September 29, 2016
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Changing the World

Malala Fund ambassador to share experience at Victory Theatre
Shiza Shahid is listed under Time Magazine's 30 under 30 World Changers, Forbes Top 30 Under 30 List, and has her own Ted Talk.

Shiza Shahid grew up in Pakistan with Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. In 2012, when Yousafzai was just 15, she was shot by the Taliban on her way to school.

During this time, Shahid was studying at Stanford University in Stanford, California, and came to Yousafzai’s Birmingham, England, hospital bedside to act as a buffer between her and the onslaught of media attention the incident had attracted.

Now, Shahid is the global ambassador of the Malala Fund, investing in women leaders around the world to enable their success.

“As a founder, I hope to see the organization have major impact in supporting girls’ education globally,” says Shahid.

She will share her story and more on the Malala Fund at Uncharted International’s Stories of Resilience 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15 at the Victory Theatre, 600 Main St.

“(Shahid) is listed under Time Magazine’s 30 Under 30 World Changers, Forbes Top 30 Under 30 list, and she has spoken on ‘Ted Talks.’ So, for us to be able to bring her to Evansville is just incredible,” says Betsy Hopkins, Uncharted International’s director of marketing.

Shahid will talk about her experiences with Yousafzai, growing up in Pakistan, the challenges she faced in her education, and how she and Yousafzai began to connect on this global platform to raise awareness for education for girls.

“I hope to inspire people to know that no matter who they are, no matter what obstacles they face, they can change their own lives and create a major impact in the world,” says Shahid. “I want people to see their struggles as an opportunity to be stronger and more fearless, and to not accept defeat.”

Uncharted International is a nonprofit based in Evansville that operates 11 orphanages in Myanmar. In its 20 years working in Myanmar and five years as a nonprofit, Uncharted International has focused on caring for the homeless, fighting human trafficking, leadership development, remedial education for orphans as well as preparation for employment.

They have taken more than 800 people in the Evansville area with them to the countries they serve.

Shahid and Uncharted International both work to provide young girls with education opportunities.

“One of the areas we work in is Afghanistan, and education for girls there is very difficult,” says Hopkins. “A lot of children go on the streets and beg to make money, so we have a program where we approach the mother and say, ‘We’re going to give you a sewing machine and you can create items for sale if you’ll allow your children to come to our school.’”

That program has been very successful, says Hopkins.

She hopes Shahid’s speech, along with the rest of the Stories of Resilience, will help Uncharted International continue educating Evansville on some of the work organizations like themselves and the Malala Fund are doing and why this work is necessary.

“It has been a true pleasure to interact with such a mission-driven organization,” says Shahid.

For more information on Stories of Resilience, visit unchartedinternational.org/resilience.

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Elegant Evening

SPARK Award recipient Karan Pastora

After shining on the national scene, the Tri-State Medical Alliance wants others to shimmer at its premiere event.

The Tri-State Medical Alliance is an organization whose members strive to assist their physician spouses in improving healthcare in the region. Despite being a year old, the American Medical Association Alliance awarded TSMA a spot on its Membership Honor Roll this year. It also won the AMAA’s Social Media Excellence Award, and president Karan Pastora won the Outstanding SPARK Leader award in June.

“It is a great honor to be recognized for such a prestigious award by a national and well-respected entity,” says Pastora.

TSMA is hosting an event starting at 10 a.m. on Sept. 24 at Evansville Country Club, 3810 Stringtown Road, to raise money for other nonprofit organizations. “Put Some Bling On It” will feature shopping for items from various vendors with more than 20 booths present. There also will be a silent auction with many items, including a $2,900 diamond pendant from The Diamond Galleria and a $3,000 hand-knotted rug from the Rug Gallery in Newburgh, Indiana. A one-carat solitaire diamond, retail valued at $9,000, from The Diamond Galleria and an international vacation package highlight the bidding pieces for the live auction.

Sponsors include Harding, Shymanski, and Company, The Diamond Galleria, Dillard’s, Victoria’s Boutique, St. Mary’s Hospital, Deaconess Hospital, Banterra Bank, and Tucker Publishing Group. In addition to the items up for bid, each attendee also will receive an original Alex and Ani designer bracelet from The Diamond Galleria.

“All the funds from this event are donated back into the Tri-State area to help various nonprofit healthcare entities, which is our main goal,” says Pastora.

For more information about the Tri-State Medical Alliance, email tristatemedicalalliance1@gmail.com.

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Be Informed and Inspired

Tri-State residents who enjoy watching videos made possible by TED, a nonprofit organization that sponsors powerful talks about Ideas Worth Spreading, can now enjoy a similar event in Evansville.

TEDxEvansville is organized by a volunteer group of community advocates who wanted to promote ideas and discussion in the region. They planned TEDxEvansville 2015, scheduled for Oct. 13 at the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science’s Koch Immersive Theater. These local occurrences are branded TEDx, meaning they are independently organized TED events. This year’s theme is renaissance — rebirth, revival, and renewal — with the goal of leveraging Evansville’s legacy while continuing to pursue progress.

TEDxEvansville received more than 100 written submissions and narrowed the list to roughly 30 for auditions, selecting a final count of 14. The speakers were chosen based on their ideas regarding the theme and their ability to convey those ideas in a creative and inspirational manner. Application reviewers did not have access to candidates’ names to ensure focus on the ideas.

Some of the presenters include Steve Burger, vice president of radio & digital at WNIN; Rob Carroll, principal of South Heights Elementary School; and Lynn Miller Pease, CEO of Leadership Evansville, Inc.

“Every application was based solely on the idea’s authenticity, relevance to the renaissance theme, and originality, as well as potential for community impact — not on who submitted it,” says Jenn Schultheis, curatorial team lead for TEDxEvansville.

Seating is limited, so anyone who is unable to attend can watch the event via live stream on tedxevansville.com.

For more information about TEDxEvansville, visit tedxevansville.com.

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Rock Show

Annual event is Evansville Lapidary Society’s crowning jewel
Evansville Lapidary Society members Ruth Reisinger, Sara Rappee, and Danielle Schultz stand behind a display of specimens.

Rock lovers from all 50 states drive many miles to see the gems on display at the Evansville Lapidary Society’s annual Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show, set for Oct. 24 and 25 at Washington Square Mall, Green River Road, and Washington Avenue.

“It’s huge,” says Sara Rappee, show chair and society past president. “We advertise all the way to the Chicago area. We try to get information out as far as we can and bring people in from all states.”

This year marks the 49th show for the Lapidary Society. More than 20 different vendors from across the country bring in a wide variety of wares from beads, jewelry, and carvings to geodes, slabs, fossils, minerals, and gems from all over the world. Rappee says the show also includes working demonstrations, where society members use a portable unit to show the public how to grind and polish rocks.

“People bring stuff to them and (the collectors) tell them what they have,” says Lapidary Society Treasurer Ruth Reisinger. “These guys would know anything.”

The annual show started as a way to help the society get information about the group out to the public and as a way to help the nonprofit bring in needed funds. The Evansville Lapidary Society began in 1953 and was founded by a group of individuals interested in earth science, explains Reisinger. Group members rented a room in the YMCA building for their equipment and taught classes on earth science, and cutting and polishing stones.

“That’s what lapidary is — starting with a rough (stone), cutting it, and polishing it into a gemstone,” she says.

Today, the organization is located in its own building at 1304 N. Willow Road. Anyone interested in learning about lapidary may ask questions, see displays, and attend their first three classes for free.

“It’s nice to be able to provide one here,” says Rappee. “And this shop here, we’re really special and unique because there is not a lot of lapidary societies that have a working facility where the public just has access to come out to the shop.”

The Gem, Mineral, & Fossil Show will be from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 24 and noon to 5 p.m. Oct. 25. For more information about the Evansville Lapidary Society, call 812-425-4367.

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Paint the Way

Jon Siau’s legacy shapes Evansville’s art and education
Jon Siau stands with pieces of his artwork including a drawing of Johnny Bench, who was a catcher for the Cincinnati Reds.

