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NKU, Cincinnati Art Museum partner to explore "The Environment As Muse: Artists and Nature"

Barnes Creek

University Marketing + Communications 

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – Henry David Thoreau called it “the tonic of wilderness.”

Writers, poets, painters, musicians, and other artists have long been awed by the woods, mountains, streams, or the stars ‒ or enraged by some assault on the sanctity of those – and have turned to the natural world for inspiration in their art.

This week, four artists will take the stage at the Cincinnati Art Museum to delve into this complex relationship at a free symposium, “The Environment as Muse: Artists and Nature.”

The event is sponsored by Northern Kentucky University’s Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement in partnership with the Cincinnati Art Museum. Co-sponsors include NKU’s College of Arts and Sciences and the Friends of Steely Library.

“This is our third year at the Art Museum for a symposium that combines the talent and knowledge at NKU with colleagues from elsewhere. We want to focus on a single topic for about 90 minutes, with presentations by the artists followed by a conversation among them and with the audience,” said Mark Neikirk, executive director of NKU’s Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement.

The speakers include:

  • Rick Bass, Author of 31 books of fiction and nonfiction, including his newest, For A Little While: New & Selected Stories.
  • Donelle Dreese, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English, NKU; Author of Sophrosyne, a new collection of poems.
  • Kevin Muente, Professor of Art, NKU; His recent exhibit, 52 Tuesdays, was featured at NKU’s School of the Arts gallery.
  • Richard Taylor, Ph.D., Kenan Visiting Writer, Transylvania University; 1999 Kentucky Poet Laureate; and author of Rare Bird: Sonnets on the Life of John James Audubon. Mr. Taylor will moderate the symposium.

“The evening is intended to interest an audience with an affinity for the topic. Fellow artists will surely enjoy hearing from Rick, Donelle, Kevin and Richard. But we also tried to put a program together that is of general interest – something that will appeal to the curious and inquiring mind,” Neikirk said.

The symposium begins at 6:45 p.m. Friday, April 29 at the Cincinnati Art Museum’s Fifth Third Lecture Hall. It will last approximately 90 minutes. The event is free, but reservations are requested. Visit

The art museum will be open Friday night for “Art After Dark”, and guests are invited to tour the museum before or after the symposium.

The symposium represents NKU's third year of collaboration with the Art Museum to produce an in-depth look at a literary or cultural topic, featuring scholars and practitioners from NKU and from around the country. The first year focused on Machievelli on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of The Prince and the second year focused on Moby-Dick and its continuing relevance in our culture and literature.

For more information, visit