Ben Coolik: UGA Amazing Student

March 31, 2005
UGA Amazing Students Web feature
link to original article

Ben Coolik

Graduate student Ben Coolik is no stranger to success. He is a collaborative artist in the field of performance who has worked in some of the country’s leading venues and conferences. His work crosses and often combines multiple disciplines including lighting design, music composition, interactive multi-media design and programming as well as performance. Ben is also an avid researcher and has recently been published at the R.E.M. Web site and in Lighting and Sound America magazine. His most recent collaborative efforts, Paradise Hotel and E.L.I., were supported by grants from ICE (Ideas for Creative Exploration) where Ben is currently serving on the Interactive Performance Research Task Force.

Expected graduation: May 2005

Degree Objective: Master of Fine Arts in Theatrical Design

Other degrees:
B.S. in Finance; University of Georgia, 1997

University highlights, achievements and awards:
During the past two years as a graduate student, my achievements have been more artistic and less academic in nature. I was invited to participate in the Sydney Kahn
Summer Institute at The Kitchen in New York City (Summer 2003) with 17 other artists from around the country. I was nominated as the sole Graduate Student representative on the ICE (Ideas for Creative Exploration) Grant Selection Committee. While in New York, I helped create E.L.I.: an interactive performance project. E.L.I. received a grant from ICE and we were invited to present E.L.I. at The Kitchen’s 5th Annual Street Festival in NYC (2003) as well as the first annual IDMAA Conference in Orlando (2004). I was also involved with another ICE funded project: Paradise Hotel –a Richard Foreman play adapted by Cal Clements. I am currently a member of ICE’s Interactive Performance Research Task Force. My research on lighting designer, Willie Williams, was published on the R.E.M. Web site in November, 2004, and my article on The Alliance Theatre’s world premier production of The Color Purple: the musical was published in Light and Sound America magazine in March 2005. This past semester (Fall 2004) I was chosen for an internship at The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta working in both the lighting and sound departments.

Current employment:
As a graduate student on assistantship, I work in the Theatre Department’s “Scene Shop” dealing with all technical aspects of mounting departmental productions including building, painting, lighting and sound work.

High School: Brookstone School

Hometown: Columbus, Georgia

I chose to attend UGA because…
I come from a history of UGA graduates so I have always considered it as an option. My decision to come back here for graduate school was mostly motivated by my infatuation with Athens. This city has a close, hard-working, and diverse artistic community. Because of Athens’ size, it is easy to network and find other people interested in collaborative work. As a musician, I also love the vibrant music scene.

My favorite things to do on campus are…
I enjoy taking walks around campus and appreciating the contrast between the magnificent architecture and the beauty of the nature-scapes. I also really enjoy the UGA library. Because of my work-load, however, I mostly find myself in the computer lab at the department.

When I have free time, I like…
…going for long walks, playing my guitar and keyboard, listening to music, shopping for food and cooking delicious vegan meals, and visiting with my friends.

The craziest thing I’ve done is…
In the summer of 1995, I went to Manchester, England, and I got a job reading tarot cards for a psychic hotline. That was pretty crazy.

My favorite place to study is…
…in the comfort of my own home. This works for me because I have control over my environment there. I can put on music (or not), have some hot tea, and enjoy some sweet treats while I work.

My favorite professor is…
David Saltz. He is extremely knowledgeable about the subjects he teaches, and he is also very enthusiastic. He has helped to shape my artistic direction through encouragement and advice, and he has led me to discover a rich history of interactive interdisciplinary performative work that has influenced my own graduate/artistic work.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…
…my mother. Her life has had such a tremendous impact on me. My creative nature, the values that I try to uphold, and my personal philosophy about life and the interconnectedness of all things can all be traced back to her own good and generous nature.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…
…spend my time helping bring the creative force of the arts to the forefront of our culture and daily lives. By helping to shed light on the many independent and important artistic endeavors happening all over the world, I could hopefully foster a greater appreciation for the role art plays in our lives. Through this appreciation of art, I would hope that people could fine their own creative nature and nurture it. I believe this is one of the best ways to celebrate the gift of life.

After graduation, I plan to…
…stay in Athens and be a part of the growing energy of our artistic community. I hope to work on various artistic endeavors including lighting design (especially for dance), music, artistic management and promotion, and collaborative performance art projects. I hope to launch a new company that will focus on helping promote and manage independent musicians and artists to whose work I am drawn.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…
…the Saturday when Christian Croft and I took E.L.I. around to all of the pre-game tailgate parties at the Auburn-Georgia football game in the Fall of 2003. The reactions we got were unforgettable.