From slow-paced farm life to speedy Indy cars, Tim Grimm and wife Jan Lucas-Grimm have chronicled Hoosier history seemingly from Muncie to Munster, from Batesville to Bloomington in their original, Americana tunes, especially in the past decade.
And the Columbus residents have championed the state’s stalwarts, from President William Henry Harrison to journalist Ernie Pyle.
In wide-ranging concerts and productions, the pair has set such lives to lyrics, often to the soundtrack of a down-home guitar or banjo or mandolin.
And the duo will do that in a whole new way with “Midwestern Tales: Folksongs and Folklore,” a free presentation Friday at the lecture hall of the Columbus Learning Center at 4555 Central Ave. The event is the kickoff of IUPUC’s new Intellectual Life Lecture Series.
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Label the Grimms, then, as esteemed “Professors of the Past.”
Reinhold Hill, IUPUC’s vice chancellor and dean and also a folklorist, will introduce a mix of the Grimms’ tunes, including songs such as “Immigrants” highlighting an ethnic smorgasbord that brings people together in what some have currently labeled divisive times nationally.
Some of the song’s lyrics: “Russian and Dutch/They came here for all reasons/In all years and all seasons/Searching for meaning…”
“Actually, technically, we’re all here because someone else from somewhere else brought us here,” Tim Grimm said. “It’s about the beautiful tapestry that has come together to bring us to where we are. And if that isn’t relevant today, I don’t know what is.”
He mentioned that he hopes “people can walk away having learned something.” But the Grimms have long been teaching through events such as last year’s “Finding Home,” a full-length production saluting the state’s bicentennial.
And they have done more than sing of rustic, rural Indiana. They have lived it on a hay farm in Ogilville, where their songs have grown like bale stacks. Plus, the Grimms both have been stage and screen actors.
“All of that is connected to telling stories — and finding those stories that are funny and engaging and even tragic,” Tim Grimm said.
As a folklorist, Hill can appreciate solid stories. He plans to highlight a definition of folklore for Friday’s audience as part of the series that he aims to use to advance IUPUC “as an intellectual thought leader in Columbus.”
“I’ve always loved teaching,” Hill said. “And I’ve always loved engaging audiences.
“And what we’re trying to do is have an entertaining aspect as we inform people,” Hill said. “I hope that in the future as we tackle topics — we’re looking at thing such as entrepreneurship and immigration, potentially — that we always will have a panel that brings diverse perspectives and a contemporary focus on things.”
To make presentations more entertaining himself, Hill mentioned that he frequently has used lighthearted movie video clips to make points about elements of folklore. This time, the Grimms will serve as a serious source of musical clips.
“I think it’s so important to find effective ways to engage your audience,” Hill said.
With a challenge to its intellect, yes. But also a song for its heart.
What: The IUPUC Intellectual Life Speaker Series featuring music from singer-songwriters Tim Grimm and Jan Lucas-Grimm, and professional storytelling and interpretation by Reinhold Hill, IUPUC’s vice chancellor and dean, and a folklorist.
When: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Where: Lecture hall at the Columbus Learning Center, 4555 Central Ave.
Admission: Free, but tickets are required via iupuc.edu/speaker-series/index.html