GSAS Alumni Panel Series: Future of the Arts
Emma Dench: Good evening, or good morning or good afternoon, depending on where you're joining us from Emma Dench: I'm Emma Dench Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard. And I want to extend a very warm welcome to all of you. And thank you for joining this je SS alumni panel on the future of the arts. Emma Dench: So within my lifetime. The spending no other time when we have so desperately needed the arts and appreciated their value. I bet many of us have been replaying snippets of Amanda Goldman's poem and her performance over and over in our mind since yesterday. Emma Dench: On a personal note, I grew up in a household profoundly affected by the fortunes and possibilities of the arts. My father was a Shakespearean stage actor and we live from theatre season to theater season. Emma Dench: These days, I have a cousin and nephew who are actors and another nephew who is a professional puppeteer Emma Dench: And I hear from them how the precariousness of art and artists has been exacerbated by the current crisis, but I also hear how art has found a way many remarkable ways as it often does Emma Dench: I'm delighted to introduce my wonderful colleague Robin Kelsey, who will, in turn, introduce our distinguished guests and moderate the discussion tonight.
Emma Dench: Robin is the surely Carter burden, professor of photography in the Department of History of Art and Architecture and a world renowned expert in photography with many loaded books, articles and honest to his name. Emma Dench: As Dean of arts and humanities at Harvard Robin practices his commitment to his Emma Dench: To the art to the arts and humanities every single day, to the benefit of us all. Emma Dench: But most important of all, he is an alumnus of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and his PhD in what is now a Department of History of Art and Architecture. So we couldn't be in better hands. Thank you so much, Robin.
Robin Kelsey: Thank you, Emma. It is a great pleasure and an honor to to be here and I love the fact that you mentioned Amanda Gorman in your introductory remarks. Robin Kelsey: As everyone probably knows Amanda is a proud graduate of Harvard College and I did once have Robin Kelsey: The distinct honor and pleasure of sharing a stage with her and I was never more convinced that my presence at an event would be entirely forgotten within 24 hours as I was on that occasion. Robin Kelsey: Amanda is extraordinary, we've known that for years and now the world knows that as well. So it's a great pleasure to introduce the topic today and
Robin Kelsey: The panelists. It's a wonderful moment to be asking ourselves about the future of the arts, the art world has experienced a succession of shocks in recent years, I would say that the Robin Kelsey: Beginning of the digital era has been one such shock, with many attendant changes and habits expectations desires and economies. Robin Kelsey: And then we have the pandemic. Another distinct shock which reminded us of the dangers inherent in being such an interconnected and environmentally stressed world. Robin Kelsey: And thirdly, we've had the shock of the political division in our society and the calls for forms of historical recognizing that pose tremendous challenges.
Robin Kelsey: To our society. So whether the arts in this extraordinary time Robin Kelsey: It's a wonderful question to ask. So I'm going to introduce our fabulous panelists in alphabetical order. And then I'm going to give each a chance to make some opening remarks on this topic. So I'm going to begin with, April, James. Robin Kelsey: April received her PhD in music from Harvard in 2002 she currently manages the Catholic center reading room at the University of Pennsylvania. Robin Kelsey: But that is just a start for April can juggle many things. Well, actually, she can literally juggle many things because juggling Robin Kelsey: Is just one of the many things she juggles. She is also the founder of the Maria Antonia project, which aims to restore the work of women composers to the living repertory Robin Kelsey: And she has curated on that subject matter as well. She is a mezzo soprano, who has performed as a soloist at many venues.
Robin Kelsey: And she is also an accomplished student and instructor of Baroque dancing. So, April. It is tremendous pleasure to have you with us. Second in alphabetical order is Raquel Jimenez Robin Kelsey: Raquel is a PhD candidate. Robin Kelsey: At Harvard in education as well as a Ford Foundation fellow and CO Chair of the Harvard education review. Her research focuses on young artists and the communities from which they come in the community support that they receive. Robin Kelsey: In other words, her work focuses on Robin Kelsey: Art as civically supported and art as civic inquiry. So Raquel it's fabulous to have you with us as well. Thank you.
Robin Kelsey: Third in alphabetical order is Glenn Lowry. Glenn probably needs no introduction, but he's going to suffer my introduction anyway. Robin Kelsey: He received a PhD from Harvard. And what was then the fine arts department also the department, from which I received my PhD. Robin Kelsey: He received his in 1982 and he is the David Rockefeller director of the Museum of Modern Art in his more than 25 years at the helm of MoMA Robin Kelsey: Glenn has accomplished more than I could possibly recount in these brief remarks, but let me underscore his recent Robin Kelsey: Leadership of a approximately according to reports 450 million dollar or so renovation and expansion of the museum, which led to a much anticipated reopening in October of 2019 Robin Kelsey: And for those of us who have been fortunate enough to see the new museum. We know what a tremendous achievement that that renovation and expansion has been Robin Kelsey: Since this panel is taking place among the community of Harvard people. I will simply note that New York Times critic Roberta Smith gave the curators who worked on the reinstallation a gold plated a plus for their effort. Robin Kelsey: We don't in fact give a pluses at Harvard. And if we did. I don't think they would be gold plated. But anyway, just an extraordinary encomium to the curation will staff at MoMA and a testament to glimpse leadership. Finally, we have our Darryl nickel out who is a Robin Kelsey: PhD in Comparative Literature hailing from Cyprus, but currently working out of New York City or get early as a writer, a scholar a filmmaker.
