Fashionable Muses

Musicians play a composition by Shirish Korde at the Fashionable Muses salon. Illustration by Wendy Concepcion. Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio.

Last fall, six contemporary composers came to FIT for an unusual project. In a unique collaboration with New York-based nonprofit Composers Now, the music artists played original compositions for a select, volunteer group of students majoring in visual arts—Film and Media, Fine Art, Illustration, and Photography—as well as student and faculty poets from a variety of disciplines. The FIT artists then created works inspired by the music. The result? On February 7, the college community gathered in the John Reeves Great Hall for Fashionable Muses, a “21st-century salon of music, poetry, and the visual arts,” as President Joyce F. Brown called it in her opening remarks. Musicians played the compositions while the students’ illustrations, paintings, animations, and short videos were projected on screens surrounding the audience. Between the music performances, students and faculty read their poems, written in English, Chinese, Spanish, and other languages. Afterward, Tania León, artistic director of Composers Now, which champions the work of living music artists, moderated a discussion between the composers, visual artists, poets, and the audience about the role of music and art in society. It was a heady, invigorating evening.

Susan Breton, director of FIT’s Counseling Center, organized the project. She said The Museum at FIT’s recent exhibition Proust’s Muse inspired her, because the subject of the show, the Princess Greffulhe (1860-1952) held legendary salons in turn-of-the-century Paris. “I wanted to reimagine a contemporary salon here in this urban college setting,” she said. Her goal was also to expose students to contemporary classical music while creating an interdisciplinary showcase for the different art forms. She was particularly pleased to witness the collaborative process between the composers and student artists. The effort was supported by a SUNY Explorations in Diversity and Academic Excellence Grant, a Connecting our FIT Community Grant, and many other sources of funding.