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Exploring thought, the future and science going awry

"Frankenstein" is theme of Emerge 2017, which features edible skin exhibit.
"The future is for everyone," ASU Emerge director says.
February 23, 2017

Emerge: ASU's annual transmedia art, science and technology festival comes to Tempe campus Saturday

Two hundred years ago, Mary Shelley imagined a doctor who created a new life form using lightning and stolen body parts.

Today, Ali Schachtschneider grows — and wears — edible skin.

The New York-based artist works with bacteria that she adds to a culture that ferments over time. The bacteria in the culture is mixed in with a tea called kombucha, allowing it to feed off sugar to make tiny strands of cellulose. They float to the top and accumulate in a thick mat that Schachtschneider fashions into garments.

Schachtschneider’s work combines lab-based research and fashion design to create extensions of the body. In the future, you might grow your own clothes. Fashion might be more personal and interactive than it is now.

“It’s something you can work to understand now,” she said. “I think about what the futures of materials could be, and I like to think about that through hands-on lab work.”

Thinking, the future and science going awry are among the themes explored at Emerge, Arizona State University’s annual transmedia art, science and technology festival, coming this Saturday at the Tempe campus (details below).

The festival’s 2017 theme is "Frankenstein," a timeless novel that embodies the question of scientific responsibility and foresight. In the age of gene drives, with the theoretical potential to unleash new life forms into the natural world, it’s a story with timely resonance, said Emerge director Cynthia Selin.

“Frankenstein is one of the most enduring stories about technologies we produce and our responsibility and unintended consequences,” Selin said. “Two hundred years ago, it was thought about. What kind of inventions are we making, and how do we control them? Or not?”

Selin is an assistant professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and a social scientist who studies the future. She specializes in scenario planning.

“Scenarios are very much about storytelling,” she said. “In scenario planning, you treat the future as a set of different possibilities. Emerge is taking the art and science of foresight and taking them in totally different directions.”

The festival will feature dance performances, installations featuring experiments, films and exhibits such as Schachtschneider’s "Edibleskin." (No, she won’t be wearing it, and no, you won’t be allowed to eat it.)

All of the artists will be on site. “It’s not a normal pop-up exhibition where you go and look at something inert,” Selin said. “This is a lively and engaging experience.”

™ [Tomorrow’s Monster] will be a walk into an ASU lab in 2047, with the latest in artificial intelligence and robotics. The exhibit will include Hollywood props, including the Terminator’s head.

“It’s a way to dunk people into a future world, so they can ask questions about which technologies they might want to see and what technologies they might find problematic,” Selin said. “We’re trying to use art as a lens to look at technical innovation.”

Future applications of biotechnology will be envisioned at the festival.

"Stabilimentum" is a couture mask that filters air using live spiders and the electrostatic properties of their silk.

Fly Blimps is an installation consisting of helium-filled blimps whose movements are controlled by small collectives of houseflies.

“The flies exist in their own self-contained and self-sustaining worlds, collectively creating an amplified and exaggerated expression of group behavior,” the artist’s statement said.

Is it the responsibility of government or science to get ahead of emerging tech?

“With an event like Emerge, we want to make the case that it’s all of our responsibilities,” Selin said. “Emerge is an opportunity to include ordinary folks in the Valley but also faculty and students from all sorts of different departments around ASU to come in and play and experiment with the different installations we have lined up, to think about what are unintended consequences? What are the risks and benefits of these emerging technologies? Who decides which technologies are governed in which ways? … The future is for everyone. It’s not good enough to leave these questions to the experts.”

Details: Emerge 2017 will be held from 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, on the Tempe campus at the University Club and the Piper Lawn. 


Top photo courtesty of

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU Herberger studio gives students permission to dream

ASU art students given opportunity to innovate for the future.
February 23, 2017

Steven J. Tepper embraces the notion that building a better future starts with dreaming a better world; the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts dean also recognizes that visions require time and space.

To that end, Tepper and an array of partners created a special incubator for futurist thinking at Arizona State University that allowed design and art students to investigate, research, interview, brainstorm and prototype ideas about technology, philanthropy, education, training and business models.

It was exactly the result he was looking for.

“We need artists and designers who have passion and energy and ideas and want to shape the world,” Tepper said at a presentation conference marking the end of the six-week/three-credit collaboration between the Herberger Institute, Vermont’s Bennington College and the L.A.-based Center for Cultural Innovation that was funded in part by a $40,000 grant from the Ford Foundation. 

Tepper’s remarks kicked off two days of Studio for the Future of Arts and Culture charrettes, intense planning sessions where a lineup of students gave short presentations that sought to advance a radical idea for innovation in our culture — 50 years into the future.

In true Herberger Institute fashion, the discussions were wide-ranging and big-picture.

