As a student at the Columbia University School of Social Work over the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure of wandering the halls over at 1255 Amsterdam Avenue on many occasions. However, it was just last week that I really started to notice what fantastic art there is to be found around corners, in hallways, down stairwells and outside the elevators. I suppose that as graduation day nears, I’ve begun to pay more attention to the things I’ll miss when I leave. The truth is, there is an incredible collection of art over at CUSSW. Whether you are approaching your graduation day as well, or just looking for a fresh take on campus life, a trip over to CUSSW maybe just the place to start.
The most intriguing thing about the art at CUSSW is the way it reflects the field of social work. Social work is committed to social justice and to developing the full potential of each individual, group and community in society. The artists featured at CUSSW bring to light the issues we struggle with as social workers and as a society at large.
On the fourth floor you can find a photo series by Robin Bowman, titled Teenage America: Portraits of the Next Generation, depicting the diversity of the American teenager. Bowman captivates the viewer through the sincere expressions of America’s teens. She challenges us to think about stereotypes, as well as, our perspectives on “the other” in our own lives.
Make a stop on the third floor and you will find yourself immediately captivated by the work of the Brooklyn based collaborative art team Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry. The photos featured are two in a series titled Civic Endurance. The photos document part of a 25-hour endurance performance by homeless youth living in Seattle, Washington in 2002. The homeless youths stood still looking directly into the camera for an hour without speaking. The goal of standing motionless for an hour is a significant act of endurance for youth that face drug addiction, attention deficit and health related issues. Each youth that participated in this collective action dedicated their participation to the memory of friends who died from life on the streets, and thus “stood for” those individuals who were absent.
It is a gallery quality experience, free of charge, and definitely worth checking out. You are guaranteed to find an amazing piece of art every time you exit an elevator and each floor has its own flavor. You won’t need to search very hard before you find some great art in the halls of CUSSW.
As an added bonus, social workers love to talk, so while wandering the halls you may find yourself in the middle of a Tino Segal-esque experience. For the full effect, go ahead; ask a social worker, “What is progress?”
TIP: Check out the photo in the 2nd floor student lounge near the vending machines, it is one of my favorites and absolutely hilarious. A tribute to all those SPAM lovers out there.
Tonya Marie Reid, CUSSW ’10