At the start of the Fall semester, Professor of Art History and Studio Art, Clarice Zdanski, had the opportunity to attend the International Socially Engaged Art Symposium (ISEAS), an invitational event in Rassepori, Finland.

The ISEAS gathered 25 artists from near and far; Professor Zdanski was a unique addition to the group as she represented both the U.S. and Italian culture. The artists were paired up and assigned a “socially engaged” art project. As Professor Zdanski remarked, socially engaged art is an art with the purpose of serving people, “more geared towards the real world and real people. It is not typically confined to the conventional forms of art.” Her participation in such symposium made her realize how much there is a need for this sort of interaction, and how artists, themselves, can begin to see these opportunities as potential outlets.

Professor Zdanski’s project worked with adults who possessed psychological and physical ailments. “A big challenge was that our project had to go into a gallery,” she explained. In the end, they created a collection of teepees assembled using sheets that were decorated by the participants. The teepees were intended to “break down barriers, such as physical and artistic capabilities, as well as language.”

As noted by Professor Zdanski, the lessons and resources accumulated through the symposium will contribute to the development of the ‘Sustainability in the Studio’ art course at Franklin. This course is consistently offered at FUS, but this semester it has taken the form of an Academic Travel. The students have been designing relief panels that will be placed around campus, and constructing sculptures for the library crafted with unused books. On location, students will visit cultural destinations such as the Venice Biennale in Venice, Italy, and the Art Brut museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Referring to her time at the symposium, Professor Zdanski admitted, "You end up questioning yourself a lot. Going to bed at night thinking 'What's going on?'" Overall, the event was challenging, but the rewards were enormous. She described the final gallery viewing with the participants as a "moving experience." The symposium allowed the artists and participants, alike, to overcome challenges, and collaboratively create pieces that everyone could feel proud of. Professor Zdanski will continue to break down barriers in the art world, and further incorporate Franklin students in this process.