NACOGDOCHES, TEXAS - Three separate initiatives within the Stephen F. Austin State University College of Fine Arts are being made possible with funding provided through the Cole Annuity Fund.

The fund is helping to send three School of Music faculty members to Australia in May to foster an existing exchange program in Tasmania and pursue an opportunity for establishing a similar program in Sydney.

The Cole Annuity Fund, established by local fine arts patrons Ed and Gwen Cole, will also finance production of a catalog that will accompany a photography exhibition featuring the work of students from Libera Accademia di Belle Arti (LABA) in Florence, Italy, that will be shown at The Cole Art Center @ The Old Opera House in downtown Nacogdoches.

And finally, the Cole Fund is partly responsible for bringing "Robert Rauschenberg: Four Decades of Work on Paper" to Griffith Gallery to coincide with the opening of the School of Theatre's production of "bobrauschenbergamerica."

The Australian exchange

School of Music faculty members Nathan Nabb, Christopher Ayer and Stephen Lias will travel to Australia next month to the University of Tasmania (UTAS) in Hobart where an exchange program, which initially focused on music composition, has been under way for a few years. Students and faculty from both universities have traveled to each other's campuses. Last year, Fred J. Allen, SFA director of bands, served as clinician and guest conductor for school and regional bands in Australia, and this semester, Maria Grenfell is a visiting instructor of composition at SFA.

The exchange has been "exceptionally enriching" to both music programs, Lias said, "and now I'm very excited about the opportunity to showcase two fine performers from our music faculty (when they perform) at UTAS."

Nabb and Ayer will present a joint recital on May 17 in Hobart, and the SFA music educators will meet with UTAS faculty, students and administrators to recruit the next group of exchange students and hopefully broaden the collaboration to other areas within music, Lias said.

Over the past few years, interest has grown in establishing a similar exchange with the prestigious Sydney Conservatory. A number of SFA professors have connections with faculty in Sydney, Lias explained, and the deans of both programs agreed that it was time to formally explore the possibility of an exchange.

"Toward that end, we have been working with our counterparts in saxophone, clarinet and composition to organize activities that will allow students there to get to know us through lessons, masterclasses and performances," Lias said. "This is still very much a fact-finding mission, but the possibility of establishing a relationship with an institution of their caliber would be very exciting for SFA, and I think it will be clear that we have some significant opportunities to offer an Australian student who wants to spend a semester in Texas."

The Italian project

Last summer, David Lewis, professor of art history at SFA, traveled to Florence to a campus of LABA to make a presentation about the aspects of contemporary photography. Following the lecture, he was asked to critique the students' work. Out of that visit came the idea for a LABA student exhibition coming to Nacogdoches, and discussion was soon under way between Lewis and Mauro Manetti, director of LABA, about having collaborative projects between SFA and LABA.

"We're also going to pick up a traveling show of his (Manetti's) work, which is being organized in Europe," Lewis said. "It opens in the Czech Republic this fall, travels to Italy and will come here next year. He will bring some of his students here with him at that time for a short visit.

"And out of this, we are hoping to sew the seeds for future collaboration between the two institutions," he said. "It would be nice to have a representation in Italy. It would be good for their students to come here, and maybe we could send some of our students over there in a reciprocal arrangement."

Collaboration between the two institutions could also give opportunities for art faculty members to travel in teaching exchanges, Lewis said.

"When I first thought about doing this show, I really hadn't thought about doing a catalog," Lewis said. "But in reviewing it and sharing the imagery with John Handley, our galleries director, we decided that it might be fun to do an exhibition catalog. So I applied for funding from the Cole Annuity Fund to support that publication."

The SFA Press will print the catalog for "Italian Photography Now: Thirteen Young Contemporaries," showing now in Cole Art Center, in time for a closing reception of the exhibition slated for 6 p.m. Saturday, June 1. Some of the booklets will be given to the student artists and some to LABA for its own public relations efforts in developing a greater awareness of the opportunities for exchanges or other cooperative programs with SFA, Lewis said, adding the initiative is "a win-win" for both institutions and their faculties and students.

The Rauschenberg exhibition

"Robert Rauschenberg: Four Decades of Work on Paper" will open at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, in the Griffith Fine Arts Gallery in conjunction with the School of Theatre's production of "bobrauschenbergamerica," opening at 7:30 p.m. the same night in W.M. Turner Auditorium.

The theatre production of "bobrauschenbergamerica" had been planned for several months when new Galleries Director John Handley, who arrived at SFA in October, learned it was part of the School of Theatre's Mainstage Series productions to be performed in April. As a result, he checked the exhibition schedule in Griffith Gallery, which is located across the hall from Turner Auditorium in the Griffith Fine Arts Building on the SFA campus, learned the gallery would be available when the play opened, and immediately began searching for a museum or gallery that could loan some of Texas-born Rauschenberg's work to SFA.

Bill Goldston, director of Universal Limited Art Editions, was willing to work with Handley and agreed to loan some of Rauschenberg's work.

"We owe a great debt to him," Handley said. "He really went out of his way to make this happen and would like to keep working with us to bring other major U.S. artists' work here."

But the cost of shipping the pieces to Nacogdoches would have been a major obstacle without the Cole Fund, Handley added.

"It would have been extremely difficult for me to find the money on my budget to ship the works round-trip from Long Island to Nacogdoches," he said. "With the rise in fuel costs, shipping prices have soared. The Cole annuity grant made the show possible."

Admission to all art exhibitions is free. Tickets to the theatre production of "bobrauschenbergamerica," sponsored in part by Tipton Ford Lincoln, are $12 for adults and $6 for seniors and students. The play, which runs nightly through Saturday, April 27, is recommended for mature audiences.