Performing arts beneficial to mental health


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Sitting in her car anxiously waiting, the music of Bon Iver filled Alanna Muirhead’s car. Minutes before her University Singers audition, Muirhead said the calming sounds helped her relax.

Muirhead, now a sophomore at the University and a member of the University Singers, listens to Bon Iver’s rendition of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” before any audition she has.

Born in Oman and having moved three times before high school, Muirhead said growing up was hard because constantly moving place to place made her look for something to cling onto. Piano and singing lessons beginning at eight years old led Muirhead to her involvement with music today.

“Music was the one thing that stayed constant in my life, that I could always keep with me,” Muirhead said.

Performing arts is a tribal necessity, said Ric Averill, artistic director of performing arts at the Lawrence Arts Center. The arts center hosts a Free State Story Slam the second Friday of each month. May 10 was the Grand Slam which highlighted the audience’s favorite storytellers from the season.

Based off the MOTH, a non-profit story telling series in New York City, Free State Story Slam brings in a wide range of people from the community. About 20 to 40 people usually attend and the only rules of the night are the stories must be true and given without any notes.

The story slam creates a way to break social barriers, and Averill said people are driven by orally communicated memories.

“Story tellers have a way of touching on a sense of common experience,” Averill said.

Listening to music is one of the 11 health benefits of music Huffington Post found. A doctoral thesis from the University of Gothenburg documented research on stress relief.

Paul Stevens, associate professor of horn, has been at the University for 14 years. He played a KU School of Music Faculty Series concert on May 11 and said practicing music daily is just like exercise.

“There’s a certain outlet for our emotions,” Stevens said. “I can express emotions that maybe I can’t do any other way.”

While music may be an emotional outlet, Stevens said there is still a high stress level of performing a piece perfectly. He said musicians have to find a way to lower stress in order to perform well. They meditate and use other relaxation methods to prepare.

“Tension is our number one enemy,” Stevens said. “If we give into stress then we can’t perform.”

Listening to music has been shown to soothe pain as another one of the 11 health benefits of music Huffington Post found. The Journal of Pain produced the original research and the study showed less arousal from participants who were listening to music while their fingertips were shocked with electrodes.

While Stevens has not quite had the same experience, he said the reason he is a musician is because the music moves him so deeply that it takes him to places he never thought he would go.

“The best music bridges the gap between our regular, mundane lives and something greater,” Stevens said.

Geniuses such as Mozart who could write legendary music is something beyond what mortal human beings should be able to do, according to Stevens.

“They have that channel to a higher place,” Stevens said.

Performing is a way to portray emotion while putting on a show, sophomore at the University Muirhead said. She was a member of her high school show choir and said learning to control your breathing and execute the motions at the same time was like cardio.

“Your heart’s beating really fast and you can’t breathe but at the same time you’re trying to sing beautifully,” Muirhead said.

The physicality of show choir benefited her because she said it taught her how to control her voice and still get her emotions across to the audience. She said her experience with that type of performing has helped shape her as a singer now.

“I go beyond just listening to the notes,” Muirhead said. “I look more into the emotion behind it and the lyrics.”


Audio Transcript

Muirhead: (singing) ‘Round my hometown, memories are fresh. ‘Round my hometown ooh the people I’ve met.

Me: Good afternoon listeners, this is Hannah Barling with Anything Artsy. Music is listened to and created by artists for multiple reasons. Elkhorn, Neb., sophomore Alanna Muirhead is a member of the University Singers. She says music is an emotional outlet.

Muirhead: When we sang the song you could feel everybody connecting together, and really feeling that no matter what we’re always going to have each other.

Me: Muirhead says her involvement with show choir in high school helped her learn how to release emotions through performance. She says portraying the feeling of the song was something her choir director always pushed the group to do.

Muirhead: I guess it worked because judges would always say ‘we could definitely see the emotion in your song.’

Me: Muirhead says “Hometown Glory” by Adele is one of her favorite songs to sing because she can really get into it and show the audience her innermost self. She says letting her emotions out is a form of stress relief.

Muirhead: (singing) I love it in the city when two worlds collide. You got the people and the government, everybody taking different sides.

Me: Until next time, this has been Hannah Barling with Anything Artsy.


Body image issues problematic for dancers


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Standing in the studio with her fellow dance company members, Emily Jones compared her body to the others. Even though she knew she was at a healthy weight, at 16, Jones felt as if all the older dancers were skinnier than her.

She began to research how to be as thin as possible during her junior year of high school. Clipping models out of magazines and taping them to her mirror for motivation was one of her ways.

Her self doubt and obsession with being thin led her to a more serious problem: she began making herself throw up each night after dinner. After about a month of regularly purging, Jones said she realized her actions were dangerous and stopped before it was too late.

Constantly wrestling with the image of an ideal body is something that is problematic for dancers, said Michelle Heffner Hayes, professor and chair of the Department of Dance. She said it can play havoc on self-esteem if the dancer doesn’t have the right body type for the art form they want to practice.

“No matter how good you get, you will never be able to pursue that dream,” Hayes said.

Twenty-five percent of college-aged women binge and purge as a means of managing their weight, according to a National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders survey. The graphic below shows related statistics about eating disorders and young adults.

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While some college dance teams have weigh-ins, the University of Kansas does not. Most dancers decide to embrace their career in their late teens or early 20s, Hayes said. She said that contributes to other cultural tensions such as femininity and bodies in general.

“You have to do a lot of mindful contemplation as a dancer to be able to accept your body at different stages of life,” Hayes said.

Having a child 18 months ago, Hayes said she is still struggling with the difference between her mothering body and performing body. She said she has to be careful about how she speaks to her own psyche and not criticize herself for not being 20 years old anymore.

“I think 20-year-olds suffer from that same sense of self-criticism,” Hayes said.

Dancers tend to be perfectionists and drive themselves too hard, Hayes said. While career-ending injuries are not as likely to happen in dance as other sports, overuse injuries are very common. She said dancers need to reevaluate how they train to make it a more efficient and strategic process because it’s the mental rigor that drives that practice.

“I think if we focused more on the process and being observant, that we could dance just as well without that kind of relentless perfectionism,” Hayes said.

The Department of Dance will host its New Dance Student Choreography Showcase tonight at Robinson Center at 7:30 p.m. The showcase mainly consists of student choreography and several of the pieces are senior projects.

Kenna Sullivan, a senior from Chicago, will be graduating from the dance program this May. Sullivan said seeing her choreography performed is the most satisfying experience she’s ever had.

Sullivan teaches yoga at the Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center as well as running regularly. She said she is health-conscious because physicality is part of dancing and cross-training helps with that.

“I think it’s veered away from just being skinny,” Sullivan said. “It’s more about muscle and technique and just being healthy.”

As the image of a dancer is slowly evolving, Jones, now a sophomore at the University, has matured and realized that the dancing aspect is more important than looking like the perfect, tiny ballerina. Finding mental and physical peace her senior year of high school, Jones said she realized not everyone can look like that.

“Beautiful dancers come in all shapes and sizes,” Jones said.

Jones entered the dance program at the University as a freshman. Even though she is not a dance major anymore, she regularly takes classes at Point B Dance, located at 3300 Bob Billings Parkway. She said the people at the studio make her feel welcome and she comes out of practice refreshed.

Now that she has accepted her body, Jones said she can finally embrace herself and the dance.

“I can take it all for what it is and not think of all the extra things like weight and being thin.”

Artsy News


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The University of Houston has organized all of Texan artist Tony Feher works from the past 25 years. A traveling showcase of his work will start in Lincoln, Mass., and end at the Bronx Museum. Feher is known for using materials such as glass jars, pennies and soda crates to create arrangements that convey a human emotion.

The Tony Awards nominations were released this morning, with new broadway musical Kinky Boots in the lead. Kinky Boots earned 13 nominations including best musical, best director, lead actor, score and choreography. Just under Kinky Boots, is the new musical Matilda, which earned 12 nominations.

Seven male dancers from the Cambodian Amrita Performing Arts Institution performed 45 minutes of monkey interpretive dance. The performance at the Guggenheim Museum featured the Cambodian artists’ masked dance known as the Lakhaon Kaol. The dance has been tradition for centuries and was part of the Season of Cambodia Festival.

Artsy News


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A warped wooden sculpture was left outside after it had been swept out of a studio in Brooklyn during superstorm Sandy last fall. Ray smith, the artist who leads collaborative work at his Brooklyn studio, said that they were going to dispose of it but decided he liked what had happened to the sculpture – it had been covered in bird poop. The sculpture will be on display through May 5 at the Mana Contemporary, a high-end storage facility in Jersey City.

Matilda, a new broadway musical based off of the novel by Roald Dahl, earned about $1.1 million at the box office last week. The show is about a young girl battling against her cruel parents and dictator-like principal. The show sold nearly $2 million in tickets the day after it opened and has reached nearly $20 in sales so far.

Federal authorities have charged a prominent art dealer in New York, also a reputed Russian mobster, with operating high-stakes gambling rings in New York and Los Angeles.  Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, one of the 34 people indicted on Tuesday, was also charged with plotting to rig sports events at the Salt Lake City Winter events in 2002. According to the article, authorities said the gallery inside Manhattan’s Carlyle Hotel was raided on Tuesday as part of the investigation.

