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"Sandow Birk's American Qur'an" open in Faulconer Gallery

Friday, Jan. 20, 2012 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA - “Sandow Birk’s American Qur’an” will open Fri., Jan. 27 at Grinnell College’s Faulconer Gallery. The exhibition, organized by The Andy Warhol Museum of Pittsburgh, will be on view in Grinnell through Mar. 18.

Birk, a California-based artist, has been engaged for the past six years in transcribing and illustrating an English translation of the 114 Suras, or chapters, of the Qur’an, Islam’s sacred text. Based on traditional models of manuscript illumination, Birk’s adaptation combines handwritten text with images drawn from contemporary American life. The Faulconer Gallery exhibition includes 85 painted panels from the ongoing project, which the artist plans to complete in 2014.

Birk was drawn to the Qur’an out of curiosity, seeking to educate himself about a book that many have formed opinions about, but fewer have actually read. “Given the global situation, the Qur’an may be the most important book on Earth, but few Americans know anything about it,” Birk told the New York Times in 2009. “I’m attempting to create visual metaphors that go along with the text and hopefully make it more accessible to Americans, more relevant to American life.”

Six of the panels in the exhibition, representing chapters 36 and 37 from the total 114, are part of Grinnell College’s permanent art collection, purchased in 2010.

“The purpose of the college’s art collection is education, and it is the Faulconer Gallery’s mission to use the collection in provocative ways to foster greater understanding,” said Daniel Strong, associate director of the gallery and curator of exhibitions. “Here is an artist who, when he’s completed the project, will have spent a decade of his life studying and interpreting the Qur’an solely for the purpose of educating himself about it.”

Strong explains that while most of the imagery is relatively benign, the artist found it impossible to avoid controversial events that have recently defined American life, such as devastation by Hurricane Katrina (one of the chapters in the college’s collection) and at the World Trade Center (in a chapter titled “Smoke”). “Art is a perfect means to launch the discussion. The Qur’an can’t be reduced to a few incendiary passages, nor can they or should they be disregarded. This exhibition is a quest for fuller understanding through beautifully executed art,” Strong said.

Educational programming, organized by Tilly Woodward, curator of academic and public outreach, also provides a wide variety of platforms to learn about Islam, including an open invitation for reading of the Qur’an. “Gallery visitors are invited to read aloud from the Qur’an in any language that feels right to them. We believe their experience will be enhanced from listening and reading. All are welcome to come,” Woodward said.

All events sponsored by Faulconer Gallery are free, open to the public, and located in the gallery unless otherwise noted:  

  • Jan. 27, 4:15-6 p.m.: Opening reception.
  • Jan. 30, 4:15 p.m.: Panel discussion on “Islam in Iowa” with Kamal Hammouda, adjunct Muslim prayer leader; Mervat Youssef, assistant professor of French and Arabic; and Imam Taha Tawil of the Mother Mosque of America, who will speak on their experiences as Muslims in the state.
  • Feb. 9, 4:15 p.m.: Student roundtable on “The Qur’an in America,” facilitated by Caleb Elfenbein, assistant professor of religious studies and history.
  • Feb. 11, 1:30-3:30 p.m.: Community Day with a variety of hands-on activities.
  • Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m.: Open mic night, co-sponsored by Grinnell Review and Grinnell College Libraries, featuring original works by Grinnell students and others who wish to share favorite writers or composers.
  • Feb. 16, 4:15 p.m.: “Visualizing Islamophobia” discussion with Max Leung, lecturer in sociology, based on his research on the identities of Arabs and Muslims in America.
  • Feb. 28, 4:15 p.m.: Gallery talk by artist Sandow Birk, discussing his ongoing project.
  • Thursdays, Feb. 9-Mar. 15, 12:15-12:50 p.m.: Yoga with Monica St. Angelo. Co-sponsored by Live Well Grinnell. Mats provided for beginners and experienced practitioners.

More educational events will be offered in March. Faulconer Gallery, located in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, 1108 Park St. on the Grinnell campus, is open Tuesday-Wednesday, noon to 5 p.m., Thursday-Friday, noon to 8 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; closed Monday. For more information about the exhibition and related programs, call 641-269-4660 or visit www.grinnell.edu/faulconergallery.


Events to honor Martin Luther King Jr. as second semester opens

Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

As classes open Jan. 23 for the second semester, Grinnell College has scheduled two events to honor the late Martin Luther King, Jr.: a Jan. 26 lecture by White House director John Silvanus Wilson, Jr., and a Jan. 30 lecture by Civil Rights author Tomiko Brown-Nagin.

