Art and Social Justice group plans projects, meetings


The Appalachian Online

Courtney Morrison

A small group led by first-year theatre and dance professor Cara Hagan met in the student union Sunday to express their interest in the vital matter of social justice and how the conversations involving current social issues could be had through art.

“I’m trying to convey the fact that art is transformative medium that can invite people to change their thinking,” Hagan said when discussing the hopes for the group – Art and Social Justice.

“Art is one of those things that…kind of gets people riled up in a way that they want to talk about things and they want to have action and create action,” she said.

Hagan has a personal history in community engagement and services. A few years ago, when she lived in the Piedmont-Triad area, she created “The Wedding Dress Project,” a nonprofit that addresses the issues of domestic violence and gender stereotyping.

The Art and Social Justice meeting was brief, though impactful and addressed the obvious need for awareness and conversations that can at times be uncomfortable.

The group, which is open to both students and administration, offers opportunity to explain and discuss socio-political problems and communicate them in ways that may be understood without the often-complicated political jargon.

“With a lot of art you don’t necessarily have to be at a certain literacy level,” Hagan said. “You don’t necessarily have to speak a certain language. Whereas things like political rhetoric [are] honestly over a lot of people’s heads. It’s a little unfair to kind of frame things with that rhetoric knowing that a lot of the population is just not going to go there with you.”

Jodie Clouser, a junior middle grades education major who attended a previous art and social justice meeting has already begun her own process of addressing these matters.

She prepared a flyer centralized around the Black Lives Matter campaign with an original image of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was shot by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer in August 2014. Clouser and another group member plan to disperse this flyer and others around campus in the near future.

“I think what I found sort of proven over and over again is that people can have conversations through art that they can’t have in other areas,” Betsy Kelly, a graduate student at Appalachian and a supporter of the group said.

“It somehow allows you to get to the important stuff. I also think it’s a really good way for people to listen.”

The group is not restrictive to one form of art and welcomes any medium, including but not limited to dance, creative writing, printings and spoken word.

In the past, the meeting have been organized by way of Facebook events created by Hagan that offer information on date, time, location and a brief overview of the agenda. Another meeting is being planned for sometime later in the semester.

Story: Courtney Morrison, Intern A&E Reporter