Whether solving a problem, persuading a friend or writing a Facebook post, in large and small ways we all rely on our creativity to move through everyday life. In its second year, the UI Creative Matters lecture series invites participants to foster personal innovation by drawing inspiration from the invited artists, thinkers, builders and doers in this year’s series.

The 2016-2017 Creative Matters presenters are a dynamic group including:

  • A past MET artist-in-residence who takes multimedia musical composition to the next level
  • The hip-hop group that treats Shakespeare like Hamilton: The Musical treats the U.S. history
  • An acclaimed puppeteer collaborating on the Joffrey Ballet’s re-imagination of The Nutcracker
  • A New York Times best-selling author
  • A glass ceiling shattering symphony orchestra conductor
  • The water quality expert who uncovered Flint, Michigan’s high lead levels

Sponsored by the UI Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, the Creative Matters series was born out of the UI Arts Advancement Committee which seeks to leverage the great artistic resources of the UI into enhanced campus and community enrichment as well as to promote the visibility of UI arts programs both in Iowa and worldwide.

“Given the incredible response from last year’s Creative Matters series, we’re delighted to be able to offer a fresh slate of creative artists, scholars, and inventors,” said Dan Reed, UI Vice President for Research and Economic Development. “Our speakers demonstrate what’s possible when creative energy and intellectual curiosity are given free rein.”

David Gier, director of the UI School of Music, Erich Funke Professor in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and Administrative Faculty Fellow in the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, said the series builds on the UI’s strong institutional identity as a place that fosters the arts and understands the creative process as central to the human experience.

“The Creative Matters series is designed to inspire us and demonstrate how creativity, innovation and discovery animate life and connect people within and beyond the university—often in very unexpected ways,” said Gier. “The act of creation is a universal human impulse and links us to one another. Whether it takes the form of dance, sculpture, design, or research, we’re all invited to follow our creative impulses wherever they take us. Creative Matters shows us how magical, moving, thought-provoking and wildly unique that journey can look.”

Drawn from a variety of disciplines, the Creative Matters series speakers are simply asked to talk about the creative process and how it works for them. The specifics of their talks are often only revealed at the lecture itself.

“People come knowing the general theme but not knowing what direction it’s going to take and I think that is part of the appeal,” explained Gier. “We aren’t giving our speakers a narrow path to traverse. We’re letting them speak from their own personal vantage point. Past speakers have gone in very unexpected directions with this broad idea and that’s been exciting to watch.”

Six speakers have been confirmed, and detailed information for the 2016-2017 season is available online at http://creativematters.research.uiowa.edu/

All events are free and open to the public.

Q Brothers in conversation with Miriam Gilbert

September 20, 5:30pm
Room: Mabie Theatre, Theatre Building


Before Hamilton: The Musical, there were The Q Brothers. The Chicago-based ensemble is world renowned for rewriting Shakespeare plays into contemporary expressions including Othello: The Remix and Funk It Up About Nothin’. This fall, they will work with students from the UI to devise, revise, and remix Shakespeare's Julius Caesar into a modern hip-hop musical. In this project, they will explore the themes of fate, betrayal, and political corruption.

Miriam Gilbert, UI Emeritus Professor and Shakespeare scholar, will join them on stage as they discuss and demonstrate their creative process.

Basil Twist, puppeteer

September 29, 5:30pm
Room: Art Building West, Room 240


Basil Twist is a puppeteer and theater artist whose experiments with the materials and techniques of puppetry explore the boundaries between the animate and inanimate, the abstract and the figurative. This December, Twist is bringing his dynamic artistic style to the creative team developing an all new production of The Nutcracker for the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago with preview performances at the Hancher Auditorium, December 1-4. In addition to working on the film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Twist’s works range from productions of classic stories to abstract visualizations of orchestral music and are informed by puppetry traditions from around the world. His maverick Rite of Spring, a ballet without dancers, made its world premiere in 2013. Twist is the recipient of a 2015 MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.”

