The Power of Artivism

In the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies (TDPS), a master’s student used a dance-based curriculum to teach conflict resolution to incarcerated teens. A performance on LGBT issues created a constructive dialogue around sexual roles and preferences. A recent M.F.A. grad taught traditional African dance to at-risk inner-city Baltimore students, which led to better behavior in and out of school.

They’re all examples of artivism, the melding of the arts and activism at the heart of so much of the school’s work, including by Rob Jansen M.F.A. ’12,

The play, he says, is proof that art has the power to open dialogue, transform lives and influence society.

“It can ask questions of an audience,” Rob says, “which hopefully can lead to change.”

TDPS Director Leigh Wilson Smiley agrees with that approach. The master’s program in performance emphasizes independent thinking, risk-taking and innovation.

“In order to create great art one must take great risk,” she says. “In TDPS our students understand the power of the arts to both entertain as well as to motivate social change.”

Rob found this curriculum unique and inspiring. “There is an energy in working directly with faculty who are also artists,” he says. “It just goes beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before. There is a belief in what theater can do, what it can be for our audience.”


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