June 26, 2016
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Seeing Stars

UE alumna Carrie Preston returns each year for the New Harmony Project
Reitz Home Executive Directory Matt Rowe (middle) with Michael Emerson and Carrie Preston.

Carrie Preston, a native of Macon, Georgia, graduated from the University of Evansville in 1989, the year I graduated from Castle High School. By the time I was 16, I preferred the company of the University of Evansville Theatre Department crowd, slightly older than myself, and worldlier than the kids in provincial Newburgh, Indiana. Preston and I remained in touch during her time at the Juilliard School in New York City, and when we both lived in Los Angeles in the 90s. I worked in galleries and she worked in television. She has appeared on TV series such as “True Blood,” “The Good Wife,” “Happyish,” and more. These days, our annual visits are when she returns for the New Harmony Project each year in late spring.

This year’s conference was held from May 20-31. The nonprofit organization provides a writer’s retreat each year in New Harmony, Indiana, to emerging and established writers to develop scripts for stage, television, and film.

Preston participates in the conference as an actor and director, and she sits on the organization’s board, which is based in Indianapolis. She and her husband Michael Emerson (“Lost,” “Person of Interest”) are donors. The board and staff work year-round to raise money and coordinate arrangements for the conference. A committee in Evansville plans the Annual Final Dinner and reading for the public on the final night, a fundraising event, as well as an opportunity for local residents to get a glimpse of the writer’s process, and engage with company members such as Emerson and Preston.

Preston and I spent some time discussing her ongoing interest in the New Harmony Project, which brings her back each year, over salted-caramel ice cream at Bliss Artisan, 518 S. Main St. in New Harmony.

Why is the New Harmony Project unique?
There are lots of script development programs, but our mission is specifically about finding scripts that celebrate and elevate the human experience. We’re looking for glass half-full plays, not works that are negative or violent. That’s not to say there aren’t sad, dramatic, or dark scenes, but we see the characters overcome it.

Why does New Harmony remain the location for this project?
New Harmony is the site of two former utopian societies, and the spirit of that has lasted and you can feel it here. People come here and get away from the pressures of living in the big cities where you get distracted and you can’t focus. What these writers are given is time and space to make mistakes, to learn about their scripts, and have a team of professional actors, directors, stage managers, and dramaturgs come together with the common goal, which is to help this writer find the best version of this script that they can in the two weeks that we give them. And most of the time they do.

How did your experience at the University of Evansville shape you?
Going to the University of Evansville was a turning point in my life. It was there I really learned how to act. From there I went to the NHP as an intern and that was my first time, right after I graduated from UE. I got to work with amazing professionals — writers I learned about in school. I got to interact with them and learn from them. They cared about what I had to say. I felt that was such a rewarding thing, so years later, I started coming as a professional and then they asked me to be on the board. I’m honored to be a part of it.

For more information about the New Harmony Project, call 317-464-1103 or visit newharmonyproject.org.


Natural Artist

Evansville native uses her art for environmental awareness
Brentano’s scale model of her entry for the Keep Evansville Beautiful Airport Gateway Project.

Pat Brentano’s passion for art and the environment is evident in her voice. The moment she begins speaking on the subject, it’s hard not to be entranced by the Evansville native as she describes her work.

“What I’m trying to do with my work is to communicate how important that understory and trees are for the birds, who can’t really speak for themselves,” says Brentano.

Brentano, who has been an artist all her life, currently lives in New Jersey with her husband Jon Bramnick, an attorney and New Jersey assemblyman. She completed her undergraduate studies in St. Louis and then went to Philadelphia for graduate school. Recently she was awarded the Richard Kane Conservation Award by the New Jersey Audubon Society. She was the 2011 Martha and Merritt DeJong Artist-In-Residence at the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science and was a finalist in the Keep Evansville Beautiful Airport Gateway Project last year. Though the focus of her art has changed over the years, she says drawing remains at the root of all her works.

“I’m classically trained, which is something from the 1970s,” she explains. “I try to keep the work tied to skillful drawing and an understanding of the two-dimensional art.”

