Eckenroth hopes to expand Dibden’s profile in the arts


Richard Ahlgrim

Jason Eckenroth

As the new semester begins, a new Dibden director steps in to replace departing director Will Davis who, along with his wife Casey, has relocated to Florida.


Hailing from Providence, Rhode Island, Jason Eckenroth aims to bring a new era of performances to Dibden during his time as director.


Eckenroth’s passion for technical theater blossomed in high school while he undertook sound engineering. “I did tech theater in high school,” says Eckenroth, “but I decided I didn’t want to do it in college. Then, you know, you get roped in. Mostly because it feels good to be a part of these communities. It feels productive. It feels valuable.”


Previous to joining the JSC community, Eckenroth has collected a wealth of experience and skill from his work with Circus Smirkus, Brown University and Columbia College.


Eckenroth spent many years working as the sound designer and engineer for Circus Smirkus, a youth circus headquartered in Greensboro, Vermont.  According to their website, “[Circus Smirkus has] promoted the skills, culture and traditions of the traveling circus, inspiring youth to engage in life-changing adventures in the circus arts.” The skills he learned there account only for a portion of what Eckenroth wishes to apply as director.


“A lot of that does transfer over to this job, but then there’s a lot of stuff very specific to a show that moves,” Eckenroth says. He expanded his tech theater skills while managing a theater at Brown University for three years previous to grad school in Chicago.


Eckenroth travelled to Columbia College Chicago to complete his Visual Arts Master’s of Fine Arts, where he was presented with the opportunity to join the JSC faculty. “I was in Chicago doing my master’s and, by happenstance, was going to grad school with Woody Leslie, son of Ken Leslie, the chair of the visual arts department,” says Eckenroth. “Ken Leslie came to my M.F.A. thesis show out in Chicago and told me that this job was opening up.”


At Columbia, Eckenroth created yarn mural multimedia exhibits.  “I was making yarn murals, where you put a bunch of fixed points on a wall — by fixed points, I mean nails, push pins, that kind of stuff — then you string yarn between them to make an image,” Eckenroth says. “I was doing a lot of that, then figuring out how to make them dimensional, and then projecting onto them. The stuff I was projecting was a combination of images and poetry and text art to take advantage of my background in writing.”


Some of Eckenroth’s work is posted on his website,  Featured works include the “You May Be Gentle Series,” which contains multiple prints of mixed martial arts fighters embracing with the prints torn up and resewn together with embroidery floss.  Another exhibit shown is “Run Rabbit,” a yarn mural of a rabbit speeding away from a perpendicular wall displaying a video poem.


Eckenroth has been in contact with a curator in Chicago to set up an upcoming exhibit and he wishes to continue this art during his time at JSC. As time progresses, Eckenroth plans to bridge the gap between performing and visual arts. “Being able to bridge those skill sets and work styles is something I do personally, and something that I can bring to this job,” says Eckenroth.


What brought Eckenroth to become the new director of Dibden was the impact he could have on students following in his footsteps. “You can say, ‘I just want this to be real,’ and you can just make it real, that’s just a thing you can do,” Eckenroth says. “It feels great to enable that, especially in students who think of things that they want to be real that I never would have.”


Eckenroth says he hopes to aid students in chasing their dreams and make them a reality in the theater.


Eckenroth also plans to add many new events for JSC students and the surrounding community. “I am hoping to expand basically every part of what we do at Dibden, from performing arts events, plays, music and dance events, to bringing in more outside rentals, bringing in more art shows [and] doing actual circus productions in Dibden, because that is a network I have,” says Eckenroth.


The founder of Morrisville’s Lost Nation Brewery, Alan Van Anda, an alumnus of JSC, has contacted Eckenroth in an attempt to rent out Dibden as a concert venue. “Why isn’t this a place you come to see live music for the region, not just for Johnson students, but for everybody. It has been in the past. Why isn’t it now?” Eckenroth says.


“I’m at a good point in my life where I have a lot of energy and I’ve got a lot of momentum, so I’m happy to spend it,” says Eckenroth, “I’ve found nothing but support now that I’m here. The faculty have been amazing to me. The staff have been really amazing to me. There are so many things that would have been impossible to accomplish in just three weeks of this job without the extreme level of support I’ve experienced here. I’m not interested in giant budgets. I’m interested in doing cool stuff with people who want it, and Johnson has that in spades.”