Posts tagged with: grand rapids

If you missed Acton’s Anniversary Dinner on October 24th, well, you sort of blew it. A packed house welcomed noted satirist, student of stupidity, political reporter (but I repeat myself), and all-around fun guy P.J. O’Rourke to Grand Rapids, and he came prepared to let the audience know just how unprepared he was to address an Acton Institute function:

For more from this year’s dinner, check out this earlier post: ‘Acton has Given Me a Backbone’

P.J. O'Rourke

P.J. O’Rourke

Best-selling author and leading political satirist P.J. O’Rourke will be featured at the Acton Institute’s 23rd Annual Dinner on Oct. 24 as the keynote speaker. Tickets for this event are going fast as there is just over one week remaining until this event. You do not want to miss out on this evening filled with humor, wit and engaging dialogue in what promises to be an evening remembered for a long time. Known as a hard-bitten, cigar-smoking conservative, O’Rourke bashes all political persuasions. “Money and power to government,” says O’Rourke, “is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”

With more than 1 million words of trenchant journalism under his byline and more citations in The Penguin Dictionary of Humorous Quotations than any living writer, P. J. O’Rourke has established himself as America’s premier political satirist. Both TIME and the Wall Street Journal have labeled O’Rourke as “the funniest writer in America.” Covering current events, O’Rourke combines the skill and discipline of an investigative reporter with a comedian’s sense of the absurd and the stupid. O’Rourke’s best-selling books include Parliament of Whores, Give War a Chance, Eat the Rich, The CEO of the Sofa, Peace Kills and On the Wealth of Nations.

The event will be taking place from at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Mich. Previous keynote speakers have included Eric Metaxas and John O’Sullivan. Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president and co-founder of Acton, will also be giving special remarks during the evening.

Individual tickets are $150 and table sponsorships are also available for $3,000 and $5,000. Be sure to register now by visiting www.acton.org/dinner. For more information, please contact Teresa Bailey at tbailey@acton.org or call 616.454.3080. We hope to see you there!

Looking for a great opportunity to expand your intellectual capacity? We are still seeking applicants for two upcoming Liberty and Markets conferences: Religion and Liberty: Acton and Tocqueville and Evaluating the Idea of Social Justice.

Co-sponsored by the Acton Institute and Liberty Fund, Inc., these conferences offer an excellent opportunity for networking and discussion within a small group environment, with an average faculty/participant ratio of 1:3.

Both conferences are free and include single-occupancy lodging, meals, nightly hospitality, book gifts, and up to a $500 stipend for travel and participation. A mixture of lectures and Socratic discussions of primary texts (sent out in advance of the conference) engage participants and foster in-depth dialogue.

See below for more specific details:

Religion and Liberty: Acton and Tocqueville

September 12–15, 2013 in Grand Rapids, MI

Brief Summary: At this conference, graduate students will discuss religious freedom, the church-state relationship, and the role of religion in shaping the moral order of free societies. These issues will be examined through the lens of history, and readings and discussion will explore the relationship by illustrating how, at different points in history, Christianity has acted as a support for liberty and, at others, has failed to do so. The conference readings will focus on the writings of Lord Acton and Alexis de Tocqueville, two of the most insightful nineteenth-century liberal thinkers to write about the relationship between Christianity and liberty.

Last call for applications!

Intended Audience: Individuals currently enrolled in graduate school or have completed graduate-level studies in the last 6 years

Evaluating the Idea of Social Justice

October 10–13, 2013 in Grand Rapids, MI

Brief Summary: The purpose of this conference is to explore the idea of “social justice” and compare and evaluate it against the understanding this concept now evokes in contemporary debates about justice and political order. The all-encompassing claims made on behalf of social justice in these debates often translate into calls for the reduction of personal liberty and a concomitant increase in state power to distribute material goods and the resources of private enterprise in common.

Intended Audience: Clergy, Seminarians, Church and Parachurch workers

Visit the Acton Institute events webpage for more information and to apply.

Rev. Sirico addresses the 2013 Law Day Celebration

Rev. Robert A. Sirico speaks at the 2013 Law Day Celebration

May 1st was Law Day across America, and here in Grand Rapids, the Acton Institute joined the Catholic Lawyers Association of West Michigan to sponsor a Law Day Celebration at the St. Cecilia Music Center. The chosen theme for Law Day this year was “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All,” and responsibility for delivering a keynote address on that theme fell to Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico, who reflected on the role of faith in the legal profession in a time of great turmoil in society, in part because of the way that the law is currently being used to effect social change.

The event also featured the presentation of the Catholic Lawyers Association of West Michigan’s Thomas Moore Award to Michigan Court of Appeals Chief Judge William Murphy.

You can listen to that presentation, as well as Rev. Sirico’s address, using the audio player below.

Earlier this month the Acton Institute moved to its new home in downtown Grand Rapids, Mich. David Urban of The Rapidian has an update on the transition:

acton-conference-roomThe 38,000 square foot building features a multi-functional, high-tech conference center and auditorium that can hold events for more than 200 people, a media center, several libraries, and office space for the institute’s staff.  The institute will occupy the basement and first floor of the building.

Acton employees have expressed excitement about how their new location and its resources will help them carry out the institute’s work.

“There’s a lot more capability built into the new building,” said John Couretas, the institute’s director of communications and executive editor of Religion & Liberty, the institute’s quarterly magazine.  “It allows us to more effectively do the work we’ve been doing for 23 years.”

Jordan Ballor, an Acton Institute research fellow and executive editor of Acton’s peer-reviewed Journal of Markets & Morality, anticipates more productive and rewarding opportunities for collaborative efforts.

“It’s going to make working together on various projects and programs much more interesting and dynamic,” he said.

Read more . . .

