Shared Visions returns in 2024! This is an interdisciplinary collaborative project featuring works by Colorado visual artists, poets, composers, and performers, coordinated and presented by Ars Nova Singers. First presented in 2016 and again in 2019, this project brings together Colorado artists in a unique way, building a community of artistic inspiration and culminating in a performance of new music by Ars Nova Singers in June 2024.
At the first stage (May–September, 2023) we assembled an online gallery of 24 works by eight Colorado visual artists. Colorado writers and poets accessed these visual artworks, and selected one (or more) as a basis for writing new poetry. The poetry and visual art were gathered into a beautiful anthology and given to four Colorado composers. In turn, these composers selected poetry that inspired them and began setting the words to new music for voices. These new choral pieces will be performed by Ars Nova Singers at our June 2024 performances.
Below are the four chains of inspiration that this project has generated, and the 12 artists who have inspired each other.
Visual Artist: Chris DeKnikker, Fractions Poet: Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Holding Your Heart Composer: Raul Dominguez
Visual Artist: Raj Manickam, Freedom Night Poet: Jennifer Gurney, Freedom Night Composer: Paul Fowler
Visual Artist: Margaret Josey-Parker, Riding It Out Poet: Erin Robertson, Burning It Off Composer: Tom Morgan
Chris DeKnikker is an artist primarily working with collected wood and lumber. This familiar material invites the viewer to access his work and get lost in the intricacies of its construction and story. Each sculpture is created from hundreds, sometimes thousands of small, individually honed pieces. Each tiny piece is no more or less important than the piece next to it, all contributing to the overall concept. Chris states, “There is nothing more satisfying than seeing my work spark the curiosity of the viewer, even if only for a moment or two.”
Inspiration is everywhere, according to Chris. He finds it in the lichen, in the shadows on the bark of a tree, and in the light shining through the petals of a flower. Chris doesn’t mimic these observations, but rather uses the stimulation to fuel his creativity.
Chris DeKnikker was born and raised in Chico, CA, cradled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Chris made his way to Oregon and received a BFA in graphic design before heading to Colorado where he earned a Master of Landscape Architecture degree. Chris lives in Colorado where he enjoys camping, hiking, mountain biking, and gardening with his wife and son. https://www.chrisdeknikker.com/
Holding Your Heart
I want to trace the rings of your heart
the way I would trace tree rings—
not to count them
but to honor each season of you.
I want to touch my fingertips
to your scars, want to learn
your heart’s stories, find clues
of how you became who you are.
I want to press my palms
to your heart and praise
how it is we grow,
even in disaster, even in drought,
want to praise the dark center,
the time-thick bark, the record
of the ordinary days. I want
to chart the thin slivers of your wounds
and let my hands speak love,
want to tell you in a language
of quiet touch, I see you.
– Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer co-hosts Emerging Form (a creative process podcast), Secret Agents of Change (a surreptitious kindness cabal) and Soul Writer’s Circle. Her daily audio series, The Poetic Path, is on the Ritual app for your phone. Her poetry has appeared on A Prairie Home Companion and PBS News Hour, in O Magazine and American Life in Poetry, and on Carnegie Hall stage. She’s the author of Exploring Poetry of Presence II: Prompts to Deepen Your Writing Practice, and her newest collection is All the Honey.
Composer Raul Dominguez conducts the University Choir and Concert Choir at Regis University. Through his research focus, the choral music of the United Mexican States, he seeks to provide choirs with the necessary resources to facilitate artistic performances of Mexican choral music. Outside of Regis, Raul is the Associate Artistic Director for the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus, a 120-voice ensemble that builds community through music, and the Director of their small ensemble, Off Kilter.
Prior to Regis, Raul earned Bachelor of Music degrees in Vocal Performance and Music Education from Oklahoma City University where he studied with Dr. Randi von Ellefson and Judith Willoughby. He then led the choirs at Clear Lake High School in his hometown of Houston, TX for four years. After Clear Lake, Raul earned his Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting at Ithaca College with Dr. Janet Galván. Recently, he earned his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Choral Conducting and Literature at the University of Colorado Boulder with Dr. Gregory Gentry and Dr. Elizabeth Swanson.
