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Student-led groups tackle issues with artistic angle

Students tackle modern issues

The students of this year’s Connected Learning Program are knitting, dancing, and dumpster-diving their way toward their version of a better tomorrow.

The Connected Learning Program, a joint project between the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence, and Housing and Residential Education, supports student-led initiatives based around contemporary issues.

And this year, more than half of the projects have a distinctly artistic approach.

“More and more there are being connections made across disciplines, across different communities at the University,” Connected Learning Program Coordinator Ben Bolling said. “Very few of them are art majors, but they see the value of using art from a political science standpoint.”

Sophomore Wilson Sayre was a participant her freshman year.

This year, Sayre is a group mentor, heading her own project. With her concept, Guerilla Art, Sayre wants to create art anywhere and everywhere on campus.

“Last year we did not have a single arts project,” Sayre said. “There has been a hole for undergraduate artistic endeavors.”

Sophomores Karen Hardy and Erika Wesonga are veterans of the Connected Learning Program and co-mentors of this year’s group, Closely Knit.

“I would walk in on her crocheting, and she would walk in on me knitting,” Wesonga said.

“It was something we bonded over last year as roommates, and I thought about how we could use it to help the community.”

Closely Knit hopes to share knowledge of the craft of knitting, teaching group members how to knit and then using the products of their knitting to help those in need.

Earlier this semester, the members of Closely Knit toured the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service’s Community House on Rosemary Street, where the group will produce hand-knitted clothing throughout the year.

The group also hopes to produce clothing for patients at UNC Hospitals, Wesonga said.

“(The Connected Learning Program) is one of the lesser known opportunities on-campus,” Wesonga said, “and it’s something I wish everyone on campus would get involved in.”

Freshman Ashley Delgado is in her first year of the Connected Learning Program.

Delgado is a member of Eco-Art, which aims to stress the importance of environmental protection and sustainability through art.

“For a week we had members from the group scavenging in dumpsters, grabbing things that people threw away that could be recycled,” Delgado said.

“After a week, we assembled a recyclable monster.”

The recyclable monster was stationed inside an entrance of Cobb Residence Hall as a reminder to residents and visitors to recycle and dispose of materials properly.

The Connected Learning Program’s other groups this year range from teaching artistic expression to local Burmese refugees to exploring the different sides of meat production and consumption through documentary filmmaking.

Randi Davenport, executive director of the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence, said that recruitment for next year’s program is underway.

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“It’s a very innovative program that other universities have come to study,” Davenport said. “To the best of our knowledge, it’s the only program like it in the country.”

Contact the Arts Editor at artsdesk@unc.edu.