Inside The Studio: An Exploration of Bucknell’s First Visual Artist-in-Residence Shani Peters’ Workshop

Peters explaining her work to Bucknell students
Peters explaining her work to Bucknell students

Behind the canvas, the frame, and the lights, is the studio where the artist creates. It is a rare opportunity to go inside an artist’s studio and even rarer to talk with the creative individuals themselves. When such opportunities present themselves however, I have always found exploring the artist’s workshop is the most fulfilling way to discover new artwork. By observing how they work, the media they employ, and their strategies and styles, I see the percolation of ideas, the inspiration, and, most interestingly, the rejection. After noticing images depicting contemporary and historical civil rights activism on display in Academic West, I discovered that this artist is currently working here at Bucknell. Last Wednesday, I was granted the opportunity to see inside Bucknell’s first visual artist-in-residence Shani Peters’ studio right here on campus.IMG_3122

Shani Peters, a Lansing, Michigan native turned Harlem hipster, focuses on video, printmaking, and public projects. Her work reflects “interests in social justice histories, cultural record keeping, media culture, and community building.” 1  She employs and juxtaposes historical and modern cultural and social tensions in her artwork through her messages, symbolism, and duality and contrasts of color. By comparing historical to contemporary problems, she instigates in the viewer a meditation of life cycles.shani

Many of her images investigates and celebrates the concept of self-determination. For example, the Crown Project in Academic West imagines “crowns as symbols for self-determination and the complexity of the experience of the African people following the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade.” 2 Half of the photos on the crowns have historical photos of Black Americans engaged in political protests, whereas the other half showcases contemporary images, still engaged in similar protests. On the Westernized crowns, as a satire of African headdresses and diaspora, Peters’ also depicts African American tribal people contrasted against the public figures in the Western world such as the late Notorious B.I.G and the late Michael Jackson. While raising awareness about the struggles the black community face, she also strives to show the pride in the black community.

Shani’s inspiration comes from her father who was a black history professor. IMG_3129Her father studied and taught through various mediums, such as literature, theater, and music, because he wanted to do more than just teach history – he wanted to create narratives around the subjects’ lives. James Baldwin, whom her father introduced her to, was especially influential in how Shani processes her work. Baldwin famously stated, “Our crown has already been bought and paid for, all we have to do is wear it.” Shani’s crowns reflect this message by urging us to acknowledge our personal worth, take ownership for the life given to us by the sacrifices of our ancestors, and find meaning and comfort in our lives.

Her own studio at the Art Barn gives us insight into her own consciousness and techniques as she makes, remakes, layers, and undoes her work. The works that make it out of the studio are the ones that “open up a strand of thought.” In her exhibits, she wants to facilitate a space of healing, freedom, and self-reflection for all the viewers – especially for Black Americans. However, her work appeals to all, because, no matter our background, many of us understand the difficulties of the human life. With Shani’s studio at Bucknell, we have the chance to explore this perspective in depth, actualize the fullness of ourselves and backgrounds, and share stories with the artist herself.


**Shani’s studio at the Art Barn is open until May 1st.

  1.  “SHANI PETERS.” Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. N.p., 06 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.
  2. Stuart, Greg. “Shani Peters: Nesbitt Artist in Residence : Samek Art Museum.” Samek Art Museum RSS. N.p., 19 Feb. 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

Nature’s Influence on Brain Health

Spring is a time of rebirth – of new beginnings, new goals, and new challenges. It is a time where the budding flowers, verdant fields, and sunny weather makes everyone feel alive again. It also signals the end of the school year, serving as a reminder to do things we always wanted to do. With the view of the Poconos from the academic quad, of the Susquehanna flowing by campus, and of the outdoor patio seating at Bull Run, the lure of the outdoors is ubiquitous. Although our studies are our main priority at college, spending time outdoors actually correlates with better test scores. Research shows that people who spend more time outdoors, are not only calmer and healthier but also smarter.

