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A mysterious door
Image courtesy of Patrick Dirden ("Door of Mystery," 2016)

The Center for the Arts in Society Launches New Initiative

Media Inquiries
Peter Kerwin
University Communications & Marketing

A new initiative from the Center for the Arts in Society(opens in new window) in Carnegie Mellon University’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences(opens in new window) explores the possibilities and limits of hospitality, belonging and gathering — through human and nonhuman entities, mobile and fixed bodies, and temporary and permanent spaces.

“The aim of our previous initiative, Borderlines, was to interrogate the systems, structures and infrastructures that we put in place to divide ourselves from others. With Hospitality, we hope to continue that exploration from another angle and ask questions about what it means, and what it takes, to be hospitable,” said Wendy Arons(opens in new window), a professor of dramatic literature and director of the Center for the Arts in Society. “These questions feel pressing at a time when so many are displaced by conflict and oppression, and the initiative’s theme dovetails well with the Center’s commitment to support artists and Scholars at Risk who join the CMU community.” 

Led by Anne Lambright(opens in new window), the Paul Mellon Distinguished Professor of Hispanic Studies and head of the Dietrich College’s Department of Modern Languages(opens in new window), and Alexa Woloshyn(opens in new window), an associate professor in the College of Fine Arts’ School of Music(opens in new window), the Hospitality Initiative(opens in new window) will take place over the next three years and support three individual projects around the theme.

“With the Borderlines initiative wrapping up, we thought it was an ideal time to explore the positionalities and possible hierarchies at play between such entities,” Woloshyn said. “’Hospitality’ also includes its opposite: inhospitality. The question of hospitality seems all the more urgent these days with global refugee crises and CMU’s own Scholars at Risk program.”

The unique viewpoints of the three selected projects prompt discussions around hospitality.

"We received several great submissions. The three we chose are connected with the theme of hospitality in such interesting and unique ways — perhaps not at all what we envisioned, and yet so perfect on their own and as a group,” Lambright said. “They challenge us to think more deeply about what it means to be host and hosted, welcoming and welcomed, of and in a place. Between the events sponsored by the projects and those Alexa and I organized, we hope to spark conversations across campus about the complexities around the deceivingly straightforward term 'hospitality.’”

Planetary Hospitality

Directed by Kathy M. Newman(opens in new window) and James Wynn(opens in new window), both associate professors in the Department of English(opens in new window), “Planetary Hospitality” examines hospitality in an astronomical sense and from a rhetorical lens, and by using films, a series of talks, courses and symposia.

They will investigate the language, film and media used to represent Earth and also the ambition to explore and possibly colonize other planets. Through this project, Newman and Wynn will answer the questions: What does it mean for a planet to be hospitable or inhospitable? What factors influence representations of planetary hospitality? What are the consequences of these representations for life on Earth and beyond?

One in Four, One in Eight

From Katherine Pukinskis(opens in new window), an assistant professor of music, “One in Four, One in Eight” investigates classical concert music’s general inhospitality toward women creators and issues that center on women, and the societal expectation that a woman’s body be a hospitable place to create new life.

The name of the project is derived from the statistic that 1 in 4 known pregnancies in the United States ends in loss, and 1 in 8 people need medical intervention to become pregnant. The project interrogates where and how people include — and compartmentalize — aspects of their personal lives in their creative work or professional practice, and the ways in which societies and communities have conditioned them to do so.

Coffee Break

John Soluri(opens in new window), an associate professor in CMU’s Department of History(opens in new window), is the director of “Coffee Break.” Through this project, Soluri seeks to promote disruptive thinking about “good coffee” by bringing coffee drinkers into conversations with coffee farmers, roasters, baristas and one another in order to re-imagine forms of hospitality rooted in sustainability and justice, not connoisseurship.

The project will use coffee and its myriad associations with hospitality to encourage diverse people to engage in generative, self-reflective conversations about coffee, capitalism and their consequences. Conversations will be held through local events and in the undergraduate course Coffee and Capitalism.

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