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Introducing Shared Visions – How the Project Began and How It Has Evolved

by Tom Morgan, Artistic Director

Shared Visions is truly ars nova – new art, forged from shared inspirations of visual art, poetry, and sound. It is a project that sprang from seeds planted in the 1980s. In 1986, the Tate Gallery in London published an anthology of poetry based on visual art in their collection, entitled With a Poet’s Eye. Containing 50 poems by contemporary writers, the book is arranged in chronological order of the artwork, from the 16th century to the present.

amethyst by Michiko Theurer

Shortly after it came out, several composers became aware of it and made musical settings of some of the poetry. One of these composers was Cary John Franklin, a Minnesota-based composer with whom I became acquainted during my college years at Macalester College in St. Paul. Cary and I had both studied and performed at Macalester with Dale Warland, Cary wrote a 5-movement a cappella work, setting poems from the anthology, commissioned by the Minneapolis-based ensemble VocalEssence, and subsequently recorded by Chanticleer. Ars Nova Singers performed movements of this work very early in our history.

Fractions by Chris DeKnikker

The project appeared in our season planning materials as early as the year 2000, but it took until 2015 for it to come together in its final form, and we first offered it as the climactic final program of our 30th season in 2015-2016. We gathered all the participating artists together for the performances, some meeting each other for the first time on the concert stage. The energy and excitement generated by the shared inspirations was electric, and we decided to repeat the program in 2019.

Freedom Night by Raj Manickam

Our current version in 2023-2024 began last summer with an online gallery of 24 visual artworks by eight Colorado artists. We intentionally selected a diversity of mediums and a diversity of genders and ethnicities representing Colorado. My wife and I had attended a juried show at the Arvada Center called “The Art of the State” in 2022 and we reviewed several artists’ works through their websites and selected artists whose works we felt expressed poetic implications. We invited each artist to submit up to three works for consideration. This was so that they could choose from works that they felt would fit in the project, and offered them a wider range of expression than asking for just one piece.

Riding It Out by Margaret Josey-Parker

From June-August, 2023, Colorado poets and writers viewed the gallery, and used the visual artwork as inspiration for creating new poetry. Twelve Colorado poets submitted a total of 45 poems; some writers submitted multiple works. (Indeed, one writer submitted a poem for EACH work in the gallery.) In September 2023 we commissioned four Colorado composers to select their favorite texts from the anthology and make musical settings for chorus.

The artist/poet/composer groups are:

Visual Artist: Michiko Theurer, amethyst
Poet: Hayden Dansky, Shattering Love
Composer: Leigha Amick, Shattering Love

Visual Artist: Chris DeKnikker, Fractions
Poet: Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Holding Your Heart
Composer: Raul Dominguez, The Rings of Your Heart

Visual Artist: Raj Manickam, Freedom Night
Poet: Jennifer Gurney, Freedom Night
Composer: Paul Fowler, Freedom Night

Visual Artist: Margaret Josey-Parker, Riding It Out
Poet: Erin Robertson, Burning It Off
Composer: Tom Morgan, A Glimmer of Sun

We’re looking forward to premiering these four new works at our concerts in June, sharing our vision, and hearing all these works of art sing!

(For more information about the artists, check out this January, 2024 Nova Buzz post)