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Dance Rehearsal
Arts & CultureStudent LifeCampus

New Dance Work To Debut with More than 100 Student Dancers

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Sep 05 2018

Dance Professor Cynthia Pratt wants to give Butler's Class of 2022 a welcome to remember. So she and four student choreographers from the Dance Department have put together a large-scale dance project that will feature the entire department performing on the grassy areas outside Irwin Library and Jordan Hall on Thursday, September 20, from 6:30-7:00 PM.

The dance will celebrate the start of the new academic year and will revolve around the themes and values of the Butler Way. The soundtrack for the dance is expected to incorporate snippets of interviews with students, faculty, and staff talking about their Butler experiences.

"I thought it would be a great opportunity for the department to welcome everyone back to campus," said Pratt, who is starting her 24th year at Butler. "The Dance Department here is significant, but many of the students don't know who we are or what we do. Even though this type of dance isn't what we're known for—we're known for ballet—I thought it would be a wonderful welcome for the whole student body, especially since we have the largest freshman class ever."

Pratt said the idea for an all-department project goes back four years, when she choreographed a dance as part of StreamLines, an outdoor art project that meshed arts and science. She said that project was tough—"they're outside, they're uncomfortable, they're hot, they're rolling around in grass, and there's stuff in that grass"—but it helped create a bond that lasted throughout their college careers.

More than 100 students will participate in the dance.

"We found in the department that when we did those large group dances, the morale in the department skyrocketed," she said. "We found that this was a really positive experience—not just for the students, but for the onlookers as well. These were really successful performances."


Media Contact:
Marc Allan

Dance Rehearsal
Arts & CultureStudent LifeCampus

New Dance Work To Debut with More than 100 Student Dancers

The outdoor performance on September 20 will celebrate the start of the new academic year.

Sep 05 2018 Read more

Meet the Class of 2022: Max Cordoba

When incoming first-year Theatre and Math major Max Cordoba flew to Los Angeles in February to attend the National Unified Auditions—a one-stop shop for high school seniors to audition for multiple universities—he had never even heard of Butler University. The Neward, California native’s intention was to audition for mainly private schools that had a special musical theatre degree, explore those options, and then pick whichever school felt right, offered the best financial aid, and allowed him to learn more about not only the fine arts, but math as well.

He spotted Butler’s name and decided it was in his best interest to at least do one more session—it was additional practice, after all.

In most auditions, Cordoba was asked to perform two monologues and two songs. In the audition with Butler, Professor of Theatre William Fisher asked Cordoba to do one of each to start. Cordoba chose to sing Beautiful City from the Broadway production Godspell. For his monologue, he chose to read an excerpt as Hank from Marvin’s Room—a piece he believed would put him “over the top for the audition.”

After his monologue, Fisher and Cordoba made an instant connection over Marvin’s Room.

"I almost thought my audition with Butler was going to be a practice session, but after my talk with Professor William Fisher, I thought this could be the right school,” Cordoba said.

Cordoba explained to Fisher that he is a big theatre lover, but he wanted to also major in something a little more practical.

“I didn’t want to put all my eggs in one basket, and I wanted to ensure I had math as a back-up since a major in theatre isn’t foolproof,” Cordoba said. “I really needed a school that understood that about me.”

Most schools Cordoba had talked to previously in the day had told him that pursuing math with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) was not a possibility. Fisher explained that at Butler it’s not a BFA, but rather a Bachelor of Arts, which offers more flexibility, as well as the option to incorporate his passion for math.

“He really convinced me to at least explore more,” Cordoba said, “Even though it’s really far away, Butler seemed open to my diverse interests.”

In April, Cordoba—joined by his grandfather—started the on-campus college visit journey,  exploring the various schools he was interested in—including Butler. While on campus, Cordoba had the opportunity to speak with professors, including Chair of the Theatre Department, Diane Timmerman. He also sat in on an improv class.

“The students were making me laugh. Just from that show alone, I saw what I loved about theatre,” he said. “The students were super friendly and amiable, and they love to act and perform.” When he left for his trip, he was excited about all the schools he was about to explore. After the trip, though, he realized that when he was making his rounds, he always found at least one thing he didn’t like—except for when he was at Butler.

“What really set it in stone for me for Butler was that it was a smaller school than most I was looking at, but it had a big school feel,” Cordoba said.

