Episode 222

In this episode of ARTEFFECTS, we learn how music is helping a young woman with Autism, meet a pastry chef who proves his art is no piece of cake, see how strands of yarn are transformed into whimsical creations, and learn how the art of henna invokes both celebration and blessing.

AIRED: February 17, 2017 | 0:26:46

- In this edition of Arteffects,

how music helped a young woman with autism.

- If I hadn't gone into singing, I wouldn't have been

in Spotlight, and I wouldn't have been in college

or I wouldn't be going off to college.

- A Tampa pastry chef proves his art is no piece of cake.

- The amount of work that's really involved is

really not shown sometimes on TV,

the detail and the time that it takes,

and then when they're asking the prices that they do,

people think they're crazy.

- An artist who shows her art in her craft.

- I want to kind of redefine how people see

crochet in their lives.

(jazz music)

- And how henna invokes celebration, artistry,

and tradition on the human body.

- One of the things I love about doing henna

is that I'm making a connection with somebody.

Unlike a lot of different art forms,

I get to be right there with the person

that's receiving my art.

- It's all ahead on this edition of Arteffects.

(jazz music)

- [Narrator] Funding for Arteffects is made possible by

Newman's Own Foundation,

the Nell J. Redfield Foundation,

Carol Franc Buck,

the annual contributions of KNPB members,

and by.

(jazz music)

- Welcome to Arteffects.

I'm Beth Macmillan here at Visionary, a creative hub

in Midtown where people from all walks of life

can transform their dreams into something tangible,

a vision board, a physical manifestation that can help

dreams become reality.

(jazz music)

In our first segment, we meet a young opera singer

named Mandi Anderson.

Her love for music opened up a world

she and her family never imagined possible,

rewriting the harsh notes that came with the label

of autism spectrum disorder.

Here's her inspiring story.

(singing opera)

- Yeah, (mumbles), let's do that for right now.

- Okay.

(plays piano)

(refers to song lyrics), that last one.

(sings opera)

(voice drills accompanied by piano)

- See, it's faster, it's easier for you.

(voice drills accompanied by piano)

- Come back blue flame.

I want to hear more of the emotion in it.

- So how do you pronounce blue flame?

- Blue flame, that was good, that was good.

I just think, isn't she longing for something there?

- Yeah. - And it goes high.

- I used to sing musical theater when I was younger,

like in grade school.

Then I got my first vocal teacher,

and he started teaching me how to use

my head-voice instead of belting.

(piano music)

(sings opera)

So then, what ended up happening was

my voice range kept on growing, getting higher

and higher and higher and then when I tried out

for the Orange County School of the Arts,

I tried out for the opera program

and musical theater.

I didn't get into musical theater.

I got into the opera program though,

and it was really welcoming,

really just really nurturing environment.

So I continued in that direction.

(sings opera)

Well, when I was younger, I just thought,

I didn't think I was different, exactly.

I thought I was just like everybody else.

I thought everybody behaved this way

or everybody did this when this happened,

but as I got older, I found out that's not necessarily so.

Singing's affected my life a lot.

It's helped teach me how to behave, how to act.

When I was younger, I used to be disconnected

with the rest of the world,

and I sort of created this whole little world

of my own, which I would escape to because

I didn't want to be in contact with what

was going on around me, and I didn't want to get out.

Singing helped pull me out of that place,

still go back every once in a while,

but the difference is now that I can go out

whenever I need to, and when I was younger,

I had trouble communicating with other people.

I'd be talking to someone but,

I'd be looking at a picture on the wall

or watching this little fly buzzing around in the air,

and I also had difficulty understanding emotions.

I had to be taught that a smile was happy,

and a frown meant sad or angry.

Part of having Asperger is that

I'm really sensitive to change,

really sensitive to change and with singing,

it kind of gives you a way to vent out my emotions

and it lets me get rid of all that stress

and all that anxiety, especially when I sing a high note.

I guess you can kind of compare it to

screaming into a pillow or something.

I've only told a couple of people before now.

Between getting accepted to USC and going into Spotlight,

it's given me the courage to come out with it,

made me more confident.

Just because someone has autism effective disorder

doesn't mean that they're not gonna succeed in life.

There's many different aspects of autism spectrum

disorders and for me, it helps me with memorization,

I think mathematically, and I can learn quickly.

I just learn a different way.

- So what does deserted look like?

Okay, take a moment there to be deserted.

- The acting classes have helped a lot with

understanding emotions and how to identify them.

We talk about what the person's going through.

We talk about meaning of the words 'cause many

of the songs I sing are in different languages.

I like to make other people happy.

