April 28, 2015
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A Creative Calling

Evansville ceramic artist is influenced by the natural elements in life
Much of Lisa Heichelbech’s work is inspired by natural elements, but she strives to marry the natural with the mechanical.

As children, we were told not to play in the mud. For artist Lisa Heichelbech, digging up clay on the horse farm she grew up on was the creative inspiration that has led her to a successful career as a ceramic artist. The 44-year-old Evansville resident and graduate of North High School was mentored and influenced by Jon Siau, her high school art teacher. “With his encouragement, I chose to focus more on my art and he even gave up his planning time to create more advanced art courses for me during my senior year,” Heichelbech says. She continued on to receive her bachelor of science in art therapy from the University of Evansville with a studio focus in ceramics, and her art has since then continued to impact the community.

Her elegant vessels often juxtapose smooth, thrown elements with heavy texture. She has work for sale in galleries and studios in Evansville, Newburgh, Ind., Owensboro, Ky., and Henderson, Ky., as well as at The Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana and the New Harmony (Ind.) Gallery of Contemporary Art. Her most recent commissions are for Owensboro Health Regional Hospital and Solabron, a retirement community on Evansville’s West Side. Heichelbech currently teaches workshop style classes at Studio 4905 in Henderson, and will continue to expand her classes as the demand grows.

How did you first become interested in art?
My mother (Elizabeth Davis) is an artist — a painter — and we had a studio attached to our house. We had a printing press, painting materials, and even a darkroom. This space was always a mess of projects that my mother or I had started. But my interest was in clay. As a child, I recall digging the orange clay out of the pond behind my house. I felt compelled to push, pound, smooth, and transform the formless earth into a structured shape. I remember making ducks and little creatures that I would set in the sun to dry — when it rained, they would be washed away.

What was your favorite part about growing up on the horse farm?
Growing up on a horse farm in the middle of a cornfield allowed much solitary time to entertain oneself. That was not my ideal place but it did have its benefits. We had only a couple of TV channels, and I had no interest in the computer that we finally received ... I read, went for walks in the woods, had chores I had no interest in horses after mucking the stalls far too many times, and I had time to create.

What inspires your artwork?
The majority of my work is inspired by natural elements. I attempt to capture the grace with which leaves turn and grow towards sunshine or flowers open. The contemporary elements I refer to in my artist’s statement are the wheel-thrown portion or the atypical glaze colors I use. I have also enjoyed playing with more structured elements as seen in a grid vase. Having been able to help my grandfather in his workshop is likely the influence for these. I even have a tool I use where the impression reminds me of bolts.

Are there certain pieces you sculpt more frequently?
My most recognizable or “signature pieces” are the Hosta Vessels. They start as wheel-thrown bases and the leaf parts are slab rolled and carved. I have used this idea to create several different types of vessels. Some are vase-like, others more bowl-like. While I don’t think of them for food service, I have had that request and have curved the leaves to form handles for easier lifting. I often get requests for specific needs and do commission work to meet demand.

Is there a certain theme you tend to use for your work?
A single moment in the growth process is suggested in my botanical-themed pieces and with a hint of contemporary design, I forge a bridge between the natural and mechanical. Much of my current work consists of combining wheel-thrown pieces with hand-built and hand-carved elements. It is important to me to have the human touch observable through the graceful lines and flowing edges within my work. Patterns, texture, and negative space are key factors to my pottery. Brushing my glazes allows me to use many different colors on each piece and overlapping them increases my palette. I strive to find a balance between form and function eliciting energy, peace, and harmony.

Tell me about your functional wrap mug pieces.
The “wrap mugs” grew from observing my grandparents’ arthritis in their hands, making it difficult to hold a teacup. After many variations, I came up with the finger holes and palm supportive wrap. These mugs are tedious to make but feel so good (to me) that I continue to make them.

What types of classes have you taught in the past?
I have taught individual classes and group classes, to adults and children. I have taught an after-school clay class at McGary Middle School in Evansville and a one-day workshop for the Ohio Valley Art League in Henderson. I have even agreed to do “girls night out” type workshops for parties. I have worked with those with mental illnesses, physical limitations, as well as gifted and talented. Creativity for all — they just need the courage, materials, and some guidance.

What’s the trick to conveying emotion through your pieces of art?
I tend to make pieces that are pleasing to the eye. I like to honor things that I admire rather than focus on social issues that disturb me. I imagine that my pieces bring more of a calming effect to the viewer or perhaps a curiosity. (I have a friend who describes some of my work as “gravity defying,” which I find flattering.) I do like to add elements that need a closer look to be observed or a surprise.

