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Block Museum Hosts Three Cutting-Edge Guest Speakers

Talks by filmmaker S. Leo Chiang, poet Mark Nowak and New York film critic J. Hoberman

EVANSTON, Ill. --- An Emmy-nominated filmmaker, an award-winning poet and a renowned New York film critic will take turns sharing insights related to their respective fields at Northwestern University this winter.

Their upcoming talks are part of the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art’s enhanced mission to present the type of high-caliber programming in the weeks and months ahead that Chicagoans and North Shore residents expect of a museum within a major research university focused on interdisciplinary teaching and expanded connections to broader communities.

Block’s dynamic lineup of winter programs have been developed across disciplines with imaginative partners and presenters from on and off campus. Through the following programs and those to come in the months ahead, the museum aims to be a convener -- using art as a springboard for thought-provoking discussions that relate to our daily lives.

Free and open to the public, the following events will take place at the Block Museum’s Pick-Laudati Auditorium, 40 Arts Circle Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus


Screening of Kaplan Artist in Residence S. Leo Chiang’s Documentary: “Mr. Cao Goes to Washington,” 5:15 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20. Chiang, a multiple award-winning and Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker, will screen his film “Mr. Cao Goes to Washington,”

(S. Leo Chiang, United States, 72 minutes). Recipient of the Inspiration Award at the 2012 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, it focuses on immigrant and LGBT issues and is of relevance to the Block’s ongoing interest in engaging diverse voices and perspectives. Chiang’s previous film, “A Village Called Versailles,” won eight film festival awards. It aired on PBS Independent Lens and has been acquired by more than 200 universities. Chiang lectures in the Social Documentation program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and is a fellow in the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program. The screening is presented in partnership with the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities Artist-in-Residence program. The documentary is a character study of Congressman Joseph Cao, a Vietnamese-American Republican unexpectedly elected in an African-American Democratic district in New Orleans. Director Leo Chiang will be present for a Q-and-A conversation following the screening. Weinberg College Visiting Assistant Professor Beth Lew-Williams will moderate.


Working Poems: An Evening with Mark Nowak,” 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26. A poet, playwright, essayist and cultural critic who gives voice to working people and documents the hardships wrought by economic downturns, Nowak will respond to the Block Museum’s “Left Front: Radical Art in the ‘Red Decade,’ 1929-1940” exhibition, running through June 22, in a reading and conversation. Nowak is also a longstanding labor activist who has been conducting innovative writing workshops in the field for more than 10 years. Frank Cunningham, business representative of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW Local 134) and a participant in the first workshop Nowak conducted in Chicago, will join Nowak. A 2010 Guggenheim Fellow, Nowak is director of the graduate creative writing program at Manhattanville College and author of three volumes of poetry from Coffee House Press. This program is in partnership with the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences’ Program in American Studies, Poetry & Poetics Colloquium and Assistant Professor of English Harris Feinsod’s course, "The Poetry of History in the Americas."


Film screening and discussion: “Body and Soul” with J. Hoberman in person, 2 p.m. Saturday, March 8. Recently named video columnist at The New York Times, film critic Hoberman spent almost two decades as the chief film critic at The Village Voice and is a regular contributor to ArtForum, The Guardian and Tablet. Block Cinema will screen “Body and Soul” (Robert Rossen, 1947, United States, 104 minutes),a cautionary tale about greed and consumerism, seen through the lens of corruption in the boxing world. In a career-defining performance, John Garfield depicts an up-and-coming Jewish boxer who dreams of becoming a champ to raise him out of the crushing poverty of New York’s Lower East Side. His ambitions are tested when he is pressured to take a fall in a fixed fight. This film was selected and will be introduced by Hoberman. After the screening, Hoberman will discuss the impact of leftist Jewish filmmakers in Hollywood as well as topics related to film criticism.

This anti-capitalist film is part of a series of Block Cinema films, which coincide with the Block Museum’s current exhibition, “The Left Front.” According to Hoberman, the film is not only the “reddest movie” Hollywood ever produced but also its most Jewish since the original “Jazz Singer.” Writer Abraham Polonsky and three cast members, including Garfield, were soon blacklisted after the film’s premiere.

For more information, visit the Block Museum or call (847) 491-4000.


A long-term construction project on Northwestern’s south campus has limited access to the Block Museum and Arts Circle Drive. Free parking is available in the lot directly south of the museum. For directions and parking information, visit

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