I'm always trying to cheer people up

or make them laugh or things like that.

I'm always glad whenever I see a smile

on someone else's face.

It makes me think I've made a difference

even if it was just a little bit.

I did not expect that all this would happen

(laughs) to me at all.

There was one point where we didn't think

I would even be going to college.

So, if I hadn't gone into singing,

I wouldn't have been in Spotlight,

and I wouldn't have been in college

or I wouldn't be going off to college.

(sings opera)

Well, the biggest place I've had a chance

to sing is at the Dorothy Chandler during Spotlight.

That was a huge opportunity.

It was amazing,

and when I got to be a grand prize finalist,

I didn't care if I'd win or not.

Just getting to sing on that stage was the prize.

That was the prize to me.

(sings opera)

If you have a disorder, don't let it push you,

or don't let it keep you from doing what you love to do.

Don't let it keep you from achieving your goals.

(sings opera)

(audience applauds)

- Alon Gontowski is a pastry chef at the Hard Rock Hotel

and Casino in Tampa, Florida,

but it takes more than just luck to create confections

that look as good as they taste.

We head into the kitchen with Chef Alon to explore

the art and the science of his sweet genius.

(rock music)

- This is a piece of equipment here

that helps and assists the bakers into manipulating

the dough into various different shapes and sizes.

So you take the piece of dough,

you see the rollers will grasp them,

will roll it right up to the machine

and then spit it back out.

When I go and I talk to kids at school,

I got the best job.

I get to play with food,

and I don't get in trouble for it.

My name is Alon Gontowski.

I'm the Pastry Chef here at

the Seminole Hard Rock here in Tampa, Florida,

been here for about eight years.

Right now, I'm in charge of doing sweets

for about eight particular outlets,

and those range anywhere from our buffet,

from our breads to our rolls,

to our fine dining in Council Oaks.

My staff is about 15 people right now,

and on a daily basis, we do a wide variety

of breakfast stuff in this particular kitchen,

and we do our danish our muffins, monkeybreads.

We make fresh sandwiches with croissants,

and things of that nature, and then in the other kitchen,

we do all the pastries.

So that pastry is our whoopees, cupcakes,

red velvet, creme brulee for our Council Oaks restaurant

and a lot of varieties of ice creams, gelatos,

things of that nature.

It's both-both, an art and a science,

because you have to learn the scientific aspect

of baking, that there is a lot to it.

This is a dying trade.

You're losing it because of bakers that are using

mixes nowadays, that aren't really in their craft

and using the scientific aspect of being a baker,

and that's formulating.

There's always formulations.

You have to have the right balance of water,

flour, salt, sugar.

Sugar actually is not only a sweetener,

sugar actually acts as a food for the yeast.

It generates the yeast and it allows it to grow.

So there's a lot of technical information

that a lot of people may not know when it comes to bread.

We can do all varieties of shapes of breads.

We used to do braids and things of that nature.

We can sculpture animals out of it.

It goes wherever the mind wants to take it.

I was always in the kitchen with my mom,

and I enjoyed it, and my mom made it fun,

and I like doing it.

Who didn't like making brownies and cookies

and all those things?

So I said, and I researched,

and I found a vocational school,

right in the neighborhood.

I went to the vocational school,

again took four years of baking.

I learned cake decorating, breads and so forth, doughnuts.

We would do the doughnuts on the fire.

We'd make games in seeing how many we can flip

at one time, it's all that,

and that's the love, it's the passion of it.

It's so fun.

Today, I think it's a little bit more,

a lot more acceptable of boys being in the kitchen

because what's coming across on the TV

and all the cake decorators and the Food Network,

it's really generated and skyrocketed this industry

to really get a lot of people more interested in the field.

Back then, you took a lot of heat.

I mean, you were called a sissy and things of that nature.

You did take a lot of heat at that time,

but it either made you stronger or you got out of it,

and here I am today still in the industry

that I took a lot of heat for.

I still take a lot of heat in the kitchen,

but you don't like the heat, get out. (laughs)

Watermelon's a difficult ingredient because

it doesn't have a lot of flavor to it

and it could be sour to a certain degree.

- Sweet Genius is a show on the Food Network.

He was on the fourth season of the Sweet Genius,

and it's a really amazing competition show.

You're given secret ingredients, and you create these

really amazing, surprising dishes based on

these secret ingredients.

The show is actually hosted by Chef Ben Israel,

who's very well known in the pastry world.

- I love the ginger in the ice cream.

It is a favorite flavor of mine.

You are a chef that listens and remembers details.

- I heard about Sweet Genius.

