Students, faculty and community members piled into Tipton Hall on Friday, Dec. 9 for Santa Fe University of Art and Design’s Power to the People: Artists United event. The auditorium was filled with audience members who eagerly participated in a night full of advocacy and entertainment. Every seat in the house was occupied, leaving a few lucky stragglers to stand in the back while the rest of the hopefuls were turned away.
“A celebration of unity for positive social change through music, spoken word, dance and visual art,” as the event program states, is exactly what was delivered. The night started as each performer of the night took to the stage to sing a high-energy piece together. Following were performances from various students of different majors, ethnicities and backgrounds. Through the entire show, the screen above the stage played silent clips featuring the Black Panthers, footage from women’s rights walks and other public displays of solidarity. This created a powerful scene as each performance was visually given another layer of meaning.
Dyllan Ellis, Izzy Jordan, Lucciano Thompson and Sienna Prillaman took the stage and performed spoken word that tackled identity, race and relationships before passing the baton to Chassity Coleman and Trae Perry, whose emotionally heavy performance captivated from start to finish. These two are no strangers to the stage on the SFUAD campus, as they’ve performed on several other occasions and seem to be natural mood makers. Their EP, “2 AM and Rising” is to be released on Jan. 15, 2017.
Chassity Coleman, in addition to being a performer, played an important role in the show: production manager. “I was just making sure that they had everything they needed. I was hooking them up with the sound guys, the lighting guys to make sure we had the lights and good performers who could draw in a crowd. And they drew in a big old crowd, man!” Coleman says.
This event succeeded in showcasing many different forms of activism through art. The soulful voice of Rachel Dupard brought out cheers from the crowd and The Underground Correspondents, a three-piece hybrid performance group, powerfully utilized spoken word and music to create a chilling and raw emotional experience. With various other performances from Kala Jones, Tyia Morgan, Tranell Brown, Ardaya, SpaceMob, Thulani Mason and countless others, the feeling of campus togetherness through performance solidifies the intent of Caroline Haughton, the SFUAD professor who organized the event.
Haughton says she wanted to do this event because she “loves the students here.” Haughton teaches The Art of Activism, African American Culture, and Writing Round Table: Being the Change. Students from her African American Culture class created zines—specialized homemade magazines—covering several topics regarding diversity for their semester projects. Haughton, who thinks research and learning should be exciting, says she wanted her students to be able to have their work touch many people.
“I think art shapes the world and I think art changes consciousness. I think it’s the artist’s job to be ethical and understand that,” Haughton says. “And so in order for my students to understand that, I couldn’t just give them writing assignments and papers and things to do, I wanted them to be involved.” The zines were available to attendees and disappeared quickly, proving to be popular.
Haughton shows passion for the student body at SFUAD as she speaks with Jackalope after the show, students and other audience members intermittently approaching to give her hugs and words of congratulations. “The student body seemed as if it was in despair after the election, and I wanted the students to know that they are powerful beyond measure and that they had agency and that they could change the world.” Haughton says. “Everyone on campus is amazing so I didn’t need to have auditions. I just said that I wanted all kinds of activism to come together. I wanted people to feel the interconnectedness of social movements and so whatever they were into, they were welcome here. This is a safe, welcoming space for all kinds of activism. I drew activism from all over the campus, I worked with the art department to have art for this space, I worked with the music department… just worked all across campus. I even went outside of my own classroom to gather talent.”
Lonnell Lomax acted as the stage manager for the show. “I think this was something that the school needed,” he says. “Change. It needed to happen. Things would happen on this campus but they were departmental, there wasn’t a collaborative effort.” As Lomax and Coleman both say they feel as though the campus needs to start working together more.
The show closed out with a compelling performance of “Four Women,” which brings every audience member to their feet. This show, put together in one month, was an impressive testament to what SFUAD students are capable of achieving within the community. Haughton says she would love for this to become a recurring event.
Donations made throughout the night went toward the legal fees for the efforts at Standing Rock Indian Reservation.