IA Welcomes Holly Zahn to the Staff

Holly ZahnImagining America welcomes new Communications Coordinator, Holly Zahn, to the staff, where she will play a key role in sharing stories from the consortium through media, web, and face-to-face communications, as well as develop a network of publicly engaged media makers.

Upon graduation from Syracuse University’s B.F.A. Film program, Holly was selected as a 2012 Imagining America Engagement Scholar, during which time she worked for Syracuse University’s community-engaged arts presenting office and collaborated with Imagining America Assistant Director, Jamie Haft, to produce The New Activists: Students in the Community, a web-series featuring students bringing their knowledge to collaborations with community members in order to address important community-identified problems and opportunities.

 

In the past year, Holly continued her work with the organization as head of media and special projects, which has involved capturing video interviews with consortium members, managing the JGS Photography and Digital Media Fellows program, and producing videos related to IA’s mission, like the Call for Participation video to the 14th Annual National IA Conference in Atlanta.

While reflecting on her experience with IA thus far, Holly recalled, “During the 10 Years of PAGE anniversary celebration at the 2013 Imagining America conference, PAGE Co-Director and IA Board Member Alexandria Agloro said something that struck me, ‘This is my home. This is definitely my intellectual home.’ Similarly, Imagining America has served as my creative home. For the past two years, it has provided a space to create work in service of democracy through documentation, storytelling and engagement.” Holly is excited to delve deeper into Imagining America’s work and explore the challenges, opportunities, and rich stories of higher education and publicly engaged scholarship.


Jamie Haft Appointed Imagining America Assistant Director

Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life (IA) has appointed Jamie Haft as Assistant Director. Haft will be organizing campus leadership teams within IA’s consortium of more than 100 colleges and universities and directing story-based campaigns in multiple media, as well as working closely with the National Advisory Board and Presidents’ Council to help transform higher education in ways that democratize and strengthen America’s civic culture.Jamie Haft

“Jamie is a brilliant strategist and talented organizer,” note IA co-directors Tim Eatman and Scott Peters. “We are delighted to recognize her talents and contributions with this appointment.”

Serving as communications manager from 2011-2013, Haft directed IA’s marketing, social media, and media relations, bringing IA national visibility. Examples include her article about IA featured in a national collection of trend papers about art and social change, and a documentary web series, The New Activists: Students in the Community, which she conceptualized and produced featuring undergraduate and graduate students collaborating with community members to solve community-identified problems.

Haft served as IA’s program coordinator from 2008-2011, and received her M.S. in public relations from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in 2012. She received her B.F.A. in theater for social change from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2007.


Important Announcements about Next Week’s Imagining America National Conference

 About next week:
  1. If you haven’t yet listened to or watched the webinar intended for all presenters, please go to this page as soon as possible. There are specific instructions for every session team. Following them is crucial to the success of the conference.
    You will see that we need you to fill out a survey before the start of the conference. We also need you to fill out this form after the completion of your session.
  2. We are soliciting volunteers to document your session. We hope that we find volunteers to do this for every session. You should ask the documenter to identify themselves before the start of the session. If there is no one, please get someone to volunteer from the group in the room. It is very important. They will be asked to fill out this questionnaire after the session.
  3. Every conference space has full technological capabilities. If you asked for something, it’s in your session space. You are advised to bring your own laptops and Mac adaptors (“dongles”). Best not to rely on the internet for videos. We suggest bringing it on the computer or on a thumb drive. Always good to have a back-up plan for displaying your presentation. There will be tech assistants on hand to assist in case of problems. If you prefer to plug your computer in via Ethernet cable, contact Jeremy Lane at 315-443-8590 or at jlane01@syr.edu
  4. Please do remember to enroll in a site visit. They are filling fast.

