Public Arts: Writing and Visual Arts in the Service of Community


Winter 2022
Spring 2022
Sophomore - Senior
Class Size: 50
16 Credits per quarter
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A mural commemorating Latinx contributions in Los Angeles; graffiti in Latin American cities; photographs of the disappeared, hung in a church in Colombia; poetry documenting the impact of industrial neglect on African-American workers in West Virginia; an installation reinscribing the Underground Railroad in the landscape; poetic performances that intervene in the political and historical landscape in Chile -- these are examples of art forms that engage with the public to tell stories of people and movements that have been ignored. In this program we will explore how the arts shape “the public” and intervene in public space through engagement with impacted communities. We will explore questions like: what is public space? What is the practice of public art and how does it change the traditional relationships between maker and viewer/ reader/ listener? What is the role of art in establishing public memory and bringing issues to the public eye? What is considered public and what is not, and how do the arts shift this balance? How did artists respond to shifting notions of the public after the 2020 pandemic and struggles for racial justice? How do artists work with communities and establish forms of accountability to them? How do public artists tell the stories of a community and honor those stories through their practice?

We will explore these questions through both theory and practice. We will read about and analyze the work of writers and visual artists engaging “the public” in Latin America and the United States, primarily coming from or working with low-income communities and communities of color. In both quarters, students will deepen skills in literary and visual analysis by looking at the work of writers like Cecilia Vicuña, Muriel Rukeyser, Sara Uribe, and Robin Coste Lewis, and visual artists, photographers, and filmmakers like Erika Diettes, Doris Salcedo, Suzanne Lacy, Judy Baca, and Patricia Vázquez Gómez. We will explore public art histories, including Mexican and Chicanx murals, community-based installations and performances, and the collaborations that produced the Great Wall of Los Angeles and the Centralia Labor Mural Project. We’ll engage with critical assessments of the institutions, like museums, that certify what counts as “art” and learn about public artists and communities that are creating alternatives. Students will engage in community art-making, storytelling, or poetry projects. We will learn how to do research in Evergreen’s archives and deepen our understanding of Evergreen’s multiple histories. Students will be encouraged to reflect on their developing arts practice, expand artistic and writing tool kits, and engage in a collaborative public arts project with artist Patricia Vázquez Gomez.

Winter and Spring Quarters: In winter, we will build foundational vocabulary and skills for discussing, analyzing and producing public, community arts projects. Students will have the opportunity to deepen skills in documentary video or poetry writing through weekly workshops, and develop introductory skills in archival research as a foundation for their project work. In spring, we will continue to learn about public arts and writing projects across the Americas while deepening our work in public storytelling, media, creative writing and visual arts/design; students will collaborate with public artist Patricia Vazquez Gómez to create a mural or similar collaborative project on campus based on archival research into the history of struggles for equity at Evergreen.


Winter 2022 Registration
Spring 2022 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16): 30050

Academic details

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing

$100 winter quarter for required media fees


In Person or Remote
In Person (W)
In Person (S)
Time Offered
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting

SEM 2 E1105 - Lecture
DateRevision 2021-12-14 This program will be offered as a one-quarter version in spring quarter. 2021-12-07 $100 required media fee added to program