“What An Unbelievable Place This Is:” Linehan Reception Celebrates UMBC’s Commitment to the Arts

Published: Jun 3, 2016

Jessie Gilson performs monologue on stage
Jessie Gilson performs a monologue from "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You."

When we think of art, we tend to think of finished pieces: paintings in galleries, dances and plays performed to a sold-out crowd, freshly pressed full-length records and live symphonies. But the reality is that art is so much more than final product. It’s what we can’t see — the equipment, the time, the relentless pursuit of creativity, and donors like you — that makes it possible.

At the end of each academic year, we celebrate the hard work and creative achievements of some of UMBC’s most talented student artists at the Linehan Artist Scholars Reception. This year, guests at the reception were able to take in a student showcase in the Performing Arts and Humanities Building’s Dance Cube, a massive glass structure overlooking Hilltop Circle.

Since 1999, the Linehan program, established with a generous gift from Earl and Darielle Linehan and currently headed by Doug Hamby, associate professor of dance, has been advancing UMBC’s reputation as a center for the arts as well as STEM, and the PAHB is a centerpiece of that effort. Much like any fine work of art, the building took several years of planning and multiple phases of construction before the finished product could be shown, inhabited, and practiced in. The past several Linehan receptions have been held here: achievement within achievement.

According to Scott Casper, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, the Linehan program prides itself on being not just a scholarship, but a community. Students live together on the Visual and Performing Arts floor in Harbor Hall, and have several opportunities a year to visit museums and performances in Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia. Students at the reception related their experiences within the Linehan program (among them: seeing the Paris Opera Ballet perform Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes and visiting the Museum of Modern Art).

This year’s showcase featured a variety of student art from across disciplines. On the visual arts side, Adan Rodriguez ’17 assembled a short video presentation, compiling various works from design, animation, and film students, as well as their commentary on their work, their influences, and what art means to them.

Art, says animation major Justyna Kurbiel ’18, is “a sharing of ideas,” but it also takes a lot more work than people realize.

“They never really know what’s just outside the frame,” she says plainly, before the camera pans back from her face, revealing microphones, monitors, and the screen behind her.

Ryan Bailey ’16, dance, choreographed and performed a piece set, intermittently, to Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September” and long periods of frenetic, movement-filled silence. Chanel Whitehead ’17 performed Romani Lachrymose, an original and deeply melancholy composition by Samuel Winnie ’16, music, on cello, with Winnie accompanying her on a laptop and synthesizer.

Ally Kocerhan ’16, theatre and gender and women’s studies, who, at the time of the reception, was facing a choice between the California Institute of the Arts and New York University for graduate school, directed Jessie Gilson ’17 in a scene from Christopher Durang’s Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You. Gilson’s character, Diane, an ex-Catholic, tells the story of the loss and trauma that destroyed her faith to one of the nuns who taught her in school.

The performance moved Earl Linehan, who told Gilson, “I’m a Catholic [and I get it]…I could hear Sister Madeline talking to me.”

“What an unbelievable place this is,” Linehan told the crowd. “I choke up every time.”

Julia Celtnieks ’13; photos by Marlayna Demond ’11


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