A grand showcase of student art, The Hall of Playwrights in the University Theater is built on innovative teaching, faculty collaboration and, of course – the star of the show - student creativity. Brylee Puckett, a digital media arts student, is the most recent contributor of two new works and offers a different way of thinking about portraiture. Her portraits of Frederico Garcia Lorca and Sam Shepard join those of William Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde, Lorraine Hansberry, and August Wilson.
“I’ve never had anything of mine displayed in this way. It’s pretty exciting and I am proud of this accomplishment,” said Puckett. Puckett created the portraits in ART 320 (oil and acrylic painting), taught by Jym Davis, associate professor of art. Familiar with Davis through digital art and screen-printing courses, she enjoyed his classes. “He is just a really cool professor and I learn so much from him,” said Puckett, so when she needed an elective, her choice was no surprise.
The core of this exhibit lies within the creative process of the portraits themselves. When explaining the process, Davis said, “I began this project as a way for students with limited art background to create decent looking portraits. It also involves designing the stencil in Photoshop, so students get a little digital art experience. I reference a few famous artists who use this technique in my class lectures, like Shepard Fairey. It is essentially a graffiti art (or street art) technique. Students collage the background of a canvas and then either spray or hand-paint a simple stencil design for a portrait.”
Other portraits in the Hall of Playwrights were created in ART 120 (Two-Dimensional Design). “I assign these projects to different classes based on how I think the students can complete the work,” said Davis. “Sometimes it involves both individuals and groups.”
Beyond the beautiful art, The Hall of Playwrights illustrates a strong alliance between Reinhardt’s art and theatre departments. The project began in 2019 when David Nisbet, associate professor of theatre, had an idea – one that was inspired by student projects in Davis’ classes. Display the art!
The selection of the playwrights extends the art-theatre partnership between Davis and Nisbet. Davis explains, “In the beginning, I came up with the chosen playwrights - William Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, and Samuel Beckett. After that I assigned my Art 120 class to create August Wilson, Oscar Wilde, and Lorraine Hansberry based on a collaborative discussion with Dave. These most recent suggestions came from Dave.” This ongoing dialogue moves and shapes the Hall of Playwrights as new works are added.
To expand the gallery, alumna Claire McCandlish ’21 was commissioned in the summer of 2021 for six portraits of the same style in the theater lobby. As patrons enter the theater building, they see writers Tennessee Williams, Caryl Churchill and Anton Chekhave on the left and choreographers Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham and Bob Fosse on the right. The Hall of Playwrights in the University Theater shines as a gem on our campus. It represents the University in many special ways – beautiful works of art, brilliance in faculty collaboration, a showcase of artistic expression for current students and alumni – all starting with an idea.