Program Coordinator Terre Vandale: Exploring Mount Holyoke as a Living Laboratory

Like most Arts Extension Service staff and faculty, AES Program Coordinator Terre Vandale is also a practicing artist. A dancer, Terre creates performance for site and stage as well as dance video, participatory installations, and visual dance scores. Terre infuses her work as a teacher and administrator with an artist’s sensibility and perspective. Her Arts Fundraising course draws on interactive and collaborative teaching methods - essential elements of the creative process. Her artist’s perspective also shines in her Arts Programming course, where she helps students see things from the performers’ point of view when planning art events. In Community Engagement for Artists, her work to affirm artistic expression of diverse communities beyond the classroom enlivens the class. “So many of us at AES are triple threats – artists, educators, and administrators,” says Terre. “These multiple perspectives support each other beautifully. As artists we know how to think outside the box; we are well versed in listening deeply and collaborating. We get immersed in the creative experience of developing a new program or unpacking issues from a critical perspective, but there is also an element of fun that the arts bring!”

Formerly a company member with Anna Halprin on the West Coast, Terre now directs Mae (Movement Arts Ensemble) - an intergenerational company creating environmental performance here in the Pioneer Valley. Terre’s goal is to “expand assumptions about what dance is, who can dance, and where dance happens,” and to “inspire audiences to get a visceral sense of their connection with the land.” Terre’s MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College focused on the role of dance and somatics in addressing social and environmental issues. Her interest in environmental dance eventually led her to connect with her mentor, Anna Halprin, performing groundbreaking works such as Parades & Changes, but it evolved much earlier, during her undergraduate years at Mount Holyoke College (MHC). Terre recently returned to MHC as a Visiting Artist in Dance to teach Site-Specific Intermediate/Advanced Modern Improvisation. This class was recently featured in Mount Holyoke College’s Alumnae Quarterly as one of the many ways to engage in Exploring Mount Holyoke as a Living Laboratory:

““The Campus Living Lab is powerful because we’re framing the environment as the teacher,” says Vandale.

While dance might not seem like an intuitive match for environmental work, Vandale says it represents the inclusive, cross-disciplinary essence of Mount Holyoke. This broad appeal is essential as Mount Holyoke strives toward sustainability, she says. It’s important for everyone to feel connected and invested in the campus.

“How do we get the motivation to deal with issues like climate change? It stems from a personal connection to the environment. People will work hard for something they love,” Vandale says.

At Mount Holyoke, that love — 700 acres’ worth — is abundant.”

Read more about Terre’s work and MHC’s Living Laboratory here.

To find out more about the AES Arts Programming course offered on campus and online this fall click here and scroll down to Arts Programming. In this course, students work closely with a nonprofit arts or cultural organization to develop a program plan for a new art event, performance, class, or community-engaged project. Previous case studies on campus have included Easthampton City Arts, Shea Theater Arts Center, New England Public Radio, Smith College Museum of Art, and UMass Fine Arts Center. Online students apply their work to the nonprofit organization where they work or a community arts organization in their area.  

Photo Credit: Ani Rivera