Art for Social Change Student Blogger Study USA

10 Takeaways

Overlooking the lake at Lily Springs Farm on a cloudy day.

Each term, one participant from each HECUA program takes on the role of student blogger, sending regular dispatches from the field. Zoe Quinn (she/her/hers) is HECUA’s student blogger for Art for Social Change Spring 2021. She is student at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, majoring in art. Read on for her last post!

As the semester comes to a close, I find it difficult to synthesize everything that I have learned and encountered into a nice little package. It’s been a semester filled with holistic growth and non-linear learning, which has been very impactful, but difficult to articulate. However, I am finding that I enjoy sitting in this somewhat chaotic richness of experiences and ideas. I’ve also found that the people, ideas, and relationships have not been compartmentalized, but enrich each other, connect with one another, and are never left behind as we move forward. Because of this complexity, I am going to offer a variety of takeaways from my experience this semester that will continue to affect me as I transition out of the Art for Social Change program. Some are shorter, some are longer, all are related. 

  1. Art is 90% schlepping around, 1-2% supreme payoff.

    Students walking through the woods at lily Springs Farm.
    Walking through the woods at Lily Springs Farm.
  2. The things that capitalism and colonialism separate us from and shame us for are often sources of power. This includes our bodies, land, community, pleasure, the list goes on. Tap into that trickster power.
  3. Being is more than thinking. Pay attention to how things feel, and connect with the body. We are taught “I think, therefore I am,” but minds are not separate from bodies. “I feel, therefore I am” is more apt. Our bodies are intelligent- they hold the history of our ancestors and are constantly communicating with us. Beyond signals to sleep and eat, we should listen to our intuition and give feelings the space that they need when they arise in the body. By slowing down and listening deeply, it becomes easier to access this embodied sensitivity and wisdom. From this, it is easier to show up more fully for yourself and your communities. As Louis Alemayahu says, “we must breathe in what we need, and breathe out what is needed.”
  4. There is so much to learn from the intelligence of nature. Listen deeply and look carefully, there is so much we don’t yet know. Practice noticing. Part of historic trauma for many people is the destruction of relationships with land. Thus rediscovering connection to land can be healing. This isn’t always easy, unfamiliar things require practice.
  5. Life is not linear, it runs in cycles. There is a tendency in Western culture to assume that everything is separate and that endings are final, but this is not the case.
  6. Disruption and destruction can be generative and creative. This is something I learned from land stewardship practices at Lily Springs Farm, and something that applies beautifully to social change work.
  7. We must add humanity back into our systems. It is important to notice what makes us feel the most alive and human and to integrate that into any form of social change work that we feel called to. For me, play, nature, joy, creativity, and connection have made themselves clear as essential parts of the human experience this semester. Art can be a vessel for communicating and embodying these things. “Art is a bag of herbs,” according to artist and labor organizer Ricardo Levins Morales.
  8. Care is work and maintenance is work, even though they are devalued under American capitalism. Unpaid labor is still labor. Care and maintenance are not necessarily the same thing, but they tend to overlap. Perhaps part of the current state of imbalance with land has to do with a devaluation of these things. Care for the earth is care for ourselves and requires a reintegration of reciprocity.
  9. Care for self, community, and nature is not an indulgence, it is essential preservation.
  10. We must keep doing the work (whatever that means for you), even if we will not see results during our lifetime, and even if the goal feels insurmountable. Hearing stories from people working to create a symbiotic relationship with land; integrate love and spirituality into prisons; and protest the construction of an egregiously destructive pipeline have inspired and empowered me to keep fighting for what can seem impossible.

I am already nostalgic for the vibrant relationships and experiences that have taken shape throughout this program. Goodbyes are hardly ever permanent goodbyes, however, and I feel confident that the meaningful connections I have made will continue to resurface in the future. Signing off!

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