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The Thomas Taggart Memorial
Arts & Culture

$9.24 Million Grant Brings Indianapolis Park Back to Life through Shakespeare

BY Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

PUBLISHED ON Apr 24 2019

The Thomas Taggart Memorial in Indianapolis' Riverside Park must have been magnificent when it was dedicated in 1931: majestic columns and arches, a curved fountain in front, balustrades lining the monument to the Indianapolis mayor who had created the city’s park system 34 years earlier.

But in 2019, after decades of neglect, it's a mess: cracking concrete, weeds and trees bursting through the mortar, balustrades collapsing on both sides.

That’s about to change.

In December, the Lilly Endowment Inc. awarded $9.24 million to a coalition of the Indianapolis Parks Foundation, Indiana Landmarks, the Indianapolis Shakespeare Company, and Indy Parks to restore the memorial. In summer 2020, the memorial will become the permanent home of the Indianapolis Shakespeare Company—also known as Indy Shakes—run by Butler University Theatre Department Chair Diane Timmerman.

“This is a really great moment in history for the Indianapolis Shakespeare Company,” she says, “because we are deepening and expanding our mission in ways that I don’t believe we fully understood when we wrote our mission statement—which is to share the joy of live theater in ways that appeal to diverse audiences.”

Diane Timmerman at the Taggart Memorial Timmerman says it's also great for Butler Theatre and its students, who will have access to internships and performance opportunities with a professional, growing theater company. Butler Theatre has always had its sights set on transforming the landscape of theater, she says, and its students will be the artists who make the theater of tomorrow.

"When I was first asked to be Artistic Director of Indy Shakes, my first thought was that I would take the job because it would be great for my Butler Theatre students," Timmerman says. "It's been vital for me and other members of the theatre faculty and staff to be professionally connected in Indianapolis so that we can work in our own way to support and improve the arts landscape of Indy. Contributing to theater in Indy is never just about our own professional development, but is always tied to our students and their development as artists."

 

*

Indy Shakes needed a new home. The company had been performing for several years at White River State Park, but between increasing competition from concerts at The Lawn next door, and the sun blinding patrons as it set, the time was right to move.

For a couple of years, Timmerman visited “nearly every green space or big concrete space or any space that would remotely work,” including many of the more than 200 locations in the Indy Parks system. She was looking for an amphitheater setup with sightlines that would work and space to build.

Then in January 2018, the Lilly Endowment announced Strengthening Indianapolis Through Arts and Cultural Initiatives, a program that offered $25 million to organizations working together to better Indianapolis.

At the time, Indy Parks had just completed a master plan for Riverside Park on the city’s near-westside that called for bringing arts programming to the park. Timmerman reached out to  Butler graduate Marsh Davis '80, the head of Indiana Landmarks, the organization that preserves historic places in Indiana, about converting the Taggart Memorial to an amphitheater.

Davis was behind the idea immediately.

"Indiana Landmarks has worked for over a decade to find a sustainable use for the Taggart Memorial, something that would make it relevant to the community," he says. "We were working on a proposal to the Lilly Endowment to repurpose the memorial when Diane contacted me with her idea. It was brilliant, and thanks to the Lilly Endowment, it will be realized. The Taggart Memorial will be restored and serve a meaningful purpose in the Riverside neighborhood."

Timmerman says what she saw from Davis is what she sees in other Butler people: a desire to give back to the community.

 

*

Representatives from Indy Shakes, Indiana Landmarks, Indy Parks, and Indianapolis Parks Foundation are now meeting every other week with Ratio Architects, and others, to discuss construction, repairs, design, sound, lighting, and other considerations.

“It’s going to be beautiful,” Timmerman says. “With its majestic backdrop, it’s so Shakespearean. It couldn’t be a better location. It’s perfect for Shakespeare.”

Last summer, Indy Shakes launched a traveling troupe, and did a one-hour version of Macbeth in a number of city parks, community centers, and libraries. This spring and summer, Indy Shakes will have two traveling troupes that will perform a 30-minute version of Much Ado About Nothing for elementary school-aged audiences, as well as a one-hour As You Like It for middle schools and high schools.

In addition, the company will perform Hamlet July 25-27 and August 1-3 on a temporary stage in Riverside Park.

 

*

The inscription on the Taggart Memorial reads:

 

To Thomas Taggart
Lover of mankind
whose foresight made
possible this park

 

Timmerman says the revitalization of his memorial will serve, “a very established, vibrant neighborhood that has a lot of other things going on,” for decades to come.

“And now it’s up to us,” she says, “to figure out how we fit into the fabric of the Riverside neighborhood and how we can connect with people in ways that support what is already there arts-wise and add to it.”

The Thomas Taggart Memorial
Arts & Culture

$9.24 Million Grant Brings Indianapolis Park Back to Life through Shakespeare

In summer 2020, the memorial will become the permanent home of the Indianapolis Shakespeare Company.

Apr 24 2019 Read more
Aaron Hurt

A Legacy Fulfilled

Rachel Stern

from Spring 2019

  

To know Aaron Hurt is to understand the way he proposed handling his office décor. After moving into his new space tucked away in a corner on the third floor of Clowes Hall, he was stuck on figuring out ways to dismantle the big screen television fixed to his wall and mount it on a rolling device that the entire Butler Arts Center staff could benefit from. He hypothesized different ways to turn the space into a conference room, saying it was much too large for just himself. And he was concerned that the colors weren’t welcoming enough. In the end, none of these changes were made.

