News and Events

Celebrate the arts of the 20th and 21st centuries during the 10th anniversary celebration of Modfest at Vassar College, January 18 - February 4, 2012.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—In its 10th year, Modfest is Vassar College’s exploration of the arts of the 20th and 21st centuries. This year’s program will celebrate the visual arts, dance, drama, film, prose and poetry, as well as music in a series of events that will take place across the Vassar campus from January 18 through February 4, 2012.  Participants in Modfest ’12 include Vassar students, faculty, alumnae/i, and guest artists as well as students from the Poughkeepsie area schools. All events are free and open to the public, except as noted.

Vassar students and faculty are joined by guest artists in the various fields of creative accomplishment. Among the many highlights of Modfest this year will be a performance by the exciting young JACK Quartet, which will offer a program of modernist works. Alex Ross writing in the New Yorker has hailed JACK’s performance of Iannis Xenakis' complete string quartets as being “exceptional” and “beautifully harsh.” In their Modfest concert, the members of JACK—violinists Christopher Otto and Ari Streisfeld, violist John Pickford Richards, and cellist Kevin McFarland—will perform works by Xenakis, Scelsi, and Ligeti (1/21).

Mezzo-soprano Mary Nessinger will appear with Akiva Cahn-Lipman, cello, and Judith Gordon, piano, in award-winning Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino’s avant-garde chamber opera Vanitas (1/29). A member of the music faculty, Nessinger has been praised by the New York Times for her “remarkable fluidity and beauty of tone.”

Vassar’s prestigious W. K. Rose Fellowship in the Creative Arts will, for the third year, be the focus of an event in which four past winners will be on hand to share and discuss their recent work. Participants will include composer Alexandra Gardner ’90, whose works have been featured at festivals and venues throughout the United States and internationally; photographer Serge J-F Levy ’95, a member of the faculty at the International Center of Photography, whose photos have been exhibited in galleries and museums in the U.S. and Japan; as well as writers Carol Ann Davis ’92, the author of two poetry collections, Atlas Hour and Psalm, and Andrew Porter ’94 (1/23), author of the short story collection, The Theory of Light and Matter, which was awarded the 2007 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction.

In addition, Paula Vogel’s The Baltimore Waltz will receive a reading (1/30) by drama students under the direction of Shona Tucker, a member of the drama faculty. Another popular event that will be reprised this year is a program devoted to poetry in translation, featuring readings in nine languages followed in each case by newly-created translations by Vassar students (1/25).

New events this year will include a reading of a new play to be presented by Vassar & New York Stage and Film’s Powerhouse Theater (1/21); a cabaret evening devoted to the Great American Songbook that will highlight songs by Gershwin, Kern, Porter, Berlin, Rodgers, Sondheim, and others (1/27); as well as a program of short films by current students (1/31).

About Modfest

Modfest was the idea of Vassar alumna Adene Wilson ’69 who founded it with her husband Richard Wilson in 2003 in order to foster a better coordination among the many artistic activities on the Vassar campus, placing special emphasis on contemporary arts. Adene Wilson continues to serve as Modfest coordinator. 

The programming for Modfest is designed each year to showcase various departments of the college and the interrelationships between music, dance, film, prose and poetry, and visual arts in the 20th and 21st centuries.

“Each year we find that Modfest provides a special opportunity for students in each of the disciplines to share their work with one another,” noted Adene Wilson.

This year Modfest 2012 is organized by the the Vassar College Department of Music in collaboration with the Departments of Art, Chinese and Japanese, Dance, Drama, English, Film, French and Francophone Studies, German Studies, Hispanic Studies, Russian Studies, and the programs in Africana Studies, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, and the Vassar College Bookstore.

A campus-wide celebration, Modfest events will be held at the Chicago Hall, Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Kenyon Hall, Main Building, James W. Palmer III Gallery, Rockefeller Hall, Skinner Hall of Music, and the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film. [A detailed schedule is available below.] 

People with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the Vassar campus are available at

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Schedule of Events
January 18 – February 4, 2012

The 10th annual festival of the contemporary arts at Vassar College will celebrate art, dance, drama, film, literature, prose and poetry, and music of the 20th and 21st centuries.

