Monday, September 18, 2017

The History of Dance on Campus

Student Dancer, 1928

Dance has always been a very important part of the history of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). When the college opened in 1892 as the State Normal and Industrial School, “movement” was taught as part of the Physiology and Hygiene curriculum under the direction of resident physician Dr. Anna Gove. The program stressed posture, calisthenics, gymnastics, and walking. This cutting edge curriculum was a product of several important conferences held during the mid-nineteenth century, which attempted to refine different physical education ideologies prevalent in the United States and Europe.

Only a decade after the school opened, Physical Culture had broken away from Physiology and Hygiene, concentrating on “the development of grace, precision, alertness, agility, and endurance.” This plan of study also included sports such as tennis, field hockey, and basketball. Physical education was stressed so that the students could both keep in shape and learn basic athletic skills that would prepare them for their career as teachers. By 1911, the school’s “Physical Training” program included rhythmical movements and folk dancing, as well as singing and games. These areas remained an important part of teacher training through the 1920s.

Folk Dancers

During these years, dance also emerged as an important part of school pageants and productions. Park Night, May Day, Field Day, and school clubs provided opportunities to bring both music and dance to campus events. Park Night festivities began with the “Dance to the Past,” followed by a large procession of students carrying torches. The event continued with lyrical poetry, presentations, and a solo dance, ending with the “Dance to the Future.”  The elaborate May Day celebrations included students dancing around colorful, ribboned poles, as well as group dances performed as part of smaller productions held around the campus. Even Field Day, primarily an athletic event, incorporated a “dance drama” performed by the Orchesus Club. This exclusive campus group was founded for students interested in interpretive dance.

Mary Channing Coleman

In 1920, college president Julius Foust lured Mary Channing Coleman away from her position at Columbia University to be the director of the school’s Physical Education Department, and the wheels were in motion to move the program into one of national importance. Under Coleman’s direction, dance became a growth area within the physical education curriculum, offering a variety of choices such as rhythmics (including interpretive dance), clogging, and folk dancing. Dances such as clogging and square dancing, which were both closely connected to the mountain culture of the state, were particularly popular.

The students’ interest in dance was fueled by the visit to the college by several important dance troops, including the Duncan Dancers, which had been organized by the internationally renowned American dancer, Isadore Duncan; the Denishawn Players, featuring Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn; and the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.

Virginia Moomaw
The curriculum continued to grow under Coleman’s strong management and in 1945 Virginia Moomaw was brought to the college to develop an official dance program. Shortly after her hire, the interdisciplinary Graduate Creative Arts Program was approved, which established dance as an MFA degree program and in 1957, students had the opportunity to declare dance as their major. Moomaw was also very involved with dance outside of the school. She was active in the early years of the National Dance Association as well as the AAHPERD (American Association of Health, Physical Educations, Recreation, and Dance). Her reputation for excellence and her creative curriculum made the college’s dance program one of the best in the nation.

Student Dancer, 1990s
In the following decades, dance became a part of several administrative changes. In 1963, the program was included in the Physical Education Department with health education, physical education and recreation but by 1970, dance became part of the School of Heath, Physical Education, and Recreation, which was renamed the School of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance in 1980. When in 1991, the School of Health and Human Performance was formed, dance was included and remained as part of the department until 2010 when it joined the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance.  In 2016, the Department of Art merged with the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance to form the College of Visual and Performing Arts, the largest performing arts programs in the state and one of the largest programs in the region and in the country.*

* The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (20 January 2015). "UNCG: GRAMMY nods for four with ties to School of Music, Theatre... -- GREENSBORO, N.C., Jan. 20, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --".

Monday, September 11, 2017

Bringing Music to Peabody Park

If you have ever walked the length of College Ave (in the direction of Market Street), you will eventually find yourself crossing a metal and concrete bridge. The structure and placement of the bridge creates for the walker the illusion of floating through and above a wooded section of Peabody Park. As you pass through a line of tree tops, you begin to see hints of a brick and glass structure located just beyond the bridge. The building’s multi-story entrance beckons students, faculty, and visitors to pass through its glass doors and experience the energy and creativity of music education as well as the wonders of musical performance. It is the Music Building.

