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exhibit: Mad Creative

Event Type
Spurlock Museum, Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies
Spurlock Museum, 600 S Gregory St, Urbana, second floor balcony
Apr 23, 2019   8:30 am  
Beth Watkins
Originating Calendar
Spurlock Museum - General

Mad Creative was organized by the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies and the YMCA, The Women’s Resources Center, APO-AA, Women & Gender in Global Perspectives, and independent artists and thinkers. With generous sponsorship from the School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics, the Department of English, Gender and Women’s Studies, and Center for Advanced Study. 


The exhibit is on view during museum open hours.


More about Mad Creative from Brett Ashley Kaplan, Director, Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, Memory Studies, and Professor, Comparative and World Literatures:


  • The series that has become “Mad Creative” is the first in what I hope will become a Holocaust, Genocide, Memory Studies (HGMS) annual tradition. It generated through a perhaps atypical origin story. I saw on Facebook a posting from one of the wonderful Comparative and World Literature and now HGMS graduate students, Meagan Smith. I’ve been a fan of Meagan’s writing ever since her exams some years ago and I read her post during a time when I felt bombarded, teary, and triggered by the enormity of sexual violence in the news. Here is part of what Meagan posted: “I’ve listened to people assume…that women who do speak up are likely to be lying, and arguing that women should remove themselves from work places and social spaces that ‘make them uncomfortable’ while the men creating the atmosphere of discomfort should be given all the space they want for their toxic behavior. I've responded with logic, with questions, with outrage, with personal narratives, with frustrated pleas to simply acknowledge that the systemic roots of the problem should be addressed. So, before totally missing the point and frantically deploying the ‘not all men’ argument, please take a deep breath and listen to the women you care about. Be brave and try deferring to us on these issues. Leave your fear and your guilt and your own discomfort behind long enough to allow us a chance to catch our breath and change the damn world. We will do the rest of the work it takes to gain our share of the freedom you take for granted.”
  • A few days after her post, Meagan and I met to discuss how to do something about this sense of bombardment and the feeling of being silenced. Meagan suggested we reach out to various groups across campus and we did. Through a series of planning meetings with a range of people from The Women’s Resources Center, YWCA, APO, Women & Gender in Global Perspectives, as well independent artists and thinkers, we decided to orchestrate a three-part series: A Breathing Room; a rally to celebrate the almost 100 years since women gained the right to vote and Breaking the Silence: A Mosaic Project led by the artist Susan Parenti. We felt that this range of events would speak to the range of feelings we had—we wanted to talk, to listen, to shout, to break something and also to make something.
  • HGMS has focused until now on trauma and memory studies and has done incredible work to educate students, the community, and faculty about the Armenian genocide, about the interconnections between traumas across temporal and geographical divides. Some of our speakers have been experts in gender studies. But we had not until Mad Creative organized an event expressly around gender and trauma. We held our Breathing Room in the Lucy Ellis lounge and not only was every seat full, but people were standing at the back of the room and huge numbers of people thanked us for putting this together. It felt very needed and very, very appreciated. We gathered to talk and to listen. And to find ways to end rape culture and begin consent culture or whatever else we can call a world without rampant sexual harassment of women, transpeople, men, boys, girls; everyone should be able to breathe! After the panel had spoken, we all broke into discussion groups and talked and then re-convened for a final conversation. In my group we first discussed transitional justice and then branched out to tell stories and share ideas and feelings. The evening concluded with everyone screaming. That unexpected group expression was just right.
  • The Mosaics you see here are the glorious result of the final event in the Mad Creative Series. Susan Parenti of School for Designing a Society led us through the process of smashing and then making mosaics. Many of the mosaics were made collectively and the artists were students, community members, faculty—Breaking the Silence was open to all. The Mosaics had no given theme so each person or group choose to break and make in whatever way worked for them. We hope to be able to offer more community and collective artistic projects in future and we are so grateful to the Spurlock and to its director, Elizabeth Sutton, and everyone who helped put this exhibit in place!
  • The organizing group of the whole series turned out to be an intensely smart and creative crowd (hence the collective Mad Creative) and I offer an enormous thanks to Meagan Smith, Naomi Taub, Sarah Colomé, Nidhi Singh, Alaina Pincus, Michelle Awad, Lesley Wexler, Anita Kaiser, Susan Parenti, Dilara Caliskan, Claire Baytas, and Ronnie Hemrich.

For more information about HGMS please visit these sites:


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