All events are free and open to the public without charge (unless noted). No reservations are necessary, unless otherwise noted. All seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Note that all events are subject to change.

For additional information, call (845) 437-5370 or visit


Thompson Library Exhibition.
Exhibition of Artists’ Books from the Women’s Studio Workshop. On view through March 9. On February 1, art professor Lisa G. Collins discusses WSW at 5:30pm in the Class of 1951 Reading Room.
Thompson Memorial Library 

Music Library Display.
The Vassar College Music Library presents a display highlighting Modfest activities and musicians, curated by Sarah Canino, music librarian. On view through February 4. Open daily.Skinner Hall of Music, 1st floor 

5:00pm and 7:00pm
James W. Palmer Gallery Exhibition and Presentation.
Teen Visions ’12, Words, Dance, and Sounds. Opening reception of an exhibit of original artwork, followed by performances at 7:00pm of music, dance, and original poetry by high school students from the Mill Street Loft’s Art Institute and girls empowerment programs, as well as the Stringendo ensemble, the Cappella Festiva Treble Choir, and dancers from the New York Academy of Ballet (with music by Joseph Bertolozzi ’81). The exhibition features a wide variety of paintings, drawings, mixed-media, photography and sculpture by students of The Art Institute of Mill Street Loft and is on view through February 9. Exhibition: James W. Palmer III Gallery Performance: Villard Room, Main Building,
College Center 

5:00pm – 9:00pm
Late Night at the Lehman Loeb.
Presentation of work by Vassar W.K. Rose Fellow, photographer Serge J-F.Levy ’95. Enjoy extended gallery hours in an enlivened atmosphere, with creative happenings every week. Late Night at the Lehman Loeb is made possible by the generous support of the Jane W. Nuhn Charitable Trust.
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center 


Exhibition Opening Lecture and Reception.
Marco Maggi: Lentissimo is an exhibition of 14 colorful new works made expressly for this occasion. Lecture by Linda Weintraub, educator, author, artist, curator: “Gently Subversive – The Artistry of Marco Maggi.” Reception to follow in Art Center Atrium. On view through April 1.
Taylor Hall Room 203 and the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center 

Vassar Jazz Combos and the Body Electric Afrofunk Band. The ensembles showcase a colorful variety of sub-genres of jazz and rock music. James Osborn, director for the jazz groups, and Luke Leavitt ‘12, band leader.Villard Room, Main Building, College Center 

Music Workshop.
Basic Instruction in Sibelius Music Notation Software, beginner to low intermediate. Presented by Thomas E. Rudolph, music education technology pioneer. Participants must bring their own laptops but do not need to own Sibelius software. Space is limited. Reservations are required and may be made by contacting
Kenyon Hall, Room 216  

Music Workshop.
Basic Instruction in Sibelius Music Notation Software, intermediate to advanced. For description, see 10:00am-1:00pm listing above.
Kenyon Hall, Room 216 

Vassar & New York Stage and Film’s Powerhouse Theater Reading.
A reading of a new play to help beat the mid-winter blues. Informal reception to follow. For information email
Martel Theater, Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film 

JACK String Quartet. One of the most vibrant young groups on the New York new music scene performs hard-core modernism by Xenakis, Scelsi, and Ligeti.
Skinner Hall of Music 

Vassar Faculty Composers. Music of Jonathan Chenette, Peter McCulloch, Harold Meltzer, and Richard Wilson. Performed by music faculty members Thomas Sauer and Peter McCulloch, as well as guest artists Paul Appleby, Moran Katz, Sooyun Kim, and James Austin Smith.
Skinner Hall of Music 

Alumnae/i Music, Art, and Writing.
Features the work of W. K. Rose Fellowship winners: composer Alexandra Gardner ’90; photographer Serge J-F. Levy ’95; and writers Carol Ann Davis ’92 and Andrew Porter ‘94. This combined concert, reading, discussion, and presentation of artwork spotlights past winners of the W.K. Rose Fellowship, awarded annually to a Vassar graduate in the creative arts since 1970.
Villard Room, Main Building 