Bennington grad student Lauren Roshan said that in the future “art can truly save the life of a young black man or woman. The future of arts and culture does not alienate black artists and audiences from art.”

She said the conclusion came in part from her own experience as a black woman who found salvation through expression. 

ASU graduate student Mitch Miller, meanwhile, said that “in the future the need for public spaces will be greater than the need for intellectual spaces” because observing and interpreting the world is at the root of creating art.

“Nobody brought the word ‘no’ into the room, and that’s part of the idea,” said Bennington President Mariko Silver, who helped develop the partnership. “It’s also not about making each other feel good, but how the team, bringing all of our perspectives together, can solve the issue.”

The charrettes, included all 13 participants — nine ASU and four Bennington students — as well as representatives from the two universities and fellows from the Center for Cultural Innovation.

Quiroz discussion
Digital media junior Andrea Quiroz presents her vision the arts and culture in 50 years, at the Studio for the Future of Arts and Culture, in the ASU Art Museum, on Wednesday, Feb. 15. Quiroz sees the Art Delegate as a governmental attaché or translator for culture to facilitate mediation for both domestic and foreign issues. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

As part of the studio program, students traveled to California to participate in the Center for Cultural Innovation’s Future Arts Forward conference, meeting with 250 other young artists and art leaders to discuss whom the arts should serve and how the arts sector might shift to serve a changing America.

Cyndi Coon of Tempe-based Laboratory 5, a creative consultant for the university, designed the course.

“I wanted (students) to understand they had permission to embody new ideas and put them forth into the world,” she said.

“I designed the course so that students would have a tool kit when they left this class.”

ASU music student Nicolette Zillich, said she thinks the course is a good start on her journey toward problem-solving.

“There are so many artists who are trying to make a difference somehow in some way, and even though that path isn’t clear yet, I’ve met so many brilliant people who’ve told me they’re looking for the same things,” Zillich said.

She added that by working together and sharing ideas they could “propel ourselves forward just by talking to each other and meeting.”

Tepper, meanwhile, is considering the future himself.

“I’ve had many students come up to me and say, ‘This is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in college,’” Tepper said. “That has inspired me to think this shouldn’t be a one-time thing.

“The best studios, historically,” he said, “have been ones that have persisted over many, many years.”

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ASU production of 'The Magic Flute' offers a night at the opera

ASU’s Lyric Opera Theatre says 'The Magic Flute' is an ideal opera for novices.
February 22, 2017

ASU's Lyric Opera Theatre prepares students for careers in opera and music production

If you think opera is an acquired taste, think again. ASU’s Lyric Opera TheatreThe Lyric Opera Theatre program in the School of Music is housed in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. says a new production of “The Magic Flute” is perfect for the novice palate.

“Most people hear the word ‘opera,’ and they get scared. The perception of opera is that it is sung by stuffy people with horns on their head that stand on stage and sing at people,” said Dale Dreyfoos, stage director and associate artistic director of Lyric Opera Theatre.

He added while that stereotype is still pervasive, “if you like musicals, you should like operas as well.”

Fighting that perception has been a lifelong battle for Dreyfoos, who began his performing career at the age of 10 in the Atlanta Boys Choir. A year later, he saw a performance of “The Magic Flute” and was “hooked on opera.”

Formed in 1964, Lyric Opera Theatre’s mission is to prepare opera and musical theatre artists for professional careers. Through individual and classroom instruction, the production of operas and musicals, student-led workshops and community engagement, ASU is working to help maintain the art form.

Hailed as one of Mozart’sWolfgang Amadeus Mozart died two months after it opened in September 1791. greatest musical masterpieces, the 200-year-old fairytale blends magic, mystery and humor with themes of love and good versus evil.

“It’s funny, fast-paced, full of surprises, plus the music is heavenly,” said Brian DeMaris, music director and artistic director of Lyric Opera Theatre. “The characters connect with the audience right away.”

The multi-media opera is double castThe opera is double cast to give students more opportunities and to fulfill their performance credits for their degree program., features more than 100 students and crew members, and runs nearly three hours.

“The Magic Flute” will be sung in German with English dialogue, and features “Der Holle Rache,” one of the most famous and ambitious arias in all of opera. Soprano Lauren Berman, who portrays the Queen of the Night, will perform the 2-minute vocal pyrotechnic on Friday and Sunday.

“It’s definitely a difficult aria,” said Berman, who is currently working on her doctorate in vocal performance. “I can tell if I haven’t had a good night’s sleep or have been over singing, because if I’m not at the top of my game, I can’t get through it. I’ve never had a role like this.”

The show also has its fair share of laughs, provided mostly by Papageno, a simple bird-catcher who yearns for a girlfriend and a glass of wine.

“Even though the story is close to 200 years old, the story, the issues and the characters are still the same as today,” said Nathan Haltiwanger, a first-year master’s student studying Opera Performance and one of two students who plays Papageno. “We feel we’ve made this opera more approachable in many ways.”

