RCAH and Lansing’s Peckham Continue Community Arts Collaboration

September 17, 2018

  • RCAH students, faculty and staff are collaborating with Peckham on projects, continuing a longtime relationship.
  • $25,000 grant from Peckham Foundation is funding a variety of exciting community art projects.
  • "The benefits from collaboration have flowed in both directions, creating a community of inquiry and exploration," said RCAH Dean Stephen Esquith.

By Morris Arvoy

"The RCAH partnership with Peckham has been exemplary in three ways," said RCAH Dean Stephen Esquith about MSU’s Residential College in the Arts and Humanities’ ongoing relationship with Peckham, Inc., a nonprofit vocational rehabilitation organization in Lansing. 

RCAH students pose in front of a large, stone sign that reads "Peckham" on a fall day

With more than two dozen vocational rehabilitation and human services programs, Peckham provides growth opportunities for those with physical, cognitive, and behavioral, and socio-economic barriers. Some of their operations include apparel and general manufacturing, business services, and Peckham Farms, a market selling local produce.

Esquith praised the unique nature of the RCAH-Peckham collaboration.

"First, it has been sustained,” Esquith said. “The individual projects, for five years anchored by the Art Wall project at Peckham, have allowed new students and faculty to work with Peckham employees on projects that have grown from year to year."

"That foundation is now enabling us to imagine new ways to work together for mutual benefit. This is the second sense in which the partnership has been exemplary," Esquith continued. "The benefits from collaboration have flowed in both directions, creating a community of inquiry and exploration."

"Third, in addition to sustainability and reciprocity, the work that RCAH and Peckham have created together has had a global reach. It has opened the eyes of RCAH students and faculty to the many worlds that Peckham employees have known and the challenges they face as newcomers to the United States.  On the other hand, it is a partnership in which Peckham employees have become co-creators of knowledge alongside RCAH students and faculty."

Current RCAH projects with Peckham include:

Riverside Art: Weekly art and poetry sessions in fall 2018 (Oct. 24 - Nov. 28; Oct. 4 - Nov. 28) are the exploratory phase for a major art installation at Peckham's Riverside location. Several Peckham staff members, 6-20 Peckham Riverside Team members, two RCAH faculty (Steve Baibak and Cindy Hunter Morgan), an RCAH student research assistant, and possibly some interns will participate. Some sessions will continue into Spring 2019.

Art@Work: Prototypes for the redevelopment of the Art@Work project, along with several new and related fiber-based projects to be installed in Peckham’s airport warehouse, began in fall 2018. Peckham staff and RCAH artists Guillermo Delgado and Steve Baibak will take the lead, with Baibak bringing his class to Peckham weekly in the spring. 

Project RestART: RCAH student interns, mentored by Steve Baibak and Doug DeLind, will collaborate on one or both projects. First, RCAH and Peckham’s Youth Services staff will lead the restoration of original Project RestART on Saginaw Highway, in collaboration with Peckham Youth Career Academy students. This restoration will include new art to hang from the installation, tiling the back of the barricades, and creating a field or place around the installation. Second, RCAH student interns (mentored by Baibak and DeLind) and Youth Services staff will collaborate with Peckham Youth Career Academy students to complete three site-specific versions of project throughout Lansing in collaboration with Lansing Public School students, teachers and administrators.

Peckham Voices: The RCAH Center for Poetry will explore the re-imagination of Peckham’s National Disability Awareness Month Essay Contest through a series of pop-up and other types of poetry workshops to be held during the 2018-2019 MSU academic year. These workshops, involving small groups of (most likely) Riverside team members working with RCAH faculty and student interns from the RCAH Center for Poetry, will consider ideas related to work and disability—among other themes. The end result may be a publishable collection of poetry for the next NDAM book in October 2019. The project may also include workshops and products related to the craft of bookmaking.

The four projects listed above are made possible by a $25,000 Peckham Foundation grant.

In addition to these, RCAH and Peckham are in the brainstorming phase of a “Gateway to Diversity” project that will feature large, innovative permanent exhibits of art in public places around the greater Lansing area.