‘Human/Nature’ topic for 39th Annual Humanities Festival

By: Lisa S. Icenogle
Image for 2024 Humanities Festival press release.

“Human/Nature” is the topic for the 39th Annual Casper College Humanities Festival and Demorest Lecture Feb. 20-24. The festival events, except for the dance concert, are free and open to the public.

The festival will feature keynote speaker Susan Rogers, a multiplatinum-earning record producer, engineer, mixer, and audio technician best known for her work with Prince from 1983 to 1987. In 2021, she became the first female Music Producer’s Guild Award recipient for Outstanding Contributions to U.K. Music. She teaches psychoacoustics and neuroscience for Berklee College of Music, Boston, and earned her doctoral degree in behavioral neuroscience from McGill University in 2010. Her book on music listening for W. W. Norton is titled “This Is What It Sounds Like: What the Music You Love Says About You.”

The Goodstein Foundation Library will be the site for the first day, beginning with two exhibitions: “Development and Character of Casper College” and “Human/Nature” from 8-9 a.m.

“Development and Character of Casper College” is curated by Casper College student and biology major Hannah Baldwin with support from the Casper College GIS and Social Work Club students, highlighting phases of the growth of Casper College and the character found within, according to Valeri Innella Maiers, Humanities Festival director and art instructor.

“Human/Nature,” curated by Casper College museum and gallery studies major Rae Mann, is a digital exhibition highlighting the proximity between people and nature and the City of Casper’s early development as seen through its residents’ eyes. Mann was assisted with the exhibit by the Casper College Social Work Club.

The popular “Living Library” will run from 9:30 to 11 a.m. The Living Library will allow participants to borrow a person and discuss “their” story. The purpose of the Living Library is to promote conversation, encourage understanding, and foster a culture of inclusivity. The event includes short sessions with presenters and time for questions.

At 11 a.m., rancher and author Cat Urbigkit will present “Wyoming Transhumance.” According to Innella Maiers, Urbigkit will talk about transhumance, the seasonal movement of people and livestock, and how this ancient practice connects humans and both domestic and wild animals in working landscapes.

At 12:30 p.m., Tate Geological Museum Education Specialist Russell Hawley will present an interesting look at caveman painting in “Paint Like a Caveman: The Techniques and Science Behind Ice Age Artwork.” “Discoveries of fossil skeletons, some of them nearly complete, permit reconstruction of the animal using the principles of comparative anatomy, while evidence from frozen carcasses and cave paintings allow paleo artists to construct a vivid and detailed picture of animal life during the ice age,” said Hawley.

The Natrona County Library hosts “Ethnology of Casper’s Sandbar.” The exhibition was curated by Casper College Western History Center Librarian and Archivist Hanz Olson along with Casper College museum studies student Rae Mann.

The library will also host this year’s book club in the Crawford Room, looking at keynote speaker Susan Rodgers’ book “This is What it Sounds Like: What the Music You Love Says About You.” The book discussion will begin at 5 p.m.

On Wednesday, Feb. 21, the two morning presentations will be held at the Goodstein Foundation Library. The first at 10, “Nazi Germany and the Racial State: ‘Cumulative Radicalization’ and the Twisted Road to Auschwitz,” will begin at 10 a.m. Adam A. Blackler, Ph.D., associate professor of history at the University of Wyoming, noted that he “… will explore how Hitler advanced racist policies in Germany without a broad social mandate and question why so many citizens seemingly accepted these decrees voluntarily.”

At 11 a.m., the second talk will be given by Ricia Anne Chansky, Ph.D., and professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüz. Her talk, “Nature’s Witness: Storytelling for the Future,” is based upon her work with storytelling for social justice in the Puerto Rican archipelago and will discuss some of the benefits of narrative transactions for the storyteller, the engaged listener, and the environment with a focus on how storytelling can actively help humans and the natural world.