Nature always has been a part of her work, but it was six years ago when the message of her art changed. Brentano and her husband live in a New Jersey suburb named Indian Forest, which she says showcases beautiful, mature, native trees. Her neighbors down the street decided to clear out 21 of the trees to make room for a new house. The action angered her.

“That just tore my heart,” she says. “I’ve said in a few interviews that I wanted to kill them, but I decided to use it as an inspiration for a new series of work.”

The first work born from this reformation was a set of wood panels. She first took large pieces of wood and drew the destroyed trees on the 4-foot by 5-foot panels. Then she cut the trees away to symbolize they were now missing. She tries different ways to address the environmental crisis with her art, she says. Other commission works have centered around water, habitat, oxygen, climate change, and even the Gulf Oil Crisis.

How did growing up in Southern Indiana influence your art?
What really stayed with me … is this great connection I had to nature by living there. I was in Evansville, but then we could get to the country. You could go to the river and swim, you could go to the stripper pits and swim. You could go right out into the cornfields. And I did those things.

I grew up much more attached or integrated in those spaces. Where as you come out to the Northeast, it’s very congested. I live 35 to 40 minutes west of New York City. I’m in a suburb, but there’s no nature. You have to really travel to go find it, because it’s different.

Can you tell us about the project you did for the Keep Evansville Beautiful Airport Gateway project?
The piece for the Gateway Airport project was really like my habitat project. It was panels. It was called “Shadows of Generations” and it was about people who had been on that land. The layers and the light changes were supposed to represent that. They didn’t want birds, so I didn’t do my birds. But I would have liked to do that. Anyway, it was a good project to have and I tried.

Why do you feel art in general, including yours, can help make the public more conscious of nature?
I think art is a universal language. Everyone can understand and interpret it for themselves by using their eyes. For me that’s a huge way to communicate.

The problem is because it is not taught properly in elementary school, we lose the ability to think that way. I think it’s extremely important and should be incorporated in every discipline for children so they grow up being more sophisticated, visual people. It kind of connects all the senses. Art is a great way to communicate with everyone but because people have not been exposed to it, it’s very foreign. They don’t use that part of their brain really; they don’t really see it all. At least through art you can open that up a little bit, in many ways. That’s my hope.

I was a professor for many years. I taught painting and drawing at the University of Wisconsin in Kenosha and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and then at Kean University in Union, New Jersey. Education is important to me too. The lack of good art education is one of the root causes of the environmental crisis that we’re in now. That’s how I feel. If it were taught properly and it had the same weight as any other discipline, maybe those people wouldn’t have torn down those trees. Because they would have appreciated them for their beauty alone or they would have worked with them somehow. We wouldn’t just keep consuming and owning without respecting or sharing.

I just think art has real powers that haven’t been used in our education system in this country. It is considered a secondary discipline and it shouldn’t be. I think that’s the root cause of a lot of our problems. It’s just a shame that it’s been put aside and secondary. I’m big on education, that’s why I do my work. I want to educate and inspire, hopefully.

What was it like being named artist-in-residence in your hometown?
That was fabulous! I loved it. I stayed for two weeks and I taught a class at the museum. I had the show and I gave two talks. I gave a talk to the Nature Conservancy and then they invited me to come to Indianapolis and do a show there. I got two big commissions. Actually, if you go on my website, under commissions, you’ll see the big bird panel that’s in the Efroymson Conservation Center in downtown Indianapolis. That was really exciting.

It just really reminded me of home and my whole growing up experience. When I was a kid I took classes at the museum and did workshops that they did with the artists they brought in as visiting artists. It’s such a circle. It was very nostalgic, very cozy, very homey, and it was great.

For more information about Pat Brentano and her art, visit patbrentano.com.


Streamed Live

Water has long inspired art, and, in its fourth year, the New Harmony Music Festival and School has channeled that inspiration with the theme “Rivers, Waterways, and Streams of Life.” Various performers like Mazz Swift and Michael Brown will perform music inspired by waterways, including the Mississippi River basin.

The festival and school is a weeklong event from July 5 to 12 presented by the New Harmony Artists Guild, a nonprofit charity catering to the arts. The event focuses on non-amplified concerts in the styles of classical chamber music, improvisational jazz, and traditional folk music.

“I believe diverse music can be presented on the same stage on the same evening with wonderful results for the listener,” says Christopher Layer, founder and director of the New Harmony Music Festival and School. “The festival school allows students from one musical discipline to delve into other musical disciplines in a sort of learning ‘safe space’ each day of the school.”

During the festival week, music students have the opportunity to study with the featured musicians and to perform publicly at the event. The music doesn’t end with the festival either; all concerts are recorded live, and audience members can enjoy the music as a free download on the music festival and school’s website.

For more information about New Harmony Music Festival and School, call 812-472-4321 or visit newharmonymusicfest.com.


Hanging At Haynie's

First Fridays draw a crowd to Haynie’s Corner
The Funk performs live at Bokeh Lounge as visitors peruse the art.

Situated at the convergence of four unique neighborhoods (Culver, Blackford’s Grove, Goosetown, and Wheeler), Haynie’s Corner Art District, blends diverse businesses with cultural attractions. First Fridays is a new monthly event that highlights indoor and outdoor art exhibits and artists around Haynie’s Corner, named after the drug store that operated there for years.

“We’re shooting for Haynie’s Corner to be the place for art in Evansville,” says Cole Cartwright, First Fridays events chair. “With First Fridays, we’re looking to bring people to the art district where they can have fun and see art on a regular basis.”

Thanks to the hard work of the Haynie’s Corner Art District Association, First Fridays combine all corners from the creative crowd. Chefs, musicians, artists, and performers bring their talents to local business owners who open their doors to Haynie’s Corner visitors.

“It’s a concept that’s popular in other big cities,” says Mary Allen, president of Haynie’s Corner Art District Association and owner of Soap Solutions, 44 Washington Ave. “We wanted to promote the arts, and we wanted to show off the corner and how it’s developing.”

The Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana is one of the many partners in this project. According to Anne McKim, the executive director at the Arts Council, “We have provided the backhand administrative support matching artists with a venue based on space needs and style of works.”

With 18 locations and counting scattered throughout the art district from Penny Lane Coffeehouse on S.E. Second Street to Kirby’s Private Dining along Parrett Street, local artists including Emily Gartner of Evansville, who makes surface design photography, display their work at participating businesses.

“Creative people have been waiting a long time to showcase their talents,” says Gartner whose work is displayed at Penny Lane. “We’ve been wanting to show we can stand up to the bigger cities — to show we can do it, too, and do it better.”

The Art District Association is moving toward a formal 501(c)3 status, according to Cartwright. The association focuses on developing the economic and cultural growth of the district and achieves those goals through art, education, and events like First Fridays.

“We don’t want to just help our pockets; we want to help the neighborhood,” says Cartwright. “Although this is a project that is coming to fruition now, it’s been something in the works for a long time. We owe a lot of praise to the Haynie’s Corner Advisory Committee, and they have kept the ball rolling with city development here.”

In the last two years, the corner has seen an influx of new, local businesses like the restaurant Sauced, 1113 Parrett St. The Bokeh Lounge, 1007 Parrett St., recently finished its expansion and Haynie’s Corner Pub, 1114 Parrett St., reopened its doors after a two-year renovation. The district also is excited to welcome the Dapper Pig, 1112 Parrett St., to the corner in the summer.

“Now there are more people in this area to work together,” says Allen. “There are people invested in the area, so we’re hoping to bring people down to Haynie’s. It takes people starting businesses to bring people down here, and it’s risky.”

For more information about Haynie’s Corner First Fridays, visit downtownevv.com to view the social calendar.


Dance Lessons

Reality TV star’s focus is helping young dancers
Former dancer and elite-level gymnast Yvette Walts and her 14-year-old daughter Hadley.

Yvette Walts is the kind of person who greets a new acquaintance with a hug instead of a handshake. So imagine the petite, peppy blonde’s surprise when she found herself depicted as the villain of “Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition,” a Lifetime TV reality show featuring infamous “Dance Moms” star Abby Lee Miller.

