Sculptor will reflect on South Africa at Clark Art Institute

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WILLIAMSTOWN >> South African artist and educator Farieda Nazier of the University of Johannesburg describes her work as "artistic, educational and writing practice." Sometimes the elements come together, as they do in her arts-based education program "Emerging Arts Activist," and at the Clark Art Institute she will draw on all three — in the first step in an international partnership that may reach from South Africa to local teenagers.

"The three forms of practice are interlinked," she said, "and have become an important means to express, reflect, understand and relate my personal experiences of the world to the broader contemporary condition."

At the Clark, in a week of talks and performances, she will speak on "What Americans Can Learn About the Race Discussion from South Africa," on Thursday, April 9.

Nazier shapes sculpture to comment on the world around her. Recently she has curated a group show, "Tension Torsion: 20 Years On," at the Ithuba Arts Gallery in Johannesburg in 2014 — reflecting on the 20th anniversary of democracy in South Africa, with sculpture and visual art including her own work — and she has had a solo show, "After Math: An exploration of temporality, wounding and consequence" at the Apartheid Museum in August 2012, according to her blog and website.

She has also developed programs at museums from the Barbier Mueller Gold of Africa Museum and the Apartheid Museum to the University of Johannesburg and the Glasgow School of Art Enterprises.

At the Clark, she wants to talk with her audience, she said.

"It'll be very much a dialogue," said Ronna Tulgan Ostheimer, director of adult, school and community programs at the Clark.

"Art offers a way to talk about race ... it offers a way in and a way out," Tulgan Ostheimer said. "We're not afraid of talking about real issues."

"Race is obviously a major topic in America right now, and over the past few years our country has been more honest about talking about it and admitting it's still an issue. Farieda [will] give a presentation about race using South Africa as a comparison."

Nazier Tulgan will explore an open format with multimedia and artwork, her own and her students'. She brings her artwork into her teaching.

In Emerging Arts Activist, Nazier said, she hopes to give students an understanding of psychological and social influences in their lives and to teach critical thinking with art and research.

The Emerging Arts Activist program brought Nazier and the Clark together. Tulgan Ostheimer runs the Responding to Art Involves Self Expression (RAISE) program at the Clark in collaboration with the Berkshire County Juvenile Court.

Young people are sentenced to come to the Clark for "group meetings, writing and self awareness exercises and gallery talks," according to the Clark's website.

Emerging Arts Activist, on the other hand, has young art activists work with artists to use their practice as a tool for socio-political action. The program is different from RAISE, Tulgan Ostheimer said, but similar in their goals of teaching and connecting young people through art.

"What she does is work with kids on issues of identity and social activism using art," Tulgan Ostheimer said.

"Ronna was interested in my arts-education program," Nazier said. "We have since been in discussions with Ronna about potential international collaborations within the arts-education domain."

"The goal is to do a hybrid of the two programmes where they engage with art and race, gender and power," Tulgan Ostheimer said.

"We would like to bring the two together for a maybe very powerful global initiative, but we have to let the kids figure it out for themselves."

Nazier will talk with her about that program while she visits the Berkshires, so the two of them can flesh out further details of the project. She will also speak at Williams College and visit MCLA and Mass MoCA.

Art museums want to reach out to the whole of their communities, Tulgan Ostheimer said.

"Nazier is partially coming to talk about that shift," she said. "I hope educators will come. This is a model that we can deal with serious social issues in meaningful ways."

If you go ...

What: Free admission on first Sundays of the month through May

What: 'The Accidental City: Representing Algiers c. 1953'

Sheila Crane, associate professor of architectural history at the University of Virginia, speaks on modern architecture and cities in France and North Africa

When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

What: Looking at Lunchtime: 'Machine Age Modernism'

12:30 p.m. Thursday, April 9

What: 'What Americans can learn about the race discussion from South Africa'

When: 5 p.m. Thursday, April 9

Artist Farieda Nazier of the University of Johannesburg explores activism and how the visual arts can be used to invoke, evoke, or provoke critical dialogue around shared experiences.


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