Author: Ed Berthiaume

It’s personal: Earth Day activities raise awareness across campus

An aerial view of the Lawrence campus shows the sustainable gardens.
The Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens (SLUG) are part of the Lawrence campus. The SLUG student organization will take part in Earth Day activities between now and Tuesday.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Earth Day 2019 arrives on Monday, but Lawrence University students and staff aren’t waiting until then to celebrate the wonders of the Earth and highlight the need for good environmental stewardship.

Lawrence student groups focused on environmental causes, along with the school’s Sustainability Steering Committee, will mark Earth Day with a series of events now through Tuesday.

Highlighting the Earth Day celebration will be a gala from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday on Main Hall green, featuring live music, Frisbee games, plant sales and various student-run booths raising money and sharing information on a variety of environmental issues.

Then on Tuesday, Equal Justice Works Fellow Jacklyn Bryan will present “Water and Wisconsin Tribal Communities: Past, Present and Future” at 7:30 p.m. in Steitz Hall. A member of the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of Owens Valley in California and a 2017 Vermont Law School graduate, Bryan will discuss her work to assist in statewide collaborations to assess and address outside risks to clean water on tribal lands.

Sunday’s gala is being organized by the Lawrence student group Greenfire, in cooperation with other student organizations and the Sustainability Committee.

“All of it will have some sort of relation to sustainability, environmental practices and just getting people outside,” said Alyssa Ayen ’19, co-president of Greenfire, a student environmental group with roots dating back to the early 1990s.

Like many of those involved, Ayen’s interest in environmental advocacy is personal. The environmental science major from Madison watched as urban sprawl began to erode wetlands in her grandparents’ neighborhood in Verona, her favorite childhood hangout.

Wall along Drew Street is painted for Earth Week.
Earth Week signage is courtesy of Greenfire.

“I would spend all of my time outside as a child, playing games, going on hikes and bike rides,” she said. “I enjoyed my childhood so much. But as I got older, I started realizing more and more that Madison, like so many cities, has urban sprawl. There is a ton of development, and I saw it near my grandparents’ house. I think I was probably 13 at the time and I realized it really bothered me a lot.

“I developed almost a relationship with the beings that lived there, the different animals that interacted there, that I saw on a daily basis. It was really hard for me to see that habitat diminished, and I think that’s really where it started for me. I knew I had to go out and make my career about it because it mattered to me so much, to at least be part of a change in mindset that has to happen in order for us to limit more environmental degradation.”

Ayen, who will go to work for the nonprofit advocacy group Impact following graduation, said Greenfire students are focused mostly on environmental justice issues and environmental education.

Eight students from Greenfire attended the Wild Things Conference in Chicago earlier this year, taking in a range of sessions on environmental concerns and initiatives, mostly focused on the Midwest.

“It was a really good learning opportunity,” Ayen said of the biennial conference. “There were a lot of nonprofits there, and organizations such as Sierra Club that are involved in environmental policy.”

Earth Day provides an opportunity to raise the visibility of some of those efforts here on campus.

“The Sustainability Committee really pushed for a bigger Earth Day event, and Greenfire wanted to go that way too,” Ayen said.

Kelsey McCormick, a project specialist at Lawrence and co-chair of the Sustainability Steering Committee, said there was a concerted effort to better organize Earth Day activities this year and set a framework for future endeavors.

Eight Lawrence University students from Greenfire pose for a photo at the Wild Things Conference in Chicago earlier this year.
Lawrence University students from Greenfire took part in the Wild Things Conference in Chicago.

The committee set out to make sure there was at least one significant activity a day in the lead-up to Earth Day.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the number of student organizations that have decided to put on events and take advantage of the hype that Earth Week has kind of created,” McCormick said. “We had hoped to get one big event each day. Now on some days we have multiple events because those student groups have decided to put things on on their own. And that’s wonderful. That’s what we really want Earth Day to be about, for as many groups as possible to show their commitment to the environment through what they’re doing.”

The events in the coming days include:

7 p.m. Wednesday: Showing of “Awake — A Dream from Standing Rock,” a documentary, in the Warch Campus Center Cinema.

7:30 p.m. Thursday: Sustainability Bingo, hosted by SOUP, in Mead Witter in the Warch Campus Center.

4:30 p.m. Friday: Plant Identification, hosted by the Bird and Nature Club, in Briggs greenhouse.

9 p.m. Friday: Sustainable Menstruation Ball, co-hosted by the Outdoor Recreation Club (ORC) and Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens (SLUG), at Pullmans Restaurant, 619 Olde Oneida St., Appleton. Shuttle pickup from Wriston every 15 minutes from 9 p.m. to midnight.

3-5 p.m. Saturday: DIY Natural Self Care Products, hosted by Greenfire in the loft at Colman Hall.

1-4 p.m. Sunday: Earth Day Gala, Main Hall green. Rain location will be Esch Hurvis in Warch Campus Center.

6:30 p.m. Tuesday: ENSTfest, an Environmental Studies poster session, Steitz atrium.