Who is Uncle Vinny? He is a muscled, grinning character Evansville artist and educator Jon Siau designed for Turoni’s Pizzery & Brewery and has been drawing for around 20 years.

“It’s cartoons,” says Siau, while sitting in Turoni’s Newburgh restaurant. “It’s for the restaurant and walls. It’s what a lot of people know me for.”

Siau also designed a large mural inside the front door of the restaurant, depicting “Wizard of Oz” characters dancing down a pizza-lined road leading to the three Evansville restaurants, with Uncle Vinny perched on a motorcycle on an adjacent wall.

But the 65-year-old retired North High School art teacher has won honors that extend far beyond his Evansville roots. He has done work for the U.S. Olympic committee, including a magazine that went worldwide, and completed artwork for celebrities such as Don Mattingly, Garth Brooks, and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler.

And he has passed on his talents to his students, with more than 100 winning national art awards. One former student designed the interior of luxury jets for the late pop star Michael Jackson and the prince of the Southeast Asian country of Brunei. Another former student studied fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, served apprenticeships with Vera Wang and Victoria’s Secret, and now works for Polo Ralph Lauren.

Born and raised in Evansville, Siau attended Harper Elementary School, Harrison High School, and completed both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Evansville. He taught art at North High School from the fall of 1971 until the spring of 2013, when he retired for health reasons.

“It was hard for me to walk away,” says Siau. “It was a tearful decision.”

Siau’s awards include the 2002 Power of Art award presented by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation (Washington D.C.) for outstanding work with students with disabilities. The award was presented at a formal banquet held at the National Gallery of Art.

In 2006, he was named recipient of the American Stars of Teaching program. The award is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. Siau was selected from more than 60,000 teachers in the state of Indiana and the only art teacher in the nation to be chosen for the national honor.

“I don’t care about awards,” says Siau, who is single and lives on Evansville’s North Side. “I want to get back into the show scene.”

In addition to teaching, Siau coached boy’s track, girl’s golf and tennis, and boy’s and girl’s cross-country.

“I’ve been very fortunate,” said Siau. “I’ve led a very blessed life.”

When did your interest in art begin?
I’ve just always loved it. It’s the one thing I had confidence in. I love being able to sit down with a blank piece of paper and create.

What medium do you enjoy most?
Watercolors. I enjoy just sitting down and painting what I want to paint. I love to observe. I’m very visual.

What are the current projects you are working on?
I’m writing and illustrating a book. The subtitle will be “Life’s Lessons.” The book is about awkward moments and the things you learn along the way. Then after that, I’m going to write a song. I scored miserable on the tone pitch test as a child. The teacher asked me to pantomime instead of sing. My father said, ‘Son, don’t feel too bad. None of us has any musical talent.’ Someone in our family had all the music talent — I later learned through a relative who had done genealogical research that my family is related to Johann Sebastian Bach.

Why do you want to write a song and author a book?
It’s definitely the challenge part of it. And creating something outside my normal safety net of arts. The song and the book are painting with words.

Do you consider yourself a teacher or an artist?
I’m not teaching anymore. When I was a teacher, I was all in. I just loved it. You get to take the one thing you’re really good at, pass it on, and share it with young minds who really want to know. I didn’t have a job for 42 years. To me, I had a career. I got to work with great students, parents, and other teachers.

Have you seen students make positive changes as the result of being in art class?
I have seen some students change a lot. I’ve seen kids come into class shy with no confidence. Then they discover they can draw and it’s just amazing the transformation. We all need someone to believe in us. You need two people to believe in you — yourself and someone who believes you can do things.

Where would you like to be in a year?
I would like to be immersed in my artwork and my community. I believe in giving back. I’ve worked with every medium except computers. And I want to do plein air work (French term for painting outdoors) and sit there and talk to people. Art has soothed my troubled soul many times.

For more information about Jon Siau, visit jonsiau.com.

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Creative Rebirth

Ten years ago, tragedy struck the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans across the nation. August marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast. Out of the tragedy, a story of triumph began.

