Big Art gives back

By Alexandra Kukulka

Columbia’s Center for Community Arts Partnerships’ Urban Mission, a group that focuses on partnering departments and community-based organizations for service learning work, is bringing together the Music and Art and Design departments, Sherwood Community Music School and the Office of New Students to work with Pros Arts Studio, 1119 W. Cullerton St., in Pilsen for a Day of the Dead celebration.

The project, called Big Art, will offer workshops for student artists on Oct. 15 at Pros Art Studio, as well as a Day of the Dead parade around the Pilsen community on Nov. 2.

Big Art was established so first-year students can come together and put their artistic abilities to use while giving back to an underserved yet vibrant community, said Giselle Mercier, executive director of Pros Art Studio.

“Columbia’s role [in Big Art] is pivotal,” Mercier said. “This is the first time that we are able to work together by creating opportunity for students and for Pros Art Studio artists to come together and create artwork.”

Urban Mission is funding the project with a grant received from the Kresge Foundation, an organization that creates opportunity for low-income people, to do more work with student engagement through service learning, said Elizabeth Parrott, team program manager of Center for Community Arts Partnerships.

According to Paul Teruel, director of Center for Community, Big Art focuses on the issue of air pollution in the Pilsen community.

“There are some coal companies in Pilsen that are emitting a lot of pollution in [the community],” Teruel said. “They do not have to adhere to Environmental Protection Agency standards because they have been grandfathered in because they are so old.”

According to Mercier, Pros Art Studio is partnering with the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization to address the pollution concerns of

the community.

Because it is the Day of the Dead, a tradition that encourages poking fun of serious issues like politics and poverty, this environmental topic seemed perfect for the event, Mercier said.

On Oct. 15, the Sherwood Community Music School and the Music Department will be in charge of workshops that teach students how to make instruments and play songs for the parade. The Art and Design Department’s workshop will be making mojigangas—huge stick puppets that sit on a person’s shoulder—Mercier added.

“The [New Student Programs] students will be in workshops so they can learn what Day of the Dead is about, but then [they will] get prepared to do a lot of hands-on activity on the day of the event,” Teruel said.

The students from New Student Programs are in charge of three things. They will work the arts and craft table the day of the event, making “papel picados,” which are intercut, Mexican paper cutouts. They will also do face painting and assist with the parade, according to Teruel.

“[New Student Programs] was looking for a way to help new students engage with their creative practice, the larger community, each other and get out in the city and have the opportunity to do some good,” said Emily Easton, director of New Student Programs.

According to Easton, this project will benefit students because they can feel good about doing something to help others, and it can enhance a resume,

Easton added.

“[CCAP] wanted to do something that was fun that the Columbia students would really get into and appeal to a broad range of majors and artistic discipline,” Parrott said. “[Big Art] really stuck out as something that we wanted to do.”