Visual and Performing Arts

SYA alumni in arts and entertainment

From writing scenes to painting scenes to curating; playing music to playing sports, alumni have varied careers in the visual and  performing arts, television, film and entertainment fields. There were so many alums on the list that we decided to break it into parts.


Merritt Moore IT’05 is likely the only person to have a PhD in physics and be a professional ballet dancer with the most prestigious companies. Not only that, but she is also breaking new ground by touring with robots all around the world. Moore graduated with magna cum laude honors in physics from Harvard and graduated with a PhD in Atomic and Laser Physics from the University of Oxford. She also pursues a professional ballet career, previously with the Zurich Ballet, Boston Ballet, English National Ballet and Norwegian National Ballet. She was awarded Forbes 30 under 30, and she was one of the 12 selected candidates to undergo rigorous astronaut selection on BBC Two "Astronauts: Do you have what it takes?" and is featured in the bestseller Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. She is also an adjunct professor at NYU Abu Dhabi. During the pandemic, Moore programmed and danced with robots and has performed at Boston Ballet, Forbes Women's Summit and Harvard AI Opening among others. She has had collaborations with Louis Vuitton and been featured in TIME, Financial Times, Vogue, BBC and more. (Read this article. Visit website.)

Jacob Higginbottom FR’89 is an architect and watercolorist whose work graced the fall 2009 cover of SYA Magazine. By day, Higginbottom is a project executive and senior associate at EYP, a multidisciplinary design firm rooted in architecture, engineering and design consulting, with his focus on higher education projects. After graduating from Lehigh with a degree in civil engineering, he went on to complete his professional architecture degree from the Boston Architectural College in 1997 and is now a registered architect practicing in Boston. Jacob paints exclusively in watercolor in his studio in Boston's Fort Point District which he has called home since 1998. (Visit website.)

Tony Berg FR’71 is a record producer and founder of Zeitgeist Studios. Guitarist, composer, arranger, engineer, producer — he’s done it all. He has played on releases by Air Supply, Debby Boone, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Hornsby, Weezer, and Morris Day, to name a few. As one of Los Angeles’s busiest producers, he has helped shape the sounds of an eclectic group of artists, including Bob Dylan, Andrew Bird, Edie Brickell, Aimee Mann, Blake Mills, Michael Penn, Nickel Creek and The Replacements. And as a record executive, Berg has signed such artists as Beck, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and A Perfect Circle. He is also an ambassador of the Musical Instrument Museum.

Bob Knox FR'71 studied art at the L'Ecole de Beaux Arts in Rennes, then at Wesleyan University and has been painting daily for most of his adult life. His paintings often project a deep sense of irony and visual metaphor. Through color and layers, he builds a visual story often using everyday objects that are placed in out-of-context environments to engage and immerse viewers. During his graphic years, Knox became famous for his socially relevant and conceptually clever New Yorker Magazine covers. In total he produced art for over 20 covers, making him one of the most prolific New Yorker artists. Most of the art he created can still be purchased as posters or as calendars. He also wrote and illustrated a number of best-selling children's books including The Great Art Adventure, Dave and Jane in Outer Space, Dave and Jane's Adventures with Lewis and Clark and Going for a Walk. (Visit website.)

Ned Shepard FR'99 is one half of the duo Sultan + Shepard, a Canadian electronic music duo who frequently collaborate in record production, songwriting and remixing. They were nominated for a 2013 Grammy Award for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical for their remix of "Locked Out of Heaven" by Bruno Mars. They were nominated for a 2018 Juno Award for Dance Recording of the Year for their song "Almost Home" featuring Nadia Ali and IRO. (Visit website.)    

Madeline Fuhrman FR’10 is a musician, producer and song writer. Her smoky and heart-swelling vocals are reminiscent of her heroines Ella Fitzgerald, Edith Piaf and Amy Winehouse. Her lyrics might be infused with defiance and grace, but it’s not all about romance for this soulful young American: it’s about believing in your power and changing the world. Just don’t call the raspy-sounding songstress a singer; she is a boundary-breaking performer, producer, and songwriter. She performed her song “Sourire” at SYA France’s 50th anniversary celebration, which was inspired by her time in Rennes. (Madeline’s YouTube channel.)

Nicole Alger FR’83 IT’23P is an atelier trained realist artist and a graduate of The Florence Academy of Art. Throughout the pandemic, she exhibited in shows on the online platform, Artsy, with 33 Contemporary Gallery in Chicago and Abend Gallery in Denver. Seven of her drawings were acquired by the Langham Hotel, Boston, through the Copley Society of Art. Among others, her work is owned by the American Arbitration Association, Naropa University, Fareed Zakaria and Ashely Judd. Her work has shown in museums and gallery shows both in the US and abroad. (Visit website.)