Wilson, who is executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), will speak on “Martin Luther King and ‘the Beloved Campus’” at 11 a.m. in Room 101 of the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center. Wilson accepted the White House position in 2009 with the challenge from President Barack Obama to ensure that the country’s 105 HBCUs are a significant force in reaching the U.S. goal for the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. His career includes 16 years as an administrator at M.I.T. and later as executive dean at George Washington University. The Jan. 26 event is co-sponsored by the Grinnell College Office of the President and the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations and Human Rights.

On Jan. 30, Brown-Nagin will speak on “Wealth Inequality as a Civil Rights and a Women’s Rights Issue: What History Teaches” at 7:30 p.m. in Room 101 of the Rosenfield Center. Brown-Nagin is the Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law and professor of history at the University of Virginia School of Law. Her book “Courage to Dissent,” about lawyers, courts and community-based activism during the Civil Rights era, was recently published by Oxford University Press. The Jan. 30 event is co-sponsored by the Rosenfield Program and the University of Iowa College of Law. A book-signing will be held at the campus bookstore at 4:15 p.m. on Jan. 30.

For more information about the Rosenfield Program, contact Sarah Purcell, purcelsj@grinnell.edu, 641-269-3091. The Rosenfield Center is located at 1115 8th Ave. on the Grinnell campus. Grinnell welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. Information on parking and accessibility is available on the college website. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations at 641-269-3235 orcalendar@grinnell.edu.


Community enhancement mini-grants applications due Jan. 27

Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

Grinnell College is now accepting applications for Community Mini-Grants. The Mini-Grant Program provides catalyst funding for small-to mid-scale projects to help Grinnell become a more attractive place to live, work and play. Mini-grants, which range from $1,000 to $7,500, focus on cultural, recreational and educational initiatives including those benefitting the social needs of the community, as well as projects that enhance the safety, beauty and economic vitality of the local area.

Applications for 2012 must be received in the Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement by the January 27 deadline. Additional application information is available at http://www.grinnell.edu/offices/communityenhance/minigrant/.

In 2011, community mini-grants were awarded to 11 local projects: Drake Community Library for electronic book service; Grinnell Area Arts Council for computer and office equipment; Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce for website development; Grinnell Big Brothers Big Sisters for activities to support mentor matches; Grinnell Community Daycare and Preschool for a school bus; Grinnell Little League for field upgrades; Grinnell Parks and Recreation Department to improve Arbor Lake shelters; Grinnell Police Department for patrol bicycles; Grinnell Regional Medical Center for electronic records wireless access; PALS animal shelter for insulated pet doors; and Poweshiek County Fair Association for campground improvements.

Mini-grant applications will be reviewed by Monica Chavez-Silva, director of community enhancement and engagement, and an advisory committee of Grinnell College faculty and staff, college students from the local area, and community representatives. Awardees will be notified by March 1.

Requests for support less than the mini-grant minimum of $1,000 are considered throughout the year on a case-by-case basis by the Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement. Additional information about the college’s gifts and grants to the community is available at http://www.grinnell.edu/offices/communityenhance/giftsandgrants.


Four Grinnell students awarded Gilman Scholarships for study abroad

Friday, Dec. 23, 2011 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

Four Grinnell College students have received federally-funded Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships to support study abroad during second semester 2011-2012.

The Gilman Scholarship is a federal grant program that “provides awards for U.S. undergraduate students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding to participate in study abroad programs worldwide.” The program aims to diversify the kinds of students who study abroad and the countries and regions where they go by supporting undergraduates who might otherwise not participate due to financial constraints. The four Grinnell third-year students and their programs are:

• Debbie Cifuentes Ramirez, a Spanish major from Los Angeles, Calif., will study in Argentina. At Grinnell, she is a member of the Student Organization of Latin@s, a Mellon Mays Fellow and aspiring college instructor, a member of the Spanish department’s educational policy committee, and a Posse Foundation Scholar. She hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Spanish or Latin American Studies following her Grinnell education.

• Zafreen Farishta, a political science major from Morton Grove, Ill., will study in France and Morocco. At Grinnell, she is involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters, the student chapter of NAACP, and on the campus library’s educational policy committee. She plans to pursue a career in public health or law.

• Andrew Lange, an art and German double major from Carroll, Ia., will study public transportation and its relationship to access to green spaces in Freiburg, Germany. He is a student advisor at Grinnell and has contributed artwork to the college’s literary journal. Lange was also awarded the Adelyn Dougherty Leander Urban Issues Scholarship to study in Freiburg and plans to pursue a career in architecture.

• Nancy Repreza, a psychology and sociology double major from Miami, Fla., will study in Denmark. She is a Mellon Mays Fellow and aspiring college instructor, a student advisor in the residence halls, and a recruiting assistant in the Office of Admission. She expects to attend graduate school in psychology or sociology after graduation.

Grinnell College is a nationally recognized, private, four year, liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa. Founded in 1846, Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations, and pre-professional programs.


