October 23, 2006

Case's humanities center celebrates 10th anniversary

As country celebrates National Arts and Humanities Month in October


As the nation turns the spotlight on National Arts and Humanities Month in October, Case Western Reserve University's Baker-Nord Center for Humanities celebrates its own milestone as the center reaches its 10th anniversary.

National Arts and Humanities Month, sponsored by the National Humanities Alliance since 1993, encourages activities by universities to raise the awareness of the humanities.

For the Baker Nord Center, the celebration of the humanities is a yearlong focus. The center selects a theme each year and structures its programs around it. This theme upholds the ideals of donors, Eric and Jane Nord, who helped to establish the center in 1996 to bring attention to the arts and humanities through public lectures, discussions performances and special programs.

Additional support from Presidential Initiative Funds through a Cleveland Foundation grant to Case has allowed the center to grow by attracting visiting fellows and appointing senior fellows and scholars from Case.

"The Baker-Nord Center owes its vitality to our fabulous faculty and to the many Cleveland-area artists, scholars and community leaders we've been fortunate to involve in our programs," said Timothy Beal, Baker-Nord Center director and the Florence Harkness Professor of Religion. "We thrive as we strive to bring them together in new ways."

The center has become the hub of activities and initiatives for scholarship and creative work in the arts and humanities, said Anne Helmreich, who works with Beal as the center's co-director and associate professor of art history.

"Ask any faculty member or graduate student in an arts or humanities department where the center of activity is, and they'll likely name the BNC. Many undergraduates in humanities majors would say the same," said Beal.

Where many of the humanities departments are small, Helmreich added that the BNC gives humanities "a critical mass and a real, felt presence on campus."

Along the way, the center has gained a national reputation for its innovative programming. It was featured in the American Association of Universities' Reinvigorating the Humanities book in 2004. Also Beal was invited to speak about "Present Emergencies and Emergent Disciplines" at the annual meeting of the Consortium of Humanities Center and Institutes in Chicago this past April.

To implement this year's theme of "Information," the center is looking forward to partnering with the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC), an international consortium of many humanities centers and institute that is examining how humanities can benefit from and contribute new information technologies, said Beal.

He added, "We are currently considering a variety of ways we might use new information technologies to improve our support of faculty scholarship while taking on a leadership role among other institutions of higher education research."

Three BNC visiting fellows will come to Case this fall: W. J. T. Mitchell, professor of English and art history at the University of Chicago; Avital Ronell, professor of German, comparative literature and English at New York University; and S. Brent Rodriguez-Plate, assistant professor of religion and the visual arts a Texas Christian University, to talk about different aspects of the information theme.

Also taking an in-depth look at how information and related technologies impacts the humanities will be Senior Faculty Fellows—Christopher Flint, Gary Lee Stonum and Martha Woodmansee (English); and Miriam Levin (history). Also participating are Seminar Scholars Michel Avital (information systems at Weatherhead); Brian Ballentine (English); Kristen Baumlier (Cleveland Institute of Art); Laura Hengehold (philosophy); Eva Kahana (sociology); Elisabeth Koll (history); Raymond Ku (law); Alexander Lamis (political science); William Marling (English); Timothy Robson (Kelvin Smith Library); and Christian Wulffen (Cleveland Institute of Art).

Beal points out that over the years the center has impacted the university in many ways:

  • Case and the Cleveland community have attended free, public lectures by such people as Rita Dove; Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; Anne Lamott; Art Spiegelman; Susan Sontag; and Azar Nafisi.
  • Supported the publication of dozens of books by faculty members, scores of articles, films, plays, screenplays, performances and other artistic work.
  • Nearly 40 faculty members, area artists and community leaders have participated in the annual Baker-Nord Seminar, a semester-long intensive seminar that addresses problems of broad interest.
  • Thirty faculty members have completed foreign travel necessary for research through the center's Foreign Travel Grants.
  • Nine doctoral students have received year-long fellowships to complete dissertations in the humanities, while dozens of other graduate students have received research support through the Baker-Nord's Graduate Research Grants.
  • More than 60 faculty members have shared their new research during Work-in-Progress Colloquiums.
  • More than 100 faculty and graduate students from Case and other colleges and universities have attendant special panels and workshops on publishing and grant-writing in the humanities.

To learn more about Baker-Nord's events this year, visit http://www.case.edu/artsci/bakernord/.

Story by Susan Griffith, 216.368.1004.

Posted by: Heidi Cool, October 23, 2006 10:26 AM | News Topics: College of Arts and Sciences, Events, HeadlinesMain, Philanthropy, Provost Initiatives

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