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The Foundry Theatre
140-142 2nd Ave, Suite 405
New York, NY 10003
(212) 777 - 1444

A Conversation on Hope

An Improvisational Performance of Ideas


March 6-7,1998


The Ukrainian Ballroom & Cooper Union
The Foundry Theatre and Cornel West welcome you all to A Conversation on Hope. This event has brought together 300 artists and public thinkers, many for the first time, to improvise a performance of ideas; to engage in a series of creative conversations and encounters exploring notions of hope and its impact on the actions we do and do not take in the politics of our everyday lives. This event is itself a process ... an extemporaneous journey; and the first of many unique events designed to directly explore and challenge the relationship between artists and the larger society. Next stop ... to be continued.

“It is a question of learning hope….The most tragic form of loss isn’t the loss of security; it’s the loss of the capacity to imagine that things could be different. ” Ernst Bloch (Principles of Hope)


First Night

Food for Thought

300 people sit down for a meal of 4 courses and 4 questions, provoked by participants Cornel West, Barbara Ehrenreich, Jonathan Kozol, Vernon Reid, Melanie Joseph and Robbie McCauley.

Next Day; morning and afternoon events

A Generational Barometer; a workshop with Global Kids

One of GK’s world renowned interactive workshops that brings you to your feet, in this case to explore the ways we pass along the language of hope, hopelessness, possibility and action between generations.  (GK will repeat this workshop once more after lunch.)

A Small Town Meeting with Barbara Ehrenreich & Cornel West; facilitated by Alisa Solomon

What does it mean to be ‘political’ in the current culture of irony? When skepticism has become the reigning form of political discourse, when politics can no longer be neatly categorized in a right-left divide, how are we to understand and confront the world? Rousseau worried that the attempt to unmask the follies of common belief would leave people with nothing in which to believe. Have we reached that point? Can we activate an informed sense of ‘hope’ to help us create the future?

Sparking the Social Imagination, a conversation on Paulo Freire with Maxine Green & George Stoney

“I am hopeful not out of mere stubbornness but out of an existential concrete imperative… We need critical hope the way a fish needs unpolluted water.” Paulo Freire

Paulo Freire’s educational philosophy, presented in the Pedagogy of Hope and the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, have inspired educators and artists throughout the world. Freire dedicated his life to helping the marginalized classes overcome their powerlessness and act on their own behalf. This provocative discussion on Freire will be facilitated by Maxine Greene, a professor of philosophy and education at Columbia University and the founder of the Center for the Arts, Social Imagination and Education, and filmmaker George C. Stoney, the Paulette Goddard Chair of Cinema at NYU and co-founder of the Alternative Media Center.


The Culture of Marketing, The Marketing of Culture

All the old notions of art have been fundamentally altered by the force of marketing. But marketing is not the art, it’s the idea about the art. It’s not the song, it’s the video. This commercialization of culture has created a world in which the romantic idea of the artist has given way to a system of relentless, corporate patronage. What does artistic independence mean in a world in which six media companies own almost all of the popular culture? Hosted by journalist John Seabrook whose article “The Big Sellout” in The New Yorker inspired this session.  (This discussion gave rise to Seabrook’s next book, NOBROW, in which The Foundry Theatre gets special thanks).

“Honesty still communicates to people in a fundamental way, and that perhaps is one of our biggest hopes: that people still can sense integrity and honesty from a communicator.”


Culture of Resistance, Labor’s Heritage, Labor’s Future

The labor movement is reinventing itself, and it’s about more than just paychecks and pensions. It’s about a movement for economic and social justice, encompassing all workers from artists to nurses’ aides to bricklayers. This discussion focused on the ways in which labor, art and activism all work together. Facilitated by Joe Uehlien, the President of the Labor Heritage Foundation and Elise Bryant, cultural worker with the George Meany Center, AFL-CIO.


From Market Values to Community Values:  An Activist Approach to the Global Economy:

The economy is booming and the social fabric is unraveling. The common good has been chopped-up, privatized and sold to the highest bidder. What is the artist’s response? What are the values beyond the dollar sign? Facilitated by Caron Atlas, a consultant with Appalshop, an Appalachian arts center, and the Rockefeller Foundation; Alan AtKisson, a leader in the field of sustainable development; and John Malpede, founding director of the Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD), a theatre company based in Skid Row, LA.


Bioethics and the Genetic Revolution

“If left up the marketplace, designer genes could even allow the wealthy to pass on not only vast fortunes, but also superior bioengineered lineages.”  David Shenk/Harpers Magazine

To what extent do genetics tell us who we are? What are the limitations of the right to privacy of this information? What decisions are best left to individuals and where should state regulation enter in? David Magnus, journalist and bioethicist fellow at UPenn’s Center for Bioethics, and David Shenk NYT journalist and author of Biocapitalism in Harpers) help us discuss the genetic revolution.


Cornel Continued…

 “I am a prisoner of hope” – Cornel West

Follow up on ideas that have been discussed in a more intimate conversation with Cornel West.


“Hope” for Intergenerational Empowerment

You are invited to an intimate conversation with Global Kids about what hope means to their lives and how the notions of opportunity and action play out across and between generations.