Inaugural participants in dynamic interactive series include artists Nick Cave, Wangechi Mutu, and Shirin Neshat and museum director and curator Thelma Golden

Providence, RI…The Brown Arts Initiative (BAI) at Brown University today announced the launch of the Warren and Allison Kanders Lecture Series, an annual series of presentations and student interactions led by prominent contemporary artists and art-world luminaries. Designed to serve as a catalyst for open dialogue about the impact of contemporary visual art on our world, the new series will include four presentations per year beginning in October 2017. Inaugural participants include artists Nick Cave, Wangechi Mutu, and Shirin Neshat and The Studio Museum in Harlem director and chief curator Thelma Golden.

The Warren and Allison Kanders Lecture Series serves as a significant component of BAI’s programming. The BAI was established in 2016 to fulfill a key goal of the University’s Building on Distinction strategic plan—to cultivate creative expression and ensure the arts are central to the Brown experience and a vibrant means to explore our shared humanity.

Participants spend two to three days on campus engaging with students through seminars and workshops, studio visits, discussions, and other activities, culminating in a public presentation that may take the form of a lecture or conversation with another art-world figure.

BAI faculty director Butch Rovan said, “We are profoundly grateful to Warren and Allison Kanders for supporting this new lecture series that so richly benefits our students and the broader Providence community. It is perfectly aligned with our mission to spotlight the essential role of artists in contemporary society. By being able to hear from and engage with prominent visual artists and thought-leaders about their practices, processes, influences, and perspectives, our students will discover real-world examples of creative problem-solving. This is what the arts at Brown are all about.”

The series includes components that are free and open to the public with advance registration.

A Brown University graduate of the class of 1979, Warren Kanders serves on the boards of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States, and the Hospital for Special Surgery. He is president of Kanders & Company, Inc., a private investment firm. Allison Kanders serves as co-chair of the Painting and Sculpture Acquisitions Committee at the Whitney Museum of American Art and on the boards of the Aspen Art Museum and Aspen Music Festival and School.

The Kanders said, "We are delighted to support this annual series at Brown focused on exploring contemporary ideas at the intersection of art and society."

About the Participants

Chicago-based Nick Cave is an artist and educator who considers himself a messenger, aiming to bring communities together to discuss important issues of our time and ultimately unite and heal through art. He incorporates visual and performing arts through a wide range of mediums including sculpture, installation, video, sound, and dance. Cave is well-known for his Soundsuits, sculptural forms that camouflage the body, concealing race, gender, and class, and invite the viewer to engage without preconceived notions. His large-scale, site-specific installation at MASS MoCA, Until, is on view through September 4, 2017. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is organizing an exhibition of Soundsuits on view November 10, 2017 through June 24, 2018. Cave will be on campus October 18 and 19, 2017, and interviewed by MASS MoCA curator Denise Markonish in a conversation open to the public.

Working in New York City and Nairobi, Kenya, Wangechi Mutu is celebrated for her mixed-media collages, sculpture, performance, and animation. These are often presented in cohesive installations like her work shown at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015. Mutu’s practice embodies an aesthetic influenced by diverse interests including biology, pop culture, religion, and philosophy to explore relationships between identity, the body, and nature. In her recent work, she incorporates organic and natural materials, such as rocks and minerals, soil, roots, and branches sourced from East Africa. Her two-day visit in March 2018 includes a conversation with Adrienne Edwards, Curator at Performa and Curator-at-Large at the Walker Art Center, on March 14, 2018.

Shirin Neshat is an Iranian-born artist based in New York City recognized for her influential work in film, video, and photography. Her subjects reveal contrasts between Islam and the West, femininity and masculinity, antiquity and modernity and the spaces between them. She was a student in the U.S. when the Iranian Revolution and, later, the Iran-Iraq War occurred. In 1990, she returned to visit and experienced how conditions for women had become significantly more oppressive, including the required wearing of chadors. Returning to the U.S., she embarked on her Women of Allah series (1993‒97) that she describes as conceptual narratives about female warriors during the 1979 Revolution. Since then, her award-winning work has been presented in museums, biennials, and film festivals internationally. Most recently, she was the stage director for a new production of Aida at the 2017 Salzburg Festival in Austria. Neshat will participate in a moderated conversation on November 8, 2017.

Thelma Golden has been the director and chief curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem in New York since 2005. She is internationally acclaimed for shaping artist-centered, thought-provoking presentations about race, identity, politics and culture. Previously, she was the museum’s deputy director for exhibitions and programs and spent a decade at the Whitney Museum of American Art. She began her career at the Studio Museum in 1987. In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed her to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House and, in 2015, she joined the Barack Obama Foundation’s board of directors. Golden served as 2015‒16 chair of New York City’s Cultural Institutions Group, where she was Manhattan vice chair, and on the Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission, appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio. Golden will participate in a moderated conversation on February 7, 2018.

About Brown Arts Initiative

The Brown Arts Initiative (BAI) at Brown University seeks to cultivate creative expression and foster an interdisciplinary environment where faculty and students learn from one another and from artists and scholars in a wide range of fields across the campus and around the world. A consortium of six arts departments and two programs that encompass the performing, literary and visual arts, BAI works collaboratively to enhance curricular and co-curricular offerings, directly engage students with prominent artists working in all genres and media, and supports a diverse program of concerts, performances, exhibitions, screenings, lectures, and symposia each year. BAI takes full advantage of the University’s Open Curriculum and builds on Brown’s reputation as a destination for arts exploration, contributing to cultural enterprise through the integration of theory, practice, and scholarship with an emphasis on innovation and discovery that results from rigorous artmaking and experimentation.

BAI comprises and integrates History of Art and Architecture; Literary Arts; Modern Culture and Media; Music; Theatre Arts and Performance Studies; Visual Art; the David Winton Bell Gallery; and Rites and Reason Theatre/Africana Studies. 

Media Contacts:

For additional information, Libby Mark or Heather Meltzer at Bow Bridge Communications, LLC, New York City; +1 347-460-5566;

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