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Artists bring new perspectives to Emory classrooms through Arts and Social Justice Fellows Program
arts and social justice collage

Emory’s 2023-24 Arts and Social Justice fellows are (top, L-R) Nia Jackson, Bird Harris, W.J. Lofton and Kelly Taylor Mitchell; (bottom, L-R) Antonio David Lyons, Adán Bean and Meredith Gordon.

The Arts and Social Justice (ASJ) Fellows Program enters its fourth year of programming, welcoming seven Atlanta-based artists to classes across the university this fall. The cohort of artists includes Antonio David Lyons, Adán Bean, Bird Harris, Kelly Taylor Mitchell, Meredith Gordon, Nia Jackson and W.J. Lofton.

With the support of Emory University’s Office of the Provost, ASJ will explore the program’s expansion over the next three years with community partners including Art on the Atlanta BeltLine, the High Museum of Art, Midtown Arts Alliance and Spelman College.

“Developing these new partnerships will enable students and faculty to bring their work into dialogue with individuals and communities throughout our city,” says Kevin C. Karnes, associate dean for the arts and co-director of the ASJ program. “Our vision is to develop ASJ into a model for transformative higher education across our region and the country, leveraging the power of art to bridge differences and open spaces for conversation and collaboration in every field and discipline. Support from the Office of the Provost gives us the chance to work toward this vision.”

Each fellow is paired with an Emory faculty member from across the university, including teachers from Emory College of Arts and Sciences, Emory School of Medicine, Rollins School of Public Health, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and Oxford College. The artists work with their faculty partners to reimagine an existing course, injecting a creative approach to addressing the social justice issues that surfaced within class conversations.

“The Emory Arts and Social Justice Fellows Program is entering its fourth year with renewed energy and commitment to leverage our work at the intersection of art and scholarship to address social justice issues,” says Carlton Mackey, co-director of the ASJ program. “As James Baldwin once said, ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’ This program is about facing the challenges of our time head-on, and using our intellect and creativity to find solutions that will make a difference in the world.”

The ASJ Fellows Program is supported by Emory College, Emory Arts, Emory Center for Ethics, Emory Office of the Provost, Nat Robertson Fund in Science and Society and the lululemon Centre for Social Impact.

The artists, faculty, and students will reveal the results of their fall semester work on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, at the Switchyards Downtown Club in Atlanta. The exhibition will be free and open to the public.

Courses and faculty/artist pairings

Black Church, Black Music

Emorja Roberson, assistant professor of music and African American studies at Oxford College, with Adán Bean, writer, emcee and spoken word artist

Dance Pedagogy

Lori Teague, associate professor of dance, with Antonio David Lyons, actor, poet, musician, playwright and artivist

Healing Justice Is Social Justice: Narrative Medicine

Khaalisha Ajala, assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine, with Meredith Gordon, clown and actor

Immigration as Social and Structural Determinant of Health

Amy Zeidan, assistant professor at Emory School of Medicine, with Kelly Taylor Mitchell, artist, assistant professor of art and visual culture at Spelman College

Information Visualization

Emily Wall, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science, with W.J. Lofton, poet

Introduction to Native American History

Loren Michael Mortimer, provost postdoctoral Fellow in Native American history, with Bird Harris, painter and social practice artist

NRSG 726D DNP Project Development I

Shawana Moore, associate professor in Emory’s School of Nursing, with Nia Jackson, visual artist

About the Arts and Social Justice Fellows Program

Amid a groundswell of national attention to racial and social injustice in the summer of 2020, Emory professors and students joined with Atlanta artists later that fall to explore how creative thinking and artistic expression can inspire change.  

A partnership between Emory Arts of Emory College of Arts and Sciences and the Ethics and the Arts program of the Emory University Center for Ethics, the Arts and Social Justice Fellows (ASJ) program was envisioned as an opportunity for faculty members to work alongside partnered ASJ Fellows to embed creative projects that reflect on social inequities into existing courses across the Emory curriculum. Throughout the program, the full cohort of faculty, artist fellows and their students will gather to learn about each other’s work and to exchange ideas across campus about the arts and social justice. The semester concludes with a public unveiling and citywide conversation to collectively consider the completed projects and the questions they raised. 

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