2017 Viola Award Nominee for Excellence in the Visual Arts

Composition for Forests was a one-of-a-kind music and art installation concert performance by pianist Janice ChenJu Chiang and visual artist Shawn Skabelund. The production featured a piano concert by Chiang; she was surrounded by an art installation crafted by Skabelund. During the concert, attendees were encouraged to walk through the art installation, exploring it in detail. Concert goers could also approach Chiang and watch her perform on the piano more closely than is typically permitted at classical concerts.

“A site-specific installation combined with a musical program addressing climate change, this one-of-a-kind collaboration explored the issue of the catastrophic fires now occurring more frequently due to years of fire suppression and global warming.”

The production was held September 22, 24, 25, 26, and 28, 2016, at Ashurst Auditorium on NAU campus. Composition for Forests was part of the Flagstaff Science Festival and the School of Music’s Horizon Concert Series.

Materials: Steinway grand piano, filament, crow specimens, charred Ponderosa pine timbers, ceramic sewer pipes, cottonwood leaves, water, digital projection. The funding for this project was supported through a Research and Development Grant from the Arizona Commission for the Arts and a grant from the Puffin Foundation.

Audience Raves: 

“This was an incredible event, unlike anything I’ve seen in Flagstaff. It was a powerful experience to wander amongst the burnt timbers and to gaze upon all of the different forms, shapes and shades. At the same time to wander amongst the timbers and around the piano made the experience even more special. What a treat to be able to stand right next to the piano and to watch Janice Chenju Chiang’s hands move from so close! And then to be able to essentially sit beneath the piano. The filaments creating a multicolored cage that reached from the piano to the ceiling gave the installation another layer, complete with taxidermed ravens inside! Thought provoking music and art installation, all combined in an interactive experience. We don’t see art like this in Flagstaff–a very special event!”

“This innovate installation concert expands the parameters of both art and music while it blurs the boundary between performer and artist / spectator, allowing/encouraging the audience to physically engage with the visual and musical compositions. Participants experienced a revelation: Seeing music and hearing art while becoming one with the composition and fellow attendees. Viewers were more akin to performance artists as their silent steps and standing postures became an interactive group dance interwoven with the sculpture and piano. The event would be different at every performance, dependent on the audience’s movements. This was also an event. It lasted only for the length and number of performances. You had to be there. There is no way to retrieve this from the Internet. One’s physical presence and participation were integral to the experience and irreplicable.”


NPR Story

Shawn Skabelund artist page

AZ Daily Sun “Best In 2016 Visual Art in Flagstaff”

AZ Daily Sun Article