SFA University

May 17, 2019 Nacogdoches – The school year is winding down, and East Texas residents are making plans for summer vacations and entertainment opportunities for their families. Among those plans should be visiting the Stephen F. Austin State University campus to enjoy the annual SummerStage Festival presented by the SFA School of Theatre.

This year’s festival runs June 27 through July 12 and features the musical comedy “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and the beloved children’s story “The Reluctant Dragon.” The festival is sponsored in part by Tipton-Ford-Lincoln.

With its laid-back approach, SummerStage is designed to provide less formal, fun and easy-going live theatre experiences for East Texas audiences, according to Cleo House Jr., director of the SFA School of Theatre.

“SummerStage is not only an excellent opportunity to beat the summer heat, but it’s also a destination for the families of Nacogdoches County to have some fun and laughs together,” House said. “Even our show times are more flexible during the summer to accommodate families from all walks of life.”

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” with music and lyrics by William Finn, book by Rachel Sheinkin, conceived by Rebecca Feldman, with additional material by Jay Reiss and originally directed on Broadway by James Lapine, is about an eclectic group of sixth graders who make their way through a spelling competition where each, eager to win, reveals his/her hopes, struggles and passions through hilarious, touching and catchy songs.

Theatre professor Angela Bacarisse directs the show. She encourages audience members to show up early to become part of the fun.

“The show involves audience volunteers,” she said. “Make sure to arrive at the theatre at least one-half hour before the show if you would like to put in an application to take part in the spelling bee. As long as you can spell ‘cow’ or ‘bug,’ you are eligible. But don't be surprised if we give you ‘diethylamide.’”

All ages and experience levels are eligible. Four audience members will be chosen to participate in each performance.

“The Reluctant Dragon,” based on the book by Kenneth Grahame and adapted by Mary Hall Surface, is the charming tale of an unlikely friendship between a young boy and a peace-loving dragon, and it’s about overcoming prejudice and fear in a small medieval domain.

“The show will be bright and fun with lots of acrobatic dragon movement, sword fights and warm-hearted storytelling,” according to Dr. Slade Billew, assistant professor of theatre and the play’s director.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. July 3, 5, 8, 9, 10 and 11, and at 2 p.m. July 9 and 12. General admission tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students/youth. This show has some adult themes and is recommended for mature audiences.

“The Reluctant Dragon” will be presented at 10 a.m. June 27 and 28 and July 5, 8, 10 and 11; at 2 p.m. June 27; and at 6:30 p.m. July 12. General admission tickets are $8.

Pay-what-you-can performances for both shows are on July 8.

All performances are in W.M. Turner Auditorium in the Griffith Fine Arts Building, 2222 Alumni Drive.

For tickets or more information, call the SFA Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or visit www.theatre.sfasu.edu.

May 13, 2019 Nacogdoches — More than 1,500 candidates will cross the stage during Stephen F. Austin State University commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 18, in Johnson Coliseum.

Steve Stagner, a 1991 SFA alumnus and former Mattress Firm CEO, will deliver the commencement address.

Just five years after his SFA graduation, Stagner became a Mattress Firm franchise owner. He eventually became the chief executive of the company, the nation’s largest mattress retailer, overseeing strategic planning as well as core functions such as sales, marketing, merchandising, finance and operations.

Stagner manages a number of private investments and serves as director of SFA’s Rusche College of Business Advisory Council. He serves on the advisory board for the Translational Genomics Research Institute, a non-profit medical research institute dedicated to unraveling the genetic components of both common and complex diseases.

Candidates from SFA’s James I. Perkins College of Education and the College of Fine Arts will participate in a 9:30 a.m. ceremony. Candidates from the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, the Rusche College of Business, the College of Liberal and Applied Arts, and the College of Sciences and Mathematics will participate in a 2 p.m. ceremony.

Degrees to be awarded include 1,178 bachelor’s, 318 master’s and nine doctoral degrees. Approximately 370 students will graduate with honors, including 139 cum laude, 120 magna cum laude and 111 summa cum laude. Eighty-one students will graduate with the university scholar designation.

Special guests expected to attend the afternoon ceremony include Ed Cole of Nacogdoches, who will be awarded an honorary doctoral degree, and former SFA president William R. Johnson, who will confer a diploma to his grandson, Taylor Ash.

To view the ceremony online, visit the SFA Facebook page, www.facebook.com/sfasu.

May 8, 2019 Nacogdoches – Registration is underway for summer lessons and camps offered by the Music Preparatory Division of the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Music.

