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Thank you to Campus Fine Wines, 2013-14 season sponsor of Athenaeum programs!

Programs are made possible in part by a grant from the RI State Council on the Arts, through an appropriation by the RI General Assembly and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Programs are made possible in part through major funding support from the RI Council for the Humanities, an independent state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Guests Enjoy a Night at the Athenaeum

A Lecture at the Athenaeum

Music at the Athenaeum

April 2014 Programs


Tues 4/1, 6pm reception, 6:30 program: Brown University Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies Senior Lecturer and Director of Graduate Studies Leonor Simas-Almeida and Anthony De Sa on De Sa's new novel, Kicking the Sky, a coming-of-age story set in Toronto’s Portuguese community. De Sa's novel is based on the 1977 murder of 12-year-old shoeshine boy Emanuel Jaques in downtown Toronto, a murder with particularly tragic resonance for the city's Portuguese community. Kicking the Sky is told from the perspective of three other boys from the community, who spend their days on their bikes exploring the laneways linking their Portuguese neighborhood to the rest of the city. As the details of Emanuel's death expose Toronto's seedier underbelly, the boys are pulled into an adult world of danger and cruelty, secrets and lies much closer to home, and as the media unravels the truth behind the Shoeshine Boy murder, Antonio sees his immigrant family–and his Portuguese neighborhood–with new eyes, becoming aware of the frightening reality that no one is really taking care of him. So intent are his parents and his neighbors on keeping the old traditions alive that they act as if they still live in a small village, not in a big city that puts their kids in the kind of danger they would not dare imagine. More:

Sponsor: Brown University Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies


Fri 4/4, 5-7pm: Salon: Bard Graduate Center Assistant Professor of European and American Textiles Michele Majer on “La Mode à la girafe: Fashion, Culture, and Politics in Bourbon Restoration France,” part 3 of ‘What use is the giraffe?’ – The Evolution of Science, Society, and Spectacle in the Cosmopolitan 19th Century, a series on the giraffe who went to Paris in 1827. In 1827, the first living giraffe ever seen in France immediately became a commercial and cultural phenomenon. A number of factors contributed to the unprecedented vogue à la girafe that occurred during the late years of the Bourbon Restoration including the increasing embourgeoisement of French society, a concomitant burgeoning consumerism, and the flourishing of the press and print culture. Representations of la belle égyptienne appeared in lithographs, engravings, and woodcuts and she was used to sell fashion, textiles, wallpaper, ceramics, toys, and even gastronomical amusements. She inspired a play, sheet music, and a host of pamphlets (often satirical ones). The vividly metaphoric language used to describe the giraffe emphasized her foreignness, her femininity, and her "aristocratic" status derived from her royal connections. This talk will examine the response to Dame Girafe through the lens of fashion and other consumer commodities and touch on French society’s attitudes toward gender, natural history, and politics.

Sponsor: Dr. Joseph A. Chazan. Made possible in part by Susan Jaffe Tane and several friends of the Athenaeum who wish to remain anonymous

Sun 4/6, 3-5pm: Translator and editor Suzanne Cane on her and Janet Chapple’s new edition of Belgian travel writer Jules Leclercq’s book Yellowstone, Land of Wonders: Promenade in North America's National Park, first published in 1886. In the summer of 1883 Belgian travel writer Jules Leclercq spent ten days on horseback in Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, exploring its natural wonders — astonishing geysers, majestic waterfalls, the vast lake, and the breathtaking canyon. He also recorded the considerable human activity, including the rampant vandalism. At that time, few people anywhere knew about geysers, mud pots and hot springs, despite the fantastical tales told by early explorers of boiling pitch, lands on fire, fountains of hot water, mountains of glass, and glacial rivers. This scientifically-based travelogue by a keenly observant and poetically reflective world traveler is itself a small marvel blending natural history, firsthand impressions, scientific lore, and anecdote. A sensation in Europe, the book was never published in English until now. This translation by Suzanne Cane and Janet Chapple makes available to English-speaking readers a masterpiece of western American travel writing that is a fascinating historical document. Join Suzanne as she discusses the book and her translation and shares some of its beautiful 19th century engravings and contemporary photos. Books available for sale and signing thanks to the Brown Bookstore. RSVP to Stephanie Knott: or 421-6970 x14. 

Mon 4/7, 7pm: co-presented with Trinity Repertory Company (takes place in the Dowling Theater at Trinity Rep), playwright and Trinity Rep resident actor Stephen Thorne and Brown University Professor of American Civilization Susan Smulyan in a salon conversation, "Girl Power: The Girl Detective in American Literature and Her Impact on American Culture," moderated by Athenaeum Director of Programs and Public Engagement Christina Bevilacqua; presented in connection with the world premiere of Thorne’s new play Veronica Meadows, on stage at Trinity 4/3-5/4. Girl detective Veronica Meadows and her gal pal Ginny have been sleuthing and solving small town crimes for as long as anyone can remember. Time and again, they stop the evil-doers in their tracks and heroically save the day. That is, until the day our plucky girl detective stops following her predicable habits and takes a dangerous turn into the unknown. Join us to consider the interplay of themes and ideas in both Thorne's script and the literature that inspired it. Salon is free but reservations are requested, please rsvp to Learn more about the play and purchase tickets here: Takes place at Trintity Repertory Company, 201 Washington St., Providence.

