A Night Under the Stars – Big Top Chautauqua

July 29, 2012

I have volunteered for the Big Top in Bayfield, Wisconsin for more than a decade and this summer has been no exception. For those of you who are unaware, Wisconsin has an amazing outdoor venue (or more precisely a tent venue) on the shores of Lake Superior. I volunteer for the joy of listening to good music, meeting up with my “summer music” friends and spending a night under the stars.

Last night I went to see a new musical house show, The Mountains Call My Name : A musical portrait of environmentalist John Muir. Like all creatures of habit, I have my own ritual when I go to the Big Top. I leave my house early, meander up the highway, stop in Washburn for a mini blizzard at the Dairy Queen, slip into place at the Big Top, grab a bite to eat at the concessions, and then settle down to watch a magnificent show that has me singing along by the end.

I should have known that things were going to be slightly out of kilter this time when I got off to a late start from my house. The late start from my house was worsened by the amount of traffic heading north up Hwy 63. Totally ridiculous as far as I was concerned. Then there was  the construction at the intersection of Hwys 2 and 13 which appears to be the placement of a traffic roundabout. I am not a big fan of roundabouts and even less a fan of road construction, but I knew I was in for it when I reached Washburn and noticed that the Dairy Queen had been closed. Not closed for the day but permanently shuttered with the For Sale sign professionally placed on the grass in front. This was not a good omen. I got a cold chill as I reached the Big Top, fearful that the rest of the night was doomed. I started to breathe a bit easier when I found my typical parking spot just at the base of the hill behind the concession stand. I was feeling relaxed as I spoke with the other regulars and when the show started I was ready to sing.

Now this is where I am supposed to say that the show was amazing. That I enjoyed it so much that I went in search of the CD. But I can’t. I have seen every house show that the Big Top has produced over the years. I love the photos and the vignettes and the music. There is always at least one song that runs through my head all the way home. Although The Mountain Calls My Name has wonderful photography associated with it and I learned a ton of information, musically I was disappointed. There were wonderful moments. My favorite songs being those written or arranged by Severin Behnin – wonderful four part harmonies, reminding me of shape note singing. And I  loved the playing of the spoons during one of the songs. However on the flip side there were songs that just didn’t click, tones that seemed off  and most importantly there was a big hole, something missing … the song that grabs you, the one that makes your insides swell, the one that makes the 65 miles home seem like 10. It never happened. The show ended and I wanted to scream “wait a minute there has to be one more, haven’t you forgotten something.” But no, the show was over and the lights came up. I was bummed. I felt jipped. I had no song to sing on the long ride home. The evening had ended the way it had started, sadly.

Bottomline: I love the Big Top. I will miss the Dairy Queen in Washburn. I don’t think I will be back to see The Mountain Calls My Name. I’ll select a different house show instead when given the option. We’ll see what happens next week with Play Ball.

Choosing Change: Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop Part 2

July 20, 2012

Student painting watercolor inserts for handmade book. Lois Ehlert’s “Eating the Alphabet” used as inspiration.

“Find a way to be a benefit,” my son continually suggested, in response to my constant lament for the return of my lucrative career. I eventually took his advice. By combining years of nutritional research and even more years as a full-time artist, I developed the “Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop,” while applying for an after-school grant opportunity. Drawing upon my interest in watercolor painting, unrelenting enzyme research, and the science of healthy living, this workshop has potential as a universal benefit.

A girl and boy hammer nail holes into book spines.

A Book cover with student’s name and title.

In my previous post, “Choosing Change: Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop,” I described how one of the goals – to provide education about the important connection between raw food, enzymes, and great health – strongly connects to a newer goal – to make consuming raw green vegetables “fun.”  Smoothies, juices, and tasting with dips became sources of “fun.” In this post, art projects are presented as a “fun” way to become more familiar with raw foods.  One watercolor project, the handmade book,allows students to depict the artistic beauty of fruits and vegetables before tasting them. Then health benefits, researched and  printed on labels, are put into their books.

The “trump card”

For students, painting with watercolors can be as challenging as tasting raw green vegetables. They have to acknowledge and accept their beginner’s status. Offering fruit as a tasty “trump card” encourages persistence, especially when painting confidence wanes and students despair or “act out” as a cover up. Offering fruit as a reward, again a “trump card,” also encourages students to taste vegetables, especially raw green ones.

An unexpected outcome, of the workshop, was finding strategies to correct behavior problems. For example, in one class, a student became very frustrated. She first painted the required bright watercolors on a large sheet of paper and suddenly changed to wild erratic black strokes covering most of the colors. She loudly declared it “ugly.” I had instructed students to use the bright colors only. But I told her, “The black paint does not matter and “ugly” has nothing to do with anything.”

Nevertheless, she crumpled the painting, shot it in the wastepaper basket, and stormed out of the room. She eventually returned as we began our tasting session. She asked for more fruit. I requested that she retrieve the discarded drawing and proceed with the assignment to get more fruit and she complied. Luckily, the opportunity to taste raw vegetables, and especially the sweet fruits, helped her and many other students to focus and adjust their behavior.

