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The Open University of Wellfleet is a forum for learning.  Conceived by retired Brown University professor Rhoda Flaxman, the Open University began in April 2013. Courses are envisioned as directed discussions, otherwise known as collaborative learning. Readings will be assigned, and instructors will offer mini-lectures to spur focused interchanges and facilitate learning. The Fall 2014 classes will be held once a week for two hours from October 20 through November 20 at Wellfleet Preservation Hall, Wellfleet Library, or W.H.A.T. Course descriptions including dates, time and location are below. Registration  is available via web or phone (508) 349-1800. Courses will run with a minimum of ten and a maximum of seventeen participants. Tuition is $50.00 per course.


October 20 - November 20, 2014


“Contemporary Writers with Cape Connections: Short Fiction" wIth Rhoda Flaxman

 Five Monday afternoons from 1pm - 3pm at Wellfleet Preservation Hall

October 20, 27 November 3, 10, 17. REGISTER HERE

Cape Codders may be surprised to learn that contemporary authors such as Raymond Carver, Jumpa Lahiri, Margaret Atwood and Michael Cunningham have been associated with the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. This course will explore the short fiction of some FAWC writers, emphasizing the Lower Cape’s long tradition of contributions from painting, literature and theater arts colonies.  

Professor Flaxman, founding Director of The Open University of Wellfleet, retired (2007) from teaching Victorian literature and art history for twenty years at Brown University and directing its writing-across-the curriculum program. Since then she has established an educational consulting firm (WriteConsulting), and teaches community seminars in literature in Providence and Wellfleet. She was a founding member of the Wellfleet Citizens’ Economic Committee and serves on arts Boards as well as The Rhode Island Cultural Council.


“Introducing Cape Cod Modernist Houses" with Betsy Bray

Five Tuesdays from 10 am to noon at W.H.A.T

October 21, 28, November 4, 11, 18. REGISTER HERE

This course will explore the history of the modernist house movement on the Outer Cape. Participants will have an opportunity to hear from architect Peter McMahon, founder of Cape Cod Modern House Trust as well as tour several modernist houses. We will view the film “Built on Narrow Land” a documentary about Cape Cod Modern houses and we will visit a hidden gem, a house built by inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright in Chatham. The book, “Cape Cod Modern, Midcentury Architecture and Community on the Outer Cape” will be the text.

Note: Car pools to the sites will be organized; houses are not handicap-accessible.

Betsy Bray is a self described Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiast. She has been a member and a volunteer for the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. In pursuit of that interest, she has volunteered for the Cape Modern House Trust. Betsy was a student at Yestermorrow in Waitsfield, Vermont, a building and design school, where she designed two homes and learned to build them: one a vacation home in Vermont and one a primary residence in Connecticut. Betsy is a retired library administrator and lives in South Harwich.


“Microbes That Changed History” with Barbara Brennessel

 Five Tuesdays from 4pm - 6pm at Wellfleet Library

October 21, 28, November 4,11,18. REGISTER HERE

Our seminar will trace the effect of microbes on human history and examine how our culture, environment and behavior have established, maintained and spread infectious diseases. We will sort out the microbes, good and bad and learn how their evolution and adaptations are intimately linked within an ecological framework. We will follow the trail of epidemiologists, our modern day disease detective, as they attempt to discover the source and routes of transmission of epidemics. And we will explore the medical, cultural and ecological approaches that are undertaken to prevent the spread of these deadly afflictions.

Barbara Brennessel was a professor in the Biology Department at Wheaton College for 33 years before her retirement in 2013.  She has written three books on Cape Cod natural history topics: diamondback terrapins, shellfish, and river herring, and is now collaborating with her daughter on a children's book on River Herring. She serves on the Wellfleet Shellfish Advisory Board, the Wellfleet Conservation Committee, Friends of Herring River and the Association to Preserve Cape Cod.


“One House/Two Studios/ and a Gallery on the Lower Cape” with Grace Hopkins


October 17 (Note: This course starts and ends earlier than the others), 22, 29, November 5, 12.

This course will take you on a tour of artist partners so you can make one visit and see two different artists working in their individual studios. When possible the class will also include a trip to a local gallery or art center in Wellfleet, Truro, or Provincetown. This will give you a good feel for a portion of what is currently happening artistically on the Lower Cape.

Please note: Our first meeting will take place October 17, 2014 Wellfleet Library.

Moderated by Grace Hopkins a longtime resident of the lower cape as well as the Director of the artSTRAND Gallery. Grace is an abstract photographer with a BFA from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Grace is the daughter of Abstract Expressionist painter Budd Hopkins, and art historian April Kingsley.


“Going to the Opera in Wellfleet” with Christopher Ostrom


Five Thursdays from 2pm - 4pm at W.H.A.T

October 23, 30, November 6, 13 , 20. REGISTER HERE

So you think you hate opera?  Join us for a five-week exploration of this often-misunderstood art form.   We will explore opera from a musicological, dramaturgical, and historical perspective, and receive and insider's view into the creation of an original production. This course will complement the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD broadcasts presented by Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater.

Christopher Ostrom is the managing director and artistic associate of Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater.  A scenic and lighting designer with over 20 years of experience, he has worked extensively in opera.  His credits include productions for Chautauqua Opera, Mobile Opera, Tulsa Opera, Opera San Jose, Opera Providence, Odyssey Opera and Opera Boston, where he served as resident lighting designer for 15 seasons.


“Versification: The Essentials” with Martin Edmunds

Five Thursdays from 4pm - 6pm at Wellfleet Preservation Hall

October 23,30, November 6,13,20. REGISTER HERE

For practicing poets seeking a refresher on the essentials of versification in English, and for those who were never taught form and meter at all. We will take up masterly examples of formal verse as our inspiration and our models as we focus on work written during this class by the participants. Students will compose poems in several of the meters and forms under study including iambic pentameter, blank verse, ballad stanza, sonnet, and villanelle.

Open by approval of the instructor. Please submit three pages of your best work, with at least one poem in strict form or meter if possible, to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Martin Edmunds’ book The High Road to Taos won the National Poetry Series competition and was published by University of Illinois Press. His poems have appeared in the New Yorker, Little Star, A Public Space, Paris Review, Partisan Review, Grand Street, AGNI, The Nation, The Southwest Review, as well as many other literary journals and several anthologies. He received a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant for poetry in 2012, and is a recipient of the “Discovery”/The Nation Award, the Lloyd McKim Garrison Prize, and the Harvard Monthly Prize.

For more information contact Dr. Rhoda Flaxman, Director at

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