Art for Social Change
When I look at my journey as a Social Justice major, there are many paths I never saw coming. The values that I hold and uplift today are all based around my Social Justice major, whether I was able to recognize it or not. Going all the way back to when I was a senior in high school, I remember I applied to fifteen different colleges and universities all over the country. I had no idea what I wanted to do, what I wanted to go to college for, what interested me, nothing. I was convinced that once I arrived I would figure it out -- which eventually, I did.
For the first two and a half years of my college experience, I changed my major more than the average student (seven times, to be exact). I was so lost on my path and had no idea which direction to go in. I looked into Digital Media Arts, Religion, Art History, Theatre, Communications, Creative Writing and was unable to find comfort in any of those choices or feel passionate about any of them. Once I was at my wits’ end, I considered taking a leave of absence from Hamline since I was so incredibly lost. Instead, I decided to participate in a domestic study away program to give myself a little bit more time to think.
My study away program was the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA), and my concentration was in Art for Social Change. The program focuses on exploring how neighborhoods shape artists and how artists shape neighborhoods. We investigated how art shapes and inspires connections across different identities. We also were able to have an internship with a local arts-based nonprofit within the Twin Cities. Like I said before, enrolling in this program was completely on a whim, and I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. When I began to befriend all of the people in my cohort, I knew I had finally found my community of people. We discussed what art is and isn’t, how our identities influenced our art, and who we made art for. It was an experience that I will never forget. By the end of the semester, I finally realized that I wanted to major in Music and Social Justice, and had enough credits under my belt to get a double minor in Nonprofit Management and Digital Media Arts.
After that semester, I hit the ground running. I discovered my newfound love for providing social change through the arts, by creating and uplifting communities. I found my passion for storytelling, and discovered how important it was for me to let people tell their own stories instead of telling their stories for them. I discovered I had a voice that people listened to and cared about. My Social Justice concentration is in Art for Social Change, and when looking back on previous internships, leadership opportunities, courses I’ve taken, I’ve learned that the best way for me to practice cultivating social change is through the arts. My arts practice encoumpases music, photography, zine making, sound composition and design, as well as socially engaged art, the art of storytelling, and countless other mediums. Through taking a generalist perspective to the arts, as opposed to being a specialist in one area such as photography, I am able to connect with a wide range of communities and people through a variety of art forms. Through my social justice work, I have learned one of my biggest strengths is asking critical questions. I regularly ask for clarification on what people mean, invite them to speak more, or clarify assumptions I have made. This way, I am able to authentically meet people where they’re at, and understand people’s perspectives, which I have learned is a through line in so much of my art for social change.
In my Introduction to Social Justice course with Valerie Chepp, I was able to apply a Marxist analysis to the common practice of unpaid student internships. After I learned about the severe injustice unpaid internships serve, I vowed to never take an unpaid internship and to advocate for well-paid student internships across the board. Within my variety of internships surrounding affordable housing, queer healthcare, queer stories and reproductive justice, I have discovered that I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. The overall passion for my work comes from my love of knowing that there are thousands of strangers I haven’t met, and thousands of stories I haven’t heard. Communities are created through lived, shared experiences which become the collective history of different groups. Through their collective history, these communities bring about social change. I have taken it upon myself to learn and discover these stories, and will never stop.