Robin Kelsey: And and more while at Harvard, she participated in the secondary field. Robin Kelsey: In critical media practice in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. And I'm particularly thrilled that she can represent Robin Kelsey: That program, which was pioneered by professors Peter gallus and Lucien casting Taylor. It's been remarkably successful and is currently the most popular secondary field in Robin Kelsey: The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and it is produced remarkable alumni, including a girl. She is widely published enter short films have been
Robin Kelsey: Shown at festivals and exhibitions in Europe and the United States, and she currently has a postdoc at Princeton, which I understand is a reputable institution in Robin Kelsey: New Jersey. So with sincere deep thanks for their willingness to join us tonight. I am going to give each of our panelists a moment to make some opening remarks on the provocative question of the future of the arts. So, April, the, the floor is yours. Oh. April James: Well, thank you, Robin. I don't know how provocative my remarks will be i i think that April James: For from my perspective, I think part of the future of the art is to go to the past of the arts. You know I am a music historian April James: And I'm a specialist in 18th century music and dance and I am a big proponent of everybody. April James: Making arts, right. So, you know, the way people used to have a harpsichord in their house or, you know, spin it, or some kind of musical instrument around
April James: I, I really believe that that's part of what the future is going to be is that everyone's going to have to get back to making music April James: making art really making it a part of our everyday experience because, you know, the more people that make art, the April James: The more the richer the society is going to be, and also people just appreciate the arts when even if they are not professionally engaged in the arts, if they are making art. April James: They can then appreciate someone who is professionally working in the arts. So I'm really a big proponent of that and yeah April James: Let's just start with that for now.
Robin Kelsey: Thank you so much, April, I will confess, a bit of autobiography that is I was one of the worst trumpet players in the history of that instrument. Robin Kelsey: But nonetheless. Despite years of failing to learn how to play the trumpet well Robin Kelsey: I do appreciate great trumpet playing better than I think I would have otherwise. So I'm a living testament to the truth that you articulated Robin Kelsey: Thank Raquel Raquel. Thank you, April.
Raquel Raquel Jimenez, she/her: All right. Um, well, it's so wonderful to be joining this conversation and. But I have to admit that, as I was preparing my remarks the particular challenge of considering the future of art. When the future of practically all else has been so uncertain has been difficult to ignore. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: In many ways we're grappling with a kind of collective cognitive dissonance and by that I mean that for many of us, we have the task of kind of reconciling Raquel Jimenez, she/her: The narratives that we might hold about the land of opportunity with an often uncomfortable and disappointing reality. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: And so against this backdrop, I believe strongly that one of the most powerful roles of the arts. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: Lives and helping young people contend with this challenge by providing young people with a necessary and in many ways unparalleled arena for learning to manifest the contents of their imaginations. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: And in many instances, this is already happening. Of course, in communities across the country.
Raquel Jimenez, she/her: From developing murals that surface untold community histories to theater performances that are aimed at shifting the narrative that surrounds mass incarceration. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: Young people are in fact deeply invested in using the arts to make sense of their lived experiences and to make themselves seen and heard in new ways in public life. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: And so as an ethnography of youth culture and the arts. I've had the privilege of watching this process unfold.
Raquel Jimenez, she/her: And in many ways, to my surprise, the basic contours of the creative process can indeed survive online. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: I've seen young people that are still mining the contents of their lives realities for sources of creative inspiration and young people engaged and often lively and heated debate about their works in progress. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: But underneath these kind of ordinary dynamics. I think something quite special is also happening, and that is that young people are being encouraged to think quite expansively about their potential roles in society. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: They're being asked to consider how they can connect their creative practices to current events and how they can Raquel Jimenez, she/her: Leverage the expressive power of the arts to create a space for much healing much needed healing dialogue and reflection in their communities. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: And so my work suggests that young people are really drawn to the arts, precisely because of this reason. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: They see the arts as a means for engaging and underappreciated acts of civic imagination and so studying the role of art and young people's lives can help us appreciate not only the future of art, but how we can use arts to shape a future that is more vibrant robust and just Robin Kelsey: Thank you. Raquel. Actually, I just want to interject that everything that you said is. So, in keeping with my experience of Harvard undergraduates in the arts, these days.
Robin Kelsey: Both the degree of social engagement and the extent to which the arts are a way for them to come to terms with the world that they live in both for themselves. Robin Kelsey: And and for others and the demand for our art classes are is is booming. I think precisely for those reasons. So thank you for those thoughtful remarks, Glenn what What thoughts do you have from from your vantage Glenn Lowry: Thanks Robin. I just want to assure you that no matter how inadequate, you may thought you were as a trumpet Tier I was a far worse flutist to the point that all around me would leave immediately as soon as I started to pick up a flute and try to practice so
Glenn Lowry: But it does build an appreciation for those who can actually play an instrument and play it magnificently Glenn Lowry: So when I think about the future of the arts. I generally think about it through three lenses. The lens of the artist. Glenn Lowry: Lens of the public that consumes art and the lens of the institutions that provide opportunities for artists to be seen and heard. And, you know, from that perspective. Glenn Lowry: It's important to realize that the last year has been devastatingly difficult for artists. There's probably no other segment of our society that has suffered more than artists and they were all ready on the edge. And I'm thinking particularly performing artists, but all artists. Glenn Lowry: Their careers were put on hold. They don't have pensions, they don't have steady income. Glenn Lowry: Institutions closed audiences disappeared. So this was a brutally difficult moment, and yet somehow. And I think it's because of the fundamentally creative nature.
Glenn Lowry: Of human beings, but especially of artists, they found something in that solitude in the peace in the in the isolation that was imposed upon them and Glenn Lowry: Have started. I've seen more interesting art in the last couple of months produced during the pandemic. Glenn Lowry: Then I saw before, and that that is because artists aren't inherently creative. And when we think about the future of the arts. The one thing we know is artists will continue to make extraordinary works of art. Glenn Lowry: That Ignite our imaginations and help us see and understand the world we live in.