“It was a big shock to my system,” says Walts, a teacher and choreographer with Evansville’s THR!VE Dance Company. Walts, a former dancer and elite-level gymnast, appeared on the show in 2012 with her daughter, Hadley, after a competition director recommended the duo to Lifetime producers who were casting a new show. Out of 2,000 mother-daughter pairs who applied, 12 — including the Waltses — were chosen to film in Los Angeles. In addition to Yvette and Hadley’s roles on “Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition,” they also were featured in several episodes of “Dance Moms” in 2013 and 2014.

Although Walts gained national fame on TV, and former THR!VE dancers have gone on to performance careers with the likes of Cirque du Soleil, the Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders, and Odyssey Dance Theatre, her current focus is right here at home in Evansville. She’s currently busy developing the company’s new recreational program for dancers ages 2 to 18, increasing THR!VE’s community presence through outreach performances, and traveling with the competitive dance team.

Walts lives on the North Side with her husband, Mark, a Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana employee in Princeton, Indiana, and their daughter Hadley, now 14, an accomplished dancer and golfer at North High School.
It’s hard to imagine you portrayed as a villain.
That’s the magic of Hollywood: They can take Positive Polly and make her look really bad, and market her so they can sell more commercials. … I was the only dance teacher who had a child in the competition. To some moms, especially really insecure moms, it was an unfair advantage. I was such an easy target for people to feel uneasy about. Everyone was there for their child to win $100,000, and we all knew there was only going to be one winner.
    (During the audition in New York), Hadley and I both had to take a psych evaluation. I just thought they were doing it to see if we could withstand the pressure of the show. I didn’t realize they were analyzing our character. When we got to L.A., I saw some papers, and my name was on one of them. Beside my name, it said “professional, perfectionist.” On another mom’s, it said “emotional mom.” They’re so brilliant, these producers — they want characters who don’t match. They’ve got it down to a science.

What do you wish the casual viewer knew about reality TV?
There was not one time someone handed me a piece of paper and said, ‘Memorize this.’ It’s not scripted, but it’s set up. … They keep everyone separated off camera, and all electronics are confiscated upon arrival. They don’t want you to be able to call back home and let steam off. They’re brilliant through the whole process. What people don’t see is that as intense as it is, we as characters and cast members were treated really, really well. It was an experience we’ll never forget.

What do you wish those viewers knew about you?
I think how I came across on TV is completely opposite of what I live in real life, as someone who looks at the glass at half full. It looked like I was vindictive toward children when children are truly my life and livelihood. … My job is to help build them, not break them.

Both on television and to your dancers here in Evansville, you’re known for your motivational sayings such as “You gotta risk it to get the biscuit!” Where did those originate?
I love to read motivational things, and I love to inspire kids, so I always say fun stuff like, “You’re not stressed out, you’re blessed out!” Sometimes I’ll make them up myself, and other times I read them. You know, “Go the extra mile because it’s never crowded.” Most people today do just enough so they don’t get fired. So most employers pay you just enough so you won’t quit. Why is America like that? Nothing in life is free, so I think: Are you being all that you can be? Then all that goodness will come back to you.

You’re traveling extensively with THR!VE right now, and you stay busy teaching, choreographing, and even judging competitions. Where do you find calm and inspiration?
Now that is a class I’m looking to take. (laughs) That is the million-dollar question. I’m still looking! I do love to work out — Molly (Adams, my THR!VE business partner and fellow choreographer) and I meet at the gym at least four times a week. That’s where I find my zen. I just think I need to keep leading by example and keep in good physical shape. I don’t mean appearance-wise; I mean a healthy heart and being able to keep up with the kids in the studio.

What do you hope to instill in your dancers?
I’m not asking you to be the best dancer; I’m just asking you to be the best dancer you can be. I’m going to teach you how to set goals and strive for excellence in all you do.
    I think dance is so valuable and important. There’s so much more than just performing. … That does not sell commercials, but I was born and raised here, and that’s how I can help the community. 

For more information about THR!VE Dance Company, visit thrivedanceevansville.com.


Run for Research

After losing their son Sean to medulloblastoma, a malignant brain tumor, Craig and Katie Witsoe of Evansville started the St. Jude Give Hope Run in their son’s memory. The run is in its fifth year and people of all ages are encouraged to participate in or attend the 5K run/walk to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Thanks to the St. Jude Give Hope Run committee, the event will be held 8 a.m. April 25 at Burdette Park. A short kid’s dash for children under the age of 12 also will take place that day. Food and refreshments are provided with the help of the run’s sponsors; some of the sponsors in the past include Buffalo Wild Wings and Starbucks. Last year’s efforts raised $111,000 and this year’s goal is to collect $150,000.

Tammy Featherstone, a member of the St. Jude Run committee whose son Sam died in 2013 of medulloblastoma, says 1,500 people showed up to the event last year.

“This event isn’t just for people who run,” says Featherstone. “We encourage anyone who is interested in helping St. Jude to come out that day. People walk the course, or they can enjoy the different booths from our sponsors.”

The event costs $25 for adults and $15 for children.

For more information about the St.Jude Give Hope Run, call 317-587-0925 or visit givehoperun.org.


In With The New

Willard Library introduces recent expansion and renovation
Director of Willard Library Greg Hager stands in front of the historic photos of Willard Library displayed in its new addition.

Forty thousand historic photographs, racks of blueprints, and acid-free boxes containing documents dating back to the 1800s now sit safely — stacked floor to ceiling — in a new storage room in Willard Library. While the public showed its appreciation for the 8,000-square-foot expansion featuring a beautiful wood-paneled gallery on Feb. 7 (a day with uncharacteristically nice weather), Director Greg Hager stresses the importantance of the project for the library’s significant archive collection.

“We needed a better place to house our archives,” says Hager. “That way everything could be supervised and safe. With the addition, it allowed us to have all of the archives in one place. Before, we had offsite storage, because we didn’t really have the room.”

Construction of the $2.4 million expansion on the state of Indiana’s oldest public library building began in December 2013 and lasted around a year.Willard opened its doors in 1885 and never had been expanded until now.

“We had beautiful weather for the grand opening,” says Hager, who has pioneered the renovation from the beginning. “People were in a great mood, too. People I didn’t even know came up to hug me.”

The 8,000-square-foot addition is designed to look like a Victorian garden wall, matching the style of Willard. With intricate woodwork and deep red walls resembling the original color of the library’s interior, the renovation includes a gallery complete with a screen, projector, seating for 150 people, and four display cases showcasing documents from Willard’s archives. For more information about the exhibits, visitors are invited to use interactive iPads available alongside the display cases.

The addition also houses storage filled to the ceiling with archives.

The third room added in the expansion contains 12 tables and a circulation desk where library-card holders can request archival information or rent the 10 Lenovo laptops Willard provides. Visitors also can view historic photos of Evansville and Willard displayed around the room. The room opens up to Willard’s outdoor park with picnic tables, fountains, and equipment available to borrow, such as footballs or chess games.

“It’ll allow people to transition from the addition to the park and vice versa,” says Hager.

For more information about Willard Library, call 812-425-4309 or visit willard.lib.in.us.


Evansville philharmonic guild homes of note tour

"Our Lady of Lourdes" Grotto at St. Boniface Catholic Parish

Evansville’s architectural past is put on display as individuals explore the historic homes along Wabash Avenue during the Homes of Note House Tour.

Hosted by the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra Guild for the 17th year, the tour takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 16 and includes St. Boniface Catholic Parish, 418 N. Wabash. It is the fourth oldest church in Evansville, and visitors will have the opportunity to see “Our Lady of Lourdes” Grotto, a 72-foot-long room beneath the church that has a glass case displaying St. Boniface relics.

The walk includes eight historic homes, some dating back to as early as 1894, with hostesses throughout the tour who provide information about each home and its history.

Julie Mallory, the publicity and marketing chairman of the EPO Guild, describes the houses having distinct features in the Victorian and Queen Anne style of architecture with original stained glass windows, tiled fireplaces, and antique furniture displayed in several homes.

“With lots of forest mills around in the 1800s, a lot of furniture businesses came to Evansville,” says Mallory. “Many of those furniture businesses were primarily German. German woodwork is substantially sturdy, and that furniture reflects our German heritage.”

These homes embody that German craftsmanship. Tickets are sold for $15 in advance at local Schnucks locations, First Federal Savings Bank branches in Southwestern Indiana, Paul’s Menswear, Wildflower Boutique, or call the EPO Box Office at 812-425-5050. Tickets can be purchased for $20 the day of the event at the featured homes.

For more information about the Homes of Note House Tour, call 812-867-0912.


Night on the Town

Evansville’s music venues and talent expand
Matt Clark performs on the piano at Cavanaugh’s Restaurant.

Gone are the days where plodding cover bands ruled the nightlife scene in Evansville. Today, on any given night, guests can come across a neighborhood bar with an edgy folk singer, or a packed sweaty venue grooving to a touring band. Here’s where we’re meeting friends for music.

Deerhead Sidewalk Café
Many Tri-State musicians caught their first taste of live music in the venerable Deerhead Sidewalk Café. Known mainly for jazz and blues (and pizza!), the joint located at 222 E. Columbia St. has welcomed many of the areas top-tier musicians for years.  
    “We never charge a cover charge, and we always offer a wide variety of musicians, everything from jazz, bluegrass, classic rock, and blues,” says owner Chuck Johnson. “We’re also well known for our outstanding food, so most of our customers come for dinner and stay for the entertainment. We are adding 10 more draft lines to give us a total of 18 draft beers.”

Bokeh Lounge
Change is in the air down at the Haynie’s Corner Arts District. “The amount of new and planned construction on our beloved corner is mind boggling. At Bokeh Lounge, we are adding 3,300 square feet of bar space, new facilities, and a kitchen,” says Bokeh owner Mike Millard.
    Bokeh Lounge, 1007 Parrett St., offers an eclectic mix of entertainment; folk, edgy rock, modern jazz, and standup comedy acts are on tap on a given night. “It is a warm, friendly, welcoming environment,” says Millard. “The performance area is up front and personal with the audience so I feel there is a closer connection between artist and listening fans.”  

Lamasco Bar and Grill
Lamasco Bar and Grill feels like a small town bar. Those who frequent the bar see many familiar faces and if they’re newcomers, they won’t be for long, says owner Amy Rivers-Word.
    Lamasco is expanding with more room for a new stage and a brand-new general purpose room. Almost all of the music is chosen by Rivers-Word, a musician herself.
    “We are adding music at earlier hours, as this is the biggest request we get in terms of music, so we can help bring music to another demographic,” she says. “Our ability to book some larger bands, ticketed shows, more double and triple bills (more bands per night) is going to increase.”

Backstage Bar and Grill
Situated across the street from the Ford Center and next to the Victory Theatre at 524 Main St., Backstage Bar and Grill offers the Downtown Evansville crowd a convenient place to grab a tasty lunch or after work or game drink.
    “Since we are located across from the Ford Center, we thought it was only appropriate to have up and coming acts that might even play at the Ford Center one day. Most importantly, we wanted a more upscale bar that with great customer service and cleanliness,” says Backstage President Matt Elpers.  
    Backstage is one of the few to consistently feature country music.

Cavanaugh’s Restaurant
Order a glass of wine at Cavanaugh’s Restaurant at Tropicana Evansville and sink into the luxurious sounds of legendary local musicians Matt Clark and Bob Green as they play anything from Cole Porter to Elvis Costello. Other current performers include The Honey Vines and Bob Ballard.
    Cavanaugh’s recently underwent a nearly $700,000 renovation updating wall coverings, carpet, and expanding the dining room. Fresh furnishings, lighting, and framed historic photos of Evansville were added to the interior. The facelift was one the first major projects to impact customer service planned by Tropicana General Manager Jason Gregorec.
    “We went from nine seats around the piano to 27 seats at the bar,” he says. “We wanted a place where business men and women could entertain clients in a first-class facility. We are working toward a true four diamond restaurant with the ambiance, the music, and the food.”


