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ASU lecturer says new book of poetry 'traces the arc of an implosion'

Patricia Murphy will read from "Hemming Flames" at Changing Hands Bookstore.
Pulitzer-winning reviewer calls poetry collection "wonderfully disturbing."
August 31, 2016

Patricia Murphy's 'Hemming Flames' collects 20 years of work, draws from turbulent youth

Poet Patricia Murphy writes that she was 17 when her mother set herself on fire.

It was the summer of 1998, Murphy says, when her mother pulled her car to the side of the road, doused herself in gasoline and lit a match. She was saved by an off-duty police officer who spotted her and pulled her from the car. Doctors had to perform skin grafts on nearly a quarter of her body.

Soul-shaking moments such as this are peppered throughout Murphy’s first collection, “Hemming Flames.” Murphy, a principal lecturer in Arizona State University’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, will read selections from her newly published book at 7 p.m. Thursday at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe.  

“It’s a book about a suburban family and traces the arc of an implosion,” said Murphy, founding editor of Superstition Review, ASU’s online literary magazine. “Our family life went way beyond dysfunction. It was an implosion.”

The collection marks a culmination of 20 years of work for Murphy, who is writing publicly about her family. Her handling of the subject matter stood out, said Pulitzer winner Stephen Dunn.

“Here was someone whose artfulness transcended what otherwise could merely be confessional,” he said. “I never felt the motive behind it was therapeutic. Patricia Murphy is a maker of poems.”

Dunn selected “Hemming Flames” as the winner of the 2016 May Swenson Poetry Award, presented by Utah State University Press, which published the book this summer. Dunn, in a statement, called the book “wonderfully disturbing” and said the title comes from the collection’s final two lines, “Yesterday I invented fire / today I’m hemming flames.”

Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy, founding editor of Superstition Review, ASU’s online literary magazine, says her book of poetry, "Hemming Flames" is "about a suburban family and traces the arc of an implosion.” Photos by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Murphy said the work draws heavily on her turbulent youth and that it includes stories about her mother, describing her as a suicidal diagnosed schizophrenic who refused medication because she “loved the feeling of being manic.”

There were countless bizarre episodes, Murphy said, explaining that her mother had been hospitalized in more than 30 psychiatric wards and institutions in six countries.

In one instance, Murphy said, her mother made an impulsive trip to Russia, where she renounced her U.S. citizenship and attempted to emigrate as a communist. Her mother ended up spending a year and a half in a mental hospital where she was underfed and abused, Murphy said, adding that six of her mother’s teeth had been pulled and that she left the institution weighing just 95 pounds.

“Reading the work, you understand immediately that writing these poems required enormous bravery and deep emotional anguish,” said Maureen Roen, editorial and communications coordinator for the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. Murphy “really put it out there for all to see.”

Arizona’s inaugural poet laureate Alberto Rios called the work “searing reports from the far side of the human dimension.”

Patricia Murphy said her mother’s later years were lucid and drama-free. She moved to Las Vegas, took her medicine and maintained a job.  

Before her mother died, Murphy said, “we had a conversation, and I felt like she really listened when I told her what it was like for the rest of us. And she said to me, ‘I did the best that I could.’”

“I think about that a lot,” Murphy said. “It took everything she had to say it.” 

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU-led researchers uncover ancient Catholic texts

Rituals, devotional images could expand knowledge of women's religious lives.
Books uncovered in German monastery complex from 11th century.
Monastery to be closed; fate of the ancient library unclear.
August 25, 2016

Group seeks protection of dozens of books that could reshape modern understanding of Middle Ages, nuns' spiritual lives

An Arizona State University-led international research team is advocating for the protection of a newly uncovered trove of centuries-old Catholic texts that could greatly contribute to the world's collection of art and music from the Middle Ages.

The team discovered the previously unknown manuscripts, which date back to the 15th century, on the final stop of a tour of German monasteries late last year. The books include volumes adorned with gold leaf, and detail ancient rituals and devotional images that promise to expand what researchers can say about spiritual life for medieval women.

Professor Corine Schleif, who studies art history at ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, called the find at a monastery northwest of Munich “a sensational discovery.”

“I never expected in my lifetime to find this amount of unknown material,” she said.

Schleif and her colleagues immediately volunteered to catalog and digitize the collection, saying some of the books uniquely show how images and symbols were adopted by nuns of the Brigittine Order — the only group to compose liturgy for medieval women.

At the outset of conservation work in December, however, it was announced that the monastery was being permanently closed because few nuns remained there. The statement leaves the fate of the ancient library unclear and cuts off access for researchers.

