Seventh Heaven

Walking through Athens, Ohio, a tour guide will point out the grandeur of Schoonover Center or the intricate design of Baker University Center; but to some, it’s the Vernon R. Alden Library that catches their eye and distracts them from the rest of College Green.

The library towers over Baker Center and College Green; its long, rectangular eyes watching over the thousands upon thousands of students who come and go from its contemporary structure. Many fear the responsibility that comes with entering the library, it’s where people go to be stressed not become stress-free.

For me, on the contrary, it’s just where I want to be while at college; well, maybe not so much on the weekends but you get my point. The windows, reflecting the blue sky or making patterns of rain on a wet day, are welcoming. As I walk toward the fourth floor entrance with its revolving doors, “The American Woman” – the statue in Wolfe Garden, – is always there to greet me.

“The American Woman” stands prominently outside the back entrance of Alden Library.

In the spring, fresh flowers surround the bronze statue, but for me, when white snow falls around the statue, and her figure is a stark blue against the white snow, that is when the art and the library are the most beautiful.

Although I enter on the fourth or second floor, it’s the seventh level that is my favorite place in Athens, Ohio. Rows and rows of books, red, blue, green, are all parallel to one another in bookcases that fill the entire square footage of the floor. Desks are situated next to the windows, where the studious become the watchers. At times, the ability to see out and watch the busy lives below can be distracting but the connection to the outside is also calming.

I hear people comment about the smell of the seventh floor, expressing distaste in the poignant musk of the old books. It’s a smell I appreciate, who knows when those old books will be replaced by cold, thin technology that doesn’t crack when you open it or flutter as you flip through it. I’m being dramatic, I know, but when it comes to the seventh floor of Alden I can’t help but be swept up in it.

No library can ever be complete without books.

But just what makes the seventh floor better than all the others? It’s not just the books or the view, but the silence that comes with being at the very top of the library. The floor enforces the no-talking rule; the only sounds heard tend to be the shuffling of feet, the faint beat of someone’s study music or the ding of the elevator. I do my best to chew gum as quietly as possible or take my bagel out of a crinkly paper bag by moving as slowly as possible.

People respect your study space, they respect your need to work diligently without being interrupted by loud conversations about weekend antics or who won Sunday’s playoff game (sadly, not the Steelers).

Alden Library is where I go to better myself, its seventh floor gives me a serene place to relax and focus on my workload. It’s a sanctuary for those who want to get away from the world but still be able to look out and see the busy lives below. For these reasons and more, Alden Library is my favorite place in Athens, Ohio.

What happens to our favorite Bobcat bands after graduation?

College is a chance to discover the real person that’s been cultivating under the parental units for the last 18 or so years. For some it’s exploring the vices their parents attempted to curtail, others it’s the chance to think differently how they were raised, but in general it’s a time for self-discovery.

A few braves souls chose to do this in front of crowds atop one of the many stages in Athens. The music scene in Athens is unique as the influx of new blood from the university allows for a large diversity of musical acts to form and flourish.

The constant flow of new musicians is sadly accompanied by the older generation leaving Athens as they graduate or decide to move on. While the desire to play may linger on, it can be extremely difficult to continue when members may be scattered across the country. As their time in Athens comes closer to the end Wes Gilbert of Smizmar and Evan Amerio of Apemode spoke of their personal experiences.

Building community through art with Honey for the Heart

For the last month local artists, both townie and student have collaborated making puppets for the annual Honey for the Heart parade. This year the various projects had to work around the central theme of birds, with each project taking on a different interpretation. Each puppet is unique not only in look, but how it operates, what it’s materials, and overall theme itself. Honey for the Heart is done on a volunteer basis where even the artistically challenged can help. This week anyone can stop by to help finish the puppets from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this week before the parade at 6 p.m. this Saturday at Central Venue on Carpenter Street.

Passion Works Studios brings community members together for fall fling

 

Passion Works Studios hosted a “fall fling” Saturday, October 22, for community members to mingle with Passion Works artists and celebrate the autumn season. The fling consisted of live music, free food, pumpkin decorating and more!

Bacon, cheese, and Chinese food: the non-kosher loves of Julie Goldman

Looking back at when Julie Goldman’s brother burnt down her family’s house after throwing a cigarette butt beneath the porch, she claimed it was the best thing that ever happened to her.

