When it comes to narrowing down majors and minors, Brandeis University offers a variety of options. Some of them are uniquely designed here at Brandeis, such as the HSSP program (Health: Science, Society and Policy) or minors such as Peace, Conflict and Coexistence Studies and Social Justice and Social Policy. The Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation (CAST) minor is no different.
According to the Brandeis website, CAST is in the “[B]orderland between human suffering and human possibility.” The minor seeks to engage students in the “exploration of the stories, the people, the actions and the artworks that animate the boundary.” In other words, students deal with theory and practice through the distinct forms within the arts, such as music, theater, visual arts, literature, storytelling, architecture, conceptual art and folk expressions. And it becomes a synthesis, combining the arts with social change.
Students minoring in CAST learn different theories of change that link creative engagement with strategic thinking. Furthermore, the students gain insight on how movements for economic, racial, gender and environmental justice, in addition to finding new ways to transform violent conflict, can all be done incorporating the arts and cultural work. And because art is a universal language, this can apply anywhere in the world.
To minor in CAST, students must take the core course, Introduction to Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation. They then take four additional courses that include one in the humanities, social sciences and creative arts. In the end, students must also have a capstone experience.
Beyond academics, the CAST department is highly involved on campus. Last September, there was a series of events that marked the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was called, Now as Then: We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest. This included events such as a songwriting workshop led by Jane Sapp, a joint presentation about the history of voting rights since 1965 and a performance of the play “Selma ’65.”
During Brandeis’ annual ’DEIS Impact, there was a CAST-sponsored performance by Germaine Ingram called “Freedom Underfoot” with original songs and dances that she combined with text from slave narratives, diaries, women’s autobiographies and letters. The performance was about the final year of the Civil War in Atlanta, GA.
Jennifer Largaespada ’17, the undergraduate assistant for CAST, said that there are several exciting events coming up this year. The distinguished African American cultural worker and pianist Jane Sapp will be in residency at Brandeis from Sept. 12 to Nov. 18. LaShawn Simmons ’18 will be co-hosting a series of salons “where they will invite members of the Brandeis community to share creative works and engage in dialogues about how art can contribute social change.”
On Thursday, Sept. 29, Daniel Bryan, the resident director of Rehearsing Change: Empowering Locally, Educating Globally (based in Ecuador), and students from American and Brown Universities will present “short Theater for Social Change pieces developed with their counterparts in the Amazon and Quito,” according to Bryan. These performances will address racism, symbolic and systemic gender violence and “the tension between cultural identity and natural resources extraction.” Bryan will also lead a Theater for Social Change workshop following the performances.
During mid-autumn, from Oct. 13 to Nov. 16, a Turkish administrator from Istanbul, Eylem Erturk, and a CEC ArtsLink Fellow will also be in residence at Brandeis, hosted by the program in Peacebuilding and the Arts and the Rose Art Museum.
“She is an impassioned and alienated arts manager whose primary focus is on programs that use artistic production in visual arts and multimedia to bolster cultural diversity, and broaden cultural rights, participation and dialogue,” Largaespada said. During Erturk’s time at Brandeis, she will participate in classes, salons and programs of the CAST minor, as well as events at the Rose. On Tuesday, Nov. 1, Erturk, will present her current program, titled “BAK: Revealing the City through Memory.”
Finally, on Tuesday, Nov. 8, the intro course of CAST will collaborate with the Rose, “conducting a Design Lab that will bring students, faculty, and relevant outside partners into conversation about how to begin addressing the challenges of cultural heritage preservation in Aleppo, Syria.”
When asked what would she tell somebody who is thinking about pursuing a CAST minor, Largaespada said, “A minor in CAST is perfect for anyone who feels as though the most pressing global challenges of our time, whether that be climate change or widening social inequality, need responses that harness the full range of our human capacity. By appealing directly to our senses and guiding us into new ways of seeing, the arts are uniquely positioned to encourage us to imagine a range of possibilities that would otherwise be obscured. Become part of the exploration!”