Art2Music competition crowns winners

Both students received $500 in scholarship money from the art and music department.

Photo of Luis Castillo and Sarah Rabinowitz courtesy of Michael Zager.

Photo of Luis Castillo and Sarah Rabinowitz courtesy of Michael Zager.

Michaela Garretson, Contributing Writer

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Artist Sarah Rabinowitz and composer Luis Castillo have been announced as the winners of a months-long collaboration between two Florida Atlantic departments that looks to combine different fields of academia in new ways.

The competition, titled Art2Music, was started by the Department of Visual Arts and History and the Department of Music’s commercial music program this year.

Students from the art department submitted paintings, drawings, sculptures and photography that would later be judged by the art faculty. After the winning piece was chosen, students in the commercial music program composed and submitted original pieces of music that were influenced by the piece of artwork.

Held on Oct. 28, the competition awarded scholarships to both Rabinowitz and Castillo in the form of $500 for tuition purposes.

The winning sculpture titled, “How It Begins,” was created by Rabinowitz, senior biology and studio art double major with a concentration in sculpture. The piece consists of two arms holding a plate of bacteria.

Castillo, a 48-year-old transfer student from Broward College, composed the piece of music that was inspired by Rabinowitz’s sculpture. He is currently a commercial music major with a concentration in commercial music composition.

In addition to submitting a composition on a CD, composers also supplied musical scores and a written portion that documented what they felt when viewing Rabinowitz’s sculpture. Students had from the beginning of the fall semester until Oct. 24 to create and record their compositions.

As the winner of the art portion of the contest, Rabinowitz was invited to judge, alongside the commercial music faculty committee, the musical compositions inspired from her piece.

Rabinowitz said that while judging, “I specifically looked for a music composition that I felt told my sculpture’s story through sound.”

Her inspiration for the sculpture stemmed from her father who has lupus, an autoimmune disease that suppresses his immune system, attacks healthy cells and tissues and makes recovering from infections challenging.

She was significantly impacted when her brother got a cold and her father instructed her brother to “keep his distance from him and not to touch him,” until he had recovered.

“Realizing how dangerous it was for people with unhealthy immune systems to get sick inspired me to use my artwork to create awareness of disease transmission,” she said.

Rabinowitz said in an email, “I titled my sculpture “How It Begins” to refer not only to the beginning of disease transmission, but also to the beginning of my research thesis on how microscopic pathogens impact our health through our interactions with each other and the environment.”

She found her sculpture’s musical expression in Castillo’s composition.

“When I was listening to his composition, I felt my work – I felt the worry of passing a virus to my dad, the simpleness of everyday interactions, and the weight of our interactions and coexistence with the microscopic organisms in our environment … His work gave my sculpture and its story a musical voice,” Rabinowitz said in an email.

Winning came as a surprise to Castillo, who said, “Composing is always a challenge, but this composition was more because the nature of the artwork.”

The commercial music major has been playing music for around 20 years. His principal instrument is the guitar, though he plays variations, such as the acoustic steel, acoustic nylon, electric and the oud, a pear-shaped stringed instrument, which he used for the competition.

One of the judges, professor and director of the commercial music program, Michael Zager, hopes that through this competition students learn that “art inspires art.”

To me, music is a language that speaks to all people,” said Zager. “I cannot imagine a world without music. Art is a part of life.”

Associate professor of art history and classical archaeology Brian McConnell spoke about the connection between art and music at the award ceremony.

“The fact of the matter is that sound and visual art have been intertwined since earliest antiquity, and many musical composers have based their work on works of visual art that they found particularly inspiring,” said McConnell.

The professor sees the positive impact that competitions like Art2Music can have on not only participating students, but on the audience as well.  

He said, “Competitions like Art2Music, and soon we hope Music2Art, are a concrete opportunity for students to be creative.”

Michaela Garretson is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].