7:30 p.m. Tuesday: Jacklyn Bryan presentation on “Water and Wisconsin Tribal Communities: Past, Present and Future,” Steitz Hall 102.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lawrence student finishes a strong second in third annual Pitch competition

Hamza Ehsan '20 delivers his pitch for EVSmart at Thursday's The Pitch at Titletown Tech in Green Bay.
Hamza Ehsan ’20 delivers his pitch for EVSmart at Thursday’s The Pitch at Titletown Tech in Green Bay.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Eleven teams of college students came to The Pitch at Titletown Tech in Green Bay on Thursday with entrepreneurial dreams. Three, including one from Lawrence University, walked away with cash and a pledge of in-kind services to help launch those dreams.

Students from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Lawrence University and St. Norbert College took the winning slots in the third annual “Shark Tank”-type competition. Other schools represented at The Pitch included the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Fox Valley Technical College and Moraine Park Technical College.

This marked the third straight year Lawrence had a team finish among the prize winners. In the previous two years, Lawrence students took first place.

Entrepreneurial spirit alive and well at Lawrence. See more here

Innovation & Entrepreneurship as an interdisciplinary concentration at LU: Details here

Hamza Ehsan ’20, a computer science student from Lawrence, took second place, walking away with $7,500 in cash, plus in-kind services. His pitch before a panel of judges and an audience of mostly business executives was for EVSmart, an app that would be a resource for drivers of electric cars, creating a network of shared charging stations.

Ehsan said his electric car initiative is going to happen, hopefully by fall. He and two partners are hoping to raise at least $35,000 by September. The $7,500 from The Pitch will help, as will monies coming from similar competitions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Massachusetts.

“We’ve been through a couple of these,” Ehsan said. “At MIT, we got to the finals, and we’re currently in the finals at the University of Massachusetts. I think we’ve grown up as a company. We’ve grown up as entrepreneurs.”

Among other things, EVSmart would foster a community of electric car users who would market their charging stations similar to how living spaces are marketed via Airbnb.

“This is definitely happening,” Ehsan said of the planned business launch.

This was the third year of The Pitch, a collaborative effort organized by the participating schools and supported in part through an array of business sponsorships. Each of the schools held their own competitions to determine who would compete in The Pitch. Five of the schools sent two teams, while Moraine Park entered just one.

Besides the panel of judges, the students were pitching in front of a live audience, mostly regional business executives on hand to scout both business ideas and talent. That’s a win for the students and a win for local businesses.

“It’s highlighting innovation, but it’s also highlighting students in the Midwest,” said Gary Vaughan, coordinator of Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program and a lecturer of economics. “It says, ‘hey, we’ve got some bright students in our market here, and we’d like to keep them in our market.'”

Katie Kitzinger '20, left, and Emma Liu '19 present Jetsetter's Closet to a panel of judges and an audience at the third-annual The Pitch, held at Titletown Tech in Green Bay.
Katie Kitzinger ’20, left, and Emma Liu ’19 present Jetsetter’s Closet on Thursday to a panel of judges and an audience at the third-annual The Pitch, held at Titletown Tech in Green Bay.

Lawrence’s second team at The Pitch featured Emma Liu ’19, studying ethics and public policy, and Katie Kitzinger ’20, studying chemistry. They pitched Jetsetter’s Closet, a company that would rent fashionable, brand name clothing to female travelers. It would begin in Paris and possibly expand to other destination cities.

Liu said the idea stemmed from her frustration with having to lug around so many bags when traveling internationally. With Jetsetter’s Closet, a fashion-conscious client would arrive at her hotel with a week’s worth of stylish clothes already there.

“We wanted to find a very niche market where we could get started,” she said of the decision to focus on women in Paris.

They didn’t win, but the experience of The Pitch was invaluable, Liu and Kitzinger said.

“This is really interesting for me because until this fall I wasn’t even thinking about doing anything entrepreneurial,” Kitzinger said. “And then we got together and started talking about the Jetsetter’s Closet idea and The Pitch. This has been such a great way to get experience, just getting up in front of people and telling them about an idea.”

Daniel Salazar, a sophomore business management student from UW-Oshkosh, took first place and a prize of $10,000 in cash and $15,000 of in-kind services. His pitch was for a product called Pack-It, a small circular package holding plastic bags for disposing of dirty diapers or a dog’s messes. The package is designed to be small enough to be carried in a purse, backpack or coat pocket.

Salazar, who is from Appleton, said he joined a couple of partners who already have a patent and are preparing to launch a business.

“They showed me the idea for Pack-It, and I said, ‘Oh, that’s a huge opportunity,’” Salazar said. “I said, ‘I don’t want to work for you, I want to work with you.’ So, that’s where the relationship started, and I joined the team.”

Third place went to Breena Hansen, a business administration student from St. Norbert. Her pitch was for Clean Comfort Food Delivery, a business that would prepare and deliver healthy meals to clients. She won $5,000, plus in-kind services.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Mural unveiled as Project 562 creator hails the artwork as ‘a huge step’

Native students gather in front of mural

Update from Brigetta Miller: Due to unexpected inclement weather, this Project 562 Indigenous Land Project mural was unable to properly cure during its installation. Members of LUNA (Lawrence University Native Americans) and UWGB’s Intertribal Student Organization will be working closely with the Project 562 artistic team to repair the mural in the coming weeks once temperatures warm.  Our campus community is deeply committed to caring for the mural and all that it represents. Thank you for your patience.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The weather didn’t cooperate, but the work got done. And the results are beautiful.