“We hope,” Schleif said, “that by making the existence of this rare treasure known to the scholarly community and to the public at large, efforts will be made to continue the collection as an ensemble, to take any and all necessary measures to maintain and preserve the books and to ensure that the works are safe and accessible by placing them in an appropriate institutional library.”

Ideally, that would include digitizing the library’s most important books so they could be accessed anywhere — an undertaking Schleif and ASU visiting faculty Volker Schier, a musicologist working in the Institute for Humanities Research, completed with their earlier project “Opening the Geese Book,” a multisensory work for researchers, students and broader audiences to explore an illustrated, two-volume liturgical manuscript from 1510.

This time, they hope to build an immersive, virtual-reality platform called “Extraordinary Sensescapes” to provide insight into questions about the music, art, history, architecture and practices of the Brigittine nuns. Plans include a 3-D virtual model of a prototypical church and acoustic renditions of sounds in the space.

The team, also guided by Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) postdoctoral researcher Karin Strinnholm Lagergren, uncovered the texts after being invited into the library at Birgittenkloster Altomünster, a vast 11th-century monastic complex for the Catholic order of Benedictine Sisters and later occupied by nuns from the Brigittine Order. The complex is the oldest continuously inhabited community of its kind, as many such monasteries were dissolved following the Protestant Reformation, destroyed in central Europe’s Thirty Years’ War or shuttered during the early 19th-century secularization of Germany.

The invitation came as a surprise, since the collection had been traditionally off-limits to visitors.

With the monastery shuttered, there is concern that the dozens of books could be sold to private dealers. However, representatives from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, the state library of Bavaria and one of the largest in the world, plan to investigate each object to determine if it can be claimed by Germany and brought to the library's special collections.


Top image: Shelves with manuscripts in the library of the Brigittine monastery at Altomünster, Germany. Courtesy of Eva Lindqvist Sandgren.

Beth Giudicessi

Director , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


Learning from the masters: Visiting artists come to ASU Herberger Institute

Herberger Institute's 2016-2017 season underway, features opportunities to learn from visiting artists

August 24, 2016

Arizona State University music professor Carole FitzPatrick remembers when it all clicked.

She was a grad student when she heard a professional opera singer express her style, command and passion — up close. Alexandra Ncube master class ASU alumna Alexandra Ncube, star of the Broadway hit “The Book of Mormon,” talks to students during a master class last year. Photo by Tim Trumble. Download Full Image

“It was a life-changing experience — a recital of incredible beauty, elegance and joy and utterly compelling,” she said.

Today, FitzPatrick, as an associate professor of voice for the ASU School of Music in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, is providing the opportunity for her students to have a similarly transformative experience by bringing mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade to ASU next month for a master class.

Von Stade’s scheduled appearance signals the arrival of a new season of cultural events from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. It marks the continuance of an emerging tradition that allows students, faculty and the general public to work closely with professionals from various creative disciplines as part of master classes and workshops lead by industry professionals and short-term artist residencies, which all dovetail with the Herberger Institute’s cultural offerings: concerts; plays and readings; design and art exhibitions; lectures and workshops; dance performances and musical theatre.   

“A key part of our mission at the ASU Herberger Institute is ensuring that our students engage with successful working artists and designers who can serve as shining examples of what a life in design and the arts can look like,” said Steven J. Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “It’s one thing to watch a singer onstage or to see a video in a museum. It’s another thing entirely to have the opportunity to interact with professional artists and designers and learn from them about how and why they do what they do. That interaction can provide the impetus for a truly rewarding career in the arts.”

Von Stade’s interaction includes students selected by audition to sing for her and receive vocal-technical and stylistic advice. Also, the class will be open to the community to watch.

“For our students to get to work with — or even watch someone else work with — this amazing artist is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” FitzPatrick said. “They'll never forget it.”

Estrella Peyton, who runs the International Artist Residency program at the Herberger Institute’s ASU Art Museum, was a graduate student in the ASU School of Art last year. She says that as a student, she had “direct access to amazing, world-renowned artists” through the residency. She was able to see professional projects realized even as a student and had access to the artists “in such a natural way. It’s such an organic experience that will probably take years to really sink in, how important these interactions have been.”

This fall, dance students will have the opportunity to work with award-winning choreographer Kyle Abraham. He will teach master classes and engage in a residency with the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre that will involve remounting one of his previous pieces with the students.  