A lot of work goes into an opera production said Miriam Schildkret, a voice performance major who plays the Third Lady.

“If you’re not sweating at the end, you’re not doing it right,” Schildkret said.

“The Magic Flute” starts Thursday at Tempe’s Evelyn Smith Music Theatre and runs through Sunday. For more event information, including a link to buy tickets, click here.


Top photo: Sarastro's slave Monostatos, played by Ted Zimnicki, discloses his intention to force himself upon Pamina while she sleeps in ASU Lyric Opera Theatre's production of "The Magic Flute." Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now.

Map(ing) exhibition at ASU Art Museum showcases the art of collaboration

February 20, 2017

“When we talk about mapping, we remember that anything we do is an overlay,” says Cannupa Hanska Luger.

Luger is one of the five professional artists who participated in this year’s Map(ing) project, a collaborative art-making endeavor founded by ASU School of Art professor Mary Hood. Cannupahanska Luger's test prints of a buffalo hang to dry Cannupahanska Luger's test prints hang to dry in ASU School of Art's printmaking studio. The final artwork is currently on view at ASU Art Museum. Download Full Image

Established in 2009, Map(ing) — Multiple Artists Printing (Indigenous and Native Geographies) — invites Native American and Indigenous artists from across the United States to work with students in ASU School of Art’s nationally ranked printmaking program to create editioned prints.

The twist? The invited artists are not printmakers.

Each artist works with a team of student printmakers (both graduates and undergraduates) over a 10-day time span to generate a piece of art in a medium that is brand new to them. The students effectively become the guides for these well-established artists.

“The project takes the learning out of the classroom,” says Hood. “The students are learning, and the students are teaching.”

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the project, this year’s work is on display, alongside the pieces from earlier iterations of the project, in a six-month-long exhibition at ASU Art Museum.

“The exhibition is being presented within the context of our Spotlight series, highlighting faculty research and how these larger projects reflect their own artmaking, research and expertise, and their impact on student learning and experience,” says Heather Sealy Lineberry, senior curator and interim director at the museum.

This year was artist Sarah Sense’s second time participating in the program.

“I have never been pushed like Mary Hood has pushed me to explore new material,” she says.

Sense’s own artistic practice involves photography and traditional Chitimacha basket-weaving techniques, but she says some of the techniques she has learned through the project have become integrated into her regular art practice.

“When artists arrive, they become aware of possibilities they weren’t aware of before,” says Hood. “And it’s because of the student collaborators.”

Another of this year’s artists, Brenda Mallory, usually works in 3-D. Still, she says the print she created with her student collaborators maintains some through-lines with her sculptural artwork.

“It’s different from anything I’ve done, but it looks like my visual language,” Mallory says.

Artists and students are not restricted in terms of content. But much of the resulting artwork has to do with Native American and Indigenous culture and identity.

Artist Hannah Claus's work for the Map(ing) project is a recreation of one of the only surviving maps from a Cree guide. But, she notes, “ideas of memory, territory and narration come through in all of the work.” 

Since the inception of Map(ing), ASU Art Museum has brought the resulting artworks into the collection, serving as an archive of the project. When the prints are not on display in the museum, they are housed in the museum’s Print Study Room, which is open by appointment to students, classes and the public for close study of the work.

“It was obvious from the panel discussion that opened the exhibition that the teams develop a tremendous rapport and that it is really a two-way process of sharing,” says Sealy Lineberry. “Both the artists and the students gain a great deal from the project.”

Map(ing) will be on view at ASU Art Museum through June 17. For more information, visit

Communications Program Coordinator, ASU Art Museum


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February 19, 2017

Herberger Institute artists, students work with scientists and big data in multidisciplinary projects

Microscopy. Big data. Seismology.

These are just some of the tools faculty and students at ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts are using in their research and their work — work that also gives back to technology, science and other disciplines outside of design and the arts.

“The multidisciplinary environment of ASU and the energy and curiosity of the Herberger Institute faculty have fused to create this incredibly rich environment for the intersection of the arts and sciences — and beyond,” said Jake Pinholster, associate dean at the Herberger Institute. “We are rapidly moving to a place where design, the arts, the sciences, engineering and the humanities are drawing from one another to solve big problems and find new areas for exploration.”

Susan Beiner, Joan R. LincolnThe professorship was endowed in 2010 by David and Joan Lincoln, longtime supporters of a number of ASU programs ranging from Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics and the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, to those within the arts, law and ASU libraries. Endowed Professor in Ceramics, is teaching a new Arts and Science course in the ASU School of Art this semester.

“The art and science collaboration is an opportunity for art students to become exposed to areas of science to spark new concepts for their art as well as to open their mind to utilizing new techniques and materials,” Beiner said.