Lessons are offered in piano, jazz piano, voice, guitar, flute, Suzuki violin and other instruments. Private lessons begin the week of June 3.

Guitar Camp, with Larry Greer as instructor, will be from 2 to 3 p.m. June 11 through 14 at the Music Prep House. The lessons are designed for students ages 10 and up. Tuition is $50, and guitar rental is $10. Lessons are provided in rock, country, classical and jazz. Class size is limited to 10 students.

Dr. Mario Ajero will direct the Kids Summer Piano Camp for children in first through third grades. Classes are 10 a.m. to noon July 15 through July 18 in Room 223 of the Boynton Building on the SFA campus. Tuition is $100, and class size is limited to 16 students. Registration deadline is June 3.

Dr. Ping-Ting Lan will instruct a six-week adult intermediate piano class from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Mondays, June 17 and 24 and July 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29 in Room 223 of the Boynton Building. Tuition is $110, and class size is limited to 16 students.

Registration forms and more information can be accessed at www.music.sfasu.edu/prep, or contact Music Prep director Pat Barnett at pbarnett@sfasu.edu or musicprep@sfasu.edu, or call (936) 468-1291. The Music Prep House is located at 3028 Raguet St.


The phenomenon of swing dancing is examined in the film “Alive and Kicking,” to be screened at 7 p.m. Friday, May 3, in The Cole Art Center. Photo by Jessica Keener.

April 26, 2019 Nacogdoches – The Stephen F. Austin State University School of Art and the Friends of the Visual Arts will present a free, one-night screening of the documentary “Alive and Kicking” at 7 p.m. Friday, May 3, in The Cole Art Center @ The Old Opera House in downtown Nacogdoches.

Directed by Susan Glatzer, “Alive and Kicking” is a feature-length documentary that takes an inside glance into the culture of swing dancing and the characters who make it special. It explores the culture surrounding swing dance from the emergence of the Lindy Hop to the modern-day international phenomenon. The film looks at the lives of the swing dancers themselves to find their personal stories and why this dance fills them with joy, according to information at http://aliveandkickingfilm.com.

Run time is 88 minutes.

This screening is part of the School of Art’s monthly Friday Film Series and is sponsored in part by William Arscott, Nacogdoches Film Festival, Karon Gillespie, Mike Mollot, David Kulhavy, John and Kristen Heath, Galleria Z, Jill Carrington, Jean Stephens, Jim and Mary Neal, Richard Orton, Nacogdoches Junior Forum and Main Street Nacogdoches.

The Cole Art Center is located at 329 E. Main St. For more information, call (936) 468-1131.


Stephen F. Austin State University’s horticulture program will host an inaugural plant fair and open house from 5 to 8 p.m. May 3 and 10 a.m. to noon May 4 at the SFA Plantery, located at 1924 Wilson Drive. The event will feature family friendly activities, including plant identification and tea tasting. Pictured, junior horticulture major Jevon Richeson waters plants in the SFA Plantery.

April 19, 2019 Nacogdoches — Stephen F. Austin State University’s horticulture program will host an inaugural plant fair and open house from 5 to 8 p.m. May 3 and 10 a.m. to noon May 4 at the SFA Plantery, located at 1924 Wilson Drive.

The event will feature plants for purchase and educational activities, as well as information regarding how to grow your plants.

“Attendees will experience the floral aromas and vibrant colors of flowers in full bloom at the nursery, greenhouse and garden,” said Stephanie Stevens, a senior mass communication major.

The plant fair is family friendly and will include a photo booth and plant identification, planting, and tea-tasting stations.

“The event’s purpose is to showcase our horticulture program and help attendees cultivate a love for plants,” said Dr. Jared Barnes, assistant professor of horticulture at SFA. “We want to show off our student’s hard work in the greenhouses, as well as all of the opportunities offered through SFA’s agriculture department.”

Plants available for purchase include edibles, such as tomatoes, lettuce and basil, as well as summer annuals, including vinca, zinnia and angelonia. All proceeds support future educational projects in the SFA horticulture program and Horticulture Club.

In addition to this event, Barnes said the horticulture program offers garden volunteer opportunities for the community and work-study opportunities for SFA students. Fresh, student-grown, chemical-free produce also is sold at the SFA Plantery every Friday from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“We’d love to help answer any gardening questions guests have and hope this event inspires a love for the Earth and everything on it,” Barnes added.