A large mural featuring the faces of three generations of Native Americans was unveiled on the Lawrence University campus Thursday following a convocation address by Matika Wilbur, the creator and director of Project 562.

“I would never have dreamed this as I was daring to dream as a young girl,” Wilbur told a nearly full Memorial Chapel during the spring convocation.

“I’m so proud of you,” Wilbur said, addressing the more than a dozen Native American students from Lawrence and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay who helped create the mural over the past five days. “And I’m proud of Lawrence for taking this huge step. This is a huge step to have indigenous representation on a college campus.”

The timeline for finishing the mural on the north-facing exterior wall of the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center was accelerated early in Wilbur’s week-long artist-in-residency because of the snow and rain that had been expected Wednesday night into Thursday morning. She worked long days with the Native students to finish the mural before the snow arrived.

The non-permanent mural, made with wheat paste, is expected to last two to five years before it begins to fade. How long an outdoor wheat paste installation lasts depends on weather conditions.

Following her convocation address, Wilbur led a walk from Memorial Chapel to the Wellness Center for a showing of the mural. A reception was held in the Steitz Hall atrium, where some of the participating students thanked Wilbur and her team for dedicating themselves to a project that reassures Native communities, especially young people, that they matter, that their faces should be seen and their voices should be heard.

Wilbur, a visual storyteller from the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes of coastal Washington, has been traveling the country as part of Project 562, using photography and art installations to connect with tribal communities and help redirect the narrative on indigenous people. The 562 is a reference to the number of federally recognized tribes in the United States at the time the project launched in 2012.

Wilbur sold most of her belongings, loaded her cameras into an RV and set out to document lives in tribal communities across all 50 states. It’s gone even beyond that, she said.

Matika Wilbur convocation speech
Matika Wilbur delivers her Convocation address, “Changing the Way We See Native America,” in Lawrence Memorial Chapel.

“I’ve also gone into urban Indian communities, also to Arctic communities, north of the border and south of the border and into the Caribbean islands,” she said. “So when, or if, this project is ever complete, I will have been to something like 900 tribal communities.”

Wilbur, a celebrated photographer, is expecting the travel to wrap up in about six months. After that, Project 562 will play out in books, exhibitions, lecture series, web sites, new curriculum and podcasts.

She talked about her long and winding journey during Thursday’s convocation, which included a performance by traditional Menominee flutist Wade Fernandez, an Oneida drum/dance group and an opening invocation spoken in the Menominee language by Dennis Kenote, chairman of the Menominee Nation Language and Culture Commission.

Brigetta Miller, an associate professor of music in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music and a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee (Mohican) Nation, introduced Wilbur. Miller is a 1989 Lawrence graduate who teaches ethnic studies courses in Native identity, history, and culture and works with Native American students on campus as a faculty advisor to the LUNA (Lawrence University Native Americans) student organization. She hailed Wilbur’s convocation and mural project as a historic moment for Lawrence, the Native students who are here and area tribes.

“Matika has a magical way of giving our Native students and their allies permission to acknowledge and be proud of their own cultural traditions, families and indigenous ways, even in spaces that may have not been historically designed for us,” she said.

During the week of activities, students could be heard speaking to one another in their Native languages, Miller said, calling that a reflection of the pride that emanates from this project.

“This work is more than making art for the sake of social justice,” Miller said. “It’s a way to truthfully show who we are. It’s a way for us to tell our own story.”

Telling that story, and giving young people an opportunity to embrace their own story, is what first ignited Project 562, Wilbur said. She had been asked to teach at a tribal school in the northwest, and at first hestitated.

“It turns out I loved working with kids,” she said. “It did something special for me. It recentered me in my community and helped me to realize my purpose and realign me with what I am meant to do. It taught me that I have this role where I’m supposed to feed the people, I’m supposed to participate in making my community a healthier, happier place.”

That experience teaching led her to her next revelation, one that would put her on the road to Project 562. She said she finally fully realized that the true Native American story wasn’t being told or taught.

“It was while I was teaching, I saw over and over and over again that the American dream did not include us,” Wilbur said. “I realized that when Lincoln said, ‘For the people,’ he did not mean Native American people. I came to understand that the core of our curriculum is not based in truth. It does not cultivate our indigenous intelligence.”

So she set out to change that, one photograph and one art installation at a time.

The large mural now visible at the center of the Lawrence campus speaks to that — a new mindset, a new message about respect and truth and inclusion that needs to reverberate long after the Project 562 team has left Appleton.

“As a Native professor here on this campus, this project gives me hope for the future generations,” Miller said. “It’s history unfolding before our eyes.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Photo gallery: Cabaret performances take audiences on Odyssey of Cultures

Dynamic dancing, singing and fashions were on display over the weekend as the 43rd annual Cabaret took visitors to Stansbury Theatre on a journey around the world.

Cabaret, presented by Lawrence International, is a highlight of spring term on the Lawrence University campus. This year’s theme was Odyssey of Cultures.

More than 80 international students took part, showcasing elements of their history and culture in two performances.

Below is a sampling of photos from the big weekend. You can find a larger photo gallery here.

Innovation alive and well at Lawrence as students eye a three-peat in The Pitch

Lawrence students participate in The Pitch in 2018.
A team from Lawrence University won The Pitch in 2018 for the second straight year.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

There is an entrepreneurial spirit at Lawrence University, weaved into the liberal arts education in everything from science programs to music instruction.

So, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Lawrence students have come away with the title — and the money — in each of the first two installments of The Pitch, a “Shark Tank”-styled competition involving colleges and universities in east-central Wisconsin.

On Thursday, Lawrence will aim for a three-peat.

Students from six schools will deliver their pitches for innovative product ideas to a panel of judges — and in front of a live audience — at 4 p.m. at Titletown Tech in Green Bay. Joining Lawrence students will be entrants from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, St. Norbert College, Fox Valley Technical College and Moraine Park Technical College.

Each school will have two entries. For Lawrence, Hamza Ehsan ’20 will pitch EVSmart while Emma Liu ’19 and Katie Kitzinger ’20 will pitch Jetsetter’s Closet.

EVSmart involves the creation of an app that would identify and facilitate the use of charging stations for electric cars. Jetsetter’s Closet would facilitate the rental of stylish clothing for world travelers.

They emerged as Lawrence finalists following a round of competition on campus. Similar competitions were held at each of the participating schools. The students who advanced will work with a judge in the lead-up to Thursday’s regional competition to better hone their presentations.

Lawrence students have come out on top each of the past two years. First it was a trio of 2017 graduates, Ryan Eardley, Felix Henriksson and Mattias Soederqvist, who successfully pitched their idea for Tracr, a forensic accounting software product. Then last year, Ayomide Akinyosoye, Alejandra Alarcon, Nikki Payne and Alfiza Urmanova took top honors with their idea for WellBell, an innovative wristband device with an S.O.S. button that can be used to send notifications for help, be it an assault or other point of danger or a medical crisis.

The WellBell students, all LU seniors now, are actively developing their product and working with mentors, while the Tracr project is on hold but could be reactivated in the future, said Gary Vaughan, coordinator of Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program and a lecturer of economics. The finalists behind Tracr have graduated and now have jobs in finance around the globe — Eardley was hired as director of innovation at Nicolet Bank, a primary sponsor of The Pitch, while Henriksson is working as an analyst with the international markets arm of a bank and Soederqvist is in management consulting.

This year’s contestants will be competing for more than $50,000 in cash and in-kind services — with first place receiving $10,000 cash and $15,000 worth of in-kind services, second place getting $7,500 cash plus in-kind services and third place earning $5,000 cash plus in-kind services.

The panel of judges come from the business community across the region.

Lawrence’s deep and successful dive into The Pitch competition comes in large part because of the investment the university has made in its Innovation and Entrepreneurship program. While Lawrence doesn’t have a business school, it does provide an I&E concentration, which spans all disciplines and can be an important piece of any student’s transcript. In addition to a myriad of class offerings, Lawrence has a student club — LUCIE (Lawrence University Club of Innovation and Entrepreneurship) — that fosters the innovation mentality. And students across multiple disciplines get hands-on entrepreneurial experience with such community projects as Startup Theater, the Rabbit Gallery, Entrepreneurial Musician and KidsGive.

“About half of the students studying I&E are from economics, but the other half are from all over,” said Claudena Skran, the Edwin & Ruth West Professor of Economics and Social Science and professor of government. “They’re from art, they’re from music, they’re from government.”

She and other faculty members across the disciplines work closely with Vaughan to facilitate that entrepreneurial mindset as students make their way toward graduation and the job market.

More details on Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program here

While the I&E program has shown its mettle on a daily basis in recent years, the school’s early success in The Pitch has put an exclamation point on that, Vaughan said.  

“We pitch against MBA students, and we’ve done really, really well,” he said.

Developing skills in The Pitch isn’t just about launching a new product idea. It’s also about learning how to present yourself when you jump into the job market for the first time after graduation.

“That is its own pitch,” Vaughan said.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Roomful of Teeth’s Estelí Gomez to join Lawrence Conservatory

Head shot of Esteli Gomez
Estelí Gomez

Estelí Gomez will join Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music in the fall as the newest addition to the voice department.

The Roomful of Teeth vocalist has been part of two Grammy Award wins and was nominated in 2017 for the prestigious Gramophone Award as a soprano soloist. She’s also an accomplished voice instructor, holding a master of music degree from the McGill Schulich School of Music and a bachelor of arts degree in music from Yale.

“She is the rare professional vocalist who can sing at the highest level in practically any style,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory. “She is intellectually curious and loves to push the boundaries of classical music, and she is a passionate teacher. Estelí is the perfect fit for Lawrence and we are thrilled to welcome her to our faculty.”

Learn more about our award-winning Conservatory of Music!

Gomez, who performed at Lawrence with Roomful of Teeth in 2014 and 2017, said she’s thrilled to be joining Lawrence.

“In my musical travels over the last decade, having visited nearly 80 institutions of higher learning, no school has better exemplified my ideals for a multi-faceted, holistic approach to music education than Lawrence,” Gomez said. “As an undergraduate at Yale, I benefitted so deeply from my liberal arts education, while also exploring courses and ensembles offered through the graduate School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music. I believe wholeheartedly in access to interdisciplinary resources, and know that such access allowed me to become the adaptable, multi-genre, self-managed musician I am today.”

More details will be released at a later date.

Annual Cabaret to showcase music, dance, fashion from around the world

A performance of Thousand-hand Guan Yin at 2018 Cabaret.
A performance of Thousand-hand Guan Yin at 2018 Cabaret.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Cabaret, one of Lawrence University’s most cherished traditions, will take visitors on a journey of discovery this weekend.

With the theme Odyssey of Cultures, the 43rd annual celebration presented by Lawrence International will feature music, dance and fashion from places near and far, embracing our differences and joyously holding up our diversity as a point of light.

It’s a chance to not only soak in some beautiful performances on the Stansbury Theatre stage but also to learn a little something along the way, said Yidi Zhang ’20, president of Lawrence International (LI), the student organization that presents the annual extravaganza.

“Most of the feedback I get is really positive and encouraging, but sometimes I don’t think people are focusing on the educational part of Cabaret,” Zhang said. “That’s what I’m trying to emphasize this year. I started collecting information from all of the performers on their cultural background and which part of their culture they’re drawing from in their performance.”

To that end, posters will be displayed outside of Stansbury providing background on the songs being sung, the dances being performed and the fashions being displayed.

Cabaret will include 11 performance groups featuring 80 international students from Lawrence.

Performances are set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 6 and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 7 in Stansbury Theatre. A free reception with cultural dishes in the Warch Campus Center’s Somerset room will follow Sunday’s performance

A performance of Tong Que Fu at 2018 Cabaret.
A performance of Tong Que Fu at 2018 Cabaret.

For Zhang, a junior from China majoring in music management, the educational component that comes with Cabaret is valuable on multiple levels. Taking an interest in and understanding other cultures is an important part of being an informed, enlightened, educated citizen of the world.

“Cabaret is only a starting point to encourage people to know the cultures, to get to know the people of other cultures,” Zhang said.

Photo gallery: See images from last year’s Cabaret

When Cabaret marked its 40th anniversary three years ago, our video cameras went behind the scenes: See it here

That goes for audience members coming to watch Cabaret as well as those participating in the production.

“We have more international students on campus now, so it’s not only for the international students to show what they have, it’s also for those international students to learn from each other,” Zhang said.

The number of international students at Lawrence — foreign nationals and those with dual citizenship — has jumped from about 50 a decade ago to more than 270 today. They come from 63 countries.

Lawrence International gives those students a chance to connect with other international students both academically and socially. While the annual Cabaret performance is the group’s most visible activity, it’s far from its only benefit, said Leah McSorely, associate dean of students for International Student Services.

“At LI, we talk about it as a family, a home away from home, so the students can really build a strong bond with each other and can support each other as they transition into this new culture. Cabaret is a chance to share just a little piece of their cultures, and hopefully get people interested in learning more.”

Zhang will be part of the entertainment lineup. She’s a singer-songwriter who has rounded up three other music students to perform a song that has deep roots in Chinese culture.

She’s a big believer in music’s ability to bring people together.

“I really do think that working with different artists to incorporate different aspects of the world together is a beautiful thing,” Zhang said. “Bringing the whole world together is my personal, ideal view of how the world should be, and music is doing that.”

Going to Cabaret

What: Cabaret, with the theme An Odyssey of Cultures

Where: Stansbury Theatre in the Music-Drama Center, Lawrence University

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday (free reception with cultural dishes in the Warch Campus Center’s Somerset room will follow Sunday’s performance)

Tickets: $10 for adults, $5 for students and free for children under 4. For Lawrence students, the $5 will be donated to the LI Grant fund or, if requested, refunded. Tickets are available at the LU box office at 920-832-6749 or www.lawrence.edu/conservatory/box_office. For more information, contact li@lawrence.edu.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Project 562 creator’s convocation, art installation looks to reshape the narrative of Native communities

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Brigetta Miller calls it a historic moment for Lawrence University, a big step forward in the understanding of Native communities and the need to embrace and value the knowledge, history and contributions of indigenous people.

When Matika Wilbur, creator and director of Project 562, arrives on campus on Friday, April 5 for a week-long artist-in-residency — including the creation of a contemporary mural celebrating area tribal communities — and an April 11 convocation address at Memorial Chapel, it will be significant.

Significant for Native students and alumni. Significant for the 11 federally recognized tribes in Wisconsin. And significant for the university.

“I see this spring convocation as history unfolding before our eyes since it’s the first Native American woman who has been chosen as a university convocation speaker since the opening of the institution in 1847,” said Miller, an associate professor of music in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music and a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee (Mohican) Nation.

“Given the fact that our campus is on sacred Menominee ancestral homelands, I believe our ancestors are truly smiling down on this event. It’s a very big deal for us to be visibly represented in this way.”

Stories to tell

Wilbur, a visual storyteller from the Swinomish and Tulalip peoples of coastal Washington, has been traveling the country as part of Project 562, using photography and art installations to connect with tribal communities and help redirect the narrative of their history, their present and their future. The 562 is a reference to the number of federally recognized tribes in the United States at the time the project launched in 2012.