Glenn Lowry: When I when I look at this through the lens of consumption. Those who acquire works of art or those who go to institutions to see or hear Glenn Lowry: Works of art. I do think the future is very different. We are seeing profound changes to the consumption of art, whether it is the pivot to the digital world and the reality that Glenn Lowry: social distancing has imposed on us. So that institutions that had focused on bringing people together in creating engagement and participation. Glenn Lowry: Have all had to learn how to desegregate participation from the experience of looking at and seeing Glenn Lowry: And enjoying art. So I think, and I don't think these changes are going to immediately revert back to pre pandemic dates. I think we're going to see an ongoing impact.
Glenn Lowry: In terms of how people see engaged consume and enjoy art that will be with us for a very long time and that may be in the way that might manifest itself is that there may be a Glenn Lowry: Real hesitation to return to the physical not that people won't do it but they may not do it as quickly as we hope. Glenn Lowry: And I think there will be a real recognition that the digital has become a very robust way to see and enjoy art, knowing full well that you cannot reproduce a work of art in the digital world. Glenn Lowry: As it was, or as it is in real life. Finally, I just want to pivot and this these are just points of departure for perhaps further conversation to the institutions that enable Glenn Lowry: Art to be seen and heard. And there I think we are again looking at dramatic and profound changes, most, most American institutions, maybe most global institutions have seen an enormous contraction in their resources in their staffs of course the public's have largely disappeared. Glenn Lowry: The kinds of exhibitions that we are used to the kinds of programs that we are used are all being reconceived and reshaping because it takes years to come back.
Glenn Lowry: Then the impacts of today will be felt for 3456 years at the least before whatever the new new establishes itself. And I, and I, I am concerned that Glenn Lowry: The incredible audience that emerged over the last 25 years for art, particularly the visual arts Glenn Lowry: That fueled cultural tourism, which can be criticized, if you wish, because it produced large numbers of people visiting museums, but it also produced an enormous interest in what we do. Glenn Lowry: And that interest spread out way beyond our walls and I worry that as people have realign their interest in patterns because of the last year. Glenn Lowry: They may not come back to our institutions in the same way. And they certainly will demand of our institutions new approaches and new ideas that we have yet to put in place. So I think there's a lot that will change as we look forward Robin Kelsey: Glenn. Thank you. I agree with you that each one of those is is a seed of a of a larger conversation and I hope we get to some of those conversations as we as we move along. Robin Kelsey: I guess. How about you.
Robin Kelsey: What, what is your offer. Argyro Nicolaou: Yeah, thank you. Those are very hard act to follow. But, um, I would, I wanted to say. Argyro Nicolaou: Comes from my perspective as a as a practitioner as an artist and filmmaker and as someone who comes from an academic background and for me. Argyro Nicolaou: What I think about when I think about the future of the IDES, especially in the, in the context of the pandemic and in the context of political uncertainty or instability are contentious or a contentious political environment I these three things. So mostly it's about how it is can navigate Argyro Nicolaou: The pandemic, especially with regards to how How involved do you get with the pandemic in your work. How much does it affect what you do and so on and so forth. Because I know with discussions through friends and other colleagues.
Argyro Nicolaou: That this is a big thing. I would consider to be reactionary, should we be looking ahead to the next thing. The post pandemic sort of content that people will be anticipating. How is that even you know Argyro Nicolaou: Possible, you know we we work within the worlds that we inhabit. So I find that that's that's an issue that's been coming up a lot. Argyro Nicolaou: In my conversations with other artists and to add to that is the engagement with the digital blend touched on this, you know, Argyro Nicolaou: How much do you pivot towards new media and in what ways do you do it, how much do you take on Argyro Nicolaou: How much do you sort of disavow. Can you survive if you disavow the digital as an artist or a filmmaker and so all these questions. Argyro Nicolaou: Now the second point that I'd like to make about the future in the eyes from my perspective is especially in conditions of extra per county or at least in conditions like the pandemic that have highlighted the prosperity of of artists and vide workers and cultural workers in general. Argyro Nicolaou: How do we make sure that we continue to engage underrepresented communities and underrepresented practices and so on and so forth with Argyro Nicolaou: With funding and income and sort of resources dwindling for whatever reason, whether that's because Argyro Nicolaou: You know there's there's less people visiting institutions there less performances. I mean, the whole of Broadway.
