What the Arts Means at Swarthmore

4 mins read

As the year comes to an end, most of us are left to reflect on the time we have spent at Swarthmore College and what we have been able to do so far. One of the most amazing things has been the rise of the arts and activism through art on campus. Groups and individuals have been empowered this year to use their creativity to give themselves voice and agency.
The Visibility Magazine published its third issue this year with the most submissions it has ever had. It was filled with poetry, photography, and art meant to empower traditionally marginalized voices.
This was accompanied by the Rise Up Now: Zine Festival, a three day event put on by Intercultural Center interns and sponsored by Swarthmore Indigenous Students Association, Kitao, Latinx Heritage Month and the Intercultural Center . On Friday, April 27, Visibility Magazine was released in collaboration with a Day of Silence Rally. Day of Silence is dedicated to raising awareness of the bullying of LGBTQ+ youth. The following days consisted of a pop-up shop for artists to sell their work, a zine-making and earring making workshop, and a gallery reception at Kitao Gallery.
Zines have been part of a long legacy of activism both in our nation’s history and on Swarthmore’s campus. Zines were traditionally self-published works to empower the voices of people of color. That history was shared and emphasized during this year’s Zine Fest where people were encouraged to share their stories by making their own zine.
Alongside giving students more agency in their time at Swarthmore, art has had a persistent role in campus activism from the Spring of Our Discontent to today. From S.J.P.’s wall to represent Israeli apartheid to the poetry people shared at Revolution Festival last semester, students have worked to enact positive change on campus.
Just as important, art has played a role in developing the personalities and traits of many students on campus.
AV Lee-A-Yong ̕ 21, a prospective peace and conflicts  studies major, is one person who has been greatly impacted by the arts at Swarthmore.
Lee-A-Yong had been active in theater zir whole life but wasn’t formally trained until coming to Swarthmore this fall. For Lee-A-Yong, theater has become an important part of zir identity.
“Theatre has always been a way to express myself through someone else,” Lee-A-Yong said. “And it’s nice to be at Swarthmore and see those someone-elses share things in common with you.”
Along with playing an important role in identity, the arts at Swarthmore also provide a family to many people.
“Being a first-year originally came with its own set of nerves, but I think that I came in at such an opportune time — when there was a role I could audition for that, was perfect for me,” Lee-A-Yong explained. “I do think, however, that at Swarthmore, theatre is a family, and being adopted into it in my first year gave me a sense of belonging I don’t know if I would’ve found anywhere else. I definitely feel more secure in myself and my presence at Swat because of theatre here.”
As the year comes to a close, and we are left most recently with the S.J.P.’s wall and Organizing for Survivors’ posters that cover the halls of Parrish, but we can’t forget the family that the arts creates for so many.

Shelby Dolch

Shelby Dolch '21 is from Montana and intends to special major in Political Science and Black Studies with a second major in Peace and Conflict Studies. She is most interested in the areas of criminal justice reform, human rights, and domestic policy.

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