Leading for Social Justice Course: 2014 Art Exhibit

The Leading for Social Justice art exhibit is an opportunity for viewer to engage with teachers, school leaders, and community activists around issues of social justice and equity facing K-12 US public schools. All of the students take a social justice stance on one issue, research their issue, create a metaphor (based on their stance), and work with a community artist to translate their understanding into artmaking. Since 2009, over 40 artist mentors have volunteered to work with our graduate students and also create a piece for the exhibit. Each piece (i.e., graduate student, K-12 student, and/or artist mentor) is accompanied with a research-based abstract. This abstract walks the viewer through the research to support claims being made about social justice issues facing US P-12 public schools. If attendees are interested in purchasing any of the art, profits are sent to a nonprofit organization aligned with the candidate's/artist's social justice issue. 

The title of the 2014 exhibit was "Be the Voice for Those Who are Unheard." The theme came to fruition from the emerging themes throughout the course. Students analyzed  the possible themes from their learning and worked together to identify the title of the exhibit. Next, a graphic artist was contacted and the emerging theme for the exhibit was shared as well as possible graphics for the 5" x 7" postcard used to advertise the exhibit (please see below for the 2014 exhibit). 

Students in the Leading for Social Justice course engaged in artmaking by transforming their social justice stances into metaphors, and translating their metaphors into artmaking. The issues addressed throughout the exhibit ranged from children with learning differences to unconstitutional school funding to apartheid education to the need for culturally responsive practices and policies to children living in poverty to cultural deficit frameworks to lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer (LGBTQ) community strengths to the power of story. Community artists volunteer their time to work with graduate students to translate their metaphors into artmaking. All participants provide research-based abstracts walking viewers through their artmaking and provide research to support why we need to pay closer attention to these issues facing K-12 school communities. All proceeds from the exhibit benefit nonprofit organizations chosen by each participant in an effort to support social justice work in schools. This is an opportunity for authentic community outreach. Several K-12 students, schools, community artists, and EDAD graduate students participated in the exhibit. The event began with speeches from an emerging filmmaker, whose film was shown at the 2014 Cleveland International Film Festival, and a high school student, whose photographs focused on the strengths within LGBTQ communities in Cleveland. Over 175 people attended the one-night event.

The following are examples of some of the artmaking, which included over 40 pieces: