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John Jota Leaños Collaborates on Mural Project with Department of Art University News
For release: February 10, 2009

For press information, contact Simone Notter Wilson (901) 678-4164

John Jota Leaños, assistant professor of community arts and social practices at California College of the Arts, and a social art practitioner, will lead the Department of Art’s community art collaboration, a mural based on postcards created by members of the Memphis community associated with a monthly youth art program at the Mason YMCA, an after school program at Mi Casita, the Department of Art’s Saturday Arts Academy at Davis Community Center, and Creative Aging Mid-South, an organization that works to improve quality of life for senior citizens by providing access to the arts.

Leaños, whose work has been shown at the Sundance 06 Film Festival, the 2002 Whitney Biennial in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will give an artist talk on Thursday, February 19, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Brister Hall, room 220. He will also be part of a panel discussion about race, gender and national politics, February 19 at 4 p.m. in Brister Hall, room 220. Both events are free and open the public.

The mural project, held in conjunction with the PeaceJam Conference at Rhodes College February 21-22, is a collaboration of the University of Memphis’ Department of Art, the U of M’s Hispanic Student Association, the University Neighborhoods Development Corporation (UNDC) and BRIDGES Inc.

PeaceJam is an international education program focused on the lives and work of 12 Nobel Peace Laureates. BRIDGES Inc., in partnership with Rhodes College, is the program’s Mid-South sponsor, providing youth from Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida with invaluable insights on making peace in the world. The 2009 BRIDGES Inc. PeaceJam Mid-South Conference will focus on the work of Jody Williams, 1997 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who works with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). She received the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in creating an international treaty for the clearing of antipersonnel landmine fields and banning landmines from being used in the future. Williams will speak at the University of Memphis’ Rose Theatre on February 20 at 4 p.m. The lecture is free and open to the public.

For the mural project, participating groups will fill blank postcards with original artwork that explores questions of hope. The postcards, similar to fabric pieces used to make a quilt, will become part of the “hope mural,” an intergenerational work of art carried out by PeaceJam participants on February 21. The Davis Community Center has been named as a possible site for the wall painting.The mural will communicate individual and collective visions of hope, and show how art can be a vehicle to understand and express thoughts and feelings. The project’s goal is for each group to develop an understanding of community and self, to discover the similarities or differences between individual and collective interpretations of the theme of hope.

“Research shows that participation in the arts can strengthen community and build human capacity,” says Donalyn Heise, assistant professor of art education. “The arts can enhance communication, reveal what we value, and heighten perception. By basing the mural on the postcard exchange, we will use art to develop an appreciation and respect for the variety of human culture.”

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