I am an art administrator in higher education who loves to make connections to help others explore soul filling experiences through the arts. This is my tenth year at Lehigh University. It’s time to take the joy of the performing and visual arts up a notch – for me.
Days before attending any performance, I like to plan activities that make it a full celebration. I’ll read up on the artist, perhaps some reviews, listen to the music ahead of time, all to be fully in the moment of the show. Part of my job is to find this material for social media content, so it’s a perk that I love doing it. I also spend a few too many minutes thinking about what to wear, or what to eat before and after the show. Never at work; only when wistfully staring at the contents of my closet and cupboard.
Simply thinking about ways to treat myself feels indulgent some times. But I’m also juggling complex job assignments, adjunct teaching, arts integration research, mothering two 12 year olds, and trying to live a balanced life in the craziness. Thinking about a new pair of earring feels luxurious. These thoughts appear when taxi-ing the kids to dance classes, music lessons, scout meetings, or walking the dog in the early morning.
The Zoellner Arts Center season opened last night with a knock out performance by the queen of percussion, Sheila E. To celebrate meeting one of my all-time favorite idols, I needed some help from friends and local resources.
I consider myself a decent cook and love putting together meal plans. I’ve enjoyed any number of decadent desserts or cocktails after concerts. There’s a great bartender (Lee) at Molinari’s who is willing to create a cocktail based on my mood. Molly’s always has a perfectly poured pint of my go-to Guinness, and the best stock of Irish Whiskey in the Lehigh Valley. I’m pretty familiar with the restaurants near Zoellner and in between there and home, but most of the kitchens are closed after the show. I wanted some ideas to connect my love of food to the love of the arts. So this season, I asked a friend for help.
If you don’t know the food blogger, Michelle Rittler of Taste As You Go, I would highly recommend you sign up for her newsletter. She has fabulous recipes and brilliant photography. Reading her blog makes me drool; and probably gain weight. I met Michelle through Twitter connections. The stories behind her recipes are delightful. Like art, food choices have a context.
I asked Michelle to take a look at the 2015-16 guest artists. She’s come up with some fantastic menu ideas and I’m determined to get to every one of them no matter what. (I’m talking about you, Block pARTy, and …. who really pays attention to enrollment caps anyway?)
I woke up early on Saturday morning to try to gather my wits after a long Friday night at the office. After a few hours scanning emails, social media channels, and scratching out a menu plan for the rest of the month, I made the shopping list that included ingredients for Michelle’s ideas on celebrating the Creole background of Ms. Sheila E. Michelle’s not just a foodie, she’s also a smart Lehigh alum who researches artists – and she totally gets it.
After morning chores, I had a noon appointment at the ropes course with the Evolution Group (Sweet #16 – more on that in another post). Directly from there, I had to run to Barnes and Noble off Route 33 to see Sheila E’s book signing event. Nothing says “college professional” like a Live United T-shirt and shorts full of dirt and leaves. Glad to have heard her stories. Blows my mind that people still ask her about being with Prince instead of thanking her for breaking gender barriers and her incredible foundation to help children find solace in music and art. Geez, folks – read the REST of her memoir. (sorry, I digress)
Anyhoo. I got to the grocery store and back home in time to make the Sheila E inspired classic pecan pie and vanilla bean ice cream custard while making dinner before the show. I also had time to take a little more care with hair and make up and put on my new fancy big hoop earring I bought a Cleo’s. Sheila E likes big hoops – so I needed a decent pair, not some cheap, tarnished bangles from the mall. Good thing one of Cleo’s designers handcrafted these beauties (thanks, Jennifer Cameron). Cleo even gave me a nice discount. She’s awesome.
Pie done. Ice cream custard chilling in the fridge. Kids and husband changed for the show. With the family and animals fed, we headed to Zoellner.
One of my assignments is to take the photos at the Meet & Greets with the artist. Folks (and I) prefer if I take the photos on their phones for them. The artist surprised us with her direction, “no phones, just the photographer.” Oh crap! Better not mess up. Clunky DSLR, don’t fail me now!
I had invited the students of the Live Lehigh Arts Alive (more on this program later, too) to the show. None of them had ever heard of Sheila E before. She was incredibly gracious with them and they were very polite. She was also sweet to get a picture with my kids (my son’s a drummer, too.) After everyone took a picture, Ms Sheila waved to me and said, “You, too.” There was only one time in my life that I was too shy to seize the moment. I swore I would never make that same mistake. Ever.
If you weren’t at the concert, boo to you. It was an amazing show. Just ask the Arts Alive students and my kids! When we got home, I had 30 minutes to churn up the vanilla ice cream and slice the pie. As the millennials like to say, “Pictures or it didn’t happen.”
The next artist is Morgan James. I have no idea what I’m going to wear. I think Michelle is cooking up something with potatoes, since Morgan’s from Idaho. Whatever it is, I know I’m going to fully enjoy this next concert, too. Care to join me in a little extra fun?