Canvassing the Campus
Meet the BCA's New President and CEO, Gregory Ruffer PDF Print E-mail

Boston Center for the Arts is pleased to introduce our new President and CEO, Greogry Ruffer. To help you get to know him, we've asked 5 questions about his influences and inspirations.

Gregory Ruffer, photo by Michael Blanchard Photography

photo by Michael Blanchard Photography

What artist inspires you?

Let me answer this by naming my favorite artists in various genres:

Music: Jennifer Higdon. I have commissioned new works from her twice and love the fresh sound of her voice. Dance: Paul Taylor. He represents music through movement in a way that speaks to my soul. Visual Arts: Willem De Kooning. His works expose raw emotion that is palpable. Theatre: Stephen Sondheim. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

What historical figure do you most relate to?

I'll turn this one around and say, "What historical figure most inspires you?" There are several in this vein, but the first one who comes to mind is Howard Zinn. I believe his work for truth and justice was of paramount importance to humanity as a whole. We are bombarded daily by reports of people who work to divide us along the lines of any type of difference and I find that both sad and disturbing.

Tell us something surprising about yourself.

I am a left-handed conductor. Throughout my entire performing career I held the baton in my left hand, sometimes to the distaste of orchestral players. I wrote my dissertation, called "The Sinister Conductor," looking at how undergraduate conducting teachers view and teach their left-handed students. There are only a very few professional conductors who have ever conducted with the left-hand, which can be offensive to those who hold strongly to tradition.

What are you most looking forward to when you move to the South End?

Though I'm originally from a small town in Ohio, I really consider myself a big city person. When I get to the South End I will get rid of my car and go back to using my feet to get around the way I did when I lived in New York and Washington, DC. The neighborhood is so vibrant and I love being able to walk everywhere while I take in the architecture and the people.

What drew you to the BCA?

I have a long history of being partial to new works, something that is central to the mission of the BCA. Now that I have moved on from being an active, performing musician, I get great satisfaction from being able to support others who are working in the creative process. I'm looking forward to being surrounded by innovation, creativity and artistic creation.

What's On Their Mind | May 23 – June 6 | featuring Zoé Dance PDF Print E-mail

On May 23 Zoé Dance begins their 4 week stay at the BCA for the final Choreographer’s Residency of the season. Callie Chapman of Zoé Dance tells the BCA What’s On Her Mind. Want to see Zoé Dance in action? Join us for Becoming Undone, Boston Center for the Arts Choreographers’ Residency Showcase June 17 and 18 at 8:00pm | Purchase tickets here.

Zoe Dance, 'Esperanza por el Agua'

Zoé Dance performing Esperanza por el Agua

What can we expect to see during your residency?

I am planning on reworking Becoming Undone, a multi-media installation dance piece that has components of audience interaction and metaphors played out via movement and visual stimuli. All played out within an hour or so. This piece was originally performed last year at about this time at Green Street Studios. I plan on reworking by rethinking the movement specifically. How gesture, group work, and form can strengthen the piece to convey the theme. Becoming Undone, for me as a thematic undertone is the continual process of pealing away layers of ones self. It's really never ending.

How long have you been working as a professional dancer?

Ha! Funny question. I always like to get technical with this one. Since I was 11, I have been dancing professionally. Although starting dance basically when I could walk, then to dance class at 3, at 11 I had my first paying gig playing a Snow child in Carousel at the North Shore Music Theatre. Continually from 3 on, I kept training from former Boston Ballet dancers as my teachers, then on to the Boston Conservatory. And intermittently I would get paying gigs throughout those times.

In five words, describe your process.

  • Visual
  • Dream
  • Context
  • Metaphor
  • Movement

What does a typical workweek look like for you?

Right now it's a new thing...this workweek. In addition to having my own company, I also dance for Prometheus Dance, teach Ballet and modern, freelance graphic design/projection design, am a mother of two boys, and just opened my own artists exchange called Studio@550 (Central Square, Cambridge). So somehow all of those things fit into my week, in addition to making room for performances, and yes, down time.

What book, exhibition, music, play, etc would you recommend to a friend?

It depends on where the friend’s interests lie. For myself I find inspiration in things I've looked at before. It's on the nth time that I recognize another reason I love that thing. Beating around the question a bit because sometimes I find that what I would recommend is either old hat (I.e. the music of Chopin) or completely out of the loop (I.e. music artist Juana Molina). And it's very specific to where I am in my life right now. Unless I know where the other person is, I wouldn't know where to start.

