Whirlwind visit to Simpson College, Iowa
I am still processing my fantastic two-day visit to Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, near Des Moines. What a pleasure it was to meet Judy Walden, chair of Gender and Women’s Studies, who invited me to Simpson to deliver their 2015 Women in America Lecture. I arrived in Des Moines late in the evening on March 3, 2015. Judy met me for breakfast the next morning, followed by an interview with Rekha Basu of the Des Moines Register. Then it was off to campus to meet faculty and set up for the 1:00 pm lecture, which was held in the massive Hubbell Hall with two screens. Simpson College is a liberal arts institution with approximately 1400 students and the beautiful campus is all brick with lot of green space. My presentation was called “Rising up Against Climate Change: Storytelling with Saris” and I showed an excerpt from the film “Her Words: Storytelling with Saris” as well as images from my work and the project. The hall had two massive screens for showing my video and images and the audience asked so many interesting questions.
After the lecture, I spoke with a theater class about my performance work. It was a lively group of students who asked me many questions about being an artist, such as how do I envision a new work and work out the script, how do I tailor a piece to a gallery versus the street, what is the process of collaborating with others, and the role of grants and crowdsourcing in a social practice project.
In the evening, I did a performance of “Water” in the Great Hall, a gorgeous space with wood beams that resembles a chapel. More about the performance in a separate blog.
On my second day, I gave a guest talk to Judy Walden’s Indian History class. I spoke about Begum Rokeya, a 19th Century Muslim feminist, and the issues of language and identity in South Asia. The talk included images of my own artwork inspired by Begum Rokeya and her short story, “Sultana’s Dream.” The students were starting a unit about the independence and Partition of India and were learning about the different viewpoints and leaders.
Later, Judy took me to lunch in Des Moines, a charming city with a the Des Moines River running through it.