Three SFA Grads Live the Art They Love
For an artistic student, few things compare to being surrounded by new mediums of expression, new methods of exploration, and professors to guide and encourage. But after college, to take that love and those skills and turn them into a career is a real achievement. Three UMD School of Fine Arts graduates, Sarah Angst ’01 in Fine Arts, Sarah (Hohenstein) Burk ’89 in Music, and Suzanne Warmanen ’91 in Theatre, continue to be challenged and nourished by the art they love to create.
Winnipeg native, Sarah Angst, works in linoleum block printing. Her inspiration comes from nature. Her landscapes are quiet and soothing; her birds and animals are endearing without being sentimental. Angst didn’t set out to become a print artist, but things have a way of unfolding and art has a way of revealing itself.
Angst came to UMD to study art education. While in her senior year, she taught art classes in French and English at the International School of Geneva in Switzerland. While on an excursion to the Czech Republic, Angst visited the Mucha Museum in Prague. She was captivated by the strong black lines in the artist’s print work. She graduated in 2001 with a B.F.A. in Art Education, but her path wouldn’t lead to a classroom.
As part of the UMD art education program, Angst took classes in painting, drawing, ceramics, printmaking, and art history. “I enjoyed doing a little bit of a lot of different things,” she recalls. She admits that she didn’t really like printmaking in college, but because she liked the way a finished print looked and urged on by the Mucha works she had seen, she began exploring the medium. When she took her work to art fairs, Angst was very encouraged by the way people responded to her pieces.
In 2007, Angst and her husband moved to Bozeman, Montana. It was then that she decided to try to make a living exclusively from her art. She now sells her work through art fairs, galleries, and her website www.sarahangst.com. Recently, Angst has begun to create jewelry. She fashions small tiles from original prints which are then encased in silver and resin. The smaller format has forced her designs to become more simplified and more graphic. Her jewelry, as well as note cards, are available at UMD's Tweed Museum of Art http://www.d.umn.edu/tma/
Angst has many words of encouragement for young artists. “Stay true to yourself and love what you do,” she says. “Art and business are a dance of loving what you do and finding what other people appreciate. Find that happy medium.” Angst encourages artists to take a business course or two.
Angst continues to branch out. Her next project is a series of alphabet books. Using art to teach the alphabet, perhaps Angst continues to draw upon her art education background after all.
Her life is filled with music. Sarah Burk immerses herself in it through performing, both vocally and instrumentally, composing, arranging, and teaching. Her philosophy is simple: “If there’s something you’re interested in, don’t let anything stop you.”
Sarah (Hohenstein) Burk honed that philosophy at UMD where she earned her Bachelor of Music with an emphasis in Theory and Composition and a minor in Jazz. Burk used what some people would consider as roadblocks as opportunities to exercise her creativity and resourcefulness. When she didn’t have a keyboard, she asked one of her professors if she could use one that she seen gathering dust in a closet. When she was told that she couldn’t get into the jazz choir, she went to the choir director, Stanley Wold. “He allowed me to be his assistant director,” she said. “I got to do some amazing things,” she remembers. “I had some really supportive teachers.”
Burk’s talent as a pianist, violinist, and vocalist enabled her to do a wide variety of projects at UMD in both the music and theatre departments. She performed in a number of orchestras, bands and choirs, arranged existing music, and composed new music. One highlight was writing and performing the music for a production of The Glass Menagerie which students toured in Hungary. She enjoyed the freedom she had as an undergraduate to explore a number of musical interests. “I didn’t have to fit into anyone’s box,” she explains.
After graduating in 1989, Burk toured the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East in a variety of ensembles and theatre troupes. Projects have included African and international dance music, jazz, R&B, gospel, big band, classical chamber music and variety ensembles. She has been involved in numerous theatre productions in Europe and America serving in roles of music director, conductor, composer, pianist, violinist, and arranger.
In 1994, Burk joined the faculty of McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she teaches music theory, keyboard, ear training and Latin performance practices. “I adore working there,” she says. Students include young people just out of high school eager to be a part of the music industry and older people with established careers who now want to study music more seriously.
Burk is also a student herself pursuing a Master of Liberal Studies at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. As a thesis, she has been writing a play about a remarkable woman who was a songwriter and musician in the 1940’s. Burk is using some of the woman’s pieces for the play. “It’s not a musical,” she points out, “but it uses music.” It is a project that is very dear to Burk’s heart as the talented woman just happens to also be Burk’s mother. Her mother had started her memoirs but was unable to finish them before she passed away. Lovingly, Burk is completing her mother’s memoir and fusing the passions of mother and daughter - combining her mother’s talent for composing with her talent for arranging. In a sense, the two women will perform together when the piece is presented as a staged reading.
Burk’s life in music has been exciting and varied. It has taught her to explore and investigate a variety of musical genres and instruments. Most recently she has taken up the accordion. “Say yes to everything,” she instructs. “Ask questions. Don’t expect that someone will just give you the answers.”
Over the years, Suzanne Warmanen has worked regularly at the Guthrie Theater appearing in such productions as The Importance of Being Earnest, A View from the Bridge, Lost in Yonkers, The Pirates of Penzance, Top Girls, Amadeus, Hedda Gabler, and many others. For this season of the Guthrie’s production of A Christmas Carol, Warmanen was an outside understudy and was on-call in case a fellow actor fell ill. While A Christmas Carol was in production, she began rehearsals at the Guthrie for Macbeth in which she will portray one of the Weird Sisters, a role she is excited to explore. Being in a whirlwind of activity is nothing new for Warmanen.
As a double major in music and theatre at UMD, Suzanne Warmanen never slowed down. “Between the two departments, I was always busy,” she remembers. At one point, feeling exhausted, she did what many people would think of as the kiss of death to a college career, she took a couple of years off. But Warmanen came back to UMD with renewed commitment to theatre.
Warmanen has high praise for her UMD experience. “I had such a wonderful education. I couldn’t have planned it or hoped for better.” She is also grateful for financial help that she received, including UMD scholarships. “They made it possible,” she said.
She found the UMD theatre program to be extremely comprehensive. “These were very important years in my development as an artist,” she notes. She vividly remembers classes in various genres of theatre, musical theatre, and dance, in addition to workshops on auditioning, resume writing, and on-camera work. “We were so well trained,” she said. “We had professors who really cared. It was not just a job for them,” she recalls. “I continue to draw upon what they taught me.”
She has coached and taught both acting and voice at the University of Minnesota, the Guthrie Theater, and Bay View Theater. She encourages young actors but she doesn’t sugarcoat the profession. “I tell them acting is a hard life. It’s not a glamorous life, but it is a sacred one.” She reminds students that some of them may be more happy doing theatre on the side. “It doesn’t have to be a livelihood, but I tell them if this is what you have to do, then you have to do it.” And Warmanen does.
This past fall, Warmanen was honored by the UMD School of Fine Arts with its Society of Prometheans award. This award recognizes those who have demonstrated success and passion in their chosen professions. And where some people might indicate that appearing regularly at the Guthrie and receiving honors from their alma mater conveys the message that they “have arrived”, Warmanen humbly points out that she is “still working at her craft.”
Written by Kathleen McQuillan-Hofmann, firstname.lastname@example.org