Abraham, a MacArthur “genius grant” recipient, “is a superstar in the dance world,” said Mary Fitzgerald, assistant director and associate professor for the School of Film, Dance and Theatre. “Stylistically, he fuses postmodern dance with urban styles.”

Abraham’s work will extend beyond the classroom when he returns in the spring for ASU Gammage’s BEYOND series, which offers additional access to visiting artists.

Artists involved in the BEYOND series do work both on- and off-campus, said Michael Reed, senior director of programs and organizational initiatives at ASU Gammage.

“We’re able to bring something to the table for students that is very much of the professional working world so that it becomes a very real part of their experience at ASU,” he said.

In Abraham’s case, his company Abraham.In.Motion will perform a new dance work based on the meaning of love and loss across multiple communities and perspectives. Ahead of the ASU Gammage performance in April, he will interview people in the community about what love means to them and incorporate their perspectives into the piece.

Other artists visiting ASU as part of the Herberger Institute’s 2016-2017 season include the Ying Quartet, the New York-based theatre company 600 Highwaymen and urban dance artist Teena Marie Custer.

These opportunities are just one facet of the season. Students take what they learn from the artists and put it into their own performances and art work that is part of every season. This year, they’ll be performing operas such as “The Magic Flute,” acting in the student-written play “Haboob,” presenting personal dance pieces, mounting exhibitions, premiering short films and participating in choral concerts. Eventually, some students return to ASU as visiting artists themselves.

Last year, one of the most popular master classes was taught by Alexandra Ncube, star of the Broadway hit “The Book of Mormon.” Ncube, who graduated from ASU with a degree in theatre, made sure to carve out time to work with students when she was in Tempe touring at ASU Gammage.

“During the master class, she laid out the unique path she took to pursue performing, and reinforced the idea within each of us that our dreams were absolutely possible,” said Erin Kong, a sophomore studying musical theatre. “Pursuing any career in the arts is often deemed unrealistic, yet the master class with Alexandra proved the very opposite. Our dreams were realistic – she was living proof.”

To find a listing of the Herberger Institute’s season events, which include many free events, and to buy tickets, visit

For more information on ASU Gammage’s BEYOND series, visit

Sarah A. McCarty

Communications and marketing coordinator, School and Film, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


ASU students to premiere plays during ASU MainStage season

August 10, 2016

The ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre has officially announced its 2016-17 MainStage season, which features two world-premieres of plays created by Arizona State University students as well as five dance concerts, two film screenings and theatre productions featuring boats, food and a strange creature.

The annual "Fall Forward!" dance concert kicks off the MainStage season, the official performing arts season of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, at the end of September. The concert features new works by ASU faculty and guests. The ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre's 2016-17 MainStage season Download Full Image

The first theater production of the season is new work written by the MFA theater cohort and directed by Kyra Jackson, Wyatt Kent and Phil Weaver-Stoesz. “Out of Many” examines what it means to call people “American” and how to find unity in a nation divided. This play features stories, images and ideas torn from the American zeitgeist.

Horror comedy “Feathers and Teeth,” which features a mysterious creature, will premiere just in time for Halloween, followed by the Emerging Artists dance series and the Fall Film Capstone Showcase.

In the spring, BFA dance candidates will present diverse pieces in two separate evenings of Transitions Projects.

The theater season will return to Shakespeare for the first time in a decade with “Titus Andronicus.” Director Kristin Hunt will use food to help tell this tale of revenge, betrayal, violence and one very disturbing pie.

In March, audiences will take a trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with “Men on Boats.” Playwright Jaclyn Backhaus retells the raucous adventure of Captain John Wesely Powell and his crew’s expedition. “Men on Boats” features 13 male characters, none of which are played by cisgender male actors. 

The last theater production of the season features another piece written by a student. MFA playwright Marvin González De León’s “Haboob” is a work of magical realism that follows its characters into the desert as they hunt for and fight over a buried inheritance.

The annual “SpringDanceFest” concert will highlight some of the best hits of the dance season alongside new work, and the Spring Film Capstone Showcase will close out the MainStage season with screenings of work by senior film students.

For more information on each event and to purchase tickets, visit or

Sarah A. McCarty

Communications and marketing coordinator, School and Film, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


The Northlight Gallery presents Louis Carlos Bernal: Barrios

August 9, 2016

The ASU School of Art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts presents the work of Louis Carlos Bernal.