“I could dyke around all I wanted after that!” she said, kicking out her leg as the audience laughed.

Julie Goldman, a comedian  who has performed on Comedy Central, Bravo and E!, brought bold and snappy humor to Ohio University’s Baker Center Theatre Tuesday night (February 9th). Although her act, sponsored by the LGBT Center, Campus Involvement, Performing Arts Series and Hillel at OU, was filled laughter and prancing around the stage, Goldman tackled bolder topics– lesbian stereotypes, what it means to be feminine or masculine (or, as she put it, “mascu-lean”), and breaking through the glass ceiling of the comedy world– with a serious tone.

Julie Goldman, who is described by ____ as "Part Jewish, Part Lesbian, All Parts Funny," posed with audience members after the show.
Julie Goldman, who is described as “One Part Jewish, One Part Lesbian, All Parts Funny,” posed with audience members after the show.

 

But not too serious.

Goldman told of the dilemmas and joys that came with growing up in a Jewish family. She described her mother, Phyllis, as being “four feet tall and full of disappointment,” as well as high-strung, intense, and commanding. Phyllis was a key figure in the comedy act, and Goldman impersonated her loud, fast-talking voice throughout her routine.

“She’s not angry,” Goldman said. “She’s just Jewish.”

Goldman also described the troubles of kosher living. She admitted that, like many other Jews, she loves Chinese food and looked forward to every Christmas when her family would “break the rules,” and get take-out.

“It’s literally made from pork and Christians!”

After that statement, one member of the audience whispered, “She’s like a Jewish Ellen.”

Goldman highlighted her loves for cheese, bacon, cheese and bacon, and cheese and bacon in croissants, as well, and she discussed the other taboos of the Jewish home: nudity and privacy.

Although much of her comedy act centered on her Jewish heritage, Goldman also discussed sexism and how it plays into her career.

“I’ve learned a lot about women by watching TV,” she said. After all, women love to go shopping, talk about lunch, clean the house for their husbands, get proposed to, attend pole dancing classes, unwind in their favorite lingerie set, and erotically eat by themselves. “I think sexism is the root of all evil.”

She ended her comedy bit with “the power of lesbian folk rock music,” singing a song she created herself: “Pro-Choice.”

delfin bautista of the LGBT center, whose laughter could be heard above everyone else’s during portions of the show, said they identified with Goldman because their “Cuban mother was very much like her mom.” They were worried the show’s attendance would be affected by the snowy weather, but the theater was nearly full.

“There’s so much power in her story, ” bautista said. “She tackled issues that matter, but no one wants to discuss.”

 

 

 

 

 

A Guardian Alien

Black, White and the Meaning In-Between: The Ӕthelred Eldridge Mural

Part of the Eldridge muralBlack and white figures dance around the ceiling, telling me to come join them. They are almost taunting me, with their distorted limbs and smiling faces. Small sentence-like structures fence in the different humans, telling tales of writers past, greek mythology and music from different times. The wall that they live on stands so tall that I have to crane my neck to see the top, where the black paint ends and the plain ceiling starts. The air is crisp and runs through the opening to the psychedelic mural, whispering secrets to me from the artist, Ӕthelred Eldridge.

Athens is full of mysteries and places unseen by a lot of the student population. My favorite mystery resides on the side of the old Seigfred art building in a cove hidden from plain view. In 1966, the avant-garde artist and professor Ӕthelred Eldridge was commissioned to paint a mural on the side of the building in his famous style. His style is reminiscent of Mayan hieroglyphs mixed with Picasso-like figures, but he has his own twist that makes it uniquely his. Since then, some form of his work has been present on the side of the building, from almost all words to circular pieces to the now boxy figures that lie against the wall.

Æthelred Eldridge poses on scaffolding with his mural under the connecting bridge between two parts of Ohio University's art building, Siegfred Hall in 1966.
Æthelred Eldridge poses on scaffolding with his mural. Image: University Archives, Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections, Ohio University Libraries

When I first saw the mural, I had no idea what I was looking it. To me, it looked like a jumble of lines and nonsense words with no actual meaning. But after being assigned to write a story about the rededication of the mural for The Post, I found a new, deeper meaning for the hidden, sacred portrait of the thoughts of Ӕthelred Eldridge. Eldridge, who is a deeply complex, innovative and ethereal thinker, shares his thoughts on the morality and experiences of the world on the wall in a beautifully simple, yet complex way. If you were to know nothing about the man, the mural would be just another piece of art to you. But after studying him and his life, I found the meaning of the mural, which makes it ever more beautiful.

