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Shining Poetry on the Walls

Italian artist, Chicago poets celebrate language, art and poetry

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March 18, 2013 | by Wendy Leopold
Poetry illuminated on Deering LibraryPoetry illuminated on Deering LibraryPoetry illuminated on Deering Library
Photos by Nathan Mandell
Photos by Nathan Mandell
Photos by Nathan Mandell

EVANSTON, Ill. --- World-renowned Italian artist Marco Nereo Rotelli transformed historic Deering Library into a page of luminous poetry by eight Chicago writers and turned some 200 spectators into poets in their own right.

The evening of March 12, Rotelli capped his stint as artist in residence at Northwestern’s Kaplan Institute for the Humanities with an art installation that lit the facade of the neo-gothic library and the sidewalk in front of it with the words of the Chicago poets.

Known for his dramatic light installations at landmarks across Europe and at the Beijing Olympics, Rotelli and his work were at the heart of two other events.

First, he took about 80 visitors on a tour of his Kresge Hall studio, providing them with a sneak preview of the blueprints for his upcoming light installation at Chicago’s Field Museum.

Also, inside Deering Library, participants wrote poetry of their own in multiple languages, colors and styles on a 100-foot scroll while award-winning poets Ana Castillo, Reginald Gibbons, Arica Hilton, Parneshia Jones, Elise Paschen, Ed Roberson, Jennifer Scapettone and Rachel Webster read from their work.

“It was a magic night,” said one participant about the events inspired by Rotelli’s work. They included a chorus of undergraduates led by Francesca Tataranni, Northwestern director of Latin instruction, and choral music led by Italian and French instructor Alessandra Visconti.

“Not to overstate things, but this was our own ‘Rite of Spring,’” said Kaplan Institute director S. Hollis Clayson. “And what a great coincidence that the events took place during the centenary of the Paris debut of Igor Stravinsky’s great piece.”

Tom Simpson, distinguished senior lecturer in French and Italian, served as moderator for the unusual, celebratory evening.

Rotelli’s residence was co-sponsored by the Global Languages Initiative, Residential Colleges and University Library.

Topics: Campus Life