Cordoba arrived on campus August 12, and feels just as excited as nervous—as most students are their first year. Cordoba’s distance from his friends and family definitely makes it harder, especially when he was so involved with various theatre and chorus groups for the past eight years.

Despite the nervousness of new surroundings and being so far from home, Cordoba said he feels honored, “to go to a school that is super accepting and diverse.”

Max Cordoba
Arts & CultureStudent LifePeople

Meet the Class of 2022: Max Cordoba

What brought Max from California to Indiana was Butler Theatre's faculty and flexibility. 

Embracing a Love of Music

Jen Gunnels

from Spring 2016

For the Starost Speicher family, music was and is a gift to be shared with others. Helen Starost Speicher earned her bachelor’s degree from Butler in 1941 and her master’s degree in 1948 before going on to play music professionally, often alongside her sister Lillian, who also earned music degrees from Butler. The sisters embraced a love of music from their parents and grandparents, and spent their lives passing that love on to others. Both women spent many years teaching music in Indianapolis Public Schools and were active in arts organizations throughout the Midwest. 

Together with her husband Bill ’35 and her sister Lillian ’38 MA ’48, Starost Speicher also chose to share her love of music by establishing three scholarships at Butler during her lifetime: The William and Helen Speicher Outstanding Music Performance Award, The Anne Starost Memorial Music Award, and The Starost Speicher Music Memorial Award. 

“My mother and aunt were both professional musicians and they were very grateful for their education,” said Helen and Bill’s daughter Anne Soper. “They wanted to afford others with the same opportunities they had because they knew how difficult it is to become a professional musician, especially how financially difficult it can be.” 

The scholarships also honor Helen and Lillian’s parents, Anne and Charles Starost, who were both accomplished musicians. The three endowed scholarships currently benefit six Jordan College of the Arts students; Whitney Cleveland ’17 is the current recipient of two of those scholarships. 

“It wouldn’t be possible for me to attend Butler without my scholarships,” Cleveland said. “I’m from a small town in western Montana, and while I grew up being very fortunate to have great teachers and strong and thriving community theatre, I didn’t have any friends my age who were serious about music. Being able to be surrounded by talented, dedicated musicians every day inspires me to work harder to fulfill my own potential.” 

Soper says it would have brought her parents great joy to know that the scholarships they established are helping promising students like Cleveland pursue music at Butler. 

“There was a lot of family history at Butler,” Soper said. “Butler was a very special place in their hearts.” 

Arts & Culture

Embracing a Love of Music

by Jen Gunnels

from Spring 2016

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Midwestern Voice in the Capital

Marc Allan

from Spring 2016

During her six years at Butler—four as an undergraduate Arts Administration major and two earning her Master of Music Education— Ursula Kuhar ’05 MM ’07 often thought about moving to Washington, DC. 

In July, Kuhar took over as Executive Director of Washington Concert Opera, which specializes in performing seldom-heard operas. Kuhar calls it “one of the most revered companies in the country.” 

Getting to this point was a journey that began in Powell, Ohio, outside Columbus, where Kuhar had volunteered for her hometown symphony orchestra while in high school. She knew she wanted to pursue a career in music. After meeting with then-Associate Dean of the Jordan College of Fine Arts Steve Roberson, she discovered the idea of Arts Administration as a major. 

Butler’s undergraduate program allowed Kuhar to explore all avenues of music, from business to teaching to performance. She was so taken with what she learned from Professor Michael Sells (“He’s still a huge mentor and guiding force in my life, and a great friend.”) that she wanted to keep studying with him. So she stayed for a master’s degree, taking voice lessons and performance-based classes from Sells, as well as music education classes with another favorite professor of hers, Penny Dimmick. 

Butler led to Indiana University, where Kuhar earned her Doctor of Music in Voice. Three days after graduation in 2011, she was hired by Sweet Briar College as Director and Assistant Professor of Arts Management. She spent four years there—and would have happily stayed longer—but on March 3, 2015, the faculty was assembled and told that the school would be closing on June 30. (That decision was rescinded in mid-June, but not until after Kuhar had accepted her position with Washington Concert Opera.) 

