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 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

Philippe Petit - Thursday, October 3 at 7pm

UAlbany Performing Arts Center 

French artist Philippe Petit has performed on the high wire more than eighty times around the world; he is also a magician, street juggler, visual artist, builder, lecturer, writer and subject of the Academy Award-winning documentary, Man on Wire (2008) as well as the feature film The Walk (2015). Before turning 25, he gained initial fame for his high-wire walks between the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 1971 and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City in 1974, the latter of which was considered “the artistic crime of the century.” He is the author and illustrator of Why Knot: How to Tie More than Sixty Ingenious, Useful, Beautiful, Lifesaving, and Secure Knots! (2013); Creativity: The Perfect Crime (2014), a manifesto about the creative process, and his new book On the High Wire (2019), first published in French in 1972. Werner Herzog said, “This is a book of instructions to those who will dare one day the impossible.”

On the evening of the conversation, Mr. Petit will perform an excerpt from his stage show entitled Open Practice at the University Art Museum at 6pm and will join audience members at a reception.

Following the conversation, Mr. Petit will meet audience members for a book signing in the theatre lounge.

In advance of the conversation, there will be a free screening of the Man on Wire documentary on Friday, September 27 at 7:30pm at Page Hall on the University’s downtown campus at 135 Western Avenue.

Philippe Petit, © photo by Matthew Banister and Keith Bomely DBOX

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.


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

Jhumpa Lahiri, photo by Liana Miuccio

Past Guests:

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