Resident Artists Put Global Engagement on the Map

September 8, 2008

“The challenge for many institutions is to provide international exposure across the board — even to those who aren’t traditional study abroad candidates. Through Mary Baldwin artists-in-residence, everyone gets a taste for international experience, and some develop an appetite for more,” said Heather Ward, director of international programs at Mary Baldwin.

Indeed, Srinivas Krishnan and Claudia Bernardi — Mary Baldwin’s multicultural, multitalented artists-in-residence — are back this fall and ready to engage the college community and beyond in the discussion and experience of creative expression. Next week, Krishnan blends his musical gifts on traditional instruments of his native India with musicians and dancers from the U.S., Ghana, Brazil, and India in concert, and he facilitates the showing of two significant Indian films. Bernardi’s September 18 visit will include a public dialogue about artists as peace practitioners.

Srinivas Krishnan, right, gives students a taste of India in fall 2007“Our artists-in-residence bring their personal histories as global citizens who work and live across cultures to ignite the imaginations of young women,” Ward said. “Working collaboratively with Claudia or Srini, a student is transformed from a consumer of knowledge about a distant place into the co-creator of something greater than herself. These experiences, repeated over several years with the same mentors, are setting the foundation for expanding internationalism at Mary Baldwin.”

For example, some of Bernardi’s students who created a Staunton community mural in May 2007 will not only be able to see her on campus in September, but they will also visit the art school she founded in El Salvador during spring break 2009. Some who’ve sung with Krishnan will join him and Mary Baldwin President Pamela Fox on a May Term 2009 trip to southern India, where they have the potential to study cinema or the emergence of female entrepreneurs.

A poster announces Claudia Bernardi's talk about artists' role in the peace process September 18Both appearances also set the stage for Mary Baldwin’s yearlong exploration of Maps, the annual theme that encompasses academics, events, and co-curricular activities. As a visual artist, Bernardi has been, literally, a map maker at the mass grave exhumation sites where she has worked in her native Argentina, El Salvador, and other countries. Working with the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, she used maps to record atrocities and as scientific evidence for victims and survivors to demand justice. She is struck by the idea that, historically, people have always trusted maps — even when they were wrong, Ward explained, citing a book about Bernardi’s most recent exhibition.

Krishnan is a musician whose special gift is bringing together diverse peoples, cultures, and musical traditions — much like an atlas gives a comprehensive view of the world, Ward said. Unlike an atlas, though, his work is deeply visceral. He gives us the smells, tastes, sights, and sounds that make us want to jump on the next plane to Chennai.

“I love the fact that there is love and passion in each student at Mary Baldwin to appreciate the small and finer things — be it a cup of chai, ethnic costumes, squirrels, or to breathe and feel good through yoga,” said Krishnan. “This [Mary Baldwin] is one superb ecosystem that the world needs to know. Let’s start by bringing the world here.”

“As one facet of a broad initiative to promote civic and global engagement, Mary Baldwin’s artists-in-residence have brought the world to students’ doors; as it grows each year, more students will pass through them,” Ward said.