Prolific Faculty Cuts Loose

By Alexandra Kukulka

“When I am working in the field” is a statement that many Columbia students hear in their classrooms while teachers draw on their professional experiences. Many students would view having a professor who is still actively working in the field as beneficial.

As reported by The Chronicle on Nov. 7, most faculty members have not received salary raises this year, which some say has caused a decrease in morale.

Never-the-less, faculty continue to achieve national success in books, exhibits, film, performances and music year by  year.

“There is no question that there is a link between how active a person is in his or her profession and his or her work in the classroom,” said Deborah Holdstein, dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “I think [faculty] inspire our students, and they inspire other faculty members.”

“Historic Diaries” is a recently published book written by Anthony Trigilio, professor in the English Department. The book used the diary of the alleged John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald to explore the myths of the Kennedy assassination through poetry.

“The [assassin’s] diary is in the public domain,” Trigilio said. “I worked with the diary, and I did a couple years of research, [which included] interviewing people for the book. It’s an investigation into the psychology of Oswald through his diary.”

David Trinidad, an associate professor in the English Department, “Dear Prudence,”  a collection of his published poetry from the ‘70s to the present. Trinidad has been touring and doing readings in New York, Iowa City and Maine.

“[My publisher] gave me two years, and I wrote a new book in that time to go with my selected [work],” Trinidad said. “It took me a year and a half, but I wrote 40 new poems.”

In the Art and Design Department, Professor Adam Brooks and adjunct faculty member Mathew Wilson collaborate as “Industry of the Ordinary,” installing a mural in the Wicker Park and Bucktown area.

Brooks and Wilson were commissioned to do “History as Idea,” a permanent public work for the Nebraska State Historical Society’s headquarters building in Lincoln, Neb. The project has received national attention as an alternative method of looking at history, Brooks said.

As a curator, Fo Wilson, a faculty member in the Art and Design Department, was in charge of a show that deals with the intersection of craft with new technology. The show has been traveling around the country and is currently in the Ashville Museum of Art in North Carolina and will later travel to Arkansas.

Similarly, Ron Falzone, associate professor in the Film and Video Department, produced and wrote a film called “Typing” that he co-created with two other faculty members. The film made for Zaxie Films is about two screenwriters in 1939 who have been given an impossible job to write a screenplay about sex, adventure and a dog for a blind man. “Typing” has been shown at many festivals around the country.

According to Falzone, he promised himself there were three things he would never write about: Mafia comedies, stereotypes and Hollywood. Falzone ended up writing a script he fell in love with called “Safe and Affordable,” which is a Mafia comedy about stereotypes. After writing the first draft, he realized that he had broken two of his rules, Falzone said.

“I gave myself two hours to write a 10-page script,” he said. “It’s an exercise I do for myself. I decided what I would [do] first off, [to] violate the third rule, was I would write about Hollywood.”

Julian Grant, another film and video faculty member, has a film that is in postproduction called “Roundabout American,” a comedy about a French chef who has a fondness for America and the American Dream. It was filmed in Chicago and will be ready for screening in 2012.

As for the Theatre Department, Assistant Professor Heather Gilbert is a lighting designer. She is currently working on the production of “The Caretaker,” in which bare light bulbs and daylight are used to set the mood of the play. Gilbert also worked on the lighting for a play called “The Better Half,” in which she created paths of light and geometric shapes.

On the other hand, theatre faculty member Jackie Penared designed the scenery for two plays: “The Last Act of Lilka Kadison,” which is about an 80-year-old Polish woman who is remembering what happened to her in World War II, and “The Importance of Being Earnest,” which is about young men being foolish, Penared said. Both were nominated for a Jefferson award.

In the Music Department, Professor Marcos Balter recently received a FROMM Foundation Commission Award, which is hosted by Harvard University. These are international composition prizes that are awarded to composers from around the world, Balter said. He has also received the Civipella Ranieri fellowship, which will give him the opportunity to go to Italy for six weeks to compose.

Balter also said he has a solo concert coming up in December with the International Contemporary Ensemble playing his compositions.

Faculty member Sebastian Huydts has recently composed a set of piano studies. In the last year, he has written three works for viola and piano, which were performed for a radio series.  He currently is the pianist for the music group Cube. Huydts is also working on publishing a book about music for woodwinds and piano.

According to Jay Wolke, Art and Design Department chair, there are so many accomplished faculty that it is hard to single out a few.

“I think [Columbia] is just a very inspirational and enriching environment when we have so many exciting accomplished people to learn from,” Holdstein said.