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Autumn 2003 | Volume 26, Number 4 | Alumni
Creativity Takes Flight

Theatre Graduate Interprets Contemporary Art for Museum Visitors

Museum of Glass (MOG) in Tacoma, Washington, first sought a lead interpreter, it would have taken a forensic artist to construct a reasonable likeness.

There were only scraps and glimpses of the ideal person in mind: someone steeped in the visual, literary and performing arts; a theatre professional able to connect with the public; an artist of vision who could act, direct, write, teach and make contemporary art accessible to tens of thousands of visitors each year.

Sam Vance ’96 got the job. He is a man with a bold imagination and a rich, varied education. MOG exhibits change every three to six months, and it is his job to think of compelling, educational and, above all, original ways to interpret them. It might mean writing and directing a one-act play to be performed over the course of an exhibit’s run. Or, in the case of the exhibit called “Glass of the Avant-Garde,” staging a reading of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, literature written in the same time period that the glass works were created.

Asked if he has a passion for glass, Vance demurs, “I’m not a glass blower, although I’ve done it just enough to appreciate how difficult the process is.” But glass art is creative, and Vance is nothing if not passionately creative. “My theatre training at SPU built an essential creative foundation for much of the work I’ve done since graduation,” Vance says. “I’ve been given so many diverse opportunities to act, direct, write, design … the list goes on.”

Along with wife and fellow artist Candace Eyre Vance ’95, he has “paid the rent” and “pieced together” a career in the arts by remaining artistically flexible and receiving “a good dose of God’s grace.” His newest projects for the MOG are writing and directing a short film that will interpret the artwork of Sandy Skoglund, and writing/directing a one-act play based on the work of local artist Marita Dingus, utilizing found objects.

Considered one of the seven design “Wonders of the World 2003” by Condé Nast Traveler magazine, the MOG employs a crack security team that keeps a sharp eye on the breakables. Vance and other museum employees constantly deal with the misconception that famed glass artisan Dale Chihuly actually lives in the building. Though the MOG was partly built in recognition of Chihuly’s standing in the art world, Vance must often tell hopeful visitors that no, the great man himself cannot “come down” and sign autographs.

Vance may have a one-of-a-kind-job, but for creative expression that can’t be beat, the curtain just rose on the arrival of the couple’s first child, Max, in November.


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From the President
“What is a college education really worth?” asks President Philip Eaton. With universities under scrutiny today, SPU must reflect about its influence and impact.

Closing the Gap
In the final year of The Campaign for SPU, the University has strong momentum heading into the stretch. [Campaign]

A Record-Setting Autumn
SPU welcomed its largest and most academically prepared freshman class in Autumn Quarter 2003. [Campus]

Fighting for Family
The U.S. Marines asked Les and Leslie Parrott for help to strengthen the home life of soldiers returning from long Iraq deployments. [Faculty]

Basketball Down Under
The men's basketball team took a journey to the other side of the world, and Assistant Coach Dan Barfoot shares his journal of the trip. [Athletics]

My Response
“Dear Time Capsule Openers,” wrote Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Bruce Congdon to SPU students, faculty and alumni in 2053. His letter is now in a time capsule in SPU's new Science Building.