Wilbur sold most of her belongings, loaded her cameras into an RV and set out to document lives in tribal communities across all 50 states. Connecting to college campuses along the way has been a big part of her journey.

“We are in a very critical time that requires educators, administrators and college communities to create a more inclusive environment for Native American students,” Wilbur says in her Project 562 plan. “By engaging in this social art project, students will have the opportunity to, a) organize, b) have their voices heard on campus, and c) elevate the consciousness and encourage the social paradigm shift to acknowledge the contemporary indigenous reality.”

That’s music to the ears of Miller, a 1989 Lawrence graduate who teaches ethnic studies courses in Native identity, history, and culture and works with Native American students on campus as a faculty advisor to the LUNA (Lawrence University Native Americans) student organization.

This community — on campus and beyond — needs to know that Native culture is alive, vibrant, intelligent, resilient, and moving forward, she said.

“I learned of her work a few years ago,” Miller said of Wilbur. “I saw her mission. I’ve been an educator for many years, and when I saw the beauty of what she was doing, substituting the historical distortions and fixed images of the past for the truth about our people, raising visibility for the historic erasure that has happened, sharing the many parts of our culture that often don’t make it into the history books, that inspired me.

“Her message is that we are resilient and we are strong and that we’re reclaiming our own narrative. She’s really aiming to share that part of our story, as opposed to one that popular American culture often believes is dead or invisible. As indigenous people, we are interrupting the settler narrative of the past, embracing our present and ensuring the future for our children. We are moving, we are shaking, we are scholars, we are artists — the sky is the limit for us.”

Wilbur recently teamed with Adrienne Keene, a member of the Cherokee Nation, to launch a new podcast, All My Relations, now live on iTunes, Spotify and Googleplay. It’s an extension of Project 562 in many ways, aimed at exploring relationships and issues important to Native people.

“I see her as a change agent,” Miller said. “Heads are turning.”

A reflection of who we are

At Lawrence, in the week leading up to the convocation address, Wilbur will work closely with Native students and allies to bring the outdoor mural to fruition. They’ll start with a workshop on photography and the important role of art in social justice, focused on how they can document the lives of indigenous people ethically and respectfully.

A group of students will then join Wilbur on visits to nearby reservation lands, where they’ll meet with tribal members, take photos, and participate in a seasonal longhouse ceremony. They’ll use the photos in the creation of a collage that will form the core of a mural to be installed using wheat paste on the outside north wall of the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center.

The mural, a non-permanent installation expected to remain visible for two to five years, will be unveiled following the 11:10 a.m. convocation on April 11.

“It means a lot to me that this convocation and art installation will show the beauty and forward-thinking of our culture,” Miller said. “It means more than one can imagine for our current Native students. It’ll be the first time we’ve had contemporary Native American artwork on the side of one of our buildings. Our indigenous students will see themselves reflected back for the first time ever.”

In her convocation address, Wilbur will discuss Project 562 and takeaways from her interactions with Lawrence students, the visits to area tribal lands and the creation of the mural.

Beth Zinsli, an assistant professor of art history who chaired this year’s Public Events Committee, said the invitation to Wilbur is part of a rethinking of convocation.

“In addition to our excitement about bringing an indigenous woman to campus for this honor, the Public Events Committee was interested in expanding what Lawrence’s convocation series could be — does a convo have to be a single, stand-alone lecture, or can its significance extend beyond the speaker’s visit and have a more lasting and visible impact?” she said. “I think Matika’s residency and the mural will be an excellent example of this.” 

The convocation will include a traditional Menominee flutist and an Oneida drum/dance group. There also will be an opening invocation spoken in the Menominee language by Dennis Kenote, chairman of the Menominee Nation Language and Culture Commission. That, too, is hopeful, a reflection of understanding and acceptance that hasn’t always been felt by Native communities on college campuses, Miller said.

“I hope this entire experience opens up the door to further meaningful conversations between cultures,” Miller said. “And I hope it attracts more Native students, faculty, and staff to our campus. I hope it raises visibility about the importance of the deeper cultural knowledge that indigenous people inherently bring to a college campus.

“I want Lawrence to be perceived as a welcoming place for Native students, families, and communities. We do welcome an indigenous presence here — students, faculty, local tribal members. Our doors are open to you. I want our people to know that.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Spring Convocation

What: Convocation featuring Matika Wilbur, creator and director of Project 562, Changing the Way We See Native America

When: 11:10 a.m. April 11; unveiling of mural on campus to follow.

Where: Lawrence Memorial Chapel

Cost: Free

2019-20 Performing Arts Series loaded with impressive, creative talent

From a legendary guitarist who has delivered transformative performances for decades to a rising trumpet virtuoso who is already hailed as one of her generation’s best, the lineup for Lawrence University’s 2019-20 Performing Arts Series is stacked with impressive talent.

The lineup was announced Monday, with season tickets immediately going on sale for the Artist Series, the Jazz Series or a compilation of four shows from either of the series. Single show tickets will go on sale Sept. 17. All performances will be in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. For more information, call the Lawrence Box Office at 920-832-6749 or email boxoffice@lawrence.edu.

