Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Arts Alive SDSU Artist in Residence Announced

A new Artist in Residence program at SDSU provides the campus community with the opportunity to participate in a creative placemaking project.

Arts Alive SDSU Artist in Residence Announced

by Elizabeth Allison

​September 23, 2020

San Diego State University has announced an Artist in Residence with Arts Alive SDSU. Visual artist Zeal Harris has been enlisted to work with the entire university to produce a permanent campus project that reflects the values of the SDSU community in relation to social justice issues.

Art to Strengthen and Inspire the Community

Through the residency, Harris will facilitate conversations with students, faculty, and staff about identity, artistic expression, and social justice. These conversations will directly inform the design of a public artwork that will permanently reside on the SDSU campus. Rather than commissioning an artist to create work independently, Arts Alive SDSU is inviting Harris to lead a “placemaking” project. Placemaking is the preferred term among arts practitioners for transforming a space to reflect the values of, and serve to inspire and strengthen the community inhabiting that space.

“Art has long served as a vehicle for activism, and it’s a much more powerful and empowering gesture when the art emerges from the voices of one’s own community” said Eric Smigel, Chair of Arts Alive SDSU. “The Artist in Residence initiative is an extension of our conviction that artistic practice, like research in the humanities and sciences, is a mode of critical inquiry that generates innovative ideas and transformative experiences.”

The Arts Alive SDSU residency is sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Diversity, and it will contribute directly to the stated goals of the new strategic plan, specifically “to foster and sustain an environment where all students, faculty, staff and alumni feel welcomed, supported, and valued by the university.”

“Visiting positions like the Artist in Residence is one way that we can have an immediate impact and provide our students with instructors and mentors who share their identities and experiences,” said Jennifer Imazeki, Associate Vice President for Faculty and Staff Diversity.

About the Artist

Based in Los Angeles, Harris is known for creating what she calls “seductive, caricaturesque, political, urban-vernacular, story paintings” that explore new narratives and ancient mythologies of Black history and culture. Dedicated to art as social practice, Harris is looking forward to forming meaningful relationships with the SDSU community through stimulating dialogue and collaborative artmaking.

“If someone remembers the feeling that artwork gave them, or remembers the stories we’ve talked about, then I’ve done my work,” said Harris.

Harris has been a core member of BAILA (Black Artists in Los Angeles) and has recently received commissions for public art projects with organizations such as Black Lives Matter and the California Community Foundation.

“For this inaugural year, I think it was imperative to find an artist who can speak to the history and contributions of the Black community, and who can help our entire campus community process and move forward in the current movement for social justice,” said Imazeki.

A New Residency

The Artist in Residence program will take place over the course of the entire 2020-21 academic year. During that time, Harris will deliver two public artist talks at the university, the first as an introduction in the fall, and the second to reflect on her experience with the placemaking project in the spring. She will also meet with different academic departments and student centers to engage in critical dialogues about identity, artistic expression, diversity, and social justice, especially as they relate to Black history and culture.

Harris will also participate in an interdisciplinary panel discussion with selected faculty and students. All of the conversations will be integral to the creative process as she designs and produces the permanent visual art placemaking project.

If you would like to arrange for your department to work with the Artist in Residence program, please contact Eric Smigel, Chair of Arts Alive SDSU, at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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