Art Force 5’s SUNY tour to precede NYC Silent Parade Tribute

Art-activists plan to honor the 1917 activists who stood up against violence and lynching, in the wake of the East St. Louis massacre.

Albany, NY – SUNY is putting their trust in superheroes to save the day. The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI) is promoting a tour of conflict-resolution workshops using their most valuable resource; their own college students. The Art Force 5 is a superhero-themed team of students from Alfred University, home of the New York State College of Ceramics. The team also plans to use art to explore the role of civil rights protest; past, present, and future. Confirmed stops on the tour include SUNY Purchase (3/6), SUNY ESF (3/7), SUNY Canton (3/8), SUNY Potsdam (3/9), and SUNY Delhi (3/10).

Established in 2006, the Art Force 5 program combines social justice with an art therapy approach. In addition to providing workshops to over one hundred audiences, they specialize in creating community-built art. They have previously partnered with the University of Notre Dame and the University of Oklahoma in designing and leading projects which currently reside on those campuses. In 2016, the Art Force 5 won the Unite Rochester Challenge, a grant to help the city address critical issues such as racism and poverty. The team spent the 2016 summer partnering with city police and local youth centers to create a series of projects to engage the community in critical conversations.

The inaugural SUNY tour hopes to have a similar impact by engaging SUNY students and staff in critical dialogue. The tour will run from March 6 through March 10. Each visit will offer a staff training session, a student workshop, and a hands-on collaborative art project which will grow from school-to-school before a complete project is displayed in NYC on the one hundredth anniversary of a critical civil rights event.

This particular community-based art project will create an educational tribute to NYC’s Silent Parade which occurred on July 28, 1917. The Silent Parade was a protest march organized by the NAACP’s James Weldon Johnson and W.E.B. DuBois. This was the first massive African-American protest in U.S. history, responding directly to the horrific race riot of July 2, 1917 in East St. Louis, Illinois. The Fifth Avenue parade was led by children, followed by women, and finally men – all dressed in their Sunday best. It is estimated between 8,000 and 10,000 people participated.

“In the face of adversity, both today and one hundred years ago, people seek a physical way to respond to conflict,” shares Dan Napolitano, Director of Alfred University’s Drawn to Diversity program which has trained nearly two hundred Art Force 5 members. “Our intent is to inspire productive outlets while building a generation of creative problem-solvers within the SUNY system.”

Questions can be directed to Napolitano at or 607-871-2925.