Slate magazine to record "Political Gabfest" from campus Dec. 7

Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011 12:00 am | Contact: Hosts David Plotz and John Dickerson will also be interviewed on Iowa Public Radio at noon on Mon., Dec. 5.

Grinnell, IA -  

Slate Magazine’s “Political Gabfest” will be recorded from the Grinnell College campus, Wed., Dec. 7. Slate editor David Plotz will be joined in the talk-show style podcast by CBS political director John Dickerson andEmily Bazelon, Slate senior editor.  

An audience participation Q&A will be included in the one-hour live taping, which will begin at 6 p.m. in Harris Center Cinema.  The Gabfest podcast will be posted to the Slate site following the Grinnell recording.

Slate, a daily web magazine owned by the Washington Post, offers analysis and commentary on politics, news, business, technology, and culture. The magazine, founded in 1996, has won awards for its strong editorial voice and sharp take on issues of the day.  During their campus visit, the show hosts will also meet with Grinnell students to discuss careers in journalism. 

Slate’s visit to Grinnell, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the college’s Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs; for additional information, contact Sarah Purcell, director of the Rosenfield Program,purcelsj@grinnell.edu, 641-269-3091. Members of the media who wish to cover the Slate visit should contact Cindy Deppe, deppec@grinnell.edu, 641-269-4834; 641-990-7745 for details.  Harris Center is located at 1114 10th Ave., Grinnell.         


Mid-year Commencement for 24 seniors

Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

Grinnell College seniors graduating mid-year will be honored in a private campus ceremony on Dec. 5. The 24 mid-year graduates will hear remarks from President Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D.; Paula Smith, vice-president for academic affairs and dean of the college; Beth Halloran, vice-president for development and alumni relations; and Kelly Maynard, assistant professor of history.

Grinnell’s spring commencement is scheduled for May 21, 2012, when Caribbean novelist Jamaica Kincaid will address more than 350 members of the graduating class.

Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations, and pre-professional programs. Approximately one-third of Grinnell students graduate with degrees in science; one-third with degrees in the humanities; and one-third with degrees in the social sciences. -30-

Local foundation contributes to recreation, playground at new preschool lab

Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

Area preschoolers who attend the Grinnell College Preschool Laboratory just got a new playdate—the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation.

The Foundation, which supports Grinnell community projects in education, health, and parks and recreation, will contribute $41,000 to the new preschool’s playground and recreation area. The playground equipment installation brings the new facility in the 1000 block of Park St. one step closer to opening in late January, at the beginning of second semester.

“Our founder, Claude Ahrens, believed in recreational experiences for children beginning at early ages. This gift honors his legacy and our mission of community development and recreational opportunities,” said Foundation President Julie Gosselink.

The preschool, directed by Karen Veerhusen-Langerud, serves approximately 50 local children each year and is a real-time laboratory for approximately 100 Grinnell College psychology students who observe and interact with the preschoolers for introductory coursework. An additional 20-40 upper-level college students conduct developmental psychology research projects there.

The new $1.75 million preschool laboratory, expected to be completed in early January, features areas for large and small motor skills, a classroom with in-floor heating, an observation room, meeting and research spaces, and an entryway with open courtyard.

Monica Chavez-Silva, director of community enhancement and engagement for the college, expressed the importance of community partnerships in projects like the new preschool. “The Ahrens Foundation gift is a wonderful example of the productive collaborations we are fortunate to have in Grinnell. We are very grateful to the Foundation for recognizing the benefits of this new high-quality facility for our community’s preschoolers and in support of inquiry-based learning by our psychology students.”

The popular laboratory program is currently housed in a 1970s-style building at 1207 Park St. which will be removed next summer. Furnishings and materials will be moved into the new building during winter break.


Grinnell Singers to perform "Messiah" with Chicago's Baroque Band

Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

The Grinnell Singers, a 50-voice choral ensemble from Grinnell College, will combine talents with Chicago’s celebrated Baroque Band, to perform Handel’s “Messiah,” Dec. 3 in Des Moines and Dec. 4 on the Grinnell campus.

The Baroque Band period-instrument orchestra has established itself as an important part of Chicago’s classical music community. The combined concert with the Grinnell Singers will feature the “Dublin Messiah,” Handel’s rarely heard original of the iconic masterpiece which premiered in Ireland in 1742. The Baroque Band’s rendition of the Dublin version was recognized in 2009 as one of the “top five classical concerts.”

The Grinnell Singers, known for innovative and adventurous choral programming, have premiered more than 20 choral works in the past five years, directed by Professor of Music John Rommereim. Rommereim is active as a composer, singer, and scholar whose work is centered in the areas of Russian choral music and early music performance. Each year the choir presents concerts across the U.S. and has traveled to Estonia, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey.