Argyro Nicolaou: Has been shot for and it's incredible for close to a year. Now what do we do to make sure that the people who still and institutions who still have Argyro Nicolaou: Who are still a float, in a way, how can we pull sort of people and other institutions upwards and I'm thinking, especially about it is run spaces are smaller, I'd run spaces. Argyro Nicolaou: In New York City, but also in general and the third point I want to make that is particular to my background as as an academic as well, is how can we use Argyro Nicolaou: Artistic tools in in research, but how can we think about it, making as as research and pedagogy as well. Argyro Nicolaou: This is something I think about a lot in a project I'm doing now with certain with students at Princeton, we're doing a device theater piece. Argyro Nicolaou: Online. I've only always done performance on my own. I've written it on my own. I've performed it on my own. But now we're taking a whole group. Argyro Nicolaou: And we're we're riding together and we're acting together and Argyro Nicolaou: It's scary, but it is a moment of experimentation as well. And I think it should be a moment of experimentation, both for academics and educators and for artists as well. So there is something to be said about this pause that the pandemic has given us
Argyro Nicolaou: And Argyro Nicolaou: And and to regard this pose as an opportunity and not be too afraid of the market forces that sometimes intervene and dictate what an artist, you know, can or should do in order to Argyro Nicolaou: Place themselves in a certain position or to sell better or and so on and so forth. So that's, that's, that's my two cents. Robin Kelsey: Thank you again rod what you were just saying in your last point about the relationship between Argyro Nicolaou: Art Robin Kelsey: And research and the Robin Kelsey: Kind of collaborative inquiry that the arts can foster is something that we're really trying to embrace as as well and and i think there's really been a sea change. Robin Kelsey: At Harvard in the last 1015 years the extent to which the arts are treated as an area of intellectual inquiry. Robin Kelsey: Of, of the same gravity and the same seriousness, as all the other forms of scholarly inquiry that take place on on campus. And it's been a remarkable Robin Kelsey: Change to see and I think it's, it was probably overdue, but it's very, very exciting to see it come into to being thank you all for those wonderful and very stimulating introductory Robin Kelsey: Remarks. We have a wonderful array of questions that were submitted in advance for this event. And I want to thank
Robin Kelsey: All the alumni who submitted their questions. So I'm just going to run through a few of these and see where they lead us many of them touch upon issues that one or more of you have already Robin Kelsey: Raised. So here's the first one for the past 50 years social cohesion in the United States and in many other countries of the world has declined. Robin Kelsey: What role do or can the arts play in creating spaces for connection and community building. Robin Kelsey: And and Raquel. This is very much links up to things that you were saying in your opening remarks, so I wonder if you could
Robin Kelsey: Say a few words because I I hear this all the time. People. People. Hoping that somehow the arts can bring people together and I, I'm curious as to your perspective on that issue. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: Sure. Well, I appreciate the question. Very much. And it's certainly been something I've been considering Raquel Jimenez, she/her: You know, in the midst of multiple social emergencies and, of course, in the context of a deeply fragmented and polarized media's media landscape. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: arenas for collective sense making in dialogue which are of course the, the core pillars of a shared civic culture or just few and far between.
Raquel Jimenez, she/her: So I think that being said, our experiences in forums that can provide a space for collective dialogue inquiry investigation since making will be profoundly important both now and to moving forward, but specifically at the local level, I believe. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: You know, of course, our institutions have always excelled in providing us a window into Raquel Jimenez, she/her: far corners of the globe and two cultures that are distinct from our own. But I think what we have missing, to some extent. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: Are arenas that really help us understand what's going on in our own backyards in our own communities and that can really help us. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: grapple with, again, that cognitive dissonance to make sense of the contradictions and complexities that are playing out globally, but of course are filtering down into our own lives realities and in ways that Raquel Jimenez, she/her: Are difficult sometimes to comprehend. So I think that arts experiences that that meet that local need for sense making and experiences. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: And institutions that can frame our own community cultures as a meaningful context for inquiry for engagement even celebration will be profoundly important Robin Kelsey: Thank you. I'm struck by the fact that in your response. Robin Kelsey: You, you mentioned shared civic culture. And you also emphasized the local. And I think these have been two things that the arts have been deeply involved in historically
Robin Kelsey: And yet they do seem to be intention with the internet as a platform for the arts. And one of the things I've been very struck by is the extent to which Robin Kelsey: The internet is mainly talked about in the arts in in reference to access which I appreciate. It's given people access to many forms of art that they otherwise. Robin Kelsey: Would have not had access to. But in the political sphere we often talk about the internet in much more an ambivalent terms as something that separates people into Robin Kelsey: Different self selected communities and become echo chambers and that there's a loss of traction on the real and I sometimes wonder, well, how does all that play out in in the arts.
Robin Kelsey: And so I'm curious as you talk about shared civic culture and you talk about the local. Do you have thoughts about the role of the internet as a as a medium for the Arts in that process. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: Um, you know, I guess, I think, a little bit less about the specific technological tools that are facilitating the experience Raquel Jimenez, she/her: But when I do think about, you know, the internet and what it makes possible. It does seem to me that one of the key offenses is facilitating long distance connections. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: Allowing to travel places that we physically cannot travel to necessarily, you know, in everyday life.
Raquel Jimenez, she/her: So that being said, I still feel like the Internet and the technologies that we have our marvelous for a slightly different thing. Right. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: I still think that there is a need to to understand what's happening in our communities in our backyards. You know who our neighbors are and to be really focused on that, you know, on that sort of micro level of exchange. I don't find that technologies are particularly Raquel Jimenez, she/her: Useful for that purpose. Robin Kelsey: Yeah, I think finding the right combination is going to be is going to be really critical Glenn. Do you have any, any thoughts on this, on this issue of social cohesion and the arts, from your perspective at MoMA I think Glenn Lowry: It's dangerous to instrumental lies the arts, you know, the fractures that we have seen in civic society are the result of decades of action on the part of the left and the right, that have seen a dissolution of trust in facts.
Glenn Lowry: None of which, I believe, right. I am a fact. Glenn Lowry: Based person believe fundamentally in the importance of the arts. But I think when we, when we, when we ask of the arts to help mediate the social fabric to be the common ground in which ideas can be shared and experiences can be lived and that we can forge those common Glenn Lowry: Ideals we asked a lot of the arts.
Glenn Lowry: Because the arts. Don't that is not their purpose, per se. Glenn Lowry: Nor is it necessarily even the purpose of the institutions that pervade the arts. Glenn Lowry: It is a byproduct sometimes, but it isn't necessarily the core mission but having so I worry about the Glenn Lowry: The role we ask of the arts. When we asked the arts to do more than what artists are capable of doing, right, because in the end.
Glenn Lowry: It artists are are charged with making art right they're not charged with necessarily transforming society or even healing the wounds of society. Glenn Lowry: And so the institutions that support those artists and that's what we do in the museum world we are the platform a platform that enables artists. Glenn Lowry: To be seen, heard experienced. We hope that by providing a common space that it will enable the divisions, intellectual, social, cultural, to, at the very least, engage each other.