Michiko Theurer (pronounced toy-rer; she/her) is a multimedia artist, performer, and community transformation facilitator. She is currently living in Boulder, alternating between working on completing her PhD in musicology at Stanford and splashing ink on fabric at her art studio at the House of Serein. She received her DMA in violin performance at CU Boulder in 2017, studying with Harumi Rhodes and Edward Dusinberre. She loves hosting creative sharing parties, dancing around her apartment, and dogs. https://www.michikotheurer.com/
I know nothing
more of love
I’ve felt its grip like you have
I’ve buried myself
in its memories
I’ve wandered through deserts looking
for mirages only
to find the actual oasis,
something to trick
my mind back
into what’s real
from its hiding place
in inevitable despair.
Now I know what it means
like you do,
and to shatter, well
isn’t that the point of loving?
I know nothing
more of love than you
because I learn it with you
as we grow together
where we are
afraid to barely touch it –
may we never
forget where it’s taken us to
may we remember
to let it break us
because to shatter well,
isn’t that the point of loving?
– Hayden Dansky Excerpt used in this project; the complete poem on this page.
Hayden Dansky is a nonbinary and transgender writer and activist. They have been writing and performing poetry for ten years, and collaborate extensively with local experimental musicians, dancers, other poets and videographers to create performances that encompass multiple disciplines. They published their first full length poetry book called I Would Tell You a Secret, and their poems can also be found in anthologies such as Isele Magazine, Beyond Queer Words, Bible Belt Queers, Thought for Food, and Dwell. They are also the Executive Director of Boulder Food Rescue, a nonprofit working to create a more just and less wasteful food system, through the sustainable redistribution of healthy food and participatory and community-led food access systems. haydendansky.com
Composer Leigha Amick believes that music has the potential to reflect on both the current and the timeless human experience, to provide grounds for intellectual fascination, and to quench the need for emotional expression. Her compositions have been performed by ensembles including the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, the Boulder Philharmonic, the Orlando Philharmonic, St. Martin’s Voices, the Indiana University New Music Ensemble, the Playground Ensemble, NOTUS Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, and the Ars Nova Singers. In 2022, New Voices Opera premiered Rhiannon’s Condemnation: a one-act chamber opera based on a medieval Welsh legend from The Mabinogion for which she wrote both the libretto and the music. In 2023, she was a composer fellow at the Aspen Music Festival. Amick is currently a graduate student at the Curtis Institute of Music where she holds the Jimmy Brent fellowship. https://www.leighaamick.com/
Photographer Raj Manickam: “For years, I have noticed the kinds of images others might let pass without a second glance. Today, missed images have no longer escaped my lens ever since then. My photos range in subject from the environment to human interest depiction. These images often partner with essays that tell even more of the narratives. I often find the engagement between the image and the story. Fundamentals of fine art, abstract, storytelling, and deep awareness emerge in a variety of my frames. With photography, I sometimes plan, and at times, I wander. Often, I also saunter in the wrong direction. I am drawn to places where I am mostly in quietude, even amongst people.
My photography starts with the art of observation. The act of observation comes from paying attention to one’s environment. I’m using that element of the witness consciously. My photos are my voice first. After it leaves my lens and shows up on a screen or paper, it becomes, or may then be, someone else’s voice and interpretation. I capture everything from sudden moments to everyday occurrences and translate them into fine yet relatable art. I strive to shine a light on the reality of the human experience through composition and honest storytelling. I am using my eastern culture’s rich language and over two decades of western point-of-view to draw in my viewers and tell a uniquely framed story. All in good light!” https://allingoodlight.com/
Raj Manickam, Freedom Night
I am yearning
To be filled to the brim with
That floats in
And wafts about –
Invisible yet seen
You sense its presence
When you’re able to
Just let life unfold
And you know its there
When you feel at peace with all
And with yourself
I am yearning To be filled
To the brim
– Jennifer Gurney
Jennifer Gurney lives in Colorado where she teaches, paints, writes and hikes. Although she’s been a writer most of her life, she has only begun submitting her poetry for publication in the last year or so. She is thoroughly amazed that nearly 700 poems have been published in more than 50 journals around the world and that one of her poems recently won an international poetry competition. An avid fan of Ars Nova, Jennifer was honored to submit poetry to the Shared Visions project. She is delighted to be a part of this creative endeavor mixing three mediums she loves: art, poetry and music. It will be a truly magical experience to hear her written words, which were inspired by the amazing artwork in the portfolio, set to music and sung. She cannot imagine a more sublime moment.
