Specialized expertise, new voices: Visiting artists deepen and broaden the student experience

Key components of Vision 2028, visiting artists, artists-in-residence, and visiting faculty expand curricular offerings and spark one-of-a-kind learning and performance opportunities.

Billy Childs works with an Arts Academy bass student

Acclaimed composer and jazz pianist Billy Childs (right) reviews a score with an Arts Academy bass student.

When Edili Dormeville enrolled at Interlochen Arts Academy, she never expected to find herself starring in an animated adventure.

A popular voice performance major, Dormeville explored voice acting for the first time when she was cast as Stella in the forthcoming web series On the Bright Side.

“I found something new that I really enjoy,” Dormeville said in a recent interview about the series. “I love adding new talents to what I have.”

On the Bright Side was created by 2021-22 Animator-in-Residence Bailey Sitton, who invited many of the Academy’s students, faculty, and staff—including Dormeville, Instructor of Theatre Laura Mittelstaedt (Beatrice), and 2022 Music Production & Engineering graduate Kat Stockton (composer)—to collaborate on the series. While not an official component of Sitton’s residency, the series exemplifies the unique learning and collaboration opportunities available only at Interlochen.

“It’s incredible that I get to do this,” Stockton said.

Sitton’s residency was part of an ongoing effort to expand Interlochen’s visiting artist and visiting faculty programs, both key components of Vision 2028.

“Supplementing our outstanding faculty with nationally and internationally prominent visitors deepens and broadens the artistic preparation Interlochen students receive,” said John Bogley, Interlochen’s Vice President of Philanthropy and Engagement. “These guests bring their own expertise, voices, and innovative methods to our campus and depart as ambassadors for Interlochen. They also enable us to enrich and optimize the student experience by allowing us to expand our course offerings.”

Interlochen’s goal is to establish additional visiting artist funds for each of the institution’s seven artistic disciplines through a combination of endowed and non-endowed gifts.

“Both sorts of gifts are vitally important,” Bogley said. “Current-use gifts create an immediate impact and flexibility, while endowed visiting faculty/visiting artist positions ensure these benefits will be available to Interlochen and its students forever.”

Gifts to the visiting artist funds allow Interlochen to engage three types of guests: visiting artists, artists-in-residence, and visiting faculty. Visiting artists spend a few days on campus, leading intensive training experiences during their brief visits. Artists-in-residence visit for a few weeks, often with the goal of preparing students for special presentations. Visiting faculty serve long-term commitments at Interlochen, such as summer, semester, and yearlong appointments.

To date, Interlochen has received commitments to establish visiting artist funds—which can be used to support both Camp and Academy guests—for the Creative Writing, Film & New Media, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts divisions. The gifts have already brought several remarkable visiting artists to Interlochen Arts Academy.

Sitton’s residency served as a soft introduction to the Academy’s new Animation program, allowing students to explore visual storytelling before the arrival of Director of Animation Briana Yarhouse. During her one-year residency, Sitton taught courses in Previsualization and Editing and Motion Graphics, as well as an Animation elective that was open to students of all majors.

Playwright Oren Safdie joined the Creative Writing division as Writer-in-Residence in the fall of 2021. During his yearlong tenure, Safdie led writing and playwriting workshops that were attended by more than 40 students from the Creative Writing, Theatre, and other divisions. Under Safdie’s guidance, three Arts Academy students—Eliana Robin, Leo Fishman Janowitz, and Simone Chaney—received recognition in prestigious programs for young playwrights. Safdie also led two student playwriting showcases and staged The Gods Play Here, a program of contemporary adaptations of Greek plays, in Bonisteel Library.

The visiting artist funds also support the Academy’s ongoing three-year exploration of the African diaspora, which features regular visits from composer and musicologist Dr. Bill Banfield. In addition to leading visits from a diverse selection of guests representing the African diaspora, Banfield is assisting with the Academy’s performance at the New York Philharmonic’s Liberation Festival and workshopping his forthcoming opera Edmonia, which will be premiered by Interlochen Arts Academy students in the spring of 2024.

Other recent guests of the African diaspora series include jazz pianist and composer Billy Childs, Gary L. Wasserman Artistic Director of Michigan Opera Theatre Yuval Sharon, acclaimed bass-baritone Davóne Tines (IAC 04), and Grammy Award-nominated pianist and singer-songwriter Patrice Rushen.

“Visiting artists, artists-in-residence, and visiting faculty are an integral part of the Interlochen Arts Camp and Interlochen Arts Academy curriculum, empowering our students to explore specialized topics while making connections with industry experts,” said Camille Colatosti, Provost at Interlochen Center for the Arts. “Thank you to everyone who has played a part in bringing these incredible artists to Interlochen.”