Focus on Creativity in UAlbany Fall Series

The producers of The Creative Life: A Conversation Series at UAlbany are pleased to announce the first three guests for 2019-20: French high-wire artist Philippe Petit, legendary rapper Rakim and acclaimed author Jhumpa Lahiri. 

The Creative Life series is a major arts initiative of the University Art Museum, New York State Writers Institute, and UAlbany Performing Arts Center in conjunction with WAMC Public Radio. Sponsored by The University at Albany Foundation, the series features live onstage interviews conducted by WAMC’s “Roundtable” host Joe Donahue with artists of national and international prominence in conversation about their creative inspiration, their craft, their careers, and the demands of sustaining an artistic practice over time. A question and answer period will close each program. 

Philippe Petit

Creative Life guests span the creative disciplines including writing, music, dance, choreography, visual arts, architecture, theatre, filmmaking and more. The series celebrates the depth and range of artistic practices, helps to demystify the creative process for the audience and explores what it means to dedicate one’s life to a creative pursuit. It is also intended to bring attention to the vibrant arts community on the University at Albany campus. 

All Creative Life events are free and open to the public. All three conversations will take place at the UAlbany Performing Arts Center on the University’s uptown campus at 1400 Washington Avenue. The schedule is as follows: 

Philippe Petit – Thursday, October 3 at 7 pm French artist Philippe Petit has performed on the high wire more than eighty times around the world; he is also a magician, street juggler, visual artist, builder, lecturer, writer and subject of the Academy Award-winning documentary, Man on Wire (2008) as well as the feature film The Walk (2015). Before turning 25, he gained initial fame for his high-wire walks between the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 1971 and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City in 1974, the latter of which was considered “the artistic crime of the century.” He is the author and illustrator of Why Knot: How to Tie More than Sixty Ingenious, Useful, Beautiful, Lifesaving, and Secure Knots! (2013); Creativity: The Perfect Crime (2014), a manifesto about the creative process, and his new book On the High Wire (2019), first published in French in 1972. Werner Herzog said, “This is a book of instructions to those who will dare one day the impossible.” 

On the evening of the conversation, Mr. Petit will perform an excerpt from his stage show entitled Open Practice at the University Art Museum at 6 pm and will join audience members at a reception. Following the conversation, Mr. Petit will meet audience members for a book signing in the theatre lounge. 

In advance of the conversation, there will be a free screening of the Man on Wire documentary on Friday, September 27 at 7:30 pm at Page Hall on the University’s downtown campus at 135 Western Avenue. 


Rakim – Monday, October 28 at 7 pm William Michael Griffin Jr., better known by his stage name Rakim, is “near-universally acknowledged as one of the greatest MCs – perhaps the greatest – of all time within the hip-hop community” (Steve Huey, He began his career as the emcee of the rap duo Eric B. & Rakim, “the most influential DJ/MC combo in contemporary pop music, period” (Tom Terrell, NPR). Where many MCs of the time developed their technique through improvisational battles, Rakim was among the first to demonstrate the possibilities of sitting down and writing intricately crafted lyrics packed with clever word choices and metaphors. Described as “part memoir, part writing guide,” Sweat The Technique: Revelations On Creativity From The Lyrical Genius follows his career from his beginnings as a teenage rapper in Wyandanch, Long Island and offers insight into how he thinks about words, music, writing and rhyming as it teaches writers of all levels how to hone their craft. 

Following the conversation, there will be a book signing and reception in the theatre lounge. 

Jhumpa Lahiri – Thursday, January 30 at 7 pm Born in London and raised in Rhode Island, Jhumpa Lahiri is a novelist and short-story writer whose works illuminate the immigrant experience, in particular, that of East Indians. Described by THE NEW YORK TIMES as “a writer of uncommon elegance and poise,” she is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship whose books include The Lowland (2014), Unaccustomed Earth (2009) and The Namesake (2004), the latter which was made into a movie of the same name directed by Mira Nair. Her debut collection of stories, Interpreter of Maladies, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award and THE NEW YORKER Debut of the Year. The Namesake was a NEW YORK TIMES Notable Book and a LOS ANGELES TIMES Book Prize finalist and was selected as one of the best books of the year by USA TODAY and ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, among other publications. 

Jhumpa Lahiri

Following the conversation, there will be a book signing in the theatre lounge. 

Guests for the previous three seasons of the series included fiction writer Joyce Carol Oates, tap dancer-choreographer Savion Glover, jazz violinist Regina Carter, painter David Salle, author Lois Lowry, choreographer Garth Fagan, Broadway star Patti LuPone, Warhol film star Bibbe Hansen, sculptor Jean Shin, author/essayist Esmeralda Santiago, NEW YORKER journalist/author Susan Orlean and comedian/actor Paul Reiser. Additional guests in the series will be added for the 2019-20 season. 

Major support for The Creative Life is provided by The University at Albany Foundation, The John D. Picotte Family Foundation and Stewart’s Shops/Dake Family. Additional support is provided from the College of Arts and Sciences, Office of Intercultural Student Engagement and University Auxiliary Services. 

More information can be obtained by calling the UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s box office at (518) 442- 3997. 

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