Conversing with Artists in the Afternoon

One of the most incredible parts of the Wellesley experience is the intimacy to greatness the campus affords its community. That might sound a tad grandiose (okay, maybe a lot grandiose) but the kind of guests we receive — and conversations everyone from students to faculty and staff have with them — permit me to add a little grandiosity to a Monday afternoon blog post.

As an arts lover, I pay particular attention to the artists Wellesley invites to join us each semester. Karen Russell, Maud Casey and Rafael Moneo are artists doing great work in different styles and different formats, and they are all coming to us this week.

Today at 4.30pm, Maud Casey and Karen Russell begin a conversation about their work (The Man who Walked Away and Swamplandia! are two recent novels, respectively) as part of the Newhouse Distinguished Writers Series. Casey and Russell are two writers who generate excitement about their work from readers and critics alike; they’ll be offering and answering questions from each other and those in the room.


And then Rafael Moneo arrives at the Davis Wednesday afternoon. While those outside of the architectural universe might not be familiar with Moneo’s name, he is rather a big deal. The New York Times has praised his buildings as “physically elegant and charged with experiential surprise, often in the plan or through internal manipulations of natural light.” Arriving at the Davis carries special significance for the architect, and his Wednesday audience, because the Davis is Moneo’s creation, a jewel in his portfolio. It is in some ways a homecoming, and as such, a very special experience for all who are able to make it to his talk at 12.30. What inspired the Davis? What were his concerns in the design? What is it like to return after twenty years?

Grandiosity: an indulgence of excess, a profusion of over-the-top rhetoric. Yet what characterizes the Wellesley artistic visit is not largeness, neither big screens nor big distances between speaker and audience. Instead, the college creates afternoons where artists — and scientists, philosophers, intellectuals — sit down for a cup of tea and an intimate conversation about what it means to make art in the twenty-first century, how art changes us and how we change art and, sometimes, what justifies a hint of grandiosity.


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