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October 29, 2019

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Celine Lee (left) joined honky-tonk performer Dale Watson on the last day of this year’s Richmond Folk Festival.

Professor Kelly O'Keefe: Celebrating the arts and humanities

Today’s political tensions tend to emphasize our differences over our commonalities. They threaten to fracture our unity and have launched us into what I sometimes refer to as an “uncivil war.”

But contrary to what many news outlets would have us believe, we aren’t a nation of just two flavors of people. We are endlessly nuanced and wonderfully diverse. It’s only through learning each other’s stories that we come to appreciate that. I believe the arts and humanities can play an important role in times like these. They can be the peacemakers in this uncivil war.

As a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and as head of the creative brand management track there, I teach brilliant, driven students who come from all over the world. When I think of different groups of people who seem to have nothing in common, coming to learn they have a great deal in common, I think of an experience I had with my students many years ago at Montpelier’s Gospel Chicken House (closed in 2011).

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