In 2015, the Herberger Institute’s School of Art partnered with the ASU ­School of Life Sciences (SOLS) for Sculpting Science, a project where art students worked with faculty in the SOLS Electron Microscopy lab to create works of art that represented electron microscopy images of various materials, from plant parts and pollen to sludge and fired clay pieces. The artists received inspiration for their art, and the scientists saw new ways of presenting their information and communicating their work.

“It was so successful that I decided it needed to be a class,” Beiner said.

The new Art 494/598 course expands on the collaboration with Robert Roberson, associate professor in the School of Life Sciences, and using scanning electron microscopy scans. Students visit multiple labs and research collections in the School of Life Sciences and hear professors present their areas of research.

“In this ongoing relationship, the art students will translate new scientific hypotheses into visual imagery,” Beiner said, “and the scientists will gain rare insight into what their research could look like as real 2-D or 3-D objects.”

Roberson said he’s excited to continue working with the School of Art.

“Collaborations between scientists and artists can result in a beautiful piece of art for the artist and a means of communicating for the scientist: a win-win situation,” he said.

In the same way that Beiner’s students translated scientific scans from the Electron Microscopy lab into sculpture, Jessica Rajko uses dance to present big data beyond its purely technical aspect.

Big data is full of numbers and databases, charts and graphs, terabytes and gigabytes. But when Rajko, an assistant professor in the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre, looks at big data, she sees art. Her latest work, “Me, My Quantified Self, and I,” which premiered Feb. 10 at Unexpected Art Gallery in Phoenix, is the culmination of the past two years she spent researching big data.

“I was interested in how we make data tangible so that we can start to build meaningful tangible metaphors about humans’ relationship to data,” Rajko said.

Rajko’s research started with a project called “Vibrant Lives,” funded through seed grants from the Herberger Institute and the ASU Institute for Humanities Research. Rajko and her collaborators built interactive installations where people could feel their own data. In one installation, guests plugged their mobile phones into wearable devices that provided haptic feedback when they scrolled through their information, so they could feel how much data they were using. 

“We were really interested in human experience of data,” Rajko said. “In this research we realized more and more how much people are implicated in big data infrastructures, because really big data is about people. It’s about human activity.”

One way her piece aims to make data feel less elusive is with the example of a giant 20- by 20-foot hand-crocheted net. Through a grant from the city of Tempe, Rajko enlisted the Tempe Needlewielders, a volunteer organization that creates and donates handmade items to local charities, to crochet objects onto the net during the performance.

“I really wanted to think about metaphors for data that more accurately reflect what data feels and looks like, which is messy and improvised,” Rajko said. “Having these women crocheting and building and growing this net live through the performance harnessed a lot of what I see as the behaviors of data.” 

By creating these new metaphors and exploring the everyday experience with data, she’s reframing big data, both for a new audience and for those inside the bubble.

“Technology always feels like an insider’s game — we often feel like you have to be a computer scientist to understand,” Rajko said. “The arts in this particular case offer a different type of dialogue around technology, one that feels like it doesn’t talk at people but includes them in it.”

To expand that dialogue, when her show premiered the weekend included a facilitated group discussion about digital human rights, privacy concerns and decolonizing approaches to data use as well as personal cyber-consultations on protecting your data with ASU’s Global Security Initiative.

Lance Gharavi, assistant director of theatre in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, also uses art to reach a wider audience. In May, Gharavi will present an hourlong performance piece all about the Earth’s core, called “Beneath.” In the vein of Radiolab or Cosmos, the show is a family-friendly scientific exploration of the Earth’s deep interior.

“People will hopefully leave understanding things about the science of the Earth’s material that they didn’t know before, and they will have had a great time,” Gharavi said. “We all gaze up into the sky and into the stars and wonder about what’s up there. We know the mass of Jupiter’s moons. We know what the atmosphere of Venus is made of. We know what the center of galaxy smells like; seriously, we do. But we know almost nothing about the what’s a few hundred miles underneath our feet. ... That’s what the show is about — that mystery of what lies beneath.”

Gharavi, who is working with geophysists, seismologists, mineral physicists, geochemists and other scientists at ASU, said he loves telling stories and loves working with scientists to tell their stories — stories about what they’re doing, what they’re learning and what they’re discovering.

“The advantage to the scientists is their work gets communicated to populations they might not have reached otherwise, and that’s in the case of this kind of work that I’m doing here, which is really about communicating science in a sort of discursive way,” he said.

The performance is part of a larger collaboration between the Herberger Institute’s School of Film, Dance and Theatre and the School of Earth and Space Exploration. Ian Shelanskey, a graduate student in the Herberger Institute studying interdisciplinary digital media and performance, is working with professor Edward Garnero and graduate student Hongyu Lai, both in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, to create a tomography visualization tool.

