Producer, artistic director, painter, journalist, former legislator, wife and mother. For Barbara Mink, BA ’76, there isn’t much more ground to cover. As a Buffalonian born and raised, her father was a research scientist for 40 years at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, a premier cancer research facility and one of UB’s partners in the New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences. It seemed like a natural, then, that Mink would choose UB, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English. She also dreamed of attending Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, and she made her dream come true when she went to Cornell in 1976 in the PhD in Comparative Literature, eventually earning a master’s degree in history from Cornell in 1985.
While a student in Buffalo, Mink was attracted to UB’s English department because of its stellar reputation as being one of the strongest in the nation. One of her intellectual mentors at the time was Mark Shechner, professor and current UB English department chair, as well as author of Joyce in Nighttown. She supplemented her English classes with myriad courses that interested her, including Native American studies, acting, history and journalism. “The kind of educational basis I received (at UB) really laid the groundwork for not being afraid to explore new things.”
In 1989, after working as news director of an Ithaca radio for eight years and teaching at Cornell, Mink was asked to run for legislative office in Tompkins County, NY. She was elected and served for 12 years. During her tenure in local government, five of which were as Chair of the county legislative board. Mink trod new ground, becoming the first legislator to allow the broadcast of chamber meetings on television, securing public opinion and funding to build a new Social Services building in downtown Ithaca and overseeing the move of the public library to a larger, renovated space in an abandoned Woolworth’s building. She has taught in Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management since 1986.
An avid painter, Mink has studied with contemporary artists Thomas Buechner, Stan Taft, Harry Orlyk, Frank Webb, William Benson, Camille Doucet and Bente King. Her passion for the arts runs in her family: her father, Irving Mink, is a well-known muralist, painter, illustrator and lecturer on the arts, and has had his work represented in more then 400 private galleries and institution collections. Mink’s brothers are also artists – Symon is a videographer and photographer and Daniel is a music teacher and fine cabinetry artist, both in Buffalo. In addition, Mink’s sister-in-law and nephew are artists in their own right, and Mink’s daughter, Emily, is studying music composition at University of Southern California as well as pursuing an acting career.
An idea that was four years in the making is her brainchild, Ithaca’s Light in Winter festival, which debuted in 2004. Mink’s idea was to produce a festival that combines both art and science, creating an atmosphere of learning, enjoyment and discovery. “The festival communicates the excitement of learning and that ‘eureka’ moment in all of us,” says Mink.
Mink worked for four years to build momentum for the festival by meeting with officials from the community, Cornell, and Ithaca College to decide how they could make the event different than any other in the country. The inaugural effort in 2004 was such a success that Mink earned a reputation for knowing her stuff. “ Light in Winter is unique in the country because of its focus on collaboration between art and science. Examining interesting ideas through the prisms of art and science creates a lot of excitement in people who may have no particular training in those areas, but who would love to know more about them. Ithaca is well positioned for such an educational as well as entertaining festival, since we’re the home of Cornell University and Ithaca College,” says Mink.
The motto of the 2007 festival (opening Jan. 26) stems from astronomer, educator and author Carl Sagan, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known The weekend is filled with artists and scientists from all over the world to share in one-of-a-kind collaborations and explorations of new ideas. This year’s performances line-up includes the Pilobolus Dance Theatre, Bang-on-a-Can-All-stars and Czech singer Iva Bittova, and Gary Rydstrom, sound designer and director at Pixar . For more information please visit the Light in Winter web site below.
Written by Jessica Griffin