PNCA Graduate Symposium: Art + Social Consciousness

October 23, 2023

Banner for the Pacific Northwest College of Art, 2023 Graduate Symposium Art + Social Consciousness

Graduate Symposium 2023: Art and Social Consciousness

**NOTE: Due to unforeseen circumstances the Slothskillz Collective workshop has been cancelled**

November 2-3, 2023, Free + Open to the Public

This symposium, featuring artists vanessa german and Nina Elder as distinguished keynote speakers, promises to be an immersive exploration of the intersection of art, activism, and social consciousness. Set against the backdrop of their artwork and facilitation practices that challenge societal norms and provoke critical dialogue, this event invites attendees on a transformative journey through the realms of visual expression, social and ecological advocacy. German, celebrated for her dynamic mixed-media sculptures and community-engaged artistry, will ignite discussions on the power of creativity to effect meaningful change in historically marginalized communities. Complementing her perspective, Elder’s thought-provoking and multidisciplinary practice will illuminate the urgent need for artistic intervention to cultivate an authentic, curious, and empathetic state of living through times of extreme transition. Together, German and Elder will inspire a diverse audience of artists, designers, makers, educators, and community members to engage with creativity as a catalyst for social justice and environmental mindfulness, fostering a collective commitment to a more inclusive and sustainable future.

Keynote Speakers

Nina Elder
November 2, 12pm

Artist and researcher Nina Elder creates projects that reveal humanity’s dependence on and interruption of the natural world. With a focus on changing cultures and ecologies, Nina advocates for collaboration, fostering relationships between institutions, artists, scientists and diverse communities. Her work takes many forms, including drawings, performance, pedagogy, critical writing, long term community-based projects, and public art.

Recent solo exhibitions of Nina’s work have been organized by SITE Santa Fe, Indianapolis Contemporary, and university museums across the US. Her work has been featured in Art in America, VICE Magazine, and on PBS; her writing has been published in American Scientist and Edge Effects Journal. Nina’s research has been supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation, the Rauschenberg Foundation, the Pollock Krasner Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation. Nina is an affiliate artist of the National Performance Network. She has recently held research positions at the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art, the Anchorage Museum, and the Art and Ecology Program at the University of New Mexico. In between her travels and projects, Nina lives alone on a volcano in New Mexico.

vanessa german
November 2, 5pm

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1976

vanessa german is a self-taught citizen artist working across sculpture, performance, communal rituals, immersive installation, and photography, in order to repair and reshape disrupted systems, spaces, and connections. The artist’s practice proposes new models for social healing, utilizing creativity and tenderness as vital forces to reckon with the historical and ongoing catastrophes of structural racism, white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, resource extraction, and misogynoir. A visual storyteller, german utilizes assemblage and mixed media, combining locally found objects to build protective ritualistic structures known as her power figures. Modeled on Congolese Nkisi sculptures and drawing on folk art practices, they are embellished with materials including beading, glass, fabric, and sculpted wood, and come into existence at the axis on which Black power, spirituality, mysticism, and feminism converge.

german’s artistic practice is intertwined with and inextricable from her dedicated role in activism and community leadership. In 2011, german founded the Love Front Porch, an arts initiative for the women, children, and families of the local neighborhood that began after she moved her studio practice onto the front steps of her home. Three years later, in 2014, german opened the ARThouse, which combines a community studio, a large garden, an outdoor theatre, and an artist residency. Upholding artmaking as an act of restorative justice, german confronts and begins to dismantle the emotional and spiritual weight imposed by the multi-generational oppression of African American communities. As a queer Black woman living in the United States, german has described this as a deeply necessary process of adventuring into the wild freedom that the inhabitation of such identities demands. This activist instinct emerges in german’s work to postulate powerful narratives of freedom and love.

In 2022, german was awarded the Heinz Award for the Arts. Other awards include the Don Tyson Prize from the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the United States Artist Grant in 2018, the Jacob Lawrence Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2017, and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant in 2015.

Her work is held in private and public collections including the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Akron Art Museum, Akron, OH; Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, South Hadley, MA; Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY; Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ; Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, MI and Figge Art Museum, Davenport, IA. german’s premier exhibition at Kasmin, Sad Rapper, opened in September 2022 to critical praise and was named one of the top fifty exhibitions of that year by Hyperallergic. Her work has been exhibited at museums across the United States, most recently at The Contemporary Dayton, Montclair Art Museum, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, Figge Art Museum, The Union for Contemporary Art, The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia, Flint Institute of Arts, Mattress Factory, Everson Museum of Art, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Studio Museum, Ringling Museum of Art and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. In August 2023, german unveiled a new commission for the exhibition Beyond Granite: Pulling Together on The National Mall in Washington, D.C. Exploring the role of monuments in the telling of American history, the exhibition marks the first organized group art exhibition ever staged on The National Mall.

Graduate Symposium Exhibition - Gallery 157

Curated by Genesis Turris, Fall 2023 Graduate Curatorial Fellow

Mai Ide Shogi Reality: Black & White 

Critiquing the “American” Racial theology of judging objects based on racial prejudice to justify the “American” lifestyle.

The grid is a metaphor for a social norm, standardizations to measure value, also authority and power. At the same time, I have another idea of the grid, which refers to the shoji screen, a traditional Japanese door, as a protection by establishing a virtual boundary between myself and white supremacy. I make an association between those two ideas to showcase how I am struggling in society.  In order to resist these oppressions, we have to create our grid to be ourselves. These works show our vulnerability within these circumstances by showing how we, as BIPOC and queer artists, have to ignore our existence yet are appropriated by the Western gaze.


We'll also have the first night of our MFA open Studios Event and First Thursday running concurrently with the Symposium

Programs showing work:

*MFA Print Media * MFA Collaborative Design * MA Design Systems * Post-Bacc *

First Thursday - with photobooth!

November 2, 6pm-9pm

November 2nd

12pm - Nina Elder Keynote Talk

5pm - vanessa german Keynote Talk

6pm-9pm - MFA Open Studios

6:30pm-8:30pm - PNCA Mediatheque, Black Hole Dance Party, DJ Timothy Bee

November 3rd

12pm-2pm - Workshop: Community Crochet w/ Nina Elder

**EVENT CANCELLED; POSTPONED FOR A LATER DATE** 2pm-4pm - Rooted Seeds Facilitation Workshop (RSVP on Eventbrite)

Join Intersectional Facilitator golden dreamsong collier for a special Grad Symposium session of Rooted Seeds Facilitation Lab, an exploration-based liberatory offering that welcomes curious trainers, educators, and ALL adventurers tasked with holding space to harness our collective wisdom and insights to practice creating more equitable learning environments for all. We'll explore  a series of exercises and techniques that could be especially useful for MFA candidates considering teaching post-program. No matter who you are, you have unique experiences and perspectives that would benefit you as a facilitator! There is no prerequisite for teaching or facilitation experience, but registration is required because space is limited. Register HERE

golden collier (he/they) is an Intersectional Facilitator and Interdisciplinary Artist with their publishing work is currently in the collections of Ontario College of Art and Design, The Library of Congress, Queer Reads Library in Hong Kong, and Princeton's Graphic Arts Collection, among others. His lens-based works have shown in festivals across the globe including Melbourne Queer Film Festival, The Directors Guild of America, Toronto Inside Out Festival, and more. With over two decades creating dynamic learning experiences, golden is excited to offer this exploration session to his PNCA community and beyond.

**EVENT CANCELLED; POSTPONED FOR A LATER DATE** Slothskillz Workshop: Creating a Collective Mind-Map