Resilience/Resistance: Third Spaces of Environmental Activism and Community Autonomous Organizing

Charis BokeBy Charis Boke, a Ph.D. student in Anthropology at Cornell University and 2013–2014 Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellow. This PAGE Blog Salon explores the idea of third spaces of engagement between communities and campuses, a topic of the upcoming Imagining America national conference, Oct. 4–6, in Syracuse, NY. This post’s focus: Centering Activism and Equity as Foundations of Third Spaces.

It is a hot August day in southern Vermont. All the other people at the Farmer’s Market have their sunglasses on, even the vendors under their small tents. You join a few of them in the overhang of the Co–op arriving in the middle of a conversation about local foods

“It’s really important to me to eat within the bioregion,” one woman says. “If I can’t get to where my food is grown in less than a day’s drive, I don’t feel like I am really eating what is best for me and the planet.”

“Yeah, I know, right?” a man in Carhartt pants and an old t-shirt interjects. “I mean, if we really want to have resilient communities, we have to keep our money local. And what are the statistics, like, 30–40% of our spending should be going toward food? I’m willing to pay more in order to keep our local farmers and economy in a viable, sustainable condition.”

You sit, listening, sipping your lemonade. The conversation goes on to touch on the effects of GMOs in a long-term food system (several towns in Vermont have recently banned GMO products and seeds from their jurisdictions), the question of physical health and emotional support in the face of massive climate change and a sense of impending loss that people have coming out of that realization, and a brief discussion of ways to better engage the broader community in such conversations and the “work of Transition.” All the folks in this group are involved in some way in using the Transition Towns model for building local resilience. They are the super-dedicated community organizers who run on a mix of adrenaline, optimism, and occasional tunnel vision. You’ve been working with folks who use this model off and on for several years, and you think you have a good idea of what conversations are happening that are vital and productive, and which conversations are missing from the scope of this local community’s work.

This scene is a familiar one for me, as an anthropologist doing fieldwork with Transition activists. I often half-listen to these familiar discussions outside the co-op, reflecting on the Transition network more broadly. It’s pretty remarkable, really, how effectively the model has taken hold in hundreds of communities around the world. The tools the model provides for “building local resilience in the face of the triple crisis of economics, environment and energy” seem to have captured the imaginations particularly, but not exclusively, of upper-middle class white folks in Europe and the United States. It’s almost as if, for the first time, the false sense of safety that privileged communities have been living with for the last 60 years has been shaken. “What’s that?” people seem to say as they lift their heads. “A climate crisis? The potential end of easily available fossil fuels? Economic collapse? Oh shoot! We have to do something!”

And the Transition model has given folks a way to do that something. Through re-skilling workshops where people learn (or re-learn, as some put it) to knit, to hand-scythe hay, to prune fruit trees, to intercrop effectively, people feel they are coming back in touch with the embodied abilities that their grandparents had. The re-localizing efforts the model puts forth—encouraging communities to discover what skills and talents already exist in their human community, and what other resources are available in the nonhuman worlds that they live in—give people a renewed sense of place and connection. All this outside of the purview of centrally organized action, at least in theory. The model is designed as a kind of go-between, or maybe even a “third space,” to mediate between individual lives and practices and the institutionalized apparatuses of local and state government. Transition gives people the tools to get local select-boards and state representatives in on the action, but the work of transition, the work of “building resilience” is framed in the model in pretty explicitly apolitical terms. The message seems to be that the institutions of the state (writ large) are by and large not doing much to help out in the process of preparing for impending disasters of various sorts, so we should just start doing it ourselves. Not in resistance to state power, necessarily, but as an alternative—building the world that we want to see.

As a committed social justice activist and community-accountable scholar, I spend a lot of time pondering the ways to bring my academic training and my activist engagement to bear on one another, particularly in the context of Transition organizing. How can we use this Transition platform itself as a means to address class and race disparities, both within the movement and outside of it? If legal frameworks for eliminating racial discrimination aren’t really working, and state support around economic marginalization doesn’t seem to give folks the long-term stability they need, shouldn’t we be bringing questions of race and class into this extra-institutional, grassroots conversation?

