Community Dialogues

An intimate conversational platform founded on the belief that cultural institutions can and should be a catalyst for societal transformation by participating in a world of ideas. Open Spectrum provides a space for community dialogue on the most vital issues facing our community today, engaging participants in active listening, constructive discourse and action planning.

Bill Chats: Hank Willis Thomas

Presented as part of For Freedoms’ 50 State Initiative 

Bill T. Jones will speak with Hank Willis Thomas, conceptual artist and co-founder of For Freedoms, a political art initiative founded by Thomas and Eric Gottesman. They will discuss the role of the artist, civic participation, and the 50 State Initiative leading up to the midterm elections.

HANK WILLIS THOMAS is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. His work is included in numerous public collections including the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. His collaborative projects include Question Bridge: Black Males, In Search Of The Truth (The Truth Booth), and For Freedoms, the first artist-run initiative for art and civic engagement. In 2017, For Freedoms was awarded the ICP Infinity Award for New Media and Online Platform. Thomas is also a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship (2018), the AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize (2017), the Soros Equality Fellowship (2017), and is a member of the New York City Public Design Commission.

Right to Bear Arms

As part of its Open Spectrum series, New York Live Arts is hosting a discussion on creating safety in an age of aggression. Curated by Brian Tate and presented as part of For Freedoms’ 50 State Initiative.

Curatorial Statement  

The recent deaths of Nia Wilson and Botham Jean, both victims of unprovoked violence, are unalike in some ways: she was killed on a subway platform, felled because of a drifter’s “mental derangement;” he was gunned down in his apartment by a police officer who “made a mistake.” In both instances, officials have characterized their deaths as tragic yet unforeseen, almost spontaneous in nature. But at a time of angry political rhetoric aimed at the vulnerable, and a corresponding spike in bias cases and hate crimes, are such attacks truly random? What routes to self-protection exist for people who are painted as the Other?

Mainstream aggressors are often allowed to skirt the cost of their actions, while those on the margins who act to protect themselves are met with the full weight of the law. What does it mean to America when the use of force by marginalized people is called an ideological threat, while violence that consistently targets people who are different is dismissed as justified, arbitrary, or “not hate-related?” Does the right to bear arms come with a responsibility to defend ourselves – and is physical combat or the use of firearms a sustainable response to the dangers facing us today? How do we create safety in an age of aggression?

Join us for an Open Spectrum conversation on these issues with photojournalist Amr Alfiky, organizer/journalist/ author asha bandele, journalist Kali Holloway, and Loren Miller, Executive Director, Center for Anti-Violence Education (CAE). Moderated by artist-activist Shaun Leonardo.

Additional Links

Amr AlfikyOwning a Gun While Muslim
asha bandeleWhen They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir 
Kali Holloway6 gun groups that aren’t for white right-wingers
Loren MillerCenter for Anti-Violence Education
Shaun LeonardoCan an Artist Shift the Gun Debate?

Brilliant Darkness-A Discussion with Artists on Mental Illness

Live Arts continues its Open Spectrum Community Dialogues, curated by culture creator Brian Tate of The Tate Group, providing space for reflection on the most vital issues facing communities today.

Bill Chats: Oskar Eustis

Bill T. Jones talks with Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of New York’s Public Theater, who has nurtured one game-changing hit after another for the Public, including the award-winning musical Hamilton.

Oskar Eustis has served as the Artistic Director of The Public Theater since 2005. In the last three years, he has produced 2 Tony Award-winning Best Musicals (Fun Home and Hamilton), and back to back winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Hamilton and Sweat. He came to The Public from Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, RI where he served as Artistic Director from 1994 to 2005.  Eustis served as Associate Artistic Director at Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum from 1989 to 1994, and prior to that he was with the Eureka Theatre Company in San Francisco, serving as Resident Director and Dramaturg from 1981 to 1986 and Artistic Director from 1986 to1989. Eustis is currently a Professor of Dramatic Writing and Arts and Public Policy at New York University, and has held professorships at UCLA, Middlebury College, and Brown University, where he founded and chaired the Trinity Rep/Brown University Consortium for professional theater training. At The Public, Eustis directed the New York premieres of Rinne Groff’s Compulsion and The Ruby Sunrise; Larry Wright’s The Human Scale; and most recently Julius Caesar at Shakespeare in the Park. He has funded numerous ground-breaking programs at the Public, from Public Works and Public Forum to the EWG. At Trinity Rep, he directed the world premiere of Paula Vogel’s The Long Christmas Ride Home and Tony Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul, both recipients of the Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Production.  While at the Eureka Theatre, he commissioned Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, and directed its world premiere at the Mark Taper Forum.  Eustis has also directed the world premieres of plays by Philip Kan Gotanda, David Henry Hwang, Emily Mann, Suzan-Lori Parks, Ellen McLaughlin, and Eduardo Machado, among many others.


Presented as part of Women’s History Month

Live Arts continues its Open Spectrum Community Dialogues, curated by culture creator Brian Tate of The Tate Group, providing space for reflection on the most vital issues facing communities today.

Bill Chats: Claudia Rankine and Tracy K Smith

Bill T. Jones talks with Claudia Rankine, poet, essayist, playwright, and the editor of several anthologies, and Tracy K. Smith, poet and educator, who is currently serving as the 22nd Poet Laureate of the United States, an office she assumed in 2017.

Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry, including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; two plays including Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue; numerous video collaborations, and is the editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. For Citizen, Rankine won the Forward Prize for Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry (Citizen was also nominated in the criticism category, making it the first book in the award’s history to be a double nominee), the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the PEN Open Book Award, and the NAACP Image Award. A finalist for the National Book Award, Citizen also holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category. Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, United States Artists, and the National Endowment of the Arts. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and teaches at Yale University as the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry.

In 2017, Tracy K. Smith was appointed the 22nd United States Poet Laureate. She is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Ordinary Light (Knopf, 2015) and three books of poetry, including her most recent Wade in the Water (Graywolf, 2018). Her collection Life on Mars won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and was selected as a New York Times Notable Book. Duende won the 2006 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets and an Essence Literary Award. The Body’s Question was the winner of the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Smith was the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writers Award in 2004 and a Whiting Award in 2005. In 2014 the Academy of American Poets awarded Smith with the Academy Fellowship, awarded to one poet each year to recognize distinguished poetic achievement. She is the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor in the Humanities, and Director of the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University.