William Wordsworth preaches this in his ballad, The Tables TurnedHe believes that nature, as the ultimate virtuous influence on the human mind, allows for the manifestation of passionate emotion and thought through intellectual and spiritual development. The speaker in the poem tells his friend to come into the “light of things” and “hear the woodland linnet” because this bird’s song contains more wisdom and beauty than any piece of literature. He believes that Mother Nature, with her “world of ready wealth,” purifies our mind and body and brings sweet lore for our “meddling intellect.” Not only does nature create intellectual enlightenments, but nature also creates spiritual enlightenments, “One impulse from a vernal wood/ May teach you more of man,/ Of moral evil and of good,/ Than all the sages can.” The speaker suggests that the scientific investigation of nature can teach you more about humanity, good, and evil than even a profoundly wise person can – experiences affect the human spirit more than words. At the heart of Wordsworth’s Romantic poem is the insistence that nature and the human mind are suitable companions and all it takes it to “Come forth, and bring with you a heart/ That watches and receives.”

Wordsworth wrote this in the 19th century when a good amount of people still spent more time outdoors. However, studies now show that, compared to just 20 years ago, people spend 25% less time in nature. When we are taking a break from our textbooks, here are some compelling reasons to spend this down time outdoors:

1. Increases concentration skills

one study took a group of children with ADHD and compared their concentration levels after they were split into two groups. One of the groups spent time in outdoor green spaces, and the other group spent time playing indoors. The outside group showed fewer symptoms of ADHD than their counterparts, even while performing the same tasks 1.

2. ignites creative functions

A study published in the Huffington Post found a correlation between nature and creativity. A team of researchers compared a group of backpackers before and after they spent four days on the trail. They found that the “backpackers were 50 percent more creative after they had spent four days on the trail” 2.

3. Decreases stress levels

After just 20 minutes in a natural setting,the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public health has reported, our levels of cortisol, which is a stress indicator, decrease significantly 3. Seattle-based environmental psychologist Judith Heerwagon tells The Huffington Post. “Just looking at a garden or trees or going for a walk, even if it’s in your own neighborhood, reduces stress,” she says. “I don’t think anyone understands why, but there’s something about being in a natural setting that shows clear evidence of stress reduction, including physiological evidence — like lower heart rate” 4.

4. boosts positivity

A study published by the Proceeding of the National Academy of Science says a 90-minute walk through nature can positively affect your brain. The researchers found that, of the 38 participants, the ones who walked through the park and not the urban environment, “showed lower levels of blood flow to the parts of the brain associated with rumination” 5.  (Rumination is a pattern of thought focused on the negative of oneself). There is also the idea that we respond positively to things that are inherently good for us and our survival, “which is why trees and other natural elements can help lift our moods”  1.

5. sparks inspiration

Humans have always looked to nature for inspiration to solve problems. Think of biomimicry such as prosthetic arms inspired by octopus tentacles, the art masterpieces of Claude Monet who was inspired by his verdant surroundings, or engineering feats such as the Japanese high speed trains inspired by the shape of a kingfisher’s beak – nature is the master of inspiring innovation 7.


In the book Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life, Barbara Fredrickson observes that nature is so fascinating and soothing, that it takes away your mind from other worries. The beach is the perfect example. When I am driving or staring at my computer, I constantly think of my to-do list. My exposure to nature increases my awareness of surrounding and myself, rather than the other thoughts that occupy my day.


In one study, researchers conducted a brief memory test on University of Michigan students who were then divided into two groups. One group walked around an arboretum, while the others walked down a city street. The researchers then conducted the memory test again and the participants who had walked in nature did almost 20% percent better than the first time. The ones who took the urban route did not improve 8.

These seven reasons (among many more) show the powerful connection between nature and the human mind. By spending time outdoors and boosting your brain power, you can spend less time studying and get better grades. With spring finally here, there is no better time to make this change to your lifestyle. Wordsworth got it right – in this “world of ready wealth,” gain the “spontaneous wisdom breathed by health.”