At Sweet Briar, Kuhar had quadrupled enrollment in the arts-management program, helped secure foundation and individual gifts, and “had a wonderful time” there. Now, she enjoys presenting “exquisite music” like Rossini’s Semiramide “to a group of devoted patrons.” 

“It’s a niche that people love,” Kuhar said. 

Plus, there’s the benefit of being in the nation’s capital. The location is head-turning, she said, “but I’m still a salt-of-the-earth, Midwest girl at the end of the day.”


Seeing the Music

Marc Allan

from Spring 2016

Nathan Blume ’03 came to Butler from Fort Wayne, Indiana, with a plan to double-major in Chemistry (on a pre-med track) and Trumpet Performance. A year later, thanks to the guidance of Professor of Music Michael Schelle, he went “all in” on music. 

“Once I did it,” Blume said, “even the act of changing my major, I felt like that was exactly what I wanted to do. It took Schelle to get me to do that. Throughout my time there, he really became a mentor and instilled in me—not just through personal advice but in his teaching—a confidence about myself and my abilities. I always knew that I wanted to come out to L.A. and try film music. I don’t think I’d be out here without Dr. Schelle’s advice and help.” 

Schelle’s confidence proved spot-on—Blume’s resume now includes composing music for The CW Network’s Arrow and The Flash, CNN’s The Seventies, NBC’s Blindspot, and the popular web series Vixen

But before Blume got to Hollywood, there were detours—a master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University to build up his composition chops, followed by a couple of years with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra while he and his future wife, Megan McGarry ’05, figured out their next steps. They married in 2006 and moved to California in 2007 so he could attend the University of Southern California’s (USC) Thornton Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program. That one-year intensive curriculum, taught by working professionals, is “the front door into the film music industry,” Blume said. “That’s where you meet a lot of people and you start networking.” (In the meantime, McGarry founded and now serves as principal of a charter middle school in San Fernando.) 

After USC, Blume found work consistently, first on short films, then on the TV series Eastwick, where he began collaborating with well-established composer Blake Neely. Blume credits his education for teaching him not only how to compose music but how to work fast (composers typically only get a week to write 35 minutes of music for a 42-minute show) and appreciate the way his work fits with everyone else’s. 

“You want something that sets the tone for the piece,” he said. “You’re working as a collaborator. It’s not about you and your musical abilities. It’s about your ability to work with the project and accomplish the end goal that everyone’s trying to accomplish.” 

Arts & Culture

Seeing the Music

by Marc Allan

from Spring 2016

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From Bulldog to Ogre

Marc Allan

from Spring 2016

Where in the world is John Thyen?

Depending on when you’re reading this, the 2010 graduate could be in Egypt dressed as a green ogre. Or in Asia, disguised as one of the three little pigs. Or in Australia singing in a chorus. Throughout 2016, Thyen is on a world tour with Shrek: The Musical, understudying the title role while also appearing nightly as a featured ensemble player. 

“I’ve never left the country before,” he said prior to the tour, which began in January 2016 in Istanbul. “So I think it’s going to be life-changing to see so many different cultures and bring an art form that is awesome to so many different places.” 

Thyen grew up in Valparaiso, Indiana, and chose Butler because the Jordan College of the Arts (JCA) offered an all-encompassing degree rather than a specialized one. Versatility, he realized, would be important for someone hoping to break into theatre. In fact, after sophomore year, Thyen changed his major to Arts Administration so he’d have a fully rounded view of the business. That, he said, “has been a huge benefit for me as a professional.” 

After graduation, Thyen worked in Butler’s Office of Annual Giving for seven months, then took a job at a nonprofit for about a year. In his off hours, he performed in the Indianapolis Civic Theatre’s production of Rent and with Indianapolis Opera. But at work, he found himself thinking, “I’d rather be in rehearsal right now.” Thyen felt he owed it to himself to try to be a full-time actor. 

So he packed up a car and drove to New York. He lined up a place to live and a temporary job and went to auditions. That led to some Off-Broadway and regional theatre work, then a national tour of Seussical the Musical. And now Shrek, where he will be dressed in 70-75 pounds of costume and prosthetics and, some nights, airbrushed in green paint. (Follow his trip on Instagram or his website, 

Thyen said that when he took off for New York, the initial reaction from family and friends was mixed. “Your family is always a little bit like, ‘Oh, you’re going to give up a salary and benefits to go be a waiter.’ But I think they saw that I really wanted to do it,” he said, “and I’ve been able to show that hard work pays off.” 

Arts & Culture

From Bulldog to Ogre

by Marc Allan

from Spring 2016

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Setting the Barre

Cindy Dashnaw

from Spring 2016

While most high-school juniors were getting their driver’s licenses, Karnjanakorn “Gift” Sapianchai was saying goodbye to everyone and everything she knew. 

She was moving 8,100 miles from home to dance ballet. 

“Home” is Bangkok, Thailand, on Southeast Asia’s Indochina peninsula. While younger Thai children can learn ballet at studios, dance offerings in general are severely limited in her country, Sapianchai said. 

“I think art hasn’t developed in the same way there that it has here or in Europe. Sports are more developed [in Thailand]. My sister is a swimmer for the national team, and she plans to try out for the Olympics in a few years. 

"Dancing allows me to express what's inside of me."

“I started ballet because my parents thought it would improve my posture,” she said. “I also did piano, art lessons, swimming, all the other sports. Eventually, they all went away except for ballet.” 

Sapianchai’s ballet instructors followed the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) syllabus, an internationally recognized portfolio of exams and assessments that outline a progressive structure for learning and achievement. But it goes only so far in a culture that doesn’t value ballet, she said. Bangkok City Ballet is the country’s only professional ballet company. 

Fortunately, a teacher in Sapianchai’s studio danced professionally and recognized her potential. He recommended that she audition for the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, DC. 

“I sent in a video, and they accepted me,” Sapianchai said. “We had academics in the morning, then four hours of ballet in the afternoon and sometimes rehearsals.” 

The experience strengthened her love of ballet. She chose to attend Butler because she knew it had one of the top dance programs in the country and offered a wide range of dance styles. 

“Even if you’re a dance major, you’re not restricted to just dancing. You can take Arts Administration, Arts Pedagogy, or the History of Dance. The Dance professors really know what they’re doing, and students are very connected to them. They offer you very personal advice,” she said. 

“And they encourage you to do a second major or a minor that’s completely separate from Dance, so that when you graduate, you don’t feel like your only option is to be a professional dancer. You will have other skills.” 

Sapianchai appreciates the “strong sense of community in Ballet, the College, the entire campus” she has found at Butler. She also is glad for the hard work. 

“In the RAD system, it is the same class every single day, just repeated. Here, at Butler and at Kirov, every class is different. They make your brain work in different ways because you have to apply different combinations to music you may never have heard before. 

“I grew up with a lot of classical ballet. I wasn’t aware of other types of ballet like modern or Balanchine. Now that I’m here, I’m doing a wide repertoire and learning there’s a lot more to ballet,” she said. 

Sapianchai plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in Dance Performance, then audition for a dance company here in Indianapolis. 

“Ballet allows me to express myself. I’m not a very vocal person, so dancing allows me to express what’s inside of me,” she said. 

Arts & Culture

Setting the Barre

by Cindy Dashnaw

from Spring 2016

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Art: The Secret Ingredient

Cindy Dashnaw

from Spring 2016

Common Core State Standards outline what to teach students so they can graduate. What the standards don’t address is how to do that.

In this void, College of Education (COE) Professor Arthur Hochman saw an opportunity for Butler to influence the way teachers teach and students learn for decades to come.

Art Meets Education

We know today that the arts improve educational performance. But it wasn’t until 2002 that a first-of-its-kind research study showed that students exposed to arts education scored higher on standardized tests, developed better social skills, and had more motivation than their counterparts.

Hundreds of studies since have reached the same conclusion: Integrating the arts with other subjects improves the performance of K-12 students. 

Why, then, haven’t schools changed? 

“In 2002, teachers weren’t being taught to teach this way,” Hochman said. “And they still aren’t, for the most part—frankly, because standardized tests don’t emphasize it.” 

Teachers who might want to add an arts component to lesson plans are on their own.

“They have only their own experience to draw from. And think about that: all of us—teachers—included, grew up doing sums on the board, not moving in front of the class,” Hochman said. “So how can we expect them to naturally integrate an art form into the way they teach?” 

Hochman’s solution began with his creation of the Arts Integration (AI) course.

