The Well




On Sunday, June 30th dancers and musicians performed an improvisational score at Spiva Center for the Arts as the final event in the exhibit ArtWorkers: Creativity and America, which closes Sunday, July 7th.  Dancers Susan Rieger and David Ollington and musicians Tom Polett, Ray Castrey, and Marcy Kamler presented “The Well” for a captivated audience.

“The Well”, an improvisational score created by Pauline Oliveros in 1962, provides a loose framework for performers to create and interpret based on a five-point star formation. Musicians begin by using the same pitch, and the entire ensemble interacts as performers shift between the points of Listen, Merge, Match, Support, and Soar.

Confused? Don’t be. No two interpretations of “The Well” will ever be identical. Ensembles can include as few as four or as many as fourteen performers and musical instruments vary. Musical instruments in this performance included a trombone, violin, melodica, and mouth harp.

In Sunday’s performance, the dancers inspired the musicians, and the musicians inspired the dancers. In a Q&A session, the performers also spoke about finding inspiration to interpret from the art hanging on the walls in the gallery. Dancers and musicians moved around the room, interacting with one another and their surroundings. They covered the span of Listen, Merge, Match, Support, and Soar, sometimes performing in corners or behind walls away from the audience, sometimes performing, literally, on top of one another.  At one point during the performance, one dancer even placed his head in the trombone’s horn. Nothing was off limits.

True to art, contemporary music and dance is a vast venue for exploring the human experience. As the performers interpreted “The Well”, they also interpreted a plethora of ideas and emotions relevant to everyday life. Each audience member seemed to take away something different. Contemporary improvisational performance is not so foreign that the audience is left grappling to interpret the meaning themselves.

If you have an opportunity to see “The Well” performed in the future, seize it. This was really one of the most artful performances and unique uses of space the Spiva Center for the Arts has witnessed.

-Bailey Stehm, MSSU English Major


Compose Yourself




Dr. Stacey Barelos taught a room full of mostly-amateur musicians how to compose their own music. Starting  simply with things like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Old MacDonald, students plunked their xylophones or metallophones to short and long tones, leaps and steps, melodies and pentatonic combinations. They received lots of handy handouts and a pencil, so that their learning was visual as well as aural. For the finale, students composed their own short pieces and voluntarily shared them with the group. It was great fun. Thanks, Stacey!

Art Teacher Appreciation


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Casual, fun, nostalgic, family-centered. This was the gift that Spiva wanted to bring to our hard-working Joplin-area art teachers for an evening. Spin art, Spirograph, Cooties, Shrinky Dinks, Trouble, Lite-Brite and more, accompanied by some yummy snacks and surrounded by the ArtWorkers exhibit. Thanks, art teachers for all you do with our precious and creative little ones!

Zumba: Shakin’ It like a Polaroid


The climate changed in the gallery Wednesday night, June 27th as about 20 people danced and sweated their hearts out! Ruth Stamper, local Zumba instructor, whooped and hollered surrounded by the fantastic ArtWorkers exhibit. Dance and movement are distinct art forms, worthy of a place and space in an art center. Bravo, Zumba-cisers! Thanks for filling the gallery with your energy!

Create with Cage

Dr. Stacey Barelos, piano professor at MSSU, introduced the idea of the prepared piano. She passed around photos of a piano she herself had prepared and performed with; then participants created art from scraps of destroyed pianos and installed them on the gallery stage, all while listening to John Cage’s “Sonatas and Interludes” for prepared piano. Fantastic time for all ages!


June Third Thursday Events


Art Duel / Round 1
Artists Michael Strahan v. Margie Moss. One hour to respond visually to the poetry of Walt Whitman.


Art Duel / Round Two
Jason Stamper v. Sandra Conrad. Walt Whitman. See all of the artists finished pieces in Spiva’s lobby.


Sandra puts her hands up: “I surrender!” The Conrad family cheered her on during the duel.


The magical mbira music of local group Kufara was perfect on a lovely summer evening. Thank you!


Local artist educator Josie Mai facilitated a giant Liberty Bell community collage.


Spiva Board President Ann Leach instructs the kids on how to trace and cut their piece for the collage.


Entire families joined in the process. Bravo!

I am Disney

On Friday, June 14th, artist and educator Josie Mai facilitated two classes for ‘Tweens (ages 12-14). The first group came from Joplin’s Boys and Girls Club. The second group was an open sign-up from the Spiva community.  Josie had the students browse through huge piles of Disney character coloring pages, enjoying the nostalgia of particular movies and characters, such as Lion King, Finding Nemo, Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore. Students were then led through a discussion and worksheet about identifying personally with the complexities of three Disney characters. For example, Josie included Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast, because she feels she “lights the way” for art in Joplin, and that makes her happy.

Some of the worksheet ideas:

I am sometimes like Pumba because I try to be positive about everything and not worry.

I am sometimes like Ariel because I love to explore new things.

I am sometimes like Stitch because I am curious.

I am sometimes like Pooh because I have a big heart.

I am sometimes like Flower because he’s lazy and I’m lazy.

I am sometimes like Thumper because I am a percussionist.

I am like Nemo because I was gone from my dad for a long time and eventually got back with him.

I am sometimes like Woody because I’m always wanting to help people.

Once characters and composition were decided, the mixed media paintings were created with Sharpies, crayons, and gouache.

Special thanks to art educator Olivia Gude, whose original curriculum was adapted for Spiva. Find more about Olivia’s projects here:–WORKING

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