Tuesday, February 14, 2017


This is what I said last night at the Convocation:

 We are so proud to celebrate the great work of our students.  We are so proud of the learning, and making, and thinking, that is happening in our classrooms, studios, stages, and concert halls.  We are so proud of you, the next generation of artists, scholars, teachers, doers, makers—Generation Renaissance—who will have careers in the world and a life in the arts.  Who will do well, who will do good, who will do better.

We convene tonight to celebrate –our work and each other.  We come together as a community, recognizing that art, artists, scholars, teachers, audiences do well, do good, do better in communion with one another.  Although we may work alone in a studio or practice room or study carrel, or in small groups in the rehearsal hall, or even within our Schools, when we are exposed to other forms, other minds, other art, we are invigorated, our imaginations and the possibilities of our work expand.  Together, our work makes us stronger, smarter, more engaged in the world.  We, whose disposition is to see an object, but imagine a work of visual art, who hear a sound, but imagine music, who witness behavior, but imagine theatre, who perceive motion, but imagine a dance. Together, we change the world—every day, in class, in research, in the studio, concert hall or theater.  So, tonight, we convene, we celebrate, and remind ourselves that what we do matters crucially—of course to each other, naturally for our schools, certainly for this College, indeed for the university, clearly for the region, the nation and the world.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Winter Convocation 2017

Back in the saddle!  I've neglected this, I know.  But there's a lot going on and I'm going to make sure I stay in touch.

First, we hired a new Director of Development--CVPA's first ever!  Welcome to Kristin Miller.  She lives in Sycamore and has a lot of experience in the not-for-profit development business.  She's hit the ground running and is sure to help us sustain and grow scholarships, endowments, and naming opportunities.

Second, we are hosting the first ever whole College Convocation!  It's next Monday, February 13 from 6:30 to 9:00 PM at the historic Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb.

The idea originated when I learned that this sort of thing had never been done before.  In my previous institution this had been a regular practice at the beginning of each academic year.  But the Schools here are very busy in the fall, so we found a date in February when things are a bit quieter and everyone might need a lift.

Part of my vision for CVPA includes ENGAGEMENT.  I want the work of our students and faculty engaged with the broader community.  By holding the convocation at the Egyptian, we signal to everyone that our work is also the work of the entire region.  Our motto is Art for Everyone and Everyone for the Arts!

There will be a LOT going on-- student art exhibits, musical performances, dance, theater, and our  special keynote speaker, Aaron Dworkin. 

We are all in this together.  As artists, scholars, teachers, students, staff,  patrons, family and friends--art is a game that when well played, everybody wins.  I want theatre students who've never been to the museum to become regular visitors.  I want visual artists to go to plays.  I want musicians to see a dance, dancers to hear a jazz concert.  We are a community and together we are stronger, more resilient, and our artistry is greatly enriched.

Month Three

It's been awhile.  The semester started at the end of August and we've been hard at it ever since.  I've attended
  • an art opening (Kaleidoscope--sponsored by the Burma Studies Center)
  • two music concerts --Faculty Jazz Recital and the Avalon String Quartet
  • a play--Out of the Blue
  • a Huskies pre-game event  
  • the Unity March
  • a fund raising event for the Elwood House Museum in DeKalb 
  • a conference
  • heard an alum speak about her experience in art therapy,
  • participated in discussions about a STEAM Learning Center in DeKalb
  • visited the DeKalb Business Incubator
  • participated in a discussion about diversifying orchestras in Chicago 
  • visited Taft Center in Oregon, IL and discussed a partnership with the Art Institute and a sculpture by Loredo Taft (also met with Honor students at the Center)
  • Visited Argonne National Laboratories to talk about possible collaborations
  • Went to Writer's Theatre in Glencoe, IL to see Julius Caesar and talk about possible internships for our Theatre students
  • Met with many faculty, staff, students, donors, alums
and I've also been teaching a section of UNIV 101--which has been great fun and a wonderful way for me to get to know students and the campus and all the resources NIU has to offer.

Here's what I've learned so far:
  • CVPA has AMAZINGLY talented faculty
  • NIU has smart, talented and engaged students
  • DeKalb has a lot to offer 
  • The leadership at NIU is determined to make things here better.
Here's my mantra--

CVPA--preparing the new creative class --Generation Renaissance!
--Doing well.  Doing good.  Doing better.

