Miller ’16 Reflects on Radical Art

By Christopher Sarachilli | January 25, 2016

A paper quilt of messages to those with mental illness, part of a project by Lindsay Miller ’16 for the Radical Arts Exhibit.

In December, students in the Radical Arts exhibit aimed to increase awareness of social issues combated by organizations throughout Philadelphia, such as hunger, homelessness, and prisoner reentry.

Here, Lindsay Miller ’16, a corporate communications major, reflects on the exhibit as well as the process of studying, appreciating, and creating change through art. Miller’s project sought to represent different struggles with mental illness. Exhibition attendees wrote messages to those with mental illness on square pieces of paper that Miller later assembled into a paper quilt.

A bow danced across cello strings, filling the long room. Formal figures, masked and shoeless, paced in and out of sight. Others stared in awe at the glut of images and subjects that surrounded them. A lock and chain bound an abstraction of struggles, the key for escape just out of reach, while food waste and body bags towered above in a corner. Portraits of individuals that you felt like you could know clung to the side as the muffled cries of suffering peers held fast to some cabinets lining the walls. The works of art guided each participant around the room, forcing discomfort, distress, and even gratefulness and appreciation, upon them.

On Wednesday, Dec. 9, Celeste Walker’s Radical Arts students packed personal artworks and profound subject matter into the Castle Dining Room in an often harrowing, sometimes uplifting, and always radical art exhibition. For this exhibition, each student in the course created and assembled meaningful works of art that focused on an array of subjects from thankfulness to mass incarceration, dancing school youth to coping with discomfort.

Each project was developed with the goal of inspiring change among the Arcadia community. Throughout the semester, we meticulously studied the global use of art for social change and received the opportunity to participate in the operations of Philadelphia organizations (Philadelphia Dancing Classrooms, the People’s Paper Co-op, the Mural Arts Program, the Leeway Foundation, and Philadelphia FIGHT) dedicated to creating change through art. Using this newfound familiarity and insight as a guide, we created our own works to mimic the missions of these generous organizations, culminating in an illuminating and touching exhibition. The struggles and joys of so many individuals and communities seemed to rest effortlessly and beautifully in a single room.