Second-year graduate student Holly Filsinger’s virtual lecture series, “Experiencing Images: How the Visual Shapes Our World,” has given her a unique opportunity to share her natural curiosity and passion for research with the Redbird community.
“The topic and the theme of the series was related to a lot of the research I was doing and things that I’ve been interested in that have taken place across many different disciplines at ISU,” Filsinger said.
The Jamestown, New York, native is studying visual culture and researching cultural and generational trauma in contemporary art. Filsinger began developing the series in February 2021 after seeing a call for proposals for a lecture series curated by a graduate student on the Milner Library website.
The series, which is supported by the office of Dr. Craig McLauchlan, associate vice president for Research and Graduate Studies, features distinguished speakers who explore individual and collective engagement with photography. The series has dealt with themes of civic spectatorship, surveillance and the construction of race; image production and representation, and trauma and memory.
Filsinger hosted two speakers last fall. Dr. John Louis Lucaites, a professor emeritus rhetoric and English at Indiana University, presented “A Museum Without Walls: Photo Exhibitions and Civic Spectatorship,” and “White Sight: Visual Politics of Whiteness” was presented the following month by Dr. Nicholas Mirzoeff, a writer and professor of media, culture, and communication at New York University. Filsinger has an ambitious slate of four lectures and a panel discussion planned for the spring semester, the first of which is a virtual presentation by visual artist Cecil McDonald Jr. scheduled for January 31. The second is a talk with multimedia artist Cannupa Hanska Luger scheduled for February 24.
“These topics are relevant to everyone in some form,” Filsinger said. “When we start to self-reflect on the images we take and consume, we start to walk through the world differently.
Filsinger intentionally keeps the topics of discussion broad so that the presenters feel they can speak openly about their experiences and give the audience the opportunity to relate those experiences to their own lives.
“It’s a very specific process how you go about reaching out to people and communicating what you want from them while also leaving them space for interpretation,” Filsinger said.
To start producing speakers for the series, Filsinger initially turned to her own scholarship and highlighted a few potential names she felt could best speak on some of the selected topics. She has sought guidance from University Galleries Director and Chief Curator Kendra Paitz, with whom she conducted an independent study in the fall. Paitz helped Filsinger with contacting speakers, marketing the events, and converting them to an online format due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“It’s been really great working with a student who is making it happen,” Paitz said. “The range of speakers and topics she has been able to bring in has been great.”
Filsinger said Assistant Professor Dr. Byron Craig, in the School of Communication, has helped her identify potential speakers, form ideas for lecture topics, and made sure she keeps pushing forward.
“It is a real pleasure to work with Holly. She is extremely intelligent; wants to address every single detail and works tirelessly to ensure what she visualizes comes to fruition,” Craig said.
“Byron’s the best,” Filsinger said. Filsinger also supports the research of her peers by collaborating with the organizers of the Image of Research competition. Several of the speakers from the lecture series serve as judges and Filsinger herself took part in a panel discussion in a workshop for the competition to help answer questions about what makes a compelling image and encapsulates research visually.
Paitz notes that Filsinger’s work with the series and as a researcher is being noticed by Illinois State faculty, who are consistently impressed with the connections she has been able to make on campus and across the country.
“We talk a lot about individualized attention and our roots as a teaching university, and I think this series exemplifies that,” Paitz said. “A student is realizing her ambitious goal of organizing a yearlong fully funded speaker series, and faculty and staff across multiple units are providing funding, support, and assistance.”
The series is hosted by Illinois State University Wonsook Kim School of Art and is supported and co-sponsored by the office of Dr. Craig McLauchlan, associate vice president for Research and Graduate Studies; University Galleries of Illinois State University, the School of Communication, the Department of English, the Department of History, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program.