The ASU School of Art in the Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts presents Louis Carlos Bernal: Barrios, Sept. 14 – Oct. 23 at the Northlight Gallery on the ASU Tempe campus. Albert y Lynn Morales, Silver City, New Mexico, 1978. See this work and others by Louis Carlos Bernal from Sept. 14 – Oct. 23 at the Northlight Gallery on the ASU Tempe campus. Photo by Louis Carlos Bernal Download Full Image

In Barrios Bernal portrays common Latino cultural events including “quinceañeras” and religious traditions, revealing the intimate lives of American Chicanos in the barrios of Tucson, Texas and New Mexico. The Louis Carlos Bernal: Barrios retrospective was organized after his death in 1993. Prior to his death, Bernal gained international recognition as a photographer who captured the essence of Mexican-American life. Formally a teacher at Pima Community College (PCC) in Tucson, Ariz., Bernal influenced a generation of young photographers. In 2002, PCC dedicated the Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery to honor his contribution to the college and the community.

The Louis Carlos Bernal: Barrios retrospective is the first exhibition in a series that features the work of artists focusing their attention on the communities and desert regions of the American Southwest and Mexico. The artists’ images contribute to a continuing exchange, rich with blended cultural traditions, where in recent months social struggle and political wrangling have sparked the attention of the international community.

To learn more about upcoming Northlight Gallery exhibitions, visit:

The Northlight Gallery is located in room 101 in Matthews Hall on the southeast corner of Tyler and Forest Malls on the ASU Tempe campus.

Northlight Gallery hours: Tuesday: 12:30 - 8:30 p.m.; Wednesday - Saturday: 12:30 - 4:30 p.m.; Closed: Sundays, Mondays, major holidays and summer session.

Exhibition: Sept. 14 – Oct. 23
Opening Public Reception: Sept. 14, 6 – 8:30 p.m.

All activities are free and open to the public.

Public Contact
Liz Allen
ASU School of Art
Northlight Gallery director

The School of Art is a division of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University. Its printmaking, photography and art education programs are nationally ranked in the top 10, and its Master of Fine Arts program is ranked eighth among public institutions by U.S.News & World Report. The school includes four student galleries for solo and group shows by graduate and undergraduate art and photography students: Gallery 100, Harry Wood, Northlight and Step. To learn more about the School of Art, visit

Media Contact:
Liz Allen
ASU School of Art
Northlight Gallery director


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Stroke of genius: Solving problems with artistic flair

100&Change competition from MacArthur Foundation addresses critical problem.
Foundation behind 'genius grants' to award $100 million to winning idea.
August 2, 2016

Steven Tepper, dean of ASU's Herberger Institute for Design and Arts, joins judges panel of influential philanthropic competition

For years, Steven J. Tepper has advanced the notion that artists can change the world as profoundly as scientists or engineers.

So when he learned the MacArthur Foundation had plans to award a whopping $100 million grant to help solve “a critical problem affecting people, places or the planet,” he wanted to be sure artists and designers were engaged in a meaningful way — as judges, project team leaders and collaborators. He wrote to colleagues at MacArthur, to deans and researchers across ASU and to arts leaders across the U.S.

Now, Tepper, dean of Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and Arts, has been appointed to the panel of judges who will decide which organization will win the 100&Change competition. Tepper’s addition underscores the value of his work to make sure artists and designers are viewed as critical partners in a range of fields. 

“Artists and designers have a way of asking questions, expanding our imagination and exploring opportunities,” Tepper said recently. “Their ideas and methods provide a powerful lens to address critical issues facing our communities, and they should be fully integrated into public life rather than seen as extra or special or something apart from everyday life.”

Dean Steven Tepper

Steven J. Tepper, dean of Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts. Photos by Charlie Leight/ASU Now


Under his guidance, the concept of art as a change agent has helped trigger more than $1 million in donations to Herberger Institute initiatives this year, and school staffers are working on plans that include an art-and-design project to address sexual violence, a mission to activate hundreds of students every year to work with community partners to improve greater Phoenix and a suite of plans — collectively called “Projecting All Voices” — to get more minorities and first-generation students into arts-and-entertainment careers.

“Projecting All Voices,” which includes scholarships, mentoring, fellowships, internships and guest artist residencies, helps address the frustration that triggered the grassroots social media campaign #OscarsSoWhite, which mocked the lack of diversity in Hollywood, said Jake Pinholster, Herberger Institute associate dean for policy and initiatives. Similar issues of representation, he said, show up across many areas of arts and entertainment, including fine arts, classical music and architecture. 

“There's a breath between graduation and first opportunity,” Pinholster said, explaining that in the time it takes to land a decent job, graduates from underrepresented communities often leave the their field to secure a more immediate steady paycheck.

“We need to give them that first opportunity," Pinholster said. He added, “Our goal is to create a pipeline — and an expansive and deep reservoir at the end of that pipeline.”

Pinholster also highlighted a series of other projects that have already begun to reshape greater Phoenix. He mentioned mural projects that grew from “respect and bi-directional communication,” rather than directives from outsiders; a musical concert series that turns empty lots into community gathering spaces; and efforts to plant sunflowers in blighted areas as reminders of hope and sources of bio-fuel.

The work, Pinholster said, reflects the “credibility and excitement” that Tepper generates by helping neighborhoods reshape themselves through art. The approach helps “communities see benefit without negatives of gentrification or imposition,” he said.

Tepper’s involvement in 100&Change means his views on art’s usefulness and utility will expand to an organization that has said it’s seeking to solve “society’s most pressing problems.”

Competition organizers said they will consider proposals from any organization from around the world. The work could address any issue from any field of interest. Hundreds of submissions are expected and the field of judges, which now includes Tepper, will start narrowing the field this fall.

Herberger Institute professor Liz Lerman, a choreographer and author, has a unique perspective. She won one of the MacArthur Foundation’s “genius grants” in 2002, and Tepper recruited her to ASU this year. She believes in his vision.

“Steven has a deep awareness of the value of art making and art makers to problem-solve,” Lerman said, adding that artists “help us see ourselves in new ways.”

Pinholster raised a similar point, using sustainability as an example. “We have the data and technology” to solve the problems, but the issues persist, he said.

Artists, Pinholster said, can “change the cultural narrative, get people to believe in a different story and change collective decision making.”

Art, he added, can get people to “think more about 10,000 years, not just five years.”  

Tepper is optimistic about the competition’s potential to create “human-centered solutions.” Contributors from his field, he said, could “perhaps make some analogical connection that moves us past whatever our existing approaches have been. And that’s the way artists and designers think.”

He acknowledges that the MacArthur Foundation is taking a gamble, but he said it’s worth it.

“It’s riskier to give out a single, large grant of this size,” he said, “but imagine if we’re truly able to see a transformative outcome.”



Reporter , ASU Now


ASU Gammage BEYOND announces 2016-2017 season

Free post performance after-party with ticket purchase

July 21, 2016

ASU Gammage BEYOND has announced its 2016-2017 performance season, including five different performances with topics that cover PTSD, the environment and race in America, time passage, why we go to school and the power of love and loving.

The BEYOND performance series brings world-class artists into the community who immerse themselves by not only presenting evocative and compelling work, but also by connecting to local residents through engaging cultural participation programs.  A Contra Tiempo dancer ASU Gammage BEYOND has announced its 2016-2017 performance season. Download Full Image

For most shows, ticket holders will also be invited to a post-performance after-party with the artists.

“This special access to artists is something many patrons won’t experience anywhere else throughout an entire series,” said Michael Reed, ASU Gammage senior director of Programming and Organizational Initiatives. “Through BEYOND, our audiences have experienced hundreds of unique community and educational interactions as well as remarkable performances by some of the greatest dance, music and theater artists of our time.”

Tickets are on sale now, available at and

• General admission: $20

• ASU faculty and staff: $15

• Students and military: $10


ASU Gammage BEYOND 2016-2017 season:

"Speed Killed My Cousin" 
7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15, ASU Gammage

The Carpetbag Theatre brings us the acclaimed production of "Speed Killed My Cousin," a moving story of a young, African-American woman veteran of the Iraq War and her struggle with "Moral Injury," Post Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) and Military Sexual Trauma (MST). A third generation soldier, the central character courts death by vehicular suicide. "Speed" explores multiple issues related to war, including the history and otherness of African Americans in the military and the experiences of women in combat. Memories and flashbacks unfold before her, and in her rear-view mirror, as she drives. Ultimately she must decide whether to let go of the wheel or to choose life.

The Carpetbag Theatre tells our human story with courage and unfailing integrity. Telling deeply moving stories of communities of color for over two decades has been the calling card of this award winning theater gem from Tennessee. We are very proud to host Carpetbag Theater for their Arizona debut and powerful depiction of issues faced by our deployed military personnel.

"Agua Furiosa / Contra Tiempo"
7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 12, ASU Gammage

"Aqua Furiosa" Los Angeles-based "Contra Tiempo's" newest evening length dance/theater work, is a burst of energy, passion and physical expression that draws audiences in to confront realities of race in our country. Inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Oya, the Afro-Cuban deity of wind and storms, artistic director and choreographer Ana Maria Alvarez, harnesses her unique Urban-Latin movement approach to create a visually stunning and thought provoking evening of dance performance. "Aqua Furiosa" merges call and response, a live vocalist, water themes, fierce physicality and the performers’ own personal narratives. Audiences will walk away from "Aqua Furiosa" impacted, entertained and inspired to join the complex and transforming conversation of race in America.