There's so many different shows now on the Food Network

and on all these different shows and networks

and Sweet Genius was one that I really felt

he would be great at.

It focuses on pastry work, chocolate, and sugar-work,

which I know he can do all three.

I reached out to our New York City press firm.

They had connections,

and they helped us get him placement on there,

and his expertise and talent did the rest.

He's the one who took it all the way, and he won.

- And you've just earned $10,000.

- Yeah baby!

- Chef Alon is always so full of ideas,

and sometimes we tell him something that's coming

or something that's about to happen,

and he takes it to another level.

We give him a project and we'll say,

hey, it's our 10th anniversary this year,

Seminole Hard Rock's 10-year anniversary.

We're gonna bring in a really big superstar

to celebrate for our VIPs and we brought in Mariah Carey

with Nick Cannon and we told him what the theme

was and it's rock and roll and we're gonna have

some fun with it, and he kind of just makes it happen.

- The Seminole Hard Rock Tampa is getting into

a lot of international clients.

We do, now, amenities for them

and this amenity is geared towards the Asian aspect,

the international gambler, which reflects a lot of color,

lot of culture, hence we're gonna be doing

a dragon today.

This is actually a technique which is pulled sugar.

It starts to pull in the air from the environment,

and you'll see what happens.

See, it starts to turn into like ribbon candy,

which is really cool.

The amount of work that's really involved

is really not shown sometimes on TV,

the detail and the time that it takes,

and then when they're asking the prices

that they do, people think they're crazy,

but there's a lot of time.

There's a lot of effort that goes involved in it.

We still have to do fun things to them.

I think it turned out pretty cool.

For the people who are really wanting to be

in this business, it truly is getting a sense

of education and really,

you have to put your heart into it.

You can't take shortcuts.

You'll get what you put into it, bottom line.

- Now for this week's art quiz.

Who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

in Washington, D.C.?

Is the answer A, Frank Lloyd Wright,

B, I. M. Pei, C, Louise Bourgeois,

or D, Maya Lin?

Stay tuned for the answer.

(jazz music)

Toni Lipsey learned how to crochet when she was 13,

and she was hooked immediately.

Let's visit her home studio in Hilliard, Ohio,

where she turns strands of yarn into whimsical creations.

(bell music)

- Helps me try and keep my count.

Like whenever I'm crocheting, I count, like every row.

I think playful and practical really help

to define kind of the things that I like

to make and especially the things that I like

to share with others.

If I could, I would love to teach everyone

how to do this.

I am the owner of TL Yarncrafts.

It's a crochet homegoods and accessories business.

I run primarily on Etsy, but I do a lot

of craft shows around the holidays.

Oh, I learned crochet when I was 13 years old.

I was bored to tears over summer break,

and I was driving my mother insane,

and she was looking for something to kind of

keep me busy, keep me occupied,

and she grabbed a crochet hook and some yarn

out of her stash, and she taught me how to make

a granny square, and she told me,

"Keep going, and it'll turn into a blanket,"

and I worked on that thing all summer.

I just remember at the time

just watching my hands make something

that didn't exist before.

It was kind of fascinating for such a young person,

and I've been doing it ever since.

I'm making an Owlbert.

So he is going to ultimately be an owl,

about ornament size, so perfect for like

a Christmas tree or hanging up in your car

or there's always one owl lover in the family

who can find something to do with an owl ornament.

It is by far one of my favorite things to make.

This is a wool blend.

So, if something happens to Owlbert, he falls in a puddle

or baby gets apple sauce on him, (laughs)

he can be popped in the washing machine,

really easy to take care of.

I want people, especially for the first time,

to experience crochet

in a very simple and straightforward way.

So, if I can make it approachable,

I try my best to do that.

I keep a project bag with me everywhere I go.

I mean, if I'm at the doctor's office,

if I'm waiting in the drive-thru too long,

(laughs) I'm pulling out one of my crochet projects.

Wish I could just teach the world to love crochet.

(laughs) I wish I could, yeah.

I mean once you get your hands into it,

and you really experience, it's just fascinating.

It's very exciting.

It's not just your grandma or your aunt

who made that kind of itchy sweater.

(laughs) It's something that is contemporary

and modern and that you can infuse into your own style.

I will crochet all day, every day for the rest of my life.

I wanna kind of redefine how people see

crochet in their lives.

- You can find out more by visiting

Now, let's review this week's art quiz.

Who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

in Washington, D.C.?

Is the answer A, Frank Lloyd Wright,

B, I. M. Pei, C, Louise Bourgeois,

or D, Maya Lin?

The answer is D, Maya Lin.

You may remember Maya Lin created a unique installation

that was featured in the KNPB documentary,

the Work of Art, Nevada Museum of Art.

