Arts and Social Justice Fellowship launches second year with new partnerships

By Emma Yarbrough | Emory Report | Oct. 26, 2021

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The Emory Arts and Social Justice Fellows program allows Emory faculty and students to explore with Atlanta artists how creative thinking and artistic expression can inspire change. Participating artists (clockwise from left) are Indya Childs, Elizabeth Jarrett, Jim Alexander, Stephanie Brown, Miranda Kyle, Lee Osorio and Mark Kendall.

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Last year, in the wake of the global pandemic and a rising tide of national attention to racial and social injustice, the newly founded Emory University Arts and Social Justice (ASJ) Fellowship set out to examine how creative thinking can inspire change.

Now the fellowship looks to expand its impact on campus and in Atlanta through a new partnership with Emory’s Science Gallery Atlanta and with additional support from the lululemon Centre for Social Impact, which works to break the barriers that prevent access to well-being.

“Emphasizing social justice in a science context feels like an incredible opportunity to foster rich, curious and challenging dialogues that will increase our impact,” says Floyd Hall, curator of Science Gallery Atlanta’s inaugural exhibition, scheduled to open in January. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of the artists in this next cohort — it’s such a dynamic collection of creative thinkers and I’m excited about their upcoming work.”

A partnership between Emory Arts, Emory College of Arts and Sciences and the Emory University Center for Ethics, the ASJ program brings faculty and students together with local artists to explore how creative thinking and artistic expression can inspire change.

The 2021 cohort of fellows is made up of seven dynamic figures from Atlanta’s arts community, including the legendary documentarian of the civil rights movement, Jim Alexander, and the Atlanta BeltLine’s arts and culture program manager, Miranda Kyle.

“This year’s fellowship cohort reflects a beautiful spectrum of artistic disciplines, age, gender and ethnicity of Atlanta artists whose work is grounded in advancing conversations about pressing societal issues,” says Carlton Mackey, a lecturer in film and media studies and co-director of the ASJ Fellowship Program with Kevin Karnes, associate dean for the arts in Emory College.

“While all of last year’s projects critically examined injustice through the lens of race, this year’s cohort of artists and faculty challenges us to explore intersectional struggles for justice in bioethics, environmental sciences, public health and more,” says Mackey.

Participating faculty members work alongside their partnered ASJ Fellows to design creative projects that examine social inequities. These projects are then brought to fruition by students within the framework of existing classes taught by the faculty. Projects from last year’s inaugural cohort are featured on the ASJ Fellowship website.

“The Arts and Social Justice Fellowship provides a space for subject matter experts of seemingly disparate fields to push through their silos and create revolutionary conversations, encourage expansive thinking and remove the stigma around interdisciplinary approaches to society’s problems,” says Kyle, whose work with the Atlanta BeltLine includes curating the annual Art on the Atlanta BeltLine Public Art Exhibition.

“When you are an expert in your field, it is easy to get comfortable,” she adds. “I have found the thrill of the unknown again with the fellowship. It has been a beautiful, boundary-stretching experience so far.”

The experience is also transformational for participating faculty members like Rasheeta Chandler from the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.

“My experience as a faculty fellow is simply refreshing and reinvigorating,” says Chandler, who is partnered with photographer Stephanie Brown. “I have a creative side that I am not able to tap as often as I would like to due to time constraints. The partnership with my artist has revealed how to be creative, inspired by academic content, and how to strive to produce content that evokes a desire to implement social change’”

“Students have responded positively to this experience. They have welcomed an opportunity to self-reflect and consider their plight to ensure their work is approachable and accessible to a range of communities, using different communication mediums,” adds Chandler. “I summarize the experience as translational productivity through a creative and socially impactful lens.

2021 ASJ faculty/artist pairings and courses:

Survey of African American Literature to 1900

Michelle Gordon, Department of African American Studies, with Jim Alexander, documentary photographer

Social Responsibility and Bioethics in Nursing

Rasheeta Chandler, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, with Stephanie Brown, photographer and interdisciplinary artist

Voices of Nonviolence

Ellen Ott Marshall, Candler School of Theology, with Indya Childs, dancer and choreographer

Environmental Data Science

Emily Burchfield, Department of Environmental Sciences, with  Elizabeth Jarrett, experiential designer

Film, Media and the Art of Social Change

Carlton Mackey, Emory Center for Ethics and Department of Film and Media, and Edward Queen, Emory Center for Ethics, with Mark Kendall, comedian

Teaching Compassion

Shaquita Starks, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, with Miranda Kyle, curator

Anticolonial Thought and Art in the Caribbean

Sean Meighoo, Department of Comparative Literature, with Lee Osorio, actor and playwright