Ana Maria Alverez and the artists of "Contra Tiemop" are a breath of fresh air on the international dance scene, integrating vibrant expression of Latina/o culture, the complexities of contemporary America and passionate, nuanced dance artistry in a signature language all their own.

"Aging Magician" / Rinde Rinde Eckert Paola Prestini
7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, ASU Galvin Playhouse

"Aging Magician" is a new music-theatre work, a composite of sonic and visual elements that paints an allegory on time, youth, and the peculiar magic of ordinary life, and, perhaps, the ordinary magic of a peculiar life. Accompanied by a string quartet and a choir of young people, "Aging Magician" moves us along with Harold, from the surgical repair of a timepiece to the magic show of time itself, lives and deaths, appearances and disappearances. The man’s vibrant last adventure is brought to life by a team of multidisciplinary artists who combine music, theatre, puppetry, instrument making and scenic design to create an enduring work for the stage. This work features vocalist Rinde Eckert, a musical set by Mark Stewart and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and string quartet.

Rarely do artists of Rinde Eckert, Paola Prestini and director Julian Crouch’s caliber and imaginations collaborate. The result in "Aging Magician" is a richly layered, surreal and transporting multi media musical meditation on life and the passing of time not to be missed.

"It's So Learning" / The Berseker Residents
7 p.m., Saturday, March 4, 2017, ASU Gammage

"It's So Learning" is the seventh show from the comedic trio, The Berserker Residents. The show will push and pull you down a crazy, twisting, hilarious and terrifying path of self-reflection that asks the question, “Why do we go to school?” In "It's So Learning," you’ll be handed a backpack full of the supplies you need to survive inside the classroom; you’ll be hauled through the quizzes, grades, bullies, praises, graded again and hopefully you’ll graduate. Don’t be tardy as a faculty of eccentrics is taking attendance. Prepare for anything in this interactive classroom experience.

If off the beaten path is where you like to go and ironic, brilliant and just plain wacky humor is your thing, The Berserker Residents are a can’t miss experience. "It's So Learning" will take you on a hilarious, awkward and insightful trip through the familiar absurdities called adolescence and public school.

"Dearest Home" / Kyle Abraham / Abraham.In.Motion
7 p.m., Saturday, April 1, 2017, ASU Gammage

MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship awardee, choreographer and dance artist Kyle Abraham comes to ASU Gammage for the first time with "Dearest Home" (working title), an interactive dance focused on Love and Loving.  Abraham’s beautiful, visceral, and unique signature choreography is alive and well in this moving and lush set of mostly solos and duets generated in conversation and collaboration with people of many ages and subcultures. "Dearest Home" interweaves movement, in its most vulnerable or intimate state with an interest in cross-cultural conversation and community action to create an open dialogue on how different demographics view and converse on topics rooted in love and the absence of love.

Kyle Abraham is simply one of the most compelling artists creating dance works today. His rare gift lies in the ability to be completely relevant, exciting and moving through the language of dance ... a movement poet, a visceral social commentator ... for any audience. He is changing the idea of what dance performance is and can be for people from all walks of life.

Public relations manager, ASU Gammage


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"Towers Falling" comes ahead of 15th anniversary of 9/11 terror attacks.
Author hopes book will guide conversations with young people about the tragedy.
July 8, 2016

ASU professor Jewell Parker Rhodes writes children's novel about terror attacks of 9/11

Jewell Parker Rhodes writes children’s novels about tough subjects. The best-selling author had tackled slavery, the BP oil spill and Hurricane Katrina, but there was one challenge she hadn’t taken on: the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

It had been more than a decade since the tragedy when Rhodes got an idea for a 9/11 story that she said “stayed in my soul.” 

Jewell Parker Rhodes

Her initial reaction, and early advice from family and friends, had been to stay away. The topic seemed too raw, intense and emotional for young readers. But on a long flight, Rhodes said she began to feel a connection to the people on the hijacked planes and developed the story that would become her latest book, “Towers Falling.” 

Timed for the 15th anniversary of the attacks, the story for young readers takes a fictional fifth-grade class through lessons about one of the defining moments of modern history. Rhodes said she hopes “Towers Falling” can be a tool for educators and parents to guide discussions with children.

