Cancer is simultaneously a physical and psychological experience, and the arts are a powerful venue for capturing and communicating the myriad of feelings — fear, anger, anxiety, anguish and even joy and relief — that accompany the cancer journey. Here at Purdue University, where researchers have been studying cancer for more than four decades, we expose the campus and the larger community to these emotional dimensions through the Cancer Culture and Community program.
CCC began in 2007 under the leadership of Marietta Harrison, Purdue cancer researcher and associate vice president for research, who brought together Discovery Park’s Oncological Sciences Center and the College of Liberal Arts to explore the human response to cancer as expressed through literature and the arts.
Each autumn since then, the CCC committee has organized an annual colloquium featuring a nationally acclaimed creative professional whose work reflects the cancer experience. Selections of the professional’s work — poetry, prose, film and the like — are incorporated into the freshman English and visual and performing arts curricula. Student projects inspired by the work are displayed at various campus venues, and the visiting professionals hold student workshops and lead classes. The highlight of the colloquium is a free public presentation by the featured artist. Each year, through our Creating Hope component, we engage the community in public-service or arts-related events, such as health fairs, bone marrow registries and art shows.
Since 2007, more than more than 2,700 students have been impacted through the colloquium and related events. Annually, more than 400 students, faculty, staff and community members attend the free public presentation. Over the years, our partners have included the School of Nursing, College of Science, College of Pharmacy, College of Health and Human Sciences, College of Education, Krannert School of Management, Purdue Athletics, PSUB, WBAA, Lafayette Symphony Orchestra, West Lafayette Library, Long Center, Lafayette Theatre, Harrison High School, DKMS national bone marrow registry and Tippecanoe Arts Federation.