Thurs 4/10, 7pm: Historian David Kertzer on his new book The Pope and Mussolini: the Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe. The Pope and Mussolini tells the story of two men who came to power in 1922, and together changed the course of twentieth-century history. Pius XI was scholarly and devout, "Il Duce" thuggish and profane. Yet they shared a distrust of democracy and a visceral hatred of Communism, were both fiercely protective of the powers of their offices, and each relied on the other to consolidate his power and achieve his political goals. In a challenge to the conventional history of this period, Kertzer shows Pius XI's  crucial role in making Mussolini's dictatorship possible and keeping him in power. In exchange for Vatican support, Mussolini restored many of the privileges the Church had lost and gave in to the pope's demands that the police enforce Catholic morality. Yet in the last years of his life—as the Italian dictator grew ever closer to Hitler—the pontiff’s faith in this treacherous bargain started to waver. With his health failing, he began to lash out at the Duce and threatened to denounce Mussolini’s anti-Semitic racial laws before it was too late. Horrified by the threat to the Church-Fascist alliance, the Vatican’s inner circle, including the future Pope Pius XII, struggled to restrain the headstrong pope from destroying a partnership that had served both the Church and the dictator for many years. More:

Sponsor: The Gertrude N. Goldowsky and Seebert J. Goldowsky Foundation.

Fri 4/11, 5-7pm: Salon: Artists Jiyoung Chung, Jacqueline Frole, Holly Gaboriault, and Francoise McAree, with Athenaeum Collections Librarian Kate Wodehouse on The Paper Dolls Project, their recent collaborative residency using the Athenaeum's Special Collections for artistic inspiration, culminating in an exhibit at the AS220 Project Space/Reading Room. The project's theme of paper dolls is used neither literally nor directly, but rather to provide a construct for transforming an innocuous childhood pastime into something provocative and conceptual. Paper dolls have an immediate nostalgic appeal while simultaneously eliciting an individual, personal response-- no matter a woman’s age, she has a paper doll memory. For this project the artists each came up with a list of 3 topics related to her work, including: doll culture in 1978, beauty, textiles, army brigade movements and uniforms, dance steps (with shoe prints and lines), marionettes, wallpaper samples, parasols, cabinets of curiosities, historical female figures, silhouettes, and optical illusions. Working with Kate Wodehouse, the artists have had access to items from the Athenaeum collections on these various tangential subjects, and exchange, overlap and discussion have been part of the process. For the gallery exhibit, presentation of documentation (photographs, notes, sketches) and the actual books used will give insight into the creative process as well as the amazing and amusing resources of the Athenaeum’s archives. At the Salon, the artists will discuss their circuitous, complicated, layered, surprising and serendipitous process, highlighting specific books and images that proved pivotal in creating their work. AS220 Reading Room exhibit opens 4/5 from 5-7pm and runs through 4/26; gallery is at 93 Mathewson St. More:

Sponsor: Dr. Joseph A. Chazan

Fri 4/18, 5-7pm: Bert Gallery owner Catherine Little Bert on "Struggle, Strength and Dignity: Sculptor Nancy Elizabeth Prophet (1890 – 1960)." There were many obstacles for artists in America in the early 20th century but for an African American and a woman the challenges were momentous. Nancy Elizabeth Prophet did not balk at discrimination and societal mores, she confronted them directly across all fronts – art training, European study, exhibition opportunities, awards and employment. These accomplishments did not come without great personal pain, sacrifice, and isolation but the RI artist persevered, documenting her legacy as an African American and as a woman to create some of the most remarkable sculpture in the early 20th century. Bert will look at the life of Prophet, her body of work, and the obstacles she faced as an African American and as a woman, from the varying perspectives of the art world: museums, galleries, and the market place. This event is part of the collaborative series of multidisciplinary events Cutting Stone: The Life & Art of Nancy Elizabeth Prophet, RI Black Sculptress, funded in part by the RI Council for the Humanities; full list of events here:

Sponsor: Jodi L Glass, bringing you COMMUNISONG - building community through song.

Fri 4/25, 7pm: Sixteenth Annual Philbrick Poetry Project Reading: Celebrating the Legacy of Charles and Deborah Philbrick. The Philbrick Poetry Project is named for long-time Athenaeum members Charles Philbrick, a noted poet, and his wife Deborah, a mentor to many poets, and fosters the art of poetry in RI and New England. Join us to learn about and celebrate their lives, work, and legacy in New England. The Project is made possible in part by a grant from the RI State Council on the Arts, through an appropriation by the RI General Assembly and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

THIS PROGRAM HAS BEEN CANCELED. Sadly, we received news that Charles Sherba passed away on April 19th after a long, valiant fight with cancer. We are grateful to have been touched, as were so many other individuals and organizations, by his generous and too brief life.  

Mon 4/28, 8pm: Aurea in concert with the premiere of their original work, Britten II: Winter Words. This is a sequel to last year's Britten IlluminationsMoving forward to the world of Benjamin Britten's stirring mature and late compositional periods, Aurea focuses in this sequel on his last composition, the transcendent string quartet no. 3; Lachrymae for viola and strings; music of Dowland and Purcell; writings of Britten, Peter Pears, Auden, Shostakovitch  and Rostropovitch. Performers: Katherine Winterstein, Omar Guey, violins; Consuelo Sherba, viola; Emmanuel Feldman, cello; Chris Turner, reader/harmonica.