So if you find yourself meandering around campus one day, stop, sit and look at the mural of the tortured genius Ӕthelred Eldridge on the back wall of Seigfred Hall. You may just find your new favorite spot in Athens.

 

Coffee-themed opera makes buzz at Ohio University

Voice students at Ohio University’s school of music performed “caffeinated opera scenes” in their quirky production of L’Esperesso D’Amore. They used a classical art form, opera, to explore contemporary, first-world experiences such as powerful caffeine addictions, “The Coffee Cantata,” crushing on the local barista, “Taylor the latte boy” and having your partner give more attention to his/her iPhone than you, “Telephone.”

“These are a few of my favorite things” about L’ Espresso D’ Amore:

1.) Culture Clashphoto

Act one was set in a mock Donkey Coffee, who helped sponsor the event. Act two took place in a young woman’s pink, Ikea-decorated apartment. These settings provided hilarious incongruity with the performers’ classical vocal training. Just imagine a Bob Marley-style beanie-wearing barista with mutton chops singing from Bach’s Cantata.

2.) Shameless Performances

Guest artist Melissa Brobeck stole the show with “Taylor the Latte Boy,” in her neon-yellow stockings, glittery dress and cropped, spiky, red hair (see feature photo). But it wasn’t just her outfit that drew all eyes and ears. She comically-swooned and literally fell over her crush, the beanie-wearing barista, played by Tyler Thress. Her rocker-inspired dance poses and comedic largess made this song both delightful and hilarious. She joyfully recalled the moment “at 8:11 this morning,” when she swore that the latte boy gave her “extra foam,” at which she suggestively slid her hands up her hips.

3.) Satire

In “The Coffee Cantata,” Anne Yuan sang about her hopeless love for coffee with comedic sincerity in the melodramatic style of opera. Her father, played by Bryan Daly, disapproved of her coffee habit, of course. Yuan’s character snuck shots of espresso with the same manic anticipation of a crack-cocaine addict. Yuan lamented her father’s disdain, woefully singing “what’s wrong with drinking coffee?” to which Daly responded in his tenor vibrato, “everything is wrong with drinking coffee.”

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Yuan and Daly. Photo courtesy OU Voice Division.

4.) Relevance

Despite it’s light-hearted tone, L’ Espresso D’ Amore brought up some important questions about modern life and its strange quirks that we take for granted. In “Telephone,” the boyfriend of a woman who’s obsessed with her iPhone, finally gives up on getting her attention long enough to ask her to marry him, and leaves her apartment to catch his train. In a final, desperate attempt to breach her cellphone-bubble, he calls her at the train station. She picks up the Facetime call, asking him, “Where are you?” The boyfriend, who just spent an hour physically by her side, now present only on the screen of her iPhone, replies, “I’m very in front of your face.” The irony of his comment made the couple’s reunion more sad than joyful.

Perkins and Witmer. Photo courtesy OU Voice Division.

5.) Why It Matters

The incongruity of the production was not only hilarious, but made the opera feel more accessible. I always thought of opera as some fat lady in a Viking-helmet belting an outdated drama on a far-away stage in Europe. This production mixed and matched opera with a contemporary (and even local) setting, songs from musical theatre and even played with some satire for added fun.

Thress and Brobeck. Photo courtesy OU Voice Division.
Thress and Brobeck. Photo courtesy OU Voice Division.

 

Three musicians and a giraffe: a portrait of Near Hills from Athens, Ohio

Jamie Moriarty, Ben Leeson and Maddy Ciampa of Near Hills are just as authentic as the trio’s raw music style would suggest. I popped in to listen to a rehearsal at Moriarty and Ciampa’s home. Flopping down on the big futon couch in their twinkly-lit and bulldog-paraphanalead living room, Moriarty, who already had water boiling on the stove, offered me a cup of tea. Leeson, who does vocals, guitar and piano for the band, soon joined us. Ciampa, cellist and vocals, got held up at work. But that didn’t stop the guys from enjoying their tea:

Photo courtesy of Near Hills Facebook page.
Maddy Ciampa on the cello at Folk Fest, 2015. Photo courtesy of Near Hills.

Moriarty set a big mason jar of honey on the coffee table. The honey was, of course, made by none other than his uncle’s own honey bees. I spooned a big helping of the sweet mess into my heart-decorated mug of spiced chai, and chatted with Moriarty and Leeson about their music and why it matters to them.

The guys echoed each-other’s love of collaborating in a small group to create something new. Moriarty said, “I think I get my drive out of … being able to have that connection with each other, and being able to come up with something that just us did, that just we, ourselves did. And I think in that sense we’re simple, because it’s not that we’re not ambitious, we just wanna keep it holistic and keep it real. Just the three of us …That’s way more special.

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Leeson, Ciampa, and Moriarty celebrating New Years in January, 2015. Photo courtesy of Near Hills’ Facebook page.

As we talked, a giant, 6-foot stuffed-animal giraffe, sitting on the sofa to the left of Moriarty, kept falling on him, its plush hooves wrapping around the musician, trapping him in a giant, giraffe embrace.

You might think that these musicians sound like your typical brand of Ohio University hipsters living in west Athens, but they exude a sense of humility and enthusiasm for their work that makes them not only likable musicians, but great foster parents to a slightly-creepy, 6-foot giraffe.

When I asked about what artists influenced them, Moriarty shared, “We bonded over our individual inspiration from Bon Iver.”

Leeson added, “He [Bon Iver]’s … from Wisconsin, [and] he recorded an album in a log cabin, when he was super sick, one time, and it became super famous. He just recorded it all himself and it’s just this really different kind of folky, soul — awe, I don’t even know how to describe his sound — it’s just so unique.”

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“Super rustic and creaky. He captured a lot of the location, and I don’t think a lot of artists do that,” Moriarty piped in.

Near Hills describes themselves as “alternative musicians with folk instruments.” They use a lot of harmonies to create a simple, yet evocative sound. They played a little demo for me, Leeson shredding up the piano, and Moriarty strumming his guitar and stamping his Teva-clad foot to the beat:

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Not bad, right? They call it “Fear of Anomoly.” I think Bon Iver might even like it.

If you’re interested, you can check out more of Near Hills’s music on SoundCloud.

 

 

Passion Works holds first End of Summer Bash to engage community

Passion Works Studio held its first ever End of Summer of Bash last weekend. The event ran from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Festive music played, refreshments were offered while fine arts and select gifts were on sale for buy-one-get-one-half-off. But for the first time, community members could help employees build a paper-mache dragon, a homecoming parade float or draw on white bed sheets.

Cardon Smith | artist | End Of Smummer Bash | Passion Works
Cardon Smith is one of several artists who helped the End of Summer Bash.

“We thought it’d be a cool idea to get the community involved in some of our bigger art projects,” lead production artist and sales rep for the studio Alyssa Cardwell said. “People really look forward to our sales around here, and we thought it’d be good to move the sales up.”

Five artists came on Friday and two came on Saturday to create the works for the Bash. The artists, who have received services from the Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities, made the passion flowers with sheeted aluminum acquired from Athens News after it’s done using it to print their newspapers.

Participants could either buy passion flowers designed, sculpted and painted by the Passion Works Studio artists or they could paint their own flowers, which are the same but are white and without paint on them.

Passion Works also held a raffle with tickets costing $1 per ticket and $5 for 6 tickets, which are used to win prizes like a gift basket of trinkets and a 14-inch by 11-inch painting.

More artists and student volunteers were expected to help than attended, but Passion Works was still grateful for the help that those who came provided. Some students who did come mentioned that they were aware of the event because of resident assistants’ posting flyers around their residence halls. Cardwell advocates that RAs keep taking initiative.

“We were hoping that there would be more student volunteers,” Cardwell said. “We’re looking for more opportunities to get across to students. If the RAs can keep doing that, that would be great.”

Saturday’s overall turnout was higher than Friday’s. All in all, the therapeutic art studio raised over $1,000 over the two-day span.

Passion Works’ next big event is on Oct. 10, where the studio will enter its homecoming float in the Homecoming Parade float contest.