AD+PR Student Earns People’s Choice Award in MSU Social Justice Art Festival

Original artwork ‘I See You In Me” wins the heart of the people

Jada Flowers, a student in the Advertising + Public Relations Department at ComArtSci, won the People’s Choice Award in the 4th Annual Social Justice Art Festival at MSU.

The MSU Social Justice Arts Festival is a four-day festival that features a variety of student artworks centered on social justice topics. The organizers recognize that art has the capacity to move us, to open up new ways of thinking and understanding, to increase our empathy and inspire us to take action. The festival is traditionally held each year during the week of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

"Social justice is not just a trend. It’s not always cute messages and posts, or saying that you understand things that are not your lived experience," said Flowers. "It’s about not only taking interest in the things that matter to and affect you. It’s about redistributing money, advocacy, and resources, and finding more ways every day to empathize with those who experience marginalization in their everyday lives."

Flowers is studying for her master’s degree in Advertising + Public Relations in the Linked-MA program as an AAGA scholar (Academic Achievement Graduate Assistantship). The assistantship awards are given to students whose enrollment will contribute to the college’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, while enhancing their program’s academic excellence and diversity. She will graduate in the summer of 2021.

Called “The ISM Project,” her project addresses the topics of racism and sexism in society. She submitted “I See You In Me,” an original art landscape that was created for viewers to see themselves as they stand before victims of gender and race-based violence. Symbolic messages were crafted to convey the artist’s emotions about the historical roots of racism and sexism that are still prevalent in U.S. culture. The ISM Project relates to social justice by providing healing and awareness through radical art. Viewers are inspired to raise consciousness and inspire activism by connecting with the symbolic messages in the work.

Photo of Jada Flowers

“My inspiration behind creating The ISM Project came from the multitude of events during the period of creation, which happened to be Summer of 2020,” said Flowers. “I had to create a passion project for Professor of Practice Ross Chowles in ADV 492, and all I could focus on during that time was grief and loss exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the multiple instances of police brutality.”

Even during the global pandemic, Flowers keeps an eye on how to stay engaged and get involved in raising awareness for social justice. She says participating in the MSU Dialogues program is a great way to start. She also encourages those who are looking to begin influencing social change in their own college to follow @comartscidei on Instagram and attend the monthly scheduled DEI meetings. Both platforms seek to connect, highlight and share resources with the diverse student population.

"The most important thing happening right now is, of course, the administration changes that are influencing whether certain individuals among many of our social circles will gain their rights to be in the U.S., receive coronavirus relief aid, have reproductive rights, as well as discuss DEI in workplace settings," said Flowers. "We are also struggling to ensure LGBTQIA+ people are being protected from discrimination in health, military and society overall. People that we know are being affected by the intersections of these issues, on top of many more things so it is really important that we are constantly watching how we show up for these issues."

While her opportunities for exhibiting art and sharing her message have been limited in the pandemic, she found several advantages to participating in the Social Justice Art Festival, despite the fact it was held online in 2021.

“I feel elated and grateful to have won the People’s Choice Award,” said Flowers. “The new virtual format allowed for more of my friends and family from back home to see my work and participate in a voting process. I also am glad that my work is finally being seen, as it was created over 6 months ago and the pandemic has affected its placement in museums, galleries, and campus spaces, etc.”

The Social Justice Arts Festival was created in 2017 by Dr. Amber Benton, Director of Diversity Programming and Student Engagement for James Madison College at Michigan State University, with the first festival kicking off on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January 2018. The objective of the festival is to provide a unique platform that engages undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, and the greater MSU and East Lansing communities around social justice topics through artistic expression.

This event is a partnership among many units and colleges across campus, including James Madison College, the Residential College for Arts And Humanities, and Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, as well as the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union.

By Melissa Priebe

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