Orange Alert

Humanities Center Announces 2018-19 Syracuse Symposium

Public events series explores theme of "Stories"

Sept. 13, 2018, by Robert M Enslin

Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood

“Stories” is the theme of the 2018-19 Syracuse Symposium, hosted by the Syracuse University Humanities Center in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S).

Now in its 17th year, the annual public events series explores the humanities through an array of programming, including lectures, workshops, performances and exhibits.

Highlights include the 16th annual Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival (Sept. 27-29), a mini-residency by Twin Cities artist-activist Seitu Jones (Oct. 4-6), a discussion with “Handmaid’s Tale” author Margaret Atwood (Oct. 25) and a concert by Emmy Award-winning composer and filmmaker Vân-Ánh Vanessa VÕ (Nov. 2).

All events are free and open to the public, unless otherwise indicated. For more information, contact the Humanities Center at 315.443.7192 or visit

Humanities Center Director Vivian May says storytelling is integral to the human experience. “Stories can convey lessons about love, empathy, justice and equality—and they can offer a means to share experiences of suffering and harm,” says May, also professor of women’s and gender studies in A&S. “Stories come in all kinds of forms. We learn them via song, visual culture, symbols, the written word and more. They help shape social imaginaries and create community, which is why stories infuse so much of our humanities teaching and research.”

The fall season is as follows:

José “Peppie” Calvar
José “Peppie” Calvar

Thursday, Sept. 20
Concert: “Voces en Exilio” (“Voices in Exile”)
7-8 p.m.
La Casita Cultural Center (109 Otisco St., Syracuse)
José “Peppie” Calvar leads the Hendricks Chapel Choir in the world premiere of his original composition, “Voces en Exilio,” for chorus and Caribbean percussion. Presented in conjunction with National Hispanic Heritage Month, the piece pays tribute to the victims of 2017’s Hurricane María, the worst natural disaster on record to affect Dominica and Puerto Rico.

Sunday, Sept. 23
Concert: A Contemplative View of Human Resilience
7-8 p.m.
Hendricks Chapel
An encore performance of Calvar’s newest work, presented as part of the Dean’s Convocation at Hendricks Chapel.

Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 27-29
Screenings: Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival
SUHRFF continues with an outstanding lineup of award-winning films addressing social justice issues around the globe. Visit for a complete schedule.

Seitu Jones (Courtesy of The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts)
Seitu Jones (Courtesy of The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts)

Thursday, Oct. 4
Lecture: “CREATE: Art, Act, Eat”
6:30-8:30 p.m.
Watson Theater
Seitu Jones, the first artist-in-residence of the City of Minneapolis, discusses how food and activism flavor his artwork. A 2017 McKnight Distinguished Artist, he has created more than 30 large-scale public works, in addition to co-founding Frogtown Farm, a certified organic farm in St. Paul.

Saturday, Oct. 6
Workshop: “Recipe as Story: Exploring the Meaning of Food and Art on a Community Farm”
2:30-4:30 p.m.
Brady Farm (150 Ford Ave., Syracuse)
Jones leads a hands-on workshop on community-based art and the value of food. Interested parties must R.S.V.P. to by Tuesday, Sept. 25.

Thursday, Oct. 11
Opening Reception and Exhibit: “Look Now: Facing Breast Cancer”
6-8 p.m.
Point of Contact Gallery (350 W. Fayette St., Syracuse)
This multimedia installation features the stories of 44 breast cancer survivors from Central New York via a series of photographic portraits, images of bare chests and experimental film. The show runs through Wednesday, Oct. 31.

Friday, Oct. 12
Lecture: “Sacred Landscape, Secular Law: Storying Spirituality on American Public Lands”
3-5:30 p.m.
Peter Graham Scholarly Commons (114 Bird Library)
Nicholas Howe, associate professor of environmental studies at Williams College, discusses how spirituality shapes public discourse about sacred space.

Kyle Bass
Kyle Bass

Sunday, Oct. 21
Panel Discussion: “Stories in the Blood: Slave Narratives and Identity in Contemporary American Theater”
3:45-5 p.m.
Syracuse Stage (830 E. Genesee St., Syracuse)
A panel discussion about the importance of storytelling identities in the American narrative, presented in conjunction with the Syracuse Stage production of Kyle Bass’ “Possessing Harriet.” In addition to Bass (Stage’s associate artistic director who also teaches in VPA’s drama department), the panelists are Christian DuComb, associate professor of theater at Colgate University; John Ernest, the Judge Hugh M. Morris Professor and chair of English at Delaware University; Joan Bryant, associate professor of African American studies in A&S; and Tazewell Thompson, director of “Possessing Harriet.”

Thursday, Oct. 25
Lecture: “An Evening with Margaret Atwood”
7:30-9 p.m.
Hendricks Chapel
Coinciding with the popularity of “The Handmaid’s Tale” (a Hulu TV series based on her 1985 dystopian novel), Canadian writer Margaret Atwood returns to campus to discuss the importance of storytelling. (Atwood was the 2004 Jeanette K. Watson Distinguished Visiting Professor in A&S.) Dana Spiotta, associate professor of English, moderates the event, which also is part of the University Lectures series.

Thursday, Nov. 1
Opening Reception: “Mama’s Clothes: Visual Storytelling in the Photographs of Keisha Scarville”
5-7 p.m.
Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery, Light Work (316 Waverly Ave., Syracuse)
Brooklyn-based photo and mixed-media artist Keisha Scarville unveils and discusses her latest exhibit, weaving together themes of transformation, place and the unknown. The show runs through Thursday, Dec. 13.

Friday, Nov. 2
Keisha Scarville Portfolio Workshop
3-7 p.m.
Light Work Lab
Syracuse students, faculty and staff, as well as Light Work members may register for one-on-one portfolio reviews with Scarville. To enroll, contact Mary Lee Hodgens, associate director of Light Work, at by Monday, Oct. 15.

Vân-Ánh Vanessa VÕ
Vân-Ánh Vanessa VÕ

Friday, Nov. 2
Concert: “The Odyssey: Stories of the Boat People”
7:30 p.m.
Hendricks Chapel
Vân-Ánh Vanessa VÕ marks the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War with her original multimedia composition, “The Odyssey.” A talented composer and multi-instrumentalist, she joins members of the Society for New Music All-Stars to honor the spirit of all refugees, past and present.

Thursday, Nov. 8
“Returning from Conflict: Nonfiction Readings by the Syracuse Veterans’ Writing Group”
5 p.m.: Reception
6-7:30 p.m.: Readings
Goldstein Alumni and Faculty Center
Members of the Syracuse Veterans’ Writing Group help mark Veterans Day by reading original works of creative nonfiction. Bearing witness to more than 50 years of U.S. military history, they will share true stories about their lives in and out of the service.

Tuesday, Nov. 13
Screening and Discussion: “Witkin & Witkin: Twin Stories of a Photographer and Painter”
6:30-9:30 p.m.
Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium (140 Newhouse 3)
Organizers of the SUHRFF present a screening of and discussion about “Witkin & Witkin,” a 2017 documentary exploring the worlds of twin brothers Joel-Peter Witkin, a famous photographer, and Jerome Witkin, an acclaimed painter and longtime professor of art in VPA. Director Trisha Ziff and Jerome Witkin will discuss the film, following the screening.

Organized and presented by the Humanities Center, Syracuse Symposium is a public humanities series that revolves around an annual theme. The Humanities Center is located in the historic Tolley Humanities Building. It serves the campus community by cultivating diverse forms of scholarship, sponsoring a broad range of programming and partnerships, and addressing enduring questions and pressing social issues.

Media Contact

Robert M Enslin