What Makes an American?: The Culture of Citizenship

19.02.2017/ 01:00 p.m. – 08:00 p.m.
Thompson Arts Center at Park Avenue Armory,
643 Park Avenue, New York,
NY 10065, US

Panel discussion

Interrogations of Form: Culture in a Changing America

In Collaboration with The Aspen Institute Arts Program
Sunday, February 19, 1:00pm–8:00pm

Artists, activists, academics, and community leaders gather for a day-long series of conversations, performances, and open studios that explore the role of art, creativity, and imagination in addressing or challenging the social and political issues bound up in what it means to be an American today.

Visitors can attend the full Symposium or individual sessions, and are free to visit the Artist Salons throughout the day. Salon tours with the artists commence at the times indicated below. Session one sets the stage for discussion, focusing on culture’s impact on an ever-evolving society, and session two focuses on the future of a variety of art forms including music, film, spoken word, and comedy. The day concludes with a special session of Person Place Thing which features surprising viewpoints from an intergenerational perspective.

Participants and schedule subject to change. Availability is limited, but tickets may also be available at the door. Tickets can be purchased for individual sessions or for the entire day at a discounted rate.

Session 1

1:00pm–2:00pm: What Makes an American?: The Culture of Citizenship

Nisha Agarwal (Commissioner, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs), Tania Bruguera (artist, Armory Artist-in-Residence), Sarah Lewis (author, curator and Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture and African American Studies, Harvard University), and Jose Antonio Vargas (activist and journalist) join moderator Eric Liu (Founder, Citizen University) in a debate over the role of culture and the nature of citizenship in a changing America. Tom Finkelpearl, Commissioner, Department of Cultural Affairs, New York City, responds.

1:00pm–4:00pm: Artist Salons

Artist Salon featuring works by Carrie Mae Weems and guest artists; Nyame O. Brown, Jennifer Hsu, Kambui Olijuimi, and Lava Thomas
Salon tour with guest artists at 2:15pmArtist Salon featuring artworks by Elizabeth Colomba
Curated by Deborah Willis and Kalia Brooks
Salon tour with Deborah Willis and Kalia Brooks at 2:45pmArtist Salon featuring works on film by Paola Mendoza

2:00pm–2:45pm: Staying Visible: The Power of Storytelling

Introductory performance by Yosimar ReyesCristela Alonzo (creator, Cristela, ABC network), Christopher Myers (illustrator, author, and artist), and Erika Wurth (Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee writer and Professor of Creative Writing, Western Illinois University) join moderator Elizabeth Hutchinson (Associate Professor of Feminist and Cultural Theory, Barnard College) in a discussion about the essential role of the arts in preserving forgotten stories, collective memories, and fragile histories.

3:00pm–3:45pm: The Movement in Movement

Jookin’ innovator Lil Buck and flex pioneer Reggie (Regg Roc) Gray discuss and showcase their dance styles and how they are working for social progress through movement. Hosted by former Principal Dancer of the New York City Ballet and Director of the Aspen Institute Arts Program, Vail Dance Festival, and DEMO at the Kennedy Center, Damian Woetzel.

Session 2 

4:00pm–4:45pm: Sounding Off

Jason Moran (jazz pianist, composer, curator), Toshi Reagon (singer, musician, composer), Davóne Tines (opera singer), and Camille Zamora (co-founder, Sing for Hope) join Ric Leichtung (Webster Hall Talent Buyer and Adhoc founder) to discuss how music can lead, accompany, and inspire America now.

The session opens with a dedication of a Sing for Hope Piano, designed by French artist Lady JDay, for the Lenox Hill Neighborhood Women’s Shelter, located on the Armory’s fourth floor. Special performance by Jason Moran and Davóne Tines.

4:00pm–7:00pm: Artist Salons

Artist Salon featuring works by Carrie Mae Weems and guest artists; Nyame O. Brown, Jennifer Hsu, Kambui Olijuimi, and Lava Thomas
Salon tour with guest artists at 5:15pmArtist Salon featuring artworks by Elizabeth Colomba
Curated by Deborah Willis and Kalia Brooks
Salon tour with Deborah Willis and Kalia Brooks at 5:45pmArtist Salon featuring works on film by Paola Mendoza

5:00pm–5:45pm: Where in the World is America?

Award-winning filmmaker Mira Nair (Queen of KatweAmeliaThe NamesakeMonsoon WeddingMississippi Masala) and Warrington Hudlin (President of the Black Filmmaker Foundation) discuss the future of American cinema and America’s current place in the world.

6:00pm–6:45pm: Open Mic with Yosimar Reyes, Negin Farsad, and special guests

Yosimar Reyes hosts an open-mic session featuring spoken-word poetry that challenges myths about identity in America. Reyes is joined at the mic by youth poets Karlyn Boens, Madeleine LeCesne, Ashley Gong, and N’kosi Nkululeko. Negin Farsad (comedian, actress, writer, and filmmaker) concludes the session with her pioneering brand of social justice comedy.

Session 3

7:00pm–8:00pm: Person Place Thing

Person Place Thing is an interview show based on the idea that people are particularly engaging when they speak not directly about themselves but about something they care about. Guests talk about one person, one place, and one thing that are important to them to reveal surprising stories from great talkers. Ta-Nehisi Coates (journalist and author) and Sonia Sanchez (scholar, poet, playwright, and activist) debate these topics with host Randy Cohen (formerly “The Ethicist”); members of The Ebony Hillbillies are musical guests.

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