I’m trained in facilitation and mediation, and am committed to building allyship with a few folks in order to create spaces for these talks to happen in the community at a broader scale. Though I don’t think it’s important to cite “third space” in this context, I do think often of Edward Casey and of Henri Lefebvre and other intellectual antecedents to the everyday practices like the ones in which these activists are knee-deep. I think more often, though, of the guiding frames for loving community activism and challenges to the status quo provided through the work of bell hooks and of Gloria Anzaldua and even of Hakim Bey (frustrating though I find him). Here, in my field site home, are a bunch of people really committed to figuring out what kind of world they want—and doing it in the between-spaces, without calling it politics. I want to figure out how I can collaborate with them, support them, and push them further in their own explorations of ways to build a more just, equitable, and resilient world—not one that merely sustains the status quo.

“Hey, do you all want to come over to dinner tonight? I just slaughtered a sheep a couple of days ago. Let’s have a potluck.” She lives just a few miles up the road from me—it’ll be easy to ride my bike there. Nods all around.

“I’ll bring mango juice!” someone says. So much for eating local—we all smile.


Expanding Existing or Creating New “Third Spaces”

Harish PatelBy Harish Patel, a Master’s student in urban Planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago and 2013–2014 Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellow. This PAGE Blog Salon explores the idea of third spaces of engagement between communities and campuses, a topic of the upcoming Imagining America national conference, Oct. 4–6, in Syracuse, NY. This post’s focus: Centering Activism and Equity as Foundations of Third Spaces.

Over the past few years, I have been involved in a project called A Movement Re-Imagining Change (ARC), which attempted to “connect the dots” between organizers, activists, artists, academics, and policy makers. The conversations within this project led a group from ARC to engage on envisioning the creation of a hub for movement and community building. Originally, it led us to think about a space that is neither bound by the not-for-profit entities or a for-profit entity, but a space that allowed for a home-base where the political can become personal. Our vision was for a space where an issue or a community-based organizer could engage with the academics who write about these issues; where self-care is essential; where relationships make up the foundation; where young ones are allowed to make their own mistakes; where the lifestyle is simpler, communal, and less-consuming; where dogmatic political parties have little place; where all the different aspects of the movement can be blurred.

We met with others who lead and sustain “third” spaces in the City of Chicago and visited their spaces, including Mess Hall, Experimental Station, High Concept Lab, Co-Prosperity Sphere, Chicago Freedom School office, UE Hall, Jobs with Justice office, Grace Place co-working space, Centro Autonómo, In These Times Magazine, Heartland Café, and the Chicago Cultural Center. These “third spaces” range from institution-supported entities and non-profit offices, to event spaces, cafes, bars, and shared workspaces. These visits made it clear for me that Chicago already has many “third spaces” and instead of starting a new entity, I would like to spend my energy in expanding the existing infrastructure while making these spaces more inclusive, accessible, and sustainable.

Since doing this research, I have been involved with two projects that work toward fulfilling that aim: The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum (JAHHM) and The Social Justice Initiative’s (SJI) Pop Up JUST Art Center (PUJA). My positions in both of these organizations have allowed me to create institutionally supported “third” spaces and have served as a portal to the neighboring communities, by inviting community members, faculty, students, and staff for gatherings, forums, discussions, and meetings. Both SJI and JAHHM play other roles for the City of Chicago, but for me, the most important way they intervene is by allowing a physical space for community engagement. Their mere presence allows and demands community participation.

The photos below are of two events that exemplify these sorts of engagement. The first is from an event that was led by a student at UIC who brought together mental health movement activists from Chicago to share their stories with an audience of staff, faculty, and community members. The space allowed for folks who were most affected by the closing of the mental health centers in Chicago to be experts on their own experiences as they shared their own stories. In the second photo, I am welcoming community and university members into the PUJA space to view a student–led exhibition.

Guest Speaker series on "humane" Cities from the perspective of Justice, Fairness and Equity

Guest Speaker series on “humane” Cities from the perspective of Justice, Fairness and Equity

Guest speaker series about "how to engage art, theater and media in political/electoral/policy campaigns" Example: Mayor Jon Gnarr from Iceland, Ex-Mayor Mockus from Bogota, Colombia

Guest speaker series about “how to engage art, theater, and media in political/electoral/policy campaigns”
Example: Mayor Jon Gnarr from Iceland, Ex-Mayor Mockus from Bogota, Colombia


Envisioning a Third Space: Coalescing Community and Academy Through Shared Knowledge and Innovative Thinking

Jeanelle HopeBy Jeanelle Hope, a graduate student at Syracuse University working towards her M.A. in Pan African studies and 2013–2014 Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellow. This PAGE Blog Salon explores the idea of third spaces of engagement between communities and campuses, a topic of the upcoming Imagining America national conference, Oct. 4–6, in Syracuse, NY. This post’s focus: Centering Activism and Equity as Foundations of Third Spaces.

BlackAgainstEmpireDr.Martin

Dr. Waldo Martin, Professor of History at UC Berkeley, at Revolution bookstore in Berkeley, CA, near the University of California

My research has sent me to the Bay Area this summer where was conducting oral history interviews and examining archival materials on interracial activism between Asian Americans and African
Americans during the Black Power era in the Bay Area. This picture (left) was taken at a discussion held at Revolution bookstore in Berkeley, CA, near the University of California. Dr. Waldo Martin—Professor of History at UC Berkeley—discussed his collaborative work, Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party, to a crowd of over sixty people. Dr. Martin briefly presented his comprehensive text on the history of the Black Panther Party and for the remainder of the event held a conversation with the audience; the audience being comprised, primarily, of community members, a few academics and students, and activists. 
This event exemplified what a third space should look like. Dr. Martin is a scholar that is very conscious that the work he produces is widely accessible and takes part in the movement to democratize knowledge. At the event, he said something very powerful that I often say myself and that is, “If my nana can’t read my work, then I’ve failed as a scholar.” With this in mind, Dr. Martin made sure not to overload the crowd with intellectual jargon, and limited his presentation to about fifteen minutes, allowing the audience to chart the direction the remainder of the event would take.

While the overall discussion centered on the impact of the Black Panther Party, the other academics in the room had the opportunity to ask their questions and share their perspectives, which they drew upon while reacting to the text, and the other members of the audience also had an opportunity to inquire and stimulate discussion on other issues that also connected to the presented work. Thus, everyone participated in shared knowledge and gained various perspectives from not only Dr. Martin but everyone in the room. This is what the outcome of third spaces should look like: shared knowledge, shared ideas, as well as innovative thinking! 
Too frequently have I attended community-university collaborative events where scholars and community members are attempting to create a third space, but fail in that there is not an equitable balance of power. Either academics are placed upon a pedestal and are forcing their intellectual rhetoric down the throats of community members, or the community is bashing the scholar for not being connected to the people. Such events are incapable of producing anything, and continue to reiterate the disconnect many universities have with their surrounding communities. We must continue to create these spaces in which true community-institution engagement can occur to not only address this disconnect, but to strive for a better future, both academic and civic.

 


The Third Space Inside

Sam FranklinBy Sam Franklin, a doctoral candidate in American Studies at Brown University and 2013–2014 Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellow. This PAGE Blog Salon explores the idea of third spaces of engagement between communities and campuses, a topic of the upcoming Imagining America national conference, Oct. 4–6, in Syracuse, NY. This post’s focus: Innovating Strategies to Activate Academic Border Spaces and Challenge Dominant Modes of Community Engagement.

