Social Justice Thru the Arts is a one-of-a-kind, week-long collaborative workshop welcoming high school students in historically underserved areas of Colorado to the CSU campus for an immersive experience. This workshop is not only a point of pride among the CSU community but also an example of the way that CSU works to increase resource accessibility through community engagement.
Through discussion, video, artmaking and collaborative forum, the participants are able to grapple with concepts like oppression, privilege, and art as a means of resistance while tackling questions like, “What is art to you?” Emphasizing collaborative learning through team building, intercultural dialogue, nurturing individual and collective voice, and fostering communication across differences, this social justice framework is based in the critique of power, privilege, and difference to engage participants about their identities, histories, and communities.
The hosts of the workshop, CSU faculty/staff Dr. Caridad Souza, Silvia Minguzzi, Dr. Patricia Vigil, and Dr. Claire Chien, along with guest artists Louise Cutler, Israel “Izzy” Herrera-Santos, and Godwin Abotsi, used visual art, digital media, creative writing, and music to emphasize concepts learned through dialogue and reflection that culminated in a group art project.
A linchpin of this program is the normalization of higher education and “college going” among students from some of the least-resourced schools in the region. Through the duration of the workshop, the students were able to stay on campus, receive campus tours, advice from the mentors, and tailored advising about the college application process. They also got an exclusive sneak peek of student life through access to amenities like the rec center and dining halls.
Each participant came in with a different level of familiarity with higher education, but all participants reported a positive increase in their understanding of the key higher education processes — on-campus living, applying to schools, finding scholarships — by the end of the program. Before the week-long session, 25% reported that they did not feel prepared at all for the process of applying to college. Afterward, that percentage dropped to zero.
“I loved this experience” said one student participant. “It exposed me to many different areas of ideas and careers. I felt like I had freedom to say what was on my mind and was able to experience what college is like.”
This summer, students came to campus May 31-June 5, ending with an interactive exhibition experience presented at the Visual Arts Building and Richardson Design Center, titled “Amending, A Mending History.” Friends and family of the participants attended the reception where participants presented their “personal murals” and performed an immersive drum-circle-style piece where they reflected on what they learned throughout the session. In the personal mural, students traced their bodies and were tasked with creating a mural that was a true expression of their identity.
“It has been a blast,” said one student participant. “Many new people to talk to, to see, and the activities/walking around have been very fun and made us all open-minded.”