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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Tresther’s Tru-pinions: Art, social action and a Grinnell women’s center

Photo by Scott Lew.
Photo by Scott Lew.

Last Thursday and Friday the CLS brought alumni for an Artists as Activists symposium. Alumni came together to talk about their work and how their care for people, communities and social justice guide their work. Talking to these alums got me thinking about some artists/activists on my radar and my own desires to use art to support myself and my communities.

Ai Wei Wei comes first to mind when I think of powerful artists. Ai is a Chinese artist who was kidnapped and beaten by the Chinese government in 2011 for his political art. If you’re looking for something to watch, there’s a documentary on Netflix named after him.

Also, be sure to check out Vienna Rye (@vrye on Instagram, Rye is a self-taught visual artist based in New York City whose work is informed by her grassroots activism. She confronts settler colonialism, racism, capitalism and patriarchy. She is currently represented by the ACLU in a lawsuit against wide-spread police surveillance.

And if you or anyone you know has interests in exploring their artistic side, ANACHA [anacha-art] is a feminist art collective that expels elitism and fosters activism and collective practice of film, music, podcasting, dance and arts of any kind! It’s named after two non-Western artists, Ana Mendieta and Theresa Cha who were both killed from sexual and gender-based violence. This collective has helped me overcome my self-doubt in the artistic field. As someone who grew up in a culture of comparison and competition, this is extremely helpful in dispelling toxicity around art!

I was fortunate to know the founder of ANACHA before she graduated — Hankyeol Song ’17. Song’s work to support survivors of sexual assault on campus has a legacy on this campus. Her efforts to implement a women’s center on campus led to the creation of Dissenting Voices, a radical feminist student group dedicated to holding Title IX accountable. If you want to read about Dissenting Voices, read Song’s “Letter to the Editor: An Elegy for Feminist Justice at Grinnell” at

I’m telling you all this because Grinnell administration has a history of making life extremely difficult for students who push them to be better, and I want to keep the spirit of Song’s critical action alive. Though she is gone, she mentored many student leaders to be fearless in our pursuit for knowledge and our actions to hold others accountable for misuses of power.

That being said, if you are interested in helping establish a women’s center on campus, contact Women’s centers were first created in the feminist movement of the 1970s to raise consciousness about female identity.

It is surprising that our college does not have a women’s center considering how many competing schools do. Establishing a women’s center on Grinnell College’s campus carries on the legacy of work done by feminist radicals generations before us. We have learned from feminist history about the place of identity and oppression in feminism. The work of our generation is to explore histories of racism, transphobia, settler colonialism and imperialism in our feminist practice today.

Ai Wei Wei, Vienna Rye, ANACHA and Hanky Song are artists whose social action have inspired me, and I hope you check them out and gain some inspiration as well!

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