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CLS and DAR team up to bring arts alums to campus

Representatives from Alumni Relations and CLS tabling in the JRC together. Photo by Shabana Gupta.
Representatives from Alumni Relations and CLS tabling in the JRC together. Photo by Shabana Gupta.

The Department of Alumni Relations and the Center for Careers, Life and Service (CLS) collaborated to bring alumni who work in the arts back to Grinnell for a two-day event, the Artists as Activists Symposium. Alumni returned to participate in panel discussions and run workshops, in addition to connecting with current students and members of the Grinnell community.

One of the main goals of this event was to help student artists become more active in their communities. Rachel Harvith, director of the Arts, Media, and Communications Career Community, said, “One of the things that’s never changed [in Grinnell] is the commitment to social justice, and I feel that one of the groups left out of that change is artists.”

Everyone was welcome to join in the events, ranging from panel discussions to a concert held in the Stew. During these events, Harvith wants people to hold conversations that focus on how art is able to make a difference in the world, not only the Grinnell community.

“We wanted to focus on how to use your skills for social change, connecting to Grinnellians present and past and creating an exciting atmosphere,” Harvith said.

“Soar” is one event that was created in collaboration with artist Nancy Belmont, who specializes in projects that bring together communities. People wrote their burdens on rocks and hung origami birds to the rocks to symbolize the burdens being let go.

The keynote speaker, Dave Loewenstein ’88, works with communities to create murals that express the essence of a community. His collaborative process includes talking with community stakeholders, showing them drafts and getting feedback. Once everything has been decided, Loewenstein opens the project to the community, where different members come in and paint, including children. Loewenstein has a mural in Grinnell from 2001 called “Eclipse” on the north side of the Grinnell Railway Express building. He is a successful muralist around the world, with pieces in Ireland, South Korea and Brazil.

Loewenstein will speak today on how to go about making art with large groups, as well as his own printmaking and mural painting process.

Many of the events allowed people to show and practice their own creativity. “We also wanted to have not just talking about art but also practicing it, so we wanted to have a place where everyone can be part of that,” Harvith said. The majority of projects were held in Bucksbaum, where people could come and go as they pleased.

Rachel Eber ’21 played at the Stew in a solo performance. Katie In ’13 asked Eber to play this year. Eber has experience around campus, playing in tiny dorm concerts, Showvember and the Grinnellian.

Multiple students and alumni volunteered their work to the closing reception, giving a mixture of art, music and stories for people to peruse. The work will be going up in the Bucksbaum Rotunda as posters, containing information about the artist and the piece, displayed with a photo of the piece. The showcase is for all students, not only those practicing in art through the college.

“This can be anyone who considers themselves an artist and whatever that means to you,” Harvith said. “We want to bring visibility to students who are doing creative work on campus.”

Brooke Vonderheide, assistant director of Donor and Alumni Relations for career programs, believes the panel discussion will open room for students with interests outside of art to join the discussion. “I think it’s going to be a really wonderful way to invite alumni and students into the conversation,” Vonderheide said.

Students will be able to have meals with alumni artists where they can chat and ask questions about how to do meaningful work. Events are wrapped up for Thursday, but will continue today.

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