Monday, February 1, 2021

Starting on February 12th and continuing through the month, Iowa Arts is sponsoring a series of events that bring arts and humanities together to explore a range of timely issues. The initiative, called “Art and the Pursuit of Social Justice,” includes work framed by discussions to place them in a social context from the The Departments of Cinematic Arts, Dance, English, Theatre Arts, the School of Music, the International Writing Program, the Nonfiction Writing Program, and the UI Library. All events are available online and are free to the public.

Art and the Pursuit of Social Justice” includes the following events:

Events scheduled for February 2021

February 12, 6:00 pm
Felicia Rose Chavez, The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom
Reading at Prairie Lights Books & Café, Friday, February 12, 6-7:30 pm.
Register for the virtual event here

In a book that’s part memoir and part teaching guide, Felicia Rose Chavez exposes the invisible politics of power and privilege that have silenced writers of color for far too long. An MFA graduate of the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, Chavez addresses the climate of the creative writing classroom and the need for pedagogical and philosophical transformations to create authentically inclusive communities. Publishers Weekly notes that “the mindfulness and generosity that guide her teaching principles will resonate with other scholars and students who have been working to diversify creative writing and English literature programs.” Chavez is an award-winning writer and teacher whose work has appeared in Kenyon Review, Black Warrior Review, and Brevity, among other publications. She is the co-editor of The BreakBeat Poets Volume 4: LatiNEXT and the founder of GirlSpeak, a feminist webzine for high school students. For more information about The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop, and to access a multi-genre compilation of contemporary writers of color and progressive online publishing platforms, please visit

February 18, 3:30 pm
The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: A Panel Discussion on Creating More Inclusive Writing Programs
Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 3:30 pm
Register for this virtual event here

Panelists: Felicia Rose Chavez, NWP alumna and author; Matthew Kelley, Provost Visiting Writer, Department of English and graduate of the UI Writers’ Workshop; Luis Muñoz, Professor and Director of the Spanish MFA Program in Creative Writing; and Deborah Elizabeth Whaley, Professor and CLAS Administrative Fellow, Office of the Dean. Moderator: Meenakshi Gigi Durham, Director, UI Nonfiction Writing Program.

Creative writing, like all artforms, involves deep personal engagement in both the process and the product. “Write what you know” is a cliché, and yet certain experiences, knowledges, perspectives and feelings have been marginalized, discounted, or outright excluded from writing programs. Writing course curricula neglect the impact of writers of color; writing classrooms have centered and celebrated works that haven’t addressed the realities, histories, or cultures of communities of color and other minoritized and marginalized peoples. On this panel, faculty members from the University of Iowa’s writing programs will engage in a discussion with Felicia Rose Chavez, the author of The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop. This new book is a call to create healthy, sustainable, and empowering classroom communities. It’s more urgent than ever that we consciously work against traditions of dominance in the classroom, but what specific actions can we take to achieve authentically inclusive communities? Together, we will address how to:

  • Deconstruct our biases to achieve a cultural shift in perspective.
  • Design a democratic teaching model to create safe spaces for creative concentration.
  • Recruit, nourish, and fortify students of color to best empower them to exercise voice.
  • Embolden our students to self-advocate as responsible citizens in a globalized community.

For more information about The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop, and to access a multi-genre compilation of contemporary writers of color and progressive online publishing platforms, please visit

February 18 and most Thursdays following, 7:00 pm
Black Lives on Screen
See the schedule here.
  Register for the series here.

Department of Cinematic Arts: A virtual weekly series of online screenings of films by Black filmmakers, followed by discussions with guest filmmakers, speakers, and faculty from Department of Cinematic Arts and across campus. Featuring the work of a diverse range of acclaimed African American and Black filmmakers, artists, and scholars, the online weekly screening series and discussions will promote and celebrate the rich history and future of Black cinematic expression in the context of an inclusive, educational, and inspiring experience for the entire University of Iowa community.

February 19, 5:30 pm
Michael Dinwiddie -- Castoff Treasures: The Artist/Scholar Model in the 21st Century
Register for the virtual event here

Scholars share knowledge and explore new ways of thinking through books, articles, lectures and monographs.  Artists likewise illuminate pathways into our humanity with the visual and performing arts. What is the artist/scholar model and where was it developed?  Is such a configuration necessary in modern society?  What is lost or gained with a bifurcation of these roles?  And how does the artist/scholar model help us discern value and worth in social action and activism?