As Gharavi describes it, seismic tomography is basically taking a CT scan of the planet. The data output is columns of numbers. This new tool creates a picture of the Earth’s interior based on mathematical operations of the data. Scientists can use the tool to adjust the math and see changes in the picture in real time, allowing for deeper analysis and conversation.

Gharavi said this kind of interdisciplinary work is beneficial to everyone.

“The scientists and the designers and the artists that I work with all have different sets of training and skills and specialized knowledges,” he said. “Those are different among us, but we all have a passion for asking questions and finding answers and solving problems, and that’s what we do.”


Top photo: Jessica Rajko’s “Me, My Quantified Self, and I” dance work features a 20- by 20-foot hand-crocheted net as a metaphor for big data. Photo by Tim Trumble/Courtesy of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

Sarah A. McCarty

Communications and marketing coordinator , School and Film, Dance and Theatre, Herberger Institute


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Check out video, photos from Night of the Open Door at Polytechnic, Thunderbird.
Visitors explored the globe, soared high at Night of the Open Door this weekend.
Missed the fun? Next Night of the Open Door is Feb. 25 at ASU's Tempe campus.
February 19, 2017

Visitors explore aviation, robotics and more at ASU's Polytechnic campus and get a taste of the world under rainy skies at Thunderbird

Visitors got a double dose of Arizona State University's Night of the Open Door fun this weekend as the free open-house event took place on the aviation- and robotic-heavy Polytechnic campus in Mesa and the globally minded Thunderbird campus in Glendale. 


High-flying fun at Polytechnic campus

At ASU's Polytechnic campus on Friday, trolleys carried families around the grounds, where they got to experience a range of flight simulators, learned about cars being built or modified in the labs, climbed walls with robotics, explored physics and chemistry lessons and put themselves inside giant bubbles.


Explore the world at Thunderbird

On Saturday, the rain didn't stop the fun as activities moved under cover at the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Visitors got to try on clothes from different cultures, watched dances from around the world, learned about different countries, explored map activities and more.

Check out the Downtown Phoenix campus' Night of the Open Door event on Feb. 3 here and the West campus' event on Feb. 11 here.

If you missed the fun, don't worry: There is one more free Night of the Open Door event this month, 3-9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Tempe campus.

Read more about what's in store at each campus here, including information on the free app that can help visitors map out the activities they want to visit.

Get free tickets in advance online and enter to win a gift package. Tickets also function as an express pass to collect the free glow wand and event programs at the registration booths once on campus.

Check ASU Now after each event for photo galleries and video, and follow along as our crew shows all the fun on Snapchat (search for username: ASUNow). 


Top photo: Kate LeCheminant, 10, completes a pull-up with the help of an ASU Army ROTC member in front of the Memorial Union at the Polytechnic campus' Night of the Open Door on Friday. Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now

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ASU photographs inspire poems by Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Ríos.
February 16, 2017

Project to celebrate National Poetry Month combines the words of Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Ríos and images by ASU Now

In anticipation of National Poetry Month in April, Arizona Poet Laureate and Regents' Professor Alberto Ríos and ASU Now photographers Charlie Leight and Deanna Dent are collaborating to create a "visual sonnet." Each week we share a new image and poem on our @asunow Instagram account. When completed, the entire project - 14 images and poems, reflecting the number of lines in a sonnet - will be found on this page, culminating on April 27.

All images were captured not for "work," but as images that stood out to each photographer. Ríos then wrote short poems adapted to the images without knowing their initial context.

This isn't the first team project for Ríos, who often collaborates with community members and artists from different parts of Arizona. He knows the power that can come from combining ideas. 

"The best of collaboration suggests two or more people working not in service to each other, but to the idea they envision, differently," he said. "This seems an awkward assumption, but let me say it this way: I can say 'blue' to you and I will mean what I mean, but you will hear 'blue' and think what you think it means.

"Through our different understandings, though, together we create a third blue, a blue of difference, a blue that suddenly makes three blues where only two began. Something magical and transformative happens in that moment. Putting our blues together makes something happen, something palpably more."  

Ríos suggested the name Ekphrasis for the project, a Greek word summed up in a "verbal description of a visual work of art, either real or imagined." 

A Sonnet of Images 
Ekphrasis.  Translation.  Conversation.

Click on the words below to jump down to that week's photo and poem:

1. In you I have the future...    2. Orange...    3. I play the game...    4. I stretch...  5. I was something...   6. In the great oculus...   7. World, I see you.   8. Great stone comb... 9. A caterpillar... 10. Thoughts lift off me... 11. However this happens... 12. We pledge... 13. We have come upon a man... 14. What is finally left of us...





In you, I hug the future.
I hold to me the arms of what is going to happen.

I embrace the next edge of civilization,
The farthest forward we as human beings have ventured.

These robes we are wearing are not clothing—
They are the gift-wrapping of everything we know. 

