Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

December 9, 2023

    “Organize Your Own” exhibit brings activism to Augie

    In August, Augustana brought to its campus the art exhibit “Organize Your Own: The Politics and Poetics of Self-Determination Movements”.  A traveling exhibit that had its debut in 2015 in Chicago and Philadelphia, “Organize Your Own” has begun its tour again this year on Augie’s campus.
    The works were created by artists and activists in response to the question the concept of organizing within communities in the present.
    “All of the work [in the exhibit] was developed for this project, so it’s really an example of people responding to this question of what does it mean to organize against racism in communities today,” Daniel Tucker, the exhibit curator, stated.
    Tucker explained that the goal of the exhibit was to allow artists and activists alike to reflect on the history of activism against racism as well as its relevance in society today.  He emphasized that because the exhibit itself is extremely unique because it is a snapshot of what people and communities today thought it meant to organize against racism.
    “It’s not journalism and it’s not a history exhibit; it doesn’t need to be precisely up to the minute,” Tucker illustrated.  He highlighted the idea that although the project itself reflects a very specific time, the message from the artists, poets, and activists are still “urgent and relevant” today.
    According to Tucker, the reason that the title of the exhibit includes both “Politics” and “Poetics” is because the two are needed together to create a more in-depth approach to organizing and activism.
    “[The exhibit] introduce[s] a number of examples of how art and design can be utilized to ask difficult and complex questions about race and community organizing,” Tucker said.  “[These questions] are not necessarily going to be answered or addressed in activist’s context which often requires more straightforward and clear approaches.”
    As for its time here at Augie, the “Organize Your Own” exhibit has several programs that were developed by Claire Kovacs, the director of the Augustana Teaching Museum of Art.
    Kovacs explained that the first program was a discussion about the Rainbow Coalition—a alliance of activist groups who worked together for a short period of time during the civil rights movement—during the beginning of fall term.
    Moving forward in the term the exhibit will also be holding several other programs.
    On symposium day there will be a featured keynote speaker to talk about women’s representation in activist groups like the Illinois Black Panther Party and the Young Lords, followed by a discussion.
    The third program will bring in the group Little Sis who will teach students and members of the community the best way to organize and be activists.  The workshop, Kovacs stated, will teach those involved to look for the powers and networks that support different people and groups and how that information can be used to organize.
    A fourth program is in partnership with the Midwest Writing Center and will allow members of the community to reflect on a chapbook of poems that was published by the Young Patriots in the 60s and 70s.  Participants can email Kovacs to obtain a copy of the chapbook and have the chance to have their poetry response on the “Organize Your Own” website.
    Each of the programs that Kovacs planned with the exhibit, she explained, was designed to allow for many voices to have a space to share their responses to the question: “What does it mean to organize your own?”
    “I made the intentional decision to focus on the social framework that the artists are responding to,” Kovacs stated. “For me, what I’ve been trying to do with the exhibition is make sure that I’m balancing all the voices and making sure that they are all heard, and that I’m providing spaces for those voices.”
    According to Kovacs, the exhibition was also brought to Augie to tie into this year’s Augie read’s book: Hillbilly Elegy.
    “The reason I brought it in was in direct response to the fact that hillbilly elegy is the…Augie reads [book]… I wanted to think of a more complex picture of Appalachia, connect Appalachia’s long history of organizing to our region and think about Appalachia’s connections to this region.”
    “Organize Your Own” will be on Augustana’s campus in the Teaching Museum of Art until October 28.  Students will be able to visit and reflect on the exhibit during museum hours and at the various programs planned.
    “For me,” Kovacs said, “bringing in this, it was important…to think about this idea of multi-racial coalitions organizing as we think about the complexity of our own campus…and how can we come together and find a way to work together to make better progress or more good.”

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    “Organize Your Own” exhibit brings activism to Augie