  1.  Wise, Abigail. “Here’s Proof Going Outside Makes You Healthier.” The Huffington Post., 22 June 2014. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.
  2.  Leader, Jessica. “Nature-Creativity Study Links The Great Outdoors With Positive Psychological Effects.” The Huffington Post., 31 May 2012. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.
  3.  Roe, Jenny J., Catharine Ward Thompson, Peter A. Aspinall, Mark J. Brewer, Elizabeth I. Duff, David Miller, Richard Mitchell, and Angela Clow. “Green Space and Stress: Evidence from Cortisol Measures in Deprived Urban Communities.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. MDPI, n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.
  4.  Wise, Abigail. “Here’s Proof Going Outside Makes You Healthier.” The Huffington Post., 22 June 2014. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.
  5. Goodstein, Eli. “Stanford University Study Says Spending Time in Nature Benefits Mental Health.” USA TODAY College. Stanford University, 09 July 2015. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.
  6.  Wise, Abigail. “Here’s Proof Going Outside Makes You Healthier.” The Huffington Post., 22 June 2014. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.
  7.  “How Nature Ignites Creativity.” THNK The Outdoors Prescription How Nature Ignites Creativity Comments. School of Creative Leadership, 09 Nov. 2015. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.
  8.  Lauren F Friedman and Kevin Loria. “11 Scientifically Proven Reasons You Should Go Outside.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 09 Apr. 2014. Web. 19 Apr. 2016

New Lewisburg Yoga Studio: Yoga Dear – Interview with Founder Leanne Matullo

Tucked into a little side street off Market Street is a new yoga studio in town. Leanne Matullo, the founder of Yoga Dear, has brought health, happiness, and a new sense of community in this new year to Lewisburg. Her mission for Yoga Dear, an acronym for “Developing self-Esteem And Respect,” is to forge a mind body connection through fitness and individualized practice in a comfortable yogi-centric community. Through the practice of yoga, Leanne believes we have the power to create a unique sense of self and place in the world. I sat down with Leanne to learn more about her background, philosophies, goals, and to discuss the joy that this creative and spiritual movement can bring to all.

When did you start practicing yoga and why? 

I was a dancer in college1434931486428 and after I stopped performing, I wanted to get into yoga. I took my first yoga class in Pittsburgh six years ago and actually really didn’t like it at first. I kept going back though. After a couple of times getting used to the foreign language, crazy poses, and focused breathing, I began to enjoy it.

What do you love most about practicing yoga and yoga itself? 

Yoga offers infinite possibilities. There is always something to work on, there is always something new to master. For me, yoga is a freedom – freedom from your mind, from around you. It is just you and the mat and your movement. That is peace to me.


Tell me about your studio. - What inspired you to open up a studio in Lewisburg?

Everyone asks where “Dear” comes from. I started out teaching for at risk youth and focused on developing self esteem and respect – so that is where “dear” originated. I want this studio space to be approachable, fun, and playful, where we can meet new friends, laugh, and interact with the energetic and enthusiastic students and teachers.

What makes your studio different/better than the ones in the local area or offered at KLARC?

Yoga Dear focuses on a more individualized practice while still building a community with the others around you. I wanted our niche to be a powerful style – we are going to work and we are going to feel it.

Many people in this country still equate yoga solely with movement and do not consider the spiritual aspect. How do you deal with this at Yoga Dear? 

Most people come here for movement but can still benefit from the spiritual aspects especially as they come further and further into the practice. Throughout the class, we weave in pranayama [breathing techniques], ancient yoga texts, philosophy to incorporate meditation and spiritual aspects. It can be a learning practice as well, since we mention the limbs of the eight-fold path to yoga. These are respect for others (yama) and yourself (niyama); harmony with your body (asana), your energy (pranayama), and last four parts [your thoughts (dharana), and your emotions (pratyahara); contemplation (dhyana); ecstasy (samadhi)] which all relate to meditation.

Since yoga combines body, breath, mind and spirit, how can someone gradually increase progress in each of those four areas? 