I hold you tight.  I smile through the beautifully curled hair 
Of you.  I put my two hands

On the back of you.  Future,
I want to hold you like there’s no tomorrow— 

Which means, of course, that this tight hug,
Even if I cannot say it, is all tomorrow.

-Back to Top-


orange splatter 

In the dictionaries the earliest uses of the word in English refer to the fruit, that the

Color was later named after the fruit. Before the English-speaking world was exposed to the
Fruit, the color was referred to as “yellow-red” (geoluread in Old English) or “red-yellow.”

The word comes to us from late Middle English: from Old French orenge (in the phrase
Pomme d'orenge), based on Arabic naranj, from Persian narang.

So what, I say.
Do you dance? I ask, but I don’t wait— 

I spin you on the dance floor and watch your dress
Make the brilliant mark of the hard tango turn,

The scribbled signature of urgency made with the body,
The mark left that says I was here, in this moment, in this place.

I was here, that orange says, loudly and so much that to say anything more
We must turn to a next page.  This page, this moment—it is done.

-Back to Top- 


 child on carpet

I play the game and am the game.  I play chess
And am the knight.  I play the cube

And turn, somehow, yellow into red,
Dream orange into green.  I am the game

Right now and yesterday, right now
And tomorrow.  I am the player and the board both

Trying everything to win.
Winning is a candy in my mouth. 

I lie on the bed of the game.
I am the game of me.

-Back to Top-


yoga in the museum 

I stretch among the museum’s images,
Bend my body to their inclinations,

Try out orange and precipice,
Hold the sun and poke the eye of green. 

I stretch.  I grow among the images
And in answer to my lean 

They move themselves for me.  These paintings
And me, we are in this place together.

 -Back to Top-


Poetry photo

I was something and now I am something else—
I have played the game of tag with myself, 

Standing up a little more with each incarnation
Through the centuries, standing up a little more 

And leaning a little farther forward.  I crouched
For so long, I stooped for so long, 

I ached through it all, all of it, all of me,
Unfolding, all in order to stand today, 

And more.  I am moving so that
I will fly tomorrow, unlikely as it may seem.

I will fly.  And then,
Wherever this trajectory takes me, I will go.

- Back to Top - 




In the great oculus I see the fingernail moon,
The opal in the rafters, 

The worn space helmet,
The eye of the weatherless hurricane, 

The adjusting telescope allowing me
A view outward, but, simultaneously, 

The microscope of what can only be called
The gods, the greatness, the Out There, 

Its lens bearing down on me.  In this moment,
I have seen it and it has seen me.

-Back to Top-



World, I see you.  Earth, I see you.
Do you see me?

I am here.  I bring with me my child.
I give this child to you 

As I was given.  I give this child
To this great world, unafraid,

Fierce, sturdy, with a ferociousness for good,
I give this child who is me.

-Back to Top-



Great stone comb of the four directions—
It is nothing like that.  Don’t be fooled. 

I wear the chicken hat.
I am a man and a beast both. 

I speak and I cluck, I howl and I whisper,
I live in the sunflowers under the sky. 

I am the translation of man to animal,
Hummingbird to ant, lizard to moth. 

I direct the bees and elicit the breeze—
I am the crossroads.  I am the moment 

Oxygen moves into blood, I am when
Peahen screet moves from need into word.

-Back to Top-



A caterpillar sometimes does not move forward,
Does not follow the centuries-old map of work-to-be-done. 

One Tuesday, it looks up.
One Thursday, it looks up again— 

These risings to the air are not much in their movement,
But in the history of things, everything has happened. 

This explains how cactus once moved through the desert,
Starting out as a caterpillar looking to the stars.

-Back to Top-




Thought lifts off me
As if it were a mist. 

I look hard and straight ahead—
That focus, sweat on my brow, 

Me finding water
Miraculously in the desert. 

It makes me think:
Perhaps when mist lifts off the ground, 

The ground itself, like me,
Is thinking.

Perhaps we are complicit
In the journey that comes next: 

I think.
And in that moment, 

I move one step ahead
Even as I am standing still.

-Back to Top-



poem 11

However this happens, we see images, and they make us think of things—
A slide of a man with a beard, for example, his kind of beard, that fullness— 

It makes us think of the Lost Dutchman, and then, of course,
Of the treasure.  The Superstition Mountains.  Gold. 

We see images and they speak to something we hold inside ourselves—
Perhaps not gold itself, but a desire 

To find what has not been found.  Perhaps these images guide us,
Are themselves maps, and the Great X is not myth after all, 

But something, something like gold, that we have been looking for
But all the while have been thinking someone else would find.

Suddenly, this image is our chance, though no one else would know.
This image, however unlikely, has sparked a fire in us that will not be settled. 

There is something, something that is ours, out there.
We might laugh at the Lost Dutchman’s mine, but we know what is ours.