Artist Series

Portrait of four members of Brooklyn Rider
Brooklyn Rider

Brooklyn Rider, 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, 2019: With a focus on healing, this string quartet has been drawing rave reviews from classical, world and rock circles. They’ll be performing their new project, Healing Modes, a nod to the healing properties of music. It’s a return visit to Lawrence for the talented foursome.

“Their captivating performances often include collaborations with musicians from outside the classical music sphere” said Samantha George, associate professor of music with the Lawrence Conservatory of Music. “During their last visit to Lawrence, they performed with kamancheh player Kayhan Kalhor and offered a master class to our students that focused on chamber music skills, improvisation, and extended string techniques. I am thrilled that we will have the chance to hear them play and work with them again next season.”

Portrait of Tine Thing Helseth
Tine Thing Helseth

Tine Thing Helseth, 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28, 2020: The Norwegian trumpet virtuoso has quickly risen in stature, her intensity and enthusiasm garnering her rock star status. She has been hailed as one of today’s foremost trumpet soloists, at ease playing Bach and Haydn but also incorporating arrangements from the likes of Puccini and the Beach Boys.

“She makes such a beautiful sound on the trumpet, and phrases so expressively that you really don’t care what she’s playing, it’s captivating,” said John Daniel, associate professor of trumpet. “I would be happy to listen to her practicing scales or long tones.”

Portrait of Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe
Anderson & Roe Piano Duo

Anderson & Roe Piano Duo, 8 p.m. Friday, April 3, 2020: Known for their adrenalized performances, original compositions, and must-see music videos, Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe bring high energy to the piano duo experience. The Miami Herald referred to them as “rock stars of the classical music world.” They performed at Lawrence several years ago.

“The Anderson & Roe Piano Duo always give exciting and inventive performances,” said Michael Mizrahi, associate professor of music. “We are thrilled to be welcoming them back to Lawrence.”

Portrait of Melody Moore
Melody Moore

Melody Moore, 8 p.m. Saturday, April 18, 2020: A soprano who has played some of the world’s leading stages, Moore is drawing plenty of notice. Opera News called her “a revelation.” Her resume during the past year has included performances with the Houston Grand Opera and the Los Angeles Opera, and she is set to record a solo album of American music for Pentatone Records.

“I am so thrilledto know that my friend and colleague will be visiting Lawrence to present what I know will be a phenomenal recital,” said John Holiday, assistant professor of voice in the Conservatory of Music. “I first met Melody Moore in 2015 at the Glimmerglass Festival, where she made an explosive role debut as Lady Macbeth. We met each other and have been inseparable as buddies. Not only is she the consummate artist, but she is kind, thoughtful, engaging and fiercely talented.

“The beauty in combination with the ferocity with which she sings is something that is mind-blowing to witness. Buckle up, Lawrentians, because we are in for an amazing treat.” 

Jazz Series

Side-by-side photos of Lawrence Jazz Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra.
Lawrence Jazz Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra

Lawrence University Studio Orchestra, part of Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, 2019: A special event combining sounds of the Jazz Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra with featured performances by members of the jazz faculty. Works include music by Fred Sturm, Chuck Owen, Duke Ellington, and more. More than 100 performers will showcase music that integrates jazz, improvisation and the beautiful sonorities of the orchestra.

Portrait of Miguel Zenon
Miguel Zenon

Miguel Zenon Quartet, part of Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019: Miguel Zenon is a multiple Grammy nominee. He’s considered one of the most groundbreaking and influential saxophonists of his generation. He also has developed a recognized voice as a composer and as a conceptualist, focused on a mix of Latin American folkloric music and jazz. A native of San Juan, he has released 11 albums under his own name while also working with a bevy of jazz innovators.

“His music honors two traditions — jazz and the traditional folkloric elements of Puerto Rico,” said Jose Encarnacion, assistant professor of music and director of jazz studies. “Every single album tells a complete, beautiful story that reflects a unique musical personality through contemporary arranging, creative imagination and improvisation.”

Portrait of Bill Frisell with Hank Roberts, Luke Bergman and Petra Haden
Bill Frisell with Hank Roberts, Luke Bergman and Petra Haden

Bill Frisell: Harmony featuring Petra Haden, Hank Roberts, and Luke Bergman, 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, 2020: Frisell has carved out a prolific career as a guitarist, composer, and arranger, showing extraordinary range and depth. His work is rooted in jazz but incorporates elements of blues and other popular American music traditions. The Grammy winner has collaborated with a wide range of musicians, filmmakers, and painters through the years.

“The way he moves complex harmonic voicings and linear phrases on the guitar with seamless sophistication is unparalleled,” Encarnacion said. “I personally love everything about his music, especially his collaborations with John Zorn and the Paul Motian’s group.”

Portrait of Tigran Hamasyan
Tigran Hamasyan

Tigran Hamasyan Trio, 8 p.m. Friday, May 1, 2020: The pianist and composer is called one of the most remarkable and distinctive jazz-meets-rock pianists of his generation. A piano virtuoso with groove power, his most recent recording was 2017’s An Ancient Observer, his eighth release as a sole leader.

“I really enjoyed listening to his original compositions and improvisations, which are beautifully influenced and fused with the rich folkloric music of Armenia,” Encarnacion said. “Tigran is definitely one of the most remarkable and distinctive jazz piano virtuosos of his generation.” 