Art for All

Hochman recruited Tim Hubbard, Arts Integration Specialist, to help teach the required course in 2004. AI ensures that future teachers get a base of knowledge about successfully marrying the arts with other subjects. 

It’s our responsibility as an educational institution, Hochman said. 

“We always hear that the arts are for everyone, but they’re not. When families cannot afford to take their children to a performance or exhibit, school is their only chance,” said Hochman. “We want to make sure teachers know how to give students what they need.”

The arts can be integrated into any subject—math, for example. Twenty students solving the same equation may come up with the same answer. But when they can use their bodies to express their thought processes, Hochman said, individuality, retention, and attitudes soar. 

“The arts are inherently personal. They demand our own interpretation. So when I, as a student, connect math with the physical movement of my body, the math becomes a personal expression of me. After all, what am I more connected to than me?” he said.

Effective Arts Integration

The approach intrigued Superintendent of Kokomo-Center Consolidated School Corporation Jeff Hauswald. He asked Hochman and Hubbard for help in developing an arts-integrated elementary school. Thanks to exceptional community support, the Wallace School of Integrated Arts opened in 2012 with a waiting list. Eleven of its 14 teachers are Butler graduates. 

One of those is Veronica Orech ’14, who wrote in an email that Butler transformed her ideas on how to be a teacher. She also saw the approach at the Indianapolis Public Schools/Butler University Lab School 60, a COE partner. 

"The arts are inherently personal. They demand our own intepretation."

“No matter the subject, arts integration is my favorite way to teach. The overall experience is more rewarding for everyone involved because everyone is more motivated to take ownership of their learning experience—myself included,” she wrote. 

For more information, visit the Wallace School of Integrated Arts

The Art of Creating Butler Artsfest

Patricia Snyder Pickett ’82, APR

from Spring 2016


Those who perceive Butler ArtsFest as a showcase of the Jordan College of the Arts (JCA) are clearly not in tune with the vision of Ronald Caltabiano, JCA dean. 

Launched in 2013, ArtsFest has evolved into an annual event that presents renowned performing and visual artists from around the globe alongside students and faculty from JCA. 

It all began when Caltabiano, a New York native, landed on Butler’s campus in 2011 as its newly appointed Dean of JCA. Along with JCA faculty and staff, he quickly began to formulate plans for an event that would not only feature the many facets of the College, but one that would be rooted in collaboration and create a cross pollination of artistic talent spilling well beyond the Butler campus. 

That vision ultimately became the first Butler ArtsFest— themed “Revolution!”—that premiered in April 2013 with 40 performances and events over an 11-day period. That premiere provided a festive and impressive backdrop for the opening of the Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts. 

“It was evident from that first year that there was much more to it than celebrating the launch of the new building,” said Caltabiano. “For our students, Butler ArtsFest is a way for them to progress. It enables them to collaborate across the arts. We know that—with the most rare of exceptions—that will serve them well in their careers after Butler.” That concept is well illustrated among the students of JCA. 

Caltabiano points to a piece of art on his office wall. “I asked the student who painted that piece what she was doing during the summer,” he recounted. “She said, ‘Well, my real major is theatre, but I’m going to spend the summer playing violin in a rock band.’ That’s really an example of what the future holds for these young artists— that sort of multifaceted work across many platforms.” 

It’s a stark contrast to the perceived classic tradition of arts education. From an academic standpoint, Professor of Music at Butler and Orchestral Conductor Richard Auldon Clark believes cross-disciplinary collaboration at the college level is imperative to both ArtsFest and the future of the arts. 

“It’s great to embrace our history and the past, but not at the expense of the future,” Clark said. “Providing this breadth of work through ArtsFest, and the relationship the experience creates for all those involved, translates into one of the most unique and valuable programs a liberal arts college can offer.” 

It’s also a valuable driver of support, both on and off the Butler campus, according to Caltabiano. 

“Initially, we had a few skeptics … but they gave me a ‘bye’ the first year. By the second year, they began to see how it helped our students, our reputation, and our bottom line. Now people at the University and in the arts community are embracing it year-after-year.” 

By embodying the essence of Butler’s arts program, ArtsFest provides an ideal opportunity for potential students and donors alike to engage with the University. Perhaps no one understands this better than Howard Schrott ’76, whose generous gift helped move Butler’s new, state-of-the-art performing and visual arts venue from the drawing board to fruition. 

