Creativity is often seen as the driving force behind art, but an ambitious lecture series this year seeks to demonstrate that creativity is at the core of all research and discovery, whether it takes place in the laboratory or on the dance floor.

In fact, says one of the organizers of the Creative Matters lecture series kicking off Aug. 27 with a visit by National Endowment for the Humanities Chair William “Bro” Adams, creativity is central to the human experience and should be cultivated and celebrated in every discipline.

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 (the series sponsor) said Creative Matters is an initiative of the UI Arts Advancement Committee.

The committee was formed several years ago to explore ways to leverage existing and future arts resources, enhance curricula and student involvement, and raise the visibility of UI arts programs in Iowa and beyond, especially as several replacements for arts buildings destroyed by the 2008 flood come online. A new Hancher Auditorium, School of Music, and Visual Arts Building are slated to open in 2016, with a new Museum of Art scheduled to open a year later.

“Our overarching goal for the series is to initiate a campus-wide conversation about the centrality of creativity to our intellectual community and institutional identity and begin the celebration of the renewal of our arts campus,” Gier said.  

He said the speakers were invited because they challenge conventional thinking about creativity, science, and artistic expression, and in their work borrow from a range of influences and disciplines. He said their lectures will explore the nature of creativity and the creative process and offer a wide range of perspectives.

“Humans were born to create, and that drive is especially powerful within intellectual communities, including universities,” he said.  “We really hope to attract and engage a broad and eclectic audience from the university and the wider community.”

Five speakers have been confirmed so far, and detailed information is available online at All events are free and open to the public.

William \"Bro\" Adams
William “Bro” Adams

Chair, National Endowment for the Humanities

6:30-8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27 (reception starts at 7:30 p.m.)

240 Art Building West

Adams is a committed advocate for liberal arts education with a long record of leadership in higher education and the humanities. A native of Birmingham, Mich., and son of an auto industry executive, he earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy at Colorado College and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Cruz History of Consciousness Program. He studied in France as a Fulbright Scholar before beginning his career in higher education with appointments to teach political philosophy at Santa Clara University in California and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He went on to coordinate the Great Works in Western Culture program at Stanford University and to serve as vice president and Secretary of Wesleyan University. He became president of Bucknell University in 1995 and president of Colby College in 2000, where he served until his retirement in 2014, when he became NEH chair.

David Lang
David Lang

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer

7:30-8:30 p.m. Sept. 16

240 Art Building West

Lang is a passionate, prolific, and complicated composer who embodies the restless spirit of invention. He is at the same time deeply versed in the classical tradition and committed to music that resists categorization, constantly creating new forms. In the words of The New Yorker, "With his winning of the Pulitzer Prize for the little match girl passion (one of the most original and moving scores of recent years), Lang, once a postminimalist enfant terrible, has solidified his standing as an American master." Musical America's 2013 Composer of the Year and recipient of Carnegie Hall's Debs Composer's Chair for 2013-2014, Lang is one of America's most performed composers.

Sunil Iyengar
Sunil Iyengar

Research and Analysis Director, National Endowment for the Arts

4-5 p.m. Sept. 21

Iowa City Public Library, Meeting Room A

Since Iyengar’s arrival at the NEA in June 2006, the office has produced more than 25 research publications, hosted several research events and webinars, twice updated the NEA's five-year strategic plan, and conducted groundbreaking analyses of how the arts impact society and influence the sciences, including one study on the creative economy, and another on arts and neuroscience.  Iyengar also writes poetry, and his reviews have appeared in publications such as the Washington Post, New York Times, and Contemporary Poetry Review.

Theo Jansen
Theo Jansen

Kinetic sculptor

5:30-7 p.m. Nov. 10 (includes reception)

C20 Pomerantz Center (Updated venue)

Jansen is a Dutch artist who in 1990 began building large mechanisms out of PVC—called “Strandbeest”—that that can move on their own under the power of the wind. His animated works are a fusion of art and engineering. In a BMW television commercial Jansen says: "The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds." He strives to equip his creations with their own artificial intelligence so they can avoid obstacles by changing course when one is detected, such as the sea itself. “Over time,” Jansen says of his Strandbeest, “these skeletons have become increasingly better at surviving the elements such as storms and water, and eventually I want to put these animals out in herds on the beaches, so they will live their own lives." See a video of some of Jansen’s Standbeest here.

Margaret Wertheim
Margaret Wertheim

Science writer and founder, Institute for Figuring

Feb. 11 (time TBD)

240 Art Building West

Wertheim is an internationally noted science writer and curator whose work focuses on the relations between science and the wider cultural landscape. A native Australian with degrees in physics and mathematics, she is the author of Pythagoras’ Trousers, a history of the relationship between physics and religion; The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet; and Physics on the Fringe: Smoke Rings, Circlons and Alternative Theories of Everything. Her Institute For Figuring is an organization dedicated to the poetic and aesthetic dimensions of science, mathematics and engineering. And she leads a project to re-create the creatures of the coral reefs using a crochet technique invented by a mathematician — celebrating the amazements of the reef, and deep-diving into the hyperbolic geometry underlying coral creation. Watch her TED talk at

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 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, and on Twitter: @DaretoDiscover.