artwork featured in the exhibit “Denali: Artists Respond to Music Inspired by Wilderness”

“Denali: Artists Respond to Music Inspired by Wilderness” shows Sept. 17 through Nov. 21 in Griffith Fine Arts Gallery, located on the SFA campus. A reception and performance is planned for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The School of Art at Stephen F. Austin State University will host the exhibition “Denali: Artists Respond to Music Inspired by Wilderness” Sept. 17 through Nov. 21 in Griffith Fine Arts Gallery, located on the SFA campus.

Two languages – music and visual art – combine to create works of art made in response to chamber music composed in Denali National Park. The exhibition is a collaboration between the Elements Artist Group and composers from the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival’s Composing in the Wilderness Program, directed by SFA composing professor Dr. Stephen Lias. The Elements Artists Group is made up of six artists anchored in Alaska: Charlotte Bird, Susan Campbell, Nancy Hausle-Johnson, Marybee Kaufman, Margo Klass and Ree Nancarrow.

SFA senior composition student Corinna Hogan of Gatesville is among the collaborating composers. Other composers included Jesse Budel, Christian Dubeau, Aaron Keyt, Brent Lawrence, Libby Meyer, Christina Rusnak, Dawn Sonntag and Jennifer Wright.

The idea for the project was originally sparked by a painting Elements artist Marybee Kaufman rendered while listening to music written by Christina Rusnak in 2012, according to Nancarrow.

“Their successful collaboration resonated with other Elements artists who were eager to explore a new challenge – making visual art in response to music inspired by a place they all love, Denali National Park,” she said. Lias shared the proposal with his Composing in the Wilderness musicians, and they enthusiastically agreed to the project.

In 2017, Lias led nine experienced composers into the backcountry of Denali National Park where they composed original chamber music inspired by their wilderness experiences and shared recordings of their compositions, musical scores, ideas and inspiration with the Elements artists. The artists worked in a variety of media including fiber art, ceramic tiles, painting, poetry, and artist books to create 18 works of visual art, each one a personal response to a musical composition.

“This was an incredible experience that I feel inclined to repeat,” Hogan said. “I saw views no photo can adequately capture, discovered a love of hiking, made lasting friends from around the world, and wrote some of my best music. I recommend all composers do their best to be a part of Composing in the Wilderness.

“Two years ago I never would have guessed I’d be part of such a unique and fruitful collaboration, but here we are,” she added of the collaboration with the Elements group. “This artwork gave me a surprising and exciting new lens through which to see my own work, which is a very thought-provoking and enjoyable experience. Plus, it’s gorgeous.”

“Denali: Artists Respond to Music inspired by Wilderness” has been one of the most rewarding and inspiring exhibition collaborations in which Elements artists have participated, according to member Margo Klass.

“Denali: Artists Respond to Music in the Wilderness” represents “a fruitful collaboration of visual artists and musicians,” Klass said. “Composers we worked with said, ‘We have often responded to visual art, but no artist has ever responded to our compositions.’”

In experiencing the exhibition, a smart phone enables access to the music that inspired each artistic response. QR codes, posted throughout the exhibition, provide links to the music so that the music and art it inspired can be experienced at the same time. Binders of the musical scores and program notes are also on display as part of the exhibition. Catalogs of the exhibition include images, artist statements and biographies of artists and composers.

Support of a Community Arts Development Grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts helped fund the project along with sponsorship by The National Park Service, Alaska Geographic, Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival and Composers in the Wilderness. For more information about the project, visit

A reception with performance is planned for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, in the gallery. Griffith Gallery is located inside Griffith Fine Arts Building, 2222 Alumni Drive.

This exhibition and reception is sponsored in part by William Arscott, The Flower Shop and the Friends of the Visual Arts. Admission is free. For more information, call (936) 468-1131.