Sourcing materials parsed from the world’s spiritual traditions and natural beauty, Paul Fowler’s music will “work on you from the inside out” (Philadelphia Inquirer); invoking our shared human experience. Fowler draws from his regular work as a classical vocalist, improvising pianist, performer, and electronic musician to integrate old and new into “emotionally intense” (Washington Post) works which are “radiant, ghostly and shimmering” (New York Times).
His works have been performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Park Avenue Armory, Suntory Hall, and National Concert Hall of Taiwan among others. Commissioning ensembles include New York Youth Symphony, San Juan Symphony, Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, The Crossing, Ars Nova Singers, Hope Mohr Dance, and Boulder Ballet. Fowler is the Music Director for 3rd Law Dance/Theater. He has degrees in voice, composition and theater from Ithaca College and a masters in composition from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. www.paulfowler.net
Margaret Josey-Parker shares her inspiration. “Since graduating with an MFA from the University of Oregon, I have taught ceramics at many places in Colorado and other western states. I believe art is a visual language of personal symbols and my work is a rough sketch or diary of my life. The collection of individual events and the emotional ebb and flow of everyday life eventually stream into a coherent current through my work. I create sculptural objects that comfort me, but also challenge my notions of reality, beauty and spirituality
My work has a modern cowboy aesthetic and is inspired by western life and landscape. All the places I have lived have possessed an abundance of gorgeous visual stimuli. From the canyons of Utah and Arizona to the lush environs of the Pacific Northwest, the rich culture of New Mexico and now the open plains and mountains of Colorado, my sculptural work reflects my love for the landscape and history of the American West.
I work in series, and often integrate steel and wood elements into my volumetric ceramic forms in hopes of attaining a poetic composite of materials. My collection utilizes a variety of clay, glaze and firing techniques, and features carving of intricate patterns and symbolic objects on the surface of the clay forms.” https://www.margaretjoseyparkerart.com/
Margaret Josey-Parker, Riding It Out
Burning It Off
hands held still on soft grey flanks
the world wrapped in corduroy rain
I can’t stop searching persistent storm
for even a glimmer of sun
dressed like a jester, neck craned as if my deadset eyes could Fresnel lens a bright beam
through these wooly banks ready to weep,
burn straight past sour to silly –
I’ll juggle those swords and stars yet –
make ‘em pound that mud to brick,
stomp all their emptiness into trembling joy
– Erin Robertson
Erin Robertson teaches outdoor nature writing classes in Boulder County (@bocowildwriters). Her poetry has been published in the North American Review, Cold Mountain Review, Poet Lore, and elsewhere, and has been performed by Ars Nova Singers. Past honors include being a guest artist hosted by the U.S. Consulate in Kazakhstan, Voices of the Wilderness Artist in Residence in Alaska, Boulder County Artist in Residence, and awards in the Michael Adams Poetry Prize and Columbine Poets Members’ Contest. She lives in Louisville with her remarkable husband, two sons, parakeet, and pup, who teach her about wonder every day. erinrobertson.org
Recognized as a “many-splendored musician” (The Boulder Daily Camera) and leading interpreter of new choral music, Tom Morgan has led the evolution of Ars Nova Singers from a local choral treasure to an intrepid professional choir with national acclaim. Under his leadership, the ensemble has pursued daring repertoire, innovative collaborations, and numerous commissioning projects, along with touring nationally and internationally.
As a composer, Morgan was an artist-in-residence of the Lucas Artists program at the Montalvo Center for the Arts in Saratoga, California (2006-2008). He collaborated with New York visual artist Lesley Dill in the production of an extended work for a cappella chorus, I Heard a Voice, which was premiered by the Ars Nova in 2002. His composition Psalm 88 for orchestra and chorus received the prestigious BMI Award, and his choral work Four Poems of e. e. cummings was presented on the opening program of the eighth Internacional de Musica Nueva festival in Mexico City. Several of his works have been performed internationally by the Peiyang Chorus of Tianjin, China. In addition to a significant catalogue of original works, Morgan has produced many arrangements and transcriptions for Ars Nova Singers and other vocal ensembles.