Arts & Culture

Glover inspires in lecture on creativity, art for social change

Actor Danny Glover discusses interplay of art, activism for RISD’s MLK Day lecture series

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 3, 2015

“Design is a deliberate act of imagination,” artist-activist Danny Glover told RISD students at the school’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Though perhaps best-known for his work in film, Glover is also a passionate humanitarian and philanthropist.

“There is a deep responsibility I feel, which gets even deeper as I advance in age, to create the world I want to see,” said actor, filmmaker and social activist Danny Glover to a packed RISD Auditorium. Glover visited RISD Friday and delivered a speech on the connections between art, democracy and social change.

The speech was originally scheduled for Jan. 28 but was postponed two days due to inclement weather.

Glover was the keynote speaker of RISD’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Series — an event open to members of the RISD and Providence communities that celebrates “the teachings of Dr. King” and “the wealth of creative endeavors in advancing democracy,” said Ann Fessler, professor of photography at RISD, who spoke at the event.

In his speech, Glover discussed the dynamics and possibilities of art, which he described as “a platform to understand, to love, to have empathy.” He stressed the importance of artists’ roles not only as creators, but also as citizens of the world.

“Design is a deliberate act of imagination,” Glover said, adding that purpose, content and audience should be considered in artistic endeavors.

Glover said art must be contextualized and created for a purpose in response to contemporary issues. He praised the work of author John Steinbeck, particularly his depiction of Great Depression-era hardship in “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Glover also quoted James Baldwin, who said the artist’s role is “to make the world a more human dwelling place.”

“A new world is possible if we imagine it so,” Glover added. “It is the artist’s responsibility to imagine it so.”

When discussing issues that contemporary artists face, Glover highlighted the decline of the world’s wildlife population, which has been reduced by half in the past 40 years.

“How does the artist deal with that? How do we create an aesthetic of understanding the world as artists?” Glover asked.

An artist has a responsibility not only to initiate these types of conversations but also to sustain and cultivate them to “nurture our minds and souls,” he said.

The MLK Series Selection Committee, made up of RISD students, faculty and staff, chose Danny Glover as an exemplary artist and activist whose “legacy and personal work through global justice and national interest have been ongoing,” Tony Johnson, a member of the committee and director of Intercultural Student Engagement at RISD, told The Herald.

“Glover is the first artist-activist we’ve brought,” Johnson said, adding that Glovers’ films,, many of which explore social issues that often go unaddressed, have created a bridge between acting, filmmaking and activism.

The keynote speech serves a dual purpose of honoring the speaker’s accomplishments and sharing his vision with the Providence community, Johnson said.

Glover’s acting career — on screen, stage and television — spans more than 30 years. Most recently he has starred in motion pictures like “Dreamgirls” and “2012”.

Glover has also been recognized for his humanitarian work: As a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program from 1998-2004, he focused on poverty, disease and economic development in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. Glover also currently serves as United Nations Children’s Fund Ambassador.

Glover “shows how people can use their positions of power and privilege, whether it is race or wealth, to make an impact,” said Yelitsa Jean-Charles, a RISD junior. “He is an example of what RISD students should strive for.”


  1. So glad Glover made his appearance at RISD. I almost forgot that he’s such a selfless artist, and a “passionate humanitarian and philanthropist”. I remembered him only as a rich leftist political hack.

  2. Glover’s a supreme hypocrite, and should be laughed off, not banned from speaking at any honest institution. He once suggested the Second Amendment was primarily to keep slaves and now blacks generally in check; meanwhile, he sits on $40m in net worth from roles in Lethal Weapon where he does nothing but fire away with his white pal, Gibson.

    Yeah, right, he is really “an example of what RISD students should strive for…”

    When did independent thought and a transparent look at the character of people vanish from universities?

  3. Glover makes millions being an over-the-hill cop in Lethal Weapon. Now he lectures RISD students on art and society. Gimme a break. Some “artist”.

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