FullSizeRender_3Yoga is transformative and healing. It is hard for me to explain but after taking 2 to 3 classes a week, I have become more spiritual because of the results I have seen. The book Living Your Yoga explains this.*

What advice would you tell a first-timer attending a private yoga studio? 

Give me three classes and then make a decision. If you come in with an open mind and know it is okay to not know all the poses or fall, that is totally fine. Everyone falls in first yoga class. Most importantly, have a good time and laugh.

What in your opinion are the greatest health benefits of doing yoga? 

In a culture that sits a lot, I believe that overall mobility is the greatest health benefit. Additionally, yoga is a great way to use the mind body connection as a huge anxiety and stress relief. You learn that you not only can watch and observe your thoughts but control them as well.

Do you actively meditate? 

I meditate every morning to set the tone of my day. The practice is very grounding for me since I am such a spiritual person. Sometimes I do it for two minutes, sometimes fifteen, with music or silence, on my own or guided.





After we wrapped up our interview, I stayed to attend the Power Flow class taught by friend and roommate Heather Oros. In such a warm and welcoming space, I felt at ease, allowing for a deeper awareness of the interactions of my body, mind, and spirit. Although the more advanced teaching was distinct, detailed, and serious, the atmosphere remained playful and fun, enabling me to feel comfortable trying new things. By observing and feeling the overall energy in the room during savasana, it seemed that each individual found their own personal level of achievement and reward in their practices.


*Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life by Judith Hanson Lasater Ph.D. is about discovering the “meaning of yoga beyond its familiar poses and breathing techniques to include the events of daily life”


Yoga Dear Beginner, Sunny Side Up (early morning Asana class), Yoga Dear 1 (beginner/intermediate), Yoga Dear 2 (intermediate/advanced), Power Flow, Peaceful Practice, Yoga Barre, Gentle Yoga, and Asana Junkies

Click here for a description of each class

Click here for class schedule

This Friday January 29: Yoga Dear is hosting yoga and happy hour at 5:30 PM. The night is going to consist of a 50 minute yoga class and then happy hour with wine and beer! $15 for members, $20 for non members! 21+ only. Please reserve a space on the Mind/Body Connect app.

Memberships & Pricing

Yoga Dear Memberships:

  • 10 Visit Pass – $120                   Expires three months after activation 
  • 1 Month Unlimited – $100     Expires one month after activation
  • 3 Month Unlimited – $265     Expires three months after activation 
  • Yearly Unlimited – $80/month with yearly contract
  • Also, for a limited time, students can get a monthly unlimited pass for $50.

Drop-in Rates:

  • Drop-in Class – $15
  • Student Drop-in – $10 (Please bring your student ID!)

10% Discount on all services for senior citizens (65+), veterans, and active duty servicemen and women. ID’s required at time of service purchase. 

Student Rates (Please bring your ID!):

  • 10 Visit Pass – $95        Expires three months after activation
  • 1 Month Unlimited –  $90   Expires one month after activation

New Student Referral Program

Bring a new-to-Yoga Dear friend, parent, sibling, significant other to class and you’ll both get $25 off your next service.



Enjoy and Namaste!


Follow up: Experiences with Meditation

This article is a follow up to my post "The Transformative Effects of Meditation," published on Oct. 22. This article features not only my experience with meditation but also three Bucknell students' and one Lewisburg resident's insight about the practice.

As promised, here is my follow up to my challenge of practicing meditation for a week. I was warned that there wouldn’t be any life changing results so I tried to pay attention to small changes in my mind and body. Here is what I noticed after meditating for 15 to 20 minutes every day:

The Super Wave: Benefits Of Theta Brainwaves And Meditation

  • Peace of mind
  • Happier
  • General sense of wellbeing
  • More appreciative of life and those in it
  • Fell asleep a lot faster and slept better throughout the night – however, I am not sure if I can completely attribute that to meditating or other changes I have been making
  • Detached from habitual thought patterns – especially negative ones.
  • More balanced perspective

I also experimented with different times throughout the day to meditate and discovered that my morning meditation is the most fruitful for me.In the afternoon or evening, I became easily distracted, often thinking about what I was going to eat for dinner or what everyone else was up to. In the morning, my awakened consciousness had not yet been agitated and engaged in the daily business of life. Nature’s tranquility- the air, the light, the sounds – generates a harmony that resonated well with me. Additionally, I enjoyed starting my day with stillness because it set a focused, optimistic, and magnanimous tone for the rest of my day.

