May 29, 2012
-Matt Robinson, Dirty Water News
To millions of sesame Street fans, Karen Aqua was the awardwinning animator who helped make counting and the alphabet fun and easy to remember.
To many more, she was a great friend and teacher. To Boston’s Ken Field, she was a wife…and so much more!
When Aqua died last May of ovarian cancer, the world lost a teacher, Boston lost a driving creative force, and Field lost a life partner. On May 30, all of these people (and many others) will gather at The Regent Theatre in Arlington (www.regenttheatre.com) for a special tribute to Aqua that will be hosted by Field and introduced by Dr. Ursula Matulonis of the Dana- Farber Cancer Institute. Proceeds from the $15 tickets will benefit the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at Dana Farber.
Since her graduation from Rhode Island School of Design in 1976, Aqua’s unique style amazed audiences and won her acclaim from New York to Hiroshima and Annecy, France to Zagreb, Croatia. A long-time animation lecturer and instructor at Boston College and Emerson College, Aqua was also able to reach many on an intellectual level. Stills taken from her animations appeared at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Dartmouth College and other vaunted venues around New England and the world. What most people may know Aqua for, however, are the 22 segments she produced for Children’s Television Workshop.
Aqua and Field met when Aqua was still a student at RISD and he was studying at Brown University. At least, he says, that was when they “sort-of met.” “We really met when we both shared a summer ride from a rideboard driver who was going crosscountry,” Field recalls. “She got out in Denver, and by that time I was pretty hooked on her.”
Drawn to her “cute hippie artist” vibe, Field (who is himself an award wining artist who performs in such acclaimed bands as Revolutionary Snake Ensemble and Birdsongs of the Mesozoic), Field was keen to reconnect with Aqua when they both returned to Rhode Island.
“We renewed our friendship from that drive when we both ended up back in Providence the following fall,” he explains. Apparently, it was what Field calls a “perfect” match, as Field was able to help Aqua score her early animation pieces. “The music was a recording I had of Eric Dolphy,” Field explains, citing a fellow master of the sax and flute. The pair continued to collaborate, each helping the other find and explore new artistic avenues. Theirs was a beautiful and symbiotic relationship and when Aqua passed last year, Field’s life and the artistic landscape of the area changed dramatically.
“It seemed appropriate to mark the one-year anniversary of her passing with this screening of her work,” Field suggests, noting that much of Aqua’s oeuvre can be seen Tat www.karenaqua.com. “I also wanted to give people an opportunity to see all of her films in a theater setting, since such screenings are relatively rare.”
In addition to these special screenings, guests will be able to see and appreciate a carefullycrafted chronology of Aqua’s 35- year career. “I just want to keep Karen’s work and Karen’s life in the public eye,” Field explains. “She was a truly gifted artist!”