Find us on Facebook!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Month Two--

First month under my belt.  I've met a lot of people, got a lot of work done--first and foremost, program prioritization.  Much work ahead, but good work that will help CVPA move forward.

One thing I've found is that NIU, and CVPA in particular, is one of the best kept secrets in Illinois!  So, we're working on getting the good news about our Schools and students, alums and donors, faculty and staff out there, front and center.  To that end, we're looking for a few people to add to our roster--people who can help us spread the news and gather resources to help us do what we do best--make, create, discover, learn.

I'm finding my way about campus.  I like to find the nooks and crannies and secret paths to here and there.  When I come upon a spot that seems likely, I'll think--what can we do here?  What show can we put on?  What music suits the space?  What art can placed or occur in this spot?  I'm going to be posting pictures of likely spots and encourage students and faculty to put their creative minds to how to make the most of our spaces.

Here's a picture of me on "Gulliver"--a fabulous sculpture by Tom Otterness that was installed for a short time at my former institution, SUNY New Paltz.  It's a great example of utilizing a space creatively, and of art that engages community.  We tried to keep skateboarders off it, but it was too hard to resist!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Day One

Hello!  I'm Paul Kassel, new dean of CVPA.  Today is my first official day on the job, although I've been attending meetings and getting up to speed since the Board of Trustees approved my appointment at the end of April.

Before I say anything else, I want to acknowledge the tremendous work and generosity of Interim Dean Paul Bauer.  Everyone who knows him sings his praises, and if you have the chance, drop him a note letting him know what a great job he has done for the College this past year.  Personally, he has gone well beyond the call of duty in helping me get ready to lead CVPA.  I owe him a lot.  Luckily for us all, Dr. Bauer will be assisting CVPA in some crucial areas over the next year, as well as giving me aid and advice throughout this transitional period.

By now, many of you know that a budget deal has been made!  This is very good news for the university, but also for CVPA and particularly for the School of Theatre & Dance.  I'll have more to say about that next week.

This blog has not been active in a while, but it is my intention to revive it and to use it regularly, both to send out news about the great work of the student, faculty and staff of the College and Schools, but also to share the journey of my first year in DeKalb.  I'll do my best to keep them short, to the point, and informative.

Each post will begin with news about the College, followed by something I learned or discovered about NIU as I go about my business.  I'll finish with a bit about myself--my background, my interests--that I hope will be interesting or at least amusing.

This is a photo from an Actors Equity production of The Fantastiks I did with Halfmoon Theatre Company last year at the Marriott Theatre in Hyde Park, NY.  I'm the clown in the blue plaid pants.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Art History Lecture Series Continues April 28

The Division of Art History in the NIU School of Art and Design is proud to announce the next presentation in the Elizabeth Allen Visiting Scholars in Art History Series, featuring Professor Manuel Fernandéz-Götz from the University of Edinburgh.

Professor Fernandéz-Götz will present on the topic "Materialities of Mass Violence and Genocide."

Please join us on April 28 at 5:00 p.m. in Jack Arends Hall, room 100.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Theatre Head Re-elected to International Post

Alexander Gelman, Director of the NIU School of Theatre and Dance, has been re-elected to the University/Resident Theatre Association Board of Directors as Treasurer.

The URTA board consists of six directors and four officers elected from member schools, with elections conducted in the fall. The board has responsibility for the governance of the association and, as a collection of experts in the areas of theater and theater training, has considerable influence in guiding URTA’s ongoing services and new programs. URTA is the nation's largest association of professional, graduate theater training programs and related professional theater companies, consisting of 39 influential universities (38 in the United States and one in the United Kingdom) and 15 partnered theater companies.

Gelman was elected by a unanimous vote, along with new Directors Jacob Pinholster, director of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and Steve Broadnax, head of Penn State’s master of fine arts acting program.

“This unanimity indicates the depth of support for Jacob, Steve and Alex. URTA members expect — and appreciate — the considerable investment of time, effort and care made by colleagues serving on the board,” said URTA Executive Director Scott Steele.

Congratulations, Alex!