When Allen Clapp teaches painting at an art seminar, he tries to keep it simple and take the mystery out of it. Instead of just having them paint landscapes, he takes his students out in the morning and has them engage in a detailed study of the sky.
He has them turn all the way around and study the changes in the sky. He asks them to focus on the look and feel of the clouds.
The abstract exercise might seem normal to an artist, but it seems a bit odd given Clapp’s day job. Though he fell in love with oil and landscape painting as a child in Siler City, N.C., in the 1950s, he was trained at NC State as an engineer (and also has a degree from the Poole College of Management). Engineers can’t think in abstractions. They have to be precise and exact and can deal only in the tangible.
But Clapp, who owns the power and utilities consulting firm Clapp Research Associates, likes that his painting and teaching art allows him to step out of his 9-to-5 world. “A lot of my business is so particular. It’s so regimented,” he says. “The more I can step out of engineering, the more I can free up my thinking.”
“Windsurfing at Mama’s Fish House” is one of Clapp’s paintings that will be featured in the WOAS in Raleigh this weekend.
It’ll be an entire world of freedom for Clapp this weekend, as he’s a featured artist in the World of Art Showcase, an annual international art show featuring professional and emerging artists.
And the honor to be featured in the showcase is even more special to Clapp this year since the event takes place at the Raleigh Convention Center Friday through Sunday. You can visit the showcase’s link above to find more information on event and ticket information.
Even though the engineer in Clapp likes having a break from his day job, he says that there are certain connections between his profession and his passion for painting that don’t call for him to stretch himself too much.
“One of the things about engineering is that you need to understand relationships,” he says. “You need a plan. And both of those are a must for painting. You look at an abstract painting, and you see there are rhymes and reasons to it.”
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Student organizations flooded the Brickyard with hundreds of homemade cupcakes of all shapes, sizes and flavors Wednesday for the Cupcake War, a two-hour event that raised money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and included a competition judged by professors.
“Talk about one of the best things you could do,” says Anita Flick, a biology professor serving as one of the judges. “It’s great to see all these organizations out here. And there’s cupcakes! What’s not to like?”
With two criteria for judging — taste and incorporation of the “Red, White and Wolfpack” Homecoming theme — Sigma Alpha Omega sorority and Beta Upsilon Chi fraternity hoped their Cheerwine cupcakes would help them secure their second consecutive first-place finish.
“It’s my mom’s recipe,” says Brittany Hall, Sigma Alpha Omega president and senior in biology from Raleigh. Hall and her fellow sorority members spent more than six hours baking and decorating 300 cupcakes for the event. The group also made empty Cheerwine cans into decorative displays for the cupcakes.
A short walk from last year’s winners, Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity served up three varieties of cupcakes: Red, White and Wolftracks. The red: a red velvet cupcake topped with an almond cream cheese frosting. The white: a white chocolate latte cupcake with buttercream icing and a caramel drizzle, garnished with a small straw. The Wolftracks: a chocolate cupcake with ganache inside, peanut butter frosting on top and a chocolate drizzle.
Set up in front of DH Hill Library, the Impact Leadership Village sold chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with red and white icing decorated with footballs and wolves.
Anna Sossaman, an Alumni Association student ambassador and sophomore in accounting from Raleigh, organized the event and says she was glad to be a part of a new NC State tradition. “It’s helping the Kay Yow fund and gets students involved on campus, which is great,” she says.
Contest winners will be announced at the Homecoming Pep Rally in Reynolds Coliseum at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
After the event, Christopher Lawing, a student ambassador and junior in industrial engineering from Charlotte, presented the $3,197.26 raised to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
In addition to volunteering at the Cupcake War, Lawing organized another event in the Brickyard: the Homecoming Canned Food Drive. When the event ended Wednesday afternoon, the drive had gathered 1,000 cans for Feed the Pack, NC State’s food pantry, and 21,782 for the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina. Last year, the drive collected more than 14,000 cans.
“The drive is so different than the other homecoming events,” Lawing says. “It’s not just about school spirit, but the spirit of giving to someone else.”
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Justin LeBlanc was not only a finalist on Lifetime’s Project Runway reality show, he’s also been selected as the grand marshal for the Raleigh Christmas Parade. But life is beginning to settle down a bit for LeBlanc, who received a degree from the College of Design and is now an assistant professor there. We had a chance to catch up with him in his office in Leazar Hall this week in between student conferences.
