By Carolina Cambronero Varela
Student Advocates for the Arts (SAA), a Teachers College organization founded by Arts Administration students, brought together a number of partners for programming on campus this fall. Their partners included New York University’s Advocates for Cultural Engagement, Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE), Emerging Leaders of New York Arts, Friends of Japan, Global Citizen Club, Gottesman Libraries, National Art Education Association, Peace Education Network and Soul Haven Arts.
SAA was also awarded a Microgrant from the Arts Administration Program, which supported two components of a project that considered art and social justice issues: Brave Spaces: Where You, Me, and We Meet, a visual arts exhibition curated by Allison Peller and Briana Zimmerman at the Offit Gallery in Gottesman Library (October 4-31, 2018) and an interdisciplinary panel discussion, Liberating Imagination though Artistic Activism. The main objective was to unite people through the transformative power of art to raise awareness and activism for change.
Brave Spaces: Where You, Me, and We Meet
The exhibition took a closer view at the transformative power of art through the eyes of five artists:
- Walter Cruz showcased a series of hand painted jackets meant to inspire, advocate, and challenge when they are worn out in the world.
- The work featured by Pamela Koehler comes from a continuing series, focused on the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which killed 146 workers in 1911 and inspired protests for labor reform.
- Ola Ronke Akinmowo is known for her project The Free Black Woman’s Library, a mobile library that contains books from every genre, all written by Black women.
- Laura McGowan shared prints from a partnership with the Integrated Refugee & Immigration Services (IRIS) through which she taught art classes to children who have recently immigrated to the United States.
- Gilbane Peck’s work challenges viewer through his found object collages to contemplate what they leave behind and how they treat the environment.
Discussing How Art Can Inspire Activism
On October 25th, Arts Administration Lecturer, Dr. Gemma Mangione moderated an interdisciplinary conversation that concluded with engaging questions from the audience. The panel brought together artists and administrators active in the greater New York area to discuss how art, or more specifically education through art, plays a role in social, environmental, and political change:
- Born in Mexico City, Laura Anderson Barbata works in Brooklyn and Mexico City. Since 1992 she has worked primarily in the social realm, and has initiated projects in Venezuela’s Amazon region, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Norway and the United States. Ms. Anderson Barbata creates work that ties traditional utilitarian production as communal activity and historical ways of learning to her own reframed model of art and activism – cultural preservation, self-determination, and protest. Her work has been collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- Paul Griffin founded The Possibility Project in NYC in 2000 and has served as its president ever since. In 2009, he launched The Possibility Project’s Foster Care Program and in 2015, was Executive Producer for “Know How,” a film written and acted by foster care youth, released in May of that year. With over 26 years of experience working in the field of youth development and the arts, Mr. Griffin has overseen the creation of more than 100 original musicals written and performed by youth. The Possibility Project, formerly known as City at Peace-National, had its beginnings in Washington, D.C. in 1994 as City at Peace, which Mr. Griffin also founded. City at Peace was a local program created in response to the racial division and violence that was destroying youth and communities in our nation’s capital. City at Peace began assistedcommunities giving rise to The Possibility Project and partner programs in Santa Barbara, Charlotte, Baton Rouge, Los Angeles, South Africa, and Israel.
- Marissa Gutierrez-Vicario is the Executive Director and Founder of Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE), a non-profit organization that supports young people in amplifying their voices for human rights change through the visual arts.ARTE uses art, design, and technology to empower young people to develop creative solutions and bring awareness to local and global human rights challenges, fostering leadership opportunities to train and organize other young people in their own communities. Ms. Gutierrez- Vicario is also an adjunct lecturer in the Art Education Department at the City College of New York.
- Over the past decade, Grace McDonald has sought to make the arts more equitable through her leadership of various arts education initiatives both in New York City and across the nation. By working with public institutions such as libraries, schools and churches, Ms. McDonald enables organizations to implement democratic processes into the experience of both art making and art seeing. Currently Ms. McDonald is the Education Director at NURTUREart, a Brooklyn-based non-profit arts organization that works at the intersection of art, curatorial practice and education.
- Courtney Weida is an Associate Professor and the Director of the Graduate Art Education Ruth S. Ammon School of Education at Adelphi University, New York. She has also taught courses in art education, studio art, and art history at Columbia University Teachers College, the State University of New York, and Radford University. Dr. Weida serves as a teaching artist in New York public schools. Her recent publications address arts education, technology, craft, and gender issues in art education.
The event fostered a dialogue among students, panelists, faculty, and community members. It is clear from students’ reflections that the discussion surfaced issues important to arts administration.
ARAD first-year student Sarah Lamade commented:
“I appreciated the realism that the panelists brought to discussion of arts activism. They highlighted three primary resources that are crucial for success: commitment, money, and allies. Paul (Possibility Project) also emphasized that if you want to work for social change through the arts, you need to be an entrepreneur (because no one is going to hire you) and you need to be willing to take a “take a vow of poverty” (because benefits of this kind of work typically don’t include personal financial gains).”
ARAD first-year student Ian Prince mentioned that:
“It was a great opportunity to hear from active professionals how they approach benefiting society through the arts. I’m glad I got to hear from them what steps they take in their organizations to help people and what they feel is important to their jobs. It was inspiring to listen to the stories of how their efforts help communities and the people they work with.”
Doctoral student and Global Citizens Club president Kamiya Kumar wrote:
“The event Liberating Imagination through Artistic Activism brought together artists and organizations representing grass-root initiatives, providing meaningful insight on how we can use art to disrupt limitations of the mind and society and through artistic reflections and actions emancipate individuals and communities. Global Citizens Club was exhilarated to collaborate with Student Advocates for the Arts and other organizations to bring this event closer to ways of imagining at Teachers College.”
Principles of Arts Administration at Work
This project was the result of teamwork and dedication. Columbia University’s Student Advocates for the Arts and New York University’s Advocates for Cultural Engagement started considering the possibility of having this event as the spring semester concluded. During the summer months, SAA reached out to potential collaborators and participants. SAA also researched potential gallery and panel venues, eventually securing the space at Teachers College. In the end, it was a massive labor of love and passion for the topic: unite people through the transformative power of art to raise awareness and activism for change!
ARAD congratulates SAA and its partners on a successful exhibition and event, and SAA President and second-year student Carolina Cambronero Varela for her efforts coordinating the programming!