For more information on Lisa’s works, visit Studio 4905 at 4905 Timberlane Drive in Henderson, Ky., or email her at lheichelbech@wowway.com.

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Back In Time

In an evening inspired by the international hit PBS series “Masterpiece Theatre Downton Abbey,” WNIN Tri-State Public Media invites guests to go back in time to the era of the Titanic and the onset of the Roaring 20s.

“Downton Abbey,” the most popular drama in the history of PBS, depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the post-Edwardian era.

Guests will enjoy fine hors d’oeuvres, desserts, spirited cocktails, and lively music. The WNIN Annual Gala will evoke the opulent atmosphere of your favorite English manor, Downton. Period dress from the Edwardian Era during World War I and the Roaring 20s is encouraged. Black tie is optional.
The event, which is a benefit for WNIN, will be at 6 p.m. on Jan. 25 at the Evansville Country Club, 3810 Stringtown Road.

Tickets are $100 and may be purchased by calling the WNIN office at 812-423-2973, ext. 136, or by emailing events@wnin.org.

The Annual Gala’s theme also serves as a promotion for the upcoming weekly live half hour call-in or text-in WNIN show “Abbey Chat,” which will immediately follow each new episode of “Downton Abbey” aired locally at 8 p.m. Sunday evenings on channel 9.1 on WNIN PBS.

The fourth season of “Downton Abbey” premieres at 8 p.m. on Jan. 5, followed by the premiere of “Abbey Chat” at 10 p.m. Additional episodes will air each Sunday following the current episodes of the TV show. Both shows will also repeat Thursdays starting at 7:30 p.m.
Audience members also can interact through Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag WNINAC.

“Abbey Chat” features energetic and entertaining hosts and “Downton Abbey” fans Megan Mortis, Rachel Nadeau, Jack Schriber, and Matt Rowe, and includes discussions, games, behind-the-scenes video clips of “Downton Abbey,” and person-on-the-street interviews.

“America loves ‘Downton Abbey,’” says Brad Kimmel, WNIN President and CEO. “We are excited to be providing this new local content and encourage feedback from members of our community.”

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Divine Dancing

When the elegant dancers that make up Shen Yun grace the stage of the Aiken Theatre at The Centre, 715 Locust St., at 7 p.m. on Jan. 28-29, Evansville residents will see a rare performance. Translated from Chinese to mean “the beauty of heavenly beings dancing,” Shen Yun blends aerial martial arts techniques with authentic classical Chinese dance to bring ancient myths and legends to life in vivid detail.

Sixty years of Communist rule have prevented Chinese residents from seeing Shen Yun. In 2006, various leading Chinese artists from around the world joined together in New York on a mission to revive authentic Chinese culture. Shen means “divine” or “divine being,” while Yun refers to a dancer’s bearing and the meaning behind his or her movement. “Together, the name expresses what Shen Yun aspires to achieve: an experience so beautiful and joyous that it evokes a sense of the heavens,” a brochure states.

The Shen Yun Orchestra combines Chinese and Western classical music traditions using ancient instruments like the erhu, a bowed, two-stringed Chinese vertical fiddle, and the pipa, a short-necked Chinese lute. Bel canto soloists are an integral part of the Shen Yun experience. Bel canto is a vocal operatic style, and soloists who perform as part of the Shen Yun troupe retain proper Chinese pronunciation and diction. Ticket prices range from $50 to $120.

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Screen Scream

Local filmmaker provides outlet for others to showcase talents

Owensboro filmmaker P.J. Starks didn’t get into making movies to change other people’s lives. The 31-year-old simply enjoyed what he was doing. The rest just fell into place.

Starks’ first feature film “Hallows Eve: Slaughter on Second Street” premiered to an audience of more than 200 people on Halloween 2008 at the Owensboro Community and Technical College.

“I was sitting back and watching how everyone reacted,” he says. “You learn really fast what works and what doesn’t work. I wasn’t trying to do anything groundbreaking, but it was really a stepping stone for me … It has gained fans that range from young to old. People you wouldn’t normally think would be into horror have enjoyed it.

“Some people reach out for advice and others don’t want any help at all, but just want to tell me they have been inspired to follow their passions because of me,” Starks says.

That’s because “Hallows Eve” paved the groundwork for Starks’ other brainchild, Unscripted: An Indie Film Xperience. Through a partnership with his production company, Verite Cinema, and the Daviess County Public Library, Unscripted is a free independent film series which showcases short films submitted by filmmakers from the Owensboro area and beyond. The series has created an outlet for fellow filmmakers to show off their talents and engage with viewers.

