Exhibit Newsletter Autumn 2018

exhibit: arts and humanities showcase

Dean’s Welcome

By now, you must have seen the University’s new brand mark: an innovative SPU monogram placed within the outline of the torch that has served as our logo for decades. The new brand mark adorns my car, my laptop, and a pocket flap on my denim jacket.

But a brand goes beyond a logo: it expresses and reaffirms the identity of the institution. Our new brand highlights three core values that have long been a part of SPU’s identity: our Christian faith, rigorous academics, and advantageous position in the city of Seattle. All three of these values make Seattle Pacific a unique, valuable place to pursue the arts and humanities.

In this issue of Exhibit, we celebrate the accomplishments of current students and alumni, as well as a beloved alumnus who recently departed this world. We take a look at an exciting new online platform emerging from Film Studies. We welcome back to SPU alumna Alissa Walter, who brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in modern Middle Eastern history to our faculty.

You’ll also notice a refreshed visual look for the newsletter. While we honor our heritage and identity, we are not clinging fearfully to the past. Nor is this change for change’s sake alone. Instead, we are showing how our classic liberal arts disciplines are needed more than ever in times such as these.

Thank you for joining us in this important mission,

– Debra Sequeira, Dean
College of Arts and Sciences – Division of Arts and Humanities

woman sings with choir in background

Fine and Performing Arts Scholarships

Whatever form your creativity takes — music, theatre, or visual art — we want to hear from you. And we have more than $300,000 in scholarships to award to qualifying students. Audition with Seattle Pacific University to get your share.

The 2019 auditions will be held February 1, 22, and 23. You’ll also have the chance to meet our world-class faculty, tour campus, and experience firsthand what it’s like to be part of SPU’s artistic community in a city leading the nation in the arts.

If you’re unable to audition on one of the above dates, you can still show us your skills by submitting an electronic audition. For complete scholarship audition details and to apply online, visit spu.edu/finearts.

carlee wilson

Standing in the Spotlight, Unafraid

Few who meet SPU senior Carlee Wilson today would suspect she once was shy, oftentimes afraid to speak to others. “I grew up super shy,” she said. “I couldn’t even talk to the waiter at a restaurant to order my food.”

But in her first quarter at Seattle Pacific, Carlee found herself in a public speaking class. To her surprise, she loved it. “It became my favorite class,” she said. Initially unsure of what major to pursue, she quickly declared a communication major. Today, the Seattle Pacific senior thrives in the spotlight. “I look forward to giving speeches now, because I know how to express myself effectively. SPU has given me the skillset to communicate clearly with others. It’s also gotten rid of the fear. Unique, challenging situations are even exciting to me now, because I want to learn more about communication. I use what I learn every day.”

Last summer, Carlee studied English abroad through an SPU trip in Ireland and Scotland. She also works as a peer advisor in SPU’s Center for Career and Calling, where she puts her communication skills to work, talking with fellow students about their career interests and opportunities, and helping with resume and interview support.

For much of her life, Carlee didn’t envision college as a possibility for her — until she was accepted at SPU and received her financial aid. “I received a really nice financial aid package from the school,” she said. “It was such a blessing.” Part of that package was support from the Jennifer and Kim Gilnett Endowment, funded in honor of Jennifer Gilnett '81, a longtime supporter of the SPU community and former director of University Communications, who passed away in 2014. The endowment financially supports one communication student at SPU per year. “Jennifer and I have committed our whole lives to higher education, and this is a way for us to continue to do that,” said Kim Gilnett '74, fine arts marketing associate and senior admissions counselor at SPU.

“Financial support adds a sense of encouragement and motivation,” said Carlee. “I know there are people in the SPU community who care about me and have my back. They go with me into my future.”

