Spring Community Conversations series continues discussion of "Connections"

Jan. 4, 2013
Contact: Chloe Kennedy, News and New Media Writer
865.981.8209; chloe.kennedy@maryvillecollege.edu

This semester, the Community Conversations Lecture Series at Maryville College invites College and community members to explore “Connections” with a film screening, a panel discussion and a presentation.

All events are free and open to the public.

Community Conversations is an annual lecture series conducted to facilitate conversations and discussions between members of the entire Maryville College community, citizens of Blount County and surrounding areas, College alumni and prospective students.

The spring series is a continuation of the fall 2012 series, which focused on the same theme. The fall series included presentations by three special guests: a delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention, a religion and theology professor, and a nationally recognized ecologist.

The spring series will continue to explore ways in which people are connected, according to Dr. Kelly Battles, assistant professor of English and chair of the Community Conversations committee.

“Our theme points to the incongruity that has meant that despite a society that is increasingly connected by technology, economic trade and travel, we may be becoming more fractured and disconnected,” Battles said. “Political discourse encourages extreme partisanship, and we are sliced into demographics by political analysts such that our identities are boiled down to media-friendly labels like ‘soccer mom’ or ‘Nascar dad.’

“The promise of social media to bring friends together through constant digital communication has instead led to a rash of journalists asking, in the words of a recent Atlantic article, ‘Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?’ The powerful economic forces of globalization have pushed people farther apart even as consumer goods and natural resources flow more freely than ever across borders.

“Set in contrast to these divisive elements, our series this year explores the powerful potential for human beings to make connections with each other,” Battles continued. “Speakers and film screenings will address topics including religious pluralism and cross-religious dialogue, the changing nature of human relationships in the digital age, the importance of communities coming together to protect their natural resources, whether in Appalachia or the Chilean Andes, and how individuals can become more involved in the political process. Pushing towards greater understanding among people, the importance of community, and the power of collective action, our events this year all emphasize the common thread of ‘Connections.’”

“Connected: An Autoblogography About Love, Death & Technology” will be shown on Wed., Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. in the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre.

Tiffany Shlain’s documentary “explores the visible and invisible connections linking major issues of our time – the environment, consumption, population growth, technology, human rights, the global economy – while searching for her place in the world during a transformative time in her life,” according to the film’s website.

The documentary premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and has had over 500 screenings since its launch, including the Rio de Janeiro Film Festival and the Cannes International Film Market. It has won numerous awards and distinctions, including the Disruptive Innovation Award from the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival; the Interdependence Film Prize from the Berlin International Film Festival and the Interdependence Movement; Best Documentary Feature from the Atlanta International Film Festival; Best of Festival Documentary from the Portland, Maine Film Festival; and the Women in Film Award from the National Geographic All Roads Grant at Sundance. The film was also selected by the State Department to be part of the 2012 American Film Showcase and as the first film to launch the Showcase.

Dr. Chad Schrock, MC associate professor of psychology, will introduce the film and moderate questions after the film.

For more information about the film, visit http://connectedthefilm.com/.

A panel discussion titled “Blount County Women’s PAC – Power, Authority and Consensus in Creating Change” will be held on Tues., Feb. 12.

During the event, which will begin at 7 p.m. in Fayerweather Hall’s Lawson Auditorium, three women who are active in different ways in Blount County will discuss how they make change in their various positions in the community.

“Each of the panel members will share stories in which they use the dynamics of power, authority and consensus to find their own balance in creating change, to describe the challenges they face, their leadership style and what they are learning in the process,” Battles said. “Their wisdom will help us learn how to continually work toward creating a community that is welcoming to all.”