Glenn Lowry: And I'm naive enough to want the arts to do more than that. But realistically, I worry that that's more than they can do and that Glenn Lowry: It's a, it's a complex. It's a complicated problem to to move past the reality that the fracture that exists may be so deep. Glenn Lowry: That it cannot be breached. Robin Kelsey: I, I certainly share your concern. Glenn that sometimes people are looking to the arts as a kind of Deus Ex Makana that's going to come save us. Robin Kelsey: From ourselves. And I think everyone's got a role to play artists may have a role to play, but I don't think it's going to quite quite work in that in that way or girl. Do you have something you want to add to this, I Robin Kelsey: I says, Yes.
Argyro Nicolaou: Please. Thank you so much. Now what I, what I want to say is I think one way Argyro Nicolaou: To Argyro Nicolaou: To mediate this pressure on the eyes and the itis Argyro Nicolaou: Is to really think about Argyro Nicolaou: What do we do when we look at it when we experience it. What does that do to us. So I spent so much time on Twitter, these past few months, and my brain is mush. I mean, okay. Argyro Nicolaou: So what do I mean by that I mean that technology and these kind of ways of communication are moving so quickly. It's rap. It's like Spitfires rapid fire at you and we get information in snippets. Argyro Nicolaou: And our and our brain and our and our thinking is frag it's totally fragmented, not to have the opportunity to sit through Argyro Nicolaou: What we call slow cinema and watch for four or five hour film or to walk into a show in a big gallery space.
Argyro Nicolaou: At the moment, and other institution and walk around and sort of take the time to slow down and contemplate and think outside of these frameworks. Argyro Nicolaou: That are very important. We have to be thinking about politics and society and so on and so forth. But how do we think, right. How do we think, do we slow down and think carefully, or are we taken up in a tide of of sort of Argyro Nicolaou: Fashionable these fashionable tug of war is sometimes that unraveling the internet and I come from a place that's that's defined by conflict. I grew up in a divided place Greeks versus Turks. That's a very simplified approach to it, but Argyro Nicolaou: But I grew up with this kind of polarization and the answer is not to keep like pushing it. Argyro Nicolaou: To the extreme and keep talking about it in the same way, we have to take a step back and sort of shift a little bit and retrain our brains, not retrain our brains, but Argyro Nicolaou: Practice thinking more slowly more quantitatively and you know through reading through watching slow cinema through going to an exhibition. For me, that's the big, big effect that I can have and that has an effect on on on how we build
Argyro Nicolaou: Ourselves, then as citizens and and as neighbors, as I mentioned, Argyro Nicolaou: Yeah. April James: And I just like to jump in here, if I may. April James: Yeah, I'm finding that too. I found that in my own work, you know, as I've
April James: Worked and gone through my career and my career has evolved to from music through, you know, physical theatre to now poetry and visual art, you know that. April James: I've had to slow down to make room for inspiration and to get away from a lot of those things. You know when you're applying for grants as an artist or seven April James: They're all these kinds of boxes that people want you to be in. Oh, you get, you know, when you can April James: Get a grant because of your skin color, you can get a grant because of your gender of your body, you can get a grant because of this social movement that social movement. April James: And I've had to step back and say, wait a minute, you know, because my my most recent ART PROJECT IS APRIL plus Madison. So it's me. April James: And it's the guardian angels my creativity Madison had us on a tear and it's very inspired by Alison Wonderland and Lewis Carroll April James: And it's, you know, I've thought about applying for grants and I wanted to in fact do a solo show I've written a solo show called The twinkle bat variations and April James: I was planning to do it as a solo show I thought originally that was going to be the way it would get out into the world. But even before this last year, I realized that, you know,
April James: That's not how I want to build community. It's not about me picking up and traveling and going someplace and staging a show and then picking up a stage in your show and picking up and doing that. April James: I found that Madison works best actually via the oldest take note of the older technologies radio or as we now call it podcasting. April James: You know, and so the the sonnets and Madison rights. April James: declaims these whimsical science each song. It takes about a minute and a half of your time. So in these, you know, attention.
April James: You know, attention starved times I want people's attention spans are so short. Well, minute and a half. That's, that's all. It'll take for you to listen to us on it. April James: And have have an experience that connects us as a community is very interesting. It's like a community over the Internet. April James: And community. Also, though, when you think about inspiration as creating community. It's kind of the same inspiration that led to Mozart's works. You know, he always claimed April James: That the symphonies, and all his works came through him. He didn't actually April James: Pose anything. He just tried to write it down as he heard it good to to also talked about the role of inspiration and creating his words and Lewis Carroll April James: Talked about that in his work. So I think that really know we're talking about community in the sense community. Yes, individually but community also spiritually and bringing that and the time for contemplation into work and getting into getting people back into that kind of space.
Robin Kelsey: April Thank you both. Both your comments and our girls. Robin Kelsey: make me think about the extent to which one of the things that we need to do in the arts and humanities. These days, and we do focus on it is just opening up different modes of attention for our students. Robin Kelsey: Because their modes of attention right now are so channeled by precisely the factors that you've been citing Robin Kelsey: That just giving them the possibility for other modes of attention for for a kind of longer wavelength of thought and receptivity is a dramatic and radical Robin Kelsey: Thing for them and and it's exciting to hear what you have to say in April, I also just want to add as a footnote that Robin Kelsey: That the Music Department, from which you received your PhD recently hired a wonderful composer named Yvette Jackson, who works on radio opera also reviving that notion of radio is somehow a medium that Robin Kelsey: That has tremendous currency. These days, and you know one thread that I hear running through some of what has been said from your Oprah opening remarks onward. Robin Kelsey: Is something that I very much like to underscore for audiences that may include people Robin Kelsey: From the technology sector other sectors, who are looking at the arts and they think about innovation and they think they sometimes think about temporality is running in one direction, like it's going to be the new they look to the art for the new and they don't Robin Kelsey: Always I think appreciate the extent to which are and the humanities aren't an endless mode of recycling.
