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December Moments: Arts at ODU

The Start of a Holiday Tradition

Istvan and Ana Ament arrive on campus in 1973 to direct the Old Dominion University Ballet. For nearly three decades, until their retirement in 2000, they stage the ODU Ballet's annual production of "The Nutcracker," which becomes a popular holiday tradition in Hampton Roads.

Gisladottir in "The Nutcracker" 1984ODU student Maria Gisladottir performing in ODU Ballet's The Nutcracker, 1984 (Click on image to view full photo)
Nutcracker Scene, 1970sScene from a 1970s performance of the Old Dominion University Ballet's "The Nutcracker." (Click on image to view full photo)
ODU Ballet Nutcracker 1970sPoster for ODU Ballet's "The Nutcracker," 1970s (Click on image to view full photo)

The Annual Literary Festival Begins

In April 1978, the English Department holds a Poetry Jam whose success, and "the recent explosion of community interest in the literary, visual, and performing arts" in Hampton Roads, leads to the First Annual Literary Festival. For about a week each October, ODU is home to such writers as Robert Pinsky, Rita Dove, John McPhee, William Styron, Ann Beattie, Charles Johnson, Derek Walcott, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Visit the Annual Literary Festival Web Site.

Literary Festival 1983Audience listening to Ann Beattie at ODU Literary Festival 10/3/1983 (Click on image to view full photo)
Literary FestivalDr. Phil Raisor introduces Garrison Keillor at the 2015 festival. Dr. Raisor directed the 1st and 25th festivals and was a participant in several more.

Click on the image above to view a 9-minute video about the history of the festival (2002).

pic04Audience at an ODU Literary Festival event 10/8/2010

Diehn Gift Elevates Music Program

Composer F. Ludwig Diehn makes a multimillion-dollar gift to the university in 1993, making possible the Diehn Concert Series and Residency Program, the Diehn Composers Room and the Diehn Chair in Music. The gift is the largest ever received by the university up to that time. Old Dominion's new Fine and Performing Arts Center, which opens in 1991, is named for Diehn.

Ludwig DiehnF. Ludwig Diehn
music-diehn-boston-camerata-12F. Ludwig Diehn Concert Series performance of the Boston Camerata with the ODU Madrigal Singers.
Exterior of the Diehn Fine & Performing Arts additionExterior of the Diehn Fine & Performing Arts addition

The Write Stuff

In fall 1996, the English department's Janet Peery is named one of five finalists for the National Book Award and nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in literature for her first novel, "The River Beyond the World." Other well-known authors in Old Dominion's vibrant Creative Writing Program include Sheri Reynolds, whose second novel, "The Rapture of Canaan," is chosen for the Oprah Book Club in 1997, and Tim Seibles, a finalist for the 2012 National Book Awards for his latest collection of poetry, "Fast Animal." He subsequently receives the PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Award for "Fast Animal." Blake Bailey, who joins the faculty in 2011, a year after becoming a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for his book "Cheever: A Life," is named a 2014 finalist for a National Book Critics Circle award, in the autobiography category, for his memoir "The Splendid Things We Planned: A Family Portrait."

jpeery-janet-peeryJanet Peery
Professor Tim SeiblesTim Seibles
photoSheri Reynolds
Blake BaileyBlake Bailey

The Arts Are Alive in the Village

The Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries at Old Dominion open Sept. 8, 2007. The galleries comprise the Baron and Ellin Gordon Self-Taught Art Collection, whose inaugural exhibit, "Collective Wisdom," features a portion of the Gordon collection, and the University Gallery, which will display works by members of the ODU art department faculty. Located at 4509 Monarch Way in the University Village, the Gordon Galleries are situated between the Stables Theatre and the ODU bookstore. The bookstore and a nearby Marriott Spring Hill Suites hotel open in November, 2007. Pioneering folk art collectors Baron and Ellin Gordon, of Williamsburg, Va., announced the previous year their plans to donate a significant portion of their collection of 20th- and 21st-century American folk art to the university. Their private collection is counted among the handful of top collections in the world of recent American art by self-trained artists. The anchoring of the arts in the Village will be solidified through the dedication of the James Hixon Studio Arts Building , Barry Arts Building, and Brock Commons in 2015.

Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries at ODUSelf-Taught Artist exhibit at the Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries at ODU Arts in the VillageArts in the Village: Brock Commons ampitheater
Barry Arts BuildingArts in the Village: the Barry Arts Building James A. Hixon Studio Art BuildingArts in the Village: James A. Hixon Studio Art Building

Arts in the Village
Goode TheatreGoode Theatre

Many of the older digital materials are from the University Libraries' Special Collections and University Archives. See Resources.

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