The Political Mandate of the Arts with Cauleen Smith
Join the Wende Museum, the Thomas Mann House, and dublab radio for the sixth program in our monthly virtual program series on art and politics in times of crises. The freedom of art is one of the imperatives of every democracy. But does this freedom make art inconsequential? Does art have a role in addressing social issues, promoting social justice, or in defending democracy when it comes under pressure? In short: does art have a political mandate?
The Student Council consists of a team of highly engaged, talented, and diverse high school, undergraduate, and graduate students who invite prominent guest speakers to discuss topics relating to art, culture, politics, and society. In conversation with visual artists, musicians, dancers, writers, theater and filmmakers, cultural critics, curators and others, the students will explore how the arts can make a difference in times of social and political crisis; on what social issues they can give new impulses; how they can help shape local communities; and how the alleged freedom and autonomy of the arts might impede or help the arts in terms of social and political significance.
The guest speaker for our June program is interdisciplinary artist Cauleen Smith. Raised in Sacramento, California, and now based in Los Angeles, Cauleen Smith is a prolific and critically acclaimed artist specializing in film, installation, and object art. Currently a faculty member at the UCLA School of Arts and Architecture, Smith’s work disrupts traditional representations of image and language, inviting contemplative engagement from her audience. Her work has been showcased in esteemed institutions like The Whitney Museum of American Art, MassMoCA, and LACMA, and she has received numerous awards, including the 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship and the inaugural Ellsworth Kelly Award in 2016. Smith’s innovative practice underscores the transformative potential of art, as she continuously pushes boundaries and invites audiences to consider new perspectives.
Meet the Student Council:
Amy Cabrales is a First-Generation third-year undergraduate student at UCLA, studying Sociology, Anthropology, and the Russian Language. She is a Mexican-American, Los Angeles native born in Lynwood, California. Her career interests include museum work, social science research, and teaching English abroad in a Russian-speaking country.
Meghana Halbe is a first-year student at the University of Chicago studying Public Policy. She is from Los Angeles, California and her interests include politics, music, and history. She plans to pursue law school in the future and work in government.
Emma Larson graduated from Williams College in 2021 with degrees in History and Russian and is currently teaching English in Kazakhstan with the Fulbright Program. Emma hopes to use the future of her professional and academic career to answer important questions about the entirety of the post-Soviet world.
Gianna Machera is currently a junior at Culver City High School. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, however she spends most of her holidays and summer traveling various places. She joined the council in 2022 and has absolutely loved the experience and growth she has had so far. She is very excited to see what the next year entails and feels privileged to be part of the council once again.
Natalie McDonald, a 2019 graduate of Pomona College (Claremont, CA), is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in History at California State University, Northridge. Her academic work focuses on migration, citizenship, empire & memory in twentieth-century Europe. Natalie plans to undertake doctoral studies in International/Global History within the next couple years.
Zora Nelson is a current second year undergraduate student at New York University, where she is studying Harp Performance and plans to also pursue Media, Culture, and Communications and Public Policy. As an east coaster, born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she discovered the Wende Museum in the summer of 2022 and is honored to be a part of the council. With a passion for writing, Zora sees a future in storytelling to promote social justice.
Anya Nyman is a current sophomore at Scripps College (Claremont, CA), currently studying History and Africana Studies. She joined the Wende Student Council in 2023 and is excited to add to the work the council has already done. Her academic interests include anticolonialism, twentieth-century West and Central African history, and international histories of and from the Global South.
Lexi Tooley is a current freshman at Howard University majoring in Art History and Political Science, and minoring in Chinese Language and Culture. She is originally from Los Angeles, California, and has been working with the Wende Museum for the past year. She looks forward to continuing the search for truth through these student panels, as well as through learning about and from the curated art currently on display at the Wende.
An event series by the Wende Museum & the Thomas Mann House. This episode is presented in collaboration with Villa Aurora and dublab radio.