“As we chatted with Butler, we landed on this idea that arts students truly needed a ‘lab space’—much like the business or science students—in which to practice their craft,” according to Schrott, who said he was initially drawn to the arts from his high school years spent playing the saxophone. “Butler ArtsFest is a wonderful way of bringing that ‘lab experience’ to the stage.” 

“We are right on track with my vision,” said Caltabiano, “It began with a 10-year plan to grow the festival from a budget of less than $100,000 to $1 million. While we initially hosted all performances on Butler’s campus, as we grow, we want to include off-campus performances as a means to further enhance our students’ experiences and position Butler as a leader in the Central Indiana arts scene.” 

Now in its fourth year, Butler ArtsFest 2016 will take place April 7–17 with more than 40 performances and events, including dance, music, theatre, visual arts, and family programs. From the measured beats of the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet to the ancient sounds of a chanting Buddhist nun, from newly commissioned dance and theatre productions to a work composed in a Nazi POW camp, this year’s theme “Time and Timeless”—drawn from Indiana’s bicentennial celebration—explores the many ways we think about, measure, and use time.

Arts & Culture

The Art of Creating Butler Artsfest

by Patricia Snyder Pickett ’82, APR

from Spring 2016

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The Arts at Butler

S. L. Berry

from Spring 2016

The arts are more than an essential part of Butler University's academic mission. They exemplify Butler’s emphasis on experiential education, show our commitment to diversity, and bring our entire community together. In fact, as a magnet for Indianapolis-area residents, they attract more people to the campus annually than any other activity. 

Butler’s central role in the cultural vitality of Indianapolis is the basis of the Arts at Butler, a new strategy for positioning the University as the arts and culture hub of Central Indiana. Its foundation is the collective strength of Butler’s interdisciplinary academics, performing arts events and venues, and community-centered programs. 

“The Arts at Butler is what we are,” said Ron Caltabiano, Dean of the Jordan College of the Arts (JCA). “We teach each art form in the context of other art forms.” Pointing to the University’s nationally acclaimed dance program as an example, he said its students explore music, theatre, and visual arts, as well as arts administration. It’s an approach designed to deepen their understanding of—and appreciation for—creative and practical concerns outside of their discipline. 

To that end, the Arts at Butler offers a unified approach to promoting the array of art experiences available on campus. “We do more and more collaborative work,” said Susan Zurbuchen, Chair of JCA’s Arts Administration program. “But audiences still tend to identify as those who love dance, those who love theatre, those who love music, and so forth. We’re trying to help people understand they can experiment a little bit with what they attend.” 

Such campus events as the annual Butler ArtsFest provide an opportunity to do precisely that. Every April, ArtsFest brings renowned performing and visual artists from throughout the world to campus to take part in a diverse range of events alongside students and faculty members. It’s a chance for artists and audiences alike to expand their horizons. 

Building relationships with government agencies and corporations enables Butler to bring international artists to Central Indiana. The Arts at Butler will help focus attention on the diversity of those artists, with the goal of attracting equally diverse audiences. 

“There’s a great energy on and off campus about what the arts at Butler can mean for our students and for Indianapolis.”-Ron Caltabiano

Diversity is also the basis of the University’s community outreach programs, which have long been an important part of its relationship with its neighbors as an anchor institution in Midtown and Greater Indianapolis. The Arts at Butler enables the University to highlight such success stories as the Butler Community Arts School (BCAS), which provides instruction to 2,000 students ages 5 to adult throughout the academic year. Summer camps give another 10,000 underprivileged children the chance to explore the arts. 

In addition to community outreach through the BCAS program, Clowes Memorial Hall marks its 25th season of arts education programming for students, teachers, and parents statewide through their “Experience Learning Through the Arts” energizing, educational, and inspirational offerings. Throughout the program’s history, Butler’s campus and Clowes have welcomed and hosted over 1,000,000 patrons— many experiencing their first live theatre performance in support of educational curriculum and academic standards. A life-changing event for many cultivating informed and educated arts consumers of the future. 

“We want the Central Indiana community to see Butler not just as a place for a great education and the home of a great basketball team,” said Zurbuchen, “but as a place that positively impacts quality of life in the neighborhood, city, and region.” 