You can watch it online at

Not all art is permanent.

When it comes to henna, the intricate designs

created on the body are only temporary,

but as we learn from henna artist, Kim Allcock of Reno,

the feelings of beauty, celebration, and gratitude

generated by this art form can last a lifetime.

(Indian music)

- Henna really is a process.

It's an exercise in patience

and almost a meditation in a lot of ways.

My name is Kim Allcock, and I am a henna artist.

Henna is the Persian name for a plant.

The plant's scientific name is Lawsonia inermis.

It is a shrub that's grown in Northern Africa,

Southern Asia, India, Pakistan,

and it produces in its leaves,

a dye that binds to keratins.

So it stains skin and hair.

The word henna has also been taken to apply to the artwork

that we put on our skin.

In India, it's more often called Mehndi or Mehendi,

but it all refers to the same artwork of applying

a paste made from plant leaves to your skin

in decorative patterns to create a temporary adornment.

(Indian music)

Being a beautiful, intricate design is a large part

of what henna is.

It's about adornment, it's about beautification.

It's also always been about celebration.

Weddings is the prime example that most people think of.

Births, engagements, anniversaries, birthdays,

anything like that.

I fell in love the first time I got henna done.

I loved watching it be created on my skin,

and when I was finished, I was looking at my design

thinking, I feel so valuable with this on me,

and I was hooked and decided that I wanted

to learn how to do it.

I'm essentially self taught,

and when I begin creating a piece of henna art,

the first thing that I would do is to mix the henna paste.

I use fresh henna leaves from a reputable supplier,

another henna artist who works directly with growers

in India, some black tea, and some essential oils,

and usually a little bit of sugar.

Since we live in a dry environment here in Reno,

it requires a little bit of sugar to give the paste

some stick to adhere to the skin better.

Once all of the liquid is mixed into the powdered leaves

and I've added the oils, it kind of sits

and brews for a little while.

It takes anywhere from about three or four hours

to 24 to 48 hours for the dye that's in the leaves

to release into solution and be available to stain skin.

I then sort of fine tune the texture of the paste.

I like it to be about maybe like cake batter.

I strain that through a nylon stocking

into an icing bag, and then I take it from

the icing bag and put it into the little cellophane

applicators that I've made and then use that

to pipe onto skin.

Often, I'm asked whether I do henna in multiple colors.

That's kind of a trick question.

Henna comes in one color and that is mahogany brown.

So if you look at what I'm wearing,

you can see maybe there's a little of shading

from fingertip to arm.

That mostly has to do with the thickness of the skin.

So always, henna will be this red-brown color.

That's the natural plant dye, the Lawson dye,

that occurs in the plant leaves.

There's no way to change the color.

It will always be red-brown, and that's because

it is this natural-occurring molecule.

Sometimes you'll see photos where it looks

really dark and raised up above the skin,

and sometimes you'll see photos where it's flush

part of the skin.

It's all the same design, it's all the same henna.

The difference is, with the henna design

raised up above the skin, the leaf paste

is still sitting on the surface of the skin.

That layer of paste sits on top of the skin

for ideally, at least four hours,

longer is better, and then,

you'll scrape off the top layer

and leave the outline of the design behind.

The color of henna is, in many cultures,

considered to be protective.

It is considered to be a blessed plant

in a lot of places.

Some people are a little nervous of it,

feeling like it's something religious,

and while it is, really,

it really is a blessing,

it's often used in religious ceremonies

and in a religious context,

but henna itself is not a religious process.

You can receive the blessing of this artwork

without needing to subscribe to any particular

religious tradition.

I think my favorite sort of designs, in general,

are to adorn a woman's belly when she's pregnant.

When I'm working with a baby belly,

then I'm also interacting with the little one inside.

Often, I'll be drawing and I'll feel them push

against my hand or I'll watch them move

or I'll talk to them, talk to mama,

and that process, really, I think is among

my favorite of processes.

I get to be a part of these really special

pieces of peoples' lives

and we're more or less creating the artwork together,

and unlike a lot of different art forms,

I get to be right there with the person

that's receiving my art.

So I think it's a really special process.

(string music)

- To learn more about Kim and see more

of her henna designs, visit,

and that wraps it up for this week's edition of Arteffects.

For more arts and culture and to watch past episodes


Until next week, I'm Beth Macmillan.

Thanks for watching.

- [Narrator] Funding for Arteffects is made possible by

Newman's Own Foundation,

The Nell J. Redfield Foundation,

Carol Franc Buck,

the annual contributions of KNPB members

and by.

(jazz music)


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