We are pleased to announce that the Department of Art was awarded a $13,000 National Endowment for the Arts "Project Grant" in the Fiscal Year 2021 granting round. "Grants for Arts Projects (GAP) is the principal grant category of the National Endowment for the Arts, supporting public engagement with, and access to, various forms of art across the nation, the creation of excellent art, learning in the arts at all stages of life, and the integration of the arts into the fabric of community life."
The awarding grant will be used to support "The Home Project," which is a year-long artist residency and exhibition for Syrian American artist and architect, Mohamad Hafez. Born in Damascus and educated in the United States, Hafez creates 3D assemblages incorporating found objects that explore the devastation of war, feelings of displacement, and nostalgia for home. The year-long residency framed around the concept of "home" and "displacement" will include collaborative art installations, an exhibition, an artist talk, panel discussion, and extensive outreach to the Harambee Youth Center in Danbury.
After communicating with Mohamad Hafez for the past three years, Melissa Ralston-Jones, project director/gallery curator, and Lori Robeau, project coordinator/Visual Arts Assistant, worked with the artist to develop a concept for an exhibition and residency at WCSU. Mohamad’s contemporary art practice deals in issues of home insecurity and The Home Project focuses on these issues as it relates to displacement and how these concepts are represented in art, as well as the artist’s role in depicting and humanizing these experiences for the students and community.
As part of the residency, Hafez will mentor WCSU students and Harambee Youth Center 6-12 grade students in Danbury to create personal three-dimensional assemblages representing "Home." Assemblages will be combined into a collaborative installation and exhibited alongside the artist's work in the university art gallery (The Gallery at the Visual and Performing Arts Center) and in downtown Danbury storefront windows, where work is accessible to the surrounding community. Hafez offers a unique artistic perspective and skills, nurturing inspiration for student expression. Students benefit by working with a renowned professional artist and engage with scholars from the university to explore the relationship between people and their environment. Social issues are addressed through multiple perspectives of “home,” encouraging connection, and empathy, for displaced persons.
The Home Project will take place in the fall 2021 semester in conjunction with a class offered through WCSU, “There’s No Place Like Home,” led by faculty mentors, Sabrina Marques and Dr. Christine Hegel-Cantarella. Together with Mohamad, they will help students broaden technical skills across various media and organize visual elements to communicate concepts and experiences of home. Sharing their experiences, students become active listeners and demonstrate presence while engaging in cross-cultural conversations. Through a holistic approach using dialogue and the creative process, incorporating found objects and other materials to create three-dimensional assemblages representing their personal interpretations of “Home.” Students from WCSU combine their assemblages to create a single collaborative installation exhibited alongside Mohamad’s work in the university art gallery. Juxtaposing the varying home environments as seen through a multitude of perspectives.
A public panel discussion and artist talk will take place at the university, highlighting important issues of our time and extending the conversation to the community to help deepen understanding for people affected by home insecurity. The project will also work with Harambee Youth Center students in Danbury, Spring 2022. Mohamad, faculty mentors, and two student peer mentors from WCSU will assist Harambee youth in the creation of assemblages, over 6 weeks in April and May. Selected by faculty mentors, peer mentors from the university will lead discussions and work with youth, reinforcing their own learning while sharing similar discourse with younger students, allowing for greater understanding. Community partner City Center, Danbury will secure locations where the completed assemblages are installed in storefront windows.