Diversity welcomed as beauty Themester ends
By Mallory Haag
The art, productions, lectures and exhibits throughout IU’s campus will be changing as Themester comes to an end.
The topic of beauty will no longer apply to the events created by the College of Arts and Sciences, but they will continue to follow a theme of diversity, said Ellen MacKay, director of Graduate Studies at IU.
MacKay said Themester is a good way to bring IU’s large campus together behind a topic in order to create a dialogue about art in different contexts.
“I’m a big fan of anything that makes the college more intimate,” MacKay said. “That creates connections where often, particularly at a larger institution, we are more inclined to see differences.”
Jason Baird Jackson, the director of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, said while working on Themester he came to realize just how much the professors and students of the College of Arts and Sciences are involved on an individual level.
“I was struck by the way that Themester really does bubble up from the students and faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences,” Jackson said. “The committee really can bring forward a compelling idea, but the Themester is born out of the volunteer enthusiasm of a lot of different people.”
The most recent Themester has invited people in a variety of fields to consider the shapes that beauty takes, MacKay said.
“For me, beauty is what makes us stop and think stop and wonder, and it’s lovely to see how that works across different disciplines,” MacKay said. “I was just very excited that the broad, big-tent nature of the topic was taken up across such a diverse set of faculty members in the college.”
MacKay said some of the motivation behind the fall Themester was how it could play a part in the way the election and political dynamics were considered.
“I thought Themester ought to be capacious enough to engage with whatever is pressing,” MacKay said. “I strongly believe that beauty is important to thinking about our political moment and our politics in general.”
The Mathers Museum is prepared to take on the upcoming theme of diversity and otherness, Jackson said.
He said the museum has taken steps to create exhibits, including an exhibit on Syrian arts and another on Native American culture, about the topic.
“For us, that exhibit about Syrian arts and culture will fit into the context of the refugee story, which is one mode that works well with the next theme,” Jackson said. “Issues of diversity and difference show up in that project as well.”
Jackson said he was happy so many people across academic platforms contributed to Themester and made it inclusive.
“The Themester is actually like a potluck dinner,” Jackson said.” The organizers set the table, but it’s to be determined every year what the students and faculty and the college will bring to the dinner.”
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