Activism Symposium Welcomes Guest Speakers Arun Gandhi and Susanne Slavick

3-22-13 - Keynote speaker and closing session will explore principles of nonviolence and the destructive effects of conflict.

activism symposiumWells College is proud to welcome two special guest speakers to our 12th annual Activism Symposium, a day of scheduled lectures, workshops and other sessions based around the theme “Nearing Our Destination? Conflict Resolution and Problem Solving in a Changing World.” To address this theme, the organizers have invited Arun Gandhi, nonviolence activist and grandson of legendary peace-maker and spiritual leader Mohandas K. Gandhi, and Susanne Slavick, guest curator of a special String Room Gallery exhibit that makes compelling visual statements on the destruction of war.

arun gandhi

Arun Gandhi, peace activist and proponent of nonviolence, will be the keynote speaker for the day. Arun will give a talk titled “Lessons Learned from My Grandfather,” expressing the guiding principles passed down from his grandfather, the legendary peace-maker and spiritual leader Mohandas K. Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi.

Growing up in apartheid South Africa as a person of Indian heritage meant racial confrontations with others in the area. As a young boy, Arun Gandhi was subject to physical violence based on his race. Filled with rage and plotting to avenge his beatings, he subscribed to Charles Atlas bodybuilding magazines so he would have the strength to fight back. When his parents discovered the reason for their 12-year-old son’s sudden fascination with exercise, they decided that a visit to his grandfather in India was in order.

What followed was an 18-month stay with one of the world’s great leaders that would give him the keys to the powerful philosophy of nonviolence and help shape the foundation for his life’s work. It was a dangerous and exciting time, as Mahatma Gandhi was leading the people of India in their revolutionary, nonviolent struggle for independence from British rule.

After leading successful projects for economic and social reform in India, Gandhi came to the United States in 1987 to complete research for a comparative study on racism in America. In 1991, Gandhi and his late wife, Sunanda, founded the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, which is now headquartered at the University of Rochester, New York. The Institute’s mission is to foster understanding of nonviolence and how to put that philosophy to practical use through workshops, lectures and community outreach programs.

A speaker of international acclaim, Gandhi has spoken before hundreds of colleges and universities as well as corporate and civic organizations. His unique talents and cross-cultural experiences have brought him before governmental, social and educational audiences in countries all over the world, including Brazil, Croatia, France, Ireland, Italy, Holland, Lithuania, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Nicaragua. Arun Gandhi is a cultural treasure, offering firsthand insights into one of history’s most influential leaders.

karadyLater in the day, the closing session of Activism Symposium will feature a talk by Susanne Slavick, guest curator of the gallery exhibit “Out of Rubble.” The gallery showcases photographs, paintings and video and digital works as a statement on war and the destruction that it effects. Susanne will speak about the exhibition in the String Room Gallery, giving her audience the chance to observe the pieces as she talks about them.

Out Of Rubble reacts to the wake of war — its realities and its representations. The rubble that each war leaves behind shapes today and tomorrow — physically, psychologically, spiritually and culturally. Out Of Rubble presents international artists who consider its causes and consequences, its finality and future, moving from decimation and disintegration to the possibilities of regeneration and recovery.

Facing the failure and wreckage of war, the poet Wislawa Szymborska wrote: “Reality demands that we mention this: Life goes on.” Artists meet this demand through responses that are invariably somber, both tender and unflinching. Through images and narratives bound up in the crises of truth, they acknowledge yet strive toward the impossible task of comprehending the incomprehensible. Before and long after the rubble is cleared, they review, anticipate and sometimes lay ground for what needs to be rebuilt.

This exhibit has been developed from a book project, Out Of Rubble (Charta 2011) with texts by Holly Edwards and editor Susanne Slavick that includes artists from Diana Al-Hadid to Xu Zhen.

Artists in the Out Of Rubble exhibit include: Taysir Batniji, Wafaa Bilal, Enrique Castrejon, Lenka Clayton, Decolonizing Architecture, Jane Dixon, Monica Haller, Andrew Ellis Johnson, Jennifer Karady, Osman Khan, Samina Mansuri, Simon Norfolk, Rocio Rodriguez, elin o’Hara slavick, Susanne Slavick and Elaine Spatz-Rabinowitz. It will be displayed in the String Room Gallery of Main Building from March 20 through April 26, 2013.

All Activism Symposium events are free; for registration information and a full schedule, visit



For more information, contact David Foote, communications associate, 315-364-3460,