The Boston Arts Academy and Annette Miller
A look at Boston Arts Academy, Boston’s only public school for the visual and performing arts along with two up-and-coming artists from this year’s graduating class. Then longtime Boston actor Annette Miller sits down to discuss her role in “The Waverly Gallery,” by Shakespeare & Company. Plus, Rochester artist Rob Rogalski shows us his miniature robots and puppets from his studio and artist Laur
>> JARED BOWEN: Welcome toOpen Studio,
WGBH's weekly spotlight on arts and culture
from around the region and the nation.
I'm Jared Bowen.
Coming up onOpen Studio, staging fashion shows,
producing music videos,
and these artists aren't even out of high school.
>> I say I want to do something, they're, like,
"Okay, what's stopping you? Let's do it."
>> BOWEN: Plus Annette Miller on the actor's life.
>> The magic for me is
working with a company of people that I trust.
>> BOWEN: Then, a creature feature.
>> It's kind of one of those...
those processes where you become
someone who wears many hats.
>> BOWEN: And coming out of the darkroom.
>> That always really interested in me,
that I was sort of creating
a totally new space that didn't exist in reality
and that could only exist through the camera.
>> BOWEN: It's all now onOpen Studio.
First up, we begin the show at Boston Arts Academy,
the city's only public high school
for the visual and performing arts.
If you remember the old television showFame,
well, it really is kind of like that.
(slaps out rhythm): ♪ Nobody, nobody...
>> BOWEN: At Boston Arts Academy,
as you might expect, music fills the air.
What is that experience like, to literally hear music
walking down the halls?
>> At times it could, you know, be frustrating.
But I can testify for a lot of my friends, as well,
it's been one of the best experiences ever.
>> BOWEN: Danny Rivera is a senior at Boston Arts Academy
and a music maker himself.
I first met him on the WGBH programSing That Thing!,
where he was conducting
the school's Spirituals Ensemble.
>> ♪ King Jesus is a-listening ♪
>> BOWEN: Today, though, Rivera is working
on the backing track for an upcoming performance.
>> And then the lead vocalist... (sings part)
But this is just to back up the band.
>> BOWEN: At Boston Arts Academy,
the city's only public high school
devoted exclusively to the arts,
Rivera and some 500 students like him
are given the fuel to flourish.
>> You know, I say I want to do something, they're, like,
"Okay, what's stopping you? "Let's do it," you know?
So they're really... they're really big
on pushing their students
towards what they really want to do the most.
>> BOWEN: Have they ever said no to you?
>> BOWEN: School for Rivera
is a mix of the music he loves and the math he doesn't.
Although he's found that music now helps his coursework, too.
>> I've been able to write songs about books,
I've been able to write songs about different, you know,
strategies and equations.
I've really been able to use my art to help me
develop my skill also as a student
who's learning academics.
>> Music majors, for example, when we opened the school,
they all want to be performers on the stage.
Now a lot more are interested in production,
behind the scenes. >> BOWEN: Really?
Anne Clark has been at B.A.A. since it opened in 1998.
A teacher then, she's now the headmaster of the school,
which counts high-profile alumni
like Diane Guerrero ofOrange Is the New Black.
>> It's okay.
I love you!
>> BOWEN: But the idea of the school
isn't necessarily to produce Hollywood stars
or even professional artists.
Instead, Clark is interested in what makes an artist.
>> The ability to stand up and represent yourself.
The ability to connect with people.
This is a place that takes questions
like, "What's the purpose? What's the meaning?
How does it help our greater good?"
>> BOWEN: Many students come to B.A.A.
because they couldn't fit in at other schools
where arts programming is an afterthought.
Here, students must audition,
but the admission process is liberal.
>> It's academic-blind.
That means we don't look at prior grades, test scores,
discipline records, even attendance records,
or any special education information,
or anything like that
until after students are admitted.
We understood that they're young people
that maybe have not had the opportunity
to really do well in school
because school did not do well by them.
