In early 2020, as college campuses nationwide were forced into quiet by the pandemic, the idea developed for an ongoing and evolving art-based project that would inspire students at Purchase College, SUNY to raise their voices and take positive action on the issues that affected, inspired, or troubled them most. Entitled ConnectiveCollective, the project became a collaboration between the Neuberger Museum of Art
; For Freedoms, the artist-led, nonpartisan collective whose mission is to promote civic engagement, civil discourse, and direct action through art; and the Purchase College Center for Engagement, an alliance of organizations whose projects inspire community engagement, encourage open dialogue, and impact social change.
As ConnectiveCollective evolved, its scope grew to encompass a student town hall, posters that covered the campus, artists talks, a panel discussion, as well as art installations and activations within the museum. Together, the campus and artists focused upon issues of political disenfranchisement, judicial equity, racism, debt, and food scarcity, exploring the various ways art can shape the world we live in through critical imagination and civic participation.
In an interactive exhibition on view now through June 27th at the Neuberger Museum of Art, works from ConnectiveCollectives first phases can be seen alongside objects from For Freedoms and its 2020 Awakening initiative; its reimagining of Norman Rockwells depiction of American Freedoms, promoting a more accurate representation of our everyday population now; and works related to the artist collective Wide Awakes Mobile Soup Kitchen that brings free hot meals, music, and joy to local communities.
Visitors to the museums gallery and social media accounts (@neubergermuseum: Facebook, Instagram) can join the discourse by adding their wishes for freedom, healing, justice, listening, and awakening.
ConnectiveCollective is a call to action, said Neuberger Museum of Art director Tracy Fitzpatrick. As a teaching museum, this project is an important step in our efforts to reexamine the ways in which community, artists, and museums interact.
The project kicked off in September with a Virtual Town Hall for Purchase College students. Seniors in the Purchase College School of Art+Design then created large-scale graphics reflecting the dialogue, now publicly viewable on the windows of multiple campus buildings.
A second Town Hall in Marchco-organized by the Center for Engagement, the Purchase College Multicultural Center, and the Neuberger Museumbrought alumni from the Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA) program together with Purchase students for a discussion of the role that art can play for incarcerated people, and the possibilities art creates for healing and social justice.
The town halls are art works. The forum for discussion itself is a medium. And the spaces of museums are inherently civic spaces, which the town halls activate and highlight, explained Eric Gottesman, Assistant Professor of Photography at Purchase College and co-founder of For Freedoms. Student participation is important to us not only because we want to reach everyone where they are but also because of the energy, optimism and big picture thinking students bring to our work.
Gottesman and For Freedoms co-founder Hank Willis Thomas have hosted panel discussions and lectures in collaboration with the Neuberger Museum, including a virtual Yaseen Lectures on the Fine Arts Artist Talk that included participants from across the country.
Students in a School of Art+Design For Freedoms class taught by Gottesman worked throughout the Spring 2021 semester to produce four collaborative projects around the idea of institutional critique. The projects brought the class together with Neuberger Director Tracy Fitzpatrick, museum staff, and others to explore the complicated and sometimes colonial history of museums and the ways in which artists have engaged in institutional critique. Overall, the projects and show model ways in which For Freedoms and other artists can encourage civic participation through participatory aesthetic projects.
We look forward to future collaborations with our partners, said Fitzpatrick.