To commemorate the anniversary, three Mississippi Gulf Coast artists featured in the Journeys Art Exhibit, held from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, July 24 at the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana, 318 Main St., Ste. 101, share the story with the community. After the loss of their homes and studios, Lori K. Gordon, Julie Nelson, and Mary-Pat Forrest began to rebuild.

Today, the artists are displaying the progress they have achieved over the last decade through a documentary shown at the exhibit, which is free to the public. Also featured in the exhibit are ceramics, mixed media, and 2D paintings shaped by Hurricane Katrina.

“These three women’s experience was colored by Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath, as well as by the outpouring of support they received from fellow artists around the country,” says Anne Shoemaker McKim, executive director at the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana. “The opportunity for the Arts Council’s Bower-Suhrheinrich Foundation Gallery to host this exhibit is very exciting, as is the privilege of now being a part of their story.”

“Coming from my perspective as a full-time artist for them to go through that tragedy and begin again, it is truly remarkable,” says Emily Gartner, Evansville artist, who with the help of fellow Evansville artist Laura Spradley aided Gordon during her time of need.

For more information about the Journeys Art Exhibit, call 812-422-2111 or visit artswin.org.

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Honoring Service

For the last eight years, the Boys & Girls Club of Evansville has worked to encourage Evansville’s youth to serve the community by honoring those who lend a hand during the Eighth Annual Steak & Burger Youth of the Year Luncheon.

The luncheon honors youth who have gone above and beyond, whether it’s aiding the staff at the Boys & Girls Club or helping mentor others. Twenty youth were selected monthly throughout the year from both the Bellemeade Avenue club and the Fulton Square club, from which two youths of the year will be chosen to win the annual prize — a $250 scholarship from Pizza King and a reward from the Boys & Girls Club of Evansville.

“What is truly exciting about the event is, the overall joy and appreciation from the kids and the parents as well,” says Shanna Scheessele, resource development director at the Boys & Girls Club of Evansville. “It is an honor to see the kids being recognized for all their hard work and achievements.”

Community members have the opportunity to meet club members and families, as well as join other community leaders to support the Boys & Girls Club mission through this luncheon. The Eighth Annual Steak & Burger Youth of the Year Luncheon is held from noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 6 at the Springleaf Financial Services Boys & Girls Club Unit, 700 Bellemeade Ave. The event is $25 per person or you may sponsor a table from any of the available sponsorship levels.

For more information or reservations, contact Shanna Scheessele at 812-425-2311 or at info@bgclubevv.org.

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Dog Days

The Vanderburgh Humane Society is encouraging pet owners to spend their Saturday, Sept. 12, walking their furry friends while raising money to help others. The Fido Walk is a 1-mile pledge walk, where guests can walk their own dog or walk a shelter dog. Visitors also can create a fundraising team with family and friends.

“It is one of the community’s only dog friendly events where residents can bring their animals,” says Amanda Coburn, special events and media coordinator. “It continues to raise money for VHS, which serves 10,000 animals each year for Vanderburgh and surrounding counties.”

This year the Fido Fun Fest is especially exciting, says Coburn. Along with the inflatables, food, vendors, and doggie and kiddie games, the event features new entertainment and the Fido 2K Fetch, where guests have a chance at winning $500. The Fido 2K Fetch is a game of fetch, where Fido, a dog, chooses the tennis ball with the lucky winner’s name. Then, don’t miss an action-packed performance by the Flying Houndz Frizbee Trick Dog Show, sponsored by the Pet Food Center, which is a choreographed production with thrilling tricks.

The Fido Walk and Fun Fest, sponsored by Romain Subaru, begins at noon on Saturday, Sept. 12 at the Vanderburgh Humane Society, 400 Millner Industrial Drive. The fun fest is free and lasts until 5 p.m. Those attending can register for the walk for $25 and the Fido 2K Fetch for $10 on vhslifesaver.org.

For more information about the Fido Walk and Fun Fest, call 812-426-2563, ext. 218 or visit vhslifesaver.org.

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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.

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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.