>> BOWEN: For the last two years,
80 percent of B.A.A. students have been accepted to college,
which Clark says is a rate higher
than both the city and state average,
especially for low-income students.
In the fall, Sasa Murrett Kam will attend
the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
She is among the first graduates
of B.A.A's. new fashion design program,
and received an Honors award the day we met her.
>> Thank you.
>> BOWEN: The Honors ceremony still happening
just outside her classroom and workshop,
Murrett Kam walked us through the look she was creating
for an upcoming fashion show.
She's been working after school
and even on the weekends.
>> So my three looks here,
the name of my collection is called Petrichor.
And petrichor is the smell of rain.
I was really inspired by blue, because I really enjoy rain.
And I want to do a mixture of blue
and kind of, like, the dark clouds,
so the black.
But give it a sense of, like,
You know, with a little bit of skin,
but not too much, because I'm still in high school.
>> BOWEN: Students like Murrett Kam and Danny Rivera
seem to be going far fast.
Rivera has already performed at the White House
and caught the attention of Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley
earlier this year
with this song and video.
It's inspired by her first speech to Congress.
>> ♪ It's our time, we're on our way up ♪
♪ Our way up, yeah
I used that opportunity to not just talk about the things
she talked about in her speech,
but to address some things
that I felt were...
needed to be addressed. >> BOWEN: Like?
>> Like... mass incarceration, like being...
One of the lines is,
"Being a black man is the world's greatest sin."
The fact that, you know, it's just so difficult
to be a man of color in society.
It's just like...
It's a setback.
>> BOWEN: For the moment,
Boston Arts Academy is housed in an aging high school.
But construction is now underway
for a state-of-the-art $125 million facility
in the Fenway.
Set to open in 2021, it'll be the first time
the school has a building to suit its needs.
>> I have to tell you,
the group that is most excited about the new building
is the alumni.
They are the young people who were the ones
who were rehearsing in closets, or dancing in a dance studio
with a support beam in the middle of it,
or having to travel all over the city to perform
because we didn't have our own performance space,
and they know how much this means and how important this is.
We would not have this new building
if it weren't for our alums, and I'm very proud of them.
>> BOWEN: Shakespeare and Company in the Berkshires
just opened their summer season withThe Waverly Gallery,
a Pulitzer Prize finalist centered around Gladys Green,
a longtime gallery owner and family matriarch
whose memory is fading away.
Playing her is Annette Miller,
a sizable presence onstage and off.
>> I'm not hungry.
I really can't eat anything.
I have to fix dinner for the people.
>> No, no, no, nobody's coming for dinner.
It's very early in the morning.
I want you to eat something.
Sit down here, sit down.
>> But the people are going to be looking for me!
>> No, no-- nobody is looking for you.
>> They were here before, and then they ran out,
and I don't know where they went.
Baby, are you checking upstairs?
>> BOWEN: Annette Miller, thank you so much for joining us.
>> It's a pleasure to be here.
>> BOWEN: You're starring inThe Waverly Gallery
at Shakespeare and Company. >> Yes.
>> BOWEN: Gladys Green--
tell me about who she is in the way that...
I mean, here we have this woman who seems to have been a force
in, in the village... >> And remains one.
>> BOWEN: And remains one in the village, for her family.
But she's experiencing dementia,
so suddenly, the family dynamic changes.
Tell us how she fits into the family structure now.
>> She is a force, and her intention is to remain a force.
And how the family adjusts to that...
She doesn't quite adjust to the fact
that she still can't do everything
that she has done before,
that she has very important things to say,
that she should be listened to.
She wants to be heard, she always did want to be heard.
>> BOWEN: I know we're catching you
just at the beginning of the rehearsal process
as we tape here. >> Yes, right-- uh-huh.
>> BOWEN: But how is it to portray that arc of dementia?
>> Well, you know,
Kenneth Lonergan, who wrote it, is wonderful,
because he gives it to you.
