Three faculty members and two students have been announced as 2022-2023 Engaged Humanities Studio Fellows.
A new initiative from the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, the Engaged Humanities Studio (EHS) brings together scholars, students, artists, activists, and community members for collaborative projects that address issues of pressing social concern.
The idea for the EHS arose out of conversations between faculty members and local community-based arts organizations about how to create mutually transformative collaborations, says Katie Price, associate director of the Lang Center.
“These projects are all aspirational, innovative, and values-driven,” says Price. “I'm thrilled to be able to support these projects on campus this year with our Engaged Humanities Fellows and their community partners.”
Ben Berger, executive director of the Lang Center and associate professor of political science, adds, “EHS plays an important role in Swarthmore’s larger efforts to elevate the humanities not only as essential elements of a liberal arts education but as vibrant components of democratic life.”
The program’s main focus is to support projects that combine humanities methodologies with collaborative practices and creative or artistic sensibilities to address social issues. It seeks to cultivate a campus community that better understands and appreciates the civic potential of the arts and humanities and the role they can play in helping to create a more just and compassionate world.
The inaugural EHS fellows and their projects:
House of the Living
This project is a collaborative, socially engaged artwork between FarmerJawn and Swarthmore to further revitalize FarmerJawn’s greenhouse at the Elkins Estate Farm. This project will use the intersection of art and agriculture to transform the greenhouse into a monument, highlighting issues surrounding gun violence. By representing the portraits of Black and Brown people who have encountered gun violence, Tarver and Joyner hope to engage a dialogue among diverse audiences. The greenhouse will be a functional space used for growing plants and serve as an inspirational space for those working within. It will also be a backdrop for other community events at the Elkins Estate. The collaborators see this project creating a contemplative space to reflect on injustices done within affected communities. House of the Living will offer food for both body and soul.
Performing Resistance and Social Change: Race, Gender, & Asian American and Asian Canadian Mobilization
The project will host a series of community and public-facing events that will explore how students, community leaders, scholars, and artists can engage with Asian American and Asian Canadian socio-political movements through the performing arts. Through ethnographic and ethnomusicological research, oral histories, performances by guest artists, and collaborations with community partners, they will put their ideas into practice.
A Tale of Three Rivers: A Subaltern Feminist Map of the Indus, the Ganges, and the Brahmaputra in the Little Ice Age
Farid Azfar, associate professor of history, in collaboration with scholars, organizations, and communities from Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh
The Indus, the Ganges, the Brahmapatrura are three great rivers that flow from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean. This project is designed around the potential of new collectives and collaborations between artists, activists, and academics centered broadly around the relationship between the cultural history of these three rivers and the climate futures of South Asia.
Chris Stone ’23, an engineering and environmental studies major, and Steve McLaughlin of Iffy Books
In partnership with Iffy Books, this project will run workshops that engage community members in Philadelphia with the topic of renewable energy for a just climate transition through solar-powered multimedia projects. In several hands-on, interactive workshops, participants will learn how small-scale renewable energy systems function and discuss how to spread the word together in the wider Philadelphia community. The project’s goal is to show that engineering projects can also be creative, educational, and artistic projects. Moreover, for an equitable transition away from fossil fuels, these skills must be accessible to those in underrepresented communities.
Emma Lang ’24, an art history, education, and economics special major, and Aditi Joshi, director of Speaking Grey
Unpacking Creativity nurtures social emotional intelligence and the confidence to express these emotions among racial and ethnic minority youth. By providing accessible STEAM toolkits that assist community-based advocacy projects, students raise awareness in their community while exploring their own identities. From 2021-2022, Unpacking Creativity launched an exhibition-based pilot program “Sister’s Mailbox” for 200 rural adolescent girls in five middle schools in China. Through ideation, curation, and the final launch of a local exhibition about adolescence and girlhood, rural adolescent girls gained creative confidence and interpersonal emotional intelligence, and brought local attention to support the physical and mental development of youth in a wider community.
As Unpacking Creativity is coming to the U.S. and will provide their service to Chinese English Language Learners (ELLs) to empower their self-expression, cultural adaptation, and create community support. They believe by empowering youth with social and emotional intelligence, as well as the confidence to express themselves, they will be able to create ripple effects in a bigger community, which will build a culture that values inclusivity, equality, diversity and responsibility.