February 27, 2013

Initiative will explore region’s ‘land, lives, and arts’

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- An in-depth look at the land, lives and arts found within the region starts next week with Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s “Imagining Geographies” initiative.

“Land, Lives and Arts of Southern Illinois” begins Thursday, Feb. 28, and will include exhibits, field trips, lectures, and panel discussions. All events are free and open to the public.

The Imagining Geographies initiative began in spring 2012 with the “Antarctica: Imagined Geographies” project.

“This is a wonderful multidisciplinary project that brings faculty and students from throughout the campus together with members of the community to discuss and plan for the future we wish to see for our region,” Chancellor Rita Cheng said.

“Land, Lives and Arts” runs through May 6 at various locations on campus, in Carbondale, and throughout the region.  The initiative plans to extend into the summer and fall, and include events with local historians, folklorists, artists, and musicians throughout the region.

The College of Mass Communication and Media Arts is again leading the University and region-wide series.

“The enthusiastic reception of last year’s Antarctica program, and widespread interest in continuing to develop projects involving scholars, scientists, and artists from SIU and beyond is what led us to develop this year’s initiative,” said Peter Lemish, an instructor in the School of Journalism and project facilitator.

“By focusing for the foreseeable future on Southern Illinois, we wish to orient this work not only to investigations of the past histories and present issues, but also to engage our imaginations in thinking about, developing, and expressing, collaboratively, what our future lives might be like in this region,” Lemish said.  “In doing so, we think we are embodying SIU’s civic mission.”

A complete listing of events, along with updates and any information changes are available at the initiative website: imagining.siu.edu.

A town hall discussion kicks off the series when SIU and community members meet from 7 to 10 p.m., Feb. 28, in the SIU School of Law Hiram H. Lesar Building, room 204, to discuss a proposal to “green Carbondale” via a permaculture’s concept of “food forest.” 

This year’s program includes two exhibits in the Morris Library rotunda: “Southern Extent: Maps of Southern Illinois” is curated by assistant professor Sarah Lewison from SIU’s Department of Radio, Television, and Digital Media. There is also a portable installation screening films, “Rural Life in Southern Illinois,” by William Rowley, an associate professor in the Department of Cinema and Photography.  Both exhibits will be available for viewing in the rotunda space from March 5 through May 6.

The inaugural event on March 5, “Land Matters: Landscape, Culture, & Identity,” features a keynote lecture by renowned photography theorist Liz Wells, a professor in photographic culture at the University of Portsmouth in England.  The event, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. in Morris Library’s John C. Guyon Auditorium, also includes a panel discussion moderated by Jay Needham, an associate professor in Radio-Television and Digital Media.

On April 13, an initiative to preserve the region’s history begins with the “Voices of Southern Illinois Project”.   The event will take place at Thomas Elementary School, 1025 N. Wall St., Carbondale, and will focus on the Carbondale’s African-American community.  The program includes a discussion about initiating a collaborative archival project. There will also be a showing of the film “778 Bullets,” along with a discussion with Angela Aguayo, an assistant professor in cinema and photography at SIU Carbondale, who researched the events portrayed in her film. 

Other events in March and April include a “drift,” or two days of meetings and expeditions in late March to various locations throughout Southern Illinois to understand how persons throughout the region relate to their surroundings.

Imagining Geographies will also include field trips to “green sites” in Carbondale, the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, restorative prairie sites, and an interpretative sound walk in the Shawnee National Forest.

Lemish said the hope is this year’s program is an initial effort toward additional ongoing future projects that will involve more local residents, as well as current and future SIU Carbondale students.  The various initiatives and projects are “all examples of our long-range vision in realizing our and SIU’s mission,” Lemish said.

For more information on the project, contact Lemish at 618/534-3989 or by email at peterlemish@siu.edu.