Justin LeBlanc addresses the crowd at showing of the final episode of Project Runway at the Hunt Library
How long were you in New York for the filming of Project Runway? We were there for six weeks. The filming of every episode took two to three days. When Tim [Gunn] would announce the challenge, we’d have a day to do it, but that was 10 hours, not 24 hours. We had to eat and sleep, too – they forced us to eat and sleep! I was so glad when I got home and I could cook my own food.
How much sleep did you get? About four hours a night….I would think of it more as a power nap. We were up at 5 a.m., and sometimes filming past midnight. Some days we were lucky and could sleep in a little. We had K-cup machines everywhere and we used, abused them, a lot.
What was it like having Tim Gunn to dinner at your family’s house in Raleigh? My father fixed him North Carolina barbecue. My father is an amazing cook. Tim loved it, ate all of it. After that he went to The Pit and had more barbecue.
Your collection for the finale at New York Fashion Week included accessories made with 3-D printing, earning a lot of praise from the judges. How did you come up with the idea? When Heidi [Klum] announced that three of us were going back home to design a collection – that was when I had the idea. It just came to me. I knew we had 3-D printing technology at the College of Design. It’s expensive to use, but I had a budget of $9,000…..Of course there were a lot of errors; the machine has a mind of its own.
The showstopper in your collection was a white gown made with tiny pipettes. How long did it take to make that? Well, when Tim came here, he looked at it and told me I would need to bring some people in to help. So I did. It took three days with no sleep ….We had to drill holes in the top of each pipette and then sew them each onto nonslip carpet backing. Then added nail polish to make sure they wouldn’t come untied.
Do you get stopped on the street by people who recognize you? What’s that been like? When I was in Chicago three weeks ago…..a woman was driving and I was walking down the sidewalk. She backed her car up, then got out of the car while it was still running to get a picture. I was like, OK….I have learned the behavior of fans. I know the body language, I can see when someone recognizes me and they freeze up and don’t know how to approach me. Sometimes people take my picture without even asking……People should just come up to me and ask, that’s all, I love striking up a conversation with fans and seeing their insight.
You’re teaching a textiles studio class. What do you like best about teaching? I teach at the College of Design and I expect creative people. I want to know what they would like to do, what media they want to use, I like to see what story they want to tell. They constantly surprise me ….I never know what is coming next.
LeBlanc signs autographs at the Hunt Library
How did you manage to stay clear of a lot of the drama on the show? I was alert for it. I knew everything we do is going to be on TV. I am a teacher, and I knew students would be watching ….Overall I think the producers did a good job, but at the same time, it’s a reality TV show. Something is going to happen. For me, it was about being in the right mindset.
Other than teaching, what’s next for you? I’m in the process of putting together a fall-winter 2014 collection, hoping to show it in the spring.
—Sylvia Adcock ’81
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If you open Mark Bowden’s military classic Black Hawk Down to its first page, you’ll see the first line of the book reads, “At liftoff, Matt Eversmann said a Hail Mary.” Eversmann was one of about 100 U.S. soldiers who were dropped from a helicopter into the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, on Oct. 3, 1993. And what began as a planned hour-long mission to seize the lieutenants of a Somali warlord ended up in 18 hours of facing off with Somali militia.
Eversmann, who retired from the Army in 2008 as a sergeant, is this year’s featured speaker for Homecoming. He will be delivering a talk, “The Story of Black Hawk Down,” at 7 p.m. tonight at the McKimmon Center. The event is free and open to the public. We caught up with Eversmann to talk about the mission and the lessons he took from it.
Was the military always something you aspired to be a part of growing up? It was. I had joined. My father had been in the service. My sister became an Army nurse. My brother went to VMI. I had no plan at all of it becoming a career.
Going into that day in October 1993, had anything prepared you for what you guys experienced for those 18 hours? In peacetime, your sense of mission preparation and training is your number one focus. So when you get into a unit like the [Army] Rangers, it’s more pronounced. All your work is focused on the go-to-war mission. We’d been training for this battle for wherever it’s going to be. …For those who had never been to combat, your first mission is kind of your final examination.
You were 26 years old at the time. How are you different today than you were then as a young man? I do look at events in daily life as very black and white. …I tend to look at things very simplistically. I don’t think you can help it. I think that’s a change. Unfortunately what goes with that also is a lot of cynicism. The other part is there is also a bit, and I’m going to sound like Pollyanna here, but your appreciation for so many things in life becomes so acute. For me, family time and just doing the little things.
