Alumni Highlight: Leah Samuelson
Leah is a 2009 graduate of the MA in Urban Studies, Community Arts concentration. Currently, Leah is beginning her fifth year at Wheaton College as an instructor in the art department. She teachers drawing and community art courses with the following goals: 1.strengthening the presence and practice of art on Wheaton’s campus and, 2. developing support and information toward a community art program that would extend throughout the Christian College Consortium. Leah states, “Eastern’s MAUS program gave me the hands-on training and theoretical foundations for facilitating projects that build a community’s art capital, which can in turn help build whatever kind of other capital on which a community sets its sights.”
In addition to teaching, Leah has been speaking on the transforming power of arts in several area churches’ adult Sunday Schools, at Wheaton’s chapel services, and various departments’ lecture series. She enjoys these presentations because of the opportunities to engage listeners in the materials for their own project ideas. Leah finds that these event typically explode with creativity, as people are encouraged to share their experience and visions. Leah finds the ensuing challenge of how to organize and pursue those ideas overwhelming, but this further inspires her to make training opportunities more accessible.
Leah’s personal vision for using arts to help her community grow in self awareness and bravery springs from her desire to address the deficiency of a certain kind of approach to doing justice: she believes we are lacking in our view of injustice and in our understanding our role in doing injustice. She further desires that her community make a shift from joining the under-empowered in the tough places in the world to joining the over-empowered in the dominating arenas of the world. Work with the over-empowered marches to the tune of reducing power until a healthy level of influence is achieved. There does not seem to be available curriculum for teaching on scaling back the breadth of choice, the reach of mass communication, or the ability to partake in profit within existing markets, and Leah is investigating her role in making this curriculum available.