Friends of the Arts (FOA) Board member Becky Healy interviewed M.F.A. student Ryan Paluczak regarding his research and the impact that receiving an FOA grant had on his shared project with Greg Sullo, M.A. ’17.

Their project, “Quadrophonic Sound Installation and Performance Art,” was presented last April. The 3-D quadrophonic sound installation consisted of field recordings, fixed sound compositions, and live improvisation. The setup that Paluczak and Sullo built included four surrounding speakers, allowing for a unique and immersive listening experience, “one which comes closer to how we perceive sound in our lived experience, as our ears gather sonic information in 360 degrees, not just in the direction we are facing,” they stated in their grant proposal.

Tell us about your current work.

My current research involves exploring and manipulating the spatial properties of sound to create hypnotic atmospheres and abstract narratives that focus on mindfulness, reflection, and physical presence. I think about sound in terms of touch. I pay close attention to differences in temperature, density, and pressure, as well as surface and body. It is important that my audience feels a physical connection with sound. Sandpaper and silk elicit very different sensations when pulled across skin.

“I pay close attention to differences in temperature, density, and pressure, as well as surface and body. It is important that my audience feels a physical connection with sound.”—Ryan Paluczak

Material associations of this kind assist in my decision-making while recording and composing. Beauty, carnage, exaltation, desperation, seduction, and dread all enrich my experience as a human, and thus, all take life within my work. Merging these devices of storytelling with space and movement, sound takes on new meaning, and can be experienced in an unfamiliar way. This seems, to me, to be fertile ground for experimentation, not fully a part of the mainstream fine art cannon, but challenging, rewarding, and moving all the same.

What did the FOA grant help you achieve?

The FOA grant Greg Sullo and I received allowed us to fully realize our work in a way that would have otherwise not been possible. Working in new media is exciting, but expensive. In some media, you can recycle or scavenge for materials, or find cost effective solutions. I do a lot of research before I purchase resources, but much of my materials have associated costs that cannot be avoided. The FOA contribution allowed us to create two separate sound installations, the first of which was heavily attended (over 75 people) by local and regional community members. It also opened doors for future opportunities. I was approached by Project 1612 for an October show with them based on their interest in that installation. FOA money helps fund not only current work, but facilitates relationships for future work.

Tell us about your favorite artist.

I really admire the work of James Turrell. His installations are mundane and magical, minimal, spiritual, and mindful. They oscillate between flatness and infinity. They embody polarity, duality, and the sublime. They both challenge and calm the audience. I seek all of these things in my own work. I’m really impressed by the way he frames what already exists, often unnoticed or underappreciated, to create a phenomenological and psychological experience.

Why are you passionate about the arts?

While I am passionate about what I do, I want to be careful not to romanticize the role of an artist. Like any other occupation, most of the time it’s just work, and not always exciting or pleasant work either. Its arduous, challenging, frustrating, hard work. Yet, the sum of these things is very rewarding and fulfilling. I am not always inspired. I don’t always enjoy every minute, but I don’t think making art would hold my attention if it didn’t require rigorous discipline and lots of practice.

What’s next for you?

This fall I was invited to be a featured artist during the 3rd Terrain Biennial at Project 1612 where I worked on sound installation in their garage gallery. I am also preparing for my M.F.A. thesis show (spring 2018). In the meantime, I am writing a new proposal for FOA’s consideration!

Friends of the Arts is a community-based organization, partnering with the College of Fine Arts to provide scholarships and grants to Illinois State University fine arts students. Last year, FOA provided over $50,000, including $15,000 in project grants and $40,000 in scholarships. The FOA student grant program provides support for student creative projects, research, events, and visiting artists. Grants are available in amounts up to $500 for an individual and up to $1,000 for a group.

To learn more about the grant program, or to become involved as a volunteer, board member, or donor, visit the Friends of the Arts website or find us on Facebook.