The Music Building is situated at the corner of West Market Street and McIver Streets. Drawing on the existing landscape of Peabody Park, the design team built the three-story structure into an existing hill. Thus, the 130,000 square foot building blends into the surrounding landscape and conveys a sense of permeance. Would you be surprised to learn that the building only opened in 1999?
Prior to the building’s construction, the music program had struggled with growing pains and operated out of seven different buildings on campus. Faculty and students had to walk from building to building to study, rehearse, and perform. For example, the Brown Building on Tate Street housed the program’s administration and instruction spaces. The Brown Building Annex housed rehearsal spaces, the music education library, and faculty offices. Three separate campus-owned houses were used as offices and practice spaces. Finally, music performances were held at the University’s Auditorium and the nearby Curry Building. Thus, the hope was to bring together all the program’s functions and house them in one academic building.

The planning and construction of the Music Building in Peabody Park reflects the forward vision of its administrators and faculty. Starting in 1977, the music school Dean Lawrence Hart charged a committee to consider the needs of the program and the feasibility of constructing a new campus building. The committee’s work stopped with the Dean’s retirement. In 1984, with the appointment of Dean Arthur Tollefson, there was a new push to study the program’s current and future needs. Dean Tollefson himself articulated a vision of a building that provided both the “appropriate tools” and space to support a world-class music education.

Over a period of years, the University’s Board of Trustees worked to obtain funding for a new building. With the passage of the $310 million North Carolina University’s Improvement Bond by voters in 1993, monies were secured for various capital improvements on campus as well as the construction of a $23.4 million music building. In February 1994, the Board of Trustees voted to select the architecture firm Calloway, Johnson, Moore, and West of Winston-Salem. This firm designed the building in association with Howard, Montgomery and Steger Performance Architects of New Orleans. Also in February 1994, the Board of Trustees selected the site of the new building. Surprisingly, the Board rejected Chancellor William E. Moran’s recommendation of constructing the new building on Tate Street (between the Weatherspoon Museum and the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks). Instead, they approved an alternative location for the music building on the corners of West Market and McIver Streets. The Board justified its decision by stating that the new site would provide the music building more visibility.

The selection of the West Market and McIver Streets site was not fully embraced by all of the University’s faculty and students. For example, the Environmental Awareness Foundation (a coalition of students, faculty, and members of the surrounding community protested and expressed concern about the impact of new construction in Peabody Park. At the same time, this group did recognize the need for a new music school building. Several demonstrations were held on campus. In response to these protests, the University’s administration sought design changes and protective measures to minimize any impact on the flora and fauna in Peabody Park.

On August 1999, the new music building opened its doors to 50 faculty members and 500 music its 500 students. The new building featured a 351-seat recital hall, a 120-seat organ recital hall, and a 140-seat lecture hall. One of the star features of the organ recital hall was a stunning 28-feet tall 1,900 pipe organ. The organ was fabricated by the Andover Organ Company in Methuen, Massachusetts. Additionally, the building contained faculty offices, classrooms, rehearsal spaces, recording studios, and a music library. The new building also adopted a range of new technologies. For example, the Wave (Wenger Acoustic Virtual Environment) Room stimulated the acoustics and environment of various concert halls around the world. Chancellor Patricia Sullivan formally dedicated the building on October 3, 1999. The afternoon-long event was filled with tours, demonstrations, and recitals.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Gregory Ivy: The Legacy of a Non-Conformist

Today's Spartan Stories post was written by Arlen Hansen, a PhD student in History. Arlen worked in Special Collections and University Archives during Summer 2017, assisting with research related to the University's 125th anniversary celebration.

To the extent that UNCG is known as an “arts school” in North Carolina, much of the credit for that reputation can go to Gregory Ivy (1904-1985). “Consider,” wrote his student Lee Hall, “what the world and North Carolina were like in the Great Depression, what the Woman’s College was about…when Gregory Ivy arrived in his super-modern space craft and -- seeming to barely speak the language of the country he had invaded -- urged the female natives to seek and value freedom, to question what they had been taught was unquestionable, and to notice that most authority figures were swaggering about as buck naked as the emperors they imagined themselves to be.”1  According to Lee Hall, “Ivy might as well have been an alien when he arrived in North Carolina” in 1935, to found the art department of the Woman’s College (later UNCG).2

Ivy was a Columbia University-educated artist, a modernist influenced by surrealism and the Cubists. As such, according to Hall, Ivy was always advancing challenges to the status quo, and he made the newly minted art department at the Woman’s College into “a mini-cosmos of the humanistic world he envisioned.”3  With this guiding philosophy, Ivy influenced generations of students, and shaped art education at the Woman’s College. In 1938, Ivy established a summer art colony held at the Beaufort Summer School through the mid-1950s, which focused on landscape painting. In 1941, with the help and support of community members, Ivy established an art gallery, now known as the Weatherspoon Art Museum. Ivy’s connections to the wider art world meant that he could bring nationally known artists to the Woman’s College. This is how the sculptor Maurice Glickman, for instance, anchored the inaugural exhibit at the new Woman’s College Art Gallery in 1941. In subsequent decades, under Ivy leadership, the Weatherspoon Gallery became nationally known in the art world as a leading showcase of modernist art. His legacy is still felt in the Arts at UNCG, and in the Weatherspoon Art Museum.

