Tag Archives: performing arts

Steven Au

Careers in the Arts: Graphic Design

by Colleen Cook

A performing arts center has a high need for great graphic design. Our product, shows, is constantly changing as we move through the year and a great deal of our marketing is visual. That makes it important to work with a skilled designer who understands the message and the performing arts. At the Renaissance, we’ve been lucky to work with tremendously talented graphic designers both on our staff and contracted out over the years to tell our visual story and promote our shows.

Our Assistant Marketing Director and Graphic Designer on staff is Steven Au. Steven is very good at what he does (and I’m his boss, so I know better than most how true that is!) and is uniquely qualified for his position because he grew up as a musician in our Youth Strings and Youth Orchestra programs.

Nearly every visual thing you see from the Renaissance has come from Steven’s desk, and we’re better for it. I sat down with Steven to learn more about his path to the graphic design field. Here’s our interview:

Colleen Cook: What inspired you to become a graphic designer?

Steven Au:  Part of it was my older brother, he was actually involved in graphic design and got the same degree in school that I ended up pursuing. Also, in high school I gained an interest in graphic design from taking graphic arts and photoshop classes. I had a light up tracing table and did a lot of tracing as a kid, and played around with design in Powerpoint too.

CC: You mentioned that you took some graphic design courses in high school. Tell us about your collegiate training.

SA: I graduated from a 2-year program at North Central State College, an Associate’s in Visual Communications and Media Technology. My main track was based on graphic design but also involved some video production, animation, and web design. I also interned at the Renaissance as part of the program, which is how I landed my job.

CC: Do you see graphic design as an artistic expression? 

SA: I think it definitely can be. I can be a little obsessive about getting details right. I like the ability to look at the current design trends and use that as inspiration for the Ren’s marketing materials.

CC: What do you enjoy most about your job, and what do you enjoy least or find challenging?

SA: I like being able to design things that I see in places, like on a billboard, that I never would have seen something I created before. I don’t enjoy doing direct mail, and I also find it a little tedious to rework a design for multiple formats. It’s kind of a love/hate relationship with retooling a design. Sometimes it’s really easy to do that, and it can be nice to not have to create something from scratch every time.

CC: How do you engage with the arts outside of your day job?

SA: I am very involved with music outside of work. I also do a limited amount of graphic design for our church. I’m a violinist and I sub with the Mansfield Symphony, and enjoy recording and making videos for my YouTube channel, and I sing with a choral group at church and I also arrange music for our choir, as well as accompany.


If you’d like to learn more about our internship opportunities, keep an eye on our employment page where we frequently post internship opportunities.

paper bag puppets

3 Free Performing Arts Activities for Summer Break

by Colleen Cook

Summer break is just about here, and if you’re like most parents, you’re looking for fun activities that will challenge (and occupy) your children during their break – particularly on those rainy days. Here are three fun performing arts activities you can easily execute with minimal effort!

Make sandwich bag puppets and put on a puppet show

Once your children have created their characters, help them to create a story with a beginning, middle, and an end. Encourage them to choose a main character, a problem that character has, and a friend or family member who helps them to find a solution. Then, help them write their script.

Finally put on a performance of their show on a makeshift puppet stage – this could be a table turned on its side, a tension rod with a curtain across a doorway, or something your kids can get creative with.

Create percussion instruments and create a rhythm pattern

(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom)

(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom)

Turn your leftover oatmeal tubs, aluminum cans, and water bottles (and more!) into percussion instruments. This project allows a ton of creativity and you can use things you would otherwise throw away. Add lentils or beans to a container and seal to make a shaker, turn a hollow container to make a drum, or tie together noisy objects (like soda or tin cans) and make a tambourine. You can leave these items as-is, or take them to the next level and decorate with glitter, paint, construction paper, markers, sequins or any other supplies you have hanging around the house.

Once you’ve created your instruments, pick a steady rhythm for each performer – these can be all the same, or each unique. We recommend picking something simple that can be tied to a word pattern. Some of our ideas include (Assuming a 4-beat pattern): “Ham-burger Ham-burger” or “Pepperoni Pepperoni Pepperoni Piz-za” or “Jelly Beans Jelly Beans.” You can use those to get started or write your own.

Creative expressive movement

Create a playlist on your favorite music app (Spotify, iTunes, Apple Radio, whatever) using a wide variety of styles. We recommend including pieces by John Williams, Camille Saint-Saens, and Eric Whitacre.

Then, collect some bouncy balls, scarves, old pantyhose or knee-highs (or anything stretchy!), ribbons, or neckties from your closets. Put on the playlist and encourage your children to move freely through the space with the only rule being to make the objects they choose look like the music they’re hearing. They can move together, or individually, to express the sounds they’re hearing.

If your space isn’t conducive to movement, you can translate this activity to have your student draw or paint what they hear or imagine from the way the music sounds, using watercolors or markers and paper.