Let conversations begin

By Ivana Hester

Columbia’s Conversations in the Arts, will kick off Oct. 16 with a reunion of “La Bamba” cast members Esai Morales, Elizabeth Peña and Lou Diamond Phillips as part of Columbia Night at the Chicago International Film Festival the evening is presented on behalf of the School of Media Arts.

This year’s CITA keynote speakers also include Debbie Allen, noted for her work on the TV show “Fame;” and broadcast journalist Michele Norris.

“[CITA] is an opportunity for us to engage the [Chicago] community with the college,” said Eric Winston, vice president of Institutional Advancement, which is  coordinating the events.

“We have a delicate balance because we try to bring in people who will inspire students, but [also] people who will embrace the college,”Winston said.

“La Bamba,” a 1987 biopic about the short tragic life of ’50s rocker Ritchie Valens, was groundbreaking in its time for showcasing Hispanic talent in its lead actors and director Luis Valdez.

Bruce Sheridan, chairman of the Film & Video Department described the film as a cinematic classic. “It’s a great thing for the college to acknowledge [the anniversary],” he said.

In February, Debbie Allen, dancer, choreographer and ambassador for arts education, will be the featured speaker for the School of Fine & Performing Arts.

John Green, interim dean of the School of Fine & Performing Arts, said “Debbie Allen is an iconic figure in the entertainment world,” adding, “I’m looking forward to seeing the students’ involvement and what the students get out of [the conversation].”

According to Green, CITA gives the college and the greater Chicago community a chance to speak with major figures from several creative industries.

Green said he has found the interaction to be valuable to students because it allows them to learn about the artists’ creative processes, which he thinks is true for all CITA events.

Michele Norris, author and host of National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” will be the final featured speaker for the School of Liberal Arts & Sciences on April 16.

Deborah Holdstein, dean of the School of Liberal Arts & Sciences, said she is pleased Norris was selected.

“Norris is an outstanding reporter with a depth and breadth of knowledge,” Holdstein said. “I think this will be of tremendous benefit to students and to people in the community who come to hear her speak.”

Winston said he is looking forward to seeing the benefits these events will have on the college’s reputation and financial stability. He said a number of trustees and other supporters were introduced to Columbia through previous CITA events.

“[The benefits are] important for us because it is one of [the events] that occur on this campus that allows people to see and feel good about the college,” Winston said. “We then move them from friends of the college to funders of the college.”

Registration for Conversations in the Arts events begins 4–6 weeks in advance.