Paris salons of the 1920s and 1930s included prominent figures in literature and art, such as Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway. They would meet to enjoy one another’s company and increase their knowledge through conversation.
Three friends from New Mexico State University held a salon in 2019, inviting a group of people to exchange views at Ilana Lapid’s home under a big tree.
“We organized the first Big Tree Salon about art in my backyard,” Lapid said. “It was 45 people, and the theme was light. We had an artist, a photographer, a scientist and a healer. Each shared about their work with light for about 10 minutes.”
With pandemic restrictions lifting this spring, Lapid, an NMSU Creative Media Institute professor, Julia Smith, a visiting professor, and Allison Layfield, a poet who also works in fundraising for NMSU, have revived and expanded their concept. They will host a “Big Tree Ideas Salon” with refreshments for up to 80 people from the campus and the greater Las Cruces community from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Friday, April 8, at Pete’s Patio in Corbett Center Student Union. The flash talks from four speakers will begin at 5 p.m. The topic: resilience.
“The speakers will be approaching resilience from the ground up,” said Layfield. “We have a professor from plant sciences talking about plant resilience, we have a government professor talking about democracy and resilience, we have a representative from a local nonprofit talking about community resilience, and we have someone from astronomy. We’re approaching it from the very micro level to the very macro level, and we're hoping that the audience will be able to make connections between all of these different beings and levels of resilience.”
The four speakers giving flash talks at the salon are Neil Harvey, NMSU government professor; Karen Kinemuchi, Apache Point Observatory astronomer; Rachel Gioannini, NMSU assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences; and Diana O’Brien from Jardin de Los Niños, a Las Cruces-based nonprofit organization.
Each of the four speakers will have six minutes to share a key idea about resilience gleaned from their own research or area of interest. The organizers felt resilience would be a pertinent theme at this point in history because the situation around the world has required us to cultivate resilience.
“Ilana, Allison and I are three career-driven women who just happened to come together and have this sort of shared feeling to create communities where we can come together, not just academically, but bring in people to eliminate those boundaries by understanding that knowledge really comes from different places, like where we're from, who we are and what we do,” Smith said. “We hope this salon can allow people to bring their whole selves as we connect through these shared ideas and create dialogue that's relevant to our community, our university and our lives. We want to foster understanding of interdisciplinary differences but also acknowledge our human differences and celebrate them.”
The program is sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Art and NMSU’s Creative Media Institute, whose department head Amy Lanasa championed the project. The set-up at Pete’s Patio will allow microphones for members of the audience to participate and share thoughts with each other and the speakers.
“One of the beautiful things about the salons of the 20s and 30s was that you had people from all sorts of different knowledge disciplines coming together,” Layfield said. “This April 8th event is acknowledging that knowledge is created in many places. And it's a place for us to not only hear about other disciplines in the campus community, but about other places where knowledge is created in our community. We hope that people from the Las Cruces community will feel comfortable coming to campus and experiencing this.”
RSVP for the event at https://www.eventleaf.com/e/bigtreesalon