Foreign Film Screening.
Singapore GaGa (2005), Tan Pin Pin, director. This documentary celebrates the vibrant soundscapes of Singapore. Presented with commentary by Sophia Siddique Harvey, assistant professor of film.
Foreign Language Resource Center, Chicago Hall 


Readings: Translation As An Art.
Readings of Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish poems in their original tongue and of their translations by Vassar students. Translations and performances have been prepared with the help of the language fellows from the participating departments. Includes performance of music by the Mahagonny Choral Ensemble, a student-run contemporary group, Naomi Dubin, ‘12, conductor. Presented by the departments and programs of foreign language study at Vassar.
Villard Room, Main Building 

5:00pm – 9:00pm
Late Night at the Lehman Loeb.
Enjoy extended gallery hours in an enlivened atmosphere with creative happenings every week. Late Night at the Lehman Loeb is made possible by the generous support of the Jane W. Nuhn Charitable Trust.
Chamber music and readings of original fairy tales by Vassar students from classes of Eduardo Navega, lecturer in music and director of the Chamber Music Program, and Nancy Willard, lecturer in English.
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center 

5:00pm, 6:30pm, 8:00pm
Cabaret Night.
A sampling of the Great American Songbook--Gershwin, Kern, Porter, Berlin, Rodgers, Sondheim, and others. Featuring singers from the Vassar College choirs as well as the music department. At the piano is David Alpher, Vassar music department staff accompanist. A fundraiser in support of the Vassar College Choral Ensembles’ spring 2012 tour to England and France. Performances will begin at 5:00pm, 6:30pm, and 8:00pm. Tickets may be purchased in advance by emailing, or by visiting the College Center North Atrium, Main Building, at lunchtime beginning January 18th. Students: $5 in advance, or $7 at the door; adults: $10 in advance, or $15 at the door. Food and beverages will be provided by the Vassar College choral ensembles.
Aula, Ely Hall 

Open Rehearsal.
Mahagonny Ensemble. Alumnus composer Evan James ’07 coaches the student-run contemporary group in the preparation of his new work, You’re Unreal. Following the rehearsal, there is a lunch with an opportunity to speak with the composer.
Skinner Hall of Music 

Orchestral and Chamber Ensembles. The Vassar College Orchestra and Mahagonny Ensembles perform works by Arvo Pärt, Gerald Finzi, and Almeida Prado in addition to You’re Unreal by Evan James ’07. Conducted by Eduardo Navega, director of the Chamber Music Program, William Healy ’12, and Naomi Dubin ’12.
Skinner Hall of Music 

Mezzo-soprano Mary Nessinger, music faculty member, with Akiva Cahn-Lipman, cello, and Judith Gordon, piano, in a presentation of Salvatore Sciarrino’s avant-garde chamber opera Vanitas.
Skinner Hall of Music 

Dramatic Reading.
The Baltimore Waltz. This play by Paula Vogel, is “a crazy-quilt patchwork of hyperventilating language, erotic jokes, movie kitsch and medical nightmare…that spins before the audience in Viennese waltz time, replete with a dizzying fall.” (New York Times) Presented by the Vassar Drama Department’s Experimental Theater, Shona Tucker, assistant professor of drama and adviser to the Experimental Theater. Seating is very limited and reservations are required in advance. Contact the Box Office at or (845) 437-5599.
Streep Acting Studio, Room 110, Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film 

Vassar Bookstore Author Series.
Professor Emeritus of English Frank Bergon discusses his recent novel, Jesse’s Ghost, and how he turned a true story into a novel.
Vassar College Bookstore, Main Building, College Center 

Film Screening.
Original Shorts. Vassar Filmmakers Club and the Film Majors’ Committee present a selection of student short films from the Vassar film community. Student filmmakers are present for Q&A afterward. Hosted by Patty Cruz ’12, vice-president, Filmmakers Club; Eric Schuman ’12, co-president, Filmmakers Club; Tim O’Connor ’12, co-president, Filmmakers Club; Cassie Gomes ’12, co-chair, Film Major’s Committee.
Rockefeller Hall, Room 200 

Art, Dance, Music, and Words. Presentation of chamber music, dance, art, and original poetry and prose by students of the music, dance, art, and English departments. Hosted by Jonathan Chenette, dean of the faculty and professor of music.
Villard Room, Main Building 

Film Screening.
Russian film Igla/The Needle (1988), Rashid Nugmanov, director. The founding text of the Kazakh New Wave movement, The Needle is an experimental visual kaleidoscope of genres, joining together elements of a stylized mob drama, a sea-side love story, and an anti-drug film set to the soundtrack of late Soviet post-punk. The Needle was one of the highest grossing Soviet blockbusters, winning a special jury prize at the 1988 Golden Duke Film Festival in Odessa as well as first prize at the 1990 Nuremberg Film Festival. Presented with commentary by Rita Safariants, visiting instructor in the Russian Studies Department.
Rockefeller Hall, Room 200 


5:00pm – 9:00pm
Late Night at the Lehman Loeb.
Fifth Anniversary of Late Night. Celebrate five years of enjoying extended gallery hours in an enlivened atmosphere with creative happenings every week. Late Night at the Lehman Loeb is made possible by the generous support of the Jane W. Nuhn Charitable Trust.
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center 

Performance. Poetry and Dance.
“Grandmother Talks, Grandmother Dances.” A collaborative piece weaving dance and poetry, this performance narrates Indigenous continuance through bloodlines, resistance, and creativity. Molly S. McGlennen, assistant professor of English and Native American Studies, and Kathy Wildberger, senior lecturer in the departments of Dance and Drama.
Aula, Ely Hall 

Dance Performance.
Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre performs works selected from their current repertoire. This performance is presented under the auspices of the Department of Dance. For Modfest tickets please write to; put Modfest in the subject window. For information please call the Dance Office at (845) 437-7470.
Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater, Kenyon Hall 

Dramatic reading of a Senior Project. The Inheritance of Nightdreams, a new play by Isabella Batts, ’12, is a dramatic comedy about the panic and joy of being completely lost. The story follows the middle-aged parents and young adult children of the Peel family as they navigate love, death, distance, and the secret landscapes of each other’s dreams. Seating is very limited and reservations are required in advance. Contact the Box Office at or (845) 437-5599.
Streep Acting Studio, Room 110, Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film 


Open Rehearsal. Mahagonny Ensemble.
Features new works by student composers Connor Mulhern ’14, and Jeremy Bloom ’12. William Healy ’12, conductor. Following the rehearsal, there is a lunch with an opportunity to speak with the composer.
Thekla Hall, Skinner Hall of Music

Posted by Office of Communications Thursday, January 5, 2012

About the Arts

Powerhouse Theater

The Powerhouse Theater is a collaboration between New York Stage and Film and Vassar College. It is dedicated to both emerging and established artists in the development and production of new works for theater and film. During an intense eight-week summer residency on the Vassar campus, up to twenty different projects are publicly presented, typically engaging more than 200 professional artists and theater students. Plays, musicals, and screenplays are presented in a variety of forms: readings, workshops, and fully staged productions. Since the first Powerhouse Theater season in 1985, New York Stage and Film and Vassar have served more than 2,000 artists and over 175,000 audience members through the development and production of artistically exceptional and affordably priced performances.

Visit the Powerhouse Theater website

Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

Located just inside Vassar's Main Gate, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center houses the college's permanent collection, over 18,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and glass and ceramic wares, charting the history of art from antiquity to the present. The Permanent Collection Galleries feature 350 works, ranging from the sculpted Head of Viceroy Merymose from His Outer Sarcophagus (Egyptian, c 1375 BCE) in the Antiquities Gallery to Marsden Hartley's oil on canvas Indian Composition (1914-15) in the Twentieth Century Gallery. For information on current and upcoming special exhibitions, self-guided and curriculum-based tours, and group visits, please visit the website. The art center is open to the public, and admission is free.

Visit the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center website

James W. Palmer Gallery

Located in the College Center in Main Building, the James W. Palmer III '90 Gallery presents eight shows annually, including exhibitions by renowned artists and photographers, studio art faculty and students, and local arts organizations. Recent highlights included Andrea Baldeck’s black-and-white photo exhibit, Touching the Mekong: A Southeast Asian Sojourn, organized by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology; the Vassar Haiti Project’s annual exhibition and auction of imported arts and handcrafts; and Design Inside, showcasing the work of Vassar’s College Relations design team. All exhibitions are free and open to the public. For information on upcoming exhibitions, visit the website or call (845) 437-5370.

Visit the James W. Palmer Gallery website

Music Department

Located in the Belle Skinner Hall of Music, the Martel Recital Hall is wonderfully suited, both acoustically and aesthetically, to music performance. With seating for 500, the Martel is home to the Vassar College Orchestra, Choir, Women's Chorus, Madrigal Singers, and numerous chamber groups and ensembles. The Martel concert schedule routinely includes distinguished guest artists, faculty recitals, senior recitals, and special musical events, such as last year's series of organ recitals celebrating the installation and dedication of the college's superb pipe organ, designed by masterbuilder Paul Fritts. For information on upcoming concerts and events (which are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted), please visit the website.

Visit the Music Department website

Dance Department

The Department of Dance sponsors several public performances each year. Among those, the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre (VRDT) has a series of Works in Progress showings in the fall, a winter Modfest performance in conjunction with the The Department of Music, winter galas at the 1869 Bardavon Opera House, and two All Parents Weekend performances in the spring. The department's Master Class program annually invites at least one ballet and one modern expert to campus in addition to two people in other areas of dance. Public performances and lectures are often associated with these renowned visitors. Guest artists in the past have included: Irina Kolpokova, Arthur Mitchell, Helene Alexopoulos, Gregory Hines, Anna Kisselgoff, Donald Byrd, Edward Villella, Ronald K. Brown, Irene Dowd, Allegra Kent, Gelsey Kirkland, Pilobolus w/Adam Battlestein, Suzanne Farrell, Mummenschantz, Eldar Aliev, Deborah Jowitt, Bill T. Jones, Pascal Rioult, Clinton Luckett of ABT, Bill Irwin, and Donald McKayle. Many of the department's dance performances are in the Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater, located in Kenyon Hall.

Visit the Dance Department website

Drama Department Experimental Theater

Presenting several public performances each semester in the Martel Theater of the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film and the Hallie Flanagan Davis Powerhouse Theater, the Experimental Theater is a place to explore theories learned in the classroom and to experiment with theatrical forms. In the tradition of pioneering stage director Hallie Flanagan, students are encouraged to experience and experiment with all aspects of the theater. Flanagan, who accepted a position to teach drama at Vassar in 1925, founded the Experimental Theater following her visit to the theaters of Europe in 1926 on a Guggenheim Fellowship. (

Visit the Drama Department website


The Film Department at Vassar College hosts a steady stream of guest artists and lecturers and is located in the state-of-the-art Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film. The film program encompasses major aspects of the discipline: the history and theory of cinema, dramatic writing, and film/video/digital production, within the framework of a liberal arts education.

Visit the Film Department website

Archives and Special Collections Library

A rotating series of exhibitions is offered each year by the Catherine Pelton Durrell '25 Archives and Special Collections Library, which is the principal repository of the College's noteworthy collections of rare books, manuscripts, archival records of Vassar College, and other special materials. The library's collections date from the 15th century (the age of incunabula) to the present. Notable examples include books important in women's history, first editions of English and American literary and historical works, examples of fine printing, collections of courtesy and cookbooks, children's books, and rare maps and atlases. The Virginia B. Smith Manuscript Collection includes manuscripts by and about women which were gathered during President Smith’s tenure, such as the papers of Mary McCarthy and Elizabeth Bishop. Also of note are papers of writers Samuel L. Clemens and Edna St. Vincent Millay; early naturalist John Burroughs, historian Lucy Maynard Salmon, feminist and historian Alma Lutz, astronomer Maria Mitchell, anthropologist Ruth Benedict, and physicist Albert Einstein. Archives and Special Collections is located in the Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library.

Visit the Archives and Special Collections Exhibition website