Adam Guettel FR'82 is a composer/lyricist living in New York City. His To Kill A Mockingbird score was nominated for a Tony for Best Music in 2019. His upcoming project, Millions, is being developed by Sonia Friedman in the United Kingdom. His musical, The Light In the Piazza (cast album on Nonesuch Records), with a book by Craig Lucas, premiered on Broadway at Lincoln Center Theater's Vivian Beaumont Theater in April 2005 and went on to receive six 2005 Tony Awards including two for Guettel – Best Original Score and Best Orchestrations, and a Grammy nomination for best cast recording. The Light In the Piazza also received five Drama Desk Awards, including Best Music and Best Orchestrations. He wrote music and lyrics for Floyd Collins, which received the 1996 Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical and earned him the Obie Award for Best Music. Saturn Returns (recorded by Nonesuch as Myths and Hymns) was produced in an extended run at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in 1998. Accolades for Guettel include the Stephen Sondheim Award (1990), the ASCAP New Horizons Award (1997), and the American Composers Orchestra Award (2005). He received an honorary doctorate from Lehman College in 2007. (Visit website.)

Vince Pasternak ES'68 is a musician and composer, with roots that extend back to his year at SYA Spain. Then Resident Director Clark Vaughan convinced Pasternak's mother that sending a little bit of money over for him to purchase a guitar might be a good idea. At SYA's 50th Anniversary Celebration, Pasternak was a participant in Reader's Theatre program where he played original classic Spanish guitar pieces inspired from his time at SYA. His CD "Barcelona Notes" is filled with pieces reminiscent to his time abroad. About this compilation he said, (former SYA Spain faculty member) Ángel Vilalta's cultural DNA is so embedded in this project that I can't imagine how it would even exist without his presence in my life. An awesome teacher, and an awesome man. I hope he'll enjoy the music he helped to inspire." (Find Pasternak's music on Spotify.)

Payam Sharifi FR'93 cofounded Slavs and Tatars, an art collective and a faction of polemics and intimacies devoted to an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall known as Eurasia. Exhibitions, books, printed matter and lecture-performances draw upon the stylistic palette of popular culture, spiritual and esoteric traditions, oral histories, modern myths, as well as scholarly research. Nicholas Cullinan in Artforum describes Slavs and Tatars as "the most cosmopolitan of collectives, where a geopolitics of globe-trotting allows their shape-shifting projects and concerns to continuously cross-pollinate divergent, and sometimes diametrically opposed, cultural specificities." (Visit website.)

Mark Mitchell FR'92 is the Holcombe T. Green Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Yale University Art Gallery. He came to Yale in August 2015 from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where he organized Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life and George Inness in Italy. He completed his doctorate at Princeton in 2002 and previously worked at the Princeton University Art Museum, Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College and National Academy Museum in New York. His research interests in American art extend from the colonial period to the later twentieth century, with particular depth in landscape and still-life painting. The collection at Yale was reinstalled in summer 2017, refreshing the presentation of the Gallery’s renowned collection of American fine art from the colonial period to the early 20th century.

Antonia Bartoli IT’05 is the curator of Provenance Research at the Gallery at Yale University. She oversees provenance research for all acquisitions and incoming loans and is leading systematic investigations into permanent-collection objects. She is a specialist in provenance research with expertise in the Nazi period and has lectured and published on topics including the Italian art market during World War II and the spoliation of books, manuscripts, and fine and decorative art objects in Austria, France, Germany and Poland. She was formerly Spoliation Curator at the British Library, London, and has also worked as the Nina and Lee Griggs Fellow, Department of European Art, at the Gallery, a provenance researcher for Christie’s auction house, New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and as a consultant on behalf of families seeking to recover objects lost due to Nazi persecution. She holds an M.A. in the history of art and archaeology from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University and an undergraduate M.A. in the history of art from the University of St. Andrews. (In this short video, she addresses the provenance of Salomon van Ruysdael’s View of Alkmaar.)

Rowena Dasch ES'92 is the executive director of the Neill-Cochran House Museum in Austin. She received her master’s and PhD from The University of Texas at Austin and her bachelor’s degree from Princeton University. At the Neill-Cochran House Museum, Dasch is responsible for all aspects of administration, preservation and exhibition development. Her current research and work are focused on the site’s slave quarters structure — the only original dependency left on the property and the only intact slave quarters still standing in Austin. (Visit website.)

Jay Brown CN’96 founded Lijiang Studio, an arts practice based in a rural farming village in southwest China’s Yunnan Province. Since then, Lijiang Studio has facilitated and produced about 100 residencies and 35 exhibitions in urban, rural, domestic, public and private settings. These events are co-curated with the artists involved and with members of that local community.

