This week, students from Miami University's Arts Management and Entrepreneurship Program saw their semester's work come to fruition. Inspired by the hit Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen — currently onstage at the Aronoff Center through May 12 — their collaborative project seeks to destigmatize mental and behavioral health.
The student series, titled When We Were Found — a nod to the show's tagline, "#youwillbefound" — falls in line with Mental Health Awareness Month and is also reflective of the themes explored in Dear Evan Hansen. The musical delves into the story of a teenage boy with social anxiety disorder. When a fellow classmate dies by suicide, he fabricates the extent of his relationship to the deceased student to become closer to the boy's family and his peers.
The posters on display in the Aronoff's lobby mirror Dear Evan Hansen's playbill, with font colors in blue, navy and black and messages about mental health. The art is accompanied by a QR code that directs onlookers to whenwewerefound.org. The website, also student-led, contains original artwork made by Miami students, national mental health statistics, artist statements, tips on self-care, personal wellness resources and crisis intervention and behavioral health services in the Greater Cincinnati region.
"Miami University’s Arts Management and Entrepreneurship Program is proud to be working alongside Broadway in Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Arts Association as the community hosts the National Broadway Tour of Dear Evan Hansen," reads a press release. "Our task is to destigmatize mental and behavioral health issues relating to the deeper thematic content of Dear Evan Hansen and to increase awareness of mental and behavioral health resources throughout the greater Cincinnati area."
Students working on the project — which was led by Willie Caldwell, a visiting assistant professor — spent the semester listening to the musical's original Broadway cast album, reading the Dear Evan Hansen novel and exploring themes related to the material.
“This type of work allows for our students to grapple with tough issues through artistic production and connect personal artistry to larger community issues," says Caldwell in a release. "That’s what arts engagement is all about and one of the reasons why it is a focus of our program at Miami."
The project will be on display throughout the musical's duration at the Aronoff Center. For more info/tickets for Dear Evan Hansen, visit cincinnatiarts.org. For more information about When We Were Found, visit the website at whenwewerefound.org.