The free public concerts will be held Dec. 3 at 4 p.m. at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 600 6th St., Des Moines, and Dec. 4 at 2 p.m. in Sebring-Lewis Hall, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Grinnell. Freewill donations will be accepted at the Des Moines concert; contact St. John's Lutheran Church, 515-243-7691, for ticket information.

Grinnell College is a nationally recognized, private, four year, liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa. Founded in 1846, Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations, and pre-professional programs.


Briefly: Fine Arts events

Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA - >

  •  tRADitions + enCOUNTers

  •  The Department of Theatre and Dance presents the Grinnell College Dance Ensemble in tRADitions + enCOUNTers, Dec. 2-4, in Flanagan Arena Theatre of Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. The performance will explore dance traditions on campus as well as traditions of family, communities, and food. Dance Ensemble members will draw from their own ballet and modern dance traditions, featured artist Val Vetter will share Javanese dance, with guest appearances in hip-hop, Bollywood, and belly dancing form. Celeste Miller, lecturer in theatre and dance, will choreograph the performances in collaboration with Dance Ensemble members Athena Carlson '15, Diane Lenertz '15, Kristen Moreland '12, DeShaun Peters '14, Alexander Rich-Shea '12, and Adelle Yin '13.  The performances are scheduled for Dec. 2 and 3 at 7:30 p.m. and at 2 p.m. on Dec. 4.    

    •  'Tis the Season for Organ Music

    College Organist Linda Bryant and student organists Peter Aldrich '15 and Christopher Squier '13 will present a varied program of carol-based music on Thurs., Dec. 8 at 11 a.m. in Herrick Chapel. The selections range from Bach and Daquin to jazz-influenced settings by Johannes Michel. The organists will play the restored 1949 Aeolian-Skinner instrument of 59 ranks. The program is free and open to the public.   

    Center for Prairie Studies symposium on visions for Midwest's future Nov. 8-10

    Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011 12:00 am

    Grinnell, IA - Grinnell College’s Center for Prairie Studies will look to the future during a Nov. 8-10 symposium examining “How Will the Midwest Survive? Visions for the Future.” The three-day symposium will include presentations by rural economic development specialists, farmer and former agriculture secretary candidate Francis Thicke, and Iowa native and global observer Richard Longworth.

    Symposium organizer Jon Andelson, director of the Center for Prairie Studies, said that the symposium will focus on solutions, not “doom-and-gloom diagnoses of problems.”

    “Midwesterners may not have complete control of the region’s future, but we can shape it. The question is ‘how should we?’ The speakers have differing views of diverse sectors of commerce and community, so symposium attendees will have the opportunity to consider alternatives and learn what roles they as individuals can play in setting the course,” Andelson added.

    The free, public events include:

    •  Nov. 8, 4:15 p.m.: Francis Thicke will present “A New Vision for Midwest Food and Agriculture.” Thicke operates an organic dairy farm near Fairfield, Ia., and was a 2010 candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. He is the author of a book on the ongoing conflicts between factory and family farms.
    •  Nov. 8, 7 p.m.: Director of Iowa Rural Development Bill Menner will conduct a talk show-style interview with Kim Didier, executive director of Des Moines Area Community College’s Business Resources, and Sandy Ehrig, economic development administrator for Renew Rural Iowa of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, about their “Visions for Rural Economic Development in the Midwest.”
    •  Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m.: A screening of the documentary film, “A Little Salsa on the Prairie,” will be followed by a discussion led by Grinnell faculty members Victoria Brown (history) and Eric Carter (anthropology). “Salsa” looks at the social and economic effects of immigration on Perry, Ia. The film will be shown in Room 102, Alumni Recitation Hall, 1226 Park St. on the Grinnell campus.
    •  Nov. 10, 11 a.m.: Richard Longworth will deliver the Scholars’ Convocation on “The Midwest’s Future in the Age of Globalism.” Longworth is a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which he joined in 2003 after a distinguished 20-year career in international journalism with the Chicago Tribune. He is the author of several books including “Caught in the Middle: America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalism,” “Global Squeeze,” and “Global Chicago.”
    •  Nov. 10, 4:15 p.m.: The symposium will conclude with a lecture by award-winning author Jay Walljasper on “Rediscovering the Commons to Boost the Heartland’s Future.” Walljasper is a contributing editor to National Geographic Traveler, a fellow and editor for “On the Commons,” former editor of Utne Reader, author of “The Great Neighborhood Book,” and co-author of “Visionaries: People and Ideas to Change Your Life” and “All That We Share: How to Save the Economy, the Environment, The Internet, Democracy, Our Communities and Everything Else that Belongs to All of Us.”

    The symposium is co-sponsored by the Center for Prairies Studies, the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, and the Luce Program in Nations and the Global Environment. All symposium events will be held in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, 1115 8th Ave., unless otherwise noted. Grinnell welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. Information on parking and accessibility is available on the college website. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations at 641-269-3235 or calendar@grinnell.edu.