Talking Utopia with Jay Moran of WBFO/NPR

UB Humanities Institute director David Castillo and executive director Christina Milletti sat down with Jay Moran of WBFO to talk about the return of the Buffalo Humanities Festival to in-person programming at Silo City, our new venue for 2021.

The segment is available to listen or read at:

“As we look at the challenges we’re facing we need to rethink about the stories we’re telling ourselves. We need to think of, not just the stories that exist, but the stories that haven’t been told yet. And that’s where ‘Utopia’ comes in. Those stories that haven’t been told yet.”

David Castillo in conversation with Jay Moran

The Buffalo Humanities Festival is a collaborative public humanities project, organized by Canisius College, Daemen College, Niagara University, SUNY Buffalo State, and the University at Buffalo Humanities Institute.

Spotlight on “Walt Whiman’s Beloved Community: The Calamus Project”

The “beloved community” was a phrase championed by the valued, cherished, and admired Lorna C. Hill (1951-2020) – founder and artistic director of Ujima Theatre.

Ujima continues to use theatre to build the beloved community; shape and reflect our lives; participate in civic conversations; and serve as a vehicle for social change.

Ujima Theatre

In the late 1850s, Walt Whitman composed “Calamus:” a daring, sometimes utopian sequence of poems about camaraderie, friendship, and love among men, and how that love could save American democracy. In this event, Brandon Williamson and Brian Brown of Ujima Theatre will perform poems from Calamus, with an introduction and discussion about Whitman, love, and democracy moderated by Sam Magavern, senior policy fellow at Partnership for the Public Good. This event will provide a sneak preview of the Calamus Project, which will feature films of all 45 Calamus poems, a website, and a “Calamus Day” in Buffalo in June 2022.

Join Sam, Brandon, and Brian on Saturday, Sept. 18, 5:00pm under the Willow Trellis.

Spotlight on “Ritual and Place: Towards a Utopian Policy”

New for 2021, the Buffalo Humanities Festival welcomes Daemen College as a partner institution. We are happy to have Lisa K. Parshall, Professor of Political Science, Daemen College and Public Policy Fellow at the Rockefeller Institute of Government and Dan Shanahan, Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurism and Program Director, Daemen College/co-founder and Artistic Director, Torn Space Theater present on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2:30pm in the Design Studio at Silo City.

Photograph of a large tree in a grassy field with smoke blanketing the ground like mist, in the background the large imposing concrete grain elevator, with individual audience members seated in wooden chairs, each distanced from one another, around the tree.
Image from “Silence” (2020 RESPONSE Performance Series) courtesy of Torn Space Theater/Photographer: Michael Thomas

Lisa and Dan will present a joint presentation on the possible formation of a utopia by analyzing the policy of dissolving a community and rebuilding a progressive society through community ritual, civic engagement and placemaking strategies.

Narrative Persuasion and Utopian Ideals in the Creation and Dissolution of Village Governments

Lisa K. Parshall is a Professor of Political Science at Daemen College in Amherst, NY, specializing in State and Local Politics. As a public policy fellow at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, her research focuses on municipal reorganization and the dissolution of village governments. Her presentation will address how this policy debate over dissolving villages can be understood through a humanistic perspective and a narrative policy framework. While many residents reject dissolution as a policy solution, driven by idealized notions of village life, local autonomy, and nostalgia, some proponents view dissolution as progressive step forward. How does place, community ritual, and shared community values shape the debate—and how might the debate be further shaped by creative placemaking strategies?

The Formation of Utopian Societies by way of Public Ritual

Dan Shanahan is Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurism and co-founder and Artistic Director of Torn Space. His work in contemporary performance incorporates the talents of the community by working with both professional and non-professional actors. This approach is firmly rooted in the traditions of the ancient Greeks, who believed “amateur” provided vitality to performance while encouraging greater civic engagement through the enactment of the public ritual. His presentation will examine the historical context of public ritual in performance through the theorist and playwright Antonin Artaud (1896-1948) and his concept of public ritual along with contemporary examples of Torn Space’s work at Silo City that intersect with creative placemaking strategies. The presentation will explore whether the foundation of a utopia can occur when a community participates in the construction of meaning, mythology and symbolism to create an authentic sense of place.