Birke Fine Arts Symposium to be celebrated in February

Marshall University’s College of Arts and Media kicks off the 2018 Birke Fine Arts Symposium Saturday, Feb. 3, and continues with a celebration of the arts through Thursday, March 1.

Artists from a variety of disciplines will present work as part of the symposium. This year’s theme is “What’s Next: the Arts in Times of Adversity.” The symposium will feature theatre and musical performances, lectures, film screenings, poetry and literary readings, and a variety of other presentations.

Along with featuring art born from adversity, the symposium will celebrate another recurring theme, “Appalachian Narratives: Notes on Identity.” Six different events and a monthlong photography exhibit bring together creatives from central Appalachia who are directly involved in transforming the dominant narrative about Appalachia through writing, speaking, music, film and photography. Through these media, they contextualize their own processes for storytelling and sharing their Appalachian experience.

The symposium takes place every four years to showcase the work of local artists and to give both students and community members opportunities to ask vital questions and participate in conversations about art at this point in history.

“The line-up for this year’s Birke Fine Arts Symposium is rich in contributions from across the entire College of Arts and Media, as well as the Department of English,” said Dr. David Castleberry, associate dean of the College of Arts and Media. “The fact that adversity so often serves as a prompt for creative solutions makes this year’s theme both timely and timeless. I think attendees will be astonished at the number and quality of events being offered during the month of February.”

It’s an honor to be part of the symposium “because of its long history of exploring not only the intersections between the arts, but their capacity to perturb the status quo,” said Music History Professor Dr. Vicki Stroeher, who will present a lecture Feb. 19 titled “Musical Responses to War.”

Presented by the Marshall University College of Arts and Media, the Birke Fine Arts Symposium is made possible by the generosity of Helen Birke and her daughter, Julie, through the Birke Fine Arts Symposium Endowment.

The schedule for the symposium is as follows:

Theatre performance

Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play by Anne Washburn
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3
Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center.


North Limestone MusicWorks with Anna Hess
2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6
Smith Music Hall

Film Screening

“Appalachian Narratives: Notes on Identity” – Selected LGBTQIA Films
6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6
Memorial Student Center, Room SW 16

Artist Talk

Ben Moren, Filmmaking Residency Director
5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 7
Visual Arts Center, 927 3rd Ave., Room 209

Presentation and Panel

“Blood, Sweat and Tears: Artist Run Residencies and Programs,” with John Labovitz, Ben Moren, George Sheer, Christina Vassalo, and Jenny Zeller.
Reception at 6 p.m., presentation at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8
Smith Hall, Room 154

Literary Reading and Presentation

DeMaris Hill and Bernard Grant
7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8
Memorial Student Center, Shawkey Room

Arts + Communities Workshops

“Blood Sweat and Tears: Artist Run Residencies and Programs”
9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9
Visual Arts Center, 927 3rd Ave.

Film Screening

WZFR Residency Films
6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9
The Cellar Door, 905 3rd Ave.


Music of Theresienstadt
3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11
B’Nai Sholom Synagogue, 949 10th Ave.

Film Screening and Poetry Reading

Mabel Hardison Smith (1985) and Evelyn Williams (1995)
“Appalachian Narratives: Notes on Identity” with Burnis Morris, Kevin Barksdale, and Crystal Good
6 pm. Tuesday, Feb. 13
The Cellar Door, 905 3rd Ave.

Musical Performances and Poetry Readings

Featuring local artists
9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13
The Cellar Door, 905 3rd Ave.

Audio-Visual Performance

Shawnee, Ohio, by Brian Harnetty
Appalachian Narratives: Notes on Identity
6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15
Smith Hall, Room 143


“Musical Responses to War” by Vicki Stroeher
6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19
The Cellar Door, 905 3rd Ave.

Film Screenings

Stranger with a Camera (2000) and Hollow (2013) with Tijah Bumgarner
6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20
Memorial Student Center, Room SW 16

Photography Exhibition

How to Get Home Again by Roger May
Appalachian Narratives: Notes on Identity
5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22
Smith Hall, Birke Art Gallery

Presentation and Discussion Panel

With Crystal Good, Kate Fowler, Roger May, Elaine McMillion Sheldon and Roxy Todd
7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22
Memorial Student Center, Room BE 5


Literary Lecture and Q&A

Matthew Olzmann and Rebecca Gayle Howell
5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28
Drinko Library, Room 402


Literary Reading 

Matthew Olzmann, Rebecca Gayle Howell and Christa Paravanni
7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1
Memorial Student Center, Shawkey Room


The entire symposium schedule can also be found online at For more information, contact Castleberry by e-mail at or by phone at 304-696-2963.