Ivy's watercolor Dead End, Beaufort (1940)
Lee Hall met Gregory Ivy as an art student at the Woman’s College.4  Hall would later recall that in 1950s “McCarthyism” America, Ivy “did not fit in, he did not conform.”5  Ivy had built the UNC system’s first department to award a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in fine arts, and assembled an art department of very talented colleagues. According to Lee Hall, “these “liberal” or “arty” or “pinko” faculty…kept the gossips and scolds stoked, and caused among the keepers of the status quo near-terminally raised eyebrows and pursed mouths.” Lee Hall recalled that students seemed to either love or hate Ivy, and recalled the gossip of her fellow students about him. From students who liked him: “He’s hip.” “He has Negro friends.” From students who hated him: “He’s an atheist and communist.” “He believes in sex before marriage.” “He’s going to be fired.”6

Gregory Ivy left the Woman’s College in 1961, after twenty-six years, to work as design coordinator for an architectural firm in Greensboro. He resigned with an angry letter to acting-Chancellor W.W. Pierson bemoaning the lack of funding for the art department, and the apparent disinterest of the College to fund it. “The Art Department,” he wrote, “is the only department here which is not housed, and yet, it is the best known nationally of all the departments.”7  His resignation letter detailed all of his grievances with the administration, and continued, “I feel that I can no longer assume the responsibility for maintaining decent standards under these conditions. The quality of the work done under these really outrageous and scandalous conditions suffers.”8

 In 1965, Ivy left Greensboro to head the art department at California State College in Fullerton. Over the course of his long career, Ivy participated in exhibitions with major artists such as Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollack, and Marc Chagall, and at institutions including the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago. The Weatherspoon Art Museum houses a major collection of Ivy’s work.

1 Lee Hall. Lecture delivered November 13, 2005 at Weatherspoon Art Museum on the occasion of the public reception for the exhibition, “Gregory D. Ivy: Making North Carolina Modern.” Gregory Ivy Bio Files, Special Collections and University Archives, UNCG Libraries. 
2 Ibid. 
3 Ibid. 
4 Lee Hall was the student artist who drew the male nude which graced the cover of the Fall 1954 issue of the Coraddi. In the ensuing controversy, The Coraddi staff was censured by Chancellor Edward Kidder Graham, resulting in the resignation of the magazine's staff. 
5  Lee Hall. Lecture delivered November 13, 2005 at Weatherspoon Art Museum on the occasion of the public reception for the exhibition, “Gregory D. Ivy: Making North Carolina Modern.” Gregory Ivy Biographical File, Special Collections University Archives, UNCG Libraries.   
6 Lee Hall, e-mail to Will South, 4 March, 2004. Gregory Ivy Bio Files, Special Collections University Archives, UNCG Libraries. 
7 The Carolinian, May 12, 1961. 
8 Ibid.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Birth of the Spartans

One year after the era of co-education was ushered in with the enrollment of male undergraduates in 1964, Frank Pleasants was hired to coordinate competitive athletics for male students at UNCG. Campus administrators saw a robust athletic program as a significant way of encouraging male enrollment.

UNCG men's basketball head coach Jim Swiggett
In 1966, Jim Swiggett, a highly successful coach at a nearby high school, was hired as UNCG’s first men’s basketball coach. His inaugural squad was developed from the existing student body, with open tryouts for players across campus. In October 1967, after the first two days of team practice, Swiggett reported 14 men participating in workouts. He stated, “We have some boys who have played some basketball, and some who haven’t,” adding he had “15 uniforms, and if these boys who are out want to play, we’ll carry them.”

Also in October 1967 after discussions with athletes and other students, UNCG athletic teams officially adopted the “Spartans” as their mascot. Pleasants noted they “were looking for a name which had a masculine ring, and one also which had associated with it a tradition of courage.” Additionally, they avoided duplicating names of other teams in the region, specifically veering away from “animal names,” like the Wolfpack, Catamounts, or Tigers, for that reason. Strong consideration was given to the “Generals” and the “Brigadiers” in an effort to honor Revolutionary War hero General Nathanael Greene. But Pleasants noted that Greensboro’s professional hockey team at the time was named the Generals, and argued that the Brigadiers “sounded a little too jazzy.”