On Monday night I went to the public library for an NEH-sponsored film screening and scholar talk—your typical, even old-school site of academic public engagement. About fifty chairs were set out. Only nine showed up. The scholar, a young Ph.D. student, spoke about blues and gospel. It sounded pretty academic. I’m not sure how much people got, but they didn’t seem to mind. Afterwards, the diverse congregation erupted into a hearty discussion on music, religion, Africa, and Mao’s Cultural Revolution.
 Publicly engaged scholars often strive to balance two contradictory spirits, the missionary and the ethnographic. The first is zealous about spreading knowledge to those who will receive it. The second seeks mostly to listen, hoping to guide one’s scholarship toward greater relevancy or veracity. The first wants all audiences to be large, and all conversations to be “on topic.” The second often fails to step up and confidently say, as others in the room do, “this I believe.” 
 On Monday night the guest scholar first struggled to, but then finally did, reconcile the two. He offered himself as just one individual with particular strengths—such as facilitating discussion, as well as some specific knowledge—in a room of people with each their own. When the discussion turned to areas beyond his purview or to topics many scholars consider unworthy of inquiry, he had the humility to step back and know that the evening wasn’t about him. He also seemed to be unfazed by the low turnout. Perhaps academics are just used to empty rooms, but in this case our hero seemed to recognize that every discussion is important for those present, and that democratic conversation often happens best in small batches.

In “The Public and its Problems,” John Dewey warned us that any scholarly inquiry separated out from public discussion is bound to become private, petty, and unhelpful. The highest function of a scholar, for Dewey, was to aid society in discovering itself, through a radically democratic process of communication. This necessarily involves both listening and speaking, but above all in exorcising from our minds any sense that the scholar’s place is outside of (let alone above) everything else. One cannot be both a missionary and an ethnographer, but why should we be either? Both are outsiders. We are, like it or not, citizen scholars.
 Finally, Dewey’s ideal means more than just going “out there.” It also means being guided, even in moments of hermetic research and reflection, by present and local concerns. At Monday’s event, the speaker’s difficulty in not using jargon and academic shibboleths reflected how much higher education has failed to prepare us for this. We finally need to change the culture of our classrooms, not just to encourage scholars to “get involved” but to actually envision our community of learning differently. As we set about imagining our ideal third spaces outside of university walls, we need to simultaneously hatch a plan of action for helping manifest the third space within the minds of young scholars themselves.


Digital Media, Third Spaces, and the Subversion of Surveillance

Janeke ThumbranBy Janeke Thumbran, a Ph.D. student in History at the University of Minnesota and 2013–2014 Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellow. This PAGE Blog Salon explores the idea of third spaces of engagement between communities and campuses, a topic of the upcoming Imagining America national conference, Oct. 4–6, in Syracuse, NY. This post’s focus: Innovating Strategies to Activate Academic Border Spaces and Challenge Dominant Modes of Community Engagement.

What are the kinds of “third” spaces where communities meet in partnership with institutions? What are your personal reflections on these “third” spaces?

I believe that digital media and the digital humanities serve as a “third space” where communities can meet in partnership with academic institutions. By using digital media as a platform to engage with local communities, universities can create an environment where community knowledge is valued, struggles are articulated in ways that include all stakeholders, and strong partnerships are established to bring about community empowerment. Digital media provides a platform on which communities can present different perspectives, engage with multiple ideas, and connect with broader publics. Alongside museums, libraries and various other public spaces, digital media offers a space for dialogue and empowerment.

As a fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC), I am actively engaged in conversations on public engagement, scholar activism, and the blurring of disciplinary boundaries. As part of my own articulation of scholar activism, I have been involved with the Guantánamo Bay Public Memory Project, which is an ongoing public history initiative that seeks to facilitate dialogue on the history of the base, its practices of detention both past and present, and possible visions for the future. My involvement has been to develop content for a public exhibition that encourages debate and action around human rights issues at Guantánamo Bay and beyond. Through this project, I have been able to articulate my voice as a scholar-activist and to engage in the multiple ways that public history serves as a platform for public engagement.

