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The Art of Courage Event with Dr. Nisha Sajnani

Published March 5, 2020

On February 13th and 14th, 2020, the FSU Department of Art Education’s Vincent V. and Agatha Thursby Lecture Series presented The Art of Courage lecture and workshop, facilitated by Dr. Nisha Sajnani. Dr. Sajnani is the director of the Drama Therapy Program and the Theatre & Health Lab at New York University. She is a founding member of the Critical Pedagogy in the Arts Therapies Think Tank, the World Alliance of Drama Therapy, and the NYU Creative Arts Therapies/Arts in Health Working Group.

On Thursday night, Dr. Sajnani presented a lecture on the role that arts-based fields have in creating social change. She began the lecture with an overview of her work at the Post Traumatic Stress Center in New Haven, Connecticut and how trauma intersects with social justice. She then highlighted current inequities within academic and social settings and issues in defining and increasing diversity. The last major point Dr. Sajnani addressed was the intersection of white supremacy and academia, how current academic practices may uphold white supremacy, and how we can actively combat and dismantle white supremacy in academic spaces. Given the department’s mission, the lecture concluded with an open dialogue about how the Department can use the arts to create social change and combat inequality.

The next morning, Dr. Sajnani facilitated a drama and art-based workshop on how attendees can use the arts to address social justice on internal and systemic levels. The workshop began with an interactive experience to introduce participants to the processes of drama therapy and sociodrama. Sociodrama is a method by which a group of individuals select and spontaneously enact a specific social situation common to their experience. Participants were first asked to get into groups and to consider a current social issue. From this, they were asked to create a sculpture using the placement and motion of their bodies based to reflect their physical response to the issue. The small group sculptures were then joined to create one large group sculpture. Next, participants reflected on how the large sculpture related to the current political climate. They were then asked to transform the sculpture to represent an ideal political climate. After this, participants spent time individually creating visual artworks reflecting on the experience of the group sculpture and their emotional reactions to the process. Later, participants took part in a sociodramatic process of creating a play in real time reflecting the current political climate. Workshop participants were asked to play the roles of political figures and groups as they perceive them to be today. At the end of the workshop, participants reflected on the experience of embodying individual politicians and political groups, how it shifted their understanding of the political narrative, and how the lessons learned in the workshop could be transformed into action in their lives. Art educators, art therapists, art administrators, museum curators and educators are in excellent positions to entertain diverse voices and to assure that these diverse voices are heard, explored, supported, and represented.

This event follows Dr. Amber Johnson’s “Bringing Our Whole Selves to Work” lecture and workshop in Spring 2019 as part of the Art Education Vincent V. & Agatha Thursby Lecture Series. The department is excited to continue this series each spring semester that focuses on diversity and inclusion in higher education.