Challenging Realities: Art and Activism

Challenging Realities
Art and Activism

January 21, 2016
5:30 – 7:00 pm
William Gillespie Studio

Presentations, performances and Q & A

Guest Panel
Millicent Johnnie
Dr. Bridget Cooks
Dr. Manuel Gómez

Join us for a conversation concerning the power of art in challenging realities in art and activism.

This is a free event and open to the public. 
Please join us for a short reception afterwards.

MORE INFO:  Sheron Wray ~

Supported by
Office of the Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs
Claire Trevor School of the Arts, Department of Dance
UCI Program in African American Studies
Center for Citizen Peacebuilding

Challenging Realities: Arts and Activism
by Sheron Wray

In the winter of 2015 several students approached me individually about projects that they wanted to realize; each project idea had some relationship with community building and political activism. My hunch was that this new interest was rooted with a group of our undergraduates whom had just returned from Panama. They had been on a week-long program with the non-profit dance organization, Movement Exchange. Led by graduate student Blair Brown they taught classes to the country's at-risk youth both in orphanages and at youth centers across the city, and engaged in creative workshops with other undergraduates at the University of Panama. Through these international learning experiences, their worldview, and critically their assumptions regarding the role of the arts fundamentally changed. Dance now became a mode of social communication, an art able to convey cross-cultural empathy, and importantly a way to exercise leadership for change. These perceptions are quite different from their former preoccupations of attaining an “A” grade in Ballet, Modern, and Jazz leading them to public performances. One student within this group, Martha Gray, personally followed up by writing a proposal to the OVCSA requesting the dance department support an invitation to choreographer Millicent Johnnie. Johnnie’s artistic DNA is grounded in social activism as nurtured from within by her mentor and former artistic director of Urban Bush Women Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. One of her recent works portrayed the slaying of Trayvon Martin.

The Johnnie residency involves creating a work for the stage. However, with her special background in mind, the opportunity to create an interdisciplinary, intergenerational panel arose. The presenters are: Dr. Bridget Cooks, Vice Chancellor Emeritus Dr. Manuel Gomez, and Milicent Johnnie. Our vision also includes undergraduate dance majors who will perform. We invite other actively engaged students interested in the question of justice to attend and to share their perspectives and perhaps narrate their experiences in order to explore how we might create social change through the arts. This is a space for all of us.

Challenging Realities is brought to you through the Dance Department in conjunction with the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Program in African American Studies, Center for Citizen Peacebuilding and Minor in Civic and Community Engagement.

For further information please contact Sheron Wray, Associate Professor – UCI Dance Department. Email:

Location: William Gillespie Studio DS 1100


January 21, 2016 - 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm