ALA opens conference with author, critic Robert Hughes

Contact: Larra Clark


For Immediate Release

June 2002

ALA opens conference with author, critic Robert Hughes

The American Library Association (ALA), the oldest and largest library association in the world, will open its national conference with author and art critic Robert Hughes on Saturday, June 15, at the Georgia World Convention Center. Entitled "Free Libraries, Free Society," Hughes will discuss issues of race, diversity, fundamentalism and the arts in American and world culture. Following his presentation, program participants will be able to view an original broadside of the Declaration of Independence, currently on exhibit at the Carter Presidential Library.

"Librarians are the gatekeepers of freedoms Americans hold dear, including free expression and debate and free access to a world of information and ideas," said ALA President John W. Berry. "Our theme for this year's conference is Rediscover America @ your library™, and I am excited we'll be kicking off with such a provocative and thoughtful speaker."

Hughes, art critic of
TIME magazine for the last 30 years and author of more than 15 books, is one of the best-known and widely read art critics today. His books include the international best-seller "The Fatal Shore," a history of the colonization of Australia as a convict settlement; "Barcelona," a cultural-political 'biography' of the great Spanish city, which won the El Brusi prize at the Barcelona Cultural Olympiad in 1992; and "The Culture of Complaint."

He has made dozens of TV documentaries, mainly for the BBC and other English production companies. His history series on modern art "The Shock of the New" was seen by 26 million public TV viewers in the U.S., and by comparable audiences in Britain and his native Australia. His 1997 series on American art and architecture, "American Visions," received equal attention and acclaim.

In 2000, Hughes was honored by the
London Sunday Times as Writer of the Year (previous recipients of the award include Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, and Salman Rushdie). His work as a cultural historian has been honored by the Archives of American Art, and by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the only art critic to have twice won America's most coveted award for art criticism, the Frank Jewett Mather Award, given by the College Art Association.

Berry also will make two short video presentations as part of the Opening General Session. Participants will see the "Rediscover America @ your library" video, which recently won a bronze Telly in the category of "employee communication," and a clip from "Loss and Recovery: Librarians Bear Witness to September 11, 2001," a video documentary offering an oral history of the disaster in the context of libraries. As many as 200 librarians were working in or near the World Trade Center and the Pentagon when the terrorist attacks occurred last year.

Approximately 26,000 librarians, educators, writers, publishers and special guests are expected at the ALA Annual Conference in Atlanta, June 13-18. -