What's On Their Mind | April 11 – April 25 | featuring Sheila Pepe PDF Print E-mail

The BCA introduces you to Sheila Pepe one of the 26 amazing artists in our latest Mills Gallery Exhibition, Queer Threads. Sheila is best known for her large-scale, ephemeral installations and sculpture made from domestic and industrial materials. Pepe has exhibited widely throughout the United States and abroad in solo and group exhibitions as well as collaborative projects. We've asked Sheila six questions about herself and she has graciously answered. We hope you'll come out to see our closing show of the season running April 29 - July 10.

Queer Threads artist and educator Sheila Pepe

Photo by Rachel Stern

How long have you been working as an artist and how did you get involved in the arts?

I’ve been digging holes in the backyard and doing home-crafts with my mother since I can remember. Public grammar school and then Catholic High School in New Jersey in the 1960s–70s meant many bus trips to all kinds of culture, art music and theater from grade school on. I went to college at Albertus Magnus in New Haven in order to study Art Therapy, but soon declared as an Art major. I got a BA in art with a strong liberal arts foundation there, and then moved on to MassArt where I then got a BFA in ceramics in 1983. By then I was truly done with academia, had come out as a lesbian feminist and jumped out of the art and craft world to work in a lesbian restaurant and live in a large group house fueled with lesbians in Allston, MA. Soon I considered myself a lesbian separatist and wanted nothing to do with patriarchal anything—including Art! In 1985 my partner at the time, Laura Pattison, and I moved to western Mass and we each worked on a farm. I picked vegetables in Sunderland and she milked goats and fed the other farm animals in Leverett. After a year or so of seasonal work around Ashfield where we lived, I no longer thought of my self as a separatist, and was crazy to find some work related to the arts. To make much longer story shorter, I worked in a variety of museums in the Pioneer Valley and then returned to Boston in 1992 to attend SMFA/Tufts. In 1994 I went to Skowhegan in Maine and in 1995 I received my MFA and have been happily working ever since. You could say on one hand I’ve been an artist all of that time—and on the other there were long stretches when art was the last thing on my mind. I wouldn’t do it any other way.

In five words, describe your process.

  • Context
  • Contingencies
  • Formal parameters
  • Execute

Why was being included in this exhibition important to you?

I’d say that John Chaich (the curator) made a good case for jumping on board—and I was very happy to animate the queer side of my work’s concerns. Also—John and I had a good eye on the age and gender balance of the show, so I wanted to serve in this way as well. I started mounting large crocheted works nationally in 1999, I mixed a bunch of feminist, class and gender issues into formalist tropes. I thought it was important to put formal works into the mix of a show that included mostly image driven and/or overtly political works. You know, every group show captures a portion of any work’s totally capacity. In the 1990s I had a hell of a time getting my work understood as having any political / identity meaning—I really appreciated that this notion of a queer formalism was finally understandable to others.

What artists inspire you?

Too many to name—but the ones that stand out are the mentors, peers and students that I’ve worked with! To name a few: Nancy Spero, Judy Pfaff, Donald Baechlor, Steven Westfall, Beverly Semmes, Torkwase Dyson, Thomas-Langigan Schmidt, Sondra Perry, Fabiolla Menchelli, Danny Giles, and Sarah Hewitt. Oh there are so many young artists like these four that I find inspiring! But the last one I’ll name is my dear "partner in art" and wife—the fab painter Carrie Moyer!

If you were not an artist, what would you be?

An archeologist, historian, philosopher or civil rights lawyer.

Our current Artist Resident, Elisa Hamilton is working on a project that explores superpowers. If you could have any superpower what would it be?

FLY—I love to travel for work and play—and I’m OK with all modes (except perhaps buses at this point in my life)—but I rack up lots of flying time and I worry about my carbon footprint. Would be great to be able to just fly.

Click here for more information about Queer Threads.

Parachute cord, laces, yarn (Bamboo, cotton, nylon, polyester, rayon, silk, and wool) and hardware
Commissioned for the exhibition Fiber: Sculpture 1960–Present organized by Jenelle Porter, ICA Mannion Family Senior Curator, in situ at the ICA from October 1, 2014 through January 4, 2015.
Images by John Horner Photography unless otherwise noted.

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