But Hurt did insist on one request.

Donald Hurt's paycheck from 1963
Donald Hurt' on payroll from 1963.

He came across a 1963 art deco painting of opening night at Clowes Memorial Hall. He loves art deco work, but it was about much more than just the style. Hurt’s grandfather was there that night in 1963. Donald Hurt was a member of the projectionist union, and when Clowes was ready to open, he was called to help get the stage ready. He hung the original main curtain and worked the first few shows.

“It’s really bonkers,” Hurt says, as he looks up at the painting on his office wall. “To think that my grandfather was hanging the curtain that night, and now I am sitting in this office working here. It’s really not something I take for granted, and we are going to be hands on and inclusive in how we put our stamp on Butler and the greater community.”

Hurt was officially named Executive Director of the Butler Arts Center on January 1, 2019 after serving as interim executive director since August 2018. But this is a role that, in many ways Hurt has been working toward since he was a little boy, and a role that means so much to so many in his extended family.

“This was in his blood and you can just tell by his enthusiasm that he was born to do this,” President James Danko says. “With Aaron, you can hear his passion when he speaks, and when you hear about his family, it is obvious where that comes from.”

Three years after Hurt’s grandfather hung the first curtain at Clowes Hall, his father, Daniel, hopped on his moped at age 16 and headed from the Eastside of Indianapolis to Clowes for his first ever job, sweeping the floors and holding ladders. Daniel would go on to work at Clowes Hall many times over the years. He also worked the beloved summer theater series on the football field.

Aaron was born into a family of projectionists. He was exposed to film, the arts, and theater from a young age, and often went with his father to work. But he first remembers Clowes Hall when he saw his sister, an opera singer, perform there.

“Butler has been a part of our lives for years and for Aaron, this is a scene he has been around since he was in diapers,” Daniel says. “Aaron would come with us to his sister’s performances and practices. It is pretty amazing when you think about it because the connection goes all the way back to my father hanging that curtain. Aaron grew up on this. We are all tied to Butler and Clowes.”

Hurt wanted to run a venue for as long as he can remember, he says. As an arts administration major at Butler, he learned that he could make a career out of running the programming and operations of a place. After graduating in 2008, Hurt worked for the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, the Chicago Children’s Choir, and then made his way back to Butler in 2013, as part-time manager of the Schrott Center. He became full-time later that year, serving as the operations manager. In 2016, after the Butler Arts Center was established, Hurt was promoted to Director of Operations.

He took over as interim Executive Director of the Butler Arts Center in August 2018. When Danko was evaluating what to do about the permanent executive director position, the positive feedback about Hurt was overwhelming.

“Aaron’s passion and enthusiasm for this type of role, coupled with the extraordinary esteem he is held in made him far and away the optimal choice for this position,” Danko says. “I am very excited about him and his potential. It is like an NFL team looking for that young coach who will be a star in 20 years.”

So now, Hurt will work to put his stamp on the place that has been a major part of his and his family’s lives for so long. Something that he called both terrifying and incredible. The goals are numerous.

Donald Hurt backstage at Clowes Memorial Hall
Donald Hurt backstage at Clowes Memorial Hall

Hurt has four major focuses—find new ways to make money, form better partnerships, engage more with the Indianapolis market, and create improved University programming. But, he says, it really does come down to one thing.

The goal is to make the Butler Arts Center an authentic hub for arts programming for all different communities in town. For example, next season, ticket prices will start at $19. This adjustment, he says, is a way to make shows more accessible for a much wider group.

“I want us to be known as open and inviting. I want people to leave happy and to have experienced something they couldn’t have experienced anywhere else in the city,” Hurt says. “That is what Clowes originally was when it started.”

And Hurt would know. He grew up learning about Clowes and hearing about Clowes from a grandfather and father who were there from the beginning. Now, Hurt is ready to take Clowes back to that original model—collaborative and inviting. Just the way he likes his office décor.

Aaron Hurt
Arts & Culture

A Legacy Fulfilled

    A job more than his lifetime in the making.

by Rachel Stern

from Spring 2019

Read more
Arts & Culture

Amid Streamers—and a Bang—Clowes Marks Millionth Matinee Visitor

BY Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

PUBLISHED ON Apr 16 2019

 

The second- and third-graders from Walnut Elementary School in New Ross, Indiana, had no idea when they got on the bus this morning that April 16 was their lucky day.

As they filed into Clowes Memorial Hall on Butler University’s campus and assembled for a photo in the lobby, they heard a loud bang. Blue and white streamers rained down, and they got the news: They were the millionth visitors to the Clowes Education Matinee series.

"This is amazing for our students," says Karen Monts, the school's librarian, who coordinated the 40-mile trip. "We are from a very small school in a low socioeconomic community, and for many of these kids, it’s a big treat to go to Crawfordsville, Indiana. So coming to Indianapolis is something they almost never do as a family, and coming here, and being honored like this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them."

Over 27 years and 858 performances, the Clowes Education Matinee Series has provided students in kindergarten through 12th grade the opportunity to see live theater—many for the first time. That could mean anything from daytime performances by Butler groups such as the Butler Ballet, the Percussion Ensemble, and the Jazz Ensemble, to national touring productions featuring favorite children's stories like the Junie B. Jones books, The Magic School Bus, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, coming to life onstage.

