Chris Armstrong ’89 and Kiersten Drumm Whitehead ’98
Down by the Sea
Artist Chris Armstrong ’89 credits Bucknell with giving him a multitude of career options. He says, “Coming out of Bucknell, with its rock-solid faculty, gave me more than one trajectory from which to choose.”
In a timely nod to the current campus master planning process, Armstrong comments, “Bucknell allows students a valuable incubation period for work and inspiration, particularly in its setting. As the campus has evolved, it has consistently and wisely recognized the power and value of its aesthetic.”
When asked about his most influential Bucknell experience, he speaks warmly about his semester abroad in Florence studying art and art history. Living in Florence, a city that Armstrong says “has benefited greatly by fostering its aesthetic legacy,” was life changing for him.
Armstrong is known for his stunning seascape paintings, many of them oversized to accommodate the vastness of his subject, which engulfs the viewer. His love of the sea drew the Armstrong family to live in Gloucester, Mass., America’s oldest fishing port.
“Every day, I have contact with the ever-changing dynamics of the ocean,” he says. “I paint the sea not only as I see it but as I think it. The process of creative production requires one to be disciplined, specifically with regards to generating and focusing of energy.”
Armstrong received his MFA from NYU, where he won the school’s MVP award and exhibited at Washington Square East Galleries, In addition to his formal training and education, Armstrong also had the benefit of learning from his late father, David Armstrong ’69, an accomplished and widely collected artist. A 2007 article in The Boston Globe describes the younger Armstrong’s work as “amazing realist paintings.” Recently, his work was selected for the U.S. State Department’s ‘Art in Embassies’ program, and corporate collectors include Fidelity Investments. Armstrong’s paintings can be seen at www.armstrongartists.com. — Mary Ann Sigler Stanton ’89
A Voice for the Stage and the Classroom
Kiersten Drumm Whitehead ’98, a second-generation alumna, is singing Bucknell’s praises … among other things. The mezzo-soprano is a founding member of the Forgotten Opera Company, a Washington, D.C./Baltimore–based production company dedicated to making opera accessible to everyone. She also works full-time in the education department for Imagination Stage, the largest youth theatre on the east coast, where she heads up musical theatre programs and teaches students from 3 to 18 years classes in music, theatre and early childhood development.
“My passion for teaching has grown since I left Bucknell,” says Whitehead. “I believe passionately in the power of the arts to teach, and plan to continue my career as a teaching artist, working with arts-integration in classrooms and afterschool programs.” Her work with both the Forgotten Opera Company and Imagination Stage have provided Whitehead with the ideal platform to make opera and the arts accessible to new generations and new audiences.
When she is not teaching, Whitehead sings with local D.C. companies and has most recently been doing oratorio work with local choirs and symphonies. “I especially enjoy ‘trouser roles,’ where I play a young man, because it really stretches me acting-wise,” she says. Her favorite role to date is that of Cherubino from The Marriage of Figaro.
Whitehead credits her work with the Bucknell Opera Company and Professors William Payn and Catherine Payn for helping her choose her path as singer, leader and teacher. “Both Dr. Payn and Dr. Payn had a huge influence on my career path, providing excellent role models as professors and professional musicians,” she says.
And her parents share in the credit for helping her choose Bucknell. John ’70 and Susan Hood Drumm ’71 met in Chapel Choir. With that family history Whitehead admits, “I had been saying I would go to Bucknell since I was 3. It felt like home from the moment I moved onto campus.”
She and her husband, Todd, live in Riverdale, Md., where they have both taken on a new role as parents with the birth of their son, Jeremy, in August. — Julie Korbar