The University of Utah MUSE Project is pleased to welcome Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi to campus early next year. Vasarhelyi and Chin, the Academy Award-winning directors of “Free Solo,” will keynote the MUSE theme year on “Vision” at Kingsbury Hall at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. For the fourth consecutive year, MUSE is hosting its keynote event in cooperation with UtahPresents. Tickets will be free to University of Utah students and more information on ticket availability will follow.
In addition to winning the Oscar for “Best Documentary Feature” for 2019, “Free Solo”—which follows climber Alex Honnold’s historic ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite—was recognized with seven Creative Arts Emmy Awards. Both Vasarhelyi and Chin have a rich history of accomplishment. Vasarhelyi has made many award-winning documentary films, and Chin is a filmmaker, mountain sports athlete and photographer. They co-directed a previous climbing film, “Meru” (2015), and they were supported in making “Free Solo” by National Geographic.
“Chai and Jimmy are exceptionally creative people, both individually and in their work together,” noted Libby Henriksen, the associate director of MUSE. “‘Free Solo’ is a great example of their collaboration. Jimmy brought his profound climbing experience and filming expertise to the project, and Chai brought her insight into the drama of human relationships and her powerful skills as a storyteller. As an example of the success and dynamism of this couple’s creative work, ‘Free Solo’ speaks for itself.”
In addition to their professional achievements, Chin and Vasarhelyi have fascinating life stories. Both have followed highly individual paths based on their passionate interests.
“They’re great examples of living lives of vision,” said Henriksen. “We believe that both their creativity and their personal narratives will be especially inspiring for University of Utah students.”
Henriksen also said that given the U’s surrounding landscape and active outdoor culture, Vasarhelyi and Chin are a perfect fit to be MUSE keynote guests. The university has long been associated with the outdoors and many students come here for outstanding recreational opportunities and environmental education. Recent years have seen a significant increase in the number of students climbing in the Wasatch and Southern Utah, and these students have made their enthusiasm for the work of Vasarhelyi and Chin abundantly clear.
When asked about the value of this upcoming MUSE event for the U’s student body, Henriksen said, “Our mission at MUSE is to provide inspiring educational experiences for all U undergraduates, and we believe that Chai and Jimmy will offer our students a deeply empowering experience—one that will encourage them to conceive their own visions and to work toward their realization.“
The U’s MUSE Project was created as a Presidential Initiative in 2010. MUSE keynote guests have included Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Rep. John Lewis, author Margot Lee Shetterly and Vice President Joe Biden.