Robin Kelsey: And then, in fact, when we look back on on great works of modern art, you know, whether its core Bay, or whatever it is that these artists were in many cases, carrying through something from history that was deeply important to them. Robin Kelsey: And finding that had to had new viability in a different moment and could say something new. Robin Kelsey: In response to different circumstances. So, so I very much love bringing that into the mix of this of this conversation. Robin Kelsey: So I'm going to move on. You know, I think we've gotten through one question. And we've used up an enormous amount of time which
Robin Kelsey: I love because these are incredibly good questions and I wish we had all evening, but it was move on to the next one and April. I'm going to start with you on this one, which is how can the arts address the representation gap in audiences and in performers and artists. April James: Well goodness April James: I'll just sign in two minutes, I'll just April James: Yeah, no problem. That would be great. And then we can move on to some other social problems. Okay. Okay, good. April James: Good. Okay, so, you know, when I think about it. Sometimes I think about that, that question in relation, just to where arts institutions are located relative to the audience's that want to participate in them. April James: You know, one of my favorite places to go. When I'm in New York. So I'm in native New Yorker. One of my favorite places to go would be museum mile April James: In a museum mile is on the is on Fifth Avenue and it's and it's a wealthier part of town. And if you're trying to reach more diverse audiences.
April James: Not all the people who would come to something that you're far away from a lot of the diversity that makes new york new york TV. If your fear you know on in museum mile up there, you know, 70s. April James: And upward on Fifth Avenue. Now, I would go, you know, I would travel into Manhattan for that. I'm a native of Queens so i would i would travel into April James: Manhattan for that. But there are a lot of people that won't travel that far. And right now live in Philadelphia. I live in April James: West Philadelphia near the University of Pennsylvania, you know, a lot of the arts institutions, when they have concerts and stuff. They have them in Center City. April James: And again, you know, just logistically, how many people are going to travel, even though by New York standards like it's nowhere you know so easy to get there from Ireland.
April James: But still, people won't necessarily travel 20 minutes, half an hour to get someplace where where you know musics being made or, you know, a theater is happening so April James: It's. It might be that we have to start thinking about Repertory Theater stuff or, you know, arts closer, where the diverse audiences are April James: And really thinking about and also technology. Technology is good, like the internet is actually good for reaching people who won't travel to our April James: Philadelphia's you know the chamber music society has been doing in a web based concerts for the last better part of a year. And that's reaching audiences here, but then again you have to have the technology. April James: So we are also coming up against a little bit of a technological barrier. Do people have the technology to engage in a in something that's on the internet so Robin Kelsey: Thank you know that's that's great and Raquel this, this gets us back to the local and I'm sure in your ethnographic research you've Robin Kelsey: Discovered things about the relationship between a community and the arts produced right within that community. And I wonder if you could speak to this this issue as well. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: Sure. Um, well, the community that I'm studying
Raquel Jimenez, she/her: In many ways is regarded widely by historians as the sort of bedrock of industrial capitalism in the United States. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: And with that comes, of course, the forces of deindustrialization, and now a stigma that sort of looms over the community. So I'm finding that much of the young artists work that I'm studying is really wrapped up in issues of representation, not so much that Raquel Jimenez, she/her: They want to be represented in the arts, necessarily, but I think more Raquel Jimenez, she/her: To put a finer point on it, they're interested in using the representational tools of the arts to shift the stigma that surrounds their community. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: And so I would very much in many ways agree with so much of what April just said it really resonates with my own thinking and work as well. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: Of course, the, the diversity discourse is permeating nearly every corner of the arts right now, but I think it's quite important.
Raquel Jimenez, she/her: To be mindful about the ways in which that we're framing the problem because, of course, that suggests, how we go about solving it. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: And so I think that you know conversations about inclusion need just a little bit of a tweak or a nudge from my perspective, it's perhaps less about including communities and what already exists elsewhere. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: But rather, making sure that the communities themselves have the resources. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: And outlets that they need to expand upon what is already happening, you know, communities already have culture. They don't have to necessarily travel to institutions to get culture.
Raquel Jimenez, she/her: So I think it's really about. Yeah, providing resources that amplify extend and help young people speak back to the forces that are unfolding in their communities. Robin Kelsey: And I take it that public resources are going to be critical for that. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: In your view, I, ideally, although, of course, we have a bit of a challenging public funding infrastructure. Robin Kelsey: Yeah Yeah no absolutely i to connect what you're saying once again to what's going on at Harvard, just for this audience, which I assume Robin Kelsey: Is interested but our, our wonderful Professor Sarah Lewis and history of art and architecture, who teaches a course vision and justice that has attracted national attention.
Robin Kelsey: makes such a compelling case for the extent to which these issues of representation that you're underscoring really should be at the heart of Robin Kelsey: What we study when we study art history that it is you know that it is not just a history of formal experimentation and so forth. It is also Robin Kelsey: A history about making things visible making people visible making conditions visible making issues, visible and making them visible in particular ways so Robin Kelsey: I think that emphasis on representation is exceedingly important Glenn, how do you get people to MoMA from Queens like April's kind of just told you that it's a long way. Robin Kelsey: It's a long way. So, so how do you do it. Robin Kelsey: Up you're muted. Glenn Lowry: Sorry.
