Letter from our Director

Teresa Mangum, Obermann Center Director
Teresa Mangum, Obermann Center Director

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

It’s hard to believe 2015 marks my first five-year term as director of the Obermann Center. We’ve come a long way since 2010, when we sat at packing-box desks and met in the screened porch “conference room” as the Church Street house was transformed into the welcoming, vibrant part of the campus it is today.

To set the Center’s course for the next five years, I worked with the Obermann staff and Advisory Committee to refine our mission statement. Learn more about the Obermann mission here.

The Center’s programs and events in 2014–15 embody the values in our refined mission statement, beginning with last summer’s research seminar, “Problem Solving Social Practice in Art.” For an intense week, academic and independent artists shared their expertise in this emerging interdisciplinary field, which embraces activism, theory, gardening, storytelling, and every art form imaginable.

One of the highlights of the year was an event that truly captured our commitment to being a “convening space for artists, humanities scholars, social scientists, graduate students, and the public”—Energy Cultures in the Age of the Anthropocene, the 2014–15 Obermann Humanities Symposium. The three-day event opened with a presentation by celebrated geologist Lonnie Thompson, the scientist who proved that the glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, and closed with a beautiful, thought-provoking performance by UI dancers.

At the upcoming Humanities Symposium, October 22–24, 2015, we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the publication of Don Quixote, which gave birth to one of the most plagiarized characters in all of literature. Next March, we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Obermann Graduate Institute on Engagement and the Academy, a program that has become a national cornerstone for public engagement in graduate education. Stay tuned for details about a symposium and celebratory evening event!

Each year at the Obermann Center has provided new opportunities to serve University of Iowa faculty and students, as well as to connect with an ever-larger group of public organizations and community members. Last year exceeded my highest expectations for our work. I’ve no doubt that 2015–16 will do the same.

I am, as always, deeply indebted to the wonderful Obermann staff—Jennifer New, Erin Hackathorn, and Miriam Janechek. I’m also grateful to the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, especially Vice President Dan Reed and Assistant Vice President Ann Ricketts, and to members of our advisory boards. I warmly thank all who have donated to the Center this year and hope this report will inspire you to join the Center in championing the creativity, imagination, and achievements of University of Iowa artists and scholars in the years ahead.

Teresa Mangum