Brian Emerson
With a roster and mascot in place, the first Spartans squad prepared for their opening game on November 20, 1967 against the College of Charleston. Days before the game, Swiggett noted, “The spirit on the team is excellent, and we’re really looking forward to beginning intercollegiate play. But actually, I don’t really know what to expect. We want to win, but we want to look good whether we win or lose.”

While the match with Charleston was a close one, ultimately a lack of height coupled with a lack of experience resulted in a one-point loss for the Spartans (80-79). The team lost its first seven games, with five defeats by a margin four or fewer points. The Spartans earned their first win against N.C. Wesleyan at home in Coleman Gymnasium by a score of 87-65. They finished their inaugural season with a 2-11 record, and secured their spot in the history books as the first in a long tradition of UNCG Spartans.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Darlinettes and Rhythmettes: Big Band Sounds at the WC

In 1942, big band music from the likes of Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, and Benny Goodman were all the rage, but local big bands were hard to find. Most of the musicians in these groups were male, and they were being drafted into military service during World War II. But a group of students at the Woman's College stepped in to fill the void, forming the Darlinettes and their four-member vocal group, The Rhythmettes, in 1942.

Practicing in the Brown Music Building
Many of the Darlinettes' and Rhythmettes' performances took place at Woman's College. They played many of the formal dances and "soldier dances" held on campus during and immediately after WWII. But the group was not confined to the WC campus. They played shows at the USO Club on North Elm Street, and they entertained troops stationed at the Army Air Corps' Overseas Replacement Depot in Greensboro. In 1946, they traveled to Asheville to provide entertainment at the 1st annual conference of the 191st District of Rotary International. Cleveland Thayer, General Chairman of the Distrct, wrote to offer his personal thanks to the Darlinettes for "the fine work of your orchestra."

The founding leader of the Darlinettes and Rhythmettes was Cherry Folger, who also played trumpet. Folger was reportedly the first trumpet major in the history of WC, and was quite the musician and leader. At the age of 14, she was fronting an all-male musical group in her hometown of White Plains, NY. According to a newspaper article from 1943, she "often hits high 'E' above high 'C' on the instrument, and has been known to touch high 'G.'" She formed the Darlinettes soon after arriving at WC in 1942 (she transferred after spending her first two years of college at the Eastman School of Music and the University of Rochester).


When Folger graduated in 1944, Doris Funderburk took over the baton for the Darlinettes. Under Funderburk's leadership, the Darlinettes continued their busy performing schedule. But they also found time to record an album, titled "Autumn Serenade." The 78 rpm records were made May 26, 1946, at the Vic Smith Recording Service in Greensboro. They featured 10 songs, including an original piece written and orchestrated by Funderburk called "You Don't Get it From Books."

The group continued performing, with membership swapping out with each graduation, through the early 1950s. Many of the Darlinettes took up non-musical careers after graduation, but a few continued in a musical path. Frances Stevens Snipe of Clemson, SC, sang with Greensboro band leader Burt Massengale's group for a number of years. Mary Sampson Irvin played trombone with the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra. And Doris Funderburk Morgan served as the organist at the old Charlotte Coliseum for many years, playing music to enliven crowds at the Charlotte Checkers ice hockey games.

In September 2002, several members of the Darlinettes were reunited at an event organized by Burt Bruton, the nephew of the late Sue Bruton, an original member and saxophonist in the Darlinettes. The following May, the UNCG School of Music declared May 2 to be Darlinette Day. They hosted an event featuring Darlinettes members and established a Darlinettes Artist in Residence Endowment Fund, aimed at bringing female jazz artists to the school.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Demise of the McIver Building and its Mural

The McIver Building is slated to be demolished in the spring and summer of 2018, making way for the new Nursing and Instruction Building. Designed by J. N. Pease and Company of Charlotte, North Carolina, when the McIver Building officially opened in October 1960, it was one of the few modern buildings on campus. It was also one of the first to be air-conditioned.  Named for Charles Duncan McIver, the founder and first president of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, it replaced the previous McIver Memorial Building, which stood in the same location until it was razed in 1958.
The “new McIver Building” was planned as a classroom space, but it was primarily meant to house the Art Department. In 1967, a wing was added to expand the department and to create the Weatherspoon Gallery. A kiln was constructed behind the building in 1966.