The “Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop” is interdisciplinary. It incorporates biology, reading, writing, math, science, and visual arts, all while exploring composition, abstraction, page design, color theory, form, and foreground and background relationships in the handmade books.

Evelyn helping Maurice thread a needle.

Fine motor skills—such as painting, cutting folded pages, hammering nails (very loud, but they loved it), threading needles, gluing, and sewing book spines—are developed by various book construction activities. Once completed, the book becomes a resource to share with family and friends. Plus, until its pages are full, more benefits can be added. It reinforces the importance of consuming enzymes, a little known protein nutrient found in raw produce and destroyed by cooking food.

7 year-old Eugene’s book with strawberry and benefit label.

Enzymes can also be found in dried fruits and vegetables, raw nuts, uncooked grains, beans and other uncooked protein foods. Raw green vegetables are emphasized, because students, their teachers, and parents often refuse to eat them.

Combining visual art with tasting raw produce establishes a foundation to enhance creativity, develop self-confidence, and plant seeds for instituting and maintaining health. Consequently, the “Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop” fills in nutrition and art educational gaps, encourages future artists, develops art patrons, and promotes a healthy appetite for daily living.

“The Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop” was awarded a Milwaukee Public School Partnership for the Arts Grant. Matching community funds came from Alice’s Garden, Riverwest Artists Association, Walnut Way Conservation Corp, and Lena’s/Piggly Wiggly. For more information, please email me at terryevelyn@hotmail.com or visit evelynpatriciaterry.com.

– Evelyn Patricia Terry

Choosing Change: Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop

July 7, 2012

Watercolor painting before tasting fruits and vegetables.

“Skittles, cookies, potato chips, Snickers, licorice, Flaming Hots.” That’s how 2nd and 3rd grade students answered my question “What foods ‘raw’ and ‘green’ do you eat?” Little did I know they heard something other than what I intended.

The puzzle began to unravel when a 3rd grader, lining up to leave class, genuinely inquired, “Ms. Terry, why haven’t I seen you at Walgreen’s?”
Completely baffled, I responded, “Why would you see me at Walgreen’s?”
He said, “My dad takes me there all the time and you are never there.”
Speechless, we stared at each other. I thought, “Does he know how many Walgreen’s there are, and why does he think I should be in any of them?”
Then an epiphany occurred.

A discerning facilitator said, “He thought you were saying ‘Walgreen’s’ as you repeatedly said, ‘raw’ and then ‘green’.” That insightful moment, beginning the Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop series revealed the dearth of knowledge that workshop sessions must address about health. Special emphasis on the importance consuming “raw green” and other colored vegetables have on acquiring and maintaining radiant health is necessary.

Hosted by Barack Obama K-12 School (formerly Custer High School), YMCA Young Leaders Academy and Brown Street Academy, in Milwaukee, The Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop, became the perfect vehicle for me to provide beneficial after school activities to students. Implementing it this past school year, I made a serious commitment to lay the groundwork for eating raw green (and other colored) vegetables by planting seeds toward future growth.  But, one day, I was asked, “Isn’t there some way to make eating raw green vegetables fun as well as healthy?” “No,” I answered. “It takes discipline.” Nevertheless, the question lingered in my mind.

Student, with washed hands, juicing.

Thankfully, final student surveys suggested that I help them to “eat raw vegetables” by providing salad dressings. For future workshops, dips and salad dressings will be added to create “fun” for the taste buds.  For students, after all, the point is to get them to eat raw vegetables. They generally like fruit. By adding small amounts of fruits to juiced raw green vegetables, the possibility of “fun” definitely increases. Smoothies, already fun, can be made healthier, with blander tasting raw green vegetables added. Caroline Carter’s smoothie recipe with pineapple, collard greens, and bananas is a hit with everyone.

This workshop is timely. First Lady Michele Obama stresses health on a national level. In Milwaukee, Will Allen, a 2008 MacArthur Genius Award Fellow, founded the organization Growing Power to promote urban farming.

And just published last month, Karen Le Billon’s  French Kids Eat Everything discusses ten rules to accomplish this. One of them, based on French scientific findings, is that children must taste a food a minimum of seven times to accept eating it. She explains how she ridded herself of antiquated beliefs that her children wouldn’t eat healthy foods. And just think, this indulgence reinforces bad habits and ultimately leads to tooth decay, obesity and acute and chronic diseases. Teachers and parents must begin to offer raw fruits and vegetables instead of offering junk food.

With matching community support, Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop, an art and nutrition program, was awarded funding from the Milwaukee Public School Partnership for the Arts and Humanities grant. The grant is an allocation of $1.5 million approved by the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, to support arts and humanities-related opportunities for children and youth in after school and summer programs.  Alice’s Garden, Walnut Way Conservation Corp., Riverwest Artists Association, and Lena’s Piggly Wiggly provided the required matching community funds.

Visual art, with watercolors, is covered in the second blog of a two-part series. For additional information, email terryevelyn@hotmail.com.

–Evelyn Patricia Terry