Christine Henseler

Christine wanted to be an artist. Every moment of her childhood was spent drawing, painting, making. She won prizes for the posters she made in high school; she painted theatre sets. She still gets a high when walking into an Art building. And with several Engineers in her family, she loves to use her hands to build, from decks to transdisciplinary programs. So, why did she become a professor of Spanish Literature? Because she had teachers in this field who believed, supported, and guided her. And because society was telling her that she wouldn’t be able to make a living in the world of art. So she got a degree in Spanish and Journalism/Advertising instead. 

Life usually comes full circle. Christine now dedicates herself to encouraging students to study the arts and humanities and expanding young people’s understanding of career choices through websites like The Arts and Humanities in the Twenty-first Century Workplace and books such as Why Are You Majoring in That?: Advice For and By Students and Young Professionals . In the hopes of reaching a broader audience and slowly reshaping national conversations, Christine regularly contributes to The Huffington Post. Her long-term hopes and dreams? To give more underserved youth the opportunity to build a satisfying career in the arts and humanities.

We, The Public

[An Incomplete Manifesto on the Arts and Humanities]

We, the Public” is not an essay, an article or an exposé. It is a series of vignettes, short fragments or stories—one might even call it an incomplete manifesto—meant to capture the voices sitting around a table in 2016-17. This table sat 15. It was a long wooden table located at the A.D White House on Cornell’s campus. It carried weight. For six months, almost every Wednesday, I got to sit at that table next to lawyers, anthropologists, historians, specialists in Africana Studies, Latinx Studies, Performance Studies, and other disciplines. Yes, I felt privileged. I got to spend time freeing my mind and learning how some of the smartest individuals saw their place in the world, how they saw the place of the arts and humanities as they walked through this world.

It is impossible to fully capture the thoughtful, passionate, and insightful conversations, every Wednesday, there at the A.D. White House, from 1:00-3:00 o’clock in the afternoon. But the stories we shared brought us together in significant ways. Over time, they became more and more personal. We began to lay our humanity bare upon that table, in between the weekly salads and sandwiches, adding a pinch, sometimes even a handful of ourselves to the main dish.

These moments of deep human connection shared over lunch and dessert, are what academia in general and the arts and humanities in particular are all about. Because they transform us. They expand our understanding of one another. They deepen our knowledge. They build awareness. They activate movements. They are the moments we, in society, desperately need to seek, build, encourage, excite. Especially today.

How does one capture the diversity of these meaningful moments of interaction in one single essay? How does one hold onto the life-changing effects of the arts and humanities in the lives of our communities? We asked ourselves: how do we seize our borderless identities as scholars, teachers, parents, children, community members, activists, lovers, or caretakers?  We are, here, among all of you. We, scholars, we are also, the people. We are, also the public.

We, the Public” is but a series of incomplete vignettes that include quotes from the book contributions of those sitting around that table every Wednesday afternoon. Their voices are intermingled with excerpts from my own work and thoughts to connect within and expand beyond our weekly conversations. As such, “We, the Public” is an incomplete manifesto of sorts, a beginning, middle, and a new start meant to invite more voices to the table.