Steven A. Hoffman
Executive Director

From January thru May, 2018, the Norton Center, along with other Centre College and community partners will present a series of programs that address difficult humanitarian issues that are at the forefront of most, if not all, of our daily conversations and lives. Within the series, EXPLORING CONFLICT: AN ARTISTIC PERSPECTIVE, the focus for each of these programs is to explore the human experience and human condition. Using many different art forms, these global and local stories of hope, maintenance, humor, survival and reconciliation all show that as different as we all are, we collectively share core traits.

The commonality among this theme and all of the various stories of the human condition is one action: conflict.

The outcomes from this action affects most of us, if not millions of people, worldwide. Whether the conflict stems from race or ethnicity, religion or faith, sexual orientation or gender, power or poverty, health or misfortune, it seems to focus on personal advantage over the celebration of our commonalities. Conflicts, whether personal or collective, local or global focus on the singularly important component – human lives – and tends to create symptoms of fear based on uniqueness. And, in fearing differences between or among persons, people or communities, reactions can quickly develop into divisions and systems begin to break down.

From January to May, we extend an open invitation to examine stories as responses, not reactions, to conflict. We identify ways people heal, forgive, rebuild, survive, and help to bring us back together. We celebrate the stories of our global brothers and sisters as survivors – not victims.

Through these programs, we ask many questions pertaining to conflict and respond in an open community dialogue, including:

  • In times of conflict, how do communities respond? Is it the same for all communities?
  • How do soldiers respond while engaged in war?
  • When soldiers return from war, how do they respond?
  • How do civilians respond?
  • How do families respond?
  • How do neighbors respond?
  • As observers who seek to comment, reflect, and express abstract and universal ideas (and possible solutions), how do artists (composers, musicians, authors, poets, actors, rock stars, choreographers, photographers) respond?
  • How do scholars and students who study and explore respond?
  • How do the collective “we” respond, and how do the collective “we” move on?

Responses to conflict take many forms that are not mutually exclusive: grief, healing, contemplation, isolation, meditation, confrontation, retaliation, abandonment, surrender, and forgiveness. These responses, and many more, explore how people reclaim their identities, their selves, their communities. To explore responses to conflict through artistic means is to use universal stories to examine our collective strength to overcome, and sometimes succumb; that which is the human condition.

With this series, we work with a plethora of artists and art forms to examine these ideas.

  • Dance choreographer Jessica Lang explores the lives of veterans returning home in her dance piece, Thousand Yard Stare.
  • Through the art exhibition War is Only Half the Story, and the film, Fombul Tok, Photographer, filmmaker and visionary Sara Terry focuses on the post-conflict aftermath and how communities rebuild and
  • Using theatre as a platform, the Broadway musical RENT examines the pursuit of happiness amidst poverty, AIDS, fear and LGBT issues, while One Man Dark Knight addresses our need to create superheroes to seek revenge, protect the innocent and “save the ”
  • Poetry, literature and classical music are presented in unison and rotation to address the feelings of soldiers in their “theater” of war and also returning to civilian life. Personal Reflections of War, featuring National Book Award-winner and Marine Veteran Phil Klay, war correspondent and poet Tom Sleigh, and the American String
  • Celebrating diversity and multiculturalism also means addressing the struggles of religious, ethnic and gender Latin-American bands Las Cafeteras and Orkesta Mendoza sing, dance and play music to reclaim personal identity, be socially active and simply celebrate being human during their globalFEST performance and activities.

The arts provide powerful ways to question, challenge, explore, connect, discuss and even grow from difficult topics that affect us personally and universally. To examine the human condition is to tell stories of conflict and how human beings respond to these stories, as survivors and engaged people. Conflict comes in many forms, typically externally thwarted upon us. How we respond to conflict is our choice and our deed. In this case, actions do not speak louder than words. Rather, stories help us to be compassionate humans and learn from those who have survived conflict.