Michael D. Dinwiddie is a playwright and associate professor in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University.  A dramatist and composer whose works have been produced in New York, regional, and educational theater, he has served as playwright-in-residence at Michigan State University, Florida A&M University, St. Louis University and La Universidad de Palermo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Playwriting and a Walt Disney Fellowship at Touchstone Pictures, among others.  In 2018 Michael was inducted into the College of Fellows at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Writers Guild of America, the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, and the Black Theatre Network.

February 21, 4:00 pm
Theatre Without Borders: Acting on the World Stage: 21 years into the 21st century
Watch the virtual event streamed live on Zoom here:

A Conversation about Enacting Social Change through Performance. Core members of Theatre Without Borders, a theatre collective established in the wake of 9/11 will discuss the evolution of international theatre practices for social change. Theatre Without Borders (TWB) is an informal, grass-roots, all-volunteer, virtual, global community that shares information and builds connections between individuals and institutions interested in international theatre and performance exchange.

February 25, 5:30 pm
International Writing Program / Department of Dance: Eyes Closed Eyes Open
Streamed live on Zoom at and on YouTube at

As we strive toward ideals of justice and equity, diversity, and radical inclusion, we find ourselves in a precarious moment, pulled simultaneously by hope and trepidation, seeking possibility while recognizing the threats that stand in our way. This duality is reflected in the prompt given to writers and dance-makers for their collaboration: when I close my eyes, I see the future / when I see the future, I close my eyes. As a contribution to this Art and Social Justice series, the longstanding collaboration between the International Writing Program and the UI Department of Dance will result in a virtual concert of works. Brief moments of live commentary and audience talk-back will frame the virtual viewing of these premieres. The performance prompt was inspired by the title of an exhibition featuring the Egyptian artist Heba Y. Amin’s multimedia work.


February 26, 5:30 pm
Face Truth/Face Self: Creative Arts in Response to Social Injustice
Streamed live at

On the heels of the George Floyd incident in the summer of 2020, our nation has found itself in the midst of a widespread reckoning related to issues of racial inequality, social justice and our country’s valuation of Black life. “Face Truth / Face Self” is a multi-disciplinary arts performance that invites its audience to squarely face the truth of our nation’s troublesome handling of matters of racial justice, better understand our own personal relationships with this cultural dynamic, and carefully ponder how these truths influence our next steps in bringing about meaningful change. Centered on noteworthy incidents where Black lives were unjustly taken, student and local professional performers from across the spectrum of the creative arts internalize and interpret these atrocities into performances that reflect and interpret the angst of these atrocities in a way that only the arts are capable of doing. In the process, both performing artists and audience members are inspired to better understand the individuals involved in these incidents and are challenged to squarely face the bitter truth of what such incidents say about us all - as both individuals and as a nation. Content Warning: This program may contain sensitive material, including still images and video footage of violent acts being committed. Please be advised.


February 28, 4:00 pm
Reconciling the Past: Truth and Theatrical Storytelling into a new Future
Watch the virtual event streamed live on Zoom here:

A playwright, an original Freedom Rider and members of the Iowa Freedom Riders: A conversation about truth and reconciliation and memory on civic and artistic stages.
Moderated by Micah Ariel James, Associate Director of Education and Community Engagement, Hancher Auditorium.

Date and Time TBA
Art and Art History: Panel

Online Resources

Digital Resources: Want to join the conversation about diversifying performance repertory here at the University of Iowa and beyond? Check out @empowerthevoices on Instagram, where you can explore new and exciting rep at the Rita Benton Music Library, starting January 2021! For more information about this project, contact Katie Buehner (Head, Rita Benton Music Library) or Dr. Sarah Suhadolnik (Faculty, School of Music).

Iowa Arts is a University of Iowa organization that seeks to bring the riches of artistic experience to students, faculty, and the local community, notably works that address challenging questions.

For further information about the series, visit the series event, or contact Alan MacVey ( or Christopher Merrill (