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Atlanta nonprofits benefit from student art projects

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | April 1, 2014

The goal was simple: Unite Emory students and Atlanta artists to create socially engaged artwork that helps raise public awareness for Atlanta nonprofits.

The result? Artistic solutions hand-tailored to each nonprofit that will be revealed during a public unveiling of final class projects for the Southwest Airlines Art and Social Engagement Course on April 8 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Cox Hall Ballroom.

The project — the first of its kind offered through the Emory Center for Ethics — focused on identifying the needs of three Atlanta-area nonprofits: Trees Atlanta, which protects and improves Atlanta's urban forest; Gateway Center, which helps individuals and families move out of homelessness; and Forever Family, which supports children with incarcerated parents.

Beginning last semester, nine Emory students worked with local artists Kelly Kristin Jones, Paper Frank and Deborah Sosower to create projects "in the voice of the nonprofits that would communicate artistically what the organization was all about with projects that were meaningful and made a statement," says Carlton Mackey, director of Emory's Ethics and the Arts Program, who runs the class with Edward Queen, director of the D. Abbott Turner Program in Ethics and Servant Leadership (EASL) at Emory's Center for Ethics.

For example, Jones and Emory students partnered with the Gateway Center to create a photography project featuring life-sized images and statements of homelessness designed to "bring visibility and a voice to people living on the streets in Atlanta," Mackey explains.

Lessons in social issues

The course not only created a forum for artists and nonprofits to discuss their work, but also offered students opportunities to understand both the social challenges and ethical commonalities underlying the mission of the nonprofits.

"By the end of the semester, students had a history lesson about homelessness in Atlanta, both pre- and post-Olympics, insight into incarceration rates and the impact they have upon youth, and a look at environmentalism and ethics," Mackey says.

Each artist worked with three students, Mackey says. The artist met with a nonprofit to propose concepts; students "gave them academic shape and physically helped bring them to life" and the nonprofits "found new ways to see their organizations and engage clients."

Emory students involved with the class included Benjamin Austin, Lois Chang, Kevin Do, Brittany Fauconnet, Maya Hubbard, Yeji Park, Kunal Patel, Daneka Stryker, and Aubrey Tingler.

The April 8 unveiling will "celebrate the projects," providing an opportunity "to look at them and what they meant to students, the artists and the nonprofits, all of whom will be present, along with a representative from Southwest Airlines, who funded the projects."

Those interested in attending are asked to email an RSVP.

The Ethics and the Arts Program at the Emory Center for Ethics encourages ethical discourse and debate through and about the arts, and partners with signature arts organizations to demonstrate the way art challenges our perspectives.