“Breathe,” an opera performed in the water, ready for its debut at Lawrence

A photo link to video of "Breathe" rehearsal at the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center pool.
Take a sneak peek at what “Breathe: a multi-disciplinary water opera” will look like this weekend in Lawrence University’s Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center pool. It will be performed Saturday and Sunday.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Odds are, you haven’t seen anything like this before.

Yes, it’s an opera performance. And, yes, many of the usual expectations are there — there are opera singers and percussionists, trumpets, a cello, even a flute. There are dancers and a keyboardist and a bass player. Tuxedos will be worn. 

But there’s a twist.

The stage? Well, it’s a swimming pool. A fully functioning swimming pool.

Welcome to Breathe: a multi-disciplinary water opera, set to be staged this weekend at the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center pool at Lawrence University. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

“When we normally consider the arts, we put it on a stage and we sit, and there it is,” said Loren Kiyoshi Dempster, the composer and musical director for the production. “But here the audience is going to interact in a much different way.”

The mastermind behind Breathe is Gabriel Forestieri, a Boston-based choreographer and director who teamed with Dempster two years ago to stage the water opera at Middlebury College in Vermont. He, along with Dempster and author and visual artist Adrian Jevicki, will try to bring that same magic to the pool at Lawrence this weekend, an invitation that came from Margaret Sunghe Paek, who is married to Dempster, is an instructor of dance in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music and curates the Lawrence Dance Series.

“I saw the video of them in the water,” Paek said. “I said, ‘We need to bring that here to Lawrence. We need to bring some version of that here.”

It’s taken two years, but it’s finally here. This version is heavier on musicians than the one at Middlebury, a nod to the diverse talents available courtesy of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.

Unusual as it might be, it wasn’t a hard sell, Dempster said.

“With the conservatory here and the wealth of really great musicianship available and people who are really excited to try something different, you find there is a curiosity there,” Dempster said. “It’s really doubled in size.”

Gabriel Forestieri and Loren Kiyoshi Dempster float in the water while performing "Breathe."
Gabriel Forestieri and Loren Kiyoshi Dempster will reunite for “Breathe,” a water opera.

Innovative opera nothing new at Lawrence: Mass broke down barriers

More on Lawrence Conservatory of Music here

There are more than 20 performers in the cast. Some are students from the conservatory, some from the college, some are athletes — including a diver — and some are professional dancers from the community.

“I saw a diver doing dives one day,” Paek said. “I went up to her and said, ‘Would you want to be in a water opera?’ And she’s in it. Things like that happened.”

That diver is Maddy Smith, a freshman biology major and member of the Lawrence swimming and diving team. It’s been a thrill, she said.

“I get to do diving in a different way, a more artistic way,” Smith said.

In the second to final scene, she’ll be on the board for seven dives. The biggest challenge, she said, is slowing everything down.

“They’ve been talking to me about how I need to slow down all of my dives and just kind of listen to the beat of the music and just go through it all at a slower tempo.”

Trial and error

Dempster said he had his doubts when Forestieri first broached the water opera idea. He had to go into the water to convince himself it was doable.

“Gabe was working with dancers and bringing them to the pool in Middlebury,” Dempster said. “The question was, can I make sound underwater or even play the cello underwater? So, I messed around with that, and eventually figured out that, yes, it kind of works. After a bunch of experimenting and reading and doing research, I found you can buy a hydrophone, something that would be used by a marine biologist to record whales or sounds of marine life, and you can use this to record playing underwater.

“I have this cheap cello, or strange-looking box cello, as I call it, that when you dunk it underwater, it still has enough air in it to create a resonator, so when I play on this hydrophone, it makes a sound of some kind. Definitely not like a regular cello. It has a very watery kind of sound.”

Safe to say, this isn’t like any cello recital you’ve been to.

“It very much has the effect of performance art,” said Dempster, an Appleton resident who teaches at Lawrence, has a private cello studio, and is a guest artist at Renaissance School for the Arts. “We wear our tuxedos and get in the water. There are always these different things happening. It evolves into a thing with singers and percussionists and trumpet players.”

Dancers use float belts as they rehearse for "Breathe" in the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center pool.
Dancers use float belts as they rehearse for “Breathe” in the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center pool. The water opera is set for 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Not all of the instruments are getting wet, of course. Some are played above the water. There’s even a kayak in one scene. Much of the musicianship and dancing takes place on the deck or on the water, but almost every cast member ends up in the water at some point, and the entire pool is basked in dramatic lighting.

The audience — restricted to no more than 250 or so because of limitations of the space — is encouraged to move around during the performance, best to experience a variety of angles.

“It’s really about transforming the space,” Paek said. “Gabriel’s hope is that people will go into the space and feel it and experience it differently. Even if they go swimming there every day, they’ll be aware and present in a new way.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge as showtime draws near has been getting in the needed rehearsals. This performance, as you might expect, comes with its own set of challenges.

“We can only rehearse when there are lifeguards,” Dempster said.

WATER OPERA

What: Breathe: a multi-disciplinary water opera

When: 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (March 30-31)

Where: Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center pool at Lawrence University

Admission: Free, but reservations are required by calling the Lawrence Box Office at 920-832-6749. Access is limited to about 250 people per performance.