Leslie Jamison, author

Title: Compassion and Confession
Lecture: October 6, 5:30pm
Room: Art Building West, Room 240


The author of the acclaimed book The Empathy Exams, Leslie Jamison collection of visceral and revealing essays asked essential questions about our basic understanding of others: How can we feel another’s pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Her lecture for the Creative Matters series will go even deeper by exploring the moral and aesthetic complexities of narrating the lives of others. What kinds of creativity become possible in the act of writing about other peoples’ lives, and what kinds of creativity—or imagination—become ethically problematic when you are turning the lives of actual human beings into art? She will talk about the obligations a writer might feel towards her subjects—the interplay between guilt and the affection, between care and skepticism – drawing on her own experience as well as the work of other writers in the documentary tradition.

Jamison will also be presenting at the UI Carver College of Medicine’s 10th annual Examined Life conference, which explores the intersection between the arts and medicine. Jamison is a 2006 graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

Paul Miller (DJ Spooky), composer, multimedia artist

Title: The Imaginary App

October 12, 5:30pm
Room: Art Building West, Room 240


Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) is the executive editor of ORIGIN Magazine, a composer, multimedia artist, editor and author. Part lecture, part demonstration, Miller will explore how technology has shaped creativity throughout history and continues to guide how we actualize the future.

His talk is centered around a short preview of his original electronic score EXPLORER I REMIX, commissioned by the University of Iowa and incorporating newly restored and digitized audio and visual data from the historic 1958 satellite mission by the late UI physicist James Van Allen that led to the discovery of the earth’s radiation belts. The musical score, which will premiere at the UI in spring 2017, will be accompanied by visuals created in collaboration with University of Iowa’s video team. EXPLORER I REMIX will be a moving collage at the intersection of art and science, seen through Miller’s unique perspective as a composer, DJ, and conceptual artist.

Marc Edwards, environmental engineer & water activist
Presenting the Richard L. Valentine Distinguished Lecture

Title: The Flint Michigan Water Crisis: Miracle or Disaster?

October 27, 7:00pm

Room: W10, John Pappajohn Business Building


Marc Edwards and his colleague, Mona Hanna-Attisha, were recently named to Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People” as a reflection of their investigative scholarship and advocacy during the Flint, Michigan water crisis. Edwards previously researched the elevated lead levels in the drinking water of Washington, D.C. and Edwards publicly discredited a scientifically indefensible report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that seemingly attempted to cover-up the issue. Edwards was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2007 for “playing a vital role in ensuring the safety of drinking water and in exposing deteriorating water-delivery infrastructure in America’s largest cities.”

Joe Palca
Joe Palca, NPR science correspondent

Title: Creativity, Innovation, and the Translation of Science 

November 16, 7:00pm

Room: 100 Phillips Hall


After years of reporting for television, radio and publications including Nature and Science, NPR science correspondent Joe Palca radically changed his journalistic approach. Now in his eponymous series “Joe’s Big Idea,” he steps back from announcing what’s been cured in mice and instead explores how scientific ideas are translated into innovations and inventions. In this quest to delve deep into the minds and motivations of scientists and inventors, he invites listeners to share his fascination and be inspired. Palca has won numerous awards, several of which came with attractive certificates. He, along with Flora Lichtman, is the co-author of Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us.

Marin Alsop, conductor

Title: How the creative process is central to the human experience
April 19, 5:30pm
Room: Voxman School of Music, Recital Hall


Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony, made history in 2007 as the first woman to head a major American orchestra. Alsop is an inspiring and powerful voice in Baltimore and the international music scene, a music director of vision and distinction who passionately believes that “music has the power to change lives.” She is recognized across the world for her innovative approach to programming and for her deep commitment to education and to the development of audiences of all ages. Marin Alsop is the recipient of numerous awards and is the only symphony conductor to receive the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, given to U.S. residents in recognition of exceptional creative work.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Leslie Weatherhead at leslie-weatherhead@uiowa.edu in advance of the event.

The Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development provides resources and support to researchers and scholars at the University of Iowa and to businesses across Iowa with the goal of forging new frontiers of discovery and innovation and promoting a culture of creativity that benefits the campus, the state, and the world. More at http://research.uiowa.edu, and on Twitter: @DaretoDiscover