The students from Walnut Elementary School—who won prizes including a free visit to a Clowes matinee next year—were among the approximately 3,800 students from 31 schools who attended the two Tuesday morning performances of Junie B. Jones.

“Being able to bring them to Junie B. and  seeing something they read come to life like this is a great way to help their reading come along,” Monts says. “Maybe they'll move on to the next reading adventure seeing that it really does impact their lives."

The Clowes Education Matinee series started in 1991, when Tom McTamney was Executive Director of Clowes Hall. McTamney, who was one of three former Clowes directors on hand when the millionth visitors walked through the door (Elise Kushigian and Ty Sutton were the others), remembers receiving from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, an invitation to create a matinee program for schoolchildren modeled after the successful program at the Kennedy Center.

"We were looking for something to set us apart in the region," McTamney says. "We didn't have any kind of an education program here, and we sat on a college campus. It made no sense to me."

He teamed up with Indianapolis Public Schools, they wrote a grant, and Clowes was selected as one of the original 12 arts centers to participate in the program.

Seeing the millionth student walk through the door was incredibly gratifying, McTamney says.

Donna Rund, who has been Clowes Hall's Education Manager for nearly 20 years, is equally delighted with the success of the long-running program.

"Little did I know 20 years ago when I left teaching to become a program director that we would get to this amazing pinnacle," she says. "And we get to keep going. We get to keep doing this. I've already planned next year's season. We going to have a few more shows than we had this season, and I'm glad to have the support of Aaron Hurt, our executive director. He feels so strongly about giving students opportunities to see live theater—especially those who have not had this experience before."

Arts & Culture

Amid Streamers—and a Bang—Clowes Marks Millionth Matinee Visitor

The Clowes Education Matinee Series has provided students, K–12th grade, the opportunity to see live theater.

Apr 16 2019 Read more
Arts & Culture

The Addicted Brain with New York Times Best Selling Author David Sheff

BY Marc Allan MFA ’18

PUBLISHED ON Mar 27 2019

The numbers are staggering. Last year, 72,000 people died of drug overdoses, and in three years the death toll is projected to top 82,000. The estimated economic cost of addiction is $700 billion a year. Drugs are the No. 3 killer—and the No. 1 killer of our youth.

Davi Sheff and Lynne Zydowsky ’81 talk addiction at Clowes Memorial HallWith that in mind, David Sheff, the bestselling author of Beautiful Boy, and Butler University Board of Trustee Lynne Zydowsky ’81, a life sciences executive, sat down in front of more than 1,000 people at Clowes Memorial Hall on Tuesday, March 26, to talk about addiction, and what can be done to solve this epidemic. The event was presented in partnership between Butler University, Community Health Network, and the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation with support from Lynne Zydowsky and WFYI.

“There is no way to spin what is happening in our communities because of the opioid crisis,” said Sheff, whose book was made into a movie starring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet. “But it is getting us to talk about this problem that we’ve kept hidden in the past and we’ve always been afraid to talk about, we’ve been ashamed to talk about it because of the stigma around addiction. So we’re talking about it now and because of that I have to feel that as bleak as everything is, there is some hope because we’re having conversations like we are having here tonight.”

Sheff’s book is subtitled A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction, and in it he writes about his son Nic, who started smoking pot at age 11, and eventually graduated to crystal meth. Sheff recounted how Nic would disappear for a day or two at a time. One time, Sheff had to call the local sheriff to ask if he’d seen Nic.

The sheriff said, “Have you called the morgue?”

The night Sheff was able to get his son into rehab, he remembers being able to finally sleep because for once he knew where his son was.

Nic went through rehab—and then relapsed—at least nine times over a 10-year period, Sheff said. It wasn’t until Nic had a psychiatric evaluation and was found to be bipolar and suffering from depression, that he got the medication he needed and began to make progress.

He’s now 36 and has been sober for nine years.

“It’s a miracle, but it also is appalling—and it’s appalling that it took 10 years,” Sheff said.

In an hour-long conversation with Zydowsky, Sheff emphasized the fact that addiction is a mental illness that should not be stigmatized. He said it is a brain disease that is about chemistry.

He also explained that the treatment system in this country needs major improvement.

There was a program that made Nic go outside in the middle of winter with a pair of scissors and cut the grass because he didn’t make his bed ‘the right way.’

“Some of the treatments make the addiction worse,” Sheff said. “As if that’s the way to treat someone who’s ill.”

Doctors should be trained to recognize signs of mental illness, he said. Sheff said if medical schools offer their students any training, it’s typically an hour or a half-day workshop. He said only 9 percent of pediatricians were able to identify a child with a drug problem.

“If there’s an overall message here,” Sheff said, “it’s that if you’re in the throes, don’t give up hope. It’s hard. Take care of yourself. Get support for yourself. And don’t give up over and over and over again. And there’s hope. There is hope for recovery, and I think that’s something we really need to know in the middle of this crisis.”

Arts & Culture

The Addicted Brain with New York Times Best Selling Author David Sheff

Sheff spoke to more than 1,000 people to talk about addiction and solutions to this epidemic.

