Episode 70: The intersection of art and social justice

For over ten years, Queens College has been partnering with the Queens Museum through a project called Social Practice Queens (SPQ) which supports initiatives combining art linked to such subjects as environmentalism, community histories, urban life, politics, and fair labor standards to name only a few.

Social Practice CUNY (SPCUNY) uses the same philosophy and approach and broadens it across CUNY. Based at the Graduate Center, SPCUNY supports faculty making public-facing work at the intersection of art and social justice. Fellows collaborate with diverse communities across CUNY campuses and throughout the city in projects that complement and inform their scholarly and pedagogic work. Cynthia Tobar is currently an SPCUNY faculty fellow, and in this episode, she talks with SPQ and SPCUNY co-directors Chloë Bass and Gregory Sholette, about the impetus behind this initiative and the value of providing a space to foster socially engaged art making at CUNY. Working effectively and meaningfully within the complicated bureaucracy of a silo-ed institution, their vision and execution of a “shadow CUNY” can serve as a model for other higher ed institutions who want to have a foot in the institution and in the larger world simultaneously. Check out the 2021-22 faculty fellow cohort (note previous Indoor Voices guest and City Tech librarian Nora Almeida among them).

Chloë Bass is a multiform conceptual artist working in performance, situation, conversation, publication, and installation. Chloë is a Future Imagination Collaboratory Fellow at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, a Faculty Fellow for the Seminar in Public Engagement at the CUNY Center for the Humanities, and a Lucas Art Fellow at Montalvo Art Center. She is an Assistant Professor of Art at Queens College, CUNY, where she co-directs Social Practice CUNY with Greg, with whom she co-edited Art as Social Action (Allworth Press, 2018). She currently has work on view at MASS MoCa, Center for Book Arts, Albright-Knox, and upcoming at the Henry.

Gregory Sholette is a NYC-based artist, writer, activist and teacher whose art and research investigate issues of collective cultural labor, socially engaged art, and counter-historical visual representation. He is a co-founder of the collectives Political Art Documentation/Distribution, REPOhistory, and Gulf Labor Coalition, as well as author of the books Dark MatterDelirium and ResistanceArt as Social Action and the forthcoming Art of Activism and Activism of Art. Greg is a Professor of Art at Queens College and co-director of the Mellon Foundation-funded art and social justice program Social Practice CUNY. To learn more about SPCUNY from another angle, read his opinion piece, “Reimagining Higher Education Through Socially Engaged Art,” about CUNY during/after COVID. Check out Greg’s latest work here.

Cynthia Tobar is Assistant Professor and Head of Archives at Bronx Community College and a faculty fellow with SPCUNY. In May 2021, she interviewed Molly Rosner and Summer Walker about their COVID documenting project at La Guardia Community College.

Greg and Chloë mentioned SPCUNY projects/artists Tara Homasi and The Workers Art Coalition and SPQ graduate standouts including Barrie Cline, Setare Arashloo, Erin Turner and Jeff Kasper.

Listen to Episode 70 now!
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