Carnegie Mellon University
December 13, 2023

The Center for the Arts in Society Launches New Initiative

By Stefanie Johndrow

Upon hearing the word “hospitality” one might think of various ways to be warmly welcomed and included. The new initiative from the Center for the Arts in Society explores the possibilities and limits of hospitality, belonging and gathering through human and non-human entities, mobile and fixed bodies, temporary and permanent spaces.

“The aim of our previous initiative, Borderlines, was to interrogate the systems, structures, and infrastructures that we put in place to divide ourselves from others. With Hospitality, we hope to continue that exploration from another angle and ask questions about what it means, and what it takes, to be hospitable. These questions feel pressing at a time when so many are displaced by conflict and oppression, and the initiative’s theme dovetails well with the Center’s commitment to support Artists and Scholars at Risk who join the CMU community,” said Wendy Arons, a professor of dramatic literature and director of the Center for the Arts in Society.

Led by Anne Lambright, the Paul Mellon Distinguished Professor and head of Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Department of Modern Languages, and Alexa Woloshyn, an associate professor in the College of Fine Arts’ School of Music, the Hospitality Initiative will take place over the course of the next three years and support three individual projects around the theme.

“With the Borderlines initiative wrapping up, we thought it was an ideal time to explore the positionalities and possible hierarchies at play between such entities,” Woloshyn said. “’Hospitality’ also includes its opposite: inhospitality. The question of hospitality seems all the more urgent these days with global refugee crises and CMU’s own Scholars at Risk program.”

The unique viewpoints of the three selected projects prompt discussions around hospitality.

"We received several great submissions. The three we chose are connected with the theme of hospitality in such interesting and unique ways — perhaps not at all what we envisioned, and yet so perfect on their own and as a group,” Lambright said. “They challenge us to think more deeply about what it means to be host and hosted, welcoming and welcomed, of and in a place. Between the events sponsored by the projects and those Alexa and I organized, we hope to spark conversations across campus about the complexities around the deceivingly straightforward term 'hospitality.’”

Planetary Hospitality

Directed by Kathy M. Newman and James Wynn, both associate professors in the Department of English, “Planetary Hospitality” examines hospitality in an astronomical sense and from a rhetorical lens and by using films, a series of talks, courses and symposia.

They will investigate the language, film and media used to represent Earth and also the ambition to explore and possibly colonize other planets. Through this project, Newman and Wynn will answer the questions: what does it mean for a planet to be hospitable or inhospitable? What factors influence our representations of planetary hospitality? What are the consequences of these representations for life on Earth and beyond? 

One in Four, One in Eight

From Katherine Pukinskis, an assistant professor of music, “One in Four, One in Eight” investigates classical concert music’s general inhospitality toward women creators and issues that center women, and the societal expectation that a woman’s body be a hospitable place to create new life.

The name of the project is derived from the statistic that one in four known pregnancies in the United States ends in loss, and one in eight people needs medical intervention to become pregnant. the project interrogates where and how people include — and compartmentalize away — aspects of their personal lives in their creative work or professional practice, and the ways in which societies and communities have conditioned them to do so.

Coffee Break

John Soluri, an associate professor in CMU’s Department of History, is the director of “Coffee Break.” Through this project, Soluri seeks to promote disruptive thinking about “good coffee” by bringing coffee drinkers into conversations with coffee farmers, roasters, baristas and one another in order to re-imagine forms of hospitality rooted in sustainability and justice, not connoisseurship.

The project will use coffee and its myriad associations with hospitality as a means to encourage diverse people to enter into generative, self-reflective conversations about coffee, capitalism, and their consequences. Conversations will be held through local events and in the undergraduate course, “Coffee and Capitalism.”