October 19, 2020 – The ability of the arts to inspire social change will be on full display when Santa Fe College students express their responses to racial injustice through performances in Rise, two free video recordings at 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Oct. 30-31, 2020. The videos may be viewed online at the Fine Arts Department’s web page at sfcollege.edu/finearts.
To create Rise: Santa Fe Students Respond to Racial Injustice, students worked with mentors throughout the college to refine and express their thoughts and feelings through music, dance, visual art, poetry/spoken word and digital media, including animation.
Brittany Lynch, Alec Kissoondyal and Joshua White described examples of the student projects being created for Rise. Lynch and Kissoondyal are collaborating on a video that Lynch said is “a visual representation of a poem written by Alec which is a response to racial and social injustices.” White is creating a mini-documentary using the voices of citizens to examine “the disproportionate access to resources that affect the quality of life in East Gainesville.”
Rise is the brainchild of three people—Alora Haynes, chairperson of the Fine Arts and Entertainment Media Department; Kyle Novak, director of the Santa Fe College Gallery; and Melissa Brenner, a faculty member in the Dance Department.
“We realized that our students needed to talk about their feelings and express their frustration with this past summer’s events surrounding the murder of George Floyd and the other instances of social and racial injustice that were being played out all over the country,” Haynes explained. “We wanted to create a safe platform and dynamic outlet so students could use artistic expression to speak out peacefully to effect change.”
To recruit the participants and performers, Haynes and her team reached beyond the arts to attract students from such diverse programs as Criminal Justice and English. The students and mentors involved in Rise represent a rainbow of ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, including Asian, Black, Hispanic, Latinx and White.
“When we first floated the idea for Rise to other faculty and staff—including the fact that we’d need people to mentor students throughout the process we envisioned—we received overwhelming support,” Haynes said. For a complete list of college departments involved in producing Rise, see the end of this press release.
Haynes described the creation of Rise as a dynamic process during which mentors are learning as much from students as students are learning from mentors. “The students are teaching us to speak up, to rise and to be brave, to use our creative voices to make change,” she explained. In turn, mentors are working with students to help them gain confidence and learn how to develop ideas and state opinions clearly.
“When I started thinking about this project, I wondered how often we, as teachers, really let our students be heard,” Melissa Brenner added. “I am learning so much from our students! The final performance will be the icing on the cake, because the process alone creates opportunities to connect, express and reflect in a time when we need to do those things more than ever.”
Santa Fe College President Paul Broadie affirmed that the student performers have taken on teaching roles. “Thank you for educating us through this project,” he said after attending a rehearsal of the presentations for Rise.
In turn, the students are enthusiastic about what they have learned by participating in Rise. “The time I’ve spent participating in this project has given me a deeper appreciation for my community,” Kissoondyal said. “The idea that a community can come together and work toward a common goal regardless of differences is a lesson that I hope will influence my actions positively throughout my life.” White agreed when he said, “These collaborative efforts are a guide to bettering the world and healing the hearts and souls who are so deeply hurt.”
Lynch and White reinforced the idea that the arts can be a force for social change. “I think the arts help solve society’s problems by allowing people to express themselves freely,” Lynch said. “Having a creative outlet to showcase hard issues can be cathartic and beautiful and hopefully bring people together.” “The arts have a specific way of touching us,” White stated. “The essence of performance art strikes to the core of human nature. We need art to survive.”
“These students are the leaders of tomorrow’s campuses and communities,” Haynes concluded. “It’s important for them to find platforms and outlets for this kind of healthy discussion and public presentation to take place, all done peacefully and with the goal of creating positive outcomes.”
Rise is supported by a number of people and offices throughout Santa Fe College including President Paul Broadie, the Fine Arts and Entertainment Media Department, the Office of Access and Inclusion, Student Affairs, Educational Media Studio, and My Brother’s Keeper.
For more information about Rise, call Alora Haynes at 352-395-5296.