anxiety over it
would a grocery store allow us to do this? (youtube'd dancing with strangers)

Aaron & Carly (La Flammes furniture sign holders)
-From northern Vermont (near Rutland)
-Notice a pride local consumership and businesses, anti corporation (80% of Bennington is locally owned??)
-Bennington has some reckless drivers
-Bennington is more family friendly
-Bennington is like Manchester
-East Coast culture vs West Coast culture (Aaron is originally from California)
-Bennington is more family friendly, people are looking at the signs there were holding up for LaFlammes (Aaron mentioned that holding up signs in Rutland would not be worth their time)

Joel Lentzner (owner) & Joe (Fiddlehead)
-Bennington is unable to embrace it’s own potential because it is divided (and lacks organized central leadership)
-Bennington could be a social / cultural attraction (ie: Bennington Potters, Old Castle Theater) but we are not
-Bennington College used to take more risks on their students (allowed them to lead socially and educationally)
-Everyone has different ideas for what the town of Bennington should do to Better itself (one month we’re trying to be Brattleboro, the next Montpelier, the next Burlington, etc).
-Joel (and his wife) attended Bennington College and are returning for alumni weekend and hope that Mariko will bring positive change, but there was some apprehension (he was attending Bennington during the Purge).
-There is a lack of stuff for people in the town and college students to engage in

caught Joel again washing windows on our way back from Catbird
-Joel said there used to be stronger relationships between local artists and Bennington College art students, but after Liz fired everyone the tensions were strained across the board
-We mentioned how we came up with this idea of a town / student artists gathering, show, critique, salon, etc and he offered the upstairs classroom spaces of Fiddlehead to us, and was VERY into this idea.

Sarah (owner), Charlie & Kitty – Catbird Studio
-Bennington is economically and socially diverse, slowly becoming more culturally / ethnically diverse
-lack of communication between town and college regarding events (ie: poetry readings, artists lectures, gallery shows, writer’s workshop, performances)
-these events have to be sought out by townspeople, often they do not know if they are allowed to attend or not
-local schools lack adequate and stable leadership (Charlie is a teacher in the Bennington public schools)
-They would like to see Bennington students spending more time in downtown Bennington (all of them have had good interactions with Bennington students – infrequent but terrific interactions).
-Students do shop local and visit South Street (they come to town if they NEED something, but it would be great if students just spent more time hanging out and occupying the streets of Bennington).
-Crossett Library is a great resource for people in the town (Charlie commented on how helpful the librarians are).
-Very positive comments about Mariko: can use this new change to create more positive change between Bennington college students and Bennington townspeople
-Strong arts culture in town, strong arts culture on campus—used to interact, do not anymore
-Lack of organization among artists & artisans in town, or when there are interactions (ie: the Artist Guild in town) they are very closed off
-Talked about potential of art critique, show, salon between townspeople and Bennington college students.

-Better communication about on-campus public events for people in town (galleries are willing to post posters / flyers, South Street + many other local businesses have bulletin boards)
-Potential in organizing an event between local artists and student artists (Joel offered up the space of Fiddlehead)
-Students should spend more time “just hanging out” in downtown Bennington
-Organized events will not has as much of an effect as personal ties / relationships