‘Real Art for Real Change’: UC San Diego Celebrates Art Activism
Aimee Zygmonski | May 17, 2010
Dances were some of the performances that took place during the Arts in Action event on the UCSD campus.
Shouts of “Freedom for all!” and “Votes for women!” rang out on UC San Diego’s Library Walk when students re-created protests from America’s history— as part of the daylong “Arts in Action” festival. Sponsored by the department of theatre and dance, the festival represented an artistic response to the recent racial incidents on campus. Some of the marchers dressed as suffragettes, some as luminaries from the 1960s civil rights movement. Others held signs and chanted slogans from Chicano power and gay rights protests. The marchers convened and headed towards the campus theatre district for a full slate of events that included not only UC San Diego students and faculty, but also alumni and members of the greater San Diego community as well.
“Arts in Action” on May 10 featured performance projects from across campus created specifically for the event. There were dance “flash mobs” that erupted in various campus locales and a 24-hour dance project entitled “ a-n-y-b-o-d-y,” where a student-formed company danced for 24 hours leading up to the festival, inviting viewers to join in their “exercise in body awareness.”
Murals were placed at each of the six colleges for students to create. These were displayed at the Mandell Weiss Theatre in the evening along with a live mural painting by Peterson Hall “Chicano Legacy” muralists Mario Torero and Fernando Vossa.
Chancellor Marye Anne Fox addressed event participants.
In the afternoon, Jade Power, doctoral candidate in theatre and artistic director for the event, moderated a response panel featuring UC San Diego alumna and actress Monique Gaffney; Seema Sueko, artistic director of Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company; Grant Kester, chair of the UC San Diego department of visual arts; Evelyn Cruz and Jesse Mills from the University of San Diego; and playwright Ronald McCants and professor Robert Castro from the department of theatre and dance. The panel engaged audience members in thinking critically about arts activism and the intersections between race, gender, sexuality, class and performance.
Some of the other festival highlights included Toma Teatro’s adaptation of El Teatro Campesino’s political play “Los Vendidos,” dance video projects by UC San Diego dance faculty and an art installation with amplified cables that graduate student musicians then played.
The festival’s evening celebrations of art activism ranged from spoken-word poems and dance collages to scenes from contemporary plays. The culminating performance was by Art Collective, a performance/spoken word/music group formed out of the events of Winter Quarter. Their piece “Spectacle” asked the audience to consider common social expectations for bodies of color, speaking to race and racial stereotypes and how these images form in the public imagination. The audience in the theater broke into chants and cheers for the group’s performance.
Artists also set up a mural.
“I am in such admiration of everyone's artistry and dedication and feel truly inspired,” said Power, the artistic director of “Arts in Action,” after the event. “There is quite a community of artists at UCSD, and I hope that this festival has only been the introduction to future inter-departmental, across-campus collaborations. Most of all, I hope that we all continue to use our talents to make not only UCSD but whatever communities in which we participate, healthier and more equitable, that we use our art as a tool for chipping away at the most stubborn issues, and that we continue to make real art for real change.”