You too can invest in students like Carlee. Give to SPU or learn more about starting an endowment.

book cover of "We'll Fly Away" by Bryan Bliss

MFA Alumnus Bryan Bliss Tackles Loss and Redemption in Award-Winning YA Novel

Bryan Bliss is a graduate of Seattle Pacific’s MFA in Creative Writing program and the author of three young adult novels. His most recent novel  We’ll Fly Away was longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award. We recently had the chance to catch up with Bliss and hear about his book, faith, inspiration, and what motivates him to write.

What was the inspiration behind We’ll Fly Away?

As a newspaper reporter, I was a press witness to an execution. It had a profound effect on me, and made me want to do something different, where I could write with more non-objective opinions, or have influence on injustices I encountered. And that led me to fiction, because I could use fiction as a vehicle to hopefully open up readers’ minds and hearts to different ideas that they hadn’t considered yet.

In We’ll Fly Away, one of the characters is writing letters from death row. A lot of times when we see people on death row, we only hear about the terrible thing they did. And so I think that's what makes We’ll Fly Away important, or at least interesting. Readers journey with the character leading up to the worst thing he’s ever done, and have the ability to see beyond just the crime. In fact, this book isn’t as much about the death penalty, as much as loyalty, friendship, and most importantly, redemption. Even the people who've done the worst things still have value.

You have a background in theology and ministry. How does your faith influence your writing?

My faith 100% influences my work. I never wanted to write “Christian fiction.” I think it limits your topic and can alienate many readers. Instead, I wanted to be a Christian who writes fiction. Fiction is an incredible way to explore themes and topics that are inherently theological. And creating art is a way for Christians to mirror the beauty, grace, and love that they have received, and put it out into the world. For example, Romans 8:38 says, “Nothing will ever separate us from the love of God.” The idea that we are never beyond redemption is the main theme in We’ll Fly Away.

Tell us about your experience in the Seattle Pacific MFA program.

In the MFA program, not only did I become a better writer, but I learned what it means to be a person of faith who writes, and creates art. Two experienced influenced me most. Working with my mentors, talented writers who care about your writing, was a life-changing experience for me. Second are the others students that are in the program. The creative community of writers we formed in the program still affects my life today, years later. The program creates a group of people that are trying to scratch at the mysteries of life, through poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. It’s a rare experience.

The program also challenged me to read and write outside of my comfort zone. You’re pushed to create stuff that maybe you wouldn't create if you weren't in the program. A lot of the MFA programs have a huge emphasis on publishing, but SPU’s is really about becoming a better writer. The focus is on the craft.

north by pacific northwest logo

New Blog Acts as Hub and Catalyst for Cinema Conversations

Film is an increasingly influential way to tell stories, convey ideas, create experiences, critique society, and influence the world. It’s no wonder then that conversations surrounding cinema are regular, important occurrences both inside and outside the classroom at SPU.

Last spring, Assistant Professor of Writing Jeffrey Overstreet founded a blog to collect those thoughts and conversations in one space. And thus began North by Pacific Northwest (NxPNW), a blog that “celebrates the conversations about cinema enjoyed by SPU students, faculty, and staff.”

The blog is a hub, collecting the film conversations, reviews, thoughts, criticism, and inspirations of the Seattle Pacific community. It also includes regular ongoing series on specific themes. For example, the “Sacred Cinema Canon” series includes posts about films that “inspire substantial and sustained engagement with questions of faith.”

The recurring series “NxPNW Scholar’s Choice” invites scholars from the Seattle Pacific community to choose a movie and share their insights. In the first post, Kathryn Bartholomew, associate professor of languages and linguistics who retired in 2018, shared her thoughts surrounding the 2016 science fiction thriller Arrival.

“Since my experience as an SPU student in the early '90s, I've been inspired by this community's fearless engagement with the arts,” said Overstreet, an experienced film critic and author of Through a Screen Darkly. “The way SPU taught me to pursue imagination, beauty, and truth in the arts has shaped my life, my writing, and my teaching. I'd like to share my conversations with students, faculty, staff, and alumni about their meaningful encounters with movies."