-Back to Top-




We pledge and are aghast in the same gesture.
We move into the coming years

Clutching the heart, or feeling at the heart constantly,
Checking to gauge what may or may not be held 

In the grace of its rooms.  When all else is full, is crowded,
The heart, we think, is where to go.

-Back to Top-



poem 13

We have come upon a man
Who is telling us to stop.  To go another way.

We have come upon a man we do not know,
But we give him the courtesies of humankind. 

We listen.  We are so many, there are many
Thoughts, many words, many ways to move forward. 

And yet, a good voice.  A good reason.  We are one
In that moment.  In that moment, there are no strangers.

-Back to Top-




What is finally left of us
Is sometimes unrecognizable—

That we have been other beasts
Through the centuries 

May be forgotten to us awake,
But it is asleep in our bones, 

The past of us,
The monsters that snarled, but who in turn 

Tamed each other.  We are the alien
And the friend both. 

Our bones are the bones
Of story.

-Back to Top-

SILC student merges disciplines, explores sustainability through language

February 15, 2017

Vera Coleman has a strong interest in environmental and social debates. Coleman also loves studying Spanish culture, literature and language. Through her PhD dissertation and the School of International Letters and Culture, she has found a way to bring the disciplines together.

Her dissertation is titled “Beyond the Anthropocene: Multispecies Encounters in Contemporary Latin American Literature, Art, and Film.” Quote by Vera Coleman Quote by Vera Coleman Download Full Image

Coleman has looked at how Latin American artists pull nature into their work, and applying those findings to environmental solutions.

In an explanation of her research, Coleman wrote, “Writers, filmmakers and artists of Latin America today verge away from pessimistic images of environmental destruction and instead look to mutually beneficial interactions among members of different species as a beacon of hope lighting up a better future for our shared planet.”

“I’m interested in the ways that contemporary 21st-century Latin American writers, filmmakers and artists are confronting this notion of the Anthropocene, which is still being hotly debated,” Coleman said, speaking to SILC from the Modern Language Association Convention in Philadelphia.

The Anthropocene, as Coleman describes it, is a label used by some scientists and cultural theorists to describe the current age in terms of global human impact.

“I was a biology major for two years and took courses in genetics and evolution and chemistry and physics, and then became really passionate about Spanish literature,” Coleman said. “I kind of thought that those two years were wonderful, but I don’t know what I’d end up doing with them.”

“I became very interested in SILC and ASU. I was very drawn to the fact that it’s a multi-language school,” she continued. “There’s not just a Spanish department, but a school that has multiple languages working and collaborating together”.

Obviously, merging language and environmental study is complex, but Coleman found support for her many interests at the School of International Letters and Culture. Faculty support and guidance helped her find ways to meld different fields together.

“All the professors have been so welcoming of my ideas and so supportive of me wanting to take these risks and take these new perspectives and draw connections with other disciplines,” Coleman said.

Coleman started studying different art forms that comment on the environment in countries like Uruguay, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Argentina. She even learned about indigenous communities in some of those countries.

Coleman has enjoyed exploring discussions about the environment outside of the English-speaking world and has enjoyed merging different areas of study at ASU.

“Cultural study looks at film and art and journalism and performance, digital media. So it’s the very broad focus on the notion of text,” Coleman explained. “So we can analyze whole different forms of cultural expression to get a sense of what’s going in these countries. Those are the things that I really liked, that really drew me to SILC.”

Gabriel Sandler

image title
Industry group says graphic novel format tops $1 billion in annual sales.
Award-winning author, illustrator Mark Siegel presents lecture on Tempe campus.
February 14, 2017

Award-winning author and illustrator Mark Siegel to lead discussion on format, facilitate storytelling event with artists, ASU scientists

Print book sales have been on the decline since the Great Recession with one exception: graphic novels.

Trade group ICv2 says the novel-in-comic-strip format has gone over $1 billion in annual sales, with top sellers moving up to 150,000 units a week. Taking advantage of the momentum, ASU is bringing a leading industry voice to deliver a lecture and communication workshop on the rising popularity of the visual art form.

Award-winning author and illustrator Mark Siegel is the founder, editorial and creative director of First Second Books, the Macmillan publisher of graphic novels in every age category.

Siegel’s lecture, “The Great American Graphic Novel” on Thursday afternoon in Payne Hall on the Tempe campus, will cover the history of comics and graphic novels, the creative process, and the importance of the medium as a tool for literacy in an increasingly visual culture. The lecture is free and guests are asked to RSVP online.

And on Friday, ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination and the Institute for Humanities Research are hosting a workshop with Siegel that pairs local comic artists with ASU faculty to create an original, visual narrative of their research.

ASU Now reached out to Siegel in advance of his Tempe visit.

Question: What do you account for the rise of the graphic novel in the past decade?

