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An art project melding pictures, words and music is giving Chris Michaud ’03 of Millerton, N.Y., free rein to follow his creative muse “all day, every day, all summer.”

Michaud, a graduate of Webutuck Central School, is the recipient of a prestigious Trustee Scholarship at Lafayette. The double major in art and music is participating in the distinctive EXCEL Scholars program, in which students collaborate closely with faculty on research projects while earning a stipend.

“I’ve spent much of my time doing my own artwork,” says Michaud, a jazz musician as well as a visual artist. “Right now I’m working on 10 different paintings.”

Michaud is collaborating with Ed Kerns, Eugene H. Clapp Professor of Humanities and Art and Director of the Williams Visual Arts Building, and 1996 Lafayette graduate Ross Gay, a painter and poet.

Kerns, a member of the faculty since 1980, spearheaded the development of the new Williams Visual Arts Building in downtown Easton. An internationally known abstract painter, he has mounted 22 one-person shows in galleries in New York, Philadelphia, and elsewhere, and has participated in more than 100 group exhibitions in North America and Europe. His work is in numerous public and corporate collections, including those of the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C., and the Edward Albee Foundation, Montauk, N.Y., and has been reviewed in many journals and magazines.

He has received several major College-wide awards at Lafayette, including the James P. Crawford Award for superior teaching, the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for excellence in teaching and outstanding contributions to campus life, the Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Award for superior teaching and scholarly contribution to his discipline, and the Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Faculty Lecture Award in recognition of excellence in teaching and scholarship.

The recipient of the George Wharton Pepper Prize, awarded to the Lafayette senior who “most nearly represents the Lafayette ideal,” Gay graduated with a bachelor’s degree, double majoring in English and art. He earned honors in studio art and was a starting defensive end on the varsity football team.

Gay holds a master’s degree in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College and is in the third year of a Ph.D. program in literature at Temple University. His poems have appeared in Sulfur, Columbia, American Poetry Review, and Harvard Review, among others.

Kerns, Gay, and Michaud build on each other’s contributions to the project, ultimately creating paintings with text written on the canvas, Michaud says.

“Eventually I may be playing saxophone as they respond in paint,” he says. “We each come into it at our own time and react to what the previous person has done. Ross is doing the work now.” Gay is exploring the concept of icons, Michaud adds.

“People keep asking me which I want to do, art or music. (Both) is what I am,” the student comments. In the visual arts, the strengths he hopes to lend the project are drawing skills and “a more realistic element,” although lately his style has inched closer to Jackson Pollack, he says, adding, “I’m now in the 20th century.”

The artwork generated by the project, officially entitled “A Word-Image Collaboration: Poetry and Painting,” will be exhibited at the Williams Visual Arts Building.

Michaud says that during high school, his enthusiasm for art far surpassed opportunity. Now at Lafayette, “I’m sitting here in this incredible building, designed for making art, using the facility with all of the supplies, with free run of it to do whatever I want, all day, everyday, all summer.

“At no point in the rest of my life will I have this much material supply at my fingertips,” he adds. “I want to learn as much as I possibly can.”

Last summer Michaud worked with Curlee Raven Holton, associate professor of art and director of Lafayette’s Experimental Printmaking Institute, on a collaboration that included both traditional printmaking and experimental printmaking incorporating digital technology. Michaud learned by doing work for Holton and other artists and by making his own prints.

Michaud plays in the Lafayette Jazz Ensemble, the Pep Band and concert band, as well as takes saxophone, guitar and piano lessons. He was a member of the pit orchestra for a production of Guys and Dolls, the 15th annual musical staged by the Marquis Players for the benefit of local charities.

Categorized in: Academic News