Syracuse University to host national Imagining America conference, Sept. 6-8
Syracuse University to host national Imagining America conference, Sept. 6-8August 22, 2007Sara Millersemortim@syr.edu
Imagining America (IA), a national consortium of some 80 colleges and universities whose mission is to strengthen the public role and democratic purposes of the humanities, arts and design, will hold its seventh national conference at its new home campus, Syracuse University, Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 6-8. More than 200 IA members and representatives from colleges and universities across the country will focus their attention on the theme “Citizenship for a Just World: Activating Knowledge, Cultivating Engagement” and will hear from IA’s new director, Jan Cohen-Cruz, who joined IA and SU from New York University this past July.
“Whereas academic conferences are traditionally discipline-based, IA gathers people from the humanities, arts and design who are committed to using their positions in higher education to engage with the world, be it locally or beyond,” says Cohen-Cruz, who also serves as University Professor at SU. “The kinds of conversations, debates, informal exchanges and presentations this facilitates are deeply nourishing.”
Three days of conference workshops and presentations at the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel & Conference Center will facilitate the sharing of knowledge and perspectives among IA members — from large and small colleges and communities around the country — on how best to bridge campus and community for the creation of new kinds of citizenship and public engagement that have no fixed geographic boundaries but still respond to specific communities located around the world.
Since its founding in 1999 as a partner program of the White House Millennium Council, IA has become the leading voice for the importance of public engagement in the arts and humanities, stressing the intellectual and civic importance of public scholarship and mobilizing educational leaders to develop publication and tenure practices that support the enterprise of public scholarship. In fall 2006, SU was selected as the new host campus for IA effective July 1, 2007, bringing the consortium from its founding institution, the University of Michigan, to Central New York for a term that extends to 2012. IA members include large and small, public and private liberal arts and research institutions, as well as historically black colleges and universities.
Conference sessions will offer the opportunity for graduate students to share their publicly active endeavors with each other; exchange of methods for developing and nurturing community partnerships; strategies for teaching community-based engagement; dialogue around the role of the humanities in public arts and scholarship; discussion on fostering citizenship in K-12 partnerships; models of urban transformation through community design; and encouragement for artists and creative professionals to take the lead in the public sector, among other topics.
Some highlights of the conference include:
- A welcome address from Cohen-Cruz in which she will speak about her vision for IA. (8:15 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 6)
- Opening remarks by SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor, one of IA’s founding members at the University of Michigan (8 a.m., Friday, Sept. 7)
- IA keynote address, “Navigating the Past: Reflections on Brown University’s Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice” by James T. Campbell, professor of American civilization and Africana studies at Brown. (1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 8)
Cohen-Cruz came to IA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she served as a professor in the drama department. She held a joint appointment in the Tisch School’s Department of Art and Public Policy, which she co-founded with several colleagues at the school.
She is the author of “Local Acts: Community-Based Performance in the United States” (Rutgers University Press, 2005), in which she presents a survey of that field from its earliest roots to the present day. She also edited “Radical Street Performance” (Routledge, 1998) and, with Mady Schutzman, co-edited “Playing Boal: Theatre, Therapy, Activism” (Routledge, 1994) and “A Boal Companion: Dialogues on Art and Cultural Politics” (Routledge, 2006).
In the mid-1990s, Cohen-Cruz co-directed the Tisch School’s AmeriCorps, focusing on violence reduction through the arts. She has produced community-based projects with Tisch students on New York’s Lower East Side, one focused on community gardens and another on gentrification. Cohen-Cruz also directed the Tisch School’s Office of Community Connections, through which Tisch School of the Arts students do community-based art internships. She was Scholar in Residence for the Bronx Museum’s two-year “Action Lab” from 2004-06, which was inspired by the Brazilian theoretician and practitioner of “Theatre of the Oppressed” Augusto Boal.
As IA’s new director, she provides leadership for the growing consortium of institutions, working to enhance exchanges among member campuses and with local and regional community organizations; encourage intellectual and artistic experimentation around campus-community partnerships; and share products, best practices, analysis and assessment of those partnerships and their ramifications for an engaged model of higher education. Future consortium goals include institutionalizing norms of tenure, promotion, materials rewards and recognition that support public engagement in the arts and humanities, and developing new genres, formats and forums of publication for such work.
IA offices are housed on the first floor of the newly renovated Tolley Building on the SU campus, alongside SU’s new Center for the Public and Collaborative Humanities. For more information on the Imagining America conference, or to register, visit http://www.imaginingamerica.org.