Art for Social Justice Proves a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words


Photo by: Maggie Reid

Maggie Reid, Features Editor

Art for Social Justice proves a picture is worth a thousand words

On Nov. 6, Utica College Art Club held an art show for social justice in Strebel lounge. Students and faculty contributed pieces in many different art mediums for the club’s first event of its kind.

Club president Rebecca Manning was inspired to put on this event after talking to Laura Salvaggio, chair of performing and fine arts, at the Student Involvement Fair.

Salvaggio was talking about her department’s production of Cabaret and how it involved themes of social justice. Salvaggio had plans to hang collages done by students in a display in front of the theater.

“Basically, I was like, ‘That is a great idea,“ Manning said. “‘Why don’t I collaborate with you and make it it’s own event, not just like a little thing.’”

While planning, Manning realized that hosting the art show the week of the midterm elections would be a “good time to promote these different issues and to get people to think about them more and, hopefully, go out and vote.”

Local poet and activist Jasmine Millner spoke at the show and encouraged those who have not yet done so to vote.

“Happy election day,” Millner began. “Well, hopefully it’s a happy election day, we still have plenty of hours left. If you haven’t voted, please, for the love of God, vote.

When Millner was first invited to speak at this event, she thought “there must be someone a bit more qualified than me, but I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and that someone here needed to hear this.”

Millner delivered a powerful message about the injustices currently occurring everyday in America, and how that could lead someone to believe that their vote doesn’t matter.

“I am not going to stand here and highlight everything wrong with this world,” Millner said. “You all are incredibly intelligent and capable, and I know you see everything that I see. I want to talk to everyone in this room who sees what’s going on, what’s happening on the news, and decides that their vote doesn’t matter, that their voices aren’t loud enough, that their actions are only a small dent in the scheme of things.”

When Manning decided to put on art for social justice, she did not want to start just one conversation, but an “explosion” of many different ones.

“People [in Art Club] weren’t sure at first what I meant by social justice, it is a really big umbrella term,” Manning said. “It covers so many things. You can see that reflected in the variety of pieces we have here. We have stuff that you might expect, addressing gun violence, stuff like that. We also have a series of photographs about the struggles and decay that is faced by places that are considered to be in the ‘Rustbelt Region.’

Manning believes that art can make a difference by letting people open up about expressing their own ideas.

“I know that a lot of times when people talk about politics it is in a more formal setting, like a class,” Manning said. “People feel like they need to know everything, they need to have all of the statistics, otherwise they might as well not say anything because you don’t know what you are talking about. But art is a little more vague, it can be more expressive, more abstract. It gives you a space to talk about issues without having to know all of the details and being able to cite a court case.”

Alane Varga, dean for diversity and inclusion, said that the art show was an important event because it is a way to express thoughts that might be hard to say out loud.

“To think about things differently, to be able to build a connection makes us stronger as a community and allows an avenue for us to explore issues that are sometimes hard to have conversations about,” Varga said. “It is something available to a variety of folks, and it comes from inside of who you are.”