You know, if...
It's a strange new thing that I've learned about acting,
because if you kind of breathe into what he's given you,
it's just there.
I don't have to think about, "Oh, how am I going to do this?"
Or, "What is happening to her now"?
She is losing it, but she's trying to find it.
>> BOWEN: You say that's a new thing,
but it sounds like a whole different way
of understanding character
all of a sudden.
>> Well, you learn with each part you do, you know?
And it's kind of wonderful.
And freeing, in a way.
Because I can't understand... it isn't important for me
to understand why she is making this jump now.
I know that she constantly goes back to--
it tells me a lot about her character--
is, "What's the matter, honey? What's the matter, honey?"
To her grandson.
And she says that so often.
And I have figured out she says that anytime
that she herself is sensing something is wrong,
but she puts it to him.
I think somebody stole her.
>> Grandma, you don't have a dog.
>> What do you mean?
>> Nobody stole your dog-- she died a long time ago.
You're having a bad dream.
>> But Billy and Pearl, they were just here!
>> What? No, no.
>> And they ran out, and the dog ran out after them,
and I can't find them. >> No, listen to me.
>> I think somebody stole her! >> Please listen to me.
You are having a dream.
The dog died many years ago.
Billy and Pearl live in Fairfield, in Connecticut.
They've been there for 15 years.
You... You are having a bad dream.
>> Maybe you should look upstairs
and see if they're there. >> No.
>> BOWEN: When you say you think about...
or you suddenly have an understanding
about why she's doing something, why she's saying something...
>> Mm-hmm. >> BOWEN: How does that come?
Are you just poring over the script?
Do you... Do you do...
Do you exercise
that makes those thoughts pop into your head?
>> I've been doing this a long time. (laughs)
Jared, I really have... I mean, one of the...
When I think of myself as a young actress,
and I think of myself when I first came here
and did a show in 1972, about women,Who's a Lady?,
I remember, I used to always think,
"Where's that coming from, and why?", and, "How's that..."
And now, I can't tell you
how a script just arrives on me.
Sometimes you're just there at the moment, you don't...
Of course you know who you are, where you are, why,
you know, why you are where you are, what time it is,
and all of that.
But the rest is a kind of moment-to-moment discovery
that you get with the other character on the stage,
and it shifts.
>> BOWEN: I've been out to the campus
at Shakespeare and Company,
and you have been working out there
for a long time.
>> Yes, I have-- it's been wonderful.
A wonderful theatrical home.
>> BOWEN: Well, there's a magic there, too.
And I know it's rooted
in the traditions of Shakespeare,
and getting a company of actors
who kind of do a little bit of everything, actually.
>> BOWEN: But you being in it and of it,
what's the magic?
>> The magic for me
is working with a company of people that I trust.
And, and I know that their goals
and their, the way they approach theater as an art,
I respond to it.
And I know that they're honest,
I know that there's a very hard work ethic.
Well, it just feels like a family, you know?
We're all very respectful.
And also, there's a great deal of respect for the actor.
It's not a, quote, "director's" theater.
It definitely is an actor's theater.
The actors' emotions are taken into consideration.
And because you're on the campus,
I think that ground there helps, as well, in some way.
I mean, there are companies around.
There's just something, I think,
that's magical, also, about the land.
>> BOWEN: You know, it's so funny you say that,
because I was thinking, "I want to ask about the land,
"I want to ask land, and she's going to think
that's such a loony question for me to ask."
>> No, it's not, I, I don't know why.
It's hallowed ground.
It's the grass that grows,
it's the spring that comes, and it just happens on...
and I think everyone is affected by it.
>> BOWEN: And finally, I wanted to ask...
So Gladys is a gallery owner. >> Yes.
>> BOWEN: Not too long ago,
I was flipping through a design magazine...
>> Oh? >> BOWEN: And I saw
Annette Miller in her apartment
with all of her art. >> Oh, my! Oh, dear!