My biggest challenge was clearing my mind. However, Jason, the professor I interviewed in a previous post, told me that this is completely normal. I realized this practice can be hard work and it will take time to achieve successful meditations.  Some people spend years trying to reach Nirvana – the ultimate goal of meditation. According to Professor Young, the professor of Religious Studies who has a concentration in Buddhism, people who meditate see Nirvana as their extremely distant goal. For many, the more intimate goal of meditators is to “live with compassion and friendliness” – this is what I was aiming for. No wonder Young believes that the happiness index of the Buddhist culture rates higher than others.

To learn more and compare my experience, I asked some friends why they meditate and how it affects them.

Dianne (wife/mother, age 70, Lewisburg resident, began a daily meditation practice in 1973): If you want to explore the innermost parts of your mind and ascertain who you really are, there is no more ideal a method than meditation. Deep relaxation, introspection or psychotherapy are not enough. Only the depth and solitude of meditation leads you to use an aspect of consciousness that does not cling to external forms and that transcends the senses and thought. Some call these states superconsciousness, or oneness, or enlightenment. These names do not matter. All that matters is getting to a state of transcendence. Even a glimpse is powerful and trans-formative and makes you thirst for more.

As with asana yoga practice, the effect of meditation is not necessarily realized on the cushion. Instead it is seen and felt off the meditation cushion. The outer things in your life soon begin to be reflective of all the inner changes that are occurring. The changes are subtle indeed. But after patient and  consistent practice, for months and years and decades, you will know what the accumulation of efforts have yielded, Eventually you reach a point where the quiescence of meditation and the activeness of daily living are integrated.


Alex Silverman (Senior, Psychology Major): I’ve been a meditator for almost a year now. I practice transcendental meditation, a meditation technique brought over from India by a man named Maharishi Yogi in the 60’s. Transcendental meditation involves the use of a mantra that is uniquely assigned to each individual who practices by a certified transcendental meditation teacher. It is a simple and easy practice that simply involves the silent repetition of the mantra with the eyes closed. The idea is that the recitation and repetition of the mantra brings the mind to its quietest state, below the level of conscious awareness. It is typically practiced for twenty minutes twice a day for maximum benefits- once in the morning before you begin your day and once before the start of your evening. However, with my crazy busy schedule, I’m lucky if I get to meditate once a day.

I sought out transcendental meditation when I was going through a rough time. I needed to find some way to rejuvenate both my mind and my body. Practicing transcendental meditation for just twenty minutes actually allows your mind to rest more than it does in an average nights sleep, consequently allowing your body to physiologically replenish itself. After just a few days of practice, I could actually feel the difference! I was happier and more energized because I was giving my mind and body the chance to get the rest they deservingly needed.

I’ve recommended transcendental meditation to several people who are near and dear to me, simply because I think it is the most useful technique anyone can have, regardless of how the practice is picked up. You don’t have to be going through a hard time to learn how to meditate. Your mind and body need rest! Anyone and everyone who picks up this practice is astounded by the benefits- a clearer mind, more energy and more happiness. There are plenty of skeptics out there- I definitely was one at first. I can safely say, though, that TM has changed my life for the better and I’m so fortunate to have learned such a helpful practice.

Grace Elliott (Senior, Majoring in Education and Autism Studies): In high school I was very involved with mediation, reflecting on it now I wish I was still as focussed on it. I did a few different types but there were two general types I benefited from and enjoyed the most. These were focussed attention meditation and Vipassana meditation.