McIver Building
Opinions differ on the architectural merit of the structure, especially because of its juxtaposition to the historic Foust Building, but at the time of its construction, it was a cutting-edge design with an innovative art installation on its facade. Yet, from the time that the new structure was completed, it was controversial. While some welcomed the modern design, many felt that the new, contemporary edifice was reminiscent of a “penitentiary,” and missed the more conventional architecture of the old McIver Memorial Building. This opinion was echoed by Professor Randall Jarrell, who referred to the structure as “The Thunderbird Motel.”

McIver Building Dedication, October, 1960

The art installation on the western facade was also controversial. Architect J. N. Pease commissioned Joseph Cox (1915-1997), a professor at the North Carolina State University School of Design in Raleigh, to create a large “mural,” which would be featured above the western entrance of the building. Cox was a native of Indianapolis, Illinois, earning his B.F.A. from the John Herron Art School and his M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. He began working on large projects in his early twenties, including a commission sponsored by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to paint murals for post offices in Indiana and Michigan. In 1954, Cox took a position at the School of Design, and he taught there for twenty years, also fulfilling commissions for his art throughout the state. His interest focused on the use of interesting and diverse material, and capturing the light and shadow seen in nature.

"Mural" Created by Joseph Cox

He was asked to create the art installation for the McIver Building only a few years after he came to North Carolina. Although he was faced with financial limitations and unusual space restrictions, Cox created the modern design from a series of gray enameled panels that projected about three inches from the wall. This 35 x 20 foot sculptural facade was designed as an abstract “art piece” and was created to cast a changing pattern of light and shadow as the sun moved west during the day. In the morning, the mural would be hidden in shadows, and it would be gradually illuminated by the sunlight. At night, lights hidden behind the columns would create a green-silver sheen on the facade.
Cox’s continued interest in light and shadow can be seen in his “Color Wall,” which was created in the early 1970s for the D. H Hill Library at NC State University. This kinetic sculpture was designed to display constantly changing vertical patterns of color when lighted by twenty-three spotlights.  Although the Color Wall remains a part of the Hill Library, other of the artist’s art installations no longer exist. It is likely that the mural on the facade of the McIver Building will suffer the same fate, and be disassembled as part of the demolition of the structure, which will take place next year.

Monday, August 7, 2017

"Woodsy Paths" and "Ferocious Creatures" at Camp Ahuntforfun

Camping and outdoor recreation have been a staple of UNCG student life since the early 1900s. The student Athletic Association, soon after its founding in 1900, coordinated short hikes around campus. In 1922, a need for longer hikes and more outdoor recreational opportunities led faculty members and students to begin renting cabins around the Greensboro area for overnight excursions. Students who hiked at least 100 miles in shorter campus-based outings were allowed to attend these off-campus trips.

The log cabin at Camp Ahuntforfun
While this gave students the opportunity for outdoor recreation and education, issues arose which led students and faculty members to request the College purchase its own camp site. In the 1924 annual report for the Department of Physical Education, Department Head Mary Channing Coleman wrote that the Athletic Association would not be returning to their previous campsite as “the lodge has been broken into and the greater part of our meager equipment stolen.” Three years later in the 1927 annual report, Coleman argued a “college camp is urgently needed, not only as an item of our sports and recreation equipment, but as one factor in our teacher training.”

Fun times at Camp Ahutforfun
When the College did not purchase a camp, the Athletic Association began raising funds to purchase one itself. The group sold gym uniforms and swimsuits to fellow students in order to raise the $3,500 needed to purchase a camp site on Pleasant Garden Road, about five miles from campus. The two-acre site featured a log cabin with a large front porch and sleeping space, a well approximately 80-feet deep and a stream which the students hoped could later be developed into a swimming pool.

Students visiting Camp Ahutforfun
On Saturday, March 23, 1929, nine students and one faculty chaperone made the inaugural visit to the camp. Rain on the first day kept the campers near the cabin, where they entertained themselves with bridge, dancing, horseshoes and an Easter egg hunt. On Sunday, however, clear skies allowed the students to take what the Carolinian described as “a long hike through the woodsy paths and pastures, carefully avoiding those that were suspected of containing ferocious animals.”

The Athletic Association continued to grow their camp, adding a large outdoor fireplace, volleyball nets and other equipment. In 1932, after a campus wide contest, the camp was officially named “Camp Ahutforfun.” Students continued use of the camp site until 1943, when the Athletic Association purchased a larger tract of land near the Guilford Battleground site.