'Imagining the Fantastic' to bring renowned artists, authors to campus

Authors and artists will gather next weekend at Central Michigan University to provide insight into their careers in mythic art, writing and music.

“Imagining the Fantastic” was organized by Ari Berk, professor of English language and literature. Berk encourages all students interested in art and literature to attend, even if they are not specifically interested in mythology or folklore. The conference will take place April 15 and 16 across campus and a schedule of all events can be found online.

Every featured guest is a close friend of Berk’s, he said, and the conversation will be more intimate and insightful for students because most know one another.

“I am very fortunate to have extraordinarily talented friends,” Berk said. “This will be more like a dinner party without the food, where everyone knows one another.”

Guests include Elizabeth Jane-Baldry, a renowned harpist, composer, screenwriter and director of The Chagford Filmmaking Group. Her most recent film, “Sir Lanval,” will be premiered for the first time in the U.S. at CMU.

The flier for the event was designed by another featured guest, Tony DiTerlizzi, the co-creator and illustrator of the bestselling “The Spiderwick Chronicles." Along with many other works, his latest book “The Search for Wondla” is a New York Times bestseller.

Award-winning artist and illustrator Charles Vess has worked with Marvel, DC, Darkhorse and Epic Comics, and said he is looking forward to answering questions from students and spending time with his friends in the field.

“You have a beautiful opportunity to talk to professional artists and writers who have been working for many years,” Vess said. “They share bits of advice that would be difficult to find otherwise. Everyone is pretty outgoing and willing to share what they’ve learned.”

“Stardust,” which Vess illustrated, was adapted into a 2007 movie featuring Robert DeNiro, Claire Danes and Michelle Pfeiffer. Vess said he has been working in his field for more than 35 years.

Other guests include playwright and author Carolyn Dunn, artist and author Brian Froud, sculptor and puppet-builder Wendy Froud, and literary manager and producer at The Gotham Group, Edward Gamarra.

“I fought hard to make this free to the public, because it’s such a great opportunity for students,” Berk said.

Both Vess and Berk said this event should not be limited to a specific audience as it has the ability to benefit all.

“Going to conferences allows students to meet the artists and writers to see what their experiences have been,” Vess said. “To be better at something you have to do it. If you’re an artist you use an eraser, if you’re a writer you use a delete button. It's all the same.”


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