The Creative Life

The Creative Life: A Conversation Series at UAlbany

Created and produced by the University Art Museum, NYS Writers Institute and UAlbany Performing Arts Center in collaboration with WAMC Northeast Public Radio, this original series features leading figures from a variety of artistic disciplines in conversation about their creative inspirations, their craft and their careers. "Roundtable" host Joe Donahue conducts live on-stage interviews followed by a Q&A with the audience.

Series funded by The University at Albany Foundation, The John D. Picotte Family Foundation and Stewart’s Shops/Dake Family with additional support provided by the College of Arts and Sciences, Office of the Provost, Alumni Association and University Auxiliary Services.


2019-2020 Series

Rakim - Monday, October 28 at 7pm

UAlbany Performing Arts Center 

William Michael Griffin Jr., better known by his stage name Rakim, is “near-universally acknowledged as one of the greatest MCs – perhaps the greatest – of all time within the hip-hop community” (Steve Huey, He began his career as the emcee of the rap duo Eric B. & Rakim, “the most influential DJ/MC combo in contemporary pop music, period” (Tom Terrell, NPR). Where many MCs of the time developed their technique through improvisational battles, Rakim was among the first to demonstrate the possibilities of sitting down and writing intricately crafted lyrics packed with clever word choices and metaphors. Described as “part memoir, part writing guide,” Sweat The Technique: Revelations On Creativity From The Lyrical Genius follows his career from his beginnings as a teenage rapper in Wyandanch, Long Island and offers insight into how he thinks about words, music, writing and rhyming as it teaches writers of all levels how to hone their craft.

Following the conversation, there will be a book signing and reception in the theatre lounge.

Rakim, photo by Michael Wong Photography

Jhumpa Lahiri - Thursday, January 30 at 7pm

UAlbany Performing Arts Center 

Born in London and raised in Rhode Island, Jhumpa Lahiri is a novelist and short-story writer whose works illuminate the immigrant experience, in particular that of East Indians. Described by THE NEW YORK TIMES as "a writer of uncommon elegance and poise,” she is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship whose books include The Lowland (2014), Unaccustomed Earth (2009) and The Namesake (2004), the latter which was made into a movie of the same name directed by Mira Nair. Her debut collection of stories, Interpreter of Maladies, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award and THE NEW YORKER Debut of the Year. The Namesake was a NEW YORK TIMES Notable Book and a LOS ANGELES TIMES Book Prize finalist and was selected as one of the best books of the year by USA TODAY and ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, among other publications.

Following the conversation, there will be a book signing in the theatre lounge.

Jhumpa Lahiri, photo by Liana Miuccio

Jerry Saltz - Tuesday, March 24 at 7pm

Jerry Saltz is one of the most influential-and popular-culture writers working today.  Since 2006, he has been senior art critic and columnist for New York Magazine. Formerly the senior art critic for The Village Voice, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2018 and was nominated for the award in 2001 and 2006. He has also contributed to Art in America, Flash Art International, Frieze and Modern Painters.  

For two seasons, he was a judge on Bravo's Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. Saltz served as a visiting critic at The School of Visual Arts, Columbia University, Yale University, and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the New York Studio Residency Program, and was the sole advisor for the 1995 Whitney Biennial. Saltz’s new book, How to Be An Artist, is full of practical inspiration for creative people of all kinds - brimming with dozens of brand new rules, prompts, exercises and tips designed to break through creative blocks, ignite motivation, conquer bad habits and help artists of all kinds to realize their dreams.

Before the conversation, there will be a book signing and reception at the University Art Museum starting at 6pm.


Photos above: 
Philippe Petit by Matthew Banister & Keith Bomely DBOX
Rakim, photo by Michael Wong Photography
Jhumpa Lahiri, photo by Liana Miuccio

Jerry Saltz, photo courtesy of Pulitzer Foundation

Jerry Saltz

Past Guests:

Philippe Petit - Thursday, October 3, 2019
High wire artist
Star of Man on Wire


Paul Reiser - Thursday, April 4, 2019 
Actor & author
Star of Mad About You


Susan Orlean - Friday, March 1, 2019
Author of The Orchid Thief


Esmeralda Santiago - Thursday, November 8, 2018
Author & essayist
Social activist
Documentary film writer


Jean Shin - Thursday, November 1, 2018
Noted sculptor
Art curator
Public installation artist


Bibbe Hansen - Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Performance artist
Star of Andy Warhol films


Patti LuPone - Thursday, April 26, 2018
Actress, singer, Broadway star
Grammy & Tony Award winner
New York Times best-selling author


Garth Fagan - Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Lion King Choreographer
Tony Award winner
Dance company founder


Lois Lowry - Friday, November 10, 2017
Author of The Giver & Number the Stars
Newbery Medal winner
Leading voice of children's literature


David Salle - Thursday, March 23, 2017
Renowned painter
Film and stage designer
Author on fine art


Regina Carter - Saturday, February 11, 2017
Violin virtuoso
Jazz artist and improviser
MacArthur Fellow


Savion Glover - Saturday, October 15, 2016
Dancer, choreographer and hoofer
Tony Award nominee and winner
Broadway, television and film star


Joyce Carol Oates - Thursday, September 15, 2016
Novelist, poet and essayist
Pulitzer Prize finalist
New York Times best-selling author