I’ve spent the past few weeks urging you to extend your social sphere beyond Temple and into the vibrant surrounding community, namely the Arts Garage. If I haven’t convinced you that it’s worth the trip so far, this next event should definitely rouse your interest.
From Oct. 5-13, Temple’s chapter of Invisible Children is hosting a standing activism-related art exhibition accompanied by live arts events at the Arts Garage.
You may recognize Invisible Children’s name from the Kony 2012 campaign where a surge of media hype widely circulated awareness about the civil war that has been going on in Uganda for 26 years.
The official Invisible Children website describes the struggle in the following way: “Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army have been abducting children and committing atrocities in East and Central Africa since 1987. Kony was the first person indicted by the International Criminal Court and he has repeatedly abused peace talks to strengthen his forces. With decisions informed by regional partners and policy experts, we mobilize large groups of people to support and advance international efforts to end LRA atrocities.”
One of the most powerful tools the organization uses is art — documentaries specifically — to educate the public and ignite activism. That’s how co-artistic director of the “Activism through Art” event, senior Nicole Counts, got involved with Temple Invisible Children in the first place. After watching an Invisible Children documentary screening during the fall semester of her freshman year, Counts immediately got involved.
“They literally go around and take kids from their homes,” Counts said. “It’s like Hitler without a cause. If that was happening in America it would have been stopped and it’s devastating that nobody knows.”
The dismissive argument that service should start domestically is one that Counts, who is engaged in Philadelphia-based volunteerism as well as Invisible Children, has become deeply familiar with. A desire to share her passion for activism with the community led Counts to the idea for “Activism through Art,” in Spring 2010.
“I think it’s a human responsibility to take care of one another,” Counts said. “I don’t understand how people don’t care about the rest of the world. We are such passionate people, but it’s so frustrating when other people don’t believe in it.”
Inspired by some of Invisible Children’s art-based events including “Cover the Night,” where volunteers attempt to wallpaper their city with fliers to raise awareness for the cause, a group of about five students began the huge undertaking of creating an art show. Instead of taking advantage of spaces available on Main Campus, however, the group was determined to host the event in an off-campus space, in order reach as much of the Philadelphia community as possible.
After spending two years approaching 150 art galleries and venues and coming up with zero support, TIC finally found the Arts Garage.
Ola Solanke, Arts Garage owner and proud champion of community arts and activism, provided the resources necessary to bring the dream to fruition. In addition to heavily discounting the use of the gallery space, Solanke placed a full-page advertisement in the Philadelphia Open Studio Tour magazine to help spread the word.
“He’s done so much more than you could ever expect anyone to do,” Counts said.
A call for art from students who shared the desire to “celebrate the fusion of art and activism” expanded throughout Philadelphia last spring, and the most overwhelming response was from Temple undergrads. In addition to the gallery exhibition that features a variety of photography, sculpture, paintings and drawings, Temple student organizations are scheduled to participate in the live arts event series. Hyphen, Treehouse Books and Babel will be present on Monday, Oct. 8 for “Poetry Day” and the Irish Dance Club, Owl Cappella, Insomnia Theater, TU Comedy, In Motion Dance Ensemble and Ladies of Elegance will all perform on Thursday, Oct. 11 for the “Live Art” night.
The support of the Temple community has been invaluable to making the exhibition come together, and the hope is that the extended network of supporters from the participating organizations both within and outside of the university will result in a strong turnout for the events. Counts contended that Temple students have a particularly acute vantage point on the need for activism.
“Especially living in North Philly there’s so much that needs to be done,” Counts said.
The goal of “Art Meets Activism” is to advocate for change, influence and involve the community in order to create a more understanding and socially conscious society. Count’s personal mission is to use her own burning passion to light the fire of social awareness within her peers and fellow community members.
“We want people involved,” Counts said. “I want people to feel inspired to change or to make change and I want them to understand that change needs to be made — not just within the world, but within our own community. It starts at home.”
If I’m feeling inspired after a 30-minute interview with one member of the TIC team, I can’t imagine how pumped I’m going to be after attending even one of the amazing events on the roster. For a full listing of events, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Victoria Marchiony can be reached at email@example.com.