Professor Sarah Berkeley opened each class period of the Art+Activism course with a check-in, asking each student how they were doing that day. Checking-in allowed us to acknowledge one another’s humanity before engaging challenging subject matter. The check-in became an essential part of building community within the class.
In the research module of the Art+Activism course, students were inspired by Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen’s, Complaints Choir. The class then collected 32 anonymous complaints from Nebraska Wesleyan University students, faculty and staff, effectively extending the daily class check-in to the entire campus. Students sorted through the complaints and subsequently composed lyrics to the tune of "My Favorite Things" by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Complaints fell into three main categories - personal, political and institutional. Lyrics were selected to reflect the most common complaints with a balance of the three categories. Our intention was to create a cathartic experience for the Nebraska Wesleyan community by ironically and humorously giving voice to our shared frustrations.
The class chose three times and locations on campus to perform when an audience would be likely. Two were outdoor spaces that students pass on the way to classes and one was in the building that houses administrative offices as well as classrooms.
We are grateful to Nebraska Wesleyan University’s commitment to free speech that made this project possible.
“We can begin by doing small things at the local level. That is how change takes place in living systems: not from above but from within, from many local actions occurring simultaneously."
Grace Lee Boggs