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Norton Center offers free series where arts intersects with important conversations, first to be ‘Black Culture Matters’  

Steve Hoffman says Norton Center for the Arts’ “Creative Conversation” series has become so popular “that we decided to modify it as a new way to explore the intersection between the arts and other themes and topics.”

After a “reboot” of the series, now called CULTURE+, a brand new lineup has been added. The programs are all live-streamed for safe viewing, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and all are free to the public.

Hoffman says they can be described as a fun mix of live performances and thought-provoking dialogue. “Each program will delve into what makes Central Kentucky special and celebrate the area’s brightest performers, artists and thought-leaders.”

The first installment will be offered Thursday, and Hoffman says it seemed most appropriate to launch it with a conversation around black culture, involving local black artists. It will feature former Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker, award-winning author Yolantha Harrison-Pace and musician Jessica Chisley. Centre College President Milton Moreland will introduce the program, moderated by VP for Diversity Affairs Andrea Abrams.

Hoffman says this will be a great opportunity for the community to engage in positive discourse about how each and every one of us can affect change.

“This series is meant to bring together members of our regional community with touring artists and other area professionals to discuss topical issues and their connections to the arts,” Hoffman says. “Last year, we examined the challenges black musicians face in the classical music industry. The year before that, we looked at the underrepresented role of women as leaders in arts organizations.”

He says the Norton Center has been committed to presenting culturally diverse programming for years; this past June, the staff shared its Statement of Solidarity in response to the demands for social justice across the country.

According to its website, the Norton Center is “focusing on the part of the college statement that acknowledges that Centre ‘must do more to support its many constituent groups, to be a model campus that cares for, includes, educates and inspires all those who come our way.”

He says while the series has a live digital platform during the pandemic, they are designing it so that once the community is able to safely gather again in person, “we can offer a mixture of live and on-line conversations that can be even farther reaching and accessible.”

Hoffman says he loves that topics might not seem connected to the arts, upon first glance. “By offering points of view from art and culture makers and non-arts professionals, mostly from our own community, seemingly unsuspecting topics will be explored in a more visual way that should be informative — and fun.”

And nearly all of the engagement activities offered are presented to the community without charge, something Hoffman feels is important in order to demonstrate the value of the arts.

“It’s important that the Norton Center make these programs accessible so that everyone feels welcome to learn. We are a public extension of Centre College and hope that all members of our community approach life as something we not only live, but as something we explore.”

A sign language interpreter will also be provided during the first program.

“I’d like to think that we have an obligation to learners of all ages to participate in and explore how the arts intersect all parts of our lives,” Hoffman says. He says their mission is to transform lives through transformative experiences.

“Having community leaders, experts and scholars come together with cultural leaders and artists to discuss topics, that range from food to politics to sports, provides a very humanistic perspective of how we live,” he says. In general, Hoffman says Norton Center programs present “how art and culture makers reflect on our society and societal issues in slightly abstract ways that paint a different picture, or are seen through a different lens. Artists share stories of the human condition — and that is something relatable to everyone.”

 

SO YOU KNOW

The first CULTURE+ installment, “Black Culture Matters” will be 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13. The series will be livestreamed, but registration is required for the free online event. For more information, visit nortoncenter.com or call (859) 236-4692.

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