“Students are the citizens of tomorrow and need to be taught how 9/11 affected our world,” said Rhodes, artistic director of Arizona State University's Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and writing professor in the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

“We’re now seeing the impacts of terrorism and how it has become even more widespread since 9/11. Do we really want to wait 30 years from now to teach the people who are going to have to live with this?”

To get the book done, Rhodes had to sensitively introduce young readers to an attack that killed more than 3,000 people, including hundreds of police and firefighters, and triggered a massive counter-terror response from the U.S. government. She also had to craft a story that teachers could teach, something that conveyed both shocking devastation and the ultimate triumph of American resilience and ideals. She wanted to make the grim moment into a story that could inspire young people to become good citizens.


She said it came together when she was “cocooned on a 14-hour plane flight.”

“It was a midnight flight and everything was dark save for a reading light,” Rhodes said. “Being in that space and spiritually connecting with the people on those planes brought it into focus for me.”

A possible approach as well as the title popped inside her head. For Rhodes it was “a sign that I should try and write this book.”

Rhodes wanted input from fellow teachers, so she consulted the principal and other staffers at the Brooklyn New School, PS 146, who witnessed the two planes flying into the World Trade Center through their school windows. The educators said they were still traumatized by the crashes, which left the school coated in debris and ashes, and the sudden realization that family members and friends worked in the twin towers. Even years later, many still couldn’t discuss it with their students, some of whom asked, “What happened?” and “Where are those buildings?”

Rhodes also discovered through classroom visits around the country that lessons on 9/11 varied widely and that many teachers had avoided the topic altogether.

Part of the trepidation had to do with age: At what point is it appropriate for young people to learn about a troubled chapter of recent history?

“It depends,” said Amanda Vickery, assistant professor of elementary social studies at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

“It can be taught at the elementary level, but it has to be done in an age appropriate way that doesn’t focus on fear but teaches about bravery, citizenship, resilience and the human spirit,” she said.

Vickery said teachers aren’t eager to venture into such territory because they want to “preserve and protect the innocence of the child.”

In Arizona, current state social studies standards do not call specifically for lessons on 9/11 or contemporary terrorism. That doesn’t mean, however, it’s not being taught, said Kenneth De Masi, past president of the Arizona Council for the Social Studies.

“Many teachers are challenged in placing Sept. 11 in the context of world history,” said De Masi, who has taught social studies for the last four decades. “It is simply a question of when to do it, how to do it, for how long and who should do it? I know some people in our society that I would not want to be teaching my grandkids 9/11 or terrorism in general.”

That doesn’t appear to be the case with Rhodes, who has received widespread support for the project.

“Jewell is a very magical person, and she has the presence of an angel,” said Sid Reischer, a fifth-grade teacher at Castleton Elementary in upstate New York. Reisher received advance copies of “Towers Falling” from publisher Little, Brown Books as part of his yearlong study of 9/11. Reisher read it to his students in April while Rhodes participated through Skype.

The reading became “an avenue for students to have a conversation with their parents about 9/11 as part of their homework,” Reischer said. He said other student outcomes included a “feeling of connection to the country as a whole, a deep appreciation for first responders and what it means to be an American.”

Reischer said “Towers Falling” affected parents, many of whom had personal connections with people who died that day.

Towers Falling book cover

“For the kids to see the emotional impact it had on the parents was very valuable and an important piece,” Reischer said. “It showed that history is alive and well and is about people. We had very rich conversations about the subject for the next few days.”

Reischer’s study will culminate with a visit from Rhodes. She will travel to the 9/11 Memorial to meet with about 75 Castleton students on Sept. 9, to memorialize the attacks.

“The idea that Jewell will come and meet us there makes this a once-in-a-lifetime experience for these kids,” Reischer said. “When does an author do that? It’s amazing if this all comes off.”

“Towers Falling” is set for release Tuesday, July 12. 


Reporter , ASU Now


ASU School of Music welcomes Ying Quartet for 2016–17 visiting quartet residency program

June 27, 2016

Bringing concert music into everyday life is not always the focus of chamber music groups, but it is a priority of the fearlessly imaginative Ying Quartet, whose members have been performing together in diverse settings for two decades.

