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DePaul Humanities Center to honor Native American culture, art

Spring events also feature the moon, tricksters and the Beatles

Spring events from the DePaul University Humanities Center include an evening of stories and moon-gazing. (Image courtesy of Pixabay)
CHICAGO — This spring, many of the DePaul University Humanities Center’s lineup of events will incorporate Native American art and culture. Topics include the scientific and artistic pull of the moon in literature and music; art as a means to overcome dominant power structures and transform identity; and the role of the trickster and comedy in liberating humanity.

Free and open to the public, these community-focused events will bring together musicians, artists, comedians and scholars. In May, the center will present its annual laureate award to the Natives at Standing Rock during an evening with activists Bobbi Jean Three Legs, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard and Dallas Goldtooth. The season will conclude in June with a 50th anniversary celebration of the Beatles’ album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

“We feature serious, careful and scholarly work, but also maintain that serious is not the opposite of fun,” said H. Peter Steeves, director of the center and a professor of philosophy. “Work in the humanities creates joy and meaning. We will have several events that focus on both. And we are especially happy to be honoring the Natives at Standing Rock for physically putting their bodies on the line for what they believe.”

The Humanities in Spaaaace!: The Moon
April 11, DePaul Student Center, 2250 N. Sheffield Ave., Room 120
Film screening of “A Trip to the Moon” 6:15-6:30 p.m.
Performances and lectures 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Viewing of the full moon (and the moons of Jupiter) with telescopes 8:30-9 p.m. 

April 11 is a full moon, and on this night the center will conclude its space-themed series by investigating the moon, the Earth’s precious natural satellite. Live musical performances include Beethoven's “Moonlight Sonata," Bellini's “Vaga luna, che inargenti,” and the aria “O Luna Lucent” by Joseph Haydn. Traditional Native stories, including vocal and flute musical performances, will look at Nokomis — our grandmother, the moon — from the perspective of the American Indian tribal nations of the Northeast. An investigation of “The Moon and the Western Imagination” turns up the forms of cultural projection that scientists, artists and others have given to the lunar body. And a NASA scientist will discuss ways in which science fiction has influenced understanding and exploration of the moon. Weather permitting, the evening will conclude with a guided tour via telescopes that will be set up for a public viewing. Free moon-themed snacks for the first 100 guests in attendance. Scheduled speakers and musical performers include:

  • The Bach & Beethoven Ensemble’s Catherine Spitzer, soprano, and Charles Metz, an historical keyboardist.
  • Scott Montgomery, lecturer in geology, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Joseph Bruchac, author of “Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back” and “Code Talker.” 
  • Geoffrey A. Landis, scientist and science fiction writer, NASA John Glenn Research Center.

Transformations: Art, Identity, Ideology
April 20, DePaul Student Center, 2250 N. Sheffield Ave., Room 120
Performances and lecture 7-9 p.m.

When the dominant structures of cultural power overwhelm and allow full subjectivity only for some, the expression of one’s identity — including race, gender, ethnicity and class — is often possible only through art. By appropriating and re-purposing dominant markers and ideologies, art can remind us that nothing is as fixed as we might like to believe . This evening will explore ways in which Native and tribal identities emerge by confronting and usurping corporate logos. Speakers will also explore how racial identity and history prove amorphous through music, including a live performance of Abbey Lincoln's music by famed Chicago artist Maggie Brown. Finally a creative hacking of IKEA furniture will encourage the audience to question modernist philosophy, economics and globalism. Scheduled guests include:

  • LaShonda Katrice Barnett, author of “Jam on the Vine” and DePaul University Humanities Center 2016-2017 visiting fellow.
  • Jeff Carter, professor of art, media, and design, DePaul University.
  • Sonny Assu, Interdisciplinary Ligwilda'xw Kwakwaka'wakw contemporary artist.
  • Maggie Brown, singer. 

Transformations: Clowns, Jesters, and Tricksters: Laughing from Inside the Outside
May 8, DePaul Student Center, 2250 N. Sheffield Ave., Room 120
Performances and lectures 7-9 p.m.

Since the Enlightenment, many have believed that tragedy founds the human experience. Yet comedy also has a liberating and central role in the human experience. Comedy that laughs at the dominant power structures and challenges what it means to be outside those structures can be especially telling. From a performance and talk by a professional clown, to an investigation of the role of tricksters in Anishinaabe narratives, to an analysis of the precarious role of the court jester by the world’s leading expert on the topic, this event will look at what it means to laugh “from the outside.” The audience will watch as this inside/outside dichotomy is hilariously and shockingly deconstructed. Scheduled guests include:
  • Rik “Bonzo Crunch” Gern, former Ringling Brothers Circus clown.
  • Margaret Noodin, associate professor of English and American Indian Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
  • Beatrice Otto, author of “Fools Are Everywhere: The Court Jester Around the World.”
The Annual Humanities Laureate Award
May 17, DePaul Student Center, 2250 N. Sheffield Ave., Room 120
Award Ceremony 7-8:30 p.m.

The DePaul Humanities Center will present its annual Humanities Laureate Award to the Natives at Standing Rock. This is the first time that the award has been given to a community. In recognition of the ethical, political and cultural importance of that community's ongoing struggle, and in celebration of the role that the arts and humanities play in establishing such a strong and important culture and people, the award will be given to all of the Natives at Standing Rock, with three activists and members of that community accepting on behalf of the group. Additionally, there will be a discussion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the history of the land in question, and the spirit of the Sioux Nation and the countless groups that have joined in solidarity to examine the possible futures that lie ahead for us all. Scheduled guests include:

  • Bobbi Jean Three Legs, Standing Rock Native American and activist.
  • LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Standing Rock Native American and tribal historian.
  • Dallas Goldtooth, Standing Rock Native American and environmental activist.

Transformations: The Golden Anniversary of The Beatles' “Sgt. Pepper”
June 1,
DePaul Student Center, 2250 N. Sheffield Ave., Room 120
7-9 p.m.

On June 1, 1967, the Beatles released “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” an album that irrevocably changed music, art and culture. The center will celebrate “Sgt. Pepper’s” golden anniversary with an event featuring scholarly lectures and live performances. Ranging from talks that cover the way in which “Pepperism” influenced other bands and albums, to the meaning of the album from a feminist, historical and musicological perspective, the lectures will be accompanied by six live performances of award-winning musicians offering their contemporary interpretations of songs from the album. Scheduled speakers and performers include:

  • John Kimsey, associate professor, DePaul’s School for New Learning.
  • Bill Martin, professor of philosophy, DePaul University.
  • Elaine T. May, professor of history and American studies, University of Minnesota.
  • Six local bands/musicians with live performances of their own versions of “Sgt. Pepper” songs.
The DePaul University Humanities Center aims to create visibility for the most cutting-edge, excellent work in the arts and humanities and foster discussion among the greater community. Learn more about the center and upcoming events at


H. Peter Steeves  

Media contact: 
Kristin Claes Mathews