Mar 27 2019 Read more
Arts & CultureCommunity

Blue Note: The Butler Youth Jazz Program

BY Marc Allan MFA ’18

PUBLISHED ON Mar 26 2019

Kent Hickey snaps his fingers—one, two, one, two, one, two, one, two. The drummer kicks in—CH-ch-ch, CH-ch-ch, along with the piano—doo-doo-dah-doo-doo.

"Good afternoon, everybody," the Butler University senior trumpet/jazz studies major tells the audience. "We're very excited to be here on a Sunday afternoon at the Jazz Kitchen."

Hickey introduces the five-piece band, and it launches into Charles Mingus' Nostalgia in Times Square, segueing into Henry Mancini's Days of Wine and Roses.

It's the final day in the spring session of the Butler Youth Jazz Program, and the musicians—students from local high schools and middle schools—are getting a chance to show what they've learned. They've been rehearsing for two hours every Sunday for eight weeks, and now they're finishing with a concert in front of  about 200 friends and family members.

"It's been a real pleasure working with these guys," Hickey says from the stage. He serves as a Teaching Fellow in the Butler Community Arts School, which administers the Youth Jazz Program, and has taught at summer jazz camps, as well as during the school year, for almost all of his time at Butler. "These guys are really special. They're really hard workers. They practice their parts and they're ready to play at every rehearsal. Great questions, really curious."

Hickey's band—the second of three that will perform—finishes with Duke Ellington's Caravan, then yields the stage to the program's 17-piece big band for three songs. The last of those is a version of Freddie Hubbard's Crisis.

*

The Butler Youth Jazz Program is Associate Professor of Music Matt Pivec's brainchild. Pivec brought the idea with him from California State University, Stanislaus, where he taught previously.

In California, he was responsible for everything in the program—attracting students, teaching, scheduling, and more. At Butler, he teamed up with the Butler Community Arts School (BCAS), which offers a variety of affordable arts instruction to anyone ages 5 and up, including adults. hat enables Pivec to recruit and teach.

"My job is easy," Pivec says after the concert. "You get great kids in a room with really good teachers and let them learn great music. Then, usually, good things happen."

The Youth Jazz Program yields numerous benefits. Butler's Jazz Studies program gets an early look at local talent, as well as the opportunity to recruit those students to Butler. The Butler students who serve as Teaching Fellows get to hone their teaching skills and work with older, more experienced teachers and professionals who are part of the program.

As for students in the program, they learn to play together and develop self-confidence. They meet other musicians they might never have met otherwise, and they get to raise their talent level. Pivec says he's seen several students arranging jam sessions and gigs on their own through the relationships they've made through the program.

"That's really special," he says. "That comes with working hard at something and getting better at it—and being recognized for it, too."

*

Mitchell Remington understands that. Remington, now a senior at North Central High School in Indianapolis, started in the Butler Youth Jazz Program when he was a sixth-grader.

"There's a really wide spectrum of skills in the program," he says, "so the learning curve gets pretty steep. But it's cool to have an environment outside of school. The teachers know where you're at and they respect it and they really help."

Mitchell's mother, Lynn, heard about the program from the band director at his middle school and thought it would be a good fit for her son. He was a little younger than students were supposed to be, but she contacted Pivec, who offered Mitchell an audition. He passed.

"It's become his passion," Lynn says. "He's in the jazz band in high school. This allows him so much more of an outlet for him to learn, collaborate with other musicians, and play with a group that's different from what he experiences at school."

"We've tried to encourage his friends to do it," adds Mitchell's dad, Grant. "Other people I know, if they have kids who are interested in jazz, we tell them, ‘you've gotta get down there and try it’. Because it really is a great program."

Mitchell says he's been able to parlay what he's learned through the program and the friendships he's made into gigs in the Indianapolis area.

"And all of them are with people I've met here—whether it's an instructor or a Butler student or another student I'm in a combo with," he says. "The networking piece of this has been huge for me."

And in the fall, Mitchell will be a first-year student at Butler.

Arts & CultureCommunity

Blue Note: The Butler Youth Jazz Program

Students are able to parlay what they learn through the program into gigs in the Indianapolis area.

Mar 26 2019 Read more
Arts & Culture

Quilt Show Enhances Visual Arts at Clowes

BY Marc Allan MFA ’18

PUBLISHED ON Mar 11 2019

Karen Dietz Colglazier ‘70, MA ‘74, attended the Butler University Alumni Creates art shows that were part of Homecoming from 2010 to 2012, and thought: It’s too bad her artform—quilting—couldn’t be part of the event. But at that time, there wasn’t a way to display quilts in Clowes Memorial Hall without risk of damage.

Now there is.

Hanging QuiltThanks to a gift from Colglazier and her husband, Bud, Clowes Hall Stage Tech John Lucas had the resources to devise a rigging system that will enable quilts, and other large visual art pieces, to be displayed against what previously had been blank walls.

The hanging system Lucas created, which is similar to the mechanism used to adjust Venetian blinds, can raise and lower artwork up to a height of 20 feet. There will be 10 systems placed throughout Clowes Hall, creating a potential 2,400 square feet of additional wall space for art.

“These innovative hanging systems enable us to display antique, as well as contemporary, art quilts out of reach, but still be fully viewed by visitors to Clowes,” Colglazier says.

Clowes Hall visitors will get their first look at the rigging system and how it functions March 19-June 7 at Imagine the Possibilities: An Exhibition of Quilts, a free, three-part exhibition that includes quilts and quilt-inspired fine art from Indiana based artists, showcasing many quilts from private collections.