Interactive art offered in Lawrence


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Art is often static, and may be considered by some – a little on the boring side. Lawrence is home to several different art studios and galleries that offer classes and workshops ranging from custom t-shirt design to creating your own pottery for an interactive art experience.

Below is a map displaying different places in Lawrence where people can attend workshops and discussions, take art classes and make do-it-yourself crafts.

Artsy News


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Ayad Akhtar, an American actor and writer, won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play “Disgraced.” His play is about a Pakistani-American corporate lawyer who lives in Upper East Side New York, whose dinner party spins out of control after a discussion of identity and religion. Akhtar said he is still in shock and feels very fortunate and grateful.

Colin Davis, former principal director of the London Symphony Orchestra, died at age 85 on Sunday. Davis first conducted the symphony in 1959, taking on the role of principal director after 1995. Davis has won three Grammys among other various awards. Davis was also knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1980.

The Louvre Museum in Paris, visited by nearly 9 million people each year, closed for the day on April 10 because guards protested pickpockets. Two hundred museum guards protested work and forced the Museum to close down. David Maillard, secretary general for the national union for museums, said the guards are fed up with being assaulted by pickpockets.

Play exposes testimonies from Proposition 8 case


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Proposition 8 is a bill that re-wrote the California state constitution to ban marriage for gay and lesbian citizens. In response to the bill proposed on election day 2008, two couples filed suit against the proposition in Federal Court.

The Department of Theatre at the University hosted 8, a play by award winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, at 7 p.m. in Wescoe Hall. The play depicted the testimonies of the two couples who fought against Proposition 8: Sandy Stier and Kristen Perry and Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami.

Ashley Martin, a sophomore from Shawnee, said she chose to be a part of the production because it’s an important issue.

“It’s not fair. There is a large difference between a civil union and marriage,” Martin said.

Three expert panelists were questioned following the staged reading of the play. William Rich, Scott Criqui and Becca Burns discussed their own experiences with marriage equality and their views on the current political debate on Proposition 8.

Becca Burns is in a same-sex relationship. She said that she thinks the reason the majority of Americans now are in favor of marriage equality is because they probably know someone that is gay or lesbian and love them, making it likely for them to support it.

“Particularly in Lawrence, I feel very welcome and safe here,” Burns said.

The production of 8 was an event part of Gaypril, the monthlong celebration of gay pride.

Live auction to benefit Arts Center


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Ben Ahlvers layers a sense of humor into his artwork. Specializing in ceramics, Ahlvers tries to express wittiness and cleverness in some of his pieces while adding an edge to it.

Ahlvers poses a different question with each piece leaving the viewer to decipher the meaning.

“I like straddling that fence,” Ahlvers said.

Ahlvers is one of four featured artists in the Lawrence Arts Center’s Benefit Art Auction. The Art Center’s 33rd annual live benefit auction will be April 13. The non-profit organization uses the auction as the primary funding source for the exhibitions program.

Ahlvers said that college students should take advantage of the exhibitions programming because it’s the only one that is free and open to the public.

Jessica Conner is the education coordinator for the Lawrence Arts Center. Beginning her work in Lawrence in 2006 as a ceramic artist in residence, Conner is now in charge of the seven visual art studios at the Arts Center.

Conner said that students at the University can benefit from attending the educational programs because it gives them something to divert their minds and take a break from studying.

“In order to flow, one must ebb,” Conner said. “It’s important to give yourself time, take a break and do something creative – it opens up more doors.”

Conner said Lawrence was always the destination for her because it is a less restrictive environment to grow in as an artist. She said that the artist in residency program has evolved tremendously the past few years. Because of its evolvement, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded the Lawrence Arts Center an NEA Art Works Grant to support the Visiting and Resident Artists program last November.

When Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed funding for the Kansas Arts Commission in 2011, the Lawrence Arts Center had to change the way they ran things in order to continue to thrive. Ahlvers said that they have a huge marketing system that has evolved and has helped with revenue.

Conner said that while there has been an increase in youth programming at the Arts Center lately, she can’t decide whether it is because of the decrease of artistic activities in schools or the increase in marketing for the Arts Center. She also said that the summer programming has gone up exponentially.

The silent auction of the Arts Center’s Benefit Art Auction began March 15 and online bidding concluded today. Ahlvers said that about 15 pieces have already been bought, but he expects most of them to be sold at Saturday’s live auction.

Over 150 artists donated original works. Forty-one pieces will be sold during the live auction and 101 pieces will be bid on silently. Ahlvers, one of the four featured artists, donated three pieces.

One of his sculptures depicts an innocent-looking young boy with two birds perched on top of his head. Ahlvers said this piece derived from the song “The Story of Isaac” by Leonard Cohen which is based off the story from the Old Testament of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac.

The song is written from the perspective of Isaac, who is unaware that his own father is about to sacrifice him. The two birds represent Isaac’s confusion: one is a vulture and one is more friendly-looking. Ahlvers grew up in a strict Pentecostal house and said that while this is a more direct metaphor to religion, his experiences usually show through his work.

Archie Scott Gobber, Kent Michael Smith and Lisa Lala are the other three featured artists in the live auction. These four artists were exposed in the VIM Exhibition earlier this year, which featured works that suggest energy and momentum through color and varied mediums.

Ahlvers said that being a featured artist from the community gives him a chance to get feedback from people he respects.

“There are a lot of creative people that call this place home,” Ahlvers said.

The live auction will be held at the Lawrence Arts Center, located at 940 New Hampshire St., beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $40, food and beverages are included and all proceeds go to the Arts Center.

Video Transcript: 

Me: Even on a rainy day, people of Lawrence express interest in the Lawrence Arts Center

The Arts Center, located at 940 New Hampshire St., will host its 33rd annual live benefit auction this Saturday. The non-profit organization uses the auction as the primary funding source for the exhibitions program.

Ben Ahlvers, exhibitions director, has worked with the Arts Center for eight years. Four years ago he decided to change up the way the live benefit auction worked. Ahlvers took the initiative to make the auction an invitational.

Ahlvers: “We don’t have the audience to divide 400 pieces of art so it doesn’t make sense to have 400 pieces of art. It makes sense, better sense, to have fewer pieces for that audience to select from.”

Me: They expect to raise $120,000 which Ahlvers says is feasible with the amount of retail being auctioned. About 150 artworks were donated from artists all over the world, but the auction features four specific artists from the area.

Ben Ahlvers, Archie Scott Gobber, Lisa Lala and Kent Michael Smith donated art that was featured in the VIM Exhibition earlier this year. The exhibit featured work that used color and varied techniques to create energy and momentum.

The live auction will be held at the Lawrence Arts Center on April 13. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and tickets are $40. This has been Hannah Barling, with Anything Artsy.

Artsy News


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Boris Chaliapin is famous for his paintings that have graced the covers of Time magazine for decades. He created more than 400 cover images in less than thirty years, being Time’s most prolific artist. He will be featured at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., beginning May 17. Chaliapin earned the name “Mr. Time” after being known for creating unique paintings in lightning speeds, sometimes as little as twelve hours.

Seventy-eight cubist works of art donated by collector Leonard A. Lauder to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art are estimated at a value of more than $1 billion. The collection consists of 33 works by Picasso, 17 by Braque, 14 by Gris and 14 by Leger. These pieces of art were collected over a 37-year period and is considered one of the foremost cubism collections in the world.

Museum exhibitions are about to be debuted in movie theaters across the country. The first will begin this Thursday as a retrospective honoring Edouard Manet from the Academy of the Arts in London. It will be showing at 450 theaters in the country and 150 more worldwide. The documentary-style productions will give viewers a special tour of current or recently retired art exhibits.


Theatre troupe hosts film festival


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EMU Theatre, a local theater troupe in Lawrence, will host a festival of ten minute plays this weekend at the Lawrence Arts Center. Nine 10-minute plays will feature artists from the community.


Me: EMU Theatre, a local theatre troupe in Lawrence, is in its 15 season. The troupe hosts a mini play festival annually and names its events after the Chinese zodiac. In honor of the year of the snake, Snake, Rattle and Role will be held March 22 through March 30 at the Lawrence Arts Center.

Andy Stowers, one of the founding members of EMU, was a theater major at KU. Stowers said the play festival was supposed to be a one-time thing, but this year marks the 10th festival.

Stowers: “So, you know, one of the things that I love about theater is the chance to kind of synthesize all of the arts together.”

Me: Nine 10-minute plays will be featured. Halloween: The Dark Night is about a man who has a mental break and thinks that he is Batman. Janette Salisbury plays a drunken sorority girl who Batman believes to be Catwoman.

Natural sound of rehearsal

Me: Salisbury said that the group does a lot to foster local talent. She said the group is like a family.

Salisbury: “We’re kind of like the little theatre troupe that could I guess, we just keep on going.”

Me: Eight, a play conceived by Lindsay Kemple, Ashley Pool and Andy Stowers, is an eight-scene spoof on King Henry the VIII. The eight scenes depict different stories about Henry the VIII and his royal family scandals, including some musical numbers.

Natural sound of rehearsal

Me: The event will be held in the Black Box Theatre, doors open at 7 and tickets are $7. This has been Hannah Barling with Anything Artsy.