A Night with “Spotlight” Star Marty Baron ’76: Cultivating Community, Advocacy, and Entrepreneurship through the Arts


(Image credit: NiemanLab)

Though it has been two months ago, I felt this arts event was important to document, as it exhibits everything we have been learning in our ENTP 123 Art Community Entrepreneurship class: finding entrepreneurship opportunities, cultivating community, and advocating through the lens of the arts, and fostering the spirit of Lehigh from the local to the international scale—all of which was accomplished through a Thursday night movie screening and Q&A with a Lehigh alumnus. On February 18, 2016, the Lehigh, wider South Side and Lehigh Valley communities had the immense pleasure and a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch a screening of the Oscar-nominated and then winning film Spotlight with Marty Baron ’76 and then speak with him.

While I do enjoy the opportunity to watch movies alone with an audience, as some do by themselves but with Netflix, I felt an opportunity such as this—specially geared towards the Lehigh community by a Lehigh graduate—required the opposite of solo time. It would be silly not to engage this event with friends made at Lehigh, and I didn’t have to convince my friends to go. Lehigh’s official communications department sent an announcement then two reminder emails to the campus, so my friends had already heard of it, all of us watching the trailer and reading about it in anticipation. By the time I had arrived—contrary to most events, tickets and early arrival were recommended, as my friends and I quickly learned as we struggled to find seats together—I saw other friends from my first year, those who I hadn’t seen in a long time. They made room for us in the second row, seats that we were fortunate to snag, as the balcony was overflowing and others were being turned away at the main entrance.


(Image credit: Lehigh University)

As seniors, my friends and I barely had time to grab a bite to eat beforehand, yet we abided by the old saying: “you don’t know what you don’t know.” We didn’t find the need for the typical popcorn and butter, nor did we even know we were hungry because of the excitement of the event, whose promise all of us had genuinely and sincerely looked forward to in the months then weeks leading up to it. A film starring A-list actors in the running for six Academy Awards with relevance that extended to our elementary school years, then live audience participation and Q&A with the editor of the Spotlight team? These three hours into the night would not be among those we would groan at on a school night. We, however, would groan together at the politicking of antagonists as a middle-aged alumnae muttered, “Now that’s how all [the corruption] begins” to our “hmm’s” in agreement. And we would also do double and triple takes at Liev Schreiber’s striking resemblance to the night’s honorary guest, then upon realization, rise up in a standing ovation at his entrance.

The night was spent in rapt attention, from Vice Provost Patrick Farrell’s opening remarks, viewing on a screen that rivaled those from Carmike 16, AMC, and Regal, and discussion with Chair of the Journalism and Communications Department Professor Jack Lule and the man of honor himself. While attending blockbusters such as the University Productions-sponsored screenings of The Avengers and Monsters University on the UC front lawn at the beginning of the year and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire with fellow Lehigh friends were obvious first-year orientation and community-building choices, engaging Spotlight at the seat of the respected university of the leader was more special and engaging. Very little can compare to watching a film recognizing a Lehigh alumnus amongst friends and colleagues, all with a connection to Lehigh, for the first time. Alumni had traveled hours to reconnect—and they did, introducing themselves and calling out to Baron as old Brown and White staff members—and current students literally rubbed shoulders with an audience of varying ages. Though movies have been criticized for being purveyors of passive consumption and interaction, I’d counter that events like this have done more to build solidarity across age groups and graduation years than forced networking events. In the closed Packer auditorium, it was an intimate environment, and the feeling of collegiality swept over everyone.

As a second-semester senior and soon-to-be alumna, I believe these events like these are the strongest in espousing the principles of Art Community Entrepreneurship. Though it is not always that an award-winning film is made about an alumnus, similar events engaging current students, alumni, and the wider community before and after clearly yield positive returns on multiple fronts: personal student inspiration in seeing a successful example of who they wish to become, advocacy for significant matters whose embodiment we wish to see in leaders, university and arts finances, and community building. From the perspective of a student and recent graduate whose schedule is becoming increasingly inflexible and selective, this is an event that I would not miss. As classmate Brent Lorraine mentioned, community members will secede from the community if they do not feel that they belong, if their participation matters. Ongoing interactions with alumni address this concern and can fuel greater solidarity, school spirit, and donations. In using a movie recognized by a major U.S. and international cultural organization for a movie- and media-heavy culture, the post-film momentum to host a participatory Q&A giving audience members the agency to offer insightful questions and the intimacy for answers, and fostering an atmosphere of excellence and intellectualism, this was an excellent case study in entrepreneurship. This is by far my favorite art event this year and of my top three in my Lehigh career. After this, I am excited and energized to see what else there is to come for alumna like me.

Marty Baron returns to Lehigh for “Spotlight” Screening from The Brown and White on Vimeo.

—Sunny Huang, Class of 2016