When did you start thinking about going around and talking about the experience? What does it give you? The demand was there for people to hear. And the supply side, going back to even say 9/11, there were still a lot of Americans not touched by the world of terror. So it dawned on me I had a great opportunity to share our story and what a bunch of 18- to 35-year-old soldiers did in an unbelievably bad situation. And that’s so rewarding.
And I would imagine you’re gaining a new audience? If you’re a freshman or a sophomore [in college] you weren’t even born then. There are a whole group of folks who don’t know, or if they do know, they only know the movie.
Were you in Ridley Scott’s ear saying, “There’s this handsome guy named Josh Hartnett, and I think he would make a brilliant Matt Eversmann in the movie version of the book?” I had never heard of the kid until they had cast him in the movie. I didn’t know what young independent film guys are. I never will forget, Mark Bowden sent me an email and the line said, “The New Matt Eversmann.” And there was this picture of Josh Hartnett sitting on a beach in Hawaii.
What message do you want people to walk away with tonight? The real nuts and bolts are how we are preparing as leaders, as business leaders, as athletes for this inevitable crisis that’s going to come unbeknownst to us. How do we make decisions on the battlefield? Is it training or emotions? I hope we can share some stories. It doesn’t matter if you’re the student body president or a team captain, we’re going to be in the breech and we’re going to have to figure it out. We’re all average guys and gals. But average people can do pretty amazing things.
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Jimmy Burch grows a lot of sweet potatoes in Eastern North Carolina, so he’s always looking for new ways to put them to use.
But even he’s been surprised at how well they’ve done in their latest incarnation — as the starting point for an award-winning vodka that is about to be sold throughout most of the country.
“It’s done good,” says Burch, an NC State alumnus who is one of the owners of Covington Gourmet Vodka and the source of its sweet potatoes, Burch Farms. “In North Carolina, it’s in all the ABC stores right now. We just hired a broker and we’re fixing to go into 32 states. We’ve only been on the market for eight months, so we’re happy.”
Jimmy Burch, left, with a business associate
The process that led to Covington Gourmet Vodka started about five years ago, when Burch worked with food scientists at NC State to develop a puree from sweet potatoes left in the field after the harvest. Burch initially sold the puree to The Boston Beer Company — the maker of Samuel Adams beer — but then decided to see if he might be able to make alcohol out of it.
As it turned out, the sweet potato puree was “just absolutely fantastic for vodka,” Burch says. Researchers at the University of Michigan told Burch it was “absolutely the best vodka they’ve ever tasted in their lives.”
So Covington Gourmet Vodka — named for a variety of sweet potato developed at NC State — was born. In its first year, the self-proclaimed “Best Yam Vodka on Earth” won a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
“We were tickled to death over that,” Burch says. “Everybody says it’s smooth as silk.”
In addition to being in ABC stores, Burch says Covington can be found in places like Biltmore House, the Angus Barn restaurant and PNC Arena. While Burch is pleased with the initial response to his vodka, he recognizes that he is not a threat to the established giants in the vodka industry.
“Grey Goose, they ain’t waking up at night worrying about us,” he says. “This is just a nice addition to the farm, some value-added products.”
Jimmy Burch in one of his sweet potato fields.
Covington Gourmet Vodka is one of dozens of vendors – including restaurants, farms, breweries, wineries and bakeries – participating in the Red & White Food and Beverage Festival during the week of homecoming. All of the vendors have NC State connections, with alumni as owners or managers. The festival is scheduled for 6 p.m. today at The State Club in the Park Alumni Center. Visit the festival website to register and see a full list of vendors participating.
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NC State alumna Kat Robichaud’s powerful rendition of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” on The Voice last night won her a place in the so-called “knockout rounds” of the NBC reality show.
Kat Robichaud, left, on last night’s episode of The Voice
Robichaud, who received her degree from the College of Design in 2006, is a seasoned performer who played with a glam rock band based in Raleigh for seven years.
Last night, she competed against a gospel singer from Tampa, Fla., and in the end, there was no contest. All the judges raved about Robichaud, and her celebrity coach, CeeLo Green, called her a “dynamo.”
“I need a natural disaster, a storm, like you,” he said.
Robichaud is expected to be seen next in an episode to be broadcast later this month when she’ll face off against another performer. If she wins there, she’ll be in the finale. The winner gets a $100,000 recording contract.
– Sylvia Adcock ’81
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Alumni Association staff and student ambassadors hope to feed 5,000 students in the Brickyard this week so long as they follow one simple rule: wear red.
Starting just before 11 a.m., the group served free Marco’s Pizza to 1,000 red-clad students Monday for Wear Red, Get Fed, a weeklong event intended to promote school spirit during Homecoming week.
Laura Sandtner, a student ambassador and junior in chemical engineering from Haymarket, Va., organized this year’s campaign and says some students went to great lengths to persuade checkers that they were wearing enough red, with a few even offering to show their undergarments.
“The things people do to get free pizza,” Sam Wurst, an ambassador and junior in industrial engineering from Weddington, N.C., said as a fellow student pulled down his pants to show his bright-red gym shorts. But Wurst is glad to see students showing their school spirit by wearing red this week.
“We want to see red, that’s the most important thing,” Wurst says. “If you can do something to show support for the Wolfpack and bring our campus of 33,000 students together, then that’s great.”
For those who were less prepared, the Alumni Association also gave away 700 red Homecoming T-shirts to students who downloaded the Homecoming app. After putting on their shirts, students could go through the Wear Red, Get Fed line to collect their free slice.
Rob Tapp, a freshman in computer science from Cary, N.C., didn’t wear red when he left for class Monday morning but says he saw signs for the event and decided to pick up a shirt.
“I saw ‘Wear Red, Get Fed’ and figured it out,” Tapp says. “I like free food. I mean, who doesn’t?”
Shalyn Brown, a freshman in agricultural education from Polk County, N.C., says she heard about Wear Red, Get Fed this weekend and came prepared with Harrison Jenkins, a freshman in agricultural education from Iredell County, N.C. The two say they plan to attend as many Wear Red, Get Fed events as possible this week.
“Free food is always good,” Brown says, “Especially with college students.”
“It breaks up the monotony of eating in the dining halls,” Jenkins says.
Wear Red, Get Fed continues in the Brickyard 11 a.m.–1 p.m. every day this week with free food from Zoë’s Kitchen, Wing Zone, Backyard Bistro and Amedeo’s for any students wearing a hand-sized amount of red.
A complete schedule of Homecoming events is available on the Homecoming website.
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Michael Markham wasn’t born into barbecue, but since he got into the business more than 10 years ago he’s had nothing but love for it. As owner and pitmaster of Big Mike’s BBQ, a food truck based in Apex, N.C., he serves up pulled pork barbecue, chicken and ribs alongside new and traditional southern sides and desserts.
Cooking was always something Markham enjoyed doing — so much so that he considered attending culinary school after college — but it wasn’t until his second to last year of college that he barbecued for the first time.
Inspired by a friend’s father, Markham threw a Boston butt on his propane grill, but wasn’t completely satisfied with the results. After a few more underwhelming attempts at barbecuing, Markham looked to Good Eats for some guidance. Following Alton Brown’s instructions, Markham put together a flower pot smoker, seasoned a Boston butt and threw it inside.
Markham had caught the fever. After that, he’d cook as many as six pork butts at a time for church fundraisers and family gatherings. But when graduation time came, Markham, an agricultural business management major who graduated from NC State in 2002, accepted a job as a stock broker instead of following his culinary ambitions.
Although he admits the job was good, Markham says it just wasn’t for him.
“I was behind a desk at a computer all day,” Markham says. “I was like, ‘This isn’t what I signed up for.’ I hated doing office work, so I got out and did outside sales after that.”
All the while, Markham continued barbecuing for family and friends. In 2009, at about the same time he started working in sales, he had reached a point where he’d often cook more meat than he could fit on his smoker at one time. He decided it was time for an upgrade.
“That’s when the insanity started,” he says.
After purchasing his new smoker, Markham says he’d cook extra meat for neighbors and friends to make sure no space went unused. Simply put, barbecuing had become something Markham loved doing.
But while he was working in sales, Markham came across a new set of job-related challenges. After the birth of his first son, Michael Jr., in 2010, he says it became difficult to balance his travel for work with his responsibilities at home.
It was a job interview in 2011 that helped Markham realize it was time for another change. Halfway through, the interviewer closed his notebook and ended the interview early.
“Don’t do like I did,” he told Markham. “I made great money, was the most successful I could ever imagine being, but if I could trade it all back, when I was your age I would have bought a restaurant so I could spend more time with my family.’“
He took his advice, purchasing a red barn trailer, setting up a kitchen inside and opening Big Mike’s in the fall of 2011. Now, he can drop his two sons off at daycare, head off to work and still pick them up in the afternoon.
“I’m always going to be local, I’m always going to be available and the cool thing is, if I want to do lunch I can just do lunch and I can be at home after that,” Markham says.
Although he serves his barbecue on the go, Markham hasn’t compromised the quality of his smoked meats. Markham purchases his pork from Durham, N.C.’s Green Button Farm. Using an onboard smoker he cooks it, along with his chicken and ribs, the same way he has for more than a decade — smoking them over wood.
“It makes a difference with flavor,” Markham says. “You don’t get the same mark and penetration with gas grills.”
Beginning his second year in the business, Markham says he plans to open a lunch-only restaurant at 1710 Center Street in Apex, N.C. in November and continue enjoying the barbecue lifestyle.
“I love it,” Markham says. “Even on the toughest days I can say I’m doing what I love doing and that’s what I never realized before.”
— Alex Sanchez
Big Mike’s BBQ is one of dozens of vendors – including restaurants, farms, breweries, wineries and bakeries – participating in the Red & White Food and Beverage Festival during the week of homecoming. All of the vendors have NC State connections, with alumni as owners or managers. The festival is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at The State Club in the Park Alumni Center. Visit the festival website to register and see a full list of vendors participating.
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NC State’s campus saw its share of anti-war protests during the 1960s and 70s, but students apparently threw out the welcome mat when Vice President Spiro Agnew came visiting on this day in 1973.
Agnew, a Republican, spoke at Reynolds Coliseum before a crowd of about 8,000, according to an account in the Technician. The story indicated that there were only a handful of protestors, less than had been been expected. Various signs in the coliseum welcomed the vice president with variations on “Spiro is our hero.”
Agnew, though, did not have kind words to say about the Democratic Party, saying it was no longer the party of the people.
“The Democratic Party, my friends, is not the party we used to know — the proud party of Richard Russell, Harry Byrd and Jimmy Byrnes,” he said. “The whole country knows that’s true. It’s not even the party of John F. Kennedy anymore. It has been taken over by radical liberals, mainly those in the United States Senate. Now its guiding philosophy makes as much sense as trying to harvest tobacco in January.”
Agnew also used the occasion to sing the praises of his boss, President Nixon, and reminded the crowd that Nixon was strongly behind neighborhood schools and against busing.
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With the N.C. State Fair into its final weekend, the people who work there are are also preparing to wind down. For employees like Dudley Baggett, it’s the end of a long run of uninterrupted work.
Baggett will have worked 32 days in a row in getting ready for the fair, working 11-hour days during the fair and then cleaning things up the week after the fair leaves town. “It will wear you down,” Baggett says matter-of-factly.
Dudley Baggett, near some of his handiwork outside the Scott Building
Not that he’s complaining, mind you. Baggett loves his job, and is amused when people ask him what he does when the fair is not in town. Baggett, a 1984 graduate of NC State, has a staff of 15 people who tend to 344 acres that includes the main fairgrounds and the James B. Hunt Jr. Horse Complex. Even when the fair is not in town, there is virtually always a gun show or a boat show or a wedding reception at the fairgrounds. A large flea market is held there every weekend.
And it falls to Baggett to make sure the place looks nice for all of the visitors to the fairgrounds, be it for the state fair or for something else.
“It takes constant maintenance to have curb appeal,” he says. “If we didn’t maintain it, it would look like a goat field.”
Baggett’s work can be easy to overlook, particularly when the fair is in town. Most visitors are busy checking out the rides and food vendors, never pausing to take in the bushes and flowers and grass that can be found throughout the fairgrounds. When the fair is in town, Baggett’s responsibilities include jobs that have nothing to do with landscaping, but he still finds time each day to water 375 mums that are spread around the fairgrounds to provide splashes of color.
“You have to take pride in a property,” he says. “If it’s not a good design, it will be boring.”
Baggett has worked at the fairgrounds since 2000. Before that he had his own landscaping business in Wilmington, N.C., where his dad was a county agent for 30 years. He loves having the chance to work outside and use plants to make areas more attractive.
“You get to see things grow,” he says. “If it’s done well, it has a lot of longevity. If it’s done correctly, it doesn’t have to be redone. I take a lot of pride in that.”
After several years of working at the fair, Baggett has his own favorite when it comes to fair food – a soft shell Maryland crab sandwich that can be bought from a vendor near the Graham Building.
“It’s off the hook,” he says. “It’s the whole crab, dude.”
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