Spark of Genius - New Lecture Series Coming to Pawling

The Gardener Theater will be the setting for an exciting new lecture series.

Over the next several months, an exciting new endeavor will be coming to the community in the form of The Spark. This ongoing series of lectures will feature a diverse array of topics from presenters, with the ultimate goal of fostering community discussion and providing thought provoking content for those in attendance.

“Over a year ago the idea started incubating about doing a speaker series for the public. It’s a community who we consider to be curious minded people and life-long learners,” explains Dorian Winslow, owner of Womanswork and one of a trio who originally conceived The Spark. “People we talked to loved the idea of going to hear somebody give an inspirational talk, so what we’ve been trying to do is come up with a list of interesting people that will just keep growing over time.”

“I think this is going to become a true community effort,” adds Maria Reade, former Dean of Faculty at Trinity-Pawling. Ms. Reade and Ms. Winslow collaborated with Trinity-Pawling Theater Director Kent Burnham, and together the three conceived what would become The Spark. “We’re really interested in having people give input on who they think would be interesting speakers,” says Ms. Reade. “It’s been fun to float this idea by people over the past few months and watch their enthusiastic embrace of the concept.” The logo and graphics created by Lisa Kelsey, Pawling's gifted graphic designer, exemplify this spirit of community collaboration.

The Spark will be hosted in the Gardiner Theater on the Trinity-Pawling campus, where organizers hope to fill the 350 seat auditorium with an audience anxious to learn. “We truly appreciate the support of Trinity-Pawling,” says Maria Reade. “We think it’s one of the best theaters around, and they are gracious enough to give the public access.”

The Spark will officially begin on Sunday, March 1 at 1:00 p.m. with a presentation from John Teaford. Mr. Teaford is a second year English instructor at Trinity-Pawling, but previously had a long and storied career as an adventure documentarian. These exploits include nearly a decade of traveling to remote locations to capture footage for the extreme ski films and adventure documentaries of Warren Miller Productions. “He has a fascinating background,” says Dorian Winslow. “When I met him, the stories he told were captivating. He can definitely engage an audience.” In addition to John Teaford’s presentation, the afternoon will also feature an audience question and answer session, as well as clips from his work as a documentarian.

On Sunday, April 5, The Spark will return with the second lecture, this time featuring terrestrial ecologist Tom Wessels. Mr. Wessels is a noted environmentalist and author of five books, and also specializes in Forest Forensics. “He can take you out into the forest and point out occurrences that have happened, just by looking at the clues around him like a bit of lichen on a tree or the way something fell,” explains Ms. Winslow. “This time he will be discussing Co-Evolution, a hot topic which is the concept of things that naturally evolve together, working together. He calls it a model for sustainability.” Following Mr. Wessels’ lecture, guests will be invited to accompany him on a walk through the woods to see first-hand examples of co-evolution in nature.

The third entry of The Spark, scheduled for Sunday, June 7, will feature a Brain Wellness Symposium. The afternoon will feature a panel discussion moderated by journalist Soledad O’Brien. The panel will consist of a neurologist, a nutritionist, a yoga instructor, and Adam Pearce, co-founder of the Love Your Brain Foundation. Organizers are also hoping to include a military veteran as part of the panel. The topic for the afternoon will focus on how to care for and preserve brain health.

Following the Brain Wellness Symposium, The Spark will take a hiatus during the summer months, but Dorian Winslow, Maria Reade, and Kent Burnham will continue to generate ideas and listen to community feedback as they plan the next round of lectures in the fall. “We’re taking ideas, and we’re making a list. We’re particularly interested in finding speakers who are uplifting, inspirational, and thought provoking,” says Ms. Winslow. “I want people to leave Gardiner Theater thinking ‘Wow, that was so fascinating. I just learned so much,’” Maria Reade adds.

For more information, please email your questions to