RCAH community wraps up 2014 with showcases, events

Our Voices Matter – November 24

Alongside Vincent Delgado’s RCAH 292A class, eight community partners performed their stories in the LookOut! Gallery in collaboration with Lansing’s Financial Empowerment Center. View a video of the performances here.

The partnership came about when Delgado was serving on a committee with the director of the Financial Empowerment Center, Amber Paxton. He said he didn’t know much about the Center until he met Paxton. The two were talking about empowerment and justice and working in solidarity with people.

He and Paxton came up with a project centered on storytelling, and Delgado decided to host it through his engagement proseminar course.

“People’s stories and voices need to be heard,” Delgado said. “People are impacted by structures of inequality, whether it’s race or class or other things…. It’s really about understanding that their stories are as important as everybody else’s stories.”

This is the second iteration of the project. Delgado said he plans to continue it next semester, hopefully producing a printed collection of the stories at its conclusion.

RCAH 111 Open House – December 2

Six RCAH 111 classes exhibited their work at the annual RCAH Stories Open House in the first week of December. Eric Aronoff’s class, “Telling Stories: Composing Knowledge in Transcultural Contexts,” focused on the connections between culture and storytelling. David Sheridan’s class, “Transculturation in Michigan,” centered on the interactions of different cultural groups in the Mitten State. Terese Monberg’s class, “Travel, Migration, and Exile,” explored what it means to cross borders and to travel. Austin Jackson’s class, “Race, Rhetoric, and the Arts of Resistance,” investigated the role of language and culture in power struggles and justice. Katie Wittenauer’s class, “The Writing of Food: Identity, Culture, and Conversation,” looked into discussions of food at local, national, and international levels. John Meyers’ class, “Music, Technology, and Culture” was built around an exploration of writing and music.

Freshman Elizabeth Beckett was in Wittenauer’s class. For her creative project, Beckett created a gluten-free cookbook. She said her family does not consume many wheat products, and she used the opportunity to let people know that dietary restrictions don’t always have to be difficult.

Artvoice Exhibition – December 2

Professor Candace Keller’s 292B students partnered with the Refugee Development Center and Gardner Academy Middle School this semester to produce a collection of watercolor paintings and sculptures that focus on diversity and community building.  

The project, called Artvoice, evolved through an earlier collaboration between the RDC and RCAH that centered on photography. The 14 middle school students who participated in the after-school-program are from places all around the globe, including Bhutan, Iraq, Nepal, Rwanda and Somalia.

“There are a lot of different languages and different cultural backgrounds, so we were trying to find ways to have the students integrate more and feel a sense of community,” Keller said.

The RCAH students facilitated the project, with the middle schoolers doing much of the creative work. At the end of the semester, the works were displayed in the RCAH LookOut! Gallery.

Now, Keller said she’s working with the RDC to figure out how to continue both the art and the photography programs in the future. 

“We’re trying to make this project sustainable between the RDC and the college,” she said.

ILO Open House – December 2

RCAH students and their graduate student Language Fellows presented their semester projects at an ILO Showcase near the end of the semester.

Students can elect to participate in an Integrated Language Option (ILO) each semester to help them work toward language proficiency. Along with their Language Fellow, students decide on an RCAH-related topic to explore in an ILO.

Spanish Language Fellow Jose Martinez and his seven students studied power imbalances in public and private schools in the U.S. and Columbia. The students spent the semester interviewing students and educators in both countries.

“We had to be very clear what we wanted to get out of the interviews so when they were conducting the interviews there was nothing to be lost because of language,” Martinez said. The students shared their findings in two videos screened at the Showcase.

“It’s remarkable that they just volunteer and work so hard to do it,” Martinez said. “And RCAH is getting us all of these resources so we can actually do this. It’s an incredible project to be a part of.”

See all of this semester's ILO projects here.

Project LightPro Presentation – December 4

An ongoing collaboration between the RCAH, the College of Engineering, Impression 5, and Peckham, Inc. is about halfway to completion. The group of RCAH and engineering students presented their prototype during finals week. Their plan is to create model versions of Detroit and Lansing and hide art pieces from Peckham throughout the model cities. Observers’ goal will be to move throughout the city and locate the art. The models will also incorporate electricity, lighting up when an art piece is found.

Sariah Metcalfe, RCAH freshman, was in the class this semester. She said coordinating all of the different aspects of the project was challenging.

“We might think of a good idea for kids at Impression 5, but then we’d have to think of something that incorporates Peckham,” she said.

All of the students in the class were first-year students in the RCAH and College of Engineering. Metcalfe said the students were very conscious of creating something that would show the community what freshmen are capable of.

“They’re giving us real responsibilities with a real budget and a real thing that has to pass,” Metcalfe said.

Metcalfe will continue to work on the project in the new year as an intern.

“It’s amazing to be part of,” she said. “I had never experienced something like that, having to work so closely with a team to get something done, especially an art piece. I’ve never had to work so closely with people who were encouraged to think in a different way than I am."

The Great Skate – December 7

On a cold Sunday afternoon, RCAH students, faculty, and friends gathered at Munn Ice Arena for the annual Great Skate. The group spent the Sunday before finals week skating and enjoying light refreshments.

RCAH senior Dan Finegan said he’s never missed the event.

Junior Claire Babala said she came to hang out with her peers and professors in an informal setting.


Nuestros Cuentos Reception – December 10

Professor Estrella Torrez and her civic engagement students celebrated the release of the third book in the Nuestros Cuentos project at MSU Federal Credit Union. The book is part of a growing storytelling collaboration between the RCAH, MSU’s College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), Lansing School District’s Pattengill Middle School and Mount Hope Elementary School, and Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU).

In the past, RCAH students in Dylan Miner’s creative workshop contributed all of the artwork to the book. This year, the book features a collection of 36 middle school students’ stories and artwork alongside the college students’.

“It added another layer to the stories because the kids were able to really draw and express visually their stories in a way we haven’t had in the past,” Torrez said. “It made you really think about what they were saying. Sometimes, the kids would have trouble expressing through words; they were able to do that either by bringing in photos or by drawing.”

The first two books were published in English and Spanish, but this year’s edition added a third language to the mix – Ojibwa.

Torrez said she’s working with community partners in the Lansing School District to continue expanding the project.

Theater Performances – December 9 and 11

Lisa Biggs’ RCAH 192 and RCAH 202 students closed the semester with performances of their creative research projects. The classes focused on human rights, crimes and punishments in performance art. For the final project, the students had the option to write formal research papers or give performances of creative pieces.

Biggs said she decided to make the final performances public events because she wanted the students to experience what it’s like to perform for a bigger audience and to have community support.

“They really grew, as artist-scholars,” Biggs said of her students. “I called it a creative scholarship opportunity because I really wanted to emphasize the idea that, of course, research papers are a way of doing scholarship, but theater, which is often aligned as entertainment, is really a critical place where people do research into life.”

While some students had previous theater experience, others were new to acting. Matthew Kain, an RCAH freshman, said he didn’t realize the class was based on theater and performance when he signed up, but he decided to stick with it to try something new.

“To me, RCAH is about using your creativity instead of just writing appears and taking tests all the time,” Kain said. “Having the option to do a performance final like that is reflective of what RCAH is about.”

His monologue, Leroy Wilson, detailed the story of a man addicted to methamphetamines. He said the piece was inspired by a reading they did in the class.

Courtney Froelicher, 19, teamed up with Patricia Kwaitkowski for a slam-poetry inspired performance about LGBTQA rights. Froelicher said she was shaking throughout her performance, but that she thought it went well.

“Having the performance pieces connect with something we talked about during the course of the class really embodied what the class was about because we had to convey the emotions that we had about the topic and the crimes against the people that are being committed,” she said.

Story by RCAH student Kelsey Block. Photos by Ian Siporin and Katie Wittenauer.