Bard College organized an educational program for mature activists and students living in conflict zones. Participants now have a master’s degree in human rights and arts. The goal of the program is to show that a degree in art is for everyone, not just the wealthy. Attendants faced persecution, war, surveillance, and poverty.
Bard College: a Space Where Activists and Artists Can Co-Create
Tania El Khoury, a performance artist, and the Director of the Center for Human Rights and the Arts, said the goal was to create a space where artists and activists can collaborate and create together. #It was important to create an institution that practices its politics. How can we build a space that puts people’s well-being first? How can we be in solidarity with people from around the world and understand inequality together?”, she said.
In order to answer these questions, it is necessary to deal with several disciplines. For example, political theory, aesthetic theory, filmmaking, and performance. Every institution can achieve this through workshops on these topics. The difficult part is to answer the question: How to make education accessible to all?
All members, except two, are immigrants. Also, many of them did not arrive in time to attend the lectures from the beginning because they had problems with their visas. The university adapted to the situation – understanding that due to the political conditions in the country, many do not have a bachelor’s degree, it sought a career in art as a substitute.
Students Speak About Their Experiences
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The initiative provided Adam HajYahia, a recent graduate, with a unique chance to pursue higher education. “I grew up and lived in Palestine before coming to this program. I didn’t have an undergraduate education because I didn’t want to study in Israeli universities and didn’t quite have the funds to leave”, said HajYahia.
HajYahia began participating in these endeavours at a young age, because his relatives have historically been activists and artists. “I found ways to engage with the arts and cultural movements around Jerusalem, Jaffa, and most importantly, Haifa. I read independently, went to conferences, and applied for funding, but it wasn’t until I came to this program that I engaged with these ideas in a more structured, focused way”, said HajYahia.
El Khoury is proud of her students and the program and excited to see what they all do next. “I think so far, we’re managing to practice what we preach,” said El Khoury. “Sometimes I feel this is too good to be true, like someone is going to find out and stop it. But so far, it’s happening”.