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Sept. 17 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the University of Hartford.

Joseph Voelker invokes the 18th-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau's essay "Letter to M. D'Alembert on Spectacles" in discussing how he came to set up a six-hour symposium on "Politics and the Arts" for Saturday, Sept. 17, at the University of Hartford's Wilde Auditorium,

Like Rousseau's discussion of artistic culture in the context of cities and governments, Voelker, director of the Presidents' College lifetime learning program at the university, hopes that Saturday's wide-ranging, multi-faceted discussion will directly address "the future of the arts in the Hartford region and the city — what they need to do in order to thrive."

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"I think this will be an intellectually challenging conversation," says Voelker. "No hissy fits. That's not the tone of this thing at all."

The keynote speaker will be Kristina Newman-Scott, director of culture for the state of Connecticut. She sees the symposium as the continuation of "the kind of conversation we've had for decades" about the place of the arts in daily life. On Saturday, she plans to share details of a just-completed, nine-month strategic-planning project, about "what we should be prioritizing and how."

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Douglas Hyland, the director emeritus of the New Britain Museum of American Art, will take part in a panel discussion where he expects to share "what arts intuitions have experienced in the past and what we'd like to see in the future."

The Presidents' College has been holding an annual symposium for years, Voelker says, "usually with 15 professors teaching their expertise, unrelated to each other." This is the first year that the symposium has had an overarching theme.

Saturday's event will feature representatives of some of the best-known and most deeply entrenched arts institutions in the area. Besides Newman-Scott and Hyland, attendees include: William Frank Mitchell of the Amistad Center, Dollie McLean of the Artists Collective, David Fay of the Bushnell, Julia Rosenblatt of HartBeat Ensemble, Hartford Art School Dean Nancy Stuart, Steve Collins of the Hartford Symphony, Betsy Cooper, the new dean of The Hartt School; Susan Ballek of the Hill-Stead Museum, Min Jung Kim of the New Britain Museum, Tracy Flater of Playhouse on Park, Will K. Wilkins of Real Art Ways, Rob Ruggiero of TheaterWorks and Thomas Loughman of the Wadsworth Atheneum.

State Sen. Beth Bye and lobbyist Patrick McCabe of Capitol Strategies will be there as well, as will Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.

Artists taking part in panel discussions include professor Cat Balco of The Hartford Art School, spoken word artist Self Suffice, and music and theater professor Tracey Moore of The Hartt School. The symposium is hosted by the University of Hartford's President Walter Harrison and President Emeritus Humphrey Tonkin, assisted by arts journalist Frank Rizzo.

THE PRESIDENTS' COLLEGE SYMPOSIUM ON "POLITICS AND THE ARTS" takes place 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Wilde Auditorium and the 1877 Club, both on the University of Hartford campus at 200 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford. The $80 admission fee ($70 for Presidents' College Fellows) includes a buffet lunch. More information, and a complete schedule of events, can be found at hartford.edu/presidentscollege.

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