Forward Fest public conversation series with faculty experts and alumni continues as part of A Year of Forward Thinking

Tuesday, Dec 15, 2020
by Jamie Saxon, Office of Communications

Princeton’s Forward Fest — a virtual public conversation series and a monthly highlight of the University’s yearlong A Year of Forward Thinking community engagement campaign — continues Thursday, Dec. 17, with a deep-dive into the arts and humanities.

Faculty and alumni will explore the many ways a humanist perspective is critical during these challenging times, interspersed with “armchair peeks” into the vibrant cultural and artistic achievements of Princeton faculty, alumni and students, followed by a performing arts showcase. The streaming event highlights how the University’s “forward thinkers” are using interdisciplinary research, teaching and scholarship for real-world impact.

“At a moment when we are all grasping for ways to make sense of the uncertainties our society is facing — from global health to social equity and environmental concerns — humanistic inquiry provides us tools for understanding what it means to be human, what matters in life and how we might find meaning in our rapidly changing world,” said Eric Gregory, professor of religion, director of the Program in Humanistic Studies and chair of the Humanities Council.

He continued: “The humanities have long been at the core of Princeton’s liberal arts tradition and today — across nearly 50 academic departments, programs and centers — scholars continue the interdisciplinary work of engaging diverse perspectives past and present and helping us better understand the complexity and grandeur of the human condition. I am pleased that this month’s Forward Fest will underscore how the University’s faculty in the arts and humanities are addressing life’s big questions and our sense of its possibilities.”

Gathering a range of voices, Forward Fest aims to spark dialogue across the global Princeton community — students, faculty, staff, alumni and other interested thinkers — to engage with and explore big ideas and their infinite possibilities for shaping the future.

Forward Fest events are free and open to the public. All programming will be livestreamed on the Forward Fest website and on the University's YouTube channel. Registration is not required, but attendees can RSVP to receive a resource guide and event updates. Captioning will be available for all sessions. After the event, all programming will be viewable on the University’s YouTube channel.

The first Forward Fest, Oct. 23-24, focused on public health, justice and the 2020 election. The Nov. 20 Forward Fest plumbed the promise and peril of data science and artificial intelligence. View all the sessions on Princeton’s YouTube channel.

Dec. 17 Programming highlights

In this time of physical distancing, our need to remain connected to one another is one thing that signals our humanity. Professors in a variety of disciplines will talk about how humanistic inquiry provides a useful lens for thinking about our current times and how reflecting on art and visual culture, music and literature helps us uncover connections that help us think forward new ideas in a variety of domains.

Thinking Forward Arts and Humanities

The live 75-minute program at 4 p.m. will feature one-on-one conversations with four faculty members and conclude with a lively Q&A period. Attendees can engage in Q&A by emailing questions in advance to or in real-time in the chat on YouTube.

Lou Chen, a 2019 alumnus and program manager for arts outreach who oversees the Trenton Arts at Princeton initiative, will provide the welcome and introduction. Rakesh Satyal, a 2002 alumnus, novelist and executive editor at HarperCollins, will serve as moderator for the live discussion. Featured faculty panelists are:

Rachael DeLue, the Christopher Binyon Sarofim ’86 Professor in American Art, professor of art and archaeology and American studies, and chair of the Department of Art and Archaeology. She will speak about how she and her students use art in an interdisciplinary way to understand our evolving ideas of America and what is American, as well as how art in itself can help us reflect on our own humanity in these uncertain times. Beatriz Colomina, the Howard Crosby Butler Professor of the History of Architecture, professor of architecture and co-director of the Program in Media and Modernity. She will explore the ways in which the field of architecture is reconceptualizing space in the current moment, reflect on why she sees architecture as always concerned about sickness and health and talk about her hauntingly beautiful collaboration “Sick Architecture” as a timely interpretation of our relationship to space in this time. Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, professor of music. She will highlight her research, which falls at the nexus of music theory, musicology and cognitive science; discuss the work of the Music Cognition Laboratory at Princeton, where she and her team work closely with the many campus partners engaged in research in cognitive science; and share insights about how we listen to and move in the world. Autumn Womack, assistant professor of African American studies and English. She will explore how the intersection of literature, history and visual media — including photography, film and video — reveals how we quite literally see the world and has a profound impact on our understanding of culture.

Additional multimedia programming on Dec. 17 will highlight the creative process and societal impact of the visual and performing arts through teaching and performance in the virtual space.

Arts Showcase

At 8 p.m., sit back, relax and settle into your own “front row seat” for a vibrant arts showcase featuring a cast of notable faculty, alumni, students and guests engaged in the performing and visual arts. Program highlights include:

Two excerpts from the five-section fall 2020 course “Princeton Dance Festival Reimagined: Five Performance Projects,” which culminated in a virtual performance series. “Becoming 人” created and performed by Zi (Crystal) Liu, a member of the Class of 2024, who participated in Senior Lecturer in Dance in the Lewis Center for the Arts Rebecca Lazier’s section “Site Dance.” Students produced site-based performance projects built from research into their communities. In “Becoming 人,” Liu incorporates choreography, poetry and voice in her consideration of the elements of a street in New York’s Chinatown along with various sides of her identity. "Endurance” created and performed by Liam Lynch, a member of the Class of 2021, who participated in Lecturer of Dance and the Lewis Center for the Arts Francesca Harper’s section “Emergence and Discovery: Digital Dance Portraits.” Recognizing that art would help us preserve our current moment, Harper encouraged students to develop personal dance films that would forever document a unique moment in their life story. Through his interaction with an urban setting, Lynch’s “Endurance” reflects both isolation and reemergence. “I Won't Sleep Soundly,” performed by Molly Trueman, a member of the Class of 2023, and the Princeton University Glee Club. Singer-songwriter Trueman composed this piece after attending a Black Lives Matter event in June 2020 and produced this virtual recording for “Hand in Hand: A virtual benefit concert for equity and justice in arts education,” organized by the glee clubs of Princeton, Yale and Harvard universities in Oct. 2020. Maya Lin’s “The Princeton Line” and “Einstein’s Table.” Film by Ricardo Barros for the Princeton University Art Museum. Two new works by the internationally acclaimed artist Maya Lin were commissioned for the grounds adjacent to Princeton’s Lewis Center for the Arts. This video illuminates the artistic process behind the undulating earthwork spine of “The Princeton Line” and “Einstein’s Table,” with its 11-foot-diameter elliptical granite “water table” surrounded by seven spheres reminiscent of our planetary system. “Heirloom” by Seb Benzecry, a 2020 alumnus. Presented as part of his visual arts senior thesis project, Benzecry’s short film is an animated journey through the history of a piece of fabric, blending stop-motion and rotoscope animation to bring to life moments in time across 200 years of American history. “This Land Is Your Land,” presented as part of “Sing for Today,” a digital initiative from Princeton University Concerts (PUC) and University Musical Society of the University of Michigan. Conceived by Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano and frequent PUC guest artist Joyce DiDonato, “Sing for Today” responds to current events and global concerns through the lens of song and conversation. This excerpt, performed by DiDonato and guitarist Àlex Garrobé, offers a rendition of Woodie Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” with additional words DiDonato penned for our current times.

Forward Fest will continue monthly throughout A Year of Forward Thinking, Oct. 2020-June 2021.

Learn more about A Year of Forward Thinking and Forward Fest on the website. Watch a video about A Year of Forward Thinking. Engage on social media with the hashtags #PrincetonForward, #ForwardThinkers and #ForwardFest, and follow Princeton University and Princeton Alumni on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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