The Redfern Arts Center named Christopher Swist and Jeannie-Marie Brown the co-artistic directors after the recent departure of former director Shannon Mayers.
“It’s all about what happens onstage,” Swist said. “The performing arts reach their pinnacle when everything magically culminates in a live production.”
Swist continued, “Except it’s not magic at all. It’s years of experience and extremely difficult work by specialists: actors, writers, dancers, choreographers, musicians, composers, directors, producers, publicists, journalists, historians, managers, engineers and technicians.”
According to the Keene State website, Swist has “taught percussion, music technology, composition, and music theory at Keene State since 2003. He has also served on faculty at Bennington College, The Hartt School, Holyoke Community College and Franklin Pierce University.”
Swist’s compositions have been performed across the United States and Canada as well as overseas including Brazil, Argentina, China and Australia.
“His diversity is reflected in professional engagements as an orchestral percussionist, combo player, contemporary musician, solo marimbist, recording engineer, sound designer, studio fabricator and composer.” Keene State website reads.
“There was a revisioning of what it could be to be more student focused…we’re with the president’s vision of everything being for the students and student focused. This is part of our task as co artistic directors,” Brown said regarding what the artistic director will become.
Brown has been teaching at Keene State since 2015, and has been serving as an assistant professor of theatre. During her time at Keene State, she has directed many shows, including last year’s fall production of As You Like It.
Before coming to Keene State, Brown received her Bachelor’s degree in theatre and acting from Fordham University and her Master’s of Fine Arts in Directing from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Brown has taught theatre at colleges such as the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Millsaps College, and the Marblehead School of Ballet.
Along with the Brown and Swist being named, the position also will see some changes. “It’s a shift to have a faculty member, it’s a teaching position now. It’s not just purely an administrative position now. We’re still teaching classes while doing this work; that’s why there’s two of us because we still have to teach our classes,” Swist said.
“We have more collaboration between the two departments [music and theatre] as well, and for me, that’s a really exciting thing piece of it. As an artist, you learn from people you engage with and ideas pop up and percolate, so I think that this also provides us with the means for different types of communication and collaboration,” said Brown.
Swist and Brown began working on changes to the Redfern in early July. Now that the school year has begun, some changes have been implemented.
“Chris and I started meeting together and creating a plan of how we thought we could work together, so that was the first thing we did. Then, we devised a plan on how we were going to work with our co-collaborators at the Redfern,” said Brown.
“We’ve got these podcasts, the dance event, senior recitals and behind the scenes footage, so it’s good to see there’s already some results of trying to get the publicity machine moving,” said Swist.
The podcast is a new addition to the Redfern Arts Center. “They’re being produced and will eventually be shared through the Redfern website,” said Swist.
“It’s going to be spearheaded by a student along with Sharon Fantl, who will be aiding and it will be more like behind the scenes stuff, and those are starting to get laid out pretty well,” Swist said, regarding the new podcast the Redfern will be producing.
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