I was thrilled to join the Willson Center as associate academic director for arts and public programs this summer. I have always been strongly committed to the humanities and arts and believe in their central function not only as part of a flagship university’s curriculum, but also as fundamental to enriching our existence throughout our lives. The Willson Center is dedicated to supporting creativity and innovation in the arts by encouraging interdisciplinary collaborations, furnishing grants to faculty and students for arts research, inviting national and international artists and scholars to UGA, and building strong connections with the local arts community here in Athens.
As a film studies professor in the department of Theatre and Film Studies, one of the first things I hope to teach students is to take the role of culture seriously and to avoid thinking of the arts as an extraneous “entertainment” not fundamentally connected to social discourse, political engagement or economic practices. I see my role at the Willson Center as expanding on this mission connecting arts research and public arts activity. Meeting faculty and students in the various arts departments over the last few weeks indeed reminded me of just how much creative work is happening here on campus and in the Athens community, which is so easily forgotten once one becomes immersed in one’s own teaching and research concentrating on the home department. It is well worth coming out to see what is coming up this November and encouraging your students to do so too.
The upcoming inaugural Spotlight on the Arts Festival at UGA (November 3 – 11) is a great example of what we can achieve collectively to foreground the arts. The Willson Center will be well represented. While there are many exciting events to choose from that week, let me draw your attention to a number of events the Willson Center will be presenting.
First, let me point to four different film screenings we will be hosting during the festival.
Our keynote event during the festival, in partnership with the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, will be the Athens premiere of Somebodies at Ciné on Wednesday, November 7 at 7 p.m. The 2006 comedy about a young African American torn between his respectable family and his hard-partying college friends was shot entirely in Athens. Produced by UGA Professor Nate Kohn and Pam Kohn, and written and directed by UGA graduate Hadjii, the film had a very successful debut at the Sundance Film Festival and was purchased by the BET cable television network, but was never distributed theatrically. Hadjii, who also stars in the film, and his co-star Kaira Akita will be present for this gala event. A reception with the two stars and other cast and crew members will follow a post-screening Q&A.
Furthermore, three Peabody Award-winning documentaries will be screened in cooperation with the Peabody Awards as part of the festival:
On November 6, the PBS American Masters Series production Eames: The Architect and the Painter, will be shown at 7 p.m. in the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries auditorium. The husband-and-wife team of Charles and Ray Eames are widely regarded as America’s most important designers. Produced by filmmakers Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey and narrated by James Franco, Eames: The Architect and the Painter is the first film since their deaths dedicated to these creative geniuses and their work. Janice Simon, Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor of Art History in the Lamar Dodd School of Art, will introduce the screening.
LennoNYC , another PBS American Masters Series production, will be screened November 8 at 7 p.m. at Ciné. LennoNYC takes an intimate look at the time John Lennon, Yoko Ono and their son, Sean, spent living in New York City during the 1970s. On why the British-born Lennon is an American Master, director/producer Michael Epstein suggests “John in New York was always a part of how I saw John’s story… John’s a New Yorker. New York is just the right lens, I’ve said before, to look at John’s post-Beatles life.” LennoNYC is a portrait of a complicated artist that tells an unusually rich and complex story that doesn’t shy away from the demons Lennon had to exorcise while creating beautiful music. David Barbe, director of the Music Business Certificate Program in the Terry College of Business, will introduce the screening.
The final Willson Center screening during the arts festival will be of a 1969 episode of the CBS “New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concerts” television series with Leonard Bernstein, on November 10 at 2 p.m. in the Russell Special Collections Building auditorium. At the New York Philharmonic, Bernstein made Young People’s Concerts a centerpiece of his work, calling them his “educational mission.” Looking back on the concerts years later, he referred to them as being “among my favorite, most highly prized activities of my life.” In this concert, three versions of Bach’s “Little” Fugue in G Minor are performed – including one on Moog synthesizer. Horace Newcomb, professor of telecommunications in the Grady College and director of the Peabody Awards, will introduce the screening with David Haas, professor of musicology in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music.
In addition to the film events, the Willson Center will also host a roundtable discussion on “Creativity in the Research University.” This event will be held November 7 at 12:30 p.m. in room 150 of the Zell B. Miller Learning Center. The panelists are Nicholas Allen, Franklin Professor of English and director of the Willson Center; Mark Callahan, artistic director of Ideas for Creative Exploration (ICE); David Saltz, associate professor and department head, department of Theatre and Film Studies; Martijn van Wagtendonk, associate professor of art, Art X, Lamar Dodd School of Art; and Susan Thomas, associate professor of musicology and women’s studies.
Furthermore, the Willson Center is sponsoring several arts-related lectures.
On November 5, Kevin Kelly and Richard Zimdars will present “Charles Ives’ Modernism: A Window of the Past,” with soprano Addison Hamilton, in Edge Hall at 3:45 p.m. This lecture will present a brief introduction to the life of Charles Ives, and then focus on several of his works that contain elements of “modernism.” Zimdars’ recordings of Ives’ First Piano Sonata and the four violin and piano sonatas will be available for purchase at the lecture, which is part of a series of seminars on modernism organized by Professor Jed Rasula.
Next, Robert Conner will present a lecture entitled “The Cliff, the River and the Sea: Reflections on Extreme Literature in Ancient and Modern Times.” Connor advocates for liberal education, the humanities and especially the ancient Greek and Roman classics. He is senior advisor and past president of the New York-based Teagle Foundation, which serves as an influential national voice and a catalyst for change in higher education to improve undergraduate student learning in the arts and sciences. This event will take place on November 7 at 4 p.m. in room 150 of the Miller Learning Center.
And finally, Michael Oliveri, associate professor of art at the Lamar Dodd School of Art, will present his project “Slicing and Dicing Anthropomorphic Perspectives.” Part of the Willson Center’s 2012-2013 Fellows Lecture Series, this event will be held on November 8 at 4 p.m. in room 248 of the Miller Learning Center.
Many more exciting events are taking place all over the university during this time. We hope to see you at many of our Willson Center events as well as at the many other wonderful presentations and performances to be enjoyed during the Spotlight on the Arts Festival.
Let’s celebrate the arts together this coming month.
Yours truly, Antje Ascheid