Exhibitions and Film Series

Gnostic Film Festival

In collaboration with the Humanities Research Center, Rice University’s Department of Religion hosted a Gnostic Film Festival featuring six movies at the Rice Media Center March 24-26.

The purpose of the festival was to raise public awareness about the significance of the gnostic religious current in modernity and its impact on public culture in America, according to April DeConick, the Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor of Biblical Studies at Rice and chair of the Department of Religion. DeConick is the author of the recently published book “The Gnostic New Age: How a Countercultural Spirituality Revolutionized Religion From Antiquity to Today.”

The six films – “The Matrix,” “The Truman Show,” “Pleasantville,” “Dark City,” “Avatar” and “Altered States” — were introduced by undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in a seminar on gnosticism and was followed by a discussion, Q&A sessions and readings by DeConick. 


Q Series: LGBTQ Lives on Film

Principal Investigator(s): Ellie Vainker

The Ethnographic Film Society is a graduate student group at Rice University that screens individual documentary films, and also organizes one major film festival or series annually. Through these events, EFS has brought together members of the campus and broader Houston community to address issues as diverse as animal rights, peace and conflict, and labor conditions transnationally.

In collaboration with Rice Cinema, EFS curated a global LGBTQ film series to take place biweekly throughout the Spring 2015 semester. This series, the first of its kind in recent Rice history, featred films on some of the least oft discussed aspects of LGBTQ life in the U.S. and around the world. Films shed light on: LGBTQ social life in the rural U.S., the impact of U.S. evangelicalism on LGBTQ politics in Uganda, the ways queerness is experienced by people with disabilities in Brazil, the lives of Filipina trans* women who care for elderly Israeli men, the subcultures of Black gender non-conforming/butch women in New York City, and the community enabled via an LGBTQ Latino dance club in Los Angeles. Following each of the six selected films, renowned academics and local activists facilitated discussions.


The Black List Project: Volumes 2 and 3, Portraits by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

In February 2011, the Humanities Research Center and Rice Public Art Program hosted The Black List Project at the the Rice Media Center. The Black List Project is a photographic exhibit and documentary featuring portraits of prominent African Americans of various professions, disciplines, and backgrounds. Historically, "blacklist" denotes a group of people marginalized and denied work or social approval. In an effort to redefine the word, twenty-five featured African Americans provide insight on the struggles, triumphs, and joys of black life in the United States. These portraits are both pictorial and verbal, representing some of the most dynamic and inspiring personalities in the fields of politics, music, business, civil activism, literature, the arts, and athletics. Featured photographs include those of American political activist and university professor Angela Davis; musician John Legend; Michael Lomax, Chairman and CEO of the United Negro College Fund; artist Kara Walker; and actor, director, screenwriter, playwright, novelist and composer Martin Van Peebles. The Black List Project was conceived of by photographer/filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders with Elvis Mitchell, NPR correspondent and former New York Times film critic.

This in honor of Black History Month, and plans to engage both Rice and the Houston community through a variety of media. The Humanities Research Center also brought prominent scholars from Rice and other universities to speak on related topics of Black America, including photographer and author Shawn Michele Smith. For more information on The Black List Project, please visit www.blacklistproject.com

Community Programming

The Humanities Research Center organized field trips with for middle- and high-school students in Houston. These 1-2 hour field trips were held at the Rice Media Center on the Rice University campus and included:

  • A guided tour of the photographic exhibit, led by art history Rice students

  • A screening of selected clips from the documentary

  • A lesson/discussion based on educational materials developed by The Black List Project

The Black List Project incorporates an educational component into its mission, creating rich and empowering media vehicles that can ignite meaningful discourse and change. Discussing these themes with students inspires conversation relating to writing, the individual voice, identity, mentoring, education, race, and achievement.

Generous support for this exhibit was provided by:

Gracie and Bob Cavnar
Madlyn and Anthony Constant
Arvia and Jason Few
Jasmine Gipson
Benjamin Hall
Eileen and Kase Lawal
Melanie Lawson and John Guess
Members of the Rice Art Committee
Felicia and Ricky Raven
Monique Shankle
Anita and Gerald Smith


Tradition Redefined: The Larry and Brenda Thompson Collection of African American Art

The Humanities Research Center was pleased to participate in Rice University's Centennial Exhibition, Tradition Redefined: The Larry and Brenda Thompson Collection of African American Art, on view at Rice University Art Gallery September 13 – November 18, 2012.  Larry and Brenda Thompson, parents of 1998 Rice alumnus Larry Thompson Jr., loaned their collection of works not only by acknowledged masters, but also by those artists outside the canon including emerging, outsider, vernacular, and regional artists.

The collection was curated by Dr. Adrienne Childs for the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of Visual Arts at University of Maryland, College Park and presents the breadth of the Thompsons’ art collection, which spans the 1890’s to 2007. Featuring 72 works by 67 artists, the exhibition seeks to redefine the canon of African American art by offering offering a more in-depth, inclusive understanding of the artists and their aesthetic and social concerns.

The HRC organized campus field trips for Houston-area high school students to view the collection. Select Rice graduate students gave talks in their fields of study that offered students context for the exhibit, then the students will viewed the Tradition Redefined collection and enjoyed a tour of the student studio and gallery spaces in Sewall Hall.

For more information on the Tradition Redefined exhibit, please visit http://traditionredefined.rice.edu.

Rice University thanks the donors whose generosity made this exhibition possible:

PepsiCo Foundation
H-E-B
Baker Botts LLP
Houston Arts Alliance
With additional support from:
The Kalu Group, LLC

KUHF-FM and Saint Arnolds Brewing Company provide in-kind support.

This exhibition is supported, in part, by a special fund from the Office of the President at the University of Maryland, College Park, and a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council.