>> BOWEN: You have quite the collection, it seems.
>> Visual art is very important.
It's also important to my husband.
Creating a home that has an artistic sensibility to it
is very important to me.
And I remember, I had to get a table
in this rather small apartment
that would be able to feed my entire family,
which would be 12 of us around the dining room table,
because I want to be able to eat at that table, and...
For all of us.
So, you know, that's been very important,
and Shakespeare and Company has been very important
for my family, too,
having been there, you know, these years.
It's a place that we congregate.
One of my grandsons says, "That's our happy place, Nana."
>> BOWEN: Well, Annette Miller, it is such a pleasure
to have you here.
>> Oh, I'm looking forward to working with Tina
and Elizabeth Aspenlieder,
and David Gow, who I worked with last year,
and Michael Toomey.
It's going to be, I think, a wonderful piece,
and a very important one,
because it really shows the importance...
something very important in life for people
to keep on wanting to go on.
And I think Gladys exemplifies that.
So I'm looking forward to it.
>> BOWEN: We look forward to it.
Thank you so much. >> Thank you.
>> BOWEN: Next, Rochester, New York, artist Rob Rogalski
lives, at least part of the time, in a world of his own.
Here we visit his studio teeming with miniature movie sets,
puppets, and sculpture.
>> My name is Robert Rogalski.
I'm a local artist here in Rochester, New York.
The work I do is whimsical and fanciful.
I have a love of puppetry and all things geeky.
People are always asking me,
"Well, what medium do you work in?"
And I work in multiple mediums.
I'm a sculptor, I do illustration.
My background was, of course,
I wanted to get into visual effects
when I was younger.
I was desperate to work
for a creature shop for Hollywood.
So that involved learning all these different disciplines,
such as illustration, design, sculpting, model-making,
all of these kind of things.
So it's kind of one of those...
those processes where you become someone
who wears many hats.
I have two areas that I focus in on the most right now,
which is doing illustration work,
and that's usually my bread and butter--
kind of a lot of fun doing poster work
and, and things along those lines.
But then the other one is, of course, sculptural stuff.
My teacher asked me
what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I said, "Oh, I want to be a book illustrator."
And then my interests shifted
away from doing two-dimensional work
and working in three-dimensional work.
Sometimes I don't have a clue what I'm going to do,
other times I have a vague idea.
And then there are the moments where, yes,
you know exactly what you want to do,
what you want to create,
but you often find out that--
especially if you're working with found objects, like I do--
that the objects will dictate what you're going to make.
It's a very organic process.
You pick something up,
and then you look at it in different angles,
and you can suddenly see,
"Well, wait a second, this should be
part of a headset for a character,"
or, "This should be a piston."
Or maybe, "This will be a part of a laser rifle," I don't know.
There've been times, too,
when I've started working on a project,
and midway through, I'm, like,
"Oh, this is going to be horrible, this isn't working,"
and then suddenly, I'm done with it,
and I'll look at it and I'm, like, "Oh, I love this.
This is... this turned out better than I thought it would."
I started out with wanting to get into animation,
and then it turned into, "Well, wait a second--
"I can actually build these things
"that will be real creatures
I love practical effects.
I still love puppets
and sculptures and miniature landscapes and models
and all that kind of stuff,
and that's why I kind of became obsessed with making it.
You know, I could probably focus in
on figure sculpture and other kinds of things,
but this is a lot more fun.
>> BOWEN: In Detroit, artist Lauren Semivan
uses a camera that dates back to the Model T era
to take her photographs.
And her techniques for developing
are equally vintage.
>> The photographer Jeff Wahl talks about photographers
as being either hunters or gatherers,
and I definitely identify with the gatherer
rather than the hunter.
The large-format view camera that I use
dates from the early 20th century.
And it's a very simple kind of primitive camera, which...
It's basically a box with a lens
and a ground glass on the other end.