Local sponsors provide free popcorn and drinks while audience members watch their first viewing of the film followed by a brief Q&A session with the director. On the second viewing, the audience and filmmaker participate in an “unscripted” audio commentary experience, Starks says. The audience will learn all of the different facets of filmmaking from the filmmakers themselves.

“I wanted to reinvent the special feature,” Starks says. “(Library Director) Jim Blanton said it has been one of the most successful turnouts. We had over 250 people come to the first series.”

The first Unscripted six-film series ran the last three weekends in January and February 2013, featuring one local film production each Saturday. Because of the notable success, a second series launched in June and July, and it now returns for its third Jan. 11 at Daviess County Library. Unscripted 3 runs the last three Saturdays in January and February.

Depending on the length of the film, Starks says they will screen one film a night, possibly two. The films range in length from four minutes to 35 minutes at the most.

The lineup for Unscripted 3, sponsored by Family Video and Malco Cinema 16, includes Evansville and Owensboro area directors such as Starks, Marx Pyle, Joe Atkinson, Jacob Bilinski, and Daniel Benedict. The series also has filmmakers from Louisville, Ky., and as far as Los Angeles and Canada.

Starks’ local influence also has spread to Family Video, 1212 J R Miller Blvd., Owensboro, where the rental store has a section dedicated to short and feature-length films by Owensboro area filmmakers. There are more than 40 titles encompassing every genre.

Starks didn’t stop there. He’s also behind bringing Owensboro’s first and only all genre film festival, the River City Festival of Films, to the area. The six-hour long film festival charity event gives local filmmakers a venue to screen their work to the community, while also giving back to area organizations.

For more information on Unscripted 3: An Indie Film Xperience, visit facebook.com/UnscriptedXperience or dcplibrary.org.

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A Seat at the Table

Harold West, 54, isn’t your typical Home Depot lumber sales associate. Eight years ago, he lost his trucking license and, as a result, his job in demolition. Harold soon found himself without a job or home. Fortunately, he also had found the United Caring Shelter, which provides people like Harold with three meals a day and a bed to sleep on at night. The shelter also provides guidance and support to help people secure a new job and to resume living independently. The shelter had Harold organize its basement, which was “in bad shape” before he lived there. “It felt good that they gave me that sort of responsibility,” Harold says. He remains ever grateful for the help he received from the shelter. “I really, really owe them,” he adds.

This Feb. 21 from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., United Caring Services will host its first annual ballroom dance event called “A Seat at the Table.” The event at The Bauerhaus seeks to engage local businesses and raise money to end homelessness. The Browne Sisters will perform, and Mayor Lloyd Winnecke will be the guest speaker. Corporate sponsors will each decorate and bring a chair to represent the homeless who do not have “a seat at the table,” as the event’s title suggests. To purchase tickets, contact Tonya Rine at 812-483-0160 or visit unitedcaringservices.org. Through Jan. 25, tickets will be available for $70 per person; afterwards, tickets will be $100 per person.

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The Sandman

Look beyond the photos of the bikini-clad babes on Mike Sanders’ WGBF Radio web page – you’ll find a kind-hearted grandfather — who loves to rock
Mike “Sandman” Sanders has been one of WGBF’s most prominent voices for 34 years.

GBF Radio has long been the rowdy yell of a very conservative city. Rock music. Raunchy humor. Or another, more alliterative way to say bikinis on Thursdays.

For 34 years this December, Mike “Sandman” Sanders has been one of WGBF’s most prominent voices. And the man is a sweetheart.

“God has blessed me with many things,” he writes on his Facebook page. “A great job, a ton of great friends like you, a loving wife, and the person who is the light of my life: my beautiful, smart, funny daughter, Kelcey Sanders. She’s now blessed me further with my grandbaby, a girl named Lyric.”

Sanders has a passion for music, especially today’s modern rock. Currently, he has a syndicated weekend show called Loudwire Reloaded where he interviews well-known musicians. Yet he would have loved to have been able to interview lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter Kurt Cobain of the band Nirvana. “He did a lot to revolutionize rock,” Sanders says of Cobain. Sanders goes above and beyond to share his love of rock with listeners and to truly connect them with the artists featured on WGBF.

Social media has enabled Mike Sanders, whose nickname is a play on his last name, to prove the hard-partying station has a softer side.

What was your first radio gig in Evansville?
I had the weekend shift as a programming assistant on 1280 WGBF when it was a Top 40 station. I was doing whatever the programming director wanted — labeling eight-tracks, for example — whatever busy stuff he could get me to do. But I was 19 years old. That’s just what you do, grind it out until WGBF bought an FM station and asked me to do a 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. show.

Do you listen to your early days on the radio?
I’ll listen to some of the early years, and a lot of it is really cringe-worthy, comparatively.

Did you think you would be in Evansville radio for more than 30 years?
I like Evansville. It’s my hometown. I just thought I was going to spend some time here. And then I was 30, I had a child, and I got married. I wanted to be close to my daughter even after we got divorced.

You don’t look old enough to be a grandfather.
Well, thank you. I just turned 53, and I think it’s what you do and your surroundings that keep you young. I’ve always worked with rock, which is perfect for the young, and the radio station has always been a very youth-oriented surrounding.

How do you avoid becoming complacent in your career?
Radio is just a thought on a sound wave that can just drift off into the air. And when you think about it that way, you can take it for granted because it doesn’t seem like much. That’s why what we say and play has to be meaningful. People are listening to us and they don’t have to. We should feel privileged that they choose to.

Does that thought drive you creatively on your most recent project?
I host a syndicated weekend show for our company called Loudwire Reloaded that’s on 20 stations coast to coast. I count down popular rock songs for the week, but I also mix in songs that you won’t hear elsewhere on radio. For instance, music from rock band Motörhead’s new album. In terms of things I want to achieve, this is something I’m passionate about, and I want to extend the reach of this show. I’m interviewing at least an artist a week, including some of the bigger names in rock, including Slash (most well-known as the lead guitarist from rock band Guns N’ Roses).

Loudwire Reloaded feels personal, but you still come up with some fantastic ways to promote the station.
There have been so many weird promotions over the years, so I will just tell you about the last one. We asked listeners, “What would you do to win tickets to see the rock band Tool in concert?” A girl got our logo tattooed on her. So promotions like that can push the envelope, but we are a niche format, which makes us not for everybody. We are super-serving a core, 18 to 49-year-old male audience. We are kind of a Maxim magazine on radio. It’s sports, rock, cars.

Has it gotten easier to push the envelope over the years?
We upset people sometimes. People of the lifestyle I just described know what to expect, and they appreciate us for what we do. But look around. What isn’t edgy anymore? The news is edgy. Our music is the backdrop behind sports highlights. So I think more people are getting used to it because they hear that rhetoric in lots of places. Maybe we are all just a part of the decline of Western civilization.

For more information about 103.1 WGBF Radio visit 103gbfrocks.com. To listen to Loudwire Reloaded, visit loudwire.com.

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Icing the Competition

Aurora's Midwest Gingerbread House Competition works to end homelessness
Cameron Tinker of Tinker’s Bakery in Lexington, Ky., was the first place winner in the professional category.

It’s that time of the year when the smell of cookies fills the air, confectioners sugar mimics freshly fallen snow, caramel syrups windows, and royal icing serves as brick and mortar. Aurora Inc.’s third annual Midwest Gingerbread House Competition fundraiser is just around the corner.

This innovative and exciting event on Dec. 7 is expected to feature about 70 gingerbread house-building teams from all over the Midwest that will compete in three divisions: professional, amateur, and youth. Aurora’s goal is to end homelessness in Evansville.

“It is great to be able to take part in this event for such a great cause in the Evansville community,” says Cameron Tinker, owner of Tinker’s Cake Shop in Lexington, Ky., and the 2012 professional division winner. “I think it’s awesome every year to see other professionals, amateurs, and kids getting together to have fun making these gingerbread houses and to raise money to prevent homelessness in the area.”

Local celebrity judges and emcees will help with the event, which will include entertainment acts, a silent auction, and gingerbread activities for all.

“I really enjoy the competition,” says Jessica Marcrum, a competitor in the youth division. “Last year, we won the People’s Choice Award and … hope that people enjoy our entry for this year just as much.”

The fundraiser has been very successful in the past couple years. In 2012, sponsors, competitors, and guests helped raise nearly $39,000 for Aurora’s cause.

Dianna Thorsen, Tonna Seibert, and Linda Mercer, the 2012 amateur division winners, say the event is loads of fun and involves tons of royal icing and a mountain of gingerbread. They had never before taken part in a competition but found it to be challenging and a learning experience.

For more information about Aurora Inc. and the Gingerbread House Competition, call 812-428-3246 or visit auroraevansville.org.

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Down to a Tea

The historic 1905 Beaux Arts home of Kay Cox at 408 SE Riverside Drive is the setting for the annual Evansville Museum Guild’s “‘Tis the Season Tea,” Dec. 6, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Guests to the Harris & Shopbell-built home can enjoy the view across the street – at the nearly complete expansion of the Evansville Museum of Art, History and Science, which benefits from the funds raised at the annual holiday tea.