Answer: Comics have deep roots in America whether it’s the newspaper strip or the superhero comics. They have a deep place in the American psyche, and it’s an American form of storytelling, even though it’s all over the world.

A decade ago the sounds coming out of the comic book industry were really grim and looked hopeless. Then a couple of things happened: Hollywood began basing movies on graphic novels coupled with the emergence of manga, which has been popular in Japan since the 1960s.

Suddenly, there were millions of dollars changing hands, huge sections of graphic novels appearing at bookstores. Publishers began asking, “What is this? And why are we missing out on these millions of dollars?”

It’s the fastest growing category in publishing, and America is the leading in this new graphic novel form.

Q: What is the difference between a comic book and a graphic novel?

A: If you ask different people, you’ll get slightly different answers. Some people are super militant about the differences.

For me, comics are a medium. So when you say comic, it’s generally the comic form, paneled and has word balloons.

A graphic novel has become a publishing category. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a novel, but it includes fiction, non-fiction and memoirs. It uses the comic form, but it has a spine like a book, not a pamphlet. Typically, when you say comic, that’s usually a pamphlet. That’s how I gauge it in a very practical way.

Comic book
Mark Siegel wrote "To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel" with his wife, Siena Cherson Siegel, in 2006.

Q: What is the power of the graphic novel?

A: We’re moving into an age where there’s a visual literacy that can go as deep and as substantive as prose literacy. People are being raised to think both visually and verbally. The graphic novel does those two things, and the dance of those two produces an experience.

There’s an interesting thing that cartoonist Art Spiegelman said about word balloons. That is, if they’re done well, they’re not like chunks of paragraphs or texts of words, but rather they’re puffs of thought. Brain scientists say that’s how your brain actually works.

We don’t really think in paragraphs or full sentences, but more like phrases that kind of clump together. The really good comics authors do that really well. There’s a pacing of thought that they establish. It can reach deeply, and it’s an active mental act.

Q: Let’s talk numbers. How big is this industry?

A: It’s huge numbers. Between comics, manga and graphic novels, it’s a big industry.

A title like “The Olympians,” a retelling of the Greek myths, we’ve sold well over 350,000 copies. So while that sounds like a lot of copies, there’s a lot of time that’s involved and you have to be a little nuts to do one of these things.

What’s interesting about the other book models is that it’s like the Hollywood blockbuster: it’s either huge or it dies on the spot. Graphic novels aren’t like that. If they stick, they can keep selling and selling and selling. They have this really long tail. But it’s not a quick money scheme; it’s more of a long-term investment.

Q: What do you hope to convey in your upcoming Feb. 16 lecture and Feb. 17 workshop?

A: The lecture will be a fun and lighthearted history of comics in America to see where we are today.

The presentation the following day is a behind-the-scenes of making a comics project. We’ll team scientists with local comic book artists and develop a rough mockup of a non-fiction comic.

It’s an event that may be even bigger than we had anticipated. Something wants to happen here.


Top photo: A panel from Sin City, a neo-noir comic by writer Frank Miller. The 2005 movie adaptation and a subsequent sequel helped propel the popularity of the graphic novel. Courtesy of

ASU's Herberger Institute helps shape the future of the arts

January 25, 2017

What does the future of the arts look like?

That’s what a group of ASU students are puzzling out this month and the next, in a course called the Studio for the Future of Arts and Culture. Alexis Moore (ASU) and Emma Plotkin (Bennington College) at the Future Arts Forward Conference in California Alexis Moore of ASU (left) and Emma Plotkin of Bennington College traveled to the Future Arts Forward Conference in California as part of ASU's Studio for the Future of Arts and Culture. Download Full Image

Ten students from ASU and four students from Bennington College traveled to San Jose, California, as part of the studio, to participate in the Center for Cultural Innovation’s Future Arts Forward conference Jan. 23. There the students, together with 250 other young artists and art leaders, addressed such questions as whom the arts should serve, and how the arts sector might shift to serve a changing America.

While in California, the students also spent the day at Stanford University’s Institute for Diversity in the Arts.

The six-week studio course, which began Jan. 9 and continues through mid-February, is a collaboration among ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Bennington College and the Center for Cultural Innovation, and is funded in part by a grant from the Ford Foundation.

The goal of the studio is to work with students using futurist methods and design thinking and to expose them to a variety of artist innovators, like the members of Herberger Institute’s Ensemble Lab, in order to generate new ideas about how to organize and support cultural life and the work of artists and designers in the future. 

Students will each be coached in presenting a powerful three-minute talk that advances a radical idea for innovation in our cultural system and will become art and design’s ambassadors to the field. Their mission? To shake up existing thinking and spur change in our country’s cultural policy framework.  

More news of the future to come after the students give their final presentations in February.

Deborah Sussman Susser

Communications and media specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts