One Student’s Juggling Act
Dustin Brown is a busy guy. He is a fourth-year student in The Florida State University’s Bachelor of Fine Arts Studio Art program, holds down a part-time job and spends his free time clowning around. Literally.
Brown is a member of the FSU Flying High Circus, one of only two collegiate circuses in the United States, where he performs as a clown as well as Low-Casting and Teeterboard acts.
“My mom and sister were both in the Circus before me, so I already knew it was something I wanted to do when I came to Florida State,” said Brown, who hails from Palm Harbor, Fla.
In April, Brown was named the 2010 recipient of the Elaine Geiger Tully Woodward Award.
“I had no idea,” Brown said when asked if he knew he’d be named the recipient. “My girlfriend and my roommate both knew for probably a week before, which surprised me because they are usually not so good at hiding things from me.”
The award was established in 2008 by friends and family of Elaine Geiger Tully Woodward, a Florida State alumna and member of the Flying High Circus in the early 1950s. It is given annually to a student who has demonstrated significant contributions to the overall circus program through a helpful, enthusiastic and positive attitude while maintaining an above-average grade point average. The award comes with a $500 scholarship, which Brown said will be of great help to him.
“Every little bit helps,” Brown said. “Besides food and gas, I always need art supplies so this will go a long way toward those expenses.”
The Flying High Circus was founded by Jack Haskin in 1947, the year Florida State College for Women became the co-educational Florida State University, as a way to help integrate the university’s men and women. The Circus is an extracurricular activity under Student Affairs and boasts more than 200 members, all degree-seeking students at Florida State. Over 20 acts are taught, practiced and developed over the academic year, leading up to the annual Home Show series in April.
Brown explains that when he joined, members would usually take a class in the fall semester to try out some of the beginner acts. (The class is still available, though students must now attend Circus “boot camp” in the fall in order to join.)
“It’s a hard process,” Brown said. “You have to put in the time. I spend three or four hours a week practicing the acts, plus maybe 20 hours on conditioning, coaching or spotting other acts and setting up equipment.”
Members of the Circus are responsible for every aspect of the show, from rigging equipment to sewing costumes. The Circus is self supporting, raising money through its Home Show series, a local summer camp in Tallahassee and an annual program at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga. Brown has participated in the Callaway Gardens program the last two years and plans to go again for the 2010 season.
“The best part of being in the Circus is the people,” Brown said. “If a student is interested in joining, do it! Check it out at least. You won’t regret it.”