Hey there readers! You know how I’m always rambling on about how great it is to immerse yourself in engagement activities and opportunities while you are a student? Well, this week you are in for a real treat! Instead of me babbling on like usual, today I am turning the floor over to Amanda, a UMN student who participated in the HECUA program last year, and wanted to assure all of you that this whole “student engagement thing” really is worth the time and energy. Here is what she had to say:
HECUA was where I learned my place in our Twin Cities community.
In spring 2013 I participated in the HECUA: Arts & Social Change semester program. We were a wonderfully small group of only six students, led by Bill Reichard, HECUA instructor and poet. Through our meetings twice a week, we developed a close and trusting circle. Together we were creative artists, interested citizens, and talented students.
The HECUA classroom was different than anything we had ever experienced before. It served us with a base to ask questions that had no single, right answer. There we formulated opinions about how art can be used to transform a community. We learned tools in combating the injustices of stereotypes, inequity, and marginalized voices. Beyond this, we created and realized a set of identities–who our community was, who we were within it, and who we were as an artist.
The program was split into three, simultaneous sections: Reading Seminar, Field Seminar, and Internship.
Within the reading seminar, we focused our attention to books written by controversial and community-focused artists, activist authors of nonfiction, introspective poets, stereotype-combating playwrights, and thought-probing writers of fiction. For each class session, we prepared a set of three “framing questions” based upon our readings. These questions were meant to be open-ended and not prepared to find one answer. They were used to guide conversation and help us to think in-depth on other perspectives and opinions.
In the field seminar, we had a chance to move beyond our books and see what was happening in our community. We visited ground-level, Twin City native, community organizations like Wing Young Huie’s Third Place Gallery, Springboard for the Arts, Works Progress, Lowertown’s Bedlam Theatre, among others. In these places, we met and spoke with the directors and learnt how they established themselves and their ways of actively participating in their community. We also visited renowned museums like the Walker Art Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Minnesota History Museum, and discussed their thought-stimulating exhibits. Local theatre performances were attended by us often as well.
The internship was where we had the opportunity to apply all of our theoretical knowledge we had learned, and gain practical experience. I interned at Central Touring Theatre–a social justice, high school theatre company from Central High School, Saint Paul, that performs original works each year to an audience of over 10,000. It was there that I witnessed the impact young students can have on their community when they gather their voices and speak-out together. I visited CTT two to three times a week throughout the semester, helping to facilitate theatre activities, providing photo documentation, and developing a book that outlined the entirety of their season’s work.
The lesson within my HECUA experience that I most appreciate learning was how I can engage my community with art and how to use that engagement to make an impact.
To be a HECUA student, you must be ready to open yourself up to new ideas and beliefs, have the ability to break down buried stereotypes, and expect to uncover the power in your voice. I recommend the HECUA experience to any student desiring to find their identity within themselves, and within their larger community.
For info, visit: https://www.hecua.org/