Lecture on art and women’s movement

Jacob WaringReporter

Southern alumna and art teacher at Central High School and Wintergreen Magnet, Sarah Bratchell, held a lecture about life’s work and art in a lector titled, “Socially Engaged Art & Women’s Movement” on Monday, Oct. 1.

The lecture was part of a class called, “Women and Social Movements, Gender and Resistance” (WMS 294) and it’s one of the tier three capstone courses at Southern.
The course explores various movements and resistances that either affected women, led by women or involved them in some way. The lecture was extended to invite the community, beyond the student registered to the class.

Yi-Chun Tricia Lin is the Director and a professor of women’s studies, said she likes to push the boundaries, think outside of the box and this lecture is one of her efforts to incorporate this into her teachings.

“I want the students to experience that movements and resistance comes in all different forms and shapes, it’s not always in written words,” Lin said. “I also want the class to know that art plays a very important role in all movements.”

Lin has known Bratchell for many years when she was her professor, advisor and eventually they became companions. Bratchell assured her audience that the lecture will be a multi-faceted experience. She read out a poem she wrote in 2008 called, “The Memory of Hope.”

After she read her poem, she asked the room to bring the circle of desks around her closer. She rung a sort of meditation bell and told everyone to relax, to feel free to drop anything they were holding in their hands and instructed everyone to release tension from themselves. She asked everyone to say their name and one word on their mind.

Bratchell gave a rundown on her career, the life lessons she has learned as a teacher and how activism played a role in her life. She said that in her early years she had a white folk messiah complex, and how she worked through that. She said came into her first teaching job thinking to save the children.

“Thinking that I was going to come in and save all the marginalized, oppressed children,
I say this with full transparency, there is a bit [of] embarrassment about it,” Bratchell said, “but I think it’s important to tell these kinds of stories.”

As she gained experience as an educator, and her interactions with these students lead her to the realization that she does not have all the answers as she thought, and as a white knight on a horse to empower them was doing more damage.

“I really think of teachers and myself as tractor trailers,” Bratchell said. “I’m just the vehicle that carries the content. Thatisall,Iamnoone better, not special and I just happen to come with some privileges.”

Bratchell said she hoped people walked away thinking, “How are you feeling and what
are your thoughts?” A valuable question, she said that she learned from her students and asks them often.

She says when students know they are in an authentically safe place, are cared for and feel safe, they connect. When they make that connection, they learn. She is interested in holding space for them to learn, if art comes from that then that is great. She summarized her point in layman’s terms.

“Basically, let go of my crap,” Bratchell said. “Stop internalizing, so I can be able to hold space for these students to evolve.”

During the lecture she also elaborated upon the influence of Angela Davis, an American political activist, academic, and author who was once briefly part of the Black Panthers during the civil rights movement. She said she is also influenced by Ericka Huggins, an activist and educator that was part of the Black Panthers, but had a more prominent role as one of their leading members.

Towards the end of her lecture she began showing examples of socially engaged art made by her students she oversaw. Photos she has taken over the years signifying important moments in her life. One such moment was seeing her former student at a Black Lives Matter protest, and she felt it was a, “full-circle,” moment to see a student she taught be involved actively in the community. That former student was also attending the lecture, Councilman Justin Farmer of Hamden is currently attending Southern.

Bratchell then had everyone in attendance split into groups of four to five people. The intention of this was for the groups to create socially engaged art that would compel people to think. They were then hung outside the woman’s studies office. One piece had a hand- held loudspeaker shouting words with positive connotations at the globe whose landmasses were filled with words that have strong negative connotations.

Photo Credit: Hunter Lyle


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