New program brings arts and social justice to classes across campus

By Emma Yarbrough | Emory Report | July 2, 2020

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Through the new Emory Arts and Social Justice Fellows program, Emory faculty and students will collaborate with Atlanta artists this fall to explore racial injustice and other inequities, leading to creative projects intended to spark conversations on campus and in the wider community.

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Emory faculty, students and Atlanta artists will come together this fall to explore racial injustice and other inequities, leading to creative projects intended to spark conversations on campus and in the wider community. 

The new Emory Arts and Social Justice Fellows program partners six Emory faculty with six Atlanta artists – Arts and Social Justice (ASJ) Fellows – whose work advances racial and social justice. Emory faculty from all divisions of the university are invited to apply to become part of the inaugural fall 2020 cohort by Friday, July 10. (Interested Atlanta area artists can apply here by Friday, July 17.)

The work is a partnership between Emory’s Ethics and the Arts Program of the Center for Ethics and the Emory College Center for Creativity and Arts.

Through engagement with an ASJ Fellow, participating faculty will connect their teaching on any topic directly with those who are presently shaping critical conversations about social justice in the Atlanta community. Their students will have the opportunity to translate their learning into creative action, shaping those conversations in turn. 

“The Arts and Social Justice Fellows Program provides Emory with an opportunity to live into its commitment to bold inquiry and courageous pedagogy,” explains Carlton Mackey, director of the Emory Ethics and the Arts Program. 

“This will provide Emory students with a unique opportunity to not only critically examine the history of racial injustice in America and the consequences of that injustice on each of our lives, but will also catalyze collective action,” he says. “By centering the voices of Black and Latinx artists, this program will serve as a model for what it means to not only critically examine our past, but to reimagine new possibilities for our future.” 

Advancing necessary conversations

Recent months have seen a series of crises that throw societal inequities into stark relief. The physical toll of the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected African American and Latinx communities, while its economic impacts have caused historic rates of unemployment and financial hardship, experienced disproportionately in those same communities. At the same time, the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks have given rise to ongoing protests against systemic and institutionalized racism.

This summer, participating faculty members will work with their partnered ASJ Fellow to design a project that reflects on racial or other inequities, and to embed their project into one of the faculty member’s existing syllabi – on any topic – for the fall. During the fall semester, faculty will continue working with their partnered ASJ Fellow to guide their students’ completion of the project within the framework of their class.

The full cohort of six faculty, six ASJ Fellows and their students will gather monthly during the semester to learn about each other’s work and to exchange ideas about the arts and social justice. The semester will conclude with a public unveiling and citywide conversation to consider collectively the completed projects and the questions they raise. 

“We’re humbled and excited about the incredible response we’ve gotten to this project from faculty all across the university, including many who’ve already written to ask if we’ll be continuing in the spring,” says Kevin Karnes, vice provost for the arts and director of the Emory Center for Creativity and Arts. “My biggest hope for the project at this point is that we’ll be able to keep it going beyond this semester – and that will require support beyond what we’ve been able to line up so far.

“I’m sure that we’ll see some amazing work produced by our students in collaboration with ASJ Fellows and faculty, and that their work will help to advance some necessary conversations on campus and into the community.”

ASJ Fellows will receive a summer stipend and a salary in the fall, and each faculty/ASJ Fellow pair will receive $1,000 to cover materials and other expenses for their project. Faculty and ASJ Fellows will decide together how to incorporate their project into the syllabus, as well as the nature and frequency of the ASJ Fellow’s engagement with the class. Following discussions with the fellowship committee to identify possible pairings, faculty accepted into the program will be paired with an ASJ Fellow who may work in any artistic medium.

Emory faculty from all divisions of the university are encouraged to apply by Friday, July 10. Questions may be directed to Carlton Mackey or Kevin Karnes.

The July 10 deadline is for Emory faculty. Interested Atlanta area artists should submit an application by Friday, July 17.