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U-M Penny Stamps Speaker Series partners with Detroit Public Television, PBS Books for new season

By Sydney Hawkins

The Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design has created a new $25,000 prize to advance the project of one graduating senior.

For the first time ever, audiences beyond Ann Arbor will be able to experience the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series each Friday night from the comfort of home. 

Usually held at the Michigan Theater each week during the fall and winter semesters, the speaker series has long offered live audiences the opportunity to hear respected leaders and innovators from all over the world—and from a broad spectrum of creative fields—deliver multimedia presentations, performances and talks. 

Created by the University of Michigan’s Stamps School of Art & Design in 1998 as an educational opportunity for students, the events, which are free and open to the public, have become a staple for regional audiences as well. 

According to Chrisstina Hamilton, director of the Penny Stamps Speaker Series, Detroit Public Television stepped in this year in order to help create an innovative experience for students and audiences. 

“While we’ve worked with DPTV in the past, I am thrilled about our partnership this year,” she said. “My goal was to continue to offer a dynamic season, but to also rethink the way that we present engaging digital content, and they have been instrumental in helping us do that. This season would not have happened without them.”

Since March, DPTV has been working with Hamilton to curate past speaker series events from the archive to stream each week. Recent selections include late Congressman John Lewis, feminist protest punk rock band Pussy Riot, fashion design legend Anna Sui, renowned dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones and the late boundary-breaking artist Christo.

They have also been hard at work preparing for the fall season, which launches this week. Hamilton says that audiences can expect more than your typical virtual event.

“While this current moment in time is fraught with challenges, we realize that it also presents opportunities,” she said. “I believe that we’re experimenting with a lot of innovative ideas and platforms, and I know that what we do now can help us build an even stronger program for the future.”

Leading up to this season, the speaker series also began a partnership with PBS Books, making past and upcoming speaker series events available to more than 1,500 partner libraries across the U.S. The new national initiative, sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, was established to “build and enhance working relationships between libraries and their local PBS stations around the love of books and reading.”

The fall 2020 lineup includes documentary filmmaker Ken Burns in conversation with journalist Isabel Wilkerson; Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama; illustrator Amy Cutler; and Nusrat Durrani, media executive and producer for MTV’s “Rebel Music” docuseries.

All speaker series events will be webcast on Fridays at 8 p.m. at starting Sept. 18. Audiences can also tune in to watch talks and join the conversation on the Penny Stamps Series Facebook page. Pending speaker permission, most events will be archived in the Past Lectures/Videos section.

The fall 2020 season includes:

Sept. 18: New Red Order (NRO): Never Settle

Sept. 25: Dr. Kate Stone: Sensory Experiences

Oct. 2: Ken Burns & Isabel Wilkerson: In Conversation

Oct. 9: Form&Seek Design Collective: Never Normal

Oct. 16: Philippa Hughes: Dismantling the Polarization Industrial Complex

Oct. 23: Ibrahim Mahama: In-Between the World and Dreams

Oct. 30: Nusrat Durrani: My Country is Burning Within Me / An American Prayer

Nov. 6: Pedro Reyes and Magalí Arriola: A Conversation

Nov. 13: Kelly M. Murdoch-Kitt: The People Beyond the Screen: Designing for Human Connection

Nov. 20: Raqs Media Collective: Kinetic Contemplations

Dec. 4: Amy Cutler: Telling Stories

In accordance with U-M’s Standard Practice Guidelines on “Freedom of Speech and Artistic Expression,” the Penny Stamps Speaker Series does not censor speakers or their content. The content provided is intended for adult audiences and does not reflect the views of U-M, DPTV or PBS Books.