Lillian E. Smith Symposium will examine the role of public art

Submitted by cleveland on

The second Lillian E. Smith Symposium on Arts and Social Change will examine the role of public art—murals, graffiti, outdoor art installations, and more—as a form of cultural expression and inspiration for social justice.

The one-day conference will be held at Piedmont College in Athens on Saturday, March 18, and will include a panel discussion of artists moderated by author Barbara Brown Taylor. Registration is $45 and includes breakfast and a box lunch. For more information, visit or contact Craig Amason at 706-894-4204 or The Piedmont campus is located at 595 Prince Avenue in Athens.

Speakers for the symposium will include

• Jen Delos Reyes, associate director of the School of Art and Art History at the University of Illinois Chicago, who will be the keynote speaker. She is the director and founder of Open Engagement, an international annual conference on socially-engaged art that has been active since 2007.

• Ellen Elmes of Jewell Ridge, Virginia, who has completed more than 25 large-scale public murals. Her most recent work is an outdoor mural in downtown Richlands, Virginia, which focuses on the history of the area.

• Broderick Flanigan of Athens, a freelance artist whose murals and portraits have been featured across the Athens-Clarke County area.

• Hope Hilton, who is artist in residence at Double Helix STEAM School in Athens and teaches art at Athens Technical College. She has served as a consultant for The Georgia Virtual History Project.

Taylor is the Butman Professor of Religion at Piedmont College and an Episcopal priest since 1984. She is the author of 13 books, including the New York Times bestsellers “Learning to Walk in the Dark” and “An Altar in the World.” Her first memoir, “Leaving Church,” met with widespread critical acclaim, winning a 2006 Author of the Year award from the Georgia Writers Association.

The symposium is named for the late Lillian E. Smith, one of the first Georgia writers to shine a light on the South’s ingrained system of segregation in the 1940s until her death in 1966. Best known for her novel, “Strange Fruit,” Smith throughout her career examined how the arts engage people around issues of social injustice, segregation, and isolation. Smith’s home in Clayton, Georgia., is now an educational center operated by Piedmont College, and director Craig Amason said the Athens symposium grew out of a desire to expose a new generation to the ideas that Smith explored in her novels and memoirs.

Smith’s family donated the collection of her letters and manuscripts to the University of Georgia 's Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the UGA Libraries and Piedmont College are partners, along with the Southern Regional Council and the Georgia Center for the Book, in sponsoring the Lillian Smith Books Awards each year  to honor works focused on race, social justice, civil and human rights, issues championed by Smith in her lifetime.