The Thoughtful Life and the Arts


One form of The Thoughtful Life that Daniel maintains involves working with the arts. His initial forays into writing fiction (which he still enjoys) and retail work selling CDs (a job that mostly no longer exists) seemed less necessary to pursue than other alternatives. Rather than making more art, or promoting art that has been made, Daniel found his vocation in helping people about becoming more thoughtful about the art that they enjoyed. Having personally benefitted from literature, music, film, and paintings—and an education that has allowed him to engage with these forms of art beyond enjoying them in the moment—Daniel has continued to find employment writing about the arts for a variety of local organizations.

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The first (and still dominant) form of writing about the arts has come in the form of reviews and interviews for The Little Village, the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids news and culture service. Daniel was invited by an editor to interview a local filmmaker, then to preview an upcoming show. These tasks led him to realize that this work was a way to use the skills that he’d developed as a teacher and a scholar in ways that expanded far beyond the Ivory tower where most academic work becomes lost. His goal in reviews is to help frame ways of thinking about live performance beyond the thrill of the momentary experience—to appreciate more of what makes a performance meaningful beyond using simple adjectives such as “amazing” or “phenomenal.” His film reviews attempt to highlight the deeper structure and logic that allows movies to produce the overall feelings at their conclusion. His interviews skirt questions other interviewers ask and provide artists with a forum to think deeply and bravely about their creative processes.

From there, Daniel began working for the local community arts venue—the Englert—as a staff writer. This allowed him the space for more in-depth interviews and opened the opportunity to start writing a series of essays on how audiences can become more engaged in artistic performances they witness.

His most recent work is with the University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium, which is its own artistic education and production venue. Daniel’s first task as a writer for Hancher was to produce a series of essays that look at the importance of art on the University of Iowa’s campus, filtered through the life of former UI President Virgil Hancher. He also will contribute a series focused on why certain forms of art are important to encounter, as well as a series on what the arts mean for the overall Hancher community.