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  April 21, 2003

Fine Arts Talent Showcased
Through Outreach Program

When Dean David Woods of the School of Fine Arts arrived at UConn in 2000, he and President Austin found they shared a dream to showcase the talents of the School's performing arts students and enrich the lives of people in Connecticut.

On April 9, thanks in part to the generosity of a UConn alumna who is also a member of the local community, that dream was realized at the Stamford campus.

Image: Michael McAvoy

Michael McAvoy played Papageno the bird catcher in the UConn Opera production of The Magic Flute. Selections were performed at the Stamford campus as part of a Fine Arts outreach program.

Photo Courtesy Sylvia McClain

During a week-long celebration commemorating the fifth anniversary of the University's downtown Stamford campus, members of the UConn Opera Theater performed scenes and arias from The Magic Flute, Porgy and Bess, Die Fledermaus, and other great operas, as part of an outreach program to bring performance arts from Storrs to other areas of the state.

Among the performers were Constance Rock, an acclaimed operatic soprano and associate professor of music at UConn, and student soloists Matt Cimino and Jennifer Darius, both recent winners of the Francesco and Hilda Riggio Scholarship of the Metropolitan Opera National Council.

Barri Marks '69 was in the audience. A gift from her family provides financial support to promote increased exposure for the School of Fine Arts, especially to fund musical performances at UConn's regional campuses.

"My heart has been in the arts, particularly performing arts, my whole life," says Marks, who has previously given to support scholarships at the University and is chair of the Hartford region of Campaign UConn. "This program, coupled with my active involvement in UConn, made a natural connection between the two."

In spring 2002, Marks's endowment sponsored a piano concert at the School of Social Work on the Greater Hartford campus.

"I have always believed that students learning a performance art should have an opportunity to perform in public," she says. "When Dean Woods came to the School, he understood right away what I wanted to accomplish and offered some very good proposals. This is the one I chose to support."

Marks, who also sits on the board of Dance Connecticut and has been on the board of the Hartford Ballet, says she hopes at some point to be able to add to her original gift, which is in the "six-figure range."

The opera program was the second of two musical performances produced by the School of Fine Arts for the Stamford celebration, which was billed as "a week of lectures and performances for the community."

The first took place April 7, when composer Gabriela Frank's "An American In Peru" was performed. The piece, which premiered in Storrs in March, was commissioned as a result of Frank's winning the first Raymond and Beverly Sackler Music Composition Prize.

Arts outreach programs at UConn offer a mix of educational, cultural, and performance activities, bringing a variety of sights and sounds to the residents of Connecticut communities. Demand for these programs has grown significantly. From fewer than 100 events in 1990-91, arts outreach now provides more than 300 activities a year in over 80 cities and towns throughout the state.