About the exhibition

Pressing Public Issues

May 17-June 15, 2019

Gallery hours: Wed 2-4pm, Thu 2-7pm, Fri 2-4pm

Exhibition Reception and Program on May 30th from 12-2pm, and on June 3, 2019, at 6:30pm in the James Gallery at the Graduate Center, CUNY.

Spearheaded by a partnership between the James Gallery, the Teaching and Learning and Center, and the CUNY Humanities Alliance, Pressing Public Issues brings together a cohort of six teaching artists and six faculty teaching courses in various disciplines at CUNY community colleges in Spring 2019. Through a series of meetings during the summer and fall of 2018, this cohort has explored, shared and developed creative teaching practices and pedagogies to inform and shape their Spring 2019 courses, and forged a collective dynamic to support each other and to find potential forms of cross-campus collaboration. Each of the six projects, led by a pairing of a community college faculty and a teaching artist, who were approached and are funded by the partnering organizations, encourages students to experiment through creative modes of research, expression, knowledge-production and public scholarship.

In each project, faculty and students are selecting a pressing contemporary issue―or a set of issues―relevant to both the students’ lives and interests and to the aims and focus of the course. Students are then exploring these particular issues through a variety of forms of artistic expression―poetry, photography, printmaking, zines, digital storytelling, performance art and other modes. Over the course of the semester the students, both individually and collectively, are creating artistic projects that they will then publicly display or perform in unexpected and underused spaces on their community college campuses and in the James Gallery in May and June 2019. These exhibitions will serve as public-expressive forums to spark challenging and productive conversations about pressing and contentious issues with the publics of the students’ community college campuses, their local communities, the broader CUNY community, and across New York City.


Viewing Childcare Environments through the Lens of Photo Essays: A Reflective Tool for Pre-Service Teachers

Faculty Instructor: Leslie Craigo
Artist: Res
ECE 409, Early Childhood Practicum II: Pedagogy for Infants and Toddlers
Borough of Manhattan Community College

Asian American History: “What a test never taught me…”

Faculty Instructor: Soniya Munshi
Artist: Melissa Liu
ASN 114, Asian American History
Borough of Manhattan Community College

Linguistic Landscapes: Unpacking Language Hierarchies

Faculty Instructor: Inés Vañó García
Artist: Ryan Seslow
ELL 101, Introduction to Language
LaGuardia Community College

Black Land Ownership

Faculty Instructor: Prithi Kanakamedala
Artist: Walis Johnson
HIS 37, African-American History
Bronx Community College

Poetry and Public Life

Faculty Instructor: Nate Mickelson
Artist: Carlos iro Burgos
ENGL 215, Topics in Literature
Guttman Community College

Environmental Ethics

Faculty Instructor: Kristina Baines
Artist: Vaimoana (Moana) Niumeitolu
UBST 2014, Urban Studies Special Topics
Guttman Community College

About Pressing Public Issues

Pressing Public Issues grew out of a 2017 collaboration between a Guttman Community College course for first-year students, the James Gallery, and the Teaching and Learning Center. Inspired by nine ‘State in Time’ artists in the James Gallery’s “NSK State Art: New York, The Impossible Return” Spring 2017 exhibition -- who, instead of directly and straightforwardly critiquing and attacking dominant ideologies, destabilize these ideologies by overidentifying with their symbolism -- the Guttman students created their own “State in Time” projects in response to their pressing concerns within the ongoing political crisis. Each student first selected an existing image or symbol of particular relevance to their lives and their local communities, and then visually reinterpreted it by exposing its hidden meanings and historical resonances. This initiative culminated in the students curating a collective exhibition of their visual projects at the James Gallery in June 2017, entitled “State in Time: Resistance and…,” which challenged themselves and viewers to rethink what it means and looks like at present to be “critical,” to be “radical,” and to “resist” by experimenting with playful and eclectic strategies that allow for multiple perspectives and critiques to be heard at the same time.

Work has been done with and for the public by scholars and students across CUNY for years, and now, encouragingly, there is increased recognition and promotion of the importance of such public scholarship and engagement. This project also reflects a commitment to raising the visibility of the experiences of community college students and faculty within the walls of the Graduate Center and to the publics with which we engage. Pressing Public Issues supports and deepens this work in a pedagogical space that allows practitioners and students to reflect and act on what it means to have a public voice, which publics they identify with, which publics they feel the need to engage with, the complexities of public-private dynamics, and the relationship between knowledge-production and social change. The experimental, collaborative and creative nature of Pressing Public Issues provides participants from across CUNY and cultural fields in New York City a unique opportunity to carefully consider the production of language and symbolic meaning through various expressive modes in an age when the questions of the limits of free expression, what constitutes offense, and what are facts are hotly debated and highly divisive.

Co-sponsored by the James Gallery, the Teaching and Learning and Center, and the CUNY Humanities Alliance.

Wheelchair Accessibility