Published April 14, 2015

Celebrating the Arts and Letters

This week at the University at Buffalo, we are celebrating our third annual Signature Series, a springtime university tradition that celebrates UB’s long history of leadership and innovation in scholarly and creative excellence at the vanguard of the arts.

This spring’s Signature Series events focus on the theatre arts, shining a spotlight on the award-winning career of actor, director, and educator Stephen McKinley Henderson, Professor of Theatre and Dance at UB.

A 2010 Tony Award nominee, Professor Henderson is an accomplished performer and director who is acclaimed for his work on stages from Buffalo to Broadway and beyond, as well as on film and television.

We’re honored to celebrate the achievements of one our most distinguished faculty in the arts—an acclaimed artist and arts educator who is an inspiring and influential voice on a national stage. But the Signature Series is much more than a celebration of individual achievement. This event celebrates the impact of these creative achievements, both in advancing UB’s academic mission and in contributing to the public good.

Honoring the impact of creative excellence

UB has a long history of leadership and innovation on the cutting edge of the arts, letters, and humanities. This history is integral to our identity as an academic community that celebrates creativity, discovery, and innovation. And it is a vital part of the lasting mark we leave on the academic world, and our enduring contribution to the greater public good.

The arts and letters at UB embody our most fundamental principles as a university community: our leadership in interdisciplinary and collaborative scholarship; our focus on the societal relevance and impact of that work; our commitment to innovation, discovery, and the cutting edge.

Our faculty, staff, students, and alumni in the arts and letters actively demonstrate the depth and scholarly range of artistic and creative activity at UB.  Their work embodies the interdisciplinary tradition of scholarly and creative excellence that is a hallmark of our university community.  Through cross-disciplinary efforts like the Arts in Healthcare initiative, the Techné Institute’s recent colloquium exploring technology’s impact on social relationships in the digital age, and the Humanities Institute’s upcoming symposium on humanities and the public university, our faculty and students in the arts are leading vital collaborative investigations across the disciplines to explore subjects of critical societal impact.

“When issues come to the fore that challenge our most basic notions of humanity and social justice, it is our artists who are out in front—pushing boundaries, challenging preconceptions, insisting that we look and listen with open eyes and ears, yet a critical point of view.”

Pushing boundaries; expanding viewpoints

These efforts model UB’s broader commitment to addressing major societal issues with broad-ranging relevance and impact—from UB poets who were key voices in the Civil Rights movement to today’s visual artists who use their craft to focus attention on environmental threats and suggest new paradigms for living ethically in the 21 century.

Writ large, this is the vital societal role of the arts and letters. When issues come to the fore that challenge our most basic notions of humanity and social justice, it is our artists who are out in front—pushing boundaries, challenging preconceptions, insisting that we look and listen with open eyes and ears, yet a critical point of view. The arts change, both literally and figuratively, the way we see the world around us. They challenge the way we look at our surroundings and the way we understand our social relationships and responsibilities in an increasingly global world. They shed light on problems that have gone unnoticed, they give voice to those who have been silenced by intolerance, prejudice, or misunderstanding. They challenge us to reconsider long-held perceptions—to look and listen from the perspective of someone very different from us.

At a fundamental level, this is the very core of our mission as a university: to provide a space that encourages the exchange of different perspectives, that perpetually creates new ways of seeing and understanding, that challenges us to continually examine and re-examine our own ways of thinking about the world around us and our place in it.

That’s why we are so proud to honor faculty like Professor Henderson, and the hundreds of colleagues, students, and alumni who join him in leaving their distinctive mark—their signature—on the creative community at UB and worldwide.

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