Art for Social Change competition brings artists together to discuss healing through social justice art

"Veronica Sandoval stands in gallery looking at art on the wall."

Students in various disciplines displayed and presented their works in the Fine Art Gallery 3 on the WSU Pullman campus this spring to express how they interact with and view social justice in today’s world.

Co-creator of the Art for Social Change competition (AFSC), Ana Maria Rodriguez-Vivaldi, associate professor and associate dean of Student Affairs and Global Education in the College of Arts and Sciences, wanted this showcase to highlight the issues that the younger generation thinks about.

“We wanted deal also with other expressions of social justice. Really not just what had happened until [the civil rights movement] but also what other aspects of civil rights have risen since then,” Rodriguez-Vivaldi said.

She began the afternoon showcase with a welcome and thank you to the School of Languages, Cultures, and Race, the Martin Luther King Committee, the Department of Fine Arts, and the Department of English who helped make the event possible. After her speech, the event transitioned to the live performances of the student artists.

Monica Ward stepped up to a wooden piano wearing a silver-metallic winter coat with a hood covering part of her face. She posed her fingers on the keys, then began to fill the gallery with music that she composed in honor of the civil rights movement. She wanted her work to inspire those to never stop dreaming.

“I was taken aback when that young lady just stood next to the piano. She didn’t even sit down. She didn’t even take off her coat. She played so beautifully,” Rodriguez-Vivaldi said.

Ward was awarded the top submission in the Remembering MLK and Revitalizing the Dream category. Ward created her piece at 2:00 a.m. as she experienced an empty, depressing mood in the dark of the night, she said.

“I think a lot of people are in a dark shadow right now. I think my music can heal,” Ward said.

"Celeste Estrada painting of flowers blooming in front of a moon."

Celeste Estrada, artist of “Garden of Dreams,” created a painting in the healing process of dealing with the many attacks towards the Crimson Group during the 2016 presidential election. She was co-chair for the Crimson Group, an activist and support group for undocumented students and allies.

“It is nice to take a break from the academic work and create something that fulfills you in a different, creative way,” Veronica Sandoval, American studies graduate student, said.

Sandoval’s poem, “Canto y Grito, Para Dr. Ricardo Sanchez Post Card for an Altar,” was written to remind Sanchez, former Chicano poet and WSU professor of creative writing and Chicano studies, that the Chicanx community continues to do the kind of work he did.

“The poem resembled the resiliency of students surviving this space and the continuation that the Chicano movement did,” Sandoval said.

At AFSC, Sandoval read her poem aloud for the students, faculty, and other members of the community to hear. Sandoval received the Campus Civic Poet award for her poem and civic work in the community.

Among other winners, Ray Acuna-Luna was awarded the top submission in the Community Building at WSU category for “A Collective Representation of the Intersections of Gender, Race, Class, and Education Among First Generation Students of Color at Washington State University.”

"Mosiac panels of art drawn by students."

His mosaic work was a collaborative piece created by 16 WSU first-generation students of color as a project in their class. Acuna-Luna believes that the showcase gave him a glimpse into the students’ experiences.

“I think the showcase the Art for Social Change competition is a safe space for students to have their voices heard, understood, and appreciated,” Acuna-Luna said.

Another award winner, Graduate student Theresa Williams, enjoyed seeing the different perspectives students had to offer, she said.

“I can see they’re revealing themselves. They don’t have fear to express themselves,” Williams said.

The WSU Department of Fine Arts awarded Williams the inaugural Fine Arts Choice award for her painting, “Transparent.”  Undergraduate Kendra Robinson was awarded the top submission in the for Social Justice in Action category, for her painting, “two hundred sixty three.”

"two hundred sixty three painting of a hand with a hand cuff against a green ombre background."

In total, 19 students submitted works to the competition. One high school student, four graduate students, and 15 undergraduate students submitted a total of 21 works for the competition.

There were six poetry pieces, one poster, three creative writing works, five paintings, one musical performance, one sculpture, two drawings, and one digital media piece submitted to the competition.

To view other submissions, visit the School of Languages, Cultures, and Race website.

In the future, Rodriguez-Vivaldi wants the showcase to grow to include more student artists.

“We want it to become an event students can look forward to every year because it represents all the students,” Rodriguez-Vivaldi said.

Next year, the School of Languages, Cultures, and Race plans to expand the collaboration with the Pullman community and Pullman School District to include elementary, middle, and high school students, Lauren Jasmer, development and scholarship coordinator for WSU College of Arts and Sciences, said.

“This event is an ideal way to bring people together and strengthen our local communities, promote healing through art, and to showcase the talents of our students and community members,” Jasmer said.

The school is also planning a logo competition for the AFSC open to all WSU students at all campuses and levels to re-brand the competition to better reflect its place in the School of Languages, Cultures, and Race. Previously, AFSC was under the Office of Equity and Diversity, Jasmer said.