Ars Vivendi Arts Initiative

The Ars Vivendi Arts Initiative explores the relationships between beauty, faith and the arts, probing their importance to human culture and to a life well lived.

It seeks to integrate artistic craft with an understanding of aesthetics and an appreciation for the intellectual life behind the creative mind. The centerpiece of this initiative is our new partnership with Dappled Things, a quarterly magazine of ideas, art & faith founded by Penn alumni.

The Ars Vivendi Initiative will include fellowship opportunities, cultural productions, artist workshops, seminars, and special events.

recent events

Did you miss the live Zoom event? Watch it here:

June 3, 2020   We were honored to host this fantastic event, a special online panel conversation exploring Flannery O’Connor.

Though long hailed a literary icon both for America and for the Catholic Church, Flannery O’Connor in the present moment may be more compelling than ever.  To mark what would have been her 95th birthday this spring, a new NEH-supported documentary, Flannery, was released to critical acclaim, winning the Library of Congress’s first ever Ken Burns Prize for Film.  Burns himself called O’Connor “one of our country’s greatest writers.” 

She was a bold and honest writer, convicted by the power of storytelling to change the hearts of readers. She was both a strong woman and a fragile woman, adamantly and particularly herself while carrying her compromised body with her. From her mother’s farm, surrounded by her birds, Flannery gave us a vision that is marked by humor and violence, loss and triumph.

The global pandemic and quarantine protocols have only enhanced the relevance of the one who once wrote, “Lord, I’m glad I am a hermit novelist.” Before the world turned upside down, recent scholarship had traced the final thirteen years of her life which she spent in ill health and isolation on her family farm in Georgia.  It is even more vital now to revisit the legacy of this author whose life and work have always spoken with a peculiar power, but appear to target us today. 

For O’Connor, the world she observed from her own kind of isolation was dark and strange, and yet ineradicably marked by grace. The Collegium Institute invites you to join us for a panel with four distinguished thinkers, all women, who will gather together to discuss their fascination with one of the greatest American female writers:

        • Jennifer Frey, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina and co-editor of Self-Transcendence and Virtue: Perspectives from Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology.
        • Jessica Hooten Wilson, Associate Professor of Literature at John Brown University and the author of Giving the Devil His Due: Flannery O‘Connor and The Brothers Karamazov.
        • Christine Flanagan, Professor of English at University of the Sciences and the editor of The Letters of Flannery O’Connor and Caroline Gordon​
        • Moderated by Jessica Sweeney, Managing Director of the Ars Vivendi Arts Initiative and Communications Coordinator


This even took place on June 3, from 7:00 to 8:30pm, join the Collegium Institute’s Ars Vivendi Arts Initiative for a dynamic evening conversation via Zoom exploring Flannery O’Connor on the imagination, solitude, and the glorious oddities of life.

This event was co-sponsored by Dappled Things, The Lumen Christi Institute, Abigail Adams Institute, The Beatrice Institute, the Penn Catholic Newman Community, Nova Forum for Catholic Thought, Harvard Catholic Center, Morningside Institute, Portsmouth Institute, Church Life Journal of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute, and The Genealogies of Modernity Project.

Want to continue exploring the life and work of Flannery O’Connor? Our speakers graciously sent us their recommendations:


Flannery Short Stories Recommendations:

Amy Alznauer’s picks: 
The River, Temple of the Holy Ghost, and Circle in the Fire

Christine Flanagan’s picks: 
View from the Woods, Greenleaf, and A Good Man Is Hard to Find

Jessica Hooten Wilson’s picks:
Greenleaf (her favorite!), The Displaced Person, and The River

Jennifer Frey’s picks: 
Revelation and Enduring Chill

Resources on Flannery O’Connor or to accompany her:

Check out all of Christine Flanagan’s recommendations here, with descriptions and everything.

Check out all of Amy Alznauer’s recommendations here! Also, you can read a lovely reflection here by Amy herself on her writing process and Flannery O’Connor.

Jennifer Frey recommends exploring some of Aquinas’ work; something that Flannery O’Connor did each evening before bed: 

          • On Grace, Summa Theologica II-II Q109-114
          • On Prophecy, Summa Theologica II-II 171 
          • You can also check out a lecture of Prof. Jen Frey’s here.

And here are recommendations from Jessica Hooten Wilson to dive into some biographical and secondary material on O’Connor.


Also, don’t miss Jessica Sweeney’s beautiful review of Amy Alznauer’s picture book, The Strange Birds of Flannery O’Connor: A Life. Check it out here.

Dappled things partnership


We have some exciting news!

Collegium Institute has partnered with Dappled Things: A Quarterly of Faith, Ideas, and Art. We are thrilled to welcome home this daring enterprise founded by Penn alumni in 2005 and now America’s premier Catholic literary magazine dedicated to publishing Catholic writers and artists of today.  Published four times a year and available in both print and online editions, Dappled Things provides a space to engage the literary world from a Catholic perspective. The magazine is committed to quality writing that reflects the religious, theological, philosophical, and artistic heritage of the Catholic Church in order to enrich contemporary literary culture. Collegium Institute will work with the editors of Dappled Things to promote our shared vision of a vibrant intellectual community fostering the next generation of leaders.

Click here to visit the Dappled Things website and learn more about their mission and partnership with Collegium.