Overstreet encourages members of the SPU community who would like to contribute thoughts on their favorite films and cinema-related experiences to contact him at overstreet@spu.edu.

eugene peterson holding his book, "the Message"

Farewell to Beloved Pastor, Author, and Alumnus Eugene Peterson

Eugene Peterson ’54 has gone home.

The famed pastor, theologian, and author died on October 22, 2018, at age 85 due to complications related to heart failure and dementia, a week after entering hospice care. According to his family, he was smiling and joyful throughout his last days, with “Let’s go” among his final words.

As a Seattle Pacific undergraduate, Peterson studied philosophy and English. “I didn’t have much exposure to art until I went to college at Seattle Pacific,” said Peterson in a 2011 interview with Response magazine. “There, it was mostly through literature.” Serving as editor of the Tawahsi yearbook was his “first experience getting a feel for art, working with the publisher and with a photographer who took a lot of pride in his photography — he was an artist.” During his senior year, Peterson served as president of the student body and wrote a column for The Falcon student newspaper.

Peterson went on to write more than 30 books, including The Message, a paraphrased Bible translation that has sold more than 20 million copies to date. SPU’s 1995 Alumnus of the Year, he also received the Denise Levertov Award in 2009 from Image, the quarterly arts journal housed on SPU’s campus.

Read the rest of the story here.

sacred sounds of Christmas orchestra

Hark the Sacred Sounds

Sacred Sounds of Christmas returns to magnificent Benaroya Hall this year, and tickets are on sale now. Bask in the best of sacred Advent music from around the world on Sunday, November 25, at 7 p.m. Performed by the Music Department’s nationally recognized student and faculty musicians, Sacred Sounds is our gift to Seattle — and always sells out.

Audience members come from throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond to enjoy a one-of-a-kind celebration of the Advent and Christmas seasons by the Concert Choir, Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Symphony Orchestra, Women’s Choir, Men’s Choir, and Gospel Choir.

Performance and ticket details at spu.edu/sacredsounds.

Update: Tickets for Sacred Sounds 2018 are now sold out. 

four male students performing theater on stage


The 58 years of theatre at Seattle Pacific University represent untold numbers of lines and lights, costumes and songs, sets and scenes, tears and laughter, colorful characters galore, and in the breadth of its productions, fabulous food for thought to nourish minds and hearts. Much thought and collaboration go into play selection each season. Here are this year’s hand-picked productions.

*Love and Information by Caryl Churchill. Directed by Candace Vance.
In dozens of scenes with hundreds of characters, English playwright Caryl Churchill brings us face to face with the complex realities of our time. Engaging technology, loneliness, connection, and the ever-present "now," this production will ask the audience to choose the order each night, so no two shows will be the same.

November 8–10, 15–17, 2018; matinee November 17
James Leon Chapman Stage

*Before the Eclipse by Anton Chekhov, translated by Laurence Senelick. Directed by Andrew Ryder.
A small group of actors revels and rails at the comedy of life as they portray characters from some of Anton Chekhov's funniest short plays. From proposals to town meetings, from family squabbles to ceremonies and celebrations, these "jokes," as Chekhov called them, capture the foibles and frustrations of the modern world.

January 31, February 1–2, and 7–9, 2019; matinee February 2
James Leon Chapman Stage

*A Wrinkle in Time by Madelein L’Engle, adapted by Tracy Young. Directed by Charlotte M. Tiencken.
One of literature's most enduring heroines, Meg Murry, is back — braces, stubbornness, and all. Once again, she's joining forces with Mrs. Whatsit, Charles Wallace, Calvin O'Keefe, and more to battle the forces of evil so she can rescue her father, save humanity, and find herself. In the end, we know two things for sure: love can overcome evil; and there is such a thing as a tesseract. Tracy Young's adaptation allows for a range of storytelling styles by a multi-faceted group of actors — and a few puppets.

