Editor's note: Roxane Gay's Feb. 1 keynote has been canceled, Colorado College announced Jan. 31. No reason was given for the cancellation. The performance will be rescheduled at a later date.

“Can we get real?”

On the surface, it might seem like a simple question. The answer, though, is more complex, and perhaps even unknowable.

It’s the theme of this year’s Cornerstone Arts Week at Colorado College, an annual event that explores one idea through keynote speakers, exhibits, theater performances, special events and interdisciplinary courses. Events are free and open to the public, and run Monday through Sunday.

“We’ve been thinking a lot about the kind of lip service that’s paid toward anti-racism and anti-discrimination,” said Natanya Pulley, one of the organizers and professor of creative writing at CC.

The committee behind this year’s event also wondered: “What does it mean to ‘get real’ with one another and with our tightly held ‘universal’ truths? What does an anti-racist community look like and what are we to do when we fall short of it? Can we get real about how we define, experience and interrogate our own communities through art?”

A specific example of these questions, according to Pulley, is something academia is struggling to address: making sure a classroom feels safe and secure, even when students express opinions that might be damaging to other students.

“We can say at the beginning of class that we respect everybody and want a space of respect,” she said, “but it gets tricky in some classes in some moments. It’s hard to know what the answer is, but is there an answer? Is there a way to talk about issues that don’t hit on the most vulnerable parts of us? It’s important to have vulnerable parts. It’s not a solution to say toughen up.”

To explore those questions, several nationally known artists will speak throughout the week. New York Times best-selling author Roxane Gay will give the keynote address Friday. Her books include the essay collection “Bad Feminist,” “An Untamed State” and the memoir “Hunger.” She’s also a contributing writer for New York Times and was named last year as a writer for Marvel Comics’ “World of Wakanda,” making her, along with poet Yona Harvey, the first black women to be lead writers for Marvel.

Gay was at the top of the committee’s list for Cornerstone Arts Week. Pulley often teaches Gay’s fiction collection “Difficult Women.”

“Many students always fall in love with it (“Difficult Women”) due to the wonderful female characters that are seen as difficult in society,” said Pulley, “but we get this side of them that’s coping or struggling or surviving, and a lot of students are drawn to those stories.”

Oglala Lakota poet, writer and artist Layli Long Soldier will give a poetry reading Tuesday, and Native American artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith will speak Thursday. Scattered throughout the rest of the week are a reading by CC professors, art show featuring works by CC students, screening of the indigenous film “We Shall Remain,” performances of Samuel Beckett’s play “Come and Go” and Mike Bartlett’s play “Contractions.”

Contact the writer: 636-0270

Contact the writer: 636-0270

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