On Campus, The Arts, Thriving Communities

CC Mobile Arts Community Adjunct Introduces Students to Artivism

Julia Fennell ’21

Students in the CC Mobile Arts Community Artivism Adjunct have the opportunity to see hands-on the impact that local city and state policies have on arts and culture. Through the course, students participate in CC Mobile Arts and local Colorado Springs community events, as well as attend an overnight field trip to the Paseo Project in Taos, New Mexico.

“Artivism is art and activism, activism and art,” says class instructor Dr. Nancy Ríos, co-director of Colorado College Mobile Arts (CCMA). “Chicanas/os of the Movimiento are often credited with centering art in activism in their social and political fights for justice and students in this course analyze and get inspiration from these and other contemporary artivism examples.” Artivism is a social justice movement-based approach to solidarity and coalition that was formed out of feminism and racial justice organizing.

This adjunct teaches students how community organizing, policy making, and social change can be achieved through artivism. One of the highlights of the class is the students’ participation in The Paseo Project in Taos, New Mexico. The Paseo Project is an annual two-night festival where artists display interactive, inspiring, and community-based art. This year, students in the class worked with Dr. Theresa J Cordóva of Las Pistoleras Instituto Cultural de Arte to create an art installation that emphasizes the political and historical memories of the Chicano people in northern New Mexico.

“This collaboration started over the summer and students in the course jumped in for final logistics and installation,” Ríos says. “They got to work as part of the CCMA team, and they were in Taos from Friday through Sunday. It was somewhat of a crash course in what community engagement at CCMA looks like. In our collaborations and partnerships, community members reach out to us, and they share their vision with us. We then, as a team, brainstorm how we can support our partners with care and intention. Students witness and experience why trust is critical in our community engaged work and they get opportunities to experience that.”

The installation featured work from local artists, including photographer Dr. Jaelyn deMaria and journalist Dr. Kathryn Cordóva, and a table read of Los Vendidos by Luis Valdez, under the direction of Dr. Theresa J. Cordóva and performed by El Chante Casa de Cultural and Las Pistoleras Instituto Cultural de Arte Colectivas.

“Ultimately, our goal is to activate our ancestral terrestrial experience through the amplification of memories of place,” the installation’s webpage states. “We plan to explore our contemporary human-to-human relationships that ultimately affect nature and our environments within ourselves, our community and our globe.”

Christiana Garcia-Soberanez ’24, a student in the adjunct class, says the community-based engagement has been a very beneficial experience. She was particularly excited to engage with The Paseo Project.

“Both sides of my family are northern New Mexican, being from Española and Canjilon, so I identify as being Norteña,” says García-Soberanez, a Sociology major and Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies minor. “I saw the engagement with Paseo X Project as a chance to engage with and support my community in a meaningful way.”

In addition to working and participating in the festival, students in the course create their own events, where they take lessons they’ve learned from the festival to become lead liaisons for community partnerships in their events.

For this year’s student-led event, students in the class organized Día de Muertos workshops during Block 3. The students hosted three workshops where they made Ojos de Dios and Flores de Papel to celebrate Día de Muertos. They also assisted with the Fine Arts Center’s Día de Muertos celebration.

“We were able to meet with the artist, Cal Duran, who created an altar for Día de Muertos for installation in the FAC, and one of the elements he uses is Ojos de Dios,” García-Soberanez says. “Ojos de Dios are an Indigenous practice and symbols of the Wixárika, also known as the Huichol people, who are an Indigenous group in what is now Mexico. Ojos de Dios are also a common practice in Pueblos in New Mexico. Participants in the workshops will make an Ojo or a paper flower and will be asked to engage with a prompt. They will be able to take their creation or leave it to be put on an altar. The workshops are intended to educate and have people intentionally engage with Día de Muertos and the meaning of ancestors, memory, and life and death.”

The class also studies historical and contemporary examples of artivism. Students assign each other a peer-reviewed article on a topic of artivism that is related to the personal interests of that student, which gives them each an opportunity to discuss examples that specifically interest them.

“The hope is that these examples can help us think more expansively about what is possible through CCMA,” Ríos says. “How we can think of CCMA as an artivist tool.”

“This course is designed to introduce students to the theories that underpin the approach of the CC Mobile Arts program,” says Dr. Naomi Wood, co-director and founder of CCMA and Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese. “Through critical readings on activism, Chicanx and southwest regional studies, feminist artivism, and creative epistemologies, students study the social movements and histories that inform the approach of the CCMA Program.”

CCMA is housed in a Ford 2021 E-350 16’ Cutaway Box Truck, which is available to be booked by local artists and institutions whose projects and needs match the priorities of the CCMA Program. This is the third year of CCMA and the first time this specific adjunct class has been offered, though CCMA collaborates with about ten CC classes a year in the “UnBlocked Truck” series.

“The truck is both pedagogical tool and a vehicle for engaging with the arts as pathways towards social change,” Ríos says. “We collaborate with local communities, community organizing, and artists to create events where art, joy, and community are centered. Our students learn traditional work skills but also learn about working with and in communities. Care and intention are some of our organizing principles and so we created a class that would allow students to learn more about CCMA, work with CCMA, and use the classroom to discuss the theories that are central to our praxis.”

The adjunct is one of CC’s community-engaged learning (CEL) classes, which means the class both promotes student learning and addresses community needs at the same time.

“Our community partners are already leaders in their areas of expertise—community-oriented service- and we show up as a tool or resource to further build on the work they are already undergoing,” Wood says. “We bring our own team of paid student workers and do not require any resources from the community partner. Students in the class gain an understanding of the difference between community-engaged learning that centers the student vs. community-engaged learning that centers the needs and mission of the organization.”

García-Soberanez believes it is the ‘outside the classroom’ component of the work with CCMA that is important for this particular course. “As academics, we are used to learning about things in very theoretical and historical contexts,” she says. “But the outside the classroom component allows us to engage with what we are learning and see how it is implemented. When we think about community at CC, it’s often thought of as the campus community or communities on campus, since CC acts as sort of a bubble and it’s very hard for people to engage with the greater Colorado Springs community. But CC Mobile Arts is a campus resource as well as a resource to the greater Colorado Springs and even the greater Southwest.”

The adjunct course meets as a class every Thursday, and students join the CCMA team meetings every other week.

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