“The ‘Tis the Season Tea is an opportunity for the members of the Evansville Museum Guild and community to gather in a beautiful and festive setting,” says co-chair, Tara Stanley.

The holiday event features light refreshments and an auction showcasing the tablescapes on display from local designers. Tickets are $40 each.

“The house will be wonderfully decorated, and it will be only the second time it has been open since it was renovated,” Stanley says.

This year’s gathering will honor the Wright family, through sisters-in-law Ann Wright Tornatta and Marianna Soaper Wright, says Stanley. For years, the family has served as a generous benefactor and has created programs like a local high school art show honoring the talents of youth.

“Women and men have enjoyed the many beautiful homes that have hosted the tea throughout the years,” Stanley adds. “It is a great way to enjoy the holiday season.”

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Acting Up

Under the big top with a bear trainer
Tepa Hall works in the ring with one of the bears from her "Castle's Performing Bears" act, which she performs with her husband.

At age 6, Tepa Hall, now a resident of northeast Texas, climbed a 20-foot pole that was no more than two inches in diameter. That pole stood precariously balanced on the right shoulder of her father, who was in the center of a three-ring circus. Hall flipped, twisted, did handstands, and more for the crowd of thousands.

Now, Hall has children who dazzle the audience in the circus, and, like her father, she hasn’t stopped performing, either. At the Evansville Hadi Shrine Circus, which starts on Thanksgiving, Hall won’t be defying gravity anymore — but she will be taming a wild beast — a bear.

These flips and things were what we had watched our parents do, so it became commonplace.

Yet I am scared before every performance. But that’s what keeps me safe. It keeps me on my toes.

When I hit the ring and perform, the importance of the performance and how it comes across to an audience overrides the fear.

Everyone sees the completed professional show, and everything just runs smoothly. But the performers in the back might watch an act while holding their breaths. Like if we’re seeing the high-wire act performers and there’s no net beneath them, it’s just beautiful. The audience might not get the seriousness of the risks involved because it’s performed so flawlessly.

This is not something we do with strangers. That’s why we considered ourselves family. You have to get to that level of trust with another performer.

It’s familiarity. It’s knowing without thinking what the other person is going to do.

My husband James and I will be the ones with the performing bears. These bears ride bicycles and walk on balls.

Because we grew up in and were surrounded by the circus environment, my husband fell in love with bears. If you’re a child in the circus and an act interests you, you ask the performer how you can help. It’s a great teaching environment.

We had to get the bears when they were cubs. That’s how we fostered a relationship with them. Again, it’s all about trust.

They are European brown bears, Zuzu and Putter.

My first year at the Hadi Shrine Circus in Evansville was 1981. And I’ve performed in Evansville many, many times, including the 75th anniversary of the Hadi Shrine Circus in Evansville and in 2011 when the circus moved from Roberts Stadium to the Ford Center. But this is the 80th anniversary of the circus in the city, and we knew we wanted to be a part of it.

For more information about the Hadi Shrine Circus, visit hadishrinecircus.com.

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Crooning Cowboys

Becoming the highest-ranking vocal group in the history of America’s Got Talent in 2009 was just the beginning for The Texas Tenors. Marcus Collins, John Hagen, and JC Fisher have entertained audiences at more than 500 concerts around the globe with their country, gospel, classical, and Broadway styles. Although The Texas Tenors did not win the grand prize — they finished fourth — the crooning cowboys made an impression.

Each member of the group is uniquely talented, but they come together as a trio known for its humor, country charm, and beautiful vocals. The Texas Tenors often partner with large orchestras, including The Houston Symphony, the Cleveland Pops, The Phoenix Symphony, and the Prague Philharmonic — and for 60 shows a year, the musicians make The Starlite Theatre in Branson, Mo., their home.

The Texas Tenors bring their Deep in the Heart of Christmas Live show to Jasper, Ind., on Dec. 8, when the Jasper Community Arts Commission hosts the trio in its Performers Series at the Jasper Arts Center. Two days later, the trio will release its second album, “You Should Dream.” The album’s title track was written by a Fayetteville, Ga., school teacher Dana Lamb, who told her hometown newspaper, The Citizen: “They (The Texas Tenors) have a soft spot for educators because all of their parents were teachers. They thought the song was so inspirational because teachers encourage their students to dream; that is what teachers do,” she says.

“You Should Dream” is recorded with a 65-piece orchestra and also is the title of a PBS special to air Dec. 1 at 5:30 p.m. on WNIN-TV.