Article in “Corsair” – SMC Hosts Activism through Art highlighting Otis MFA thesis exhibit & public program (May 2011)

SMC hosts activism through art

By Jennifer Ferrada

Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 01:05

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Jeff Cote/Corsair

On Thursday, May 5, an event at Santa Monica College called “Movimiento” served as a focal point for others to see how art is incorporated into messages of activism.

The info session took place at the Pete and Susan Barrett Gallery of the Performing Arts Center, where Los Angeles based artists, activists, and organizers came together to discuss stories of successes and setbacks achieved in the convergence of activism and art.

A few of them have been inspired by student activism, confronting issues such as the Dream Act, concerning undocumented students struggling to find a place.

Bianca Hernandez, one of the first speakers, is President of SMC’s Association of Latin American Students. Hernandez presented snapshots of ALAS’s actions conducted on campus throughout the past couple years. She stressed the importance of political awareness, and how as a group, they try to fight what’s right for them.

ALAS have also taken action in events such as the “March to End the Stereotypes,” and more recently, they took part in the “March in March,” a student protest fighting against tuition increases by going to Sacramento in March. Hernandez noted how they have incorporated the art of dance into their activities on campus.

Todos Somos Arizona is a collective of different community members, educators, activists, and artists who use different mediums of art and activism mixed together. Patricia Torres, a UCLA student in the Ph.D. department, and organizer with a couple of collectives in Los Angeles, said that they discuss the colonization of their communities and other concerns that they’re seeing right now, such as SB 1070 and the attacks on ethnic studies.

According to Torres, INCITE! LA is an organization of radical feminists of color,committed to stopping interpersonal violence, domestic abuse, and police brutality within their communities. INCITE! LA also opposes SB 1070, Arizona’s bill that allows criminalization or imprisonment of immigrants.

INCITE! held a major act of demonstration last May, in which 14 members chained themselves into a circle in front of the Downtown Los Angeles detention center, which caused it to close down for about six hours. “We saw it almost as a work of public art where we were actually stopping the everyday runnings of this detention torture place,” Torres explained.

Artist Rodrigo Marti was one of the organizers of the info session. His art project that was installed in the room was called “Non-Resident Alien.” He said the project will hopefully be the start of what will turn into different ways of working with the student groups he has been meeting and learning from.

Another artist named Felicia Montes had her artwork on display as part of the “Otis College of Art and Design 2011 Graduate Public Practice Degree Exhibition.”

“Art is a tool for education, empowerment, and transformation,” Montes said.

The special guest for the evening’s event was Carlos Montes, an activist during the Chicano Movement of the 1960s. Montes spoke of his memories of the past, and said, “What art is about is creating controversy. It’s for making movement in your community.”