The Acton Institute has again been named a leading think tank by the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program. Writing about this new, 2012 ranking, Alejandro Chafuen, explained what constitutes a good think tank on the Forbes website:

A “market-oriented” think tank is grounded on the reality that respect for private property within a context of rule of law with limited government has been the path for  the wealth of nations. Think tanks that are not market-oriented study how to redistribute wealth, how to increase taxation, or  the optimum rate of monetary debasement. Governments have typically relied on their own internal think tanks for that research, and complemented it by research from state-subsidized universities. Market-oriented think tanks focus on finding private solutions to public problems.

Chafuen is president and chief executive officer of Atlas Economic Research Foundation and board member of the Acton Institute. You can read his full article, “Thinking About Think Tanks: Which Ones Are the Best?” at Forbes.com.

The full news release from the Acton Institute follows:

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Jan. 24, 2013)—The University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program ranked the Acton Institute among the top social policy and top U.S. think tanks with the release of its 2012 Global Go-To Think Tanks Report. In addition, Acton was cited for having one of the best advocacy campaigns.

(more…)

In his magnificent reflection on the nature of art, Real Presences, polymath George Steiner invites us to make a thought experiment: What if we lived in a city where all talk about art, mere talk about art, was prohibited? In other words, what would follow if we did away with artistic criticism qua criticism, an activity derivative by nature and one Steiner calls “high gossip”? In this posited city, what Steiner calls the Answerable City, the only permitted response to a work of art would be another work of art. Thus participation in the “art scene” could never launch itself from the risk-free loft of criticism, but it must be real participation, a participation that demands that the viewer invest something of his own imaginative capacities. In this city, the word “interpretation” denotes not something exegetical, but something performative; an activity not of professional academics or theater critics, but of actors and directors — as in an actor “interprets a role.” Here, art means incarnation, not judgment.

But such a city is only a thought experiment, and since judgment requires the participant to invest less of himself, it will always be easier to be a critic than to be an artist. And therefore the artist will always be tempted first to pass judgment rather than to respond with his own creativity.

After a decade of trying to walk the slippery ridge between “he who does” and “he who discusses” art, I have tried to avoid criticism these last couple of years to focus only on doing. But I feel the need to again jump into the critical ring, thanks to a recent article in GQ Magazine (it was sent to me by a friend), an article on my own town, Grand Rapids, and its increasingly famous festival, ArtPrize. (more…)

At the Mackinac Center blog, I look at a really shabby piece of reportage in GQ Magazine on ArtPrize, the annual public art competition in Grand Rapids, Mich. Grand Rapids is also where the Acton Institute is based and it’s a terrific Midwestern city doing a lot of things right. But when East Coast writer Matthew Power visited GR he saw only “flyover country,” a “provincial” mindset, “G.R.-usalem” (lots of churches) and “ordinary” local inhabitants.

You know where this is going. I say:

Ultimately, Power gets to his main point, which readers could easily anticipate as leveling a charge of what is perceived as the only sin known to Western Civilization by East Coast writers of a particular persuasion: hypocrisy. For it seems Rick DeVos’ parents fund free-market (including the Mackinac Center) and conservative Christian causes, and young Rick’s motivations are judged negatively by Power’s perceived “sins” of DeVos’ mere et pere and the causes they fund.

“To some of the [DeVos] family’s detractors, the millions in soft money and the funding of conservative Christian organizations suggest more ambitious goals: an end to nearly all government control and regulation, media, education … and the arts,” Power cavils. “Whatever their motives, it seemed odd that a family with such an agenda would let its heir apparent throw open the gates to its city in an open call to any and all artists, not matter how starving or unwashed.”

Power notes that the Acton Institute, a beneficiary of DeVos monies, “has advocated for the abolition of public funding for contemporary art” when, in fact, Acton has no official position whatsoever on the matter. True, some Acton articles and blog posts (several written by your author) take issue with public funding for art, arguing along with Jacques Barzun that the practice results in a “surfeit of fine art” (and I would argue strenuously against DeVos applying for and accepting a $100,00 National Endowment for the Arts grant for ArtPrize, as the businesses benefitting most from the competition could easily pony up the relatively insignificant amount) but, again, my opinions and for that matter the free-market ideology of Mr. DeVos’ parents hardly are germane to a story that merely aims to discredit ArtPrize by any means necessary.

Power winds up his Grand Rapids’ hit piece with interviews with the losers, apparently cheesed off that the public judging was insufficient to their superior aesthetic concepts and artistic execution. But, of course, that’s to be expected.

Read “GQ Hit Piece on GR ArtPrize” at the Mackinac Center.

The ongoing debate about food trucks here in Grand Rapids took a step forward this week, as this past Tuesday the city commission “voted unanimously to amend its zoning ordinance so that food trucks can operate on private property for extended periods of time.”

As I argued late last year, “There’s perhaps no more basic way to serve another person than to provide them with food,” and food trucks are something that ought to be welcomed rather than disdained in the context of a vibrant and variegated urban social space.

Rick DeVos, the founder of Grand Rapids-based ArtPrize, framed the issue quite well:

It’s called free enterprise and we should be embracing it no matter who is on the receiving end of its disruption…. The more we build the experience of downtown Grand Rapids as a great place to spend time, the more everyone doing business in downtown Grand Rapids will benefit.

Let’s get out of the way…and celebrate greater food choice in Grand Rapids.

While things have taken a step forward in Grand Rapids, the fight for food trucks and free enterprise continues throughout the country, and bears watching. The interaction between regulations and the non-profit sector is of particular interest, as both charitable ministry efforts as well as the formation of non-profit advocacy groups have been impacted by governmental policies.

Friday was the last day of Acton University 2012.  Here are a few photos from the day’s events.  Did you miss AU this year?  Be sure to check out our downloadable lectures here.