Maxwell alumna Phaedra Stewart ’91 finds it difficult to look at the world without seeing opportunities to connect with people, raise their spirits and empower them to make their lives better. A self-described serial entrepreneur (some might say a serial…
Carrie Mae Weems joins SU as artist-in-residence
Carrie Mae Weems joins SU as artist-in-residenceFebruary 09, 2005Jaime Winne Alvarez firstname.lastname@example.org
During the Spring 2005 semester, internationally known artist Carrie Mae Weems will begin a yearlong residency in Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, the first of its kind under the auspices of VPA.
The residency, titled “Social Studies 101, Syracuse: A Community Dialogue,” will explore the relationship between art and community with special focus on the role that artists play in contemporary society, particularly as they identify and respond to societal needs and build community relationships.
The goal of the residency is to allow Weems and students to immerse themselves in the Syracuse community and create work in response to societal needs. In direct connection with Chancellor Nancy Cantor’s inaugural year conversation, Weems’ ultimate goal is the creation of a significant and long-lasting approach to building a useful model of interaction between the University and the community
“Artists in action can make a difference and change the nature of our interactions based on shared understanding and knowledge,” says Weems. “Done right, this project will strengthen all participants. The University needs the community and the community needs the University, even though our interests are not always the same. This is a first stage of coming together.”
The residency has been organized in several stages that will officially kick off with a public presentation Apr. 7 to introduce Weems to the local and campus communities. From the perspective of her longtime engagement with the question of art and societal responsibility, Weems will discuss her work and recent projects underscoring the role of the artist as civic agent as well as the goals of her residency.
During the Spring semester, Weems will visit selected classes to converse with students and faculty and introduce herself to the campus community. She will also host two conversations-Brown Bag Lunches-on and off campus, in which she plans to ask tough questions, addressing issues of perception, misperception, attitudes and commonly held beliefs.
The first luncheon will address the University’s role in the community; perceptions held on campus; how local and national media and popular culture influence those perceptions; and the social and economic issues related to SU’s sustained involvement with the South Side, one of Syracuse’s most disenfranchised communities. The second gathering will reverse the flow of attention from the University to the community. The conversation will bring together the University community and South Side residents to question how the area views itself and how its residents view their relationship to greater Syracuse and SU.
Weems’ other activities during her residency will include creating new artwork, working with local community groups such as the Southwest Community Center and teaching a Fall 2005 course in VPA exploring art and civic dialogue. The seminar, open to interested students from across the University, will focus on artists, community and memory. The classroom will become the community for students enrolled in the course, as each will hold a residency in a local community center.
Weems will be involved in several exhibitions and a conference during her residency. This spring, at the Everson Museum of Art, she will exhibit photographs and video portraits produced from interviews with local activists in conjunction with the Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility. She will also curate a group of photographs made by children associated with the Southwest Community Center and Contact Community Services.
This fall, she will exhibit new work and past projects at SU’s Joe and Emily Lowe Art Gallery and will be a featured speaker at the University celebration “Contested Public Memories,” sponsored by VPA’s Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies.
More information and specific details on Weems’ appearances, exhibitions and teaching activities will be announced in the coming weeks.
“This residency will help our students truly understand what it means to be a citizen of a community and what a critical difference an artist’s perspective can make to that community,” says Carole Brzozowski, dean of VPA. “Carrie Mae Weems is an internationally renowned artist who also happens to live and work in Syracuse. I can think of no better person to lead our college in this exciting exploration.”
Weems, a Syracuse-based artist, has worked for the past 25 years toward developing a complex body of art that employs photographs, text, fabric, audio, digital images, installation and most recently, video. A socially engaged artist, Weems investigates family relationships, gender roles, the history of racism, sexism and class and political systems.
“My responsibility as an artist is to work, to sing for my supper, to make art beautiful and powerful, that adds and reveals; to beautify the mess of a messy world, to heal the sick and feed the helpless; to shout bravely from the rooftops and storm barricaded doors and voice the specifics of our historic moment,” says Weems.