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UGA Conference Explores a Broader Definition of Literacy

Consider it a call to action to promote literacy.

On Feb. 22-23, artists, educators, parents and, really, anyone from the community will come together to explore the concept of literacy in today’s world. We’re not talking reading and writing — these days, literacy can represent computer skills or cultural knowledge. With that in mind, language and literacy education graduate students have teamed up to present a conference that hopefully will blossom into a community-wide action plan.

And, a piece of public art.

The event, “Activist Literacies: Inspire, Engage, Create, Transform,” is two parts — the opening night features a reception with food, drinks and the chance to see what literacy educators and activists are doing around the country. Visitors can mingle among exhibits—some artistic, others more data-driven—followed by keynote speakers Glynda Hull, a researcher from the University of California-Berkeley, and Christian Faltis, a researcher from the University of California-Davis. Tickets to the event, which is 5-7 p.m. Feb. 22, are $50, with proceeds going toward a mural to be created by local artist and ATHICA director Hope Hilton.

To jump even further into the role of “literary activist,” the following conference on Feb. 23 features topics picked specifically because they engage participants into some kind of action, said co-organizer Tobie Trudeau. Entrance to the Saturday conference is $100, or $150 for both days. All events take place at the UGA Hotel and Conference Center. (Register at

But the Friday evening event is what Trudeau says will initially launch the community-wide discussion about literacy.”Our central idea of even having the conference is we want to look at how people are enacting their ideas of what literacy means,” she said. As part of that interactivity, everyone is invited to jot down ideas, images or other inspiration onto butcher paper set up throughout the weekend. At the end of the conference, Hilton will collect the paper and other ideas and begin to construct a larger public art piece.

“Hope will take that and she will put it all together in some artistic, creative way, and design a mural out of it,” said Trudeau. “The whole purpose is to bring these ideas to the community and continue the conversation.”

Hilton, Trudeau and other organizers are still working out where that artwork may end up, but ideally, it will be in a spot where a diverse crowd can see it, further pushing the definition of literacy in today’s world. “And some of the things, I’m guessing, that will be included in this mural are questions to get people to think,” Trudeau added.