Nina Gregg, principal of Communication Resources in Maryville, has worked for more than 20 years with community and social justice organizations, unions and educational institutions. She works with groups and individuals to create opportunities for organization development and learning, strengthen capacity for long-term stability, and develop resources and skills for collaboration. Gregg, who holds a master of arts degree and a Ph.D. from McGill University, has worked with numerous organizations, including: Appalachian Community Fund, Appalachian Studies Association, Appalshop, Berea College, Blount County Community Action Agency, Center for Literacy, Education & Employment at the University of Tennessee, Highlander Research and Education Center, Maryville College and Tennessee Clean Water Network. She is U.S. Coordinator for the international Ethics and Responsibility Forum and recently led an action research project on ethics and responsibility in organizing.

Wendy Pitts Reeves, chair of the East Tennessee Women's Leadership Summit, is an experienced psychotherapist, confidence coach and motivational speaker who hosts the popular “Secret Adventures for Courageous Women.” She founded Cove Mountain Counseling, an association of independent practitioners in Maryville, and has served as a graduate-level field instructor for the University of Tennessee’s College of Social Work and as an adjunct professor for Maryville College. Reeves has chaired or served on several boards, including the Tennessee Economic Council on Women, Women's Equity Foundation, AAUW-Maryville Branch, Blount County Children's Home, the Adult Education Foundation of Blount County and the Blount County Chamber of Commerce. She was elected to the Blount County Commission from 2006-2010 and was named “Public Official of the Year” by the Tennessee Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. She is also a graduate of the Leadership Blount Class of 2006.

Sharon Hannum is the facilitator for Sisters 4 Tomorrow, a girls mentoring rites of passage program that is in its third year. She is also Tennessee Conference Director of Christian Education, a position she has held for three years, and district officer for the Board of Christian Education for Young Adult Ministry. Previously, she worked for Alcoa, Inc., from which she retired after 30 years of service. Active in the Blount County community, Hannum retired this year as chair of the MLK Celebration Planning Commission. She is vice president of the Blount County Library Board of Trustees, co-chair of the East Tennessee Leadership Summit, chair of the Jail Inspection Committee for the Blount County Government, a member of the Leadership Blount Board of Directors, a member of the Pellissippi State Community College Foundation Board of Trustees and a member of Child and Family Tennessee’s Board of Directors. Hannum is also developing the Women’s Support Network, a program designed to serve women who have been incarcerated and need a support system while transitioning into new beginnings and a fresh start. She is a graduate of the Leadership Blount Class of 1998.

Sherry Brewer, member of the Maryville College Community Conversations committee, will moderate the panel discussion.

Lane Hall, a multimedia artist, writer and professor in the Department of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, will give a presentation on Thurs., March 7.

During his presentation, which begins at 7 p.m. in Fayerweather Hall’s Lawson Auditorium, Hall will talk about grassroots political activism.

Hall, who has been active in the recent labor struggles in Wisconsin, has written extensively about pragmatic activism. He was a founding member of the Playground Legends PAC, which focused on voter enfranchisement in some of Milwaukee's African American neighborhoods. He co-founded the Overpass Light Brigade (OLB), a “direct action group aimed at DIY political messaging, visibility and the creation of community through the power of play,” according to Hall.

OLB’s activist collaborative public art project consists of a series of LED-illuminated panels displaying letters. Performers, known as “holders of the light,” assemble in line with each person holding one letter, and together, they present a political slogan. OLB’s messages shine over highways at night to increase visibility.

OLB images and videos have been widely – and at times, virally – disseminated throughout the Web and represented on a wide variety of media outlets, including CNN, the BBC, The Rachel Maddow Show, The Ed Show, The New York Times, Time Magazine and The Hindustani Times. His art installations have been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, the Shanghai World Expo, the Field Museum, the Science Gallery in Dublin and Eyebeam in New York City.

Stumptown Films is producing a documentary about OLB. To view videos, visit www.olbfilm.com. For more information about OLB, visit www.overpasslightbrigade.org.

During his presentation, Hall will talk about the history of OLB with an attempt to “discuss the larger issues of community building via the powerful mix of physical presence and social media,” he said.