So I have a large piece of black velvet
that I use as a dark cloth to block out the light
so that I can see the image that I'm photographing.
And the camera takes 8 x 10 negatives.
So the negative is much larger
than, say, a 35-millimeter or even medium-format negative.
And so as a result, there's much more capacity for detail.
Often what I'm looking for as I'm photographing
is a way to kind of suspend time itself,
or be able to say something that can't be said
without the film and the act of photographing.
Sometimes I will start with an idea based on literature,
and then the composition evolves from there.
All my photographs are made in the same studio,
and they're incorporating painting and drawing
and found objects, and sometimes the figure as a narrative tool.
The set sort of evolves until it sort of devolves
into the next picture.
And so I kind of, I really enjoy how the process
is this continuous organic moment
from one image to the next.
This is an example of a set
that was really pretty precariously constructed.
So these are individual little sticks
that were kind of pressed into the backdrop
against the tulle fabric.
I kind of enjoyed the element of,
it could all fall apart at any moment.
As I'm working,
my concept of time is a little bit different
in that everything is much slower-pace,
and there's a really intense kind of element of composition
in working with the large-format camera.
You can sort of go under this black cloth
and then see what you're photographing
upside down and backwards,
so it's sort of transposed, in a way,
and removed from reality even further.
So that always really interested in me
that I was sort of creating
a totally new space that didn't exist in reality
and that could only exist through the camera.
And then that the finished product is not something
that is really visible,
or even I'm conscious of what's going to happen
until I can see the final print or the, the negative.
I have two sizes; one is 40 x 50.
That size is quite large,
and it's almost a one-to-one-scale relationship
with the viewer.
And then the other way that I work
is by contact-printing the 8 x 10 negative
to make a cyanotype.
So the cyanotypes are made on basically a watercolor paper,
and the emulsion is a mixture
of two different light-sensitive chemicals.
So I mix them together,
and then you hand-coat the paper with the emulsion,
and then you allow the paper to dry
in the total darkness.
When the paper's dry,
you can print the negative directly
in contact with the paper in the sunlight.
You leave the print in the sun for your exposure
and then you can wash it in water,
and then you have your cyanotype.
The show that I recently had at David Klein Gallery
was titledDoor Into the Dark.
And to me, this idea is more about the creative process
as a pursuit of the unknown.
The creative process is something
that kind of connects people through time and space.
And also, I think that as we're...
as artists are making things,
we don't necessarily always know what we're doing
or what we're looking for,
but we feel the need to keep, to create the thing--
you know, to keep making it.
So I feel the process is sort of the door into the dark.
The painter Pierre Soulages talks about his black paintings
as being more just representative
of the forms that are in the paintings
rather than about other ideas.
Or, you know, they're non-representational,
so they really can't be described in language.
And I think a lot of art is that way,
and that's the strength of art,
is that we can't necessarily always explain or identify
what may be happening when we look at a painting
or any kind of image.
So I would say that I hope that my viewer is able
to kind of enter the photograph and have questions
and things to think about,
and want to be in that space,
but maybe not necessarily have a way out of the space,
so that they can feel,
relate to it enough to sort of understand,
but then maybe their questions are what keep them there
or keep them looking at the piece.
Maybe some people are more comfortable
knowing the answers,
and others are comfortable
with not understanding exactly what is happening
but being engaged in it at the same time.
>> BOWEN: And that is all for this edition ofOpen Studio.
We are off for the next couple of weeks.
But, as always, you can catch my latest art news and reviews
on the radio every Wednesday
with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan onBoston Public Radio,
and every Thursday onMorning Edition with Joe Mathieu.
That's all on 89.7, Boston's local NPR.
We'll be back June 21, speaking with actress Chloe Sevigny
about her new film The Dead Don't Die.
Until then, I'm Jared Bowen.
Thanks for joining us.
And as always, you can visit us online at WGBH.org/OpenStudio.
And you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter,
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