The Penny Stamps Lecture Series Launches

. October 1, 2016.
Fred Gelli designed for ParaOlympics
Fred Gelli designed for ParaOlympics

I think the most impressive course I took at the University of Michigan was called “Future Worlds.”  A special guest speaker would come each week and deliver a lecture at Hill Auditorium.  When I say special, the first few that come to mind are Buckminster Fuller, Margaret Mead, John Lilly and Hunter Thompson.  The hall was always packed (the public was invited too), the talks were mesmerizing and I still picture the speakers and even remember some of what they had to say.  Even as punks with post-adolescent delusions of grandeur we were awed and looking back, I’ve always thought that that’s what college was all about. 

Now college is all about the Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Lecture Series.  The twelve-part series, free and open to all, will feature the world’s leading and most exciting artists and designers, all thanks to the seemingly bottomless generosity of Penny Stamps herself.  Thank you, Penny! 

The presentations are on Thursdays at 5:10pm at the historic Michigan Theater. The Series was organized and directed by the legendary Chrisstina Hamilton.  Hamilton has her B.A. in Film and Performance from Indiana, her MFA in Theater Arts from Idaho, and she produced the Emmy-award winning documentary The Sprawling of America. Prior to joining the Stamps School in 2005, she was the Executive Director of the Ann Arbor Film Festival, America’s oldest running showcase of experimental cinema.  I’m looking at a photo I took with Chrisstina at the Michigan during the Film Fest in 2002 when I was writing the “Reel Ann Arbor” column for Current.  Lovely, poised, charismatic – and she looks good, too! 

World Series

On October 13 the topic will be “Tactics for the Anthropocene” by New York based collective Not An Alternative.  Not An Alternative “works at the intersection of art, activism and critical theory, and its mission is to affect popular understandings of histories, symbols and institutions through the occupation and redeployment of popular vernacular, semiotics and memes.”  That seems pretty clear.  Is weed still legal in Ann Arbor? 

Even though I can’t remember what critical theory and semiotics mean, this is going to be a wild ride.  The New York Times named Not An Alternative “Best in Art in 2015.”  Co-Founder Beka Economopoulos will be speaking. Her latest project is The Natural History Museum, a “mobile and pop-up museum that highlights the socio-political forces that shape nature, yet are excluded from natural history museums.”

October 20 is “Art as as Ignition for Change” by representatives of the Wynwood Walls, a Miami, FL. project that is a bona fide miracle which took place when a no-account, run-down urban area was transformed with six warehouses serving as monster canvases for the most amazing street art collection ever assembled in one location.  In 2015 a former junkyard was added to the mix and Wynwood Garden now comprises 85,000 square feet of wall art in a now thriving, diverse neighborhood.  Speakers include Tristan Eaton, graffiti artist, street art muralist, illustrator and toy designer, whose work is part of the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, as well as Kashink, Paris’s leading female graffiti/street artist.  I saw one of her extraordinary works at the “Born in the Streets” exhibition in 2009 at the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris.  She paints a pencil moustache on her upper lip every day and “only paints men, preferably fat and hairy.”

The author and Penny Stamps Director Hamilton

The author and Penny Stamps Director Hamilton

It never ends

On October 27 guests Iris van Herpen and Phillip Beesley present “New Bodies New Worlds.” Their fashion atelier in Amsterdam is in demand by celebrities around the world, but their innovations in hand-crafted materials and three-dimensional fabric go beyond couture.  “Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion” will be on view at the magnificent Grand Rapids Art Museum from October 23 through next January.

On November 3 witness Fred Gelli. He designs for Coca-Cola, P&G, Phillips and other biggies.  If you watched the Olympics you’ve seen his work. He designed the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games brands. No surprise he was named among the 100 Most Creative People in the World.

Special event:  on Wednesday, November 9 at 5:10 pm in the Rackham Amphitheater check out Mary Mattingly.  Just experiencing the ethereal Amphitheater is worth the trip, trust me.  Mattingly founded the Waterpod Project in New York Harbor, built atop a barge and designed to explore collaborative living situations with artists residing on board to test sustainability.  She’ll be in residence with the Institute for the Humanities, completing an installation in the Institute Gallery and an outdoor “burial project” on the Diag. Whatever that means.  But are you getting the picture?  This stuff is wild and fun and even if you don’t know their names, or Bucky Fuller or John Lilly for that matter, be there or be square.

For more on the Penny Stamps Lecture Series,


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