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Athenaeum Programs

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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

May 2014 Programs


Fri 5/2, 5-7pm, SALON: Brown University visiting professor of Urban Agriculture Dawn King and  City of Providence Healthy Communities Office Program Coordinator Ellen Cynar on “Sowing the Seeds of Community," part 1 of “Reaping What We Sow: Local and Global Issues of Growing Food in the 21st Century,” a 3-part series curated by the Carrot Committee of Southside Community Land Trust. In 1981 a group of neighbors got together to convert a polluted city lot into a thriving community garden, which eventually became the core of the Southside Community Land Trust. Thirty-three years later, growing food in Providence is a city-wide endeavor, involving policymakers, entrepreneurs, school children, small farmers and neighbors. What does growing our own food mean, both as individuals and communities? Why does it matter? Join in a conversation about the place of urban agriculture today in issues of local food security; health and nutrition; urban planning and sustainability; and where we might be heading in the future. More: For more resources on this topic, see a list of books here; and a list of films here.

Sponsor: a friend of the Athenaeum who wishes to remain anonymous.

Tues, 5/6, 12-1:30pm: Poetry Aloud (on the themes of Spring, Rebirth, and Nature). W e are reviving the much-missed Poetry Aloud series, and it is now an intimate lunchtime gathering in the Bound, focusing on a different theme each time. Bring poems you love (or even those you’ve written!), or browse our poetry shelves that morning, and we’ll take turns reading aloud. We hope everyone will discover/re-discover some wonderful poems and poets! Attendees are welcome to bring brown bag lunches. Please RSVP to Danielle Kemsley at or 421-6970 x15.

Tues, 5/6, 5:15-7pm: Library Orientation, Tour, and Reception (reception 5:15-5:45pm; presentation 5:45-6; building & special collections tours 6-7). Whether you’re a new Athenaeum member, a longstanding member who has never taken a tour, or a potential member interested in learning more, join us to ensure you’ll be able to make the most of your experience at the library. You’ll learn about the library’s history, take a tour of the building, and view some of the treasures of the rare book collection from past centuries. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet the staff and other members, too! Join us for any portion of the evening you can. Please RSVP to Stephanie Knott at or 421-6970 x14.

Fri 5/9, 5-7pm, SALON: Russell Library (Middletown, CT) Director Arthur S. Meyers on his book Democracy in the Making: The Open Forum Lecture Movement, part 5 of “The Cosmology of Conversation," a series on the history of the salon. In 1908 a remarkable direction in community learning began in Boston and spread across the country, becoming the Open Forum lecture movement. While not strictly salons, these locally planned, trans-denominational lectures, followed by periods for questions and debate, were characterized as "the striking of mind upon mind," and can arguably be seen as a 20th-century American evolution of the form. Join us for a consideration of the ideas, ideals, and history of this discussion-based movement, their effect on the democratic process, and their legacy today. Books available for sale and signing thanks to the Brown Bookstore.

Sponsor: Yankee Travel,, and a friend of the Athenaeum who wishes to remain anonymous

Tues 5/13, 5:30-7pm (5:30pm reception, 6pm program), co-presented with RI Public Radio: Policy & Pinot, a timely conversation series on vital issues facing our stateRIPR’s Political Roundtable team of political reporters Ian Donnis and Scott MacKay, along with URI Professor of Political Science Maureen Moakley and frequent Rountable guest Dr. Pablo Rodriguez, analyze the local and national political scene. Free and open to the public, reservations required: reservations can be made starting on Tues 4/29 to Danielle Blasczak: or 351-2800. More:

Fri 5/16, 5-7pm: SALON: Coastal Medical Sleep Disorders Center Medical Director and Brown University Warren Alpert Medical School Assistant Professor of Medicine Dr. Peter Karczmar on "Sleep: The Final Frontier…And Why Thomas Edison Ruined It" For centuries, sleep has been the realm of the occult, an unknown world of darkness and strange apparitions. A world we both craved and feared. For most of human experience, sleep and death walked hand in hand. It was only as recently as the 1950s that we made discoveries that deepened our understanding of what sleep is, how we do it, why it’s important, and what happens when we don’t get enough of it. Our modern 24/7 world and quest for better productivity are not conducive to proper sleep and yet we long for a good night’s sleep no less than our ancestors did. Karczmar will take you on a walk (not a sleepwalk) through the history of sleep, its representation in literature, and our current understanding of why no one gets enough of it.

Sponsors: Kate and Arthur Chute

Sun, 5/18, 3-5pm: Dr. Cathy Lund of City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats on "Feline Litter Box Lapses: How to Think Outside the Box So Your Cat Doesn't" Why, why, why won’t cats use their litter boxes? Anyone who has a cat with litter box issues will learn how thinking outside the box can stop those frustrating litter box lapses and help "eliminate" a messy and common problem. We'll examine cat social behavior and see how easy it is to inadvertently create anxiety and stress in our feline companions when we treat them like furry little humans. This discussion will involve actual cases from the files of City Kitty - bring your own cat's history and let’s see if we can get your cat back in the box! Please RSVP to Danielle Kemsley at or 421-6970 x15.

Fri 5/23, 5-7pm: SALON: Journalist Alexander Stille on his memoir The Force of Things: A Marriage in War and Peace. Stille's tale of his parents' marriage highlights that moment in the 1930s and 1940s when the mass migration of Jews from fascist-dominated Europe created the cross-pollination that reshaped much of American culture and society. Theirs was an uneasy marriage between Europe and America, between Jew and WASP; their differences were a key to their bond yet a source of constant strife. Stille's clear-eyed, nuanced portrait presents two singular people buffeted about by large historical events, who try to escape their origins but find themselves in the grip of the force of things.

Sponsors: Andrew Raftery and Ned Lochaya in honor of the marriage of Tripp Evans and Ed Cabral

Fri 5/30, 5-7pm: SALON: RISD's Edna Lawrence Nature Lab Director Neal Overstrom on "Collecting Nature: Menageries, Museums and the Human-Nature Connection" (with a digression on a 21st century giraffe), part 4 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 the bio-centric world where our ancestral hunter-gatherer societies evolved nature was either dangerous or elusive.  Survival depended on our relationships to the plants and animals around us, and the perceptions and beliefs that that arose from these interactions became ingrained in our cultures, stories, and lore.  Over the past two millennia the display of living and non-living specimens from nature -- first through the acquisition of the unusual for spectacle and later through systematized collections for knowledge – provided opportunities to encounter, organize and control elements of nature in ways that earlier peoples could not.  These new relationships are often framed in the context of history and culture, however what role does our own evolutionary heritage contribute to our sense of awe, wonder, or curiosity?  This talk will explore these ideas with examples from RISD’s own natural science collection, the Edna Lawrence Nature Lab.

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


June Programs