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Arts & Activism conference explores intersection of social change, creative practice


WALL\THERAPY held its inaugural conference on arts and activism Saturday.

The daylong event brought together artists, organizers and scholars to discuss the intersection of social change, community activism and creative practice.

Lucinda Hinojos is one of the mural painters in this year’s WALL\THERAPY week. Her artist name is La Morena and she said instead of getting political with her piece, she focused more on healing and spiritual cleansing.

Her mural of her daughter burning sage is on East Main Street.

Hinojos said art has the power to change perspectives and awaken people, an experience she had while painting a mural in Arizona about immigration that was shut down.

“That hit me hard because I’m painting about reality, what’s happening, there’s a border and - you’re shutting me down because it has to do with that? And you’re scared of what people are going to think? Awakening means you’re paying attention to what is going on in your surroundings. I thought left and didn’t think right. But if I can change my perspective with art, that means someone else can to.”

Dr. Jessica Pabón was the keynote speaker. She’s an Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at SUNY New Paltz. Her speech was centered around women in the world of graffiti, and the power and recognition that comes from women doing art in groups.

She said shifting perceptions within subcultures, helps shift those ideas on a greater scale.

“People who participate in subcultures are people who participate in everyday life. So if you force a shift within your subculture where women are recognized as not just okay but phenomenal and virtuosic and prolific and they do it for themselves, it shifts conversations around what women and girls are able to do.”

Pabón also said art gives people the opportunity and the window to engage in difficult dialogues.

“People will talk about really serious things through humor because it allows a different kind of opening. Art also allows a different kind of opening for people to talk about things. If we were talking about our current administration for example, that’s going to stop certain people even from hearing what you’re saying. But maybe if you come at it from an arts perspective, it will engage more people.”

Two panels focused on art and social change during times of crisis and the education and empowerment in young artists.

Julia Tulke helped coordinate the conference. Recently moving to Rochester as a PhD student in Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester, she said she was looking for a way to get involved in the community, and found her space helping to organize the event, inspired by similar ones in other cities.

“To have artists, activists, researchers, organizers and educators really find a common discourse and take what’s happening in the street and the energy of that into a kind of space where we can just talk to one another.”

The conference helped wrap up of WALL\THERAPY week, which brought artists from all over the country and Rochester to add new murals to the city.