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Who is Shawn Dunwoody?
Shawn Dunwoody is a Rochester, New York-based artist and activist who was born and raised in the city. Early in his career, he was successful in galleries and universities. But he’s now turning his attention back to his own neighborhood, hoping to spark conversations through art in order to effect change in the community.
A Brief But Spectacular Look at Using Art to Bridge Communities
Woodruff, Judy: Shawn Dunwoody is a local artist and activist who was born and raised in Rochester, New York. Early in his career, he found traditional success in galleries and universities, but now he focuses on his own neighborhood, hoping to spark conversations and create tangible changes in the community through art.
Tonight, Shawn shares his Brief But Spectacular take on using art to bridge communities.
Shawn Dunwoody, Activist and Artist: Activism shapes art, and art shapes activism. They complement each other.
When you apply that brush to the wall or the canvas, or mold that clay, you are creating movement. You’re looking for something different. And I realize that art can be a significant catalyst for change.
I spent a lot of time alone as a child growing up in Rochester, New York, because my mother had to work two jobs. And I began to devote a lot of time to drawing, coloring, and reading comic books. And I aspired to be a superhero who could help shape the world. And I saw that there were ways to do this through art and by bringing people together.
I started showing in galleries, universities, and colleges, and I started lecturing and talking about some of the issues I’m dealing with as a Black man in America. And I thought it was fantastic. Oh, yes, look at this, I think. It’s going to be fantastic because people are paying attention to me. And I was able to hang my artwork.
But there was a time when I was addressing an audience and the people in the audience looked nothing like me. And I asked, “Do they really care what I’m saying?” Will they actually try to make a difference in my neighborhood once I leave this room?
And I stated that I needed to return to my neighborhood. I want to be the person I wished to see when I was 15 years old. Suzanne Mayer, my business partner, and I founded Hinge Neighbors. And what that was really about was that there is a highway that runs through the heart of our city. On either side, there are two completely different social and economic groups. As a result, we wanted to be able to collaborate in order to amplify those people’s voices.
First and foremost, we devised an art project so that they could all work together to beautify their neighborhood. When I’m working on a community-based or political project, I like to inject some creativity into it.
We’re all working together, listening to music, learning about the mission we have to accomplish in the neighborhood, and gathering names of people who might not otherwise come out to see or do anything if I said I want to know how you feel about your community or neighborhood. No.
But if they see something that catches their eye, makes them think about themselves differently in the environment, makes them feel a little happy and connected, and they say, hey, I actually did this in my neighborhood, they have now physically committed themselves to a project, and they are mentally committed to moving and shaping this community.
So that’s how I use art as a hook. I kind of pull them in and say, “Hey, come on.” This is really cool. Come on in. Come with me. This will appeal to you. And from what I’ve seen, people will actually talk to each other and engage in conversation.
And when we listen, when we try to understand, when we reach out and ask and give and ask and give, we will discover that when we connect, we can accomplish amazing things.
My name is Shawn Dunwoody, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on community building through art.
Judy Woodruff: It’s also quite uplifting.
I see myself as a multi-faceted creative force for change. My experience as a Director, Producer, Designer, Maker, Influencer, Developer, and Artist has allowed me to establish cutting-edge, creative design in a variety of formats.
My creative implementation and innovative planning practice focuses on urban interventions and community-based urban development.
I believe in contextual knowledge, an original approach, and imagination as the foundation for developing new forms of spatial appropriation, collaborative production, and creative development.
In everything I do, I bring a “stay creative” mindset to the table, aiming to integrate people’s needs, technological possibilities, and the genius of great experiences. I understand how creativity both inspires and feeds our curiosity. People are compelled to hear more, learn more, and participate more as a result of this inspiration.
DUNWOOD pronounced “duhn-woo-dee” Visual Consulting is a multi-award winning design-based strategic art team that takes a creative approach to brand enhancement for public and private sector organizations: Innovate, Inspire, and Implement original concepts and bring them to life.
DUNWOOD considers visual thinking to be an important art form for developing new ideas and effectively communicating them through design services, products, events, spaces, special initiatives, and interactive experiences.
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