Judy Barr IT'04 is a curatorial assistant in the Antiquities Department of the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa. Her research focuses on the history of the Getty’s collection and on documenting the 20th century art market for antiquities.

Kezi Barry ES’01 is a photographer, and videographer, for both personal and commercial clients. (Visit website.)

Sam Burkett FR’12 is a choreographer, director, teacher, writer, performer and owner of Sam Burkett Dance, which received the Best of Anything Goes award at the 2018 Houston Fringe Festival for Crop Tops Make Me Feel Vulnerable. (Visit website.)

Jessica Hutchins FR'88 is an artist in Portland, Oregon. Her expressive and intuitive studio practice produces dynamic sculptural installations, collages, paintings and large-scale ceramics, all hybrid juxtapositions of the handmade. A 2022 article noted, “Jessica Jackson Hutchins wants art to be an event, not a product.” (Read more.)

Miguel Payano CN'99 is an artist working between Beijing and New York. With a visual vernacular that is informed by American, Caribbean and Chinese cultures, he creates works that oscillate between painting and sculpture that investigate class, identity formation/socialization and storytelling.  His transcultural surrealist sensibilities bind aesthetics with humor and the grotesque. Until recently, Payano had been primarily based in China, where he has lived for nearly two decades. In addition to exhibiting throughout China, he has also exhibited in Europe, Southeast Asia and the U.S. His works are in major collections in China and Italy. (Visit website.)

Doug Letheren FR'02 is a visiting artist a the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. A graduate of The Julliard School, he danced with Mikhail Baryshnikov’s Hell’s Kitchen Dance before joining the Batsheva Dance Company. A 2007 Movado Future Legends Award recipient, nominated by Baryshnikov, Letheren has been a guest teacher in companies, schools, universities and workshops internationally.

Tally Johnston CN'02 is a curator and researcher living in Yangon, Myanmar, where she has been involved in numerous independent projects and initiatives. In 2016, she founded Myanm/art, an exhibition space, gallery, and reading room dedicated to promoting contemporary art in Myanmar by developing collaborations and showcasing artists’ works to local and international audiences. (Watch this interview.)

David Kahn ES'67 is been the executive director of the Adirondack Experience, The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake (ADKX), since 2011. Situated on a 121-acre campus, ADKX offers a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities, from interactive gallery installations that capture the experiences of the different peoples of the region to opportunities for boating, hiking and enjoying the magnificent landscapes.

Clark Mitchell ES'69 grew up in the shadow of the Rockies where he discovered the love of the natural world. Given a set of fine old German pastels by his father, he quickly embraced the medium for its ease of handling, brilliance of color and portability. An award recipient in local and national competitions, Mitchell has been designated a Master Pastelist by the Pastel Society of America and a Distinguished Pastelist by the Pastel Society of the West Coast. (Visit website.)

Chase Robinson FR'80 is the Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian. He joined the museums in December 2018. Together, the Freer and Sackler comprise the Smithsonian’s national Asian art museums with a total of more than 41,000 works objects ranging from the Neolithic to the present day, including Islamic art, Chinese jades, bronzes and paintings, and the art of the ancient Near East as well as masterworks from Japan, ancient Egypt and South and Southeast Asia. As director, Robinson oversees 115 full-time employees and manage an annual operating budget of $23 million. Previously, Robinson was the president of The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) and distinguished professor of history. Robinson, a highly regarded scholar of Middle Eastern history and culture, has served in leadership roles at The Graduate Center for a decade. He served as provost and senior vice president from 2008 until 2013, when he was appointed president.

Chloe Temtchine ES'00 is am award-wining singer, songwriter, speaker and the creator of “Super Brave,” an interview series that features both kids and adults who are living with a chronic illness. She was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness (Pulmonary Hypertension/PVOD) and survived on oxygen for years despite the fact that she was given little time to live. Twelve years later, Temtchine went into cardiac arrest, ended up in a coma for four days and on life support, when she received a life-saving, double-lung transplant. (Watch her participation on our "EmpowHER” alumnae panel. Visit website.)

Judith Dolkart FR’88 was appointed deputy director of the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA) and charged with coordinating and aligning the work of curatorial, learning and audience engagement. Prior to joining DIA, she was the Mary Stripp & R. Crosby Kemper Director of the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy. Dolkart received her B.A. from Harvard-Radcliffe Colleges and her M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She has served as a committee chair and trustee for the Association of Art Museum Curators. In 2013, Dolkart was a fellow at the Center for Curatorial Leadership. She is an active member of the Association of Art Museum Directors.

Natalie Curran FR’15 the Fine Art Specialist at Vogt Auction in San Antonio, Texas. She curates art in every general auction they hold, as well as the more specialized Texas and Western art auctions a few times a year. (Visit website.)

