Carnegie Mellon University

Curator’s Statement from Candace Skibba

Our narrative initiative has been working to disentangle the often unfortunate overlapping of privilege and wellness. Through the work, we have shown that there are many facets to wellness that do not, in fact, require certain social status, money or clout. It seems that being well, when it isn’t focused on the latest equipment, fancy juice, or most ass-enhancing pants, is less based upon consumerism and more upon connection and community. The irony of this time of social distancing is that physical connection and community are what many of us are missing in order to feel well.

In these times, the basics of wellness are prioritized. When the public schools close, education takes second place to the worry that many of our children will suffer from hunger. When our local coffee shop closes due to COVID, the baristas with whom we enjoy idle chatter are no longer employed and struggle to pay for the roof over their heads.

And the artists, who are supported through their performances, don’t receive applause nor pay when they aren’t performing. What happens when you take the stage and audience away from a dancer? When you remove the intimacy of laughter that the clown feeds off of?

Cooper Verona and O'Ryan the O'Mazing Arrowroot have created works that explore what it means to be well when work is literally and figuratively greatly modified. Cooper is a member of the corps de ballet at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and has been commissioned to choreograph a number of pieces in the Pittsburgh area. O’Ryan takes inspiration for his Circus Art from the street performers who aimed to provide comic relief during the difficult times of the Great Depression. Performance, for both of them, is what facilitates their own wellness and sharing their art with an audience works to make us well too. We can learn from and enjoy their vulnerability and contemplative exploration of isolation and connection and we can do it with or without $100 yoga pants and a $12 juice.