Faculty, Staff Guest Speakers at Sunday Salon Series

Laurel Appel, visiting associate professor of biology and director of the McNair program, teaches participants how to extract DNA from wheat germ during the Green Street Arts Center’s Sunday Salon Series, hosted by David Beveridge, pictured in back.
Posted 03/17/08
In the 18th century, educated people in the upper reaches of society would meet at a “salon” to discus their ideas and observations. Today, this tradition continues without the pretentious aristocratic trappings at the Green Street Art Center’s Sunday Salon Series.

During the two-hour sessions held on Sundays throughout the academic year, Wesleyan faculty and staff speak to a general audience about a particular topic. Presentations usually include a demonstration, with plenty of time for questions and socializing.

“We have very talented faculty at Wesleyan and this is a way for them to describe their work they are passionate about to a general community audience,” explains Salon Series host David Beveridge. “The salons also bring a certain quality of intellectual life to the Green Street Arts Center that Wesleyan can uniquely present.”

Beveridge, the University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics and professor of chemistry and GSAC board member, created the series in 2006 to merge the “town and gown” communities.

He invites faculty and staff from an array of academic disciplines, from art and music to science and literature.

The next Sunday Salon will involve a music showcase titled “Vocal Music of South India” on April 13. Vocalist B. Balasubrahmaniyan will be joined by artist-in-residence David Nelson on mridangam (percussion), and graduate student Garrett Field on electric mandolin, for a performance and discussion about South Indian music.

On May 11, the Wesleyan-staff band “The Remainders” will perform folk-rock tunes. John Meerts, vice president for finance and administration (guitar, blues harp, vocals), is joined by Joanne Agostinelli (vocals, guitar) and Joe Paolillo (bass) for an afternoon of acoustic folk rock. The short set will include songs by Bonnie Raitt, Allison Krauss, Bob Dylan and others. A question and answer session will follow.

Both events are from 2 to 4 p.m.

“The Sunday Salons provide a wonderful opportunity for the community to get to know the Wesleyan faculty and see them in a different light,” says Janis Astor del Valle, director of the Green Street Arts Center. “Ultimately, I think the Salon Series allows people to demystify Wesleyan in general. It’s very successful and we definitely intend to keep it going.”

Past Salons have included:
– Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, chair of the Astronomy Department and director of the Van Vleck Observatory who spoke on the modern discoveries in the universe.
– J. Seeley, professor of art, who discussed his digital still life photography compositions.
– Ganesan Ravishanker, associate vice president for Information Technology Services, who discussed and sang Indian film music.
– J ohn Finn, professor of government, who has a degree in culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute and taught the audience the art of omelet making, among several others. Finn is pictured below.

“Even for those of us who know certain professors, it offers us a chance to see another side, or discover some hidden talent,” Astor del Valle says. “I mean, I never knew of John Finn’s culinary expertise, and here he was flipping omelets with our audience! Where else can you have that experience?”

Two Salon Series guests, fiction and non-fiction author Sari Rosenblatt and drummer Jocelyn Pleasant are now teaching at Green Street.

“I call them ‘spin-offs’ because the Salon Series is what introduced them to Green Street, and now they are very involved at the center,” Beveridge says. “We’d like to see more of this happen.”

The Sunday Salon Series runs throughout the academic year. Astor del Valle and Beveridge estimate between 10 and 60 guests attend each salon. They hope future salons will attract Wesleyan students and residents of the local neighborhoods.

Admission to the Sunday Salon Series is a donation $5 for the general public or $3 for GSAC members, seniors and students. Refreshments are provided. Green Street Arts Center is located at 51 Green Street in Middletown. For more information call 860-685-7871.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor