Brandeis Holds Art Exhibits

Daily News Tribune
By Christopher Moore / Tribune Staff Writer
Thursday, October 7, 2004

WALTHAM -- If a picture is worth 1,000 words, Brandeis University is hoping six art exhibits, two musical performances, a comedy show and a documentary film will add up to a month-long dialogue.

Throughout October, Brandeis is holding a series of events designed to foster awareness of cultural differences and debate surrounding violence and humanity. The series, "Art Unlocks the Ethical Imagination," culminates in a full-day symposium Oct. 14 that examines the role art can play in achieving peace.

"We're looking at arts through the prism of how they help us understand and engage with people who are different from us, how the arts engage our empathy," said Cynthia Cohen in the Center for Justice and Public Life at Brandeis.

All the events are open to the public, and most are free of charge. Cohen said the entire Waltham community is not only invited but encouraged to attend and contribute to the dialogue. At each event, her office is making pocket-sized brochures available to help guide visitors through the experience and tie the events into the larger theme.

"We artciulated a set of questions to help audience members to think about these arts events in relation to the ethical questions that are in them," said Cohen.

One of the events, "REACH for the Stars" at the Kniznick Gallery, displays almost 120 ceramic plates, some of them painted by celebrities like Jay Leno, Martha Stewart and Leonard Nimoy. Even Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy has one. The plates will be auctioned off on Nov. 10 to benefit REACH, a Waltham-based organization that helps survivors of domestic violence.

"We chose plates because they evoked a symbol of nourishment and caring," said Ana Davis, assistant director for the arts and public relations. "REACH really provides that."

The Rose Art Museum features three exhibits that all explore the series' themes. Chinese artist Yun-Fei Ji's paintings depict the disappearance of traditional living and the displacement of nearly 2 million people as a result of China's Three Gorges Dam project; Italian painter Francesco Clemente works with universal symbols, recognizable despite linguistic differences; and South African artist William Kentridge's animated film portrays the racial divide that fosters his country's AIDS epidemic.

"I think the most interesting and touching piece is the Kentridge video," said Stephanie Molinard, director of education at the museum. "You really see a split world; the wealthy, white male surrounded by this African population that is poor and dying."

Molinard said the exhibits and the series reflect the increasing multiculturalism of contemporary art.

"There's always something you can relate to in terms of social issues and political issue," said Molinard.

Lorna Whalen, senior vice president for communications, said the series' nine events were originally planned independently of one another. Once she and other administrators realized the common goals the events shared, they designed the brochure to be all-encompassing.

"We just wanted to create something that provided some connective tissue," said Whalen. "We were excited about the possibility to cross-pollinate events. What we're hoping is that, by providing these linkages and a guide from event to event, more people will take advantage of more events that will open up their thinking."

For a schedule of events, visit or contact the Brandeis University Office of the Arts at 781-736-2000.

"Re-Imagining Self and Other: Creativity and Ethical Action in the Aftermath of Violence" online.