School of Social Work to host featured artist residency


The School of Social Work, in partnership with the U-M Arts Initiative, has announced the selection of the Pan-African Creative Exchange as the featured artist residency for 2024.

This is the first artist residency at SSW and the second iteration of the Arts Initiative’s Visiting Artist Integration Program, designed to infuse the University of Michigan’s engagement and learning processes with the dynamic creativity of artists.

The 2024 artist residency will feature a bi-coastal duo — arts advocates Nike Jonah and Erwin Maas — who specialize in art consultancy across multiple creative sectors worldwide.

Their residency, taking place Feb. 8-14 and April 10-15, will encompass master classes, workshops and conversations aimed at enriching the U-M community and the southeast Michigan region.

The Pan-African Creative Residency will build capacity for art-centered social justice practice in SSW and other U-M units, including the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, LSA, Residential College and the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

Rogério Meireles Pinto, a University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor, Berit Ingersoll-Dayton Collegiate Professor of Social Work and professor of social work in SSW, and professor of theatre and drama in SMTD, is the architect of the PACE visit.

In collaboration with Kathryn Grabowski-Khairullah, program curator for the Arts Initiative, Pinto conducted six planning sessions that included the artists and nearly 50 faculty members, students and staff from across U-M.

“I first met Erwin in New York City where he directed my one-person play, ‘MarÍlia,’ which I subsequently presented at the Vrystaat Arts Festival in Bloemfontein (in South Africa). There I met Nike in the first meeting that gave rise to PACE,” Pinto said. “Ever since, I have witnessed how PACE has elevated and amplified discourses around ‘African art’ and helped artists to develop visibility in the global stage.”

PACE was founded at the Vrystaat Arts Festival and serves as a biennial arts market and showcase for African and African-diaspora artists. It provides a gateway for presenting tour-ready work, showcasing excerpts, pitching new creations, facilitating producer exchanges, hosting workshops and fostering critical debates.

The visiting artists will delve into crucial topics such as collaborations with stakeholders, access to the arts sector, entrepreneurship, innovation, advocacy, mobility and internationalization. Through interactive and dynamic sessions, Jonah and Maas will facilitate a series of meaningful conversations that explore the intersection of social work, social justice and the arts.

Jonah, a British Nigerian based in London, and Maas, a Dutch American based in New York, bring a wealth of international experience to U-M. Their varied backgrounds and expertise promise a unique perspective on diversity, equity and inclusion strategies, as well as insights into the sustainability of performing arts professions in Africa and its diaspora.

“We are excited to partner with the U-M Arts Initiative to host these two residencies, which will explore the diversity of cultural expression and how the arts can drive social change. The intersection of social work, social justice and the arts is a vibrant and impactful area of study. I look forward to engaging in compelling and thought-provoking conversations,” said SSW Dean Beth Angell, the Phillip Fellin Collegiate Professor of Social Work and professor of social work.

Jonah is the co-executive director of PACE and the director of Connecting Dots, an arts consultancy that works with a range of clients across the arts and creative sectors. She has led numerous discussions and workshops during her extensive travels across the globe, including North America, Europe, Africa and Australia.

Maas is the co-executive director of PACE and a New York-based theater maker, curator, educator and international arts advocate with extensive international experience across a variety of creative and community contexts. He brings an extensive knowledge and network to this artist residency with a focus on international cultural collaboration and policy.

“Something special is happening in our School of Social Work, where the arts have become a powerful tool of research, understanding and healing,” said Mark Clague, interim executive director of the Arts Initiative.

“Bringing path-breaking artists to campus serves to spark creative thinking across our entire research and learning community while introducing our students to the creative process and modeling how a single new idea can change the world.”

The Visiting Artist Integration Program is part of a larger arts engagement program with the Arts Initiative called Creators on Campus, which seeks to expand existing visiting artist programs, initiate larger-scale visiting artist possibilities, and enhance learning, arts research, and the overall campus experience for students.


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