April 25–27, May 2–4, 2019; matinees April 27 and May 4
James Leon Chapman Stage

*Violet by Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley. Directed by Jayne Hubbard. Musical direction by Toni Ramientos.
This moving musical features show-stopping anthems, ranging from roots to folk to gospel. With score from Tony-winning composer Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by the acclaimed Brian Crawley, Violet is inspired by Doris Betts' short story, "The Ugliest Pilgrim." The show astounded audiences and critics alike with its energy, music, and heart in its Off-Broadway premiere in 1997, and a 2014 Broadway run.

May 21–24, 2019; matinee only May 25
McKinley Backstage Theatre

*Tickets required. Fine Arts Box Office: 206-281-2959 or spu.edu/boxoffice.

Faculty limelight

Seattle Pacific faculty are known to be world-class scholars in their fields, conducting leading research, engaging professional pursuits beyond campus, and using their expertise to change the world. Keep an eye on these accomplished faculty members:

alissa walter

Assistant Professor of History Alissa Walter, PhD. A historian of the modern Middle East, Walter has focused her research on the state-society relations in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. She is interested in how “ordinary people” develop coping strategies to live under authoritarian regimes and the effects those coping strategies have on society and politics. She looks at the lives of women, working classes, criminals, soldiers, and more as they tried to make the most of the opportunities they could find in Saddam’s Iraq while guarding themselves against threats.

Walter’s first encountered Middle Eastern history as a History major at SPU, in the class “Rise of Islamic Civilization.” By the second day of class, she was hooked. She went on to complete the University Scholars program and studied abroad in Cairo, Egypt. Walter eventually completed a master's degree in Contemporary Arab Studies and a PhD in Middle Eastern History, at Georgetown University. She also holds a graduate certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies. Now working alongside professors who mentored her as a student, Walter is teaching the very same class that first captured her interest in the Middle East. “It has been a wonderful homecoming to be back at SPU as a faculty member."

michelle beauclair

Associate Professor of French Michelle Beauclair, PhD. Beauclair’s grandmother introduced her to the French language when she was six years old. This was the beginning of a lifelong pursuit of French and Francophone studies as she earned her bachelor’s degree in French, and her master’s and PhD in French literature. Her current research areas include contemporary French and Francophone cultures, literature, and cinema, with a special focus on women’s contributions to the fields. She also studies on innovative language teaching methodologies and best practices for study abroad programs. Recently, her work has appeared in numerous journals, including The French Review.

Having taught at SPU since 2004, including leading 14 study abroad trips, Beauclair is passionate about preparing and challenging students to graduate as prepared, competent, and informed global citizens. One of the best ways to do this, she says, is through study abroad. “The more time I have spent teaching on study abroad programs, the more convinced I am of the absolute necessity of both cultural and linguistic study to deepen language proficiency and foster meaningful, intercultural competence and communication,” she said. “For most students, these educational experiences are a cornerstone of their undergraduate experience.”

orchestra playing at first free methodist church

Art Exhibit Open to the Public

Colleen RJC Bratton
January 14–March 8, 9 a.m.–4 p.m.
Public reception: January 17, 5–7 p.m.
Seattle Pacific University Art Center Gallery


In Their Own Words: Letters from Composers
January 13, 4 p.m.
Nickerson Studios

In Motion Quartet
February 6, 7:30 p.m.
Nickerson Studios

Chamber Music Concert
February 12, 7:30 p.m.
Nickerson Studios

Jazz Ensemble Concert
February 19, 7:30 p.m.
Nickerson Studios

Symphonic Wind Ensemble Concert
February 22, 7:30 p.m.
First Free Methodist Church

Gospel Choir Concert
February 26, 9 p.m.
First Free Methodist Church

Orchestra Concert
February 28, 7:30 p.m.
First Free Methodist Church

Chamber, Concert, and Women’s Choirs Concert
March 1, 7:30 p.m.
First Free Methodist Church

Percussion Ensemble Concert
March 5, 7:30 p.m.