Contributing to that vision is the variety of professional venues on campus. From the 110-seat Black Box theatre and 140-seat Eidson-Duckwell Recital Hall to the 450-seat Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts and 2,200-seat Clowes Memorial Hall, the venues comprising the newly created Butler Arts Center offer settings ranging from intimate to grand. They also offer opportunities to experience everything from student recitals to Broadway tours. 

Additional opportunities stem from the collaborative relationships the University enjoys with professional arts organizations, including the American Pianists Association, Dance Kaleidoscope, Indianapolis Children’s Choir, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, and Indianapolis Opera—all of which perform at Butler’s venues, with most maintaining administrative offices on campus. 

“I don’t think there’s another university that has as many professional arts organizations on its campus,” said Caltabiano. Such proximity provides students with opportunities to learn from arts professionals, as well as to attend performances and events held by these organizations on and off campus. 

Overall, the Arts at Butler strategy is based on the synergy between students, venues, performers, and the community. Its vision has Butler as the fulcrum—the supportive and sustaining center of arts and culture in Central Indiana. 

“There’s a great energy on and off campus about what the Arts at Butler can mean for our students and for Indianapolis,” said Caltabiano. “By bringing together all of our considerable assets, we have the opportunity to create a world-class center for arts and culture thought, programming, and innovation right here at Butler University.” 

Arts & Culture

The Arts at Butler

by S. L. Berry

from Spring 2016

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AcademicsArts & CulturePeople

Playing the Long Game


PUBLISHED ON Jun 05 2018

Annie Sullivan MFA '12 finds herself wearing a lot of gold-beaded jewelry these days. What better way to call attention to the release of her first young-adult novel, A Touch of Gold?

On this particular day, she's wearing a gold/orange beaded necklace that a friend gave her. Her bracelet is made up of strands of overlaid beads of gold, a gift from the Chicago Pearl Company to accent her outfits as she promotes the book.

A Touch of Gold, which comes out August 14, tells the story of King Midas' daughter, Princess Kora, 10 years after she'd been turned to gold by her father. She's now back to life, but with some lasting side effects—one of which is that she can sense other objects her father turned to gold. When those objects get stolen, she goes on a quest to find them.

Along the way, Kora faces off with pirates and thieves and discovers not only who to trust but who she is. Ultimately, A Touch of Gold is about a girl finding herself and becoming comfortable in skin that makes her unlike everyone else.

Sullivan—the first fiction writer from Butler's MFA in Creative Writing program to earn a book deal—said she and Kora have plenty in common, from their appearance (short in stature, with long, golden hair) to their adventurous spirit, toughness, and sticktoitiveness.

"I write strong female characters who can stand up for themselves," she said. "People who have a little Disney princess in them but also have that hardcore side where they say, 'I can handle this.'"

But while Kora battles in the fantasy world, Sullivan must deal with the real world: the often exasperating, slow-moving world of publishing.

"Writing," she said, "is not for the weak. You've got to have a strong constitution and be willing to never give up."

Sullivan, who grew up in Indianapolis and earned her undergraduate degree from Indiana University, began writing her book as an MFA student at Butler. She chose Butler's graduate program in creative writing because she found that it was open to many different styles of writing.

"People were writing ghost stories and middle-grade stories, and I'm over here writing fairy-tale retellings," she said. "And they were open to that. I know there are other programs where they really look down on genre fiction and anything that's not literary fiction."

Still, Sullivan started off unsure. The first assignment she turned in was a short story about an old man whose wife died in a car accident. She hated the story and so did everyone else in the class. "I'm sure I went back to my car and cried," she said.

Next came the breakthrough moment: She decided that next she submitted a story, "I'm going to turn in something that actually represents me."

That story turned out to be the first chapter of what became A Touch of Gold. Her classmates recognized her passion, she said, and they approved.

"Annie was obviously very talented," Associate Professor of English Mike Dahlie said. "But more important, she was wholly devoted to her writing. Her kind of unfettered and patient love of storytelling is always why people get book deals."

That was in 2010.

Over the next seven years, Sullivan continued writing. Finished the first draft of A Touch of Gold. Read about agents (she recommends for that) and sent query letters to more than 100 before she found one who appreciated her work. Wrote a second book. Then a third. Attended the Midwest Writers Workshop. Revised the first book based on feedback from the workshop. Received a rejection from one publisher saying the book was too dark. Received a rejection from another publisher the next day saying the book wasn't dark enough.

