Senior Master of Arts Ellen Nelson P’10 ’13 and Athey Master of the Arts Diane Richards P’21 ’23 collaborated to create and teach an Art Activism course during Hill’s H Term. According to the course description, students will dive into an immersion of Protest Art by increasing their understanding of what Protest Art is, its history, and some of the various issues surrounding social inequality and injustice.

For Nelson, she was inspired to create this course after seeing many protests unfold during the summer of 2020. “I was determined to incorporate the concept of social justice into my curriculum wherever I could,” she remarked. “This past fall I presented my Studio Art 3 Honors class with the idea of Protest Art. I was really impressed with their creations. When we were asked to create an H Term course, I immediately knew I wanted to focus on art activism.”

Both Nelson and Richards crafted similar courses independently and were then asked to teach a course together, which, according to Nelson “turned out to be a wonderfully collaborative process.” While Nelson and Richards led the course, they invited many guest artists and authors to share their perspectives with the students.  

Iha Chikkala '21 initially enrolled in the course to help her better understand her passion for social justice through art.

“If I had to sum up the course in three words, I would use liberating, empowering, and motivating,” stated Iha. “Art activism has influenced my perspective on art in that I now look past the piece and try to understand the artist’s rhetoric and message. After listening to the many guest speakers, I have learned how every choice in a piece is deliberate, and understanding the artist’s point of view in every aspect can be a rich, rewarding process.”

Iha enjoyed the course and was pleased to see her final project come together (pictured above). In fact, she plans to continue her work when she returns home at the end of the spring term.

“I hope to continue my final project with more South Asian daughters, which addresses the duality many South Asian daughters face every day: being the traditional, ideal South Asian daughter and discovering their identity on their own terms,” stated Iha.

For Wesley Connelly '22, it was his interest in punk music that drew him to the Art Activism course because he wanted to “learn about how to creatively and practically express my opinions.”

“Art is so unbelievably broad, and one does not have to consider themselves an artist in the traditional sense to be an activist through their creative expression," said Wesley. "I still do not consider myself an artist, but maybe someday with the right circumstances and issues, I will be. To describe the course in a few words, I would say art is about the intention, not the outcome.”

“I hope students have a new appreciation for their role as global citizens and that they take what they learned during H Term and continue the act of civic engagement,” noted Nelson. “If they practice civic engagement through art that would be icing on the cake for me.”