Glenn Lowry: I you know I think April gave the answer in her Glenn Lowry: Query, as it were, you know, she was prepared to travel to the upper east side because there was something there that interested her Glenn Lowry: And I think the reality is, people move around a lot. Glenn Lowry: And there and they move around because they want to go someplace and I think it's incumbent on institutions that want to attract a broader and more diverse audience to recognize that those audiences are there and they are interested, but Glenn Lowry: You have to engage them. You have to be willing to develop the programs develop the collections develop the installations that engage their minds because people will travel to a baseball game. Glenn Lowry: On the drop of a dime or they'll go to their favorite restaurant in some other part of town. It's not that they won't move that they won't go out of the locale, in which they live. It's that often. Glenn Lowry: They're not motivated to do it because, at least in the case of some of our major institutions, we don't have the programs and exhibitions. Glenn Lowry: That they're interested in seeing. And I think the issue of representation. And you mentioned Sarah and I agree completely with this, the issue of representation is the issue of visibility and Glenn Lowry: It's the CORE conversation that is taking place in American museums today how to make visible the richness, the complexity, the diversity.
Glenn Lowry: Of American culture and American society and how to do that in a way that is thoughtful, that is engaging and that is Glenn Lowry: Enduring more than anything else. So, you know, it's easy to live in the moment, but I think we also have to make commitments to make profound and complex change that alters the course of our institution and that cannot be done without Glenn Lowry: Either resurfacing works of art that are already in our collections that perhaps were made invisible because they didn't conform to Glenn Lowry: an institution's understanding of importance at the time, or to make the effort to bring in those new voices in different voices that haven't been present Glenn Lowry: And to ensure that they remain visible and this is the key thing. This is not about suggesting for a moment that one program will engage some new audience. Glenn Lowry: That will suddenly see an institution as a new home. It is the sustained commitment to those programs day over day week over week, month over month, year over year that builds those audiences. Glenn Lowry: And that takes nothing away from the granular relationship that that people have with their local institution that may be a five minute walk from their home. But I think people want rich and complex experiences and are prepared to move around for them. Glenn Lowry: As long as they are of interest to people. And I think it's incumbent on us to make sure that our programs are installations. Our exhibitions are of interest to a broad and diverse audience. Robin Kelsey: Thank you. Glad. All right, I'm gonna, I'm going to move on to another question from one of our alumni and this one I'm going to
Robin Kelsey: Direct to our Garrow so this, this one is for you to lead off on what has the epidemic taught us about the importance of in person in person performance with live audiences if audiences are important. Can we do live performances differently in in the future to engage and involve Robin Kelsey: Audiences more fully. Argyro Nicolaou: Thank you for that question. Argyro Nicolaou: I think, I think we are all of the same mind that we love live performance and we love to have an audience. And I think people like craving to be in a space with other people either, you know, to watch a Broadway show or performance side or whatever it is, or dance. Argyro Nicolaou: I'm also as a social dance. I dance Tango and we haven't been able to dance Tango in a year. I mean, I don't think we'll be able to do it for another year maybe Argyro Nicolaou: And that, for me, is a big profound loss that the pandemic has imposed on a large part of the population. And I think that will never, I mean this that
Argyro Nicolaou: The people who have gone through this pandemic. Right. And in our adults or teenagers during this time we will never sit in an auditorium with the same kind of nonchalance ever again. Right. I think will always be carrying Argyro Nicolaou: This absence and this lack with us so will arrive tutorials I think much more gratitude and sort of being much more grounded in in in in how special that experience that live experience is Argyro Nicolaou: But at the same time, I do think that Argyro Nicolaou: Something about the digital in the online space which is not definitely not a substitute for live at all. Not a panic here. Argyro Nicolaou: But I think it's forcing people to think Argyro Nicolaou: beyond the boundaries that sometimes it is that are in performance themselves or in dance have had already had put themselves in right so I was very skeptical of Argyro Nicolaou: Live streaming zoom plays and so on and so forth. But I've been exposed to so many things. And going back to your point, Robin about the the the recycling that happens in the eyes. I watched Argyro Nicolaou: An interpretation of checkups of the seagull on the seems right by New York Theatre Workshop. Now the Sims is this online game. Argyro Nicolaou: Okay, I didn't get it 100%. But there was something there. I felt like there was a new thing happening. I couldn't access it 100% but
Argyro Nicolaou: So I think we won't be able to Eve this digital experimentation that's been happening for this year sort of out the door and then restyled as as Glenn mentioned, I think we're gonna Argyro Nicolaou: See kind of interesting combinations of things. And for me, the most important thing as well is to be able to Argyro Nicolaou: Transmit live performance to audiences that can't make it into that auditorium. Anyway, not just because of the pandemic. But as you know, Argyro Nicolaou: A promo the distance from from certain institutions and I think one thing that institutions and I'd spaces. Argyro Nicolaou: Have perhaps we gained from this traumatic experience is how the digital outreach pied is not something to you know it's not an extra burden, but it can be a boon. Argyro Nicolaou: Because it can draw a lot of people in and I experienced this firsthand with film festivals. This year I had a film a short documentary
Argyro Nicolaou: making the rounds and we didn't. We couldn't go to any festival, but the, the number of people that watched short films online was incredible compared to the number that would have watched them in the actual physical auditorium. So that's, that's, yeah. Robin Kelsey: No, I think that's all, that's all very well said we are nearly at the hour of eight o'clock and Robin Kelsey: Some of our Robin Kelsey: Participants may need to peel off, but I'm going to keep us if the panelists are willing for just a few more minutes, so that we can continue the conversation. So, so, April. What are your thoughts about the future of live performance as the pandemic receipts. April James: Oh, the future of live performances. It will be a live performance will come back, but I do like, you know, to April James: To refine what bit of what I Giro said, You know, I think that digital performance has an important role to play in the future as well. I really think that April James: You know, we're seeing real will see a lot of come combined forms of art making a combining live and digital and and and especially as a definitely I think as April James: In regards audience participation. You know, the Vienna Philharmonic did their new year's eve concert and they had an audience of 7000 people from around the world. April James: Participating in that people who would never be able to travel to Vienna for New Years normally could participate and I think that kind of thing, definitely has a role in the future of the arts.
