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'ARTivism' event will highlight scholars who use art to confront racism

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A piece from Susan Harbage Page's U.S. - Mexico Border Project titled 'Objects from the Borderlands' displayed in Greensboro Project Space in 2016. Photo courtesy of Susan Harbage Page.

Local artists and scholars will come together for “ARTivism,” an event that will highlight how art can be used to discuss and confront racism, on Wednesday. 

The Race, Racism and Racial Equity (R3) Symposium will hold its third virtual event, “ARTivism: Using Arts-based Scholarship to Interrogate and Dismantle Racism,” on Feb. 24 from 3-4:30 p.m.

“I’m excited for folks to be thinking about art in that way,” Allison De Marco, the co-convener of the R3 Symposium said, “to have some ideas of the ways that scholars and artists and researchers have been looking at visual arts and music to really delve into what’s happening in our culture around race and racism.”

The goal of the event is to highlight the many ways in which the panelists have used art to address racism and to foster a discussion on art as a tool to address wider issues.

“I think art really has a way to capture folks’s imagination as a kind of entry point to some of these challenging conversations,” De Marco said. 

"ARTivism" will feature five panelists: Charlie Dupee, Michael Figueroa, Susan Page, Sonny Kelly and Jacqueline Lawton. Special guest CJ Suitt will open the event with a spoken-word poem.

The event will continue with seven to nine minute presentations from each panelist:

  • Charlie Dupee is a visual artist and MFA candidate at the UNC department of art and art history. His works deal with futurism and intersectionality.
  • Michael Figueroa is an ethnomusicologist whose works focus on the Southwest Asian and North African regions. He plans to discuss works within different genres of music that deal with post-9/11 Arab Americans.
  • Susan Harbage Page is a photographer who takes pictures of objects that have been left behind by immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, and her presentation will highlight this work.
  • Sonny Kelly is a storyteller, speaker and comedian who will be looking at the idea of storytelling from a Black perspective in his presentation.
  • Jacqueline Lawton is a playwright, dramaturg at PlayMakers Repertory Company and an associate professor in the UNC department of dramatic art. She will be talking about the plays she has written and how she uses theater to address racial issues.

“All the speakers that we have are really going to be speaking to us from… their different backgrounds within the context of their work, in terms of the things that they do,” Travis Albritton, the event’s moderator, said. 

At the end of the event, there will be a 25-30 minute discussion, which will include a question and answer session with the panelists. Some questions have been pre-prepared, and others will be taken from the audience.

Overall, organizers of the event hope that students and the local community will engage with the ways that different forms of art can be used to spark conversations about race and racism. 

“I also want audiences to walk away knowing that we can actually address issues of social justice and change through art,” Lawton said. “Because, while you may not be able to change someone's mind, you can tap into their heart. And if you can tap into someone's heart, you create empathy and build community.”


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