The festival will move to the Wheeler Concert Hall at noon as Jodi Youmans-Jones, Casper College dance program coordinator, will present “Human/Nature Movement Workshop.” “As we move, we solicit endorphins, mental engagement, and memories. We breathe better, we feel better, and our memories are released into the current state of our human being. This workshop will start with some breathing exercises to open our pathways and continue into some movement ideas, creating a sense of community and shared experiences,” said Youmans-Jones.

Rogers will present her Demorest Keynote Lecture on Wednesday, Feb. 21, beginning at 5:30 p.m., titled “The Music of Listening.” “Offline thoughts such as fantasizing and mind-wandering increase their connectivity when listeners enjoy their favorite songs,” said Rogers. “Our music preferences are formed over a lifetime of musical experiences, resulting in a profile that is unique for every music lover. The ways in which music preferences form and how they differ will be discussed,” Rogers added.

The festival will continue on Thursday, Feb. 22, in the Wheeler Concert Hall. The day will begin at 11 a.m. with “Wonder Room” A Collection of Nature Exhibition” by visual artist Tina Opp. “’ Wonder Room’ is a ceramic exhibition that celebrates joy and curiosity sparked by the discovery of artifacts, exploring what is lost and what remains in the process of erosion and the passing of time,” said Opp. Opp’s ceramic collections on mixed-media displays are designed to elicit feelings of recognition: to compel a desire to touch, feel, and know.

At noon, “Opera Wyoming Presents’ Gnossiènne’ and ‘Rabbit,’ a play by David Foxton,” will be presented with dance choreographer Anthony Gamroth. “Opera Wyoming has amazing talent, and I believe the dance corps helps to round out the diversity of talent within the organization,” Gamroth said. In the summer of 2023, he choreographed Opera Wyoming’s production of “The Sound of Music.” “Rabbit” marks his theatrical directorial debut.

Events will shift to the Casper College Werner Wildlife Museum at 2 p.m. for environmental educator Valerie Bayer’s “Nature Journaling — Get Curious.” The session will provide an “… introduction to the principles, techniques and joys of nature journaling,” said Bayer, founder of the Northern Rockies Nature Journaling.

At 3:30 p.m., Julia Whyde, the Dean of the School of Fine Arts and Humanities at Casper College, will present “Sense Practice and Place.” “Observing well determines the extent to which we are either in consonance with the world around us or just passing through. Because observing well is an exercise in presence, the extent to which we can learn to be sensually, as in the five senses, aware of our surroundings determines the human/nature connections we are able to make,” said Whyde. Participants will practice the art of observing well and translating their observations of the Werner Wildlife Museum space into haiku.

A reception for the Casper College Humanities Festival will begin at 5 p.m. in the Werner Wildlife Museum. It is free and open to the public.

The festival will then move to the Leland and Barbara Scifers Dance Performance Theatre for the opening-night performance of Amy Fitzsimmons’ production of “Pencils Down.” “Pencils Down!” is a contemporary dance performance comprised of a collection of vignettes, each with a theme of a school-related scenario or idea, conceived, directed, and choreographed by Fitzsimmons, Casper College dance instructor. A talkback with the director and cast will follow the performance.

Nothing is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 23, but on Saturday, Feb. 24, The Natrona County Library will present a family afternoon event featuring pizza, a movie, and a craft.

Additional presentation information, presenter bios, and links for Zoom connections can be found here or by calling 307-268-2606.

Except for the Natrona County Library and the Casper College Werner Wildlife Museum, all other venues are on the Casper College campus.

The 2024 Humanities Festival Sponsors include the Wyoming Humanities Council, the Casper College Foundation and Margaret Demorest Endowment, the Casper College Goodstein Foundation Library, the Casper College School of Fine Arts and Humanities, the University of Wyoming at Casper, the Casper College Visual Arts Department Galleries, and Casper College.

The 2024 Humanities Festival Additional Partnerships include the Natrona County Library, Werner Wildlife Museum, ARTCORE, the Jack McCann College Store at Casper College, the Casper College Department of Theatre and Dance, and the Western History Center at Casper College, and Workforce Development.

Media contact: Lisa S. Icenogle

If you enjoyed this story, receive more just like it: