Confronting Inequality: Alternative Economies, Resilient Communities

Published 01/14/2016


HOUSTON –The Rothko Chapel has scheduled a four-day symposium exploring economic inequality and ways communities can improve and sustain local economies.

Public Invited to Interactive Panel Discussions March 31 – April 3 at the Rothko Chapel

“Confronting Inequality: Alternative Economies, Resilient Communities” is slated to start with the keynote at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 31.

Terry Tempest Williams, author, conservationist and activist, will serve as keynote. She is known for speaking out on behalf of taking an ethical stance on life – and frequently discusses the social implications of environmental issues, which are social issues that ultimately become matters of justice.

“Williams asks her audience to consider a different type of power, one that could be redistributed equally,” Rothko Chapel executive director David Leslie said. “She is a fascinating figure, who has testified before Congress on women’s health issues, been a guest at the White House and camped in the remote wilderness in Alaska and worked as a barefoot artist in Rwanda.”

Williams is currently the Annie Clark Tanner Scholar in Environmental Humanities at the University of Utah. She is also the recipient of the 2010 David R. Brower Conservation Award for activism and the Community of Christ International Peace Award was presented to her in 2011 in recognition of significant peacemaking vision, advocacy and action. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Orion Magazine, and numerous anthologies worldwide as a crucial voice for ecological consciousness and social change.
The conversation will continue in greater depth through interactive panel discussions – from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Friday, April 1and from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 2 and Sunday, April 3. For a full schedule, visit

A variety of noted speakers will delve into the relationship between economic inequality, spirituality, gender, environmental sustainability, systems of power, oppression and art.

“Each panel is diverse, consisting of spiritual leaders, academics, activists, and artists -- in order to make sure the conversation is grounded in both theory and real-world applications,” public programs director Michelle Ashton said.

Leslie added that the symposium is particularly timely.

“With the nation experiencing the impact of economic inequality and the erosion of the middle class, alternative economic and community development models have gained even greater attention, particularly urban cooperative economies in cities like Houston and Detroit, as well as cooperatives and rural communities throughout the country,” he said. “This symposium presents an opportunity to bring together a broad range of thinkers to focus on creative, effective responses to eliminating economic inequality.”

Leslie explained that inequality is not only an economic and political problem – but also raises moral questions about interconnectedness in society.

“In response to these questions, innovative alternative economies are emerging locally, nationally and globally that have the potential to create a more equitable, socialy responsible and environmentally sustainable world,” he said. “This symposium will offer an in-depth exploration of these ideas.”

Each panel will be preceded by interactive experiences for the audience, including meditation and poetry reading. Receptions will be held following the discussions.

The entire symposium will be webcast.?For more information about the Rothko Chapel and the full calendar of upcoming programs, workshops and events, visit or call 713-524-9839.


About the Rothko Chapel
The Rothko Chapel is open to the public every day of the year at no charge and successfully interconnects art, spirituality and compassionate action through a broad array of free public programs. Founded by Houston philanthropists Dominique and John de Menil, the Chapel was dedicated in 1971 as an intimate sanctuary. Today it stands as a monument to art, spirituality and human rights. As an independent non-profit, non-governmental organization, the Chapel depends on contributions from foundations and individuals to support its mission of creating a space for contemplation and dialogue on important issues.