University of Southern Indiana

Atheneum 40th Anniversary Celebration - Speaker Series

Join us from 2 -7 p.m. on Friday, October 11, 2019, at the Atheneum for 200 Years of New Harmony: A Role Model for the Future, a day of amazing speakers featuring leaders from the world of art, preservation and architecture.  This event is free, but seating is limited. No registration is required. A special thanks to our Speaker Series sponsor, Hafer.

Every era of New Harmony has hosted cutting-edge design thinking. Richard Meier’s Atheneum exemplifies how radical design turns into a monument of historic preservation in just 40 short years. The newly published book “Avant-Garde in the Cornfields: Architecture, Landscape, and Preservation in New Harmony” serves as a foundation for discussing the whole cycle of patronage, commissioning, using and preserving history and the built environment. This Speaker Series will reflect on the book and how New Harmony remains at the intersection of cosmopolitan, provincial and vernacular design thinking. It will propose strategies for keeping its avant-garde position into the future and sustain its exemplary role as a small-town living community


2 p.m. - Welcome from the University of Southern Indiana

2:05 p.m. - Introductions from Michelangelo Sabatino and Ben Nicholson 

2:10-3 p.m. Karla Britton, Ph.D., Keynote
New Harmony as a Resource of Hope

Drawing on the theologian Paul Tillich’s theology of estrangement, this talk engages New Harmony’s unique sense of place to address the relationship between intention and aesthetic perception. As a multi-generational social experiment, the town embodies Tillich’s search for our ultimate concern, raising the question of its contemporary potential for expressing such meaning.

Currently a Professor of Art History with the School of the Arts, Humanities, and English at Diné College, the tribal college of the Navajo Nation, in Tsaile, Arizona and former Yale Lecturer in Architecture / School of Architecture, her academic work focuses on the modern architect’s engagement with tradition in twentieth-century architecture and urbanism. Her teaching has emphasized the intersection of classicism and modernization, the evolution of modern ecclesiastical building and in a multi-religious context the relationship between religion and modern architecture

Ms. Britton’s books include the monograph “Auguste Perret” (published by Phaidon in both English and French, 2001); the prize-winning “Hawaiian Modern” (Yale, 2008; edited with Dean Sakamoto); and the interdisciplinary “Constructing the Ineffable: Contemporary Sacred Architecture” (Yale School of Architecture, 2011).

Her current research addresses modern sacred architecture in the non-Western world. Ms. Britton was director of the architecture program in Paris of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and associate professor (adjunct) of architecture. Ms. Britton received a B.A. from the University of Colorado, Boulder, an M.A. from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from Harvard University.

3-3:4p.m. - Dr. Silvia Rode
Harmonist Society in Theory and Practice, or Socialism and Capitalism under God

Few utopian communal societies can rival the economic and political power once held by the 19th century Harmonists. This presentation focuses on their successful merger of contradictions within the spiritual realm of millennial beliefs, the practice of an inner-communal socialism and external capitalist enterprising by strictly adhering to a tri-spherical operational model.

Dr. Silvia Rode chairs the Department of World Languages and Cultures and serves on the board of the Center for Communal Studies at the University of Southern Indiana. Her research on utopianism includes utopian concepts between WWI and WWII, theories on urbanism and 19th century communal societies. She is also the author of Franz Werfel Star of the Unborn: Utopia as Fictional Genre Discourse and Intellectual History.

3:45-4:25 p.m. - Michelangelo SabatinoPh.D
Ten Year Development of Avant-Garde in the Cornfields: Architecture, Landscape, and Preservation in New Harmony

Professor and Director PhD Program in the College of Architecture, Illinois Institute of Technology. Former Dean and Inaugural John Vinci Distinguished Research Fellow. Co-editor of Avant-Garde in the Cornfields: Architecture, Landscape, and Preservation in New Harmony.

p.m. - Ben Nicholson
Design of The Atheneum in the Context of New Harmony’s Urban Plan

Richard Meier's design for the Atheneum, in concert with Ralph Schwarz's vision, brought together radical ideas of space and a new concept of history. It was fitting solution for the expansive plans for New Harmony in the 1970s. Meier's collage-inspired design process, and his understanding of historical precedent, will be examined holistically. This will be considered as the essential foundation for preserving the cultural legacy of the Atheneum, while addressing all-too-real 21st century needs.

Professor of Architecture, School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Co-editor of Avant-Garde in the Cornfields: Architecture, Landscape, and Preservation in New Harmony. Has served as Buell Visiting Critic, Cornell, and the Bannister Fletcher Visiting Professor, University of London, and exhibits internationally. A resident of New Harmony, he works and teaches on everything from labyrinths, firearm culture and visionary historical projects.  

5:15-5:55 p.m. - Richard McCoy
The Role of Patronage in Midwestern Modernism

Richard McCoy is the founding director of Landmark Columbus, an organization that cares for and celebrates the world-renowned cultural heritage of Columbus, Indiana. A former Fulbright Scholar to Spain, McCoy holds a master's degree in art history from New York University and a bachelor's degree from Indiana University.

Columbus, Indiana is world renowned for its game-changing investments in architecture, art, and design over the past 75 years, but it is also a city that never has had an organization dedicated to the “preservation” of its significant design heritage, much of which is in public control.  In late 2014 Heritage Fund--The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County created a new program dedicated to caring for the design legacy of the city, and now five years later this effort has evolved into a stand alone non-profit organization that is making significant impact in Columbus, and around the state of Indiana.

This presentation will talk about the process of creating the organization from scratch, developing its mission, and demonstrate the ways that it is able to care for the tangible and intangible heritage of this remarkable American city.

6-6:15 p.m. - Aaron Betsky
Neither the Beginning or the End: Heteropias in the United States

President of the School of Architecture at Taliesin, former Director of Cincinnati Art Museum. Trained at Yale, Betsky has worked as a designer for Frank O. Gehry & Associates and Hodgetts + Fung, taught at SCI-Arc and served as the director of the 11th Venice International Architecture Biennale.    



6:15 p.m. - Q/A with All Speakers on Stage, moderated by Michelangelo Sabatino and Ben Nicholson

7 p.m. - Book signing Reception in The Atheneum atrium

Sponsored by Hafer.

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