Abolitionist Frederick Douglass greeted visitors at the door of the University Club, while artist Frida Kahlo and civil rights champion Malcolm X sampled appetizers. And for a recluse, poet Emily Dickinson was surprisingly sociable, working the crowd in her signature white dress.
The historical figures were impersonated by students and staff members of the Odyssey Project, the University of Wisconsin-Madison program for adults facing barriers to their education. They mingled with supporters at Night of the Living Humanities, an October 29 fundraiser that packed the University Club’s lobby, lounge, and banquet room.
The Odyssey Project offers a college humanities class for adults dealing with single parenthood, homelessness, addiction, incarceration, depression, domestic abuse, and other challenges. The costumes at Night of the Living Humanities were inspired by the writers, philosophers, artists, and political figures that students learn about in class.
“The event celebrated the life-changing power of the humanities,” said Emily Auerbach, director of the Odyssey Project and, it must be said, a convincing Emily Dickinson (above, left, with Don Miner at Edgar Allan Poe, Kathy Miner as the Raven, and Sahira Rocillo as Frida Kahlo). While the real Dickinson would have shrunk from such a lively party, she would certainly approve of Odyssey’s advocacy for reading and writing.
If you missed the event, you can still donate to the Odyssey Project here; and check out the scene below.