Rochester, NY – A superhero-themed team of Alfred University students brought closure to their “Unite Rochester” summer by displaying eight art projects, each work requiring participation by hundreds of Rochester residents. The August 18 reception at the Visual Studies Workshop also featured student reflections, presentations by city officials, and an animated documentary about their adventures.
The showcased artwork included six large 361-piece mosaics, each painted by hundreds of residents at a diverse array of locations. The team visited over forty sites including schools, camps, nursing homes, offices, construction sites, parties, street corners, and baseball fields to engage Rochester in the art-building process. Each mosaic depicted a community issue such as poverty, homelessness, education, violence, and justice while often featuring comic art tied to each topic. By asking residents to replicate a chosen pattern onto one 2” x 2” ceramic tile, the greater image came into focus. While residents painted the tile, short discussions occurred regarding the topic and the resources available.
Both Rochester Police’s Deputy Chief Wayne Harris and Monroe County Legislator James Sheppard were on hand at the reception to thank the students for using the power of creativity to address conflict within the community. Harris presented colorful keys (to the city) while Sheppard offered an official proclamation in support of the program. The Democrat & Chronicle Newspaper’s Julie Philipp and Sheila Rayam also received special recognition for creating the Unite Rochester challenge, which inspired and funded the initiative. In February, the team’s idea was selected as the winning entry from a pool of eighty-nine submissions, receiving $5,000 in support from the D&C and Rochester Area Community Foundation.
From May until August, the team assembled for art action twice weekly while completing professional internships on the remaining weekdays. The team members and their respective internships included Mawia Elawad (The Grants Office), Hakiere Parker (Center for Youth), Joyce Parker (Jordan Health), DeAndre Vaden (Recreation and Youth Services), Sade Moten (Monroe County District Attorney),and Noah Mitchell (WXXI). All but Mitchell are from Rochester and had attended Rochester City schools.
“Our art is more about the process than the final product,” shared Mawia Elawad, “Finding an opportunity to engage thousands of residents in small conversations was our contribution toward building a better community.”
While all students are returning to their college studies in Alfred, they plan to continue to strengthen their relationship with Rochester and beyond. The team will seek grant funding to return to Rochester for summer 2017 with additional plans to build a new Art Force 5 Harlem chapter in 2018 to raise awareness during the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance. Questions can be directed to D2D@alfred.edu .