Glenn Lowry: Robin, can I just jump in and add, I actually think one of the most interesting things that's happened in the last year is that it's forced everyone to really Glenn Lowry: Look at the digital world through a new lens because it was the primary world that was accessible to all of us. Glenn Lowry: And that one of the consequences of that. And I think a profoundly beneficial. One is that it's accelerating the collapse between in real life. Glenn Lowry: And virtual reality and that speaks a little bit to what April and our Giro were saying that I think we're going to see a much more seamless relationship. Glenn Lowry: between online and offline and that the two as the tool will cease to be different spaces they will become part of the same space experience differently, but we're going to learn to use them both as a tool and as an experience in a Glenn Lowry: Ultimately, I think seamless way. And I think that's really exciting.
Glenn Lowry: So that whether you're on site or off site, you're going to be engaging with the issues and the ideas, you're interested in, and that artists are going to learn how to create for both spaces. We actually have a project that we're doing with Amanda Williams, that is going to be Glenn Lowry: Online and on site at the same time in which it's a performance piece, but where she is really thinking through how you work these two different spaces simultaneously and together. And I think we're just going to see a lot more of that. Robin Kelsey: That's very interesting and Robin Kelsey: You know, I think, I think universities are going to have to experience that very soon, because those of us who've been dealing with exclusively remote instruction.
Robin Kelsey: Since the pandemic became full throttle are going to be moving to hybrid farms where some people might not be able to be in the classroom. While many others are and and we're going to have to Robin Kelsey: Experience this this liminal space between the virtual and and the everyday Raquel. Any thoughts about about this, this question of, of live performance in the post pandemic moment. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: Well, to be honest, I'm studying a crew of muralist and so it's actually one of the few art forms that I think Raquel Jimenez, she/her: Is in some ways, able to continue quite fruitfully in this time it's socially distance and not quite experiencing the same challenges. So, um, I don't think I have anything profound or Raquel Jimenez, she/her: Say on this particular question.
Robin Kelsey: So then, Raquel. Let me ask you about mural ism because we've been talking about recycling within the arts now murals have arguably a continuous history. Robin Kelsey: over many generations coming to the present, but you can also argue that there have been certain moments in which murals have played Robin Kelsey: A special and very prominent role in the arts and and those moments have been moments in which the relationship of the arts to public discourse has become incredibly charged and important. And do you see this moment as being such a moment for rural ism. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: Oh, I think absolutely even frankly predating the pandemic, for sure. Again, thinking about the specific community that I'm working with, and which of course is specific. But the generalities can apply so many other places. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: It's also a rapidly gentrifying community. And so for the developers that are coming in one ways to fix and sort of remove the stigma that that surrounds this community is to remove the people that live in it. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: And so for young people that don't have full access to the democratic process. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: Public art making and the tools that that avails to make their own perspectives of their community visible to make those part of the Raquel Jimenez, she/her: cultural discourse that surrounds the community to be able to articulate a counter narrative has been incredibly important, not only Raquel Jimenez, she/her: You know, for them as artists, but developmental lady as as teenagers as adolescents.
Raquel Jimenez, she/her: That you know have to contend with the stories that are told about them in their communities and have the opportunity to also craft their own narratives. So it's um yeah you're rolling is fantastic. The scale is huge. And they're really able to Raquel Jimenez, she/her: You know, put their put their fingers on the scale in a way that they might not be able to otherwise. Robin Kelsey: Thank you. Raquel that's such a Robin Kelsey: Powerful and upbeat note. Robin Kelsey: upon which to end. I think we should bring this wonderful conversation to a close. And I just want to thank all of you for participating in this conversation. It's been a tremendous pleasure for me and I will turn it over to Emma for some final remarks. Emma Dench: Thank you so much. Robin, and thank you.
Emma Dench: To you to April to rock out to Glenn to our hero for just such a Emma Dench: Fascinating. Fantastic, wonderful conversation and your conversation tonight to me, exemplified the best things about their Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Emma Dench: I love that the theme of slow thinking in the most positive possible sense came out, time and time again and in watch you sad. Emma Dench: I think of slow thinking as a rejection of the easy answers very characteristic of the students and alumni of the graduate school. Emma Dench: And I think about all your creative approaches to seemingly impossible problems again just to complete hallmark and it's it's a very proud moment for me to to see the graduate school.
Emma Dench: Played out like this tonight. Emma Dench: And I want to thank everybody who's I was I'm gonna say, cuz we went retro and we talked about radios. So I'm going to say, I want to thank everybody who's tuned in tonight. Emma Dench: And thank you so much for engaging with RGS as alumni panel, and I very much hope that we get the opportunity to share Emma Dench: Space virtually or in person again very soon. But warmest thank you again to April rock how Glenn our gear and Robin thank you from the bottom my heart and thanks everybody and Good night. Good morning, good afternoon to you to all of our all of our listeners. Thank you. Glenn Lowry: Thank you.
April James: Thank you. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: April. It was so great to learn about your work. I hope we can connect offline. April James: Hey, thank you, or kill. Yeah.
April James: We can say things like you murals, you should be in Philadelphia. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: That's right. Yeah, the mural arts program is there. April James: Yeah, it's all you know murals are all over this town. Raquel Jimenez, she/her: Wonderful to meet you.
April James: Wonderful to meet you.