MJD panel discusses Art and Activism

October 29, 2018
Lexie Alexopoulos
Art and Activism

Speakers at last week’s “When Activism Drives Art, and Art Drives Activism” event sit in front of an image they were displaying as a discussion point.

Three departments – Media Studies, Journalism and Digital Arts; Fine Arts; and Environmental Studies – came together to compose a panel of four inspirational individuals, Paul Gunter, Lionel J-M Delevingne, Aileen Mioko Smith, and Jay Gustaferro, who spoke to Saint Michael’s faculty and students in the McCarthy Arts Center Recital Hall on Thursday, October 18. The talk explored the intersection of art and activism within the anti-nuclear movement and was appropriately titled “When Activism Drives Art, and Art Drives Activism.” In addition to the discussion, the McCarthy Gallery featured Delevingne’s photography from his book “To the Village Square: From Montague to Fukushima: 1957 – 2014”.

The first panelist, Paul Gunter, is co-founder of the Clamshell Alliance anti-nuclear group and spoke about his over 40 years of activism and protest efforts in the anti-nuclear movement. Gunter, like many other political activists, has been arrested on several occasions for non-violent civil disobedience. During the talk he explained his role in organizing a horse and buggy walk in protest of the Nuclear power plant in Seabrook, New Hampshire, which was built against residents will on top of a sacred Indian burial ground. According to Gunter, he received a phone call during the walk notifying him that the Connecticut River, which protestors had planned to cross, was just polluted with hundreds of gallons of radioactive waste. Nuclear industries careless behavior has led to numerous accidents, which Gunter stated is a “neglect and abuse of power.”

The second panelist and featured galley artist, Lionel J-M Delevingne, is author of “To the Village Square: From Montague to Fukushima: 1975- 2014” and an activist who uses photography to promote anti-nuclear and safe energy. He showed the audience some of his iconic photography, which has been used widely in international media, ranging from magazine covers to exhibitions.

The third panelist, Aileen Mioko Smith is co-author of “Minamata”, a long-term series of photo essays and is the Founder and Executive Director of the anti-nuclear NGO, Green Action, based in Kyoto, Japan. Smith traveled to Minamata, Japan as a photojournalist and was transformed into a passionate and powerful activist in the fight against mercury poisoning. Smith believes that “to be a really good journalist you have to be really good at art, and vice versa.” Her photographs received international attention and led to justice for the people of Minamata. The factory polluting mercury into the towns drinking supply took responsibility for their actions only after negative media circled. Smith’s activism did not end in Minamata, rather it was just the beginning, she has been participating in Japanese activism for 37 years and continues to live and fight there today. Her lasting remarkers to the audience were “in this type of issue everyone can be involved, this is one issue that is going on all over the world.”

The last speaker Jay Gustaferro, is a lobsterman from Gloucester, Mass. and co-founder of the Clamshell Alliance. He is an anti-fossil fuels and climate activist, who believes “any contribution, is very valuable.” He spoke to the audience, not about himself, but rather about what they can personally do in the fight against climate change. In addition, he explained the dangers of natural gas, claiming that fracking is worse than coal. Gustaferro ended his speech on an inspirational note, stating that activism “makes for a better life and helps on the inside and on the outside.”

When Activism Drives Art, and Art Drives Activism was sponsored by the department of Media Studies, Journalism and Digital Arts; Fine Arts: and Environmental Studies with support from the Saint Michael’s College Campus Events Committee.

Lionel J-M Delevingne’s exhibit of photographs from “To the Village Square: From Montague to Fukushima: 1975-2014” will continue to run in the McCarthy Gallery until December 8, 2018. Faculty helping to bring the program to the College were Jerry Swope of the MJD faculty and Brian Collier of Fine Arts, who oversees the McCarthy Gallery.

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