The ASU School of Music, in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, is lucky to have this renowned group come to ASU for the 2016-17 annual visiting quartet residency program. Each year, the innovative program hosts a major professional string quartet for three visits, and these top musicians serve as featured artists and teachers for students, integrating a comprehensive chamber music curriculum into the extensive training. The Ying Quartet, pictured, are the 2016-17 visiting string quartet in residence at ASU's School of Music. The Ying Quartet is the 2016-17 visiting string quartet in residence at ASU's School of Music. Download Full Image

“This will be the first time having the Ying Quartet in our residency,” said Jonathan Swartz, artistic director of the program and violin professor in the School of Music. “They are known for excelling in many of the things that distinguish our program — a commitment to communication, education, creation and performance of art relevant to our place and time, and impacting the community. They are an ideal quartet for our program, and our students are thrilled to get the opportunity to study with them.”

Thanks to their impressive qualifications and broad musical interests, the group performs regularly in world-renowned concert halls as well as more ordinary locales like workplaces, schools and even prisons. Their desire to explore the diverse possibilities of the string quartet and share it with others is what has led them to pursue such a range of experiences in which to showcase their art. This has helped truly set them apart in the chamber music world.

One of their primary ventures, an ongoing commissioning project called LifeMusic, was initiated to increase the string quartet repertoire. With support from the Institute for American Music, they commission emerging and established composers to write music that reflects contemporary American life and have accrued an impressive list of new titles.

“The second visit from the quartet will have the theme ‘Americana,’ to specifically bring into focus the Ying’s mission of commissioning works that represent different parts of America,” said Swartz. “We always try to tap into our visiting quartet’s interests and expertise, and this is one example.”

The School of Music’s quartet program is curriculum-based, with each visit from the quartet centering around a curricular project. Within a four-year window, four different quartets come to do a residency, with no repeats. There is a strong yearly continuity, thanks to multiple visits from the same quartet each year, yet during the typical duration of an undergraduate degree program, students are exposed to a variety of expertise by having a new quartet serve in residence each year. These features of the quartet program set it apart from similar offerings at other universities and help to ensure that School of Music string students receive the best possible training during their time at ASU.

Heather Beaman

Communications liaison, School of Music


Short-story contest finalists explore futures shaped by climate change

June 21, 2016

Speculative fiction stories have the power to take abstract, contentious policy debates about humans and their changing environment and turn them into gripping, visceral tales. The emerging literary genre of climate fiction — epitomized by novels like Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy and Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Water Knife” — helps to imagine possible futures shaped by climate change and to encourage more creative thinking about how humans might respond and adapt.

Arizona State University’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative is proud to announce the 12 finalists for its inaugural Climate Fiction Short Story Contest. These authors created unique and compelling visions of how humans might live in a future radically affected by climate change. A grand-prize winner will be selected from these finalists and announced in September. 2016 Arizona State University Climate Fiction Contest Download Full Image

The finalists are:

• Ashley Bevilacqua Anglin, “Acqua Alta”
• Kathryn Blume, “Wonder of the World”
• Kelly Cowley, “Shrinking Sinking Land”
• Stirling Davenport, “Masks”
• Adam Flynn and Andrew Dana Hudson, “Sunshine State”
• Diana Rose Harper, “Thirteenth Year”
• Henrietta Hartl, “LOSD and Fount”
• Matthew Henry, “Victor and the Fish”
• Shauna O’Meara, “On Darwin Tides”
• Lindsay Redifer, “Standing Still”
• Yakos Spiliotopoulos, “Into the Storm”
• Daniel Thron, “The Grandchild Paradox”

The finalists’ stories will be published in an anthology to be released in September in conjunction with the grand-prize winner announcement. The anthology will include a foreword from science fiction legend Kim Stanley Robinson, who served as a judge for the contest, and an interview with award-winning climate fiction author Paolo Bacigalupi. The grand-prize winner will receive $1000, and several runners-up will receive bundles of books signed by Bacigalupi.

The contest is the first public climate fiction endeavor hosted by the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative, which explores how imagination might shape our social, political and scientific responses to the challenge of climate change. It was co-sponsored by ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Council. The contest received more than 700 entries submitted by writers from 67 countries.

The stories consider the potential future ramifications of climate change for communities across the globe, from London and Madagascar to Venice, rural New England and the Florida Everglades. They engage with themes including artificial intelligence, DIY culture, human enhancement, wildfires and environmental insurgents overthrowing national governments.

All submissions were subject to multiple rounds of blind review by an editorial board that included experts on sustainability, conservation, geology, climate modeling and environmental history from ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, School of Life Sciences, School of Earth and Space Exploration, and Department of History, and experts in science fiction and creative writing from ASU’s Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and the Center for Science and the Imagination.

To learn more about the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative, visit

Joey Eschrich

program manager, Center for Science and the Imagination