Finally, in August 2017, her agent called: She sold the book to Blink, a young-adult imprint of HarperCollins.

"You've got to be in this for the long game," Sullivan said. "And it is a long game. It's a game of timing and finding the right person who loves your work."

Now, while she continues in her day job working for Wiley Publishing as copy specialist on the content-marketing team, Sullivan is working on another book, writing articles for Young Adult websites to help publicize A Touch of Gold, planning to attend the American Library Association's midwinter conference to sign advance reader copies of her book, setting up school visits, and thinking about a book launch party in August.

She gives Butler's MFA program a great deal of credit for her success—from providing her time and motivation to write, to having professors and critique partners to guide her writing, to having the freedom to tell the kinds of stories she likes to tell.

"I can't describe how much they helped me," she said. "Everything fell into place through Butler to make my writing dreams come true."

Find Annie Sullivan on Twitter (@annsulliva), Facebook (Author Annie Sullivan) or on her blog (


Media contact:
Marc Allan MFA '18


AcademicsArts & CulturePeople

Playing the Long Game

Annie Sullivan MFA '12 spent eight years on her book "A Touch of Gold." That sticktoitiveness is about to pay off.

Jun 05 2018 Read more
Arts & CulturePeople

Lights! Camera! Action! Dance!


PUBLISHED ON Jun 01 2018

Stirling Matheson '09, who already has dancer and writer on his resume, is adding a new credit: film director.

Absolution, his short film of a dance Sarah Farnsley '10 choreographed, will premiere at the Dances With Films independent-film festival in Los Angeles on June 8 at the world-famous TCL Chinese Theatre.

"It's a very different kind of directing," said Matheson, who danced with Ballet Theatre of Maryland, founded Ballet Theatre of Indiana in 2014, and has written for Dance magazine, among other publications. "I'm used to directing my company, and that's about training it to be repeatable so that it goes right for the one shot you get on stage. But we had five hours to do this, which was a new experience, for sure."

The film, which runs almost seven minutes and features five Butler University graduates among the company, visits the House of the Rising Sun, which in folklore is an allegory for purgatory. There, in the pouring rain, all the dancers are grappling with their guilt and figuring out how to forgive themselves for whatever went wrong in their lives. As they come to terms with their issues, they can go off into the purple light and the rest of the afterlife. But for some people, that takes more time than others.

Absolution debuted as a dance piece about two years ago during a Ballet Theatre of Indiana performance at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. As he watched, Matheson was struck by the details and angles in the choreography. He began to envision it as a film.

""I had some ideas of exactly what I wanted in lighting, which was different from the stage version," he said. "The original version was stark white side light. I thought it would end up looking dead on film. There was a bit of symbolism in the colors that we used, that pale melancholy blue-gray on the right side of the frame and then as they traveled from right to left, they went into that more ethereal death and rebirth-looking purple.""

He describes his role in the production as "translator" between Director of Photography Bryan Boyd and Farnsley, who made sure the film was true to her choreography.

They shot the film from 10:00 PM to 3:00 AM on a night when "it was 60 degrees and I was literally spraying them with a sprinkler the whole time," Matheson said. "They're some pretty tough ladies."

The dancers include Michelle Quenon '15, Anne Mushrush '15, Lauren Nasci '14, Audrey Robson '14, Christina (Presti) Voreis '14, and Catherine Jue '15. They're all part of the Ballet Theatre of Indiana company, which concluded its fourth season this spring.

Matheson said the Indianapolis debut of the film version of Absolution will likely take place during Ballet Theatre of Indiana's fifth season, which will be announced this summer. He suggested that people who want to see the film check out Ballet Theatre of Indiana's website.

"I'm never mad when people go to and sign up for the newsletter if they want to see us flail our limbs in person, rather than on the screen," he said, laughing. "I mean, that's what dancing is—it's limb-flailing. But good limb-flailing."


Media contact:
Marc Allan MFA '18


Arts & CulturePeople

Lights! Camera! Action! Dance!

Stirling Matheson '09, Sarah Farnsley '10 combine to turn a dance into a film.

Jun 01 2018 Read more