In focussed meditation you focus on an object, the object may be the breath, a mantra, visualization, part of the body or an external object. Any of these options work- but I personally like to focus on my breath as a way to get focussed or ‘unfocused’ if you would rather think about it that way and then focus on a visualization or an external object. In high school I went on a meditation trip every summer and my favorite was to Exuma in the Bahamas. On the trip we worked on rebuilding a church. But every morning before work, during lunch, and after work, we would go to the beach and meditate. I would either focus on the visualization of the ocean and the sound of the waves breaking. Or I would sit on the shore line and meditate on the feeling of the rising tide starting to surround me.

I also recommend Open Mindfulness to everyone. It seems more stiff but is just as rewarding. I took part in Vipassana meditation. In this mediation you focus on your breathing to develop full concentration then with this concentration you focus on any developing sensation while it comes and let it pass as you focus on your breath again. So you can consider breathing as the primary focus and any sensations- smells, sounds, feelings in your body as a secondary passing focus.

My senior year in high school I went to St. Leo’s Abbey in Florida and stayed in a monastery for 10 days. Here we meditated in the chapel with Monks and I did my version of Vipassana mediation. When they would be singing their chants I would be meditating on my breath and letting the side thoughts of the sound of their music, the sounds of books opening and closing, the sounds of shoes slowly clicking across the marble floor, and the chill of the air come through my mind as a secondary thought. Once I took it in and accepted it, it would pass again as I concentrated on my breath. I would recommend this to anyone because it can be a challenge- but one that is so rewarding once you settle in and relax into the rhythm of your breath and the passing thoughts and feelings you experience based off of the environment you’re in.

Both forms of meditation are extremely rewarding and a nice option because you can practice them anywhere!

Meghan Byrd (Senior, majoring in Political Science and Spanish): I first learned about mindfulness practices as a junior in high school as a way to help alleviate anxiety. In the past few years, due to my hectic schedule (I know, bad excuse), I began to notice that mindfulness wasn’t as present in my life as I’d like it to be. As Carly so aptly describes, mindfulness can not only help manage stress, but I find it to make me a happier, more positive person.

Recently, I set a goal to get back into the spirit of mindfulness. I discovered an app called Headspace, which guides users through quick meditations. To start, they have a ten day meditation challenge, which is ten minutes each day for ten days straight. The app is great because it can be used by all levels – although it’s especially good for beginners. The narrater’s voice is calm and soothing, as he guides you through breathing exercises, body scans, and active listening. At the end of ten days, you can chose to pay a small fee for access to hundreds of additional guided meditations about all kinds of things – from how to be more mindful while cooking, cleaning, and gardening, to how to use mindfulness when taking an exam.
I loved my experience with Headspace for a couple of reasons. First, it was easy, and required little effort or prior knowledge of meditation. Second, the exercises really helped quiet my mind and made me feel very present, a crucial part of practicing mindfulness. Third, I did my ten minutes at night before bed, and I found that I had a much more relaxing and deep sleep. In addition to meditating, I challenged myself to not look at any screens (computer, phone, etc.) afterwards and if I wasn’t tired I would read a book. I went to bed feeling very much at ease.
I encourage everyone to bring mindfulness into their lives. It’s really pretty easy once you get in the habit and the mental and physical health benefits are amazing!
Online resources:
Guides for meditation for beginners by The Conscious Life and Zen Habits 
Guided meditation: Final Relaxation Body Scan. I like this a lot better because I am really bad at clearing my mind for normal meditation so this takes that pressure off. Also if you really concentrate on what he is saying, you actually can feel the energy in the places on your body you are directing it.
Resources on campus:
Try the meditation class at 7:30 Tuesday night’s in the KLARC fitness room. 
Visit the non-sectarian meditation space is located on the second floor of the Fellowship House at 628 St. George Street. The house is open daily from 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. There are also interfaith spaces in the Meditation Chapel at the rear of Rooke Chapel, Berelson Center for Jewish Life (632 St. George Street), Newman House (610 St. George Street) and the Muslim Prayer Room (Room 40 Gateway Roser).