The exhibition begins with Antique, Vintage and Traditional Quilts (March 19-April 12), followed by Transitional Quilts (April 16-May 10), and Contemporary Art Quilts and Fiber Art (May 14-June 7). Each exhibition will have a featured quilt that is representative of the genre being exhibited.

Quilt HangingMany of the quilts that will be displayed are more than 100 years old, and include styles such as Baltimore Album and crazy quilts--”all different genres of beautiful quilts,” Colglazier says.

The idea of a high rail hanging system grew out of the shared vision of Colglazier and Clowes Hall Community Relations Manager James Cramer, who were trying to determine how to hang quilts in Clowes in a way that made them inaccessible, but still viewable. Colglazier says Butler First Lady Bethanie Danko, who will have a quilt in the third exhibition, described the new hanging system as being “transformative for the visual arts at Clowes Hall.”

“This isn’t just a quilt exhibition,” Colglazier says. “This is the beginning of imagining the possibilities of the potential for the future of the visual arts and art education at Clowes.”

Cramer says Lucas’s invention “is expanding what we can do and how we can serve our visual arts community.” He says he generally agrees with Evans Woollen, the architect who designed Clowes Hall, who said that “the architecture was the art and the people were what brought the life to the building.”

“However," Cramer says, "what we are doing now is not so much covering walls but giving our patrons, young and old, an enhanced experience when they come to Clowes Hall.”

 

The exhibit is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

 

Media Contact:
Marc Allan
News Manager
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822

Arts & Culture

Quilt Show Enhances Visual Arts at Clowes

This is the beginning of the future of the visual arts and art education at Clowes.

Mar 11 2019 Read more
Arts & Culture

Famed Clarinetist Performs World Premieres of Butler Student Compositions

BY Marc Allan MFA ’18

PUBLISHED ON Mar 07 2019

Alex Shanafelt ’19 acknowledges being "a little nervous" when he and his classmates were asked to compose music for famed New York clarinetist Thomas Piercy.

"Dr. Schelle said this huge clarinet guy is going to play your pieces, and I thought, 'I don't have anything for clarinet right now,'" says Shanafelt, an Indianapolis native who's a music composition major. "But he kept pushing and pushing and I figured I might as well submit something because an opportunity like this doesn't come around very often."

Shanafelt's contemporary classical piece Overhearing will be one of four compositions by Butler University students that Piercy will perform—alongside the composers—on Tuesday, March 19, at 7:30 PM in the Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall. Admission is free and open to the public.

The idea to play students' pieces came together when Professor of Music and Composer in Residence Michael Schelle and his wife, pianist/composer Miho Sasaki, invited Piercy to perform at Butler. Schelle and Sasaki have written pieces that Piercy has performed as part of his Tokyo to New York concert series, which features new works composed for Western and Japanese classical instruments, and celebrates the connection between the two cities.

Schelle asked Piercy, "What if my kids wrote pieces for clarinet or clarinet and piano and you picked a few to do in the program?"

Piercy liked the idea. Schelle presented the opportunity to his students and four—Shanafelt and graduate students Matt Mason, Seth David, and Justin Hung—submitted compositions. Piercy decided he'd play all four pieces at the concert.

"That's what I hoped he'd say," Schelle says. "So four world premieres by four of our students. Then he'll take them back to New York, he'll play them in New York, he'll play them in Japan. So it gives my kids an opportunity to get outside of Butler. That's huge."

The Japan connection turned out to be serendipitous for graduate student Mason. He was reading a book called Japanese Death Poems, the last poetry of early Japanese haiku poets, when Schelle requested compositions. Mason wrote a piece called Reflections on Ichimu's Death Dream that will be played at the concert.

Piercy, he says, "seems like the kind of person who's really collaborative, and he's championing new music, which is great. As a composer of new music, we're battling not only other new composers, but we're also battling the classical masters. So to have someone come along who's really gung-ho for just the new music, it gives us the opportunity to get our work out there and show that we can do this, too."

Mason, a Lincoln, Illinois, native who did his undergraduate at Illinois Wesleyan, says he appreciates the opportunity "to write for Piercy, have him say it's good enough to play, and get to play it with him."

The March 19 concert also will feature Piercy performing a few pieces on a Japanese wind instrument called the hichiriki—including a new composition by Schelle called Jukai (named for the suicide forest at the base of Mt. Fuji), a new work by Sasaki written for bass clarinet and bayan accordion, and a John Cage composition that will feature Piercy with Schelle, Sasaki, and the four student composers.

"This is definitely a cool opportunity," Shanafelt agrees. "It's sort of like dipping your toe into the freelancing world, where you get a commission, you write a piece, it's performed, and you get more commissions from that. That'll be cool to have, because most of my performances are from student players and this will be the first time a professional musician will be performing a piece. So it's a really good experience."

Arts & Culture

Famed Clarinetist Performs World Premieres of Butler Student Compositions

Four Butler student composers will have their pieced played on campus, in New York City, and abroad.

Mar 07 2019 Read more

Dancing to the Beat of His Own Drum

In the eyes of Butler University Ballet Chair Larry Attaway, there likely won’t be another Jeremy Gruner in, well, forever.

“There’s never been another one like him before, at least in my time here,” says Attaway.

And that’s because Gruner, who is working on a Master of Music Composition, is also a sophomore-level non-degree student in Butler’s dance program. And Gruner is about to pull off a rare feat: He has written a 15-minute musical composition for this year’s Midwinter Dance Festival that he will also dance in.

The piece, titled Prophetstown, is about Tecumseh, the Native American Shawnee warrior and chief, and Tenskwatawa, his younger brother. Collaborating with Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Fernando Carrillo, who choreographed the piece, Gruner wrote a composition he describes as "rhythmically consistent and drum-heavy, with distinctive fast and slow sections."

To get the music right, Carrillo says, he talked to Gruner about the style of music he likes and sent samples of music that inspire him to dance or choreograph.

"We talked about tempo, dynamic, and the structure of the dance piece," Carrillo says. "Jeremy, being a dancer, understood what I wanted and has delivered a great piece of music that has made my choreography flow with ease."

Carillo says he's worked with composers who have a background in dance, which helps the choreographer during collaborations. But, Carillo says, it was a very rare experience to have a composer like Gruner who will actually dance in the performance.

Gruner, who is originally from Mahomet, Illinois, was more of a musician—he plays trumpet—than a dancer when he came to Butler. He danced briefly in high school musical theater, and as an undergraduate at Illinois Wesleyan University he collaborated with a faculty member to create music for a dance she choreographed.

But when he started looking at graduate schools, he wanted one that had strong music and dance programs, and also supported collaboration between departments.

"Butler was by far the most pro-collaboration," Gruner says. "That's why I came here."

He started at Butler by concentrating in both music composition and trumpet performance. He also enrolled in a 7:30 AM dance class with Liberty Harris, who is the rehearsal director of the Indianapolis company Dance Kaleidoscope and teaches dance for non-major Butler students. That was his first true ballet class.

On the first day, he was "completely clueless." The terminology and steps were new to him. But he wanted to keep going, and Harris encouraged him.

"I don't know if it's because it was so much of a struggle, but when I would accomplish something—when I would get even a little step further—I would feel such a sense of satisfaction that I never really got out of playing trumpet," Gruner says. "So I started to work more on dance and less on trumpet."

Gruner dropped the trumpet after his first semester and prepared to audition for the dance program. He's now doing the full technique course rotation of an undergraduate sophomore dance major while he finishes his master's with Professor of Music Composition Michael Schelle.

In place of the traditional graduate thesis recital expected of Music Composition students, Gruner will present an hour-long dance show comprised of music he has written in collaboration with Butler Ballet faculty, alumni, and current student choreographers. He will present that performance at Butler's Schrott Center for the Arts on Saturday, March 30 at 7:30 PM.

Gruner says studying music and dance simultaneously, along with teaching and holding two part-time jobs, is a lot of work. But he's up to the challenge.

"Dancing to music is completely different than writing it,” Gruner says, “so it's been interesting to separate myself from Composer Jeremy when I’m trying to be Dancer Jeremy. With just about everything, I either go full force at it or I don't even bother."


You can see Gruner piece in Program A of the Dance Department’s Midwinter Dance Festival, February 13-17 at the Schrott Center for the Arts.  Tickets for all shows are $15 for adults, $10 for 55-and-older, and $7 for children. For tickets and information, visit the Butler Art's Center site.

Arts & Culture

Aaron Hurt Appointed Executive Director of Butler Arts Center

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Jan 14 2019

To know Aaron Hurt is to understand the way he proposed handling his office décor. After moving into his new space tucked away in a corner on the third floor of Clowes Hall, he was stuck on figuring out ways to dismantle the big screen television fixed to his wall and mount it on a rolling device that the entire Butler Arts Center staff could benefit from. He hypothesized different ways to turn the space into a conference room, saying it was much too large for just himself. And he was concerned that the colors weren’t welcoming enough. In the end, none of these changes were made.

But Hurt did insist on one request.

Donald Hurt's paycheck from 1963
Donald Hurt' on payroll from 1963.

He came across a 1963 art deco painting of opening night at Clowes Memorial Hall. He loves art deco work, but it was about much more than just the style. Hurt’s grandfather was there that night in 1963. Donald Hurt was a member of the projectionist union, and when Clowes was ready to open, he was called to help get the stage ready. He hung the original main curtain and worked the first few shows.

“It’s really bonkers,” Hurt says, as he looks up at the painting on his office wall. “To think that my grandfather was hanging the curtain that night, and now I am sitting in this office working here. It’s really not something I take for granted, and we are going to be hands on and inclusive in how we put our stamp on Butler and the greater community.”

Hurt was officially named Executive Director of the Butler Arts Center on January 1, 2019 after serving as interim executive director since August 2018. But this is a role that, in many ways Hurt has been working toward since he was a little boy, and a role that means so much to so many in his extended family.

“This was in his blood and you can just tell by his enthusiasm that he was born to do this,” President James Danko says. “With Aaron, you can hear his passion when he speaks, and when you hear about his family, it is obvious where that comes from.”

Three years after Hurt’s grandfather hung the first curtain at Clowes Hall, his father, Daniel, hopped on his moped at age 16 and headed from the Eastside of Indianapolis to Clowes for his first ever job, sweeping the floors and holding ladders. Daniel would go on to work at Clowes Hall many times over the years. He also worked the beloved summer theater series on the football field.

