Jeffrey Weidman's interest in complementary medicine began with a personal crisis. But Weidman, Oberlin's art librarian and a lecturer in the art department, has transformed his quest for help into a gift to the wider Oberlin community, College and town.
Recently he persuaded 12 experts from Oberlin and the surrounding area to present three-hour programs in the art of healing. The presentations, open to the public, took place on Sunday afternoons in February, March, and April at the town's New Union Center for the Arts under the auspices of the MAD (Music, Arts, and Drama) Factory. All the presenters agreed to share their knowledge without promise of specific recompense.
"They saw it as a community project," said Weidman. "They were happy to donate their time."
Speakers represented a mix of backgrounds, from mainstream to New Age. Local physician Paul Birney, M.D., gave a talk called "The Art of Dying: New Approaches." Artist and former visiting professor of art Audra Skuodas gave an illustrated presentation, "The Visual Arts As Creative Centering," then walked participants to her nearby studio to show the expression of her thoughts in her art work. Oberlin resident Sokara Kamillisa gave a talk and demonstration called "Color Healing and the Human Energy System," and her brother, Todd, presented "Spirit Mattered through Rhythmic Alchemy: The Sound of the Drum." Topics in the other eight sessions included massotherapy, chiropractic, acupressure, meditation, tai chi, and iridology.
"I didn't pick the people because they could help me," said Weidman, "but because they would be of interest to everyone else." Weidman says he promotes the healing arts and local people involved in them because he thinks the healing arts are important, and because "there are tremendous resources in Oberlin and nearby communities, and people should know about them."
This venture was not the first of its kind for Weidman. In September he and Manfred Lassen, the College's Protestant chaplain, codirected a six-session series, Spirit Matter: Wholistic Healing in Oberlin, which involved some of the same speakers and was aimed primarily at College students.
Even earlier, in the late 1980s, Weidman demonstrated his interest in sharing expertise—in this case his own—with the public. For "six or seven years," he said, he taught a workshop through Oberlin's Allen Memorial Art Museum called Researching Your Art Object, in which he helped people learn the history and value of art works in their possession. (The course material is available at the website http://www.uky.edu/Artsource/weidman.html.)
Weidman has also taught library-research methods to Oberlin's art students and led an Oberlin College Experimental College course in the writings of Paul Brunton, whom Weidman describes as one of the first bridges between Eastern and Western thought (see http://www.lightlink.com/larson/weid1.htm).
Weidman comes from a family whose members enjoy sharing their gifts. His father, writer Jerome Weidman, wrote the novel I Can Get It for You Wholesale, which he adapted for the musical of the same name. In 1960 the elder Weidman won a Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for the book for the Broadway play Fiorello! Jeffrey's mother, Elizabeth Payne, is a journalist and nonfiction writer. And his brother, John Weidman, a staff writer for Sesame Street, wrote the books for the Broadway version of Big and two Stephen Sondheim plays, Assassins and Pacific Overtures.
Coming from a family of well known writers, entering academia was his way of working out his sense of self, Weidman said. He earned a Ph.D. in art history and an M.L.S. (Master of Library Science) at Indiana University. He has been Oberlin's art librarian since 1983.
--Linda K. Grashoff
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