I hope to expand the Guantánamo Bay project’s basis as a public history initiative to facilitate digital media projects. I plan to use these projects as a way to develop a third space where the university and the local Somali community can foster partnerships that connect local struggles over human rights issues to the larger question of detention and torture at Guantánamo. The digital media projects will focus on the connections between the practices at Guantánamo, the detainment of East African immigrants at immigration detention facilities in Minnesota, and the continued surveillance of local Muslim communities in the Twin Cities. By working collaboratively with the University’s Somali Students’ Associations, high school students from surrounding communities, and the broader Muslim community of the Twin Cities, I hope to facilitate the creation of digital media projects as well as photography, short film, digital storytelling and digital art initiatives that document encounters and experiences of surveillance. By using digital media in this way, I believe that a third space develops in which local communities, in partnership with the university, can engage in dialogue over surveillance and detention and find strategies that subvert these practices and sustain community empowerment.

A key word rarely used to build third spaces is “subversion.” When partners and stakeholders subvert practices that disempower communities, they create possibilities for additional third spaces to develop, where new partnerships, dialogue, and engagement can take place.


Classrooms as Third Spaces

Melissa CrumBy Melissa Crum, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Administration, Education, and Policy, and 2013–2014 Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellow. This PAGE Blog Salon explores the idea of third spaces of engagement between communities and campuses, a topic of the upcoming Imagining America national conference, Oct. 4–6, in Syracuse, NY. This post’s focus: Developing Educational Spaces and Techniques for Youth Empowerment.

Third Space can harness esoteric cultural evolutions and methods that satiate double binds to reconstitute funds of knowledge into critical pedagogical forms. I have found this most evident while working with Mosaic, a low-income African-American community-based homeschool cooperative.
 Third Space is a metaphorical space where participants are historical actors using their personal narratives to reconceive their present and future. Within a Third Space, participants form learning communities of instructors and peers who critically write in response to their sociohistorical lives. These sociohistorical lives contain contemporary experiences, with which they have both intimate contact and understanding, and historical information, to which they are vaguely connected yet is also relevant to their sociopolitical context.

Within these Third Spaces, superficial celebrations of cultural and decontextualized discrete historical information are avoided. Rather, they are transformative spaces for co-constructed problem-posing knowledge creation, where laymen’s erudition is transformed into scientific qualitative theory to explain socio-historical and political phenomena among non-dominant groups. Funds of knowledge trouble what and whose knowledge is valuable. Thus, in Third Spaces, laymen’s expertise is at a premium. It aids educator-researchers in conceptualizing their students’ communities from a holistic perspective that acknowledges their collective everyday resistance. As educators form reciprocal relationships between communities and parents, funds of knowledge become evident and can be used for community revitalization via the classroom. In sum, funds of knowledge can be applicable to non-traditional school settings because of its emphasis on community, family, and education. Mosaic Homeschool Cooperative is an example.

Funds of knowledge can inform and transform perspectives of valid knowledge reminding parent-teachers that their knowledge is valuable and the double binds in their realities are important for Mosaic students to understand and grow from. Double binds are the tensions formed when available tools, concepts, tactics, and strategies become obsolete for satiating the contemporary needs of a particular group. Therefore, group members working in and through tension produce new, innovative resources, thus ensuring that they are adequately equipped for the challenges they are presently facing. Mosaic is the product of a double bind, because parents found public education to be culturally irrelevant for their children. Parents resist local governmental forces, seeking to shape student learning through community resources and funds of knowledge.
 Each parent has unique funds of knowledge that could be utilized as subjects of lesson plans.

