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From Grantham to global expeditions

School of the Arts alumni showcase talent around the world

Perhaps a hidden gem of Messiah College is its School of the Arts.  It is there that aspiring actors, musicians, and artists hone their skills in creative and public expression. Graduates from the School of the Arts have gone on to be international performers and excel in instilling their artistic vision in the communities where they work and live in while creatively contributing to the larger, global artists’ community. Mipa Lee (’05), Efthymios Mavridis (’89), and Jesse Baxter (’02) are all alumni from the School of the Arts who work internationally.

Mipa Lee

“Art is an outward creative expression. It is an expression of something that is meaningful to the creator.”

Mipa Lee graduated from Messiah in 2005 with a degree in visual arts with a focus on graphic design.  At Messiah, Lee was involved in ISA Mukkappa, the international student organization, and gospel choir for a short time.  During her sophomore year, Lee questioned her commitment to the visual arts major, but couldn’t see herself doing anything else at the time. “At Messiah I became more open-minded and learned to bring a sense of compassion to work and life,”
said Lee.

While studying graphic design, Lee developed an interest in illustrating and since then has been involved in several freelance illustration and design projects.  After graduation, Lee moved to California where she worked as a freelance designer for a toy company and then moved on to be a full-time illustrator for a handbag company.  She also worked on illustration projects such as SEEK, a Brethren in Christ publication, and at The Infantree art gallery in Lancaster, Pa.  Currently, Lee edits essays written by Korean students at Chung Dahm Learning, an English institute in Seoul, South Korea.  Lee also continues to work on illustration and design projects.

“Location is not as crucial for a freelance illustrator,” said Lee.  “Location is more important in getting your foot in the door or connecting with new clients, but for those who already have some established contacts and clients, those relationships can continue to develop, despite geographical distance.”
Lee also connects with other artists through on-line communities where artists can share their work and get feedback and inspiration from each other. This global community of artists helps create a connection of creative expression and closeness, according to Lee.

Efthymios Mavridis- Katerini

“Art is a human need, a language, a means of communication, a way to reach your own or someone else’s inner-self, soul, and mind in the deepest way.”

Efthymios Mavridis is truly a citizen of the world.  As artistic director for the Municipal Choir and Conservatory of Litohoro, the choir of Estia Pieridon Mouson, and Alexandreios Music School of Aeginio, Mavridis travels around the world for performances.  Mavirdis has performed as a soloist or director in Greece, the United States, Austria, Hungary, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Italy, and South Africa.

While at Messiah, Efthymios studied music with a concentration in piano. He directed the Messiah College Chamber Orchestra and was a member of the Concert Choir.

Traveling far from Grantham, Mavridis appreciates his rewarding experiences of performing in different countries.

“There are artists who just do art,” said Mavridis. “I do not consider myself to be one of them. An artist should be an important, involved member of society and must ‘speak’ via his art what he believes to give new insights, to influence, to guide, to direct, and to open new doors.”
Mavridis credits his Messiah experience for giving him the technical and artistic training he needed to reach his success today.  “At Messiah I learned art has great power because it can access and touch parts of our total being.”

Jesse Baxter

“Theatre, at its heart, is an act of giving, but you lose sight of that, you lose sight of the community.”

Jesse Baxter, a 2002 graduate of Messiah, has traveled more places than you can count on your fingers.  At the age of 13, Baxter went with his church to the Dominican Republic.  From there Baxter continued traveling and when he made it to Messiah, Baxter chose to major in acting, which allowed him to travel even more.
Whether it was through his cross-cultural expeditions to England, Portugal, or Ireland, or his continental stay in Philadelphia, Baxter combine d his love of acting and travel for his career.
After holding several positions as an actor and creative director, Baxter got a small group of actors together to work with Forgotten Voices International, a Christ-centered organization working with AIDS orphans in southern Africa, and traveled to Zimbabwe to bring scripts that Zimbabwean children had written to life.  The actors brought the stories back to the United States where they performed the plays.

Baxter officially named his group traveling theatre group Dramatic Adventure Theatre. The group now sends teams of actors to countries in Africa and South America where they lead acting and playwriting workshops in schools and churches and work collaboratively with established drama groups in the community.

“The theatres were always full of people,” said Baxter. “People were hungry for it. We always had way more people show up than we could possibly work with. There was a need for this.”

Baxter’s motivation for this group extended from his knowledge that acting is “a two way street.”  Baxter uses his acting talents to bridge together communities and bring the skills he learned at Messiah to children around the globe.

Article written by: Erin Kriner ’10

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