Aaron was born into a family of projectionists. He was exposed to film, the arts, and theater from a young age, and often went with his father to work. But he first remembers Clowes Hall when he saw his sister, an opera singer, perform there.

“Butler has been a part of our lives for years and for Aaron, this is a scene he has been around since he was in diapers,” Daniel says. “Aaron would come with us to his sister’s performances and practices. It is pretty amazing when you think about it because the connection goes all the way back to my father hanging that curtain. Aaron grew up on this. We are all tied to Butler and Clowes.”

Hurt wanted to run a venue for as long as he can remember, he says. As an arts administration major at Butler, he learned that he could make a career out of running the programming and operations of a place. After graduating in 2008, Hurt worked for the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, the Chicago Children’s Choir, and then made his way back to Butler in 2013, as part-time manager of the Schrott Center. He became full-time later that year, serving as the operations manager. In 2016, after the Butler Arts Center was established, Hurt was promoted to Director of Operations.

He took over as interim Executive Director of the Butler Arts Center in August 2018. When Danko was evaluating what to do about the permanent executive director position, the positive feedback about Hurt was overwhelming.

“Aaron’s passion and enthusiasm for this type of role, coupled with the extraordinary esteem he is held in made him far and away the optimal choice for this position,” Danko says. “I am very excited about him and his potential. It is like an NFL team looking for that young coach who will be a star in 20 years.”

So now, Hurt will work to put his stamp on the place that has been a major part of his and his family’s lives for so long. Something that he called both terrifying and incredible. The goals are numerous.

Donald Hurt backstage at Clowes Memorial Hall
Donald Hurt backstage at Clowes Memorial Hall

Hurt has four major focuses—find new ways to make money, form better partnerships, engage more with the Indianapolis market, and create improved University programming. But, he says, it really does come down to one thing.

The goal is to make the Butler Arts Center an authentic hub for arts programming for all different communities in town. For example, next season, ticket prices will start at $19. This adjustment, he says, is a way to make shows more accessible for a much wider group.

“I want us to be known as open and inviting. I want people to leave happy and to have experienced something they couldn’t have experienced anywhere else in the city,” Hurt says. “That is what Clowes originally was when it started.”

And Hurt would know. He grew up learning about Clowes and hearing about Clowes from a grandfather and father who were there from the beginning. Now, Hurt is ready to take Clowes back to that original model—collaborative and inviting. Just the way he likes his office décor.

Arts & Culture

Aaron Hurt Appointed Executive Director of Butler Arts Center

  A job more than his lifetime in the making.

Jan 14 2019 Read more

The Making of Rejoice!

by Haley Stevenson ’19

Over a hundred sets of eyes rest on Maestro Richard Auldon Clark as he stops rehearsing Hail to Christmas by Victor Herbert to straighten out an error. There’s something missing—the fire and excitement needed to make the piece really pop. “Waltz with me, orchestra! This is a dance!” He says.

Rejoice! has been an essential part of Butler University’s holiday season for years. Each December, Dr. Eric Stark and Dr. John Perkins tag-team this massive undertaking with Professor Clark or Professor Colburn, uniting choir with the symphony orchestra or wind ensemble, depending on the year. The team is always looking for new methods to make the performance exciting for both the players and the audience.

“For me these pop songs have to have a surge of energy,” Professor Clark says. “Everybody’s heard all of these songs before; they can’t be played the same way they always are. This stuff is exciting and passionate! It should explode! We’ll have our pretty and slow moments, but Sleigh Ride isn’t Gustav Mahler.” He means that quite literally—the orchestra really rocks out to Sleigh Ride, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and many other classic favorites.

The ensembles begin rehearsing Christmas music individually as early as mid-October, practicing the pieces to perfection, and then combine rehearsals in November. More than 160 people are all working toward a single goal: making Rejoice! one of the largest group projects that happens on Butler’s campus. Senior violist Meagan Barnett has performed the concert with the orchestra twice and the choir once. “My favorite part about Rejoice! is the amount of students that are on stage making music together. I love collaborating with the different departments in the School of Music and Rejoice! is the perfect opportunity for that!”

Barnett says, “I really enjoy collaborating between the orchestra and the two choirs. As a string player, performing with choirs is a very different experience. We have to be sensitive to them and make sure all of the words can be heard. The Butler Symphony Orchestra is quite large this year so we have had a lot of fun working with the balance and sensitivity of our sound.” There is even more than just the orchestra and two choirs at work: the premiere of a graduate composition student is part of the repertoire, esteemed Butler faculty will give readings between some pieces, and a guest choir from Shortridge High School, the IPS magnet performing arts high school, will perform as well.

Rejoice! is a unique part of Butler’s holiday season because it is probably one of the biggest musical performances the School of Music puts on during the year. It’s a great way to end the fall semester and also a great way for the audience to get into the holiday spirit,” Barnett says. Join Butler’s School of Music and many friends this weekend at Clowes Memorial Hall at 7:30 PM both Friday and Saturday night for a spectacular musical celebration that you won’t want to miss.


Interested in attending this year's Rejoice!? You can buy tickets online or at the Clowes Hall Box Office.

Arts & Culture

The Making of Rejoice!

  “Waltz with me, orchestra! This is a dance!”

