Film producer Artemis Joukowsky to discuss his grandparents’ legacy of giving back

The key to reducing anxiety is not less stress and more yoga, but rather liberating the human spirit.

This liberation can be found, according to Artemis Joukowsky III, in serving others and the community. Joukowsky will be discussing this idea, and how he developed it, during his lecture, “The Liberation of the Human Spirit,” at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Hall of Philosophy. Speaking as part of Week Seven’s Interfaith Lecture Series theme, “Spirituality in an Age of Anxiety,” he will discuss how he has found meaning in his life.

Artemis Joukowsky

“The biggest ego is not the one who gets the most attention or takes the most from others, but it is the one that gives the most love,” Joukowsky said.

Joukowsky was born into a legacy of caring for others, although he didn’t realize it until he was a teenager. His grandparents are Waitstill and Martha Sharp, an American minister and his wife, who helped save hundreds of endangered Jews and refugees fleeing the Nazi occupation across Europe. Joukowsky said his grandparents viewed serving others as the most natural extension of their humanity.

In an attempt to honor that selflessness, Joukowsky partnered with director Ken Burns to create the acclaimed PBS documentary “Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War.” Joukowsky said he didn’t just create a film about what his grandparents did, but more about what they stood for, which he will talk about Tuesday.

Joukowsky said his grandfather used the term “liberation of the human spirit” a lot in his own writings as a minister.

“He believed that every person needed to be liberated in their own way, not with one dogma or one view of reality, but with their own view of themselves at the center,” Joukowsky said.

In his own life, Joukowsky has worked to honor his grandparents’ legacy. He works on refugee issues, as seen in another film he co-produced, HBO’s “Cries From Syria.”

Joukowsky is also trying to make a difference on an issue that hits closer to home. He has dedicated the last few years to raising money for a cure for spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA. That effort has led to a drug, Spinraza, which has been hailed as a miracle.

When he was diagnosed with the disease at age 14, Joukowsky said it was something that gave him deep anxiety and insecurity. At the time, though, his grandmother told him that, instead of feeling sorry for himself, he should put his effort into giving to others because that is when you receive the most.

Part of Joukowsky’s lecture Tuesday will address both his disease and his faith, Unitarian Universalism, and how they have both guided him to do good for others as his grandmother advised.

“Most of us live our lives day in and day out,” Joukowsky said. “And what I think the Unitarians invite you to do is to see the liberation of the human spirit as all of the things, if you were not afraid of failing, that you would try to do for others or for the world.”

Tags : Artemis JoukowskyHall of PhilosophySpirituality in an Age of AnxietyWeek Seven

The author Delaney Van Wey

Delaney Van Wey is reporting on the Interfaith Lecture Series this summer. Although she is from Gowanda, this is her first time at Chautauqua Institution. She is studying journalism and international relations at Syracuse University, where she previously worked as assistant news editor at The Daily Orange. Contact her at or on Twitter, @DelaneyVanWey.