For more information, contact Barnes at (936) 468-7850 or barnesj@sfasu.edu. The community also may learn more about the horticulture program by visiting HorticultureIsAwesome.com/the-plantery or following @SfaHorticulture on Instagram.

April 18, 2019 - Stephen F. Austin State University music composition major Jesse Edwards has garnered another award in a prestigious national competition for one of his original orchestral scores.

For the third year, The Philadelphia Youth Orchestra (PYO) conducted a nationwide search to name the three winners in the PYO Young Composers Competition. Edwards, a Tyler senior, earned second place for his piece “Saturday Afternoon.” This recent recognition adds to the ever-growing list of accolades Edwards has amassed.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by such an amazing ensemble,” Edwards said. “It’s especially exciting for me to be able to share my music with a youth orchestra – the next generation of great musicians.”

Edwards studies with Dr. Stephen Lias, professor of composition at SFA, who described Edwards’ most recent honor as “well-deserved.”

“Jesse is one of those students I never have to push because his hunger for personal and creative growth is so strong,” Lias said. “He has really helped hold the bar high for his colleagues.

“Composers build their reputation by winning competitions,” he added. “The earlier in their career they start doing this, the better for them. So having this on his resume will give Jesse considerable credibility and gravitas as he seeks commissions and applies to graduate programs.”

“Saturday Afternoon” was inspired by one of Edwards’ visits to New York City.

“When my wife lived in New York City, before we were married, I would go up to visit as much as I could,” he said. “We never had very much time together – sometimes just a weekend – so it became a sort of challenge to see how many things we could fit in a day. ‘Saturday Afternoon’ follows the adventures of one such day on a weekend trip during the winter of 2016.”

An internationally performed composer of rising acclaim, Edwards’ newest work, “Mint Chic,” was recently performed at the Alba International Music Festival, in Alba, Italy, by SOLI Chamber Ensemble. Edwards has worked with SFA’s Orchestra of the Pines, Starks Sound, and film director Adam Rothstein to create what has been noted as "accessible," “well spoken," and "straightforward" by Italian composer/educator Ferdinando Nazzaro. His music has been performed by the Lemberg Sinfonietta (Lviv, Ukraine), the Phoenix Ensemble (Ukraine), the Hobart Wind Symphony (Tasmania) and by high school and university choirs and bands throughout East Texas.

Lias noted that SFA’s reputation as an institution that provides a quality fine arts education bodes well for the university as it recruits art, music and theatre students.

“The fact that SFA can attract students of Jesse’s quality and nurture their development in a way that bears fruit like this is a testament to the entire College of Fine Arts,” Lias said. “Jesse has collaborated with both the theatre and art programs scoring plays and movies and has spent a semester studying abroad at our partner institution in Hobart, Australia. Although Jesse would have succeeded anywhere, SFA has been an excellent fit and provided him exactly the opportunities he needed to grow into the composer he is today.”

Following graduation in May, Edwards plans to pursue a master’s degree in music composition.

“I’m just looking forward to even more future opportunities like this one that allow me to spread a little more joy and beauty in a world that needs it,” he said.

For more information on Edwards’ music, recordings and videos, visit jesseedwardsmusic.com

A sing-along edition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” will be screened at 7 p.m. Friday, April 26, at The Cole Art Center at The Old Opera House in downtown Nacogdoches.

April 16, 2019 - A new version of the award-winning film “Bohemian Rhapsody” is coming to The Cole Art Center at The Old Opera House.

A new sing-along edition of the movie will be shown in a free, one-night screening, hosted by the Friends of the Visual Arts at Stephen F. Austin State University, at 7 p.m. Friday, April 26, in SFA’s historic downtown art center.

In this version of the movie, lyrics appear on the screen to help moviegoers add their own voices to Queen’s performances of favorite songs like “We Will Rock You” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

“We’re bringing this film to the gallery at the request of our students and some regular patrons,” said Alisa Steed, events coordinator for SFA art galleries. “We hope everyone comes ready to sing!”

“Bohemian Rhapsody” celebrates the music of legendary rock band Queen and their extraordinary lead singer, Freddie Mercury, as portrayed by actor Rami Malek. The film, which was directed by Bryan Singer, received 16 major nominations in 2019 and won nine awards, among them Academy Awards for Best Picture and for Actor in a Leading Role for Malek; Screen Actors Guild performance awards to Malik and the entire cast; and Golden Globe Awards to Malik and for Best Motion Picture.

The film is rated Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, suggestive material, drug content and language. Run time is 134 minutes.