The Making of Rejoice!

by Haley Stevenson ’19

Jordan Jazz: Small but Mighty Good

By Haley Stevenson '19

Jordan Jazz is a small ensemble of student jazz singers studying in Butler University’s School of Music. Led by Erin Benedict, the vocal ensemble performs along with a band of students from the jazz program consisting of piano, bass, drums, saxophone, and guitar.

Erin Benedict
Erin Benedict

A graduate of The Manhattan School of Music, Erin Benedict began teaching at Butler a couple of years ago. Outside of Butler, her forte is commercial performance: singing in movie soundtracks and television commercials. Like with any new job, she had doubts, but as soon as she met the students and the group she would be teaching, she knew she was in the right place. “I was approached several times to come here and teach jazz voice and do Jordan Jazz … I’m glad I said yes!”

Jordan Jazz is a unique ensemble because it is so small and close knit. Only eight students meet with Benedict once a week for two hours. Throughout the course of a semester the group gets to know each other very well. “They all set up a group chat and support one another … In a smaller school like Butler, it may be more common, but in a larger school, it’s very unlikely,” Benedict says.

As many music students will note, it can be a struggle to maintain the excitement they had when they first started out – creative passions sometimes become a bit of a job, and a demanding one at that. Jordan Jazz gives students the opportunity to perform in a professional setting, but under less pressure so they can freely express themselves. “I am studying classical music constantly, so I really like being able to come together in this small jazz group. The tight harmonies and intimate settings make it really special," says junior Rowan Squire-Willey.  

Benedict hopes that in the coming years, Jordan Jazz will be one of the elite ensembles at Butler: “I see it being six men and six women … a mixture of a cappella and with instruments. I would love to see some students write things, and I would like to take them out to perform in the community.” That vision may come true as soon as this coming spring, when Benedict is planning to start some community outreach.

If you’d like to see the ensemble’s first performance of the 2018-2019 school year, your chance is this Wednesday, November 28 at 7:30 p.m. in Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall. The performance is free, open to the public, and is sure to be night to remember.   

Jordan Jazz
Arts & CultureStudent Life

Jordan Jazz: Small but Mighty Good

Jordan Jazz, a small ensemble of student jazz singers, takes the stage Wednesday, November 28. 

Jordan Jazz

Jordan Jazz: Small but Mighty Good

By Haley Stevenson '19
Arts & Culture

Butler Theatre Presents The Wolves

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Nov 14 2018

Butler Theatre will present the Indianapolis premiere of Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves, a comic drama that follows the hilarity and heartbreak of a high school women’s soccer team, November 28 through December 2 in the Lilly Hall Studio Theatre.

Show times are:
November 28, 29, and 30 at 7:00 PM
December 1 at 1:00 PM and 7:00 PM
December 2 at 3:00 PM

Tickets are $5-$15. They are available at ButlerArtsCenter.org.

The Wolves, a Pulitzer Prize finalist that's set on an indoor soccer field during a team’s weekly warmup drills, marks the Butler Theatre directorial debut of Assistant Professor of Theatre Courtney Elkin Mohler. She joined the Department of Theatre faculty in fall 2017.

Mohler said she chose the play, which is the fifth-most-produced play in the country during the 2018-2019 season, in large part because she wanted the student-actors to have an opportunity to portray characters who are similar to themselves.

"It’s not all that often that you get to see girls—not young women, but girls—represented in drama that aren’t in relationship to a male character," she said. "They’re not serving as a prize to be won or a distraction or the moral, emotional core of the play. It’s these women who are coming into their own. They’re athletes and they’re serious about their sport and they’re interested in getting recruited by scouts and they have all the crass and funny and inappropriate dialogue that young women, unobserved by their parents or coaches, would."

Mohler said audiences will experience being a fly on the wall of this team as it goes through its practices. The floor of the Lilly Hall Studio Theatre will be covered in Astroturf and the girls will be kicking around soccer balls as they talk.

She said that while the play is about soccer, friendship, and teamwork, it's much deeper than that.

"It's also about fighting hard for what you want, even when you're not given the same resources as—in this case—boys' teams are, or the same type of attention by scouts," she said. "I think it's kind of a metaphor for the women's fight in general in this moment."

The Wolves is the kind of play Mohler has worked on and championed since she was an undergraduate at UCLA. As a junior there, she was "bitten by the academic-theatre bug" and knew she wanted "the captive audience of a classroom."

At 21, she went directly into the doctoral program at UCLA. Her first tenure-track job was at Santa Clara University, a private school in Silicon Valley that’s just a little bigger than Butler.

Three years ago, when her husband, George, a data scientist and Indianapolis native, got hired at IUPUI, the Mohlers relocated to Indianapolis with their children. Courtney spent a year at IUPUI in a position that included teaching American Studies and serving as Director of the Intercultural Literacy, Capacity, and Engagement Department. (Her lineage is Santa Barbara Chumash—Native American people who historically inhabited the central and southern coastal regions of California—and her teaching specialties are in the areas of Critical Race Theory, Native American Studies, and Theatre History.)

Now, in her second year at Butler, she looks forward to presenting The Wolves and other contemporary plays.

"New plays, contemporary plays, ensemble shows are sort of my thing," she said. "So it’s fun to get to do that with these students."

Arts & Culture

Butler Theatre Presents The Wolves

Butler Theatre will present the Indianapolis premiere of Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves.

Nov 14 2018 Read more

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