Need for Speed

University of Evansville freshman and race car driver lives life in the fast lane
University of Evansville freshman Roberto Lorena studies marketing.

University of Evansville freshman Roberto Lorena admits that before he first set foot on a racetrack, he couldn’t see the intrigue of auto racing.

“I thought, what’s the point of watching cars go around and around for two hours?” he says. But one day, bored, he stopped by a rental go-kart track near his native city of Sao Paolo, Brazil. As soon as he climbed into a vehicle, he was hooked — although, as he recalls, “I was super scared. I couldn’t get my foot off the brake.”

Lorena started racing go-karts competitively in 2009, and by the next year, he was competing on the national level in Brazil. Then an American team recruited him to come to the U.S. — a country whose auto racing program is “way more competitive,” Lorena says. In 2011, he moved to Florida alone at 15. There, he began open-wheel racing, topping out at speeds of 145 miles per hour. This spring, for the first time, he will race a Porsche 911 GT3 — a high-performance version of the popular sports car — with his current team, Miami-based Ansa Motorsports. In just a few years of competing in the U.S., Lorena has earned honors such as Rookie of the Year and fourth place in the Formula 2000 series and seventh in the Formula 1600 series.

Lorena now calls Atlanta home when he’s not studying at UE — a school that piqued his interest after he met with a team of leaders from UE’s Schroeder School of Business, Institute for Global Enterprise, and international programs when they visited Brazil last spring. In addition to studying marketing at UE, he works nearly 30 hours a week (“Is that a lot?” he asks) as a customer service representative at D-Patrick and is involved with UE’s Formula SAE team, a group of engineering students who design and build a formula race car for an international competition.

We caught up with Lorena to learn more about his life in the fast lane.

What goes through your mind while racing?
Not much. You have to be really focused. During practice sessions, you find spots on the track to use as reference: This is where I brake, this is where I turn, this is where I go up a gear. I never get stressed. I’ve seen some drivers get cut off and they’re screaming, hitting the steering wheel. When I get to the track, I just think about crossing the finish line. I’ll do everything to keep myself calm and do what I have to do.

How do you train for competitions?
It’s an expensive sport, so you have very limited practice. In 2011, I only got two days of practice, and this year will probably be the same. On a good season, you might get 10 testing days. But what you can do is learn about the setup and work on your physical preparation. Strength in the upper body is really important to hold the car on track. And I try to read as much as I can about the mechanical side of it – the changes you can make to the car to make it handle the way you want.

What’s it like to crash during a race?
When you crash, time stops. The adrenaline is incredible. I had a crash at 110 miles per hour — a driver cut me off into the grass, and there was a wall right on the other side of the racetrack. As I was going toward it, I thought: “OK. I’m going to crash. What can I do?” You try to turn the steering wheel, brake, accelerate, go the other way. Nothing works. Then you take your hands off the steering wheel and you crash. And that all happens in, like, two seconds.

I haven’t really gotten hurt. Cars are built to withstand impact, but even though they are safe, you still have a gray area. We had the highest level of casualties in the sport last year, so it’s still not as safe as it should be. But if you’re thinking about that, you’ll never go racing.

What do you think of Evansville drivers?
Honestly? I don’t have a driver’s license. Every time I moved, I found somewhere that was close to anything I needed so I could walk. I take the bus to work, and that’s all I’ve seen of Evansville drivers. I’m a resident of Georgia, so I have to take the test there. I finally got it scheduled in January, and they sent me to the wrong DMV, so now I’ll try to take it in March.

How do your marketing studies at UE overlap with your passion for racing?
Marketing is a really important part of auto racing. I need the marketing knowledge to sell myself and earn sponsorships and keep doing what I love to do. I also like doing research and working with numbers, and marketing consists of that. It’s a natural fit.

What are your goals for the future?
I’ve never had a specific series I wanted to race in. I just love racing. I have fun doing it. As long as I can sustain myself and make a living, I’d be up for anything with an engine and four wheels.