For example, Mosaic parent-teachers include a midwife, a holistic nurse, a vegan caterer, a reflexologist, a former public school teacher, a loctician, a real estate agent, and an entrepreneur. There are also parents who grow their own food, sew, and make crafts. These skills can be used to foreground traditional academic subjects, assist students in developing their own creativity, and serve as real life examples of Third Space resistance to dominant culture occurring in the community. By making connections between parents’ occupations, education objectives, and change in the community, students and parent-teachers begin to form relationships and make double binds transparent by promoting questions, solutions, and alterations about anomalies, phenomena, discrepancies, and hidden cultural treasures in their environments.


Art & Cultural Conservation

Mutópe J. JohnsonBy Mutópe J. Johnson, a Master of Fine Arts student in painting and drawing at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and 2013–2014 Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellow. This PAGE Blog Salon explores the idea of third spaces of engagement between communities and campuses, a topic of the upcoming Imagining America national conference, Oct. 4–6, in Syracuse, NY. This post’s focus: Developing Educational Spaces and Techniques for Youth Empowerment.

Hopeful concepts made real has become a significant motivating factor for me as a person and as an artist. Participating in meaningful ideas is worth its weight in gold. The best questions should challenge our thinking without being totally concerned with any limitations. When solutions emerge from hopeful concepts, it encourages us to act. So when I thought about the question—Is there any action I could take in my community or on my campus to foster this through the Imagining America program?—I considered my work as an artist before graduate school and now that I’m fully engaged in it as a student. I thought about how all my life I’ve had to face adversity, but learning to overcome it has been my life’s greatest lesson.

As a youth, adults were always telling me what I couldn’t do, and what I should do. For the first time, at age 17, I was able to decide for myself, as I was looking at colleges and universities to seek an education in the fine arts. My own father thought I would be better off working in the foundry where he was employed, that becoming an artist wasn’t a real job and that there was no way that an African-American man would actually have the opportunity to express himself through art and actually get paid for it. My father believed it, because of the lack of equal rights he experienced during his lifetime.
 Milwaukee remains one of the most racially segregated large metropolitan areas in the nation, according to U.S. census data and analyzed by the Brookings Institution. But my father didn’t know that the power of the arts had it’s hold on me, that the art chose me, I didn’t choose the art. Coming home with sand in my pockets and lungs filled with black smoke wasn’t the career path I that was looking forward to.

Many years have passed. I earned that undergraduate degree. I was also able to embark on a career path in the role of art director and creative director positions in the marketing and communications industry, while simultaneously building a fine arts career. Art has always been the one thing that I have been the most passionate about and what has driven me throughout my life. What I have learned over the years is the obstacles that we face—we have the strength to overcome them. Through my art experience, I want to impart to upcoming young artists—especially minorities, who don’t see themselves represented among the creative working class—a message of positivity and awareness. To prove by example that there are artists with real jobs. That through understanding empathy, getting a higher education, and participating in public service, “we can make a difference.” I want them to see an African-American man, who is using his fine arts profession to express himself, develop a successful career, and give back to the community. The Masters of Fine Arts degree in Art, from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, for which I am a candidate, will equip me with the skills necessary to pursue professional work with a renewed sense of responsibility. I intend to be able to make my own creative contributions, live by example, and share all that I can with the next generation.

Milwaukee Bronzeville Poet Series #1 Artist: Mutope j. johnson Size: 36’h x 60’w Medium: Oil on canvas

Milwaukee Bronzeville Poet Series #1
Artist: Mutope j. johnson
Size: 36’h x 60’w
Medium: Oil on canvas

Milwaukee Bronzeville Poet Series #2 Artist: Mutope j. johnson Size: 36’h x 60’w Medium: Oil on canvas

Milwaukee Bronzeville Poet Series #2
Artist: Mutope j. johnson
Size: 36’h x 60’w
Medium: Oil on canvas

Milwaukee Bronzeville Poet Series #3 Artist: Mutope j. johnson Size: 36’h x 60’w Medium: Oil on canvas

Milwaukee Bronzeville Poet Series #3
Artist: Mutope j. johnson
Size: 36’h x 60’w
Medium: Oil on canvas