“In the Middle,” Chorale’s event on mental health, brought together various forms of art to discuss the often unbroached stigma and severity around mental health circumstances. Through music and spoken word, a conversation on mental health was started.
Performed in Euler Atrium on Nov. 4, the showcase was a collaboration between the Counseling Center and Taylor’s music, theatre and dance department. With poetry and reflections from both students and faculty, each performance was personal to the Taylor community.
Some of the submissions focused on a particular event in the writer’s life, but many were more general in their approach to battles such as dysmorphia, self hatred and helplessness.
The namesake of the event, a song written by Barbara Cooker, capitalizes on the passage of time and the author’s anxiety over change, but the material at large encourages taking time to consider other situations.
Most of the submissions were available for viewing in an open gallery, stretching over the walls of the Euler atrium. Each of the pieces was displayed with a visual produced by Katie Ito, a junior majoring in Pre-Art Therapy at Taylor.
Ito was introduced to “In the Middle” by a friend in Chorale and Sounds, and invited to contribute by Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Chorale and Sounds, Reed Spencer. In two weeks, Ito made art pieces for 18 of the 27 written submissions, spending hours on those with heavy stories.
“Every person who submitted pieces of their journey to this concert, trusted us with their stories, having no idea what we would do with them,” Ito said. “Knowing that throughout this art-making process was so scary and daunting, but also profoundly empowering for me as a creative.”
Individuals were transparent with their struggles through writing, and were met with equal clarity in their exhibition.
“I receive (the community's work), and it nourishes me,” Ito said. “I make work from that place and offer it back to them and to the rest of the world as a gift so that it in turn can nourish them.”
Theatre students used jarring movement for choreographed sequences, while the chorale led by Spencer sang brilliant compositions from a multitude of positions around the audience.
Bethany Myers, a freshman who performed with the Chorale for “In the Middle,” also felt the value of the program’s sincerity.
“I think that this performance opened the door to honest conversations,” Myers said. “The performance created a safe space for others to comfort each other and let them know that they are not alone.”
A number of viewers sat along the perimeter of the higher floors, but every audience member was made a participant, whether by singers among the crowd or other means. The show was framed by interactive acts, opened with a liturgy requiring responses and closed with a candle-lit blessing.
The candles were electric but effective when held up by the choir and later laid out around the displays, a visible expression of the unification of campus.
“In The Middle” aimed to start many important conversations on campus about the realities of mental health. The goal was to create a space for dialogue to occur. The hope from this event was that these conversations do not die out, but rather, they continue to occur, bringing a greater awareness to the stigma surrounding mental health.