Tim Schiffer FR'72 is a watercolorist who enjoys the challenge of creating a realistic rendering of the subject while also exploring the interplay between the flat design and the illusion of space and light. After receiving his bachelor’s in art at Yale, he earned his MFA in painting from UC Santa Barbara, where for eight years he was a lecturer in art and gallery director at the College of Creative Studies, an independent undergraduate program within the university. In 1993 he was named curator at the Museum of Ventura County in Ventura, California, and went on to serve as executive director from 1999 to 2012. In 2012, he joined the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, as executive director, retiring in 2019. (Visit website.)

Anne Thiam ES'89 is a ceramics artist whose porcelains are elegant while mysterious interpretations of naturally found shapes brought forth with a personal vision. She uses soft slab to integrate textures and patterns into her pieces with handmade stamps and rollers. Her forms take root in the natural world and have been greatly influenced by textiles and architecture from around the world. She is a juried member of the League of N.H. Craftsmen. ­(Visit website and the Furchgott Sourdiffe Gallery.)

Ranald Woodaman FR'93 is the Smithsonian Latino Center’s Exhibitions and Public Programs Director. His work at the Smithsonian includes several exhibitions and managing several Smithsonian initiatives including the Latino DC History Project and the Caribbean Indigenous Legacies Project. Outside of the Smithsonian, he led the community-curation and design of exhibitions documenting the history of LGBTQ Latinos in D.C. at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. Ranald is also the former Vice-Chair of the Latino Network of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and is a member of the AAM’s National Program Committee. (Learn more.)

Laurie Petersen FR'77 is the editor of the fourth edition of the American Institute of Architects’ AIA Guide to Chicago, the most comprehensive guide to the city’s buildings. She also edited the third edition (2014) and was associate editor of the first two editions (1993, 2004). She is a longtime writer for Chicago Architect magazine, and she lectures about Chicago architecture throughout the metro area. She is a docent who leads tours at Crow Island School in Winnetka and Charnley-Persky House in Chicago.

Will Rawls FR'95 is a New York-based choreographer, dancer and writer whose work unfolds at the edges of sense when dance and language clash. His multi-disciplinary work exists at theaters, galleries and museums, and focuses on how black performance rescripts the visibility and erasure inherent in anti-black perception. His next work, [siccer], will premiere in 2023. He has received fellowships and residencies from the Guggenheim, The Alpert Foundation, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, United States Artists, the Rauschenberg Foundation, the MacDowell Colony and several universities and museums. In 2020-2021, he held an appointment as the UC Regents Professor in UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures, and in 2022 returned in lecturer in New Genres at UCLA School of Arts and Architecture. In 2016, Rawls co-curated Lost and Found—six weeks of performances at Danspace Project that addressed the intergenerational impact of HIV/AIDS on dancers, women, and people of color. He lectures widely in academic and community contexts and his writing has been published by the Hammer Museum, MoMA, Museu de Arte de São Paolo, Dancing While Black Journal and Artforum. (Visit website.)

Sarah Coplan IT'12 is a senior graphic designer for Precision Strategies based in NYC, where she strategizes and develops print and digital ads, branding and identity, email campaigns, infographics, presentations and motion graphics for a range of political and advocacy organizations, campaigns, technology companies and social movements.

Daphne Palmer FR'03 is a partner at the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco that represents work of several artists. (Visit the website. Watch this two-minute clip on Christian Marclay.)

Conrad Skinner FR'69 practices architecture and furniture design in Santa Fe. He has traveled widely in Asia and Europe, living in Tokyo, Japan and Rennes, and speaks fluent Japanese and French. A graduate of Reed College, he majored in art and art history. During nearly three years’ living in Japan in the 1970s, he worked closely with artists and architects and showed sculpture in a solo exhibition at Gallery Te. In New York subsequently, he fabricated and installed large-scale sculpture for artist Dennis Oppenheim, including for public art exhibitions Art on the Beach and the group show, Metaphor, at the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. (Visit website.)

Bruce Watson ES'72 is a music producer based in Memphis. In 2012 he opened The End Of All Music, giving Oxford its first record store in a decade. In 2015 he took it several steps further and moved to Memphis to oversee his most impressive project yet: Memphis Record Pressing, the first vinyl pressing plant built in the United States in forty years. By 2018 he’d built Delta Sonic Sound, where he currently works. To focus on his longtime love of sacred soul music, he established the Bible and Tire imprint, home to new recordings he’s done with the Sensational Barnes Brothers and Elizabeth King, as well as a forthcoming deep dive into the Bluff City’s incredibly prolific D-Vine Spirituals label. (Visit website.)

Natalie Curran FR'15
Sarah Coplan IT'12