In the recent climate where public discourse seems often to devolve into language more akin to a barroom brawl, the organizers of Great Talk, Inc. return for a second season of “Maryland conversation with a purpose.”
A few years ago, longtime Pikesville resident and Great Talk executive director Claudine Davison conceived of not just a lecture series on important contemporary topics, but a forum where the audience could interact with panelists, then mingle and chat with speakers, moderators and other attendees during a post-talk meet-and-greet.
Now, more than ever, Davison said, people are craving a way to get together and talk civilly about issues that interest and affect them.
“Today, it becomes even more important than when we first started,” Davison explained. “It seems to be a burning kind of need for people to let it all out. It’s good to have an outlet to share convictions, ideas and do it in a place where it’s not aggressive in any way, or uncomfortable in any way. And it’s a learning experience.”
Davison’s background includes directing and curating the Baltimore Jewish Film Festival and arts and culture programming for decades. After being involved with other lecture series and presentations, Davison wondered if there was a better way to partner with main Maryland institutions to address their concerns and interests, but also, she said, “to widen the scope” of the discussions.
“Once we got going, we found a lot of people getting excited about it,” Davison said. “And I was able to reach out to some of the best brains around.”
With her daughter, attorney Diane Leigh Davison, and Jewish community leader Eve Vogelstein, Davison put together the first five-event season last year with topics ranging from cyber wars, identity and Star Trek tech to medical research and music, led by panels and moderators with expertise in each field.
“It was a new experience,” she said about the inaugural season. “The fact that it was a live conversation and not just a lecture.”
This year’s five-event series kicks off March 17, at 3 p.m., at Loyola University with physician and former state Del. Dan Morhaim moderating “Two Thousand Twenty: 20/20 Hopes and Predictions.”
“There aren’t that many opportunities to discuss these kinds of cutting-edge and fascinating issues with experts, where there’s a lot of opportunity for discussion,” Morhaim said. “Most of the time we’re looking at our computer screens or watching at home on TV. I think there’s a real value to conversation, people being together in the same room at the same time actively and politely engaged in discussion.”
Morhaim, who represented the 11th District for six terms until his retirement in 2018, will be moderating the political discussion with MSNBC’s “Hardball” host Chris Matthews, former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and PBS NewsHour correspondent Lisa Desjardins.
“I’m hoping for a really spirited, robust discussion about the current state of American politics, the current state of civility, or lack of civility, and what we can look forward to in the next year-and-a-half as we approach the presidential election,” Morhaim said. “I hope that they’ll comment on the crowded Democratic field, whether there will be a primary challenger and where they think the investigations will go. And what they think are the overriding issues: the economy, climate change, trade, human rights, health care and how those will play into the political process. I’m looking forward to it.”
“Pleasures or Poisons: The Science & Culture of Food,” is set for April 17, at 7 p.m., at the DoubleTree by Hilton Baltimore North in Pikesville. Panelists are microbiologist and senior scientist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest Michael Jacobson, Baltimore-based Chef Egg, celebrity Chef Malcolm Mitchell and Washington Post culture and food reporter Maura Judkis. WBAL-TV news anchor Deborah Weiner will moderate.
Morhaim returns to moderate the May 22 event at 7 p.m. at Johns Hopkins University, “Is It Time for Psychedelics in Mainstream Medicine.” Johns Hopkins Medicine panelists are psychiatric and neuroscience professor Roland Griffiths, psychiatry and behavioral sciences researcher Mary Cosimano and medical journalist and clinical chaplain Elizabeth Tracey.
“I don’t know where the conversation will go, but clearly I think it’s not the drug, it’s the context of its use,” Morhaim said. “And if there are mental health or other benefits for this, we’re going to learn from Roland Griffiths what those might be, because he’s the guy who’s done the research.”
“Street & Conventional Art: The Relevance of Museums Today,” is September 25, at 7 p.m., at the Chesapeake Arts Center. Baltimore Museum of Art director Christopher Bedford, MICA graduate and artist Gaia, George Washington University associate professor of fine arts Janis Goodman and Washington, D.C., artist Kelly Towles make up the panel. WYPR radio host Tom Hall moderates.
The series wraps up Oct. 23, at 7 p.m., at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, with “Baltimore: Not Just an American City.” Baltimore Sun Media Group publisher and editor-in-chief Trif Alatzas, former judge and Baltimore City Solicitor Andre M. Davis and Maya Rockeymore Cummings, president and CEO of Global Policy Solutions, are panelists. Tom Hall will moderate.
“I feel very excited about the topic that concerns Baltimore, because it’s close to our hearts and we have to think about Baltimore in a different way than the way people hear about it all the time,” Davison said. “To think about what Baltimore really means, not just for today, but also for the future. Not only for the city, but the entire state.”
For information, tickets or to sponsor, visit greattalk.org.