IU Kokomo offers free performance by acclaimed spoken word artist

KOKOMO, Ind. – Free tickets are now available for a performance by internationally-known author, poet, musician, and spoken word artist Shane Koyczan at Indiana University Kokomo.

Koyczan, whose TED Talk “To This Day…for the bullied and beautiful,” has been viewed more than 6 million times, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, October 5, in Havens Auditorium, with overflow seating available in Kresge Auditorium. A book signing will follow his presentation.

Tickets, which are required, are free, and available at the IU Kokomo Library, the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library, and at Eventbrite.

Mark Canada, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, said it’s appropriate to have Koyczan, known for writing about issues including bullying, on campus in October, which is National Bullying Prevention Month.

Koyczan said he creates a space where it’s OK and encouraged to experience emotions.

“We live in a world that tells some people to shut down that part of yourself,” he said. “People almost need permission to feel their feelings. I go through the ups and downs of life. We need both. We can’t dwell on one without the other.”

He speaks from his own experiences with the trauma of being bullied, and struggling with mental health problems.

“You deal with depression, you deal with the hate and the fear, and it still affects my life,” he said. “The things that happened then still affect my life now. I go to therapy to talk about the things that are in the rearview mirror.”

His creative work, including graphic novels, poetry, and an opera, are informed by his experiences. His novel-in-verse, Stickboy, has been praised for its moving portrayal of the effects of bullying, as it tells his own story of growing up bullied, and then becoming a bully. It has been recreated into a series of murals and an opera, for which he wrote the libretto.

Koyczan’s goal is to inspire people to speak up about issues that formerly were kept quiet, like bullying, mental health, and depression.

“We live in a world where empathy is being erased,” he said. “It used to be you heard a story in the news, and it stayed with you for weeks, or for the year. Now we scroll past astounding stories. We grew up before the internet, when the bullying ended at 3 p.m. It’s much more invasive now, they can find ways to get at you.”

Because people are recognizing it, however, there’s also support — and he wants those being bullied to know they aren’t alone.

“It’s visible now, and people are starting to recognize their own behaviors,” he said. “I really hope people connect with their feelings again. It’s dangerous; we’re getting away from that empathy, and it leads to a lot of destruction in the world.”

In addition to Koyczan’s live performance, the campus will also host an exhibit of reproductions of the murals that were based on Stickboy, along with video monitors running highlights from the opera, a three-minute documentary based on the making of the opera, and other works.

Students will be involved as well, designing and preparing exhibits at the IU Kokomo Library and Kokomo-Howard County Public Library, performing poetry readings, conducting poetry workshops in area schools, and leading classroom discussions about bullying.

The event is part of IU’s Bicentennial Lecture Series, one of the signature projects of the year-long celebration of the university’s 200th anniversary. The series offers thought-provoking content, which has created and expanded upon university-wide conversations on present and future issues in arts and literature, business, civility and tolerance, geopolitics, science and technology, and sustainability.

Indiana University was founded on January 20, 1820, making it one of the oldest public universities in the nation. To celebrate its bicentennial, IU has developed a multiyear, multicampus program that will recognize and chronicle IU history, showcase the university's significant contributions to the world and set a course for the next century. For more information about the IU Bicentennial program, visit 200.iu.edu.

Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.

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