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Art and Social Justice Come Together in an Art Show

Posted Dec. 13, 2010
Profiles social justice inside
The result of the project

Art and social justice are usually not two subjects linked together, but in Dr. Christa Boske's Leading for Social Justice class, the two are combined in an innovative way. Students in the class work with local artist-mentors, children, families and community members to create and understand social justice and equity-oriented issues in meaningful ways.

The students' work, along with artist-mentors' work, will be on display at the School of Art Gallery on Dec.17 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. The show is titled, Can you see me now? and focuses on social justice issues facing American schools.

Boske's students and artist mentors stress the need for school leaders, teachers and community members to lead schools out of the mire of entrenched inequities due to race, class, ability, sexual identity, immigration status, religion, native language and gender.

"The purpose of the show is for those who aspire to school leadership positions to engage in critical dialogue, reflection and social justice work centered on interrupting oppressive school practices in order to empower those who live on the margins," says Boske.

Students were paired with community artist-mentors who work closely with them throughout the semester to translate their understanding of social justice issues into artistic endeavors.

J. Andrew Rome, a senior higher education administration major, decided to take the course and become involved in the show because he says he is passionate about working to promote equity in schools and to do everything he can to ensure that public education serves all students, not just those privileged by class, race, gender, sexual orientation or any other identity marker.

"I'm thrilled that Kent State University and the College of Education, Health and Human Services is one of the few in the country to educate its students about structural inequities and empowers them to take action," says Rome.

Rome adds: "I'd never thought of myself as an artist, but this has been a transformative experience. I love our process of refining a social justice stance with research and then translating that into art that communicates in a way research can't."

"Each work of art comes out of a process of learning about social justice issues in education, researching a particular issue and communicating our stance on that issue through art," he concludes. "Some students in the class draw from their personal experiences as educators with privilege and oppression; some students are very new to social justice work."

The art show will encompass a wide variety of perspectives on identifying and changing the ways schools meet the needs of those who live on the margins of society. There are artists working in many different mediums, and all of them have extremely well-thought-out, well-researched works of art that will be sold to support not-for-profit organizations that promote educational equity.

"I'm proud to be part of this community of educators, artists and activists working to address the lived realities of marginalized populations in U.S. public schools," says Boske. "I am honored and privileged to work with committed aspiring school leaders, community artists and university colleagues to bring these critical issues to the forefront and create spaces for this necessary dialogue."

Boske says that the show is a collaborative effort made possible because of the deep commitment by Kent State's Educational Leadership program, artist-mentors, Director of Galleries Anderson Turner, Director Christine Havice and other university faculty who support the creation of authentic spaces that increase critical consciousness and responses towards empowering those who live on the margins.

By Rebecca Mohr