Employee Updates
Professor Chris Chriswell has a conversation with students in his Music Appreciation class.
Professor Chris Chriswell has a conversation with students in his Music Appreciation class.

When Chris Cresswell was growing up in Madison County, Shoppingtown Mall in the neighboring Onondaga County Town of DeWitt was one of his favorite places. "It's where I used to go with my parents. I remember playing Pokemon in Media Play. There was a pet store where I always got my fish. And as a teenager it was where I went to the movies for the first time without parents."

Today Chreswell is a Music Professor at Onondaga Community College, and his Shoppingtown Mall experiences are about to become part of the soundtrack of his life. He recently learned he's been awarded a $10,000 grant from the New York State Council on the Arts which he will use to create a lengthy work titled, Requiem for a Shopping Mall. "The idea of the dead mall is this popular concept right now. There are a million YouTube videos about it (such as this one about Shoppingtown). I think it's really interesting as a cultural shift and this idea of the mall as a communal space, and what we've lost culturally and in society when these commercial spaces fade away and become online spaces."

Chreswell has had a fascinating journey from his days walking the halls of Shoppingtown to teaching students at OCC. After earning his bachelor's degree at Syracuse University, he began working for a music publishing company in New York City. Three years later he decided it was time to pursue his master's degree, but before going back to school he would spend a few months teaching music at Lake of the Woods & Greenwoods Summer Camp in Michigan. "I completely fell in love with teaching. I had done a little here and there, but it was the first time I was in a true teaching program." Chreswell ended up teaching students ages 8 to 15 there for 5 summers in a row. It's also the place where he met his wife.

Eventually, Chreswell enrolled in graduate school in England. It was there he learned about a long form music project titled Requiem (To Let). In England, "To Let" is a real estate term indicating the space is available for rent. "Rent prices had gone up there and all these independent stores and shops had gone out of business. All the shops had 'To Let' signs on them. The music piece was performed inside one of the shops."

That graduate school experience planted the seeds in his mind which eventually grew into his Shoppingtown experiences and ultimately his Requiem for a Shopping Mall proposal. Chreswell plans to collaborate on the project with fellow band members in 315 Ensemble to create a 60 to 90 minute work which will be a combination of video, pre-recorded or fixed media sounds, and live music on stage. He plans to incorporate local perspectives with people talking about Shoppingtown Mall then and now, as well as old news clips. "I found an archive extolling the value of shopping malls as this beacon of suburbia, and we will juxtapose it with how things are now."

The entire project will be performed and displayed at CNY Jazz Central. Chreswell applied for the grant through that organization based on his long-time working relationship with Executive Director Larry Luttinger. "This whole effort has been very gratifying. It's nice to be recognized for the artistic work you are doing. It's confirmation you're on the right path."

About Chris Cresswell:

Onondaga Community College