This special screening is sponsored in part by William Arscott, Nacogdoches Film Festival, Karon Gillespie, Mike Mollot, David Kulhavy, John and Kristen Heath, Galleria Z, Jill Carrington, Jean Stephens, Jim and Mary Neal, Richard Orton, Nacogdoches Junior Forum and Main Street Nacogdoches.

The Cole Art Center is located at 329 E. Main St. For more information, call (936) 468-1131.


SFA heavy equipment operator Randy Holland assists artist Joe Barrington in delivering Barrington’s “Sock Monkey” sculpture as one of the first installations of the 2019-21 Sculpture For All exhibition in Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden on the SFA campus.

April 11, 2019 Nacogdoches, Texas – Continuing to make art bloom throughout the gardens on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University, Sculpture For All 2019-2021 will open with a public reception at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 27, in the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden.

Sculpture For All is a biennial outdoor exhibition and competition in the form of a joint partnership project that brings together faculty, staff and students from the SFA School of Art and the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture.

This year’s opening coincides with International Sculpture Day, according to Jeffery Brewer, assistant professor of art (sculpture) at SFA.

“This outdoor artistic endeavor seeks to expose SFA students and faculty members to art they might not otherwise see while bringing national recognition and publicity to SFA,” according to Brewer.

This year’s competition was juried by Robbie Barber, associate professor of art (sculpture and 3-D design) at Baylor University. The exhibition will showcase the work of eight artists, including Barber.


Artist Teresa Lind’s “The Farmer” is now part of SFA’s permanent collection of Sculpture For All art.

“It’s an all-star cast of Texas sculptors and will make for a fabulous show,” Brewer said.

Along with Barber, returning artists include Joe Barrington, Luke Sides, Christopher Thomson, Daniel Hunt, Russ Connell, Dewane Hughes and Kurt Dyrhaug. The exhibition also includes the work of newcomer Michelle O’Michael of Houston.

Barber received his B.F.A. in sculpture from East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, in 1987, and his M.F.A. in sculpture from the University of Arizona in 1991. He also studied in Cortona, Italy, through the University of Georgia Studies Abroad Program. In 1991, Barber was awarded a yearlong residency at the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program in Roswell, New Mexico. After returning to North Carolina in 1992, he received a Southern Arts Federation/NEA Regional Visual Arts Fellowship in Sculpture and a North Carolina Arts Council Visual Artist Fellowship, both in 1993. In 1994, Barber moved to Wichita Falls to teach Sculpture and Metalsmithing at Midwestern State University. He left in 2000 to teach at Baylor University in Waco where he is currently associate professor of sculpture.

In 2007, Barber was a founding member of the Texas Atomic Iron Commission, which is comprised of sculpture educators dedicated to the dissemination of iron casting as an approach to art making. Through this organization, he has presented workshops, participated in iron pours throughout Texas and Alabama, and he has been invited to Keen Foundry Invitational Iron Casting Symposiums in Houston. He has exhibited widely throughout the United States, including exhibitions at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, New York, the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the Grace Museum in Abilene, Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey, and at Redbud Gallery in Houston.

With a donation from the Four Seasons Garden Club of Nacogdoches, SFA has purchased last year’s people’s choice winner, “The Farmer” by Teresa Lind, making it the third in SFA’s permanent collection of Sculpture For All art.

For more information about Sculpture For All, call (936) 468-4404 or email sculptureforall@sfasu.edu.


Stephen F. Austin State University faculty members Justin Pelham, clinical instructor; Dr. Chay Runnels, hospitality administration program coordinator and associate professor; Dr. Donna Fickes, clinical instructor; and Todd Barrios, chef instructor; were instrumental in creating the Lumberjack Express, a mobile food lab, which offers service Tuesdays and Thursdays.

April 10, 2019 Nacogdoches — It’s big. It’s purple. It’s the Lumberjack Express. This spring Stephen F. Austin State University rolled out its newest endeavor — the Lumberjack Express mobile food lab.

As the only one of its kind in Texas, this learning laboratory provides students in the School of Human Sciences a taste of the real world.

“There are only a few food trucks nationally that are utilized as an academic laboratory,” said Dr. Lynda Martin, director of SFA’s School of Human Sciences. “It has been so exciting watching the students make the Lumberjack Express their own and seeing how the campus community has responded to this new learning experience.”

Four faculty members from the School of Human Sciences were instrumental in bringing the Lumberjack Express to campus: Dr. Chay Runnels, hospitality administration program coordinator and associate professor; Dr. Donna Fickes, clinical instructor; Todd Barrios, chef instructor; and Justin Pelham, clinical instructor.

In recognition of their work, they were recently awarded a Bright Spot award by the SFA Faculty Senate, the Center for Teaching and Learning and the SFA vice presidents.

While attending the National Restaurant Association’s annual show a few years ago in Illinois, Runnels noticed a food truck with a university logo on it. This sighting sparked an idea.

“We began researching the possibility of a mobile food lab that would be a true learning laboratory. From the beginning, we had a lot of support from administration,” Runnels said.

Soon, wheels started turning — literally, as faculty members and students worked to bring the food truck trend to campus.

“We had many meetings. We worked with an undergraduate student to develop a business plan, and we researched other food trucks and institutions that had something similar to what we were proposing,” Runnels said. “It’s been a learning experience for us all.”

Once SFA’s Board of Regents approved the purchase of the mobile food lab in January 2018, Fickes began coordinating the development effort. In addition to teaching, Fickes contacted people in the industry and worked with faculty members to ensure the new mobile food lab would meet program needs.

Barrios worked on creating the kitchen’s layout, as well as selecting the kitchen utensils. Pelham represented the food, nutrition and dietetics program in helping select the menu items.

A mobile food management course was developed that focuses on the food truck industry and directly ties in with the Lumberjack Express. Students in other areas, such as event planning, also have the opportunity to use the Lumberjack Express for coursework.

“Our goal is to provide students a timely, transformational learning experience. The food truck trend has grown into a food truck culture,” Fickes said. “It is a viable way for someone to enter the hospitality industry with fewer expenses and immediate return on investment. Providing our students an environment where they can learn through trial and error puts them a step ahead of their competition.” 

Service at the Lumberjack Express began in February. Much like the Culinary Café, the Lumberjack Express is a student-run operation. Hospitality majors, under the direction of Barrios, prepare the meals every Tuesday and Thursday. The cuisine is based on various themes, such as Latin, Texas barbecue, Asian, Creole and Mediterranean. Music streaming from the Lumberjack Express and smiling faces inside the truck greet customers picking up their food. 

“The students love working on Lumberjack Express and have taken immediate ownership of it,” Fickes said. “Guests have been very positive about student interactions, and they have loved the street food creations we are serving.”

The Lumberjack Express also will be utilized at outreach and recruiting events, such as career and college fairs and Showcase Saturday. Pelham also plans on using the lab for cooking demonstrations in the community during the Cooking Matters Program his students host annually.

To learn more about the Lumberjack Express and to purchase tickets, visit sfasu.edu/lumberjackexpress. 

By Kasi Dickerson, senior marketing communications specialist at Stephen F. Austin State University.


SFA photography students LaShauna Bell, Ashley Spitzmiller and Yared Jasso pose for their own portrait during a lull in the action at Help-Portrait day at Nacogdoches HOPE.

April 9, 2019 - Photography students from the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Art recently put their skills to work for a good cause by taking part in a national service event called Help-Portrait.

Students set up a mobile lighting studio at Nacogdoches HOPE, a local food pantry, and made portraits for clients who might not otherwise have been able to afford professional quality photographs. Students also edited and printed the portraits on site,so that people were able to take home several finished prints from each session.

“I love doing this project,” said Amanda Breitbach, assistant professor of art at SFA. “The students learn from working with new people and making portraits in a new setting, and they also learn that they can use their skills in photography to give back to their community.”

Breitbach’s students in the photographic lighting class have spent this semester learning the technical and creative aspects of lighting using studio strobes, flash and ambient light. The Help-Portrait project gave them the opportunity to practice those skills in a real-world setting, Breitbach said.

“I’m so glad we did this,” said student Cameron Sweet as he and colleagues packed up their gear at the end of the day.


Nacogdoches HOPE treasurer Kathy Griffin and her poodle, Babette, get their photo taken during the Help-Portrait event. Getting the correct exposure for a black dog against a black background was a technical challenge.

“Our clients and volunteers were absolutely delighted with their pictures,” said Nacogdoches HOPE director Denise Lee. “It was a joyful day for me to observe individuals and families getting such beautiful portraits when I am certain they could not afford such a luxury. Everyone left with smiles on their faces.”

Breitbach said she hopes to make the project an annual event for SFA photography students.

Photographer Jeremy Cowart founded Help